Author's Notes: Okay shame on me for even thinking of doing another story when I haven't finished Begin Anew or Gassed. I promise I am working on them. The case for Begin Anew is about to come to an end and that'll only leave the wedding to go. The next chapter of Gassed is in the works and more fleshed out in my head than on the computer but it is coming. Anyway, this story is an offshoot for Coming to Terms (you don't have to have read it to understand this one) and was written in response to the request made by Afrozenheart412. It should be four chapters long. Hope you enjoy it.
Disclaimer: CBS, Anthony E. Zuiker, Carol Mendelsohn, and Ann Donahue own all rights to the characters and premise of the show. I am making no money off this story and it is for entertainment purposes only. However, this particular story is my creation and should not be used without my express written permission.
Reconnecting to What's Important
Eighteen year old Danny Messer stepped awkwardly into the hospital room. He was surprised to find no one there save for the frail elderly man lying in the hospital bed. The only sounds that filled the room was the soft swoosh of the oxygen, the ragged guttural breathing of the patient himself, and the various beeps of the monitors that were littered across the room. Where was his mother? His aunt and uncles? Why was this man who was so obviously at the threshold of Death's door all alone in what could be his final moments?
Tears pricked his eyes and he made his way to the bed and pulled an almost forgotten chair close to the bedside. Almost reverently, he took the elderly man's hand in his own and gave it a gentle squeeze. He was almost afraid that just that simple movement would be enough to crush the frail bones in the man who had at one time seemed so strong.
"Poppi, it's Danny. I got here as soon as I could. I'm here." He was almost begging his grandfather to hear him; to know that he was there. He said a silent prayer that he wasn't too late to say his goodbyes. He'd been in class when his mother had called to leave a message that it was only a matter of time before her father passed away so by the time he'd gotten the message he'd been afraid he wouldn't make it to the hospital in time. He knew his grandfather was still alive, the raggedness of the old man's breathing assured him there was still life but was he conscious enough to even be aware of his grandson's presence?
For a few seconds there was no response from the frail figure dying in the hospital bed but Danny continued to cling to the fragile hand hoping for some sign of recognition. Then the raggedness of the breath stopped for just as second, causing Danny's heart to skip a beat. This was going to be it then. He'd arrived just in time to see his grandfather take his last breath. Could he console himself with the fact that at least he hadn't died alone? Then the breathing began again and the old man's eyes fluttered opened. He turned his head to the side and a small smile crept past the edges of the oxygen mask.
"Daniel, you're here."
A silent tear ran down Danny's cheek but he made no move to push it aside. He wasn't sure he'd be able to speak past the lump that had formed in his throat but he had to try. "Of course I'm here, Poppi." Then realizing the elderly man might be questioning where the rest of the family was, given the circumstances, he proceeded quickly. "I guess everyone else stepped out for a moment."
The older man shook his head. "No one else would be here, Daniel. You're here, that's what's important."
No one else would be here? Why would he say that? Danny shook his head. "Of course they're here, Poppi. You're …" he cut himself off. Did his grandfather realize he was dying?
With the hand that wasn't firmly enclosed in Danny's grasp, his grandfather reached up to push aside the oxygen mask. Danny started to protest but the old man waved off his attempts. "Like peeing on a forest fire. It's not doing much good. I'm dying, Daniel. But the truth is I've been dead to the ones that are important for years now."
Danny shook his head, not willing to acknowledge to himself or to the grandfather that he loved that he was aware of the distance between the man lying before him and the children he'd sired, including Danny's own mother. "No, Poppi, don't talk that way."
His grandfather shook his head. "Shh, Daniel, indulge a dying man. I feel blessed that I didn't make the same mistakes with you that I made with the others in my life. I see the tears on your face and while I hate the pain it's causing you, they make my heart lighter."
A wracking cough stopped him and Danny forced the mask back over his face until the coughs subsided. Once the fit had passed, his grandfather pointed to the water pitcher beside the bed and Danny lifted the mask to help the elderly man take a drink. Once the cup was once more on the nightstand table, his grandfather continued. "I don't have much time, Daniel but I have to make sure you understand my mistakes so you don't make the same ones."
Danny didn't want his grandfather to tax himself but he could tell this was important to the old man so he nodded, straining to catch every word. It took him a moment to work up the energy to continue. "I was a good provider for my family, Daniel. I made sure there was always enough food on the table and that their needs were always taken care of."
Danny nodded. "Of course you did, Poppi. You were a great father…"
The elderly man shook his head. "No, not a great father. Great provider. Except I forgot to provide my family with what was truly important. My time. I was too busy making a living that I missed out on living my life. My kids grew up and I missed all the important moments in their lives. I was too busy making money that I forgot about making memories."
It bothered Danny to hear his grandfather speak so critically of his skills as a father. He'd always known that his mother wasn't close to her father; not like his father was to his father but he'd never understood it. His grandfather had always been there for him, spending time with him, watching his games. It never occurred to Danny that it hadn't been the same when his mother was growing up. His chin was quivering with the sobs that threatened to overwhelm him.
"You made some great memories, Poppi; memories that will stay with me the rest of my life. I love you, Poppi." His voice caught in his throat and he now gripped his grandfather's hand in both of his own, holding it close under his chin. The older man reached over with his free hand and wiped away one of the free-falling tears with his wrinkled thumb. A few tears were sliding unnoticed down his own wizened cheeks.
"And I love you, Daniel. I'm glad that I had the chance to do right by you at least. You are growing into a fine young man. One day you will fall in love and have a family of your own. I just pray that you learn from my mistakes. Be a good provider but be an even better father. Don't lose sight of what's really important - family."
With those words, his eyes closed and his body went slack against the bed. The hand that had been wiping away Danny's tears went limp and Danny didn't need to look toward the monitors that were now all a flat line to know that his grandfather was gone. Still, he continued to sit there holding tightly to his grandfather's hand, the sobs that had been holding back bursting forth with a vengeance. It was only a matter of time before nurses and doctors rushed in but he made no move to call them in any earlier. He wasn't ready to admit that he was dead. Instead, the old man's dying words reverberated in Danny's head, replaying themselves over and over again like when the needle of the old record player he used to listen to as a child got stuck playing a record and kept repeating the same line over and over again.
He was young enough to question whether he'd ever settle down and get married but he owed it to his grandfather to honor his dying request. "I promise, Poppi. I promise."
- CSI: NY - CSI: NY - CSI: NY -
Twenty Years Later
Sergeant Danny Messer opened the door to his apartment as quietly as he could. He didn't need to look at his watch to confirm what his body had been telling him for the last hour. It was late. Actually, it was so late, it should be considered early instead. He knew both Lucy and Lindsay would have been asleep for hours and he didn't want to wake either of them. It seemed like sense his promotion, he spent less and less time with his family and more and more time at work. He had pushed for the promotion because of what it could mean down the road; it was a step closer to his dream of running the crime lab some day when Mac finally gave serious consideration to retiring for good, plus the money the promotion would be good for his small family. He'd even considered some of the cons of the promotion; not working in the lab, not being able to see Lindsay as much as he been fortunate enough to in the past. He just hadn't counted on the number of hours, or the times of those hours when he agreed to the promotion.
He missed his family. When was the last time he'd been able to sit down to a real meal with both his wife and daughter? When was the last time he'd been able to give Lucy her bath or put her to bed? Hell, he'd been able to do more as a father from his wheelchair than he currently was able to. Neither Lindsay or Lucy had complained although he knew they missed him as much as he missed them.
He stopped in the kitchen first to turn out the light Lindsay always left burning for him so he wouldn't have to come into a dark apartment. His eyes drifted to the refrigerator where Lucy's latest artist accomplishment had been pinned by a magnet. It was a family drawing which surprised him since lately all of Lucy's creations had been of dinosaurs since she'd fixated on the Land Before Time movies. Not that he'd been able to witness this new fascination first hand but Lindsay had told him all about her new love for the "Little Foot" movies as Lucy called them. He studied this new picture carefully, recognizing what had to be him, a stick man drawn in blue which he assumed must be his uniform. He was holding stick hands with a small stick figure with blonde hair and a big grin that had to be Lucy. Lucy in turn was holding hands with a slightly larger female stick figure with short almost spiky brown hair. He grinned as he wondered what Lindsay had thought about Lucy's interpretation of her hairdo.
It was what was written in a childish scrawl in the top corner that turned his grin to tears. Two words on either side of a large crudely drawn heart, several letters turned backward. Lucy on one side of the heart, and Daddy on the other side. He'd been more emotional all day long, a fact he contributed to it being the anniversary of his grandfather's death. This anniversary was bothering him more than most because it had hit him like a punch to the gut that he was doing exactly what he'd promised his grandfather on his death bed that he wouldn't do.
He twisted around and slid down the refrigerator burying his head in his hands as he was overcome by heart-wrenching sobs. Some corner of his mind warned him that he was going to wake everyone up but he couldn't control his emotions any further.
Sure enough, it wasn't a couple of minutes later before Lindsay was padding softly from their bedroom into the kitchen, her pink fluffy robe tied haphazardly around her waist. She sank to the floor in front of her husband and drew him comfortingly into her arms. She didn't question his sobs but merely held him, rocking back and forth much the way she did when Lucy was upset. He clung to her desperately, wanting to reassure her that he was okay but unable to form any words. He wasn't sure how long they sat there like that until at last his tears were spent and Lindsay's robe was soaked. He drew in a ragged breath.
"I love you so much. You know that, don't you? And Lucy? Does she know how much I love her?" His eyes pleaded with her even though he knew she wouldn't understand his angst.
But Lindsay just captured his face between her hands and kissed him gently, just brushing her lips against his at first before flicking her tongue out begging entrance. He parted his lips and let her tongue sweep inside his almost hungrily. She let her kiss convince him in a way no words ever could be able to. She kissed him until they both had to pull back for air. Then she rested her head against his forehead. "Danny, of course I know you love me. Lucy knows it as well. Didn't you see her picture?"
He nodded. "Sure she loves me now but what about in a few years when I've missed so much of her life? Will she remember that I love her with every beat of my heart and breath that I take? What am I doing to my family, Linds? I'm such a selfish…"
Before he could finish, she covered his mouth with her finger, silencing him. "Finish that statement and I'll slug you. And you know how hard I can hit. Danny, yeah, it's been a rough transition but it's going to get better. You aren't selfish; you are doing this for us. Now, tomorrow, and years from now both Lucy and I are going to know how much you love us because you never let us forget it. Now be honest, is it the job that's upsetting you this much or is it the date that's getting to you?"
Danny just stared at her in amazement. He'd never told her about being there for his grandfather's death; not because he was trying to hide things from her but hadn't known exactly how to share such a painful memory. She kissed him lightly once again before explaining. "You always get a little sentimental this time of year and tonight while Lucy and I were at dinner with your parents, your mom mentioned that it was the anniversary of her father's death and that you'd been close to him. I'm so sorry, Babe."
"Damn, I forgot we were suppose to have dinner with my parents tonight. I got so caught up with work tonight that I completely forgot about it." He hugged her close once more as a fresh onslaught of tears threatened. "I promised him that I wouldn't let the job become more important than my family. I let him down, Linds. His dying wish was that I not make the same mistakes he made and I'm doing exactly what he warned me not to do."
"Danny, I don't think the job is more important to you than Lucy and I are. If I did, I would tell you, okay? Would I love more time to spend with you? Hell, yes but it'll get better. We'll make it work. Now, how about you go lie down with Lucy for a little bit, get a little snuggle time in with her before you come to bed."
"I'll wake her up." Danny protested but Lindsay simply shrugged.
"If she wakes up, she'll be over the moon at getting to spend some snuggle time with her daddy. But your father pretty well wore her out tonight; I doubt she'll stir. Then when you've gotten your fill of cuddling with her, come on to bed and you can snuggle up to me."
"I don't think it's possible to get my fill of cuddling with her even with the prospect of snuggling with you." Danny protested and Lindsay smiled.
"Then go grab a quick shower. I'll move Lucy to our bed and the three of us can spend the rest of the night all snuggled together."
Now Danny smiled as well. "That sounds perfect to me."
- CSI: NY - CSI: NY - CSI: NY -
The next few weeks did improve slightly in terms of the time he got to spend with his family but his grandfather's warning still stayed in the back of his mind. After the whole IAB investigation died down, his decision to move back to the crime lab had been an easy one. Returning back to the lab had been like coming home and he had been welcomed back as if he'd never left. The best part was that he was once again able to spend the time he'd been missing out with Lindsay and Lucy. Even though things were better, he still felt like he needed to do more to reconnect to those he loved.
He'd been back in the lab for about a month when he pulled a case of a possible suicide that looked suspicious. They had found a prescription bottle for strong antidepressants and Mac had suggested that Danny pay the prescribing doctor a visit. So that was how Danny found himself sitting in the waiting room, flipping through old magazines waiting for the doctor to finish with a doctor so he could talk to him. Danny had only absently been looking at one magazine when the title of one article caught his attention.
Dating Multiple Women at Once
He shook his head. "Asshole can't be happy with just one?" But something made him continue reading.
I've recently started dating again and not just dates with my wife. And my marriage is so much better because of it. Before you think I'm a complete jerk, let me assure you that the idea was completely my wife's idea. So far I've had a date with my mother, my sister, my grandmother, and my wife. Tomorrow, I've got a date planned with my daughter.
The dates haven't been so elaborate, just dinner, movie, art show, little things. But for each date, I've gotten dressed up like I haven't done since I was courting my wife. Reconnecting with the important women in my life has not only improved my relationships with each family member but I think they've also made me a better person.
The article continued but Danny didn't. He sat there staring at the first couple of paragraphs, deep in thought. Wasn't that what he wanted? To reconnect with what was really important in his life? Make up for that time that he'd missed out on during his brief stint as a sergeant? He glanced at his watch and then reached for his cell phone.
He waited until a familiar voice answered. "Hey, Ma, it's Danny. Look, Friday is Dad's poker night, right? … You got any plans while he's out? … Great, I'll pick you up at seven… No, nothing's wrong. I just want to take you out to dinner."