A/N: Why is diving into new fandoms/ships so nerve-racking?! I really hope people read this and like it. Please be aware that I only got into Necessary Roughness a few short weeks ago, thanks to my seeing The 10th Kingdom and finding Scott Cohen to be awesome, and because my good friend southrnbygrace encouraged me! lol As such, I have seen only Season 1, Episodes 1-10 so far, but I am already a huge Dani/Nico shipper. Fingers crossed that I have done them justice in this one-shot. All feedback gratefully received, but please be as kind as you can! :)
Disclaimer: All recognisable characters from Necessary Roughness belong to other folks that aren't me.
It was two in the morning when Dani Santino woke to a buzzing sound right by her head. She honestly wasn't sure what to think about it and the idea of moving to find out what was bothering her was almost too much effort. She had been so tired all of yesterday. Although Dani was not that kind of doctor, she figured she knew her own body well enough to realise all she needed was a good night's sleep. Tonight was apparently not going to live up to her expectations, as the buzzing continued. Her brain soon caught up with her ears and one flailing hand reached out for her cell - which she knocked clean off the nightstand.
"Damn it!" she cursed as she tumbled out of bed, reaching for the phone.
She was a little confused by how long it took for her eyes to focus on the screen. The lack of surprise was to realise who was sending her text messages at 2.05am. Grabbing for her robe, it seemed to take forever to find the sleeves, and honestly, Dani almost wished she hadn't wrapped the thing around her before she ever made the stairs. God, she felt so hot, and she had no idea when the carpet got so many lumps in it to trip her up.
Pushing her hair out of her face, Dani stumbled down the stairs to the front door. She fumbled with the lock until finally she managed to prise the door open to reveal the man she would have known just by the sillouhette beyond the glass.
"Nico," she sighed. "What is it now?" she asked tiredly.
He frowned at the sight of her. He expected most normal people to look tired at such an hour when summoned from bed, but this was different. Dani never looked so out of it, never leaned so heavily on the door for support like that. Her forehead glistened with sweat though it was a fairly cool night. Tired was one thing, this was entirely something else.
"Are you feeling okay?" he checked, all the more concerned when she looked up at him and couldn't seem to focus.
"I'm fine," she insisted, looking and sounding anything but. "I just... I..."
The moment her voice started to falter, Nico guessed what was coming.
For Dani it was as if the whole world had gone into slow motion. Every blink of her eyes seemed to take forever, her legs refusing to hold her up. When she tried to speak, to tell the man at the door she was just fine, a blackness swirled before her eyes. A second later, she was gone.
As her legs went from under her, Nico's arms shot out to catch her. Dani fell against his chest, seemingly weighing nothing at all, and he had little choice but to pick her up and carry her. One arm around her back and another under her legs, Nico swept Dani up into his grasp and brought her inside, closing the door as quietly as possible with his foot.
"Well, this wasn't the plan."
It was seven in the morning when Dani Santino woke to a shaft of sunlight hitting her right between the eyes. She felt a little woozy still, truth be told, but much better than when she went to bed. That good night's sleep she knew she needed must have really helped, she figured.
Getting herself up and out of bed, she staggered a little as she reached for her robe and pulled it on. Maybe she was still feeling a little wobbly, but she would live. Besides, she had the kids to deal with and work to go to, she had to be okay.
Dani ran a hand through her hair as she pushed it back off her face. It felt lank and greasy, meaning she would have to make time to wash it. God only knew how it had gotten in such a mess overnight, but she would worry about that later.
Heading downstairs, Dani got the weirdest deja vu. It stopped her dead in the middle of the steps and yet for the life of her she couldn't focus enough to know why this was familiar. Maybe she had got out of bed in the night, and yet the memory was fuzzy at best, as if maybe she had dreamt it.
Shaking off the moment, Dani got to the bottom of the stairs and headed for the kitchen. Chattering voices and the smell of bacon was not unwelcome, but it was confusing.
"Kids?" she called as she opened the door.
"Mom!" Lindsay was up off her stool like a shot, rushing to hug her mother.
"Hey, you're up," Ray Jay smiled from his own seat. "We were seriously starting to worry."
"I don't..." replied Dani as she looked from daughter to son, and then over by the stove where a man was frying bacon still.
"Good morning," said Nico as he turned to face her.
"Er, yeah, it is morning," she nodded along. "But honestly? I'd go with weird more than good... Why are you making breakfast for my kids?" she asked, entirely baffled as she sat down hard on the nearest stool.
"It's cool, Mom," Lindsay assured her. "Somebody had to help out whilst you were sick and Nico has been pretty great," she smiled widely.
Dani frowned hard at the sound of those words, and yet said nothing. She had been sick last night? Was that what they were telling her. Maybe that was what she didn't recall, and yet her kids were talking about Nico as if they'd known him forever. As far as she knew they only met once and that was when he reprimanded them for selling Hawks merchandise illegally!
"We're gonna be late for school if we don't split like right now," said Ray Jay then. "It is cool that you're feeling better though, Mom. You really scared us for a while," he son told her, kissing her cheek as he headed off to school with his sister on his heels.
"What...? I... I was sick?" Dani asked confusedly as she looked to Nico for answers; after all, he was the only one left to tell her anything.
The way he was looking at her was almost as if he found the question confusing. As far as Dani was concerned he could join the club on that one. She didn't understand any of this and it made her head spin all the more just thinking about it.
"You don't remember me coming over, do you?" he checked as he came to lean his elbows on the counter opposite her.
"Um... vaguely," she admitted, "but I don't remember why," she admitted awkwardly.
"That's because I never got the chance to tell you before you passed out on me," he explained. "One minute I'm asking if you're okay and the next, carrying you to your bedroom."
Dani opened her mouth to give a response and failed miserably to do so. It was a toss up who was more embarrassed in this moment, not least because of the way Nico chose his words. Honestly, the fact the man was even capable of looking that uncomfortable was making Dani feel a whole lot better.
"In any case, that was three days ago..." he said after a moments pause, getting a massive reaction from his doctor friend.
"Three days?!" she gasped with genuine shock. "I was out cold for three days?" she checked, her hand having landed on his arm at some point.
"Hey, don't panic, it's all fine," he promised her, covering her hand with his own then. "I called a doctor, and your mother. We got everything under control, and you're going to be just fine," he promised her, mindful of letting her get so worked up. "I'm guessing you didn't realise how tired and stressed you let yourself get."
Dani shook her head, feeling so stupid. She honestly didn't remember anything of these past three days she was supposedly sick in bed. Sure, she felt a little off colour and very tired, but she hadn't thought things were so bad. She tried to remember anything but for the most part she came up empty, until suddenly she felt Nico's fingers around her own, squeezing her hand gently.
"Dani?" he got her attention. "You've gotta learn to take better care of yourself," he advised.
She nodded in understanding, but her focus was not currently her health.
"You've been here, for three days," she said, a statement not a question as she stared at him. "Maybe not constantly but... but you've been here, helping with the kids and... and holding my hand?" she said a little more uncertainly, glancing down at their entwined fingers.
"Sometimes," was all he said, and then it wasn't clear which part he was admitting to.
"Why?" she asked then, still a little baffled.
For a man that always seemed to have an answer for any given moment or situation, Nico looked a little lost then. He knew his pause was a tell tale sign that there was much more to this than any answer he now gave. Still, he hoped in her under-the-weather state, he might get his minor lie past the good doctor who was usually so sharp.
"What are friends for?" he told her with a hint of a smile. "Besides, if you're out of action it makes my job that much harder," he said next, letting go of her hand altogether too quickly and moving away. "Terrence has already missed one therapy session because of this."
Dani wasn't sure whether to be offended or flattered, and Nico knew he was a complete idiot for making it sound as if he only cared for her because of work. The moment couldn't be more awkward unless Dani's mother walked in. Right on cue, she did just that.
"Sweetheart!" she greeted her daughter with a smile and an enveloping hug. "Oh, Danielle, we have been so worried about you. What did you think you were doing, tiring yourself out like that?" she asked then.
As the two women parted, Dani looked over her mother's shoulder to see Nico. He was already long gone.
Surprisingly it didn't take Dani Santino all that long to bounce back from illness. Truth be told, she hadn't caught anything too nasty, just been functioning on too much stress and not enough sleep until her body finally couldn't fight any more. It was only after the event that she realised how it happened. Late nights, early mornings. Running around after the kids, worrying about the divorce, baby-sitting T.K. All this on top of her other clients and usual household chores, it had just gotten on top of her. Dani would have seen the signs in anyone else, a friend or a client, but in herself she had been oblivious until it was too late.
There was the worry that the Coach wouldn't trust her after this, and the owner would get tetchy about her missing work. Dani needn't have worried. Coach Parnell's only concern seemed to be that she was okay again, though how much of that had to do with her actual health and how much to do with getting his team in shape, the good doctor chose not to wonder. She was glad to be feeling better, glad to be back, and she had one man to thank for her speedy recovery.
"Glad to see you feeling better, doctor," he said, having appeared as if from nowhere as usual.
"Not as glad as I am, Nico," she smiled back at him as she walked over to where he was leaning against the wall. "Seems like things haven't changed much in the time I was away," she noted, following her conversation with the coach.
"I wouldn't say that," the fixer shook his head slightly. "Your presence was missed."
There it was again, that look, or rather the absence of a look. Dani was pretty sure she had never seen Nico avoid eye contact so much with any other person as he did with her, especially lately. She recalled the moment in her kitchen a few days ago when she realised he had been there taking care of her. It was as if he wanted to care but didn't know how, or didn't think she'd want him to.
"Y'know, I really appreciate what you did for me," she said then, perhaps too serious as she gazed up at him.
"It was nothing," Nico literally shrugged it off, taking a step to walk away, but Dani wasn't going to let that happen, not right now.
"It was not nothing," she said definitely, making her own move to keep him where he was until she was finished. "I talked to my mother about it. You know Ma, she's got a big mouth when it comes to stuff she probably shouldn't say," Dani rolled her eyes. "The fact is, she told me how you handled everything. You got me a doctor, you came over every day, more than once a day. You checked on the kids, you kept an eye on me..."
"It's what I do," he told her easily, like it was nothing at all that he had really done for her.
"No, not really," she argued with a smile she couldn't help. "See, doing your job might've involved ensuring I was back in better health quickly but you didn't have to... to care," she pointed out. "You drove Lindsay to her friends sleepover that I was meant to take her to. You made sure they got Chinese take-out on Wednesday night. When I was having fever-induced nightmares, that thankfully I remember only vaguely, you were there to hold my hand and tell me it was gonna be okay."
Nico hadn't wanted her to know all that. A large part of him hoped she wouldn't remember and that nobody would tell. At the same time, he was almost glad to have her tell him she knew and she was happy about it. Honestly, he didn't like to admit it even to himself, but he would do anything to have her smile at him the way she smiled at Donnally sometimes.
"What can I say, Dani?" he asked her then. "I care... about your job, and your health, obviously," he told her awkwardly.
The good doctor only smiled. She knew that for all that Nico was good at, talking about feelings was not one of the things he excelled in. There was no way for her to judge him on that, and she wouldn't try to analyse it. She just accepted him for being him, and really was a much better person than he tried to make out.
"I appreciate that you care, Nico," she told him. "Thank you."
When she leaned up to kiss his cheek, she hadn't expected him to move. Truth be known, neither was sure how it happened exactly, but suddenly they were lip to lip and the surprise stuck them to the spot for a few moments longer than intended. As they parted, Dani looked up into his eyes, unsure what to say next. She was saved from having to try when Nico spoke instead.
"I'm sorry," he told her turning to go.
"I'm not," she said behind him, glad to see him smile as he glanced back at her.
Nico carried on walking then, and Dani turned to go her own way, a grin stuck on her face that she couldn't see shifting any time soon. She breezed by Matt's office without even noticing, until suddenly he stuck his head out and said hello.
"Hey, you feeling better?" he checked.
Dani briefly looked back when she answered him.
"I am feeling just great," she declared as she kept on walking. "Never better."