Author's Notes: And the final installation: Danny's date with Lucy. Starts off at the end of the episode Means to an End and before the start my story Coming to Terms. Hope you enjoy. Warning there is a character in this chapter that uses some curse words but nothing you can't hear on regular tv.

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

Chapter 4

Lindsay dropped the blood soaked cotton swab into the evidence bag and sealed it. It was hard to remain objective while working a case where you knew the blood you were taking samples of belonged to a friend and a colleague but she was trying hard to do so. She'd been just about to sign out for the day when the call had come in that Jo had been attacked in a victim's apartment and had ultimately shot and killed John Curtis, the rapist they'd been investigating. Lindsay was currently alone in the apartment with just a couple of uniforms standing guard at the door while she processed the scene. The ME's office had just removed Curtis's body and Mac had followed Jo down to the ambulance where paramedics were checking her out.

Her phone chirped from her holster and she pulled off one of her gloves before answering it. "Messer."

"Your daughter is being difficult." Danny's voice sounded exasperated even over the phone.

She smiled softly; even when he was calling with an apparent problem, just the sound of his voice helped to ground her during a difficult case. "Why is it that Lucy is my daughter when she's being difficult and your daughter when she's doing something cute and adorable?"

"Because I was a perfect child who never did anything wrong." Danny explained, sounding as if it should have been perfectly honest.

Lindsay snorted. "Right, allow me to put you on hold while I call your mother and get her to confirm this theory. What's Lucy done now? Shouldn't the two of you be heading out for the night?"

The sigh she heard Danny emit was long suffering. "I would love to be out of here but Lucy's done that hiding thing with my keys and I can't get her to tell me where they are. She wanted to play the Hot/Cold game she likes so much and I may have gotten a little frustrated and snapped when I shouldn't have. Now she's pouting and won't tell me anything. Help, this date is not going the way I planned."

Lindsay looked around the crime scene. She had work that had to be done. IAB was going to be all over this case since it was an officer related shooting. Mac would be back up as soon as he was sure Jo was going to be okay and he'd expect the work to be done. However, that paled in her mind to her family's current plight. "Hand her the phone."

She heard Lucy sniffling as soon as Danny passed the phone to the two-year-old. "Hey Lucyboo."

"Daddy mean. He no p'ay wit me." Lucy accused through her tears.

"That's because Daddy really wanted to take you somewhere really special and he can't do that without his keys. Remember that's why you're wearing your extra special dress and your pretty black shoes? But if you'd rather stay home tonight and play Hot/Cold with Daddy I guess he can put aside his disappointment and play along. Is that what you want?"

"S'prise. P'eas, Mommy." Lindsay smiled at the almost 180 degree turn in her daughter.

"It's not up to me, Sweetie. You may can convince your daddy to still give you your surprise if you dry those tears and go get his keys for him. It might also help if you told him you didn't think he was mean. I'll talk to you him while you do that."

"'tay. Daddy not mean. I torry." She could hear Lucy squealing as she handed the phone back and ran to retrieve the hidden keys. Danny's voice returned a second later.

"Thanks, Babe. You are amazing. I'm sorry I had to call you; you're still at that crime scene you got called to at the last minute aren't you? Is it bad?"

She called to tell him that she would be delayed and that he'd have to dress himself and Lucy for their night out but she hadn't told him what the scene entailed. She sighed. "Not as bad as it could have been." She quickly filled him in on what had happened to Jo. He gave a low whistle.

"Damn." The word was drawn out . "At the risk of this sounding completely unfeeling of me, I am seriously thankful that you weren't the one who went to that apartment to collect the evidence. Is Jo okay?"

"A little worse for wear but she'll recover. The IAB investigation will probably be just as bad as Curtis' attack. You know all about that." She knew what he'd been trying to say. It wasn't that he was glad that Jo had been hurt; he was just thankful that it hadn't been his wife left at the mercy of the rapist.

"Yeah, not an experience I'm in a hurry to repeat." She heard Lucy's voice as she came back in the room and Danny turned to address her. "Thanks, Baby. Daddy's really proud of you. Go get your cute little purse and we'll be ready." Then he turned his attention back to the phone. "Babe, do I need to postponeā€¦"

"No!" Lindsay insisted. "You already have the tickets for the puppet show and Lucy is excited about spending the evening with her daddy. I'm going to be tied up here and at the lab for another hour or so and then I'll probably wait around to check on Jo. Go and have fun. Just please get someone to take a picture of the two of you all dressed up so I don't miss it." She'd seen Danny dressed up for dinner with his mother and for herself but neither compared to what he planned to wear for his "theater date" with Lucy. She had pressed his best suit the night before so that it was all ready for tonight. She didn't mind working overtime but she hated not being there to see her husband and daughter off for their evening together.

"I will. I love you, Babe. Be careful."

With his parting words still warm in her ear, Lindsay ended the call and replaced her cell phone in her holster just as Mac reentered the apartment. His expression was grim.

"How's Jo?"

"Lucky to be alive and as stubborn as hell. She refused to go to the hospital so she's being escorted back to the precinct by IAB. I hate to leave the crime scene for you to process by yourself but I want to be there when they question her even if they won't let me in the room with them. I can call someone else-"

Lindsay shook her head. "No, if you called someone in it would have to be Danny and he has important plans with Lucy tonight. I'm just about done here anyway. Go to the precinct with Jo; I'll finish up here and then check in with you to see how she is."

Mac smiled his thanks and left the apartment.

- CSI: NY - CSI: NY - CSI: NY -

Danny replaced the receiver but continued to stare at it as if it could answer all of his concerns. John Curtis was dead and couldn't hurt anybody ever again but still Danny had to suppress the shudder of fear at the realization it could have just as easily been Lindsay to have questioned the witness earlier and gone back to the apartment to collect the evidence that would convict Curtis and therefore for been there at the mercy of the sadistic rapist. It wasn't that he was glad that it had been Jo instead or that he didn't think Lindsay was capable of handling herself. On the contrary, he knew his wife was more than capable of protecting herself but he hated the thought of her having to do so.

He knew from first hand experience how draining an IAB investigation could be and he didn't envy Jo for what she was about to endure. Her part in all of this would be far from over but he was glad Curtis's death brought an end of the investigation for everyone else. While it had been emotionally draining especially for Jo, no one had been immune to the impact of the investigation. Though Lindsay hadn't said much about it, he knew it had been especially tough on her. She'd had no choice but to tell the truth about the evidence at the Curtis hearing but it hadn't been easy on her knowing that testimony had led to his release. Not to mention the verbal attacks she'd had to overhear the Senator spew afterward had been devastating to her. He'd heard through the lab grapevine about the confrontation between Jo and Lindsay in the hallway not long after the case surfaced. The protective side of him had wanted to demand that Jo apologize for her cutting words but Lindsay had begged him not to say anything. She had explained to him that she understood the stress the case had caused Jo and that she knew Jo hadn't meant to hurt her feelings. Danny was less enthusiastic about forgiving their friend but that was one of the ways love worked. Had the positions been reversed and it had been Danny on the receiving end of Jo's rant; Lindsay would have been more upset about it. He too understood how some cases could get to you and make you say things you wouldn't ordinarily say but as a husband he hated it to be directed at Lindsay.

"Daddy, I p'itty?" Lucy came running back into the room, her small Mary Jane's tapping on the wooden floor. She practically flew into his arms with no trace of her earlier sulk. He wrapped his arms around her and hugged her tightly, resolved to put his worry about the case aside in order to enjoy his evening with Lucy.

"The prettiest I've ever seen, Luce." And she was. The dress that Lindsay had put out for Lucy to wear was a red dress with a frilly skirt and a black belt cinched at the waist. Stella had sent it to her last year as a Christmas present and fortunately it still fit her perfectly.

Lucy's grin was broad. "Daddy p'itty too."

"Handsome, Lucy. Daddy is handsome and Mommy and Lucy are pretty. Okay?"

"'tay."

Before leaving the apartment Danny doubled checked to make sure he had the tickets in his pocket. When his mother had first recommended the play as a possible activity to do with Lucy, he'd been a little skeptical. After all, his mother had been the ones to buy them tickets to Avenue Q after hearing that the Broadway show featured puppets. Neither he nor Lindsay had had the heart to tell her that puppets or not, the show wasn't child friendly. But after checking for himself, he knew that tonight's performance at the community theater was designed with children in mind.

He loaded Lucy into the Avalanche and drove toward Staten Island. He turned the volume up on one of Lucy's CD's and the two sang along with all of Lucy's favorite songs the entire drive to the diner where he was taking Lucy for supper before the performance.

Once at the table, Danny looked over the menu. "What do you think, LucyLu? You want chicken tenders, grilled cheese, or spaghetti?"

"Ch'en 'enders." Lucy answered without hesitation. He wasn't surprised. Even at her young age, she'd discovered the truth that nobody fixed spaghetti the way his ma did. He ordered the tenders for Lucy and a hamburger for himself. While they waited, Lucy babbled on about her day at school. Danny couldn't understand most of what she was saying but listened with rapt attention as if it were the most important thing in the world.

The waitress brought their dinners and then left the table after cooing a moment over how cute Lucy looked. He was about to ask Lucy if she wanted him to cut up her tenders so she could eat them better but was distracted from his daughter's animated story by a harsher voice from the next table. "I know you are still home; pick up damnit. Okay fine, be that way. I've looked all in the bag you packed the kids and Bethann's breathing machine isn't there. You know I'll need it before she goes to bed tonight or she'll have a bad asthma attack. If you can manage to tear yourself away from that boy toy of yours long enough, give me a call so we can arrange a pick up." There was a slight pause and then the voice continued. "Stupid bitch screening her calls from me. Bethann, eat your sandwich, we don't have all night. Bobby, use your fork like you have some sense. What kind of damn table manners has that Bitch of a mom taught you?"

Lucy's eyes got wide and Danny's good mood soured just a little as he shot a glare over to the man spewing the foul language. The man was about Danny's own age and he was eating with his kids. The children, a boy who looked to be not much older than Lucy and a little girl about a year older than him, were adorable little towheads who looked just about as miserable as their father looked aggravated. The little girl's lower lip started to quiver as she pushed the plate further away from her as if it held something totally disgusting.

"Don't cry, Bethann. You aren't a baby anymore. Just eat it for Daddy, please." Danny glanced over in time to see the little boy look at his spaghetti covered fingers and obviously decided he didn't want the lingering sauce on his hands. The upset father groaned when the boy swiped his hand on his light blue shirt leaving a stained mess in its wake. "Bobby, damnit, use a napkin son. Geesh."

Danny wanted to say something to the man about watching his language around small children but could almost hear Lindsay's voice in his head warning him it wasn't worth ruining his evening over. Instead he decided to lead by example instead. He tied one of the cloth napkins around her neck to catch any drips instead of it landing on her pretty dress. Then he kissed her forehead.

"Hey Princess, you need Daddy to help you with that? How about some ketchup for your fries?"

"P'eas and t'ank you, Daddy." Lucy waited as he cut up the meat but continued to watch the activity at the other table. Her smiles turned to frowns. "Daddy, dat man mean. He maked her cry. Go 'rest him."

Danny's ears turned red as her honest and Frank assessment but was grateful that the people at the other table didn't seem to hear her staged whisper. He put a finger to his lips to further quiet her as he made sure her plate was the way she liked it.

The man's cell phone rang and he answered it. "Took you long enough."

As Lucy settled into shoveling bite sized pieces of chicken in her mouth, Danny dressed his own burger and tried to ignore what was going on less than four feet away. Sure, he'd had his moments of losing his patience with Lucy from time to time - the incident with the missing keys and the painful stab of hearing his daugther call him mean as a result quickly sprang to mind- but he couldn't recall a time that he'd ever been that harsh with his daughter. Instead, he and Lindsay would tag team those difficult terrible two moments so when one parent got too frustrated, he or she could step aside and let the other handle it while getting emotions under control.

"Can't you bring it by the apartment when you and what's his name head out to do whatever it is you have planned for tonight that was so important that I had to take the kids for the night or at least meet me halfway? Fine, after we eat I'll load the kids up and we'll drive all the way back across town and pick it up. Just leave the damn bag with your doorman." He terminated the call and glared at his daughter who still hadn't touched her sandwich. "Bethann, you told me you wanted grilled cheese so I ordered you grilled cheese. So help me if you don't eat every bite of that sandwich you won't get anything else the rest of the night."

"It's icky, Daddy. They fixed it wrong." The little girl insisted bitterly.

The man sighed, his patience at an end. "It's bread and cheese, how can it be fixed wrong? I don't have time for you to pull this picky eater junk; eat the damn sandwich so we can go get your machine. I swear your mother does this stuff just to see me upset."

Again the little girl's lip quivered and she folded her arms defiantly across her chest. "Mommy's right. You are a do-do head. I hate you. I want to go home to Mommy."

"Yeah, well, Mommy's too busy trying to get laid to be a mommy tonight so you're stuck with me." It looked like he was about to go further when Danny decided he had had enough.

He didn't appreciate the man's crude language around such small children and knew he had to intervene before it got any worse. He wasn't sure if the man was really that much of jerk or was just letting his emotions get the best of him but he felt as an officer and a father himself he needed to do something before the situation got out of hand.

"You know, my daughter won't touch a sandwich no matter if it's her favorite unless I cut the crust off first."

The man frowned and then looked at his own daughter. "Is that why you aren't eating?" Bethann nodded as a fat tear ran down her cheek. Almost surprised, the man took the plate and cut off the offending pieces and even cut the sandwich into triangles before handing it back to her. Bethann immediately picked up the sandwich quarter and started to eat. Shaking his head, he glanced back at Danny. "Thanks. I guess you think I should know my kids better than that."

Danny shook his head, suddenly sensing that the man's ire had little to do with his normal personality and more with some other frustration. "I spent two months just thinking Lucy didn't like my cooking as much as her mother's before I figured out that trick. Here's another friendly piece of advice. Little ears tend to pick up on things pretty easily. I know I wouldn't want my daughter using some of those words you've been using or questioning what some of those terms mean."

The man had the decency to look embarrassed. "Sorry. I love them both but I feel like I'm a stranger to them. Not to mention, my ex brings out the worse in me. We've been divorced for five months and I've had to fight tooth and nail to get any of my court ordered visitation rights. But let her have something she wants to do and I'm expected to drop everything at a moment's notice to keep the kids. She winds me up and I start taking it out them before I even think about it."

"Gone gone, Daddy." Bobby proudly displayed his empty plate, although half of the spaghetti seemed to be on his face and hands rather than in his stomach. For a moment it looked like the man was going to explode once more but then he shook his head, resigned to the mess. He picked up one of the napkins and looked from it to his son's face trying to figure out how to attack the mess.

Danny knew from experience that the dry cloth wasn't going to made a dent in the spaghetti stain. He looked over at Lucy. "Lucy, can Daddy see your purse please?"

Lucy handed it over to him without question and then returned to shoveling the chicken bites into her mouth like she hadn't eaten in days. He cautioned her to slow down and chew her food completely where she wouldn't choke. Opening the purse he pulled out the sandwich baggie full of wet wipes that he had known Lindsay would have placed in the purse for just such occasions. He pulled out a couple and offered them to the man before returning the purse to Lucy.

"Thanks again. I always swore I'd never be one of those fathers who yelled more than he said 'I love you.' I wanted to be the father my kids enjoyed spending time with and do fun things together with. I wanted to be the father that people saw in public with his kids and wanted to be. Even when my marriage was falling apart I tried to make sure Bethann and Bobby weren't affected by it. There wasn't anything I could do to save my marriage but I still swore I'd be that father my kids deserved. Then the divorce got messy and every mistake I'd ever made came out in court and the judge didn't think I was fit for joint custody. Now I'm the guy my kids hate and don't want to spend time with. The guy other dads, dads like I wanted to be, have to remind how to act in public."

He sighed and continued. "Sorry, you don't want to hear all my troubles; you're trying to enjoy an evening out with your own kid. It just felt good to be honest with someone who's obviously got this daddy thing down right. Someone who appears to be that dad that I want to be. You must get more practice at it than I do. Your ex lets you see your little girl a lot?"

"I'm not divorced so yeah I see Lucy every day but it's never enough time."

The man cleaned off the little boy's face, the wet wipe making the job much easier. "Sorry, I guess I assumed since the two of you were alone together. Now you must really think I'm a chump; can't get the marriage thing or the daddy thing right."

Danny shrugged, feeling sorry for the other man. It was hard enough for him to cope when work kept him away from his family; how would he survive if his visits were cut down to every other weekends and two weeks in the summer? He said a silent prayer of thanks that as long as his marriage to Lindsay remained as strong as it was he'd never have to find out. He could understand the desire this man had to be a good father; hadn't he been struggling with the same fears? His own fears that he'd neglected his family was the major motivating factor for deciding on these dates in the first place. Hearing this man who didn't know him at all tag him as a good father in such a short amount of time made him feel like maybe he really was the great father Lindsay and his mother had tried to assure him that he was.

"So maybe the marriage thing didn't work too well for you this time. It happens. But, it's not too late to get the daddy thing right. You might not get to spend all the time with them that you want to but make the most of what time you do get. Sometimes it really is the quality rather than the quantity that matters."

The man nodded and then smiled at his daughter who had also finished her crustless sandwich. "Any suggestions on how I do that?"

"Lucy likes to call it the Thumper rule. If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all. That would include not calling their mom bad names; you can't control what she says about you but you can be the better example. Instead of being so angry at your ex that you take it out on them, focus on making them happy instead. Tell them you love them and do fun things with them. Enjoy the time you do get with them and make it enjoyable for them as well."

"So quit worrying about being a good father and just be one?"

Danny realized that was what he'd been trying to do. He shook his head. "Not entirely. I think worrying about being a good father is one of the things that ensures we don't mess it up. Just don't worry about it so much that lose out on those special moments. What do you have planned for them tonight?"

"I don't know. I didn't know I would have them until a couple of hours ago."

Danny told him about the puppet show and that he was sure there were still tickets available. Again the man thanked him and they both paid their bills in order to leave. Danny watched as the man held his children's hands as he led them from the diner and couldn't help but smile. He realized the advice he'd given the man was pretty much what others had tried to tell him. Maybe he did miss out on some things in Lucy's life because of work but he did his very best to make up for it when he did. That was what was important.

Even though Lucy was very capable of walking by herself, Danny swung her up in his arms anyway. The day would come that she was too big for him to carry around and he wanted to enjoy it while it lasted. He planted a noisy kiss on her cheek and chuckled when she squealed and twisted in his arms.

"You ready to go have some fun, Lucy?"

- CSI: NY - CSI: NY - CSI: NY -

It was almost ten before Danny used his key to unlock the apartment and let himself in. Lucy had thoroughly enjoyed the puppet show and the ice cream afterward. Exhaustion had won out on the ride home though and she was completely conked out on his shoulder as he entered the apartment.

Lindsay had heard the key in the lock and rose from the couch to meet him at the door. She kissed him warmly and lightly pushed Lucy's baby fine hair out of her face before smiling at the serene face. "Did you have fun?"

"Every second of the evening. How's Jo?"

"She'll be fine; we can talk about it in the morning. For now, let's put Lucy to bed and you tell me about your night. I want to hear all about it." She took him by the hand and started to lead him toward their daughter's bedroom. Instead he tugged her hand to make her look back at him. His eyes were serious and full of question.

"I'm a good father, right?" His heart was telling him that he was despite all his worries but he wanted to hear it from Lindsay one more time. She walked back to him and wrapped her arm around his waist before kissing him once again. Then she bit her lip.

"No." His face fell instantly but she brushed a hand lovingly against his cheek. "Look at her, Danny. She's healthy and happy and adores you more than anything. You aren't a good father; you are a great father. And you're a great husband. You shouldn't need me or anyone else to tell you that. But if you need me to, I'll be happy to remind you of that as much as I have to."

His smile returned as he kissed her once again. "I love you, Lindsay. And maybe I'm crazy for worrying about this so much but if it makes me appreciate what I've been given then I'm going to spend as much time as I can proving to myself that I am that husband and father people look at in public and want to be."

- CSI: NY - CSI: NY - CSI: NY -

"Seriously? That's what you've been doing?" Flack shook his head and he glanced at the article Danny had handed him. Though they had talked several times since the misunderstanding the night of Danny's date with Lindsay, Danny had felt the need to really explain to his best friend what was going on."

Danny nodded. "I've taken all three of the women in my life out and I plan on making it a regular thing. Maybe nothing as elaborate as the first dates but enough that they know they're important to me. It really felt good doing something special for each of them."

Flack just stared at him for several seconds. Then a huge grin broke out on his face. "Five years ago, if someone had asked me if I ever saw you as the settled down type I would have laughed in their face. But I gotta say marriage and fatherhood looks good on you. You got something special and you don't take it for granted. Maybe one day I can be half as lucky as you are. If I am, I know who I'll go to for advice on how not to mess it up. I don't want to sound all cheesy and girly here but I'm proud of you, Danny. Proud to call you a friend."

Outwardly Danny scoffed but inwardly he was pleased to hear the endorsement his friend was offering. They finished their lunch and after paying his share, Danny said his goodbyes and returned to work. Flack continued to sit there for several more minutes, reading the article that Danny had left with him. Then he reached for his phone and selected the number he wanted. It was answered by the third ring.

"Hey Sam? It's Don. No, nothing's wrong; just haven't talked to you in awhile. How're ya doing?" He smiled as he listened to her answer. "That's great. I'm glad the job is going well. Listen, do you have any plans for tonight? No, great; I'd like to treat you to dinner." He shook his head in amusement as Sam once more asked him what was wrong. "Seriously, nothing is wrong; just want to show my little sister that I love her. That ain't a crime is it?"

- CSI: NY -

The End

Author's Note 2: So that brings this story to a close. It ended up becoming a little heavier than the mere fluff I had intended but I liked the way it came out. I hope you enjoyed it as well. Reviews are always appreciated.