Disclaimer: They do not belong to me. But Nico is my hero in this one and any one I write with him in it.
Author Notes: Posting on Christmas day! I just had to before we open presents. I had this done yesterday but was too busy to get it on here. Merry Christmas. I hope I can make this one a nail biter. We will see. Nico and Marshall Pittman's past comes back to haunt them. We pick up some time after the first season finale. Dani has been with Matt, but it didn't work out after the shooting. Dani has come to rely on Nico since it happened and is now finding herself with feelings for him.
Dani sat quietly next to Matt as Coach talked about the new season and what he hoped for the team.
"And you're sure Terrence is ready to be back both physically and mentally?"
He looked at Matt and Dani pointedly. Matt looked him in the eye.
"You can start him this week. He's ready. He and Vivica are doing well. Matt has him in top shape again. He can do this."
"Anything goes wrong and I'm pulling the plug."
"It won't. You have our word on it."
The sudden sound of what at first sounded like firecrackers startled all three individuals.
"What is that?"
Matt's face went pale.
"That's gunfire. Everybody behind Coach's desk."
Matt grabbed Dani and shoved her in first and then Coach and himself. They sat very still, trying not to react as the sounds came closer and closer. They could now hear yelling and pleading from some of the staff and players. The three exchanged looks. The sounds faded for a few moments and Matt realized where they were heading.
"They're going to the locker room."
From above them Dani heard a familiar voice.
"Doctor Santino. Coach. Are you okay?"
It was Nico. Dani was sure of it, but where was his voice coming from?
"I'm up here. Climb on the desk and unscrew the vent grill."
Matt looked up and spotted his face through the grillwork. He climbed up and pulled down the grill.
"The three of you need to get out of there. Send Doctor Santino up first."
Matt reached his hand down and helped Dani up on the desk.
"Hand her up to me."
Dani looked up into Nico's eyes. She saw his concern and she didn't hesitate to take his hands as he reached down for her. She trusted him completely and knew he would keep her safe.
Nico pulled her up into the space. She saw a ladder along the side of the rather large opening. As he pulled her up they heard sounds outside the door of the room.
"Quick. They're coming. Close the grill. I'll be back for you and coach. I promise."
Dani looked down at Matt one last time and then he disappeared as he put the grill back in place. Nico looked down at Dani with concern. Why couldn't the woman wear shoes that were more practical? He leaned down and she felt his warm breath in her ear.
"Lose the shoes."
Dani swallowed hard and slipped them off. When she was done, Nico was back in her ear again.
"Now we have to climb a lot. You up for it?"
Dani just nodded and pressed her face briefly into his chest. She felt his hand go up to stroke her hair gently. His touch had a calming effect on her and she looked up into his face as he bent over her small frame. He cupped her cheek and looked in her eyes.
"I promise I won't let anything happen to you Danielle."
That was the first time he had ever called her by her first name. The way he said it made her feel butterflies in her stomach, but that was probably just fear. He set her hands on the ladder and whispered again.
"Climb until I tell you to stop and don't look down. I will be right behind you and I promise I won't let you fall."
Dani nodded and started up. The rungs hurt her bare feet, but she wasn't about to complain. Each rung took her further away from their captors. She thought about her kids and wondered if she'd ever see them again. She thought about them being raised by Ray and worried about them.
Dani was starting to get really scared. They had been climbing for some time and her arms were getting a little shaky. Her feet hurt. She could see a passageway up to the right. When they reached it, Nico put his hand up over hers and guided her off the ladder and into it. Where were they? She didn't even know this was here. They headed down the narrow hallway forever, taking switchbacks and turns. She was totally lost. They came to a plain wooden door. Nico opened it and ushered her inside.
"Where are we?"
"A security booth."
Nico gestured over to a window. Dani gazed out and she could take in the entire field. They were high up in the top of the stadium.
"Is this where you go during games?"
"Sometimes. Most of the time I have a man up here and he radios me if there's a problem."
"Are we safe here?"
"How can you be so sure?"
"Even if these men have blueprints of the stadium, this room isn't on the blueprints. It was designed so that no one knew they existed. The window is a one-way mirror."
The reality of their circumstances made Dani's legs suddenly give out on her and Nico caught her as she started to fall. There was a couch in the room and a chair. He settled her on the couch and pulled a bottle of water out of his coat pocket. Dani took it gratefully.
"Sure you don't have anything stronger than that?"
"Sorry. I need you sober for the next few hours."
Nico pulled out his audio surveillance scrambler and turned it on. He picked up his cell phone and called someone. She listened as he described what had happened down to exactly how many men were involved and how they were armed. When he hung up and looked at her she raised her eyebrows at him.
"You waited until now to call for help?"
Nico leveled his gaze at her and spoke in a quiet but firm voice.
"I had to make sure you were safe first."
Dani swallowed and looked back at him. She felt a rush of adrenaline go through her and she shivered. Nico notice of course.
"Are you cold?"
Dani shook her head unable to speak. She was sure she would embarrass herself. Nico's protective nature made her feel things she wasn't sure she should be feeling towards the security director. He was a constant source of surprise for her.
Nico sat down on the couch next to her and put his arm around her shoulders.
"Don't worry Doctor. I'm going to get all of us out of here safe and sound. Okay?"
Dani leaned into him and finally found her voice.
She was aware of his closeness as he rubbed his hand up and down her arm and pulled her closer. She couldn't help herself. She laid her head on his shoulder and allowed him to comfort her. A thought suddenly occurred to her.
"How did you know all that information? And how did you know exactly where I was?"
"We have cameras all over the stadium. I was in the control booth and watched them enter."
"So you watch everyone? There's a camera in my office?"
Nico knew where this was going.
"Yes. That's how I knew you weren't there."
"So you can see me all the time."
"So when I close my door and change clothes to go out after work, you can see me?"
"I could, but when I see you start to get dressed, I switch off."
"Remember, I don't lie Doctor."
"I actually believe you."
They were both silent for a moment until Dani looked up into his eyes and spoke tentatively.
"What's really going on Nico? I'm scared."
"It's complicated, but I think this is some sort of payback."
"What do you mean?"
"I recognize them."
"How? From where?"
"From my time in black ops."
"You were in black ops?"
"Yes and here's where it gets complicated."
Nico's eyes dropped from Dani's. Telling her this was going to ruin his friendship with her. Dani cupped his cheek and lifted his eyes back to hers.
Nico saw no judgment there, only concern and care. This woman stirred his heart like no other. She was so strong. He knew he owed her the truth.
"You remember me telling you there were things about me you wouldn't want to know?"
"This is the one thing. The worst thing."
"What do you mean Nico?"
"They were my teammates and they're all supposed to be dead."