It took Riley all of about ten seconds to realize that walking to Danny's apartment wasn't a very good idea, starting when she arrived at the elevator and saw the panel of buttons begin to swirl in front of her fingertips. No matter how hard she stared they wouldn't line up and come into focus for her, and she couldn't remember, was it the third floor she lived on or the fifth? And did that make a difference? She briefly glanced at the stairwell before deciding that was an even worse idea and sighed. How was she going to get to Danny's if she couldn't even push the right button? Finally, with a roll of her eyes, she smacked her hand against both of the little round buttons beside the doors, figuring the dumb elevator would just have to figure it out on its own.
She fumbled behind her for the wall, needing to lean against something. All that walking and thinking had tired her out. Slumping against it, she began to stare at the elevator doors, waiting for them to open and let her inside. After a minute, when they didn't open, frustration surged through her. Why couldn't she make this one little thing happen? All she wanted was for the doors to open, but she was so pathetic she couldn't even do that. Her head felt heavy and everything was starting to develop a foggy appearance. Slowly she slid down along the wall until she was sitting upright, still staring at the doors, feeling tears begin to form at the back of her eyes again.
Now that she was here, she couldn't quite remember why leaving her apartment was so important. She'd clearly gotten a little too friendly with the rum, and was sure it was probably better for her to just crawl back to her apartment and call it a night. While she didn't think the night could get any worse, there was always the chance that stumbling around outside with no clear sense of direction might end badly for her. And besides, this floor was so comfortable. Maybe she'd just lie down and take a little nap… when she woke up the doors would be open and then she could go see Danny.
Suddenly she was being shaken awake, a large hand curled around her arm.
"Riley?" The deep voice asked. "Riley, wake up."
When she opened her bleary eyes she saw Danny's face hovering above her, his bright blue eyes wide with concern. Groggily she sat up with Danny's hands still on her arms and looked around, feeling disoriented.
"Are you alright?" Danny asked her, squatting down in front of her so he was more on her level.
She nodded, frowning. "The doors won't open and I was tired. I just closed my eyes a second ago because the doors won't open, Danny," she tried to explain, the words still having to travel through a thick layer of fog before leaving her mouth. "How'd you get here so fast?"
Despite his worry, Danny felt the corner's of his mouth quirk up into a small smile. "Riley, you hung up on me almost twenty minutes ago. You've probably been sleeping here on the floor for a good fifteen of that."
"Oh," was all she could say, trying as hard as she was to wrap her brain around the fact that she'd been sleeping in the hallway for longer than just a few seconds.
Danny lifted a hand off of her arm and placed it gently on her flushed cheek. "You had me worried sick," he whispered, slowly rubbing his thumb across her cheekbone.
"But… baby," Riley said, closing her eyes again. It felt nice, his hand on her cheek wiping away the salty tears. She didn't ever want him to stop.
"Tuck came home just a couple minutes after you called," Danny explained, his low voice soothing her confused brain. "He's with Emma."
Riley tried to nod in understanding but her head still felt so heavy, like someone had poured cement inside of it and she hit her chin on her chest.
"C'mon," Danny said, starting to pull her into a standing position. "Let's get you to bed."
Suddenly she felt wide awake.
"No!" She protested, jerking her body out from underneath his hands. "Don't take me back there!" Danny looked alarmed at her outburst, and seeing that look on his face broke something inside of her. He was only trying to help her. She didn't need to be so mean and childish about it. She looked down at her hands, sitting pale and lifeless in her lap and wished she wasn't so drunk so she could better explain herself.
"I just… it's so sad in there, Danny," she said, avoiding his eyes. She could feel them on her, practically burning holes into her skin, but she couldn't quite muster the courage to look into them while she admitted something so personal. "It's like nobody lives there. I mean, I live there. I eat and sleep and study in there… but I don't really live in there. You know?"
Danny didn't quite know, but he nodded like he understood perfectly. He sat down beside her with his back against the wall, feeling the brush of her arm against his as he did so and wishing more than anything that he could take the hurt away from her.
"I'm just a ghost who floats around, washing dishes and reading law books and… and practicing making nice meals for two when there's only one of me around to eat it." Her voice cracked and she placed her head in her hands in defeat. Immediately, almost on impulse, he wrapped a strong arm around her and held her to his side. He let her cry for a moment into his shoulder, feeling the wetness of her tears dampen his shirt.
"Riley, you're not a ghost," he said quietly, soothingly rubbing her arm. "You're just sad."
She lifted her head off of his shoulder and looked into up into his eyes. Her eyes were shiny and her nose was red and puffy. "I don't want to be sad," she said, very matter-of-factly.
"I know you don't," Danny replied. God, if he could just tell her that he loved her, that she was the one thing he wanted more than anything in the entire world… well at least she would know she was loved. But he was a coward, and could offer her everything but his true feelings at the moment.
He let a few more minutes pass before he attempted getting her off the floor again. If she didn't want to go back to her apartment, he'd take her home with him and let her sleep in his bed. It was probably best she was with people anyway, in case she decided to start puking all over the place. Slowly, he started to stand, dragging Riley up with him. When he was sure she was steady, he reached across the hall and pushed the down button, its sudden red glow alerting him to its eminent arrival. While they stood in front of the doors waiting for them to slide open he almost jumped right out of his skin when he felt Riley slide her hand in his, grasping tightly. He glanced down at their fingers, suddenly entwined and felt simultaneous joy and sorrow. He loved the feel of her small, delicate hand in his, the way it just seemed to fit so nicely inside of his large one.
But she would never have held his hand if she weren't drunk and sad and needing a friend. Because, when he got right down to it, that's all he still was to her. Her friend.
The doors opened with a bell like tone, sliding and revealing an empty elevator which they walked into silently. He pushed the ground floor button and together they watched the doors slide shut, the hallway disappearing, her hand still tangled with his.
A half hour later, Riley was sitting on the couch in the guys' apartment with dry eyes while Danny worked his way around the kitchen making tea.
When he'd first offered it to her, she'd looked at him with a look just short of incredulousness.
"You know how to make tea?" She asked as he led her to the couch. "No, wait, scratch that. You bought tea?"
"Well," he said, his cheeks erupting in a fiery blush that luckily she was too out of her right mind to notice. "You mentioned this one time that you liked green herbal tea, that it was really healthy and relaxing so I bought some to have around the apartment. You know… just in case you had to come babysit, or you were just over hanging out. Or something."
He was rewarded with a smile that while not her usual bright and beautiful grin, still sent his heart spiraling down into his stomach.
"Thank you, Danny," she said. "I'd love some."
He'd been unsure how to go about making it though, considering they didn't own a tea pot. Not that he knew how to use one of those anyway. All he knew about tea is that the pot, the one they didn't own, whistled really loudly when it was done making the tea. Or maybe it just boiled the water? Eventually he just boiled water in the pan they used to make pasta and poured it messily into a plain black mug, feeling some slop onto the leg of his jeans. He stuck the pungent bag of tea into the mug, wondering why anyone would want to drink something that looked like dead, crunched up leaves.
But Riley accepted the warm mug gratefully, taking a deep breath of its scent and letting the tendrils of steam kiss her face. "Thanks," she said again. "This is really sweet of you."
"Of course," he said, sitting down beside her. He was actually pretty pleased with himself and the fact that he had yet to screw anything up yet.
She placed a gentle hand on his knee with a small smile before taking a tentative sip of her drink. The heat of her hand seeped through his pants, burning far hotter than the boiling hot water from moments ago had. When she didn't automatically spit it out, he relaxed a little, leaning back into the cushions and trying not to make it obvious he couldn't stop staring at her.
After a few sips Riley put the mug down on the coffee table and got comfortable as well, tucking her feet up on the couch beside her. She knew she should say something, apologize for the trouble and worry she'd caused Danny. But the quiet was delicious, and sitting beside his large presence with warm tea in her belly was filling her with a calm she hadn't felt in a long time.
"Whenever you're tired you can just go on back to my room and sleep, ok?" Danny said.
Riley shook her head. "Oh no," she protested. "I can't do that. I won't take your bed from you on top of everything else."
Danny chuckled. "Please, Riley. Just take it. This couch is really comfortable anyway, and I've been dying for an excuse to sleep here. Really, you'd be doing me the favor."
"Oh, don't placate me," Riley said, smacking his arm.
Danny laughed. If she was using words he didn't understand and smacking him around, she had to be feeling at least a little bit better. "I'm not! I'm just trying to take care of you."
Riley felt her heart constrict in her chest at his words. He was being so sweet to her, and she didn't deserve any of it. "You didn't have to," she said quietly, ashamed that was all she could think to say. "Really, you didn't have to do any of this."
He wanted to tell her that, yes, actually he had to. That taking care of her and making sure she was ok was never not an option.
He watched as she lay down, stretching out on the couch and closing her eyes. She was so tired. Danny patted her leg before starting to stand, trying to disturb the cushions as little as possible.
"Hey, Danny?" He heard her say, her soft voice floating through the semi darkness.
She opened her eyes, fighting the heavy weight of her eyelids as she looked up at Danny's tall frame standing over her.
"Could you… do you think that maybe… well, you might want to stay with me?"
Might want to stay with her? Didn't she know that all he wanted for the rest of forever was to stay with her? That of course he'd spend the night, cramped and squished on the couch beside her while his own bed lay empty ten feet away. That he'd hold her close and keep her company because she needed it, while inside his heart ached at being so close to her and yet still so far away.
"Sure," he answered simply, trying to keep his voice neutral.
She smiled up at him and as if on cue his heart started to ache with wanting her. He sat back down on the couch, kicking off his shoes and situating himself around her. It was usually difficult to get comfortable on a couch when he was alone, let alone trying to get another person comfortable beside him. He lay against the inside of the couch, tucking his arm around her thin frame as she threw an arm across his abdomen and burrowed her head onto his chest. For a moment he was painfully aware of every breath he took, of every twitch and readjustment his body made. He was even more aware of every where their bodies touched and overlapped, the sheer closeness of her making him delirious with a joy he wasn't sure he'd ever felt before.
Danny knew it didn't mean anything, her asking him to stay with her while she slept. But that didn't stop him from letting his mind pretend that all of this was real, that Riley was laying here wrapped in his arms because she loved him just as fiercely as he loved her. And long after her breathing slowed, her chest rising and falling in a steady rhythm that signaled she'd finally hopped the boat to dreamland, he couldn't help but kiss the top of her head.
"Sleep tight, Riley," he said, closing his eyes and inviting sleep to take him under. "I love you."