So a quick note before we get started. This chapter is much longer than the others, for two reasons. One, i couldn't find a good place to split it and two you deserve a long one because i am not sure when the next one will be up. I am kind of in a love hate relationship with this chapter, there are parts I love and parts I am really not happy with but all in all I think it flows nicely with the plot line. And a quick thank you to GrasshopperKnight who gave me the perfect idea for Xeno. Enjoy and let me know what you all think!
It was early in the morning when Dani woke up. She wasn't completely rested but she felt better than she did the night before. She could hear movement downstairs so she stood and grabbed her robe and wrapped it around her as she walked downstairs. She was met with the sight of her kids sitting at the island eating while a large bald man stood over her oven and cooked breakfast. Lindsey smiled when she caught sight of her.
"Hey mom, come have breakfast." She said. Dani stepped into the room and the large man walked over to her and extended his hand for her to shake. She did and he smiled.
"Good morning Dr. Santino." She nodded but didn't say anything.
"Oh, sorry, I am Xeno, I work for Nico, he asked me to stop by, he has some stuff to pick up this morning. I hope you don't mind I made breakfast, banana pancakes, you're welcome to have some." He said moving back to the stove top.
"There really good mom you should," Lindsey's voice dropped away as Dani's mind was filled with memories.
She could see herself standing at the back door while she talked to Nico and Xeno, it was nighttime and she could tell that something important was happening but she couldn't hear what they were staying and eventually the memory faded. The next one that filtered in was during the day. She was standing on her back porch and Xeno was handing her a plate of pancakes. She turned around and watched him slide into Nico's car. She waved and Nico smiled at her and her heart warmed.
"You alright Dr. Santino?" She heard Xeno ask. She shook her head and cleared the memory then smiled.
"Fine, thank you." She took a bite of the pancakes and smiled.
"Xeno these are delicious." He smiled and she swore she saw a blush cover his cheeks.
"Come on Linds, we gotta get going or we'll be late." Lindsey grabbed her things and smiled.
"Thanks for breakfast Xeno, it was great. Have a good day mom, we'll see you later." Lindsey said giving her mom a hug and a kiss. Ray Jay followed suit and then the two of them left.
"So." Dani said after a few minutes.
"Where did you learn to cook this well?" She asked
Xeno turned from where he stood cleaning dishes.
"My mother was a cook; she owned a small restaurant in the city. She passed away a few years ago though." He said.
"I am sorry."
"It's alright; she was eighty five when she passed. She lived a full life. I still miss her sometimes but she was the one who taught me to cook so when I miss her I bake. Pancakes were her favorite." Dani smiled as she finished.
"Well, these are some of the best pancakes I've ever had." She said as Xeno took her empty plate.
"So what did Nico have to pick up?" She asked.
"Top secret, sorry, he should be here soon though." He told her.
"Why don't you go upstairs and freshen up if you want, I'll clean up." Xeno offered.
"Thank you." He nodded and she headed back upstairs.
Dani took a quick shower, dried her hair and pulled it up, threw on an old pair of jeans and a t shirt and then made her way back downstairs. Xeno had already left it seemed, the kitchen was spotless though and Dani smiled at how kind he'd been.
A knock on the door drew her attention away and she walked into the front hallway. She opened the door to find Nico standing on the other side.
"Morning." She said.
"Did you sleep alright?" He asked.
"Better after I called you, thanks again." She told him. He nodded and offered her a cup of coffee.
"Ah, thank you." She said, pulling the cup close and taking a few sips.
"I also have something else for you." He said, stepping to the side. She gave him a confused look.
"Dani Santino I can't leave you alone for a second can I?"
"Jeanette!" Dani smiled and embraced her friend. The three of them stepped into the house and Dani closed the door behind them. She wrapped Jeanette in another hug and then stepped back and looked down at her.
"You're pregnant?" She said quietly.
"Oh, sweetie it's okay that you don't remember."
"How far along?" Dani asked.
"Almost four months." Jeanette said resting her hand on her stomach.
Dani noticed that at some point Nico had disappeared. She pulled Jeanette into the living room and sat down on the sofa.
"I am sorry; you'll have to help me remember." She said.
"Wait, Did Nico bring you over?" She asked quickly.
"Actually," She sighed, "Okay this is gonna be a lot more difficult than I thought." Jeanette said.
"Let's start way back at the beginning shall we? You see I met this guy, Augusto." Jeanette took Dani through her entire romance with Gusto. From meeting him at a wine tasting class to deciding to move to Barcelona with him and then finding out she was pregnant.
"I remember that now, you had just gotten here for the summer when you found out." Dani said.
"Yeah, what a way to start summer vacation right." Jeanette said with a laugh.
"But wait, you flew back to Barcelona right?" Dani asked.
"Yeah, almost three weeks ago."
"Then how did you get here?"
"Well that's what I wanted to tell you. The other day I got a call from your mystery man, he told me about the accident and about your memory and I offered to call you or skype you or something but he insisted I come visit you, paid for my trip and everything." Jeanette said. Dani smiled
"So I was going to ask if you were being taken care of but I think you'll be alright." She added with a smirk.
"So what does Matt think of all this?" Jeanette asked after a few minutes. Dani shook her head.
"Yeah, Matt, hunky trainer guy, kind of had an on and off relationship for the past year. You don't remember him?"
Dani racked her brain for a few seconds.
"There was a guy who came to the hospital who said his name was Matt. Kind of tall, blonde hair?"
"Yeah, wow, you don't remember him at all?" Jeanette questioned. Dani closed her eyes and tried to remember but she couldn't.
"It's alright sweetie." Jeanette said quietly, wrapping Dani in a hug.
"You said we were in a relationship for a year?" Dani asked.
"Well, not really. You met a few months after you and Ray got separated. It was kind of a one night stand thing; he helped you get the job with the Hawks. After that it was kind of an on and off thing until about four or five months ago. You finally made it official but you kept saying it was moving to fast and there was the whole thing about him wanting to have kids and you not wanting any more and then there was something about moving in together but that didn't happen and I went ring shopping with him but it didn't really work out and you ended up breaking up." Dani stared at her wide eyed.
"Really?" She asked quietly, Jeanette nodded. Dani took a few minutes to think all that over. She could see a few of those moments in her head. Her and Matt meeting at a bar, she realized that he was the one she'd been kissing last night in her dream. Maybe that was why she felt so angry and disappointed when she remembered it, because they'd broken up.
"What about Nico?" Dani asked.
"You mean tall, dark and mysterious? I don't really know, you never mentioned him to me." Jeanette said.
Dani closed her eyes and wrapped her arms around herself. Now she was thoroughly confused. Not only could she barely remember Matt or Nico but now she found out that she'd had a relationship with Matt. What confused her the most was the entire time Matt was sitting in her hospital room she hadn't felt anything towards him. The second Nico appeared though her heart warmed and she felt safe. So what was her mind trying to tell her?
Dani and Jeanette talked for a few hours, mostly about un important stuff, Jeanette could tell Dani was worn down and she didn't want to overwhelm her. She told her stories about Barcelona and Gustos' restaurant, names they had picked out for the baby and how soon she was going to get to see her aunt Dani. Eventually they moved into the kitchen and made lunch. Dani could tell that Nico was still in the house, she felt his presence like you could feel electric during a lightning storm. He realized Dani needed time with her friend and he was content to let them be for the day but he stayed close just in case.
"When do you have to leave?" Dani asked as she glanced at the clock and saw that it was already almost three.
"Pretty soon actually, I am catching the Red Eye back tonight; it's not exactly good for the baby to be getting so many miles racked up already." She said with a laugh. Dani smiled and nodded.
"But you can call me whenever you know that." Jeanette added.
Dani nodded and winced when her phone started going off.
"Sorry." She pulled it over to her and sighed, "That's my doctor, it'll only take a minute."
"It's fine go ahead, I am gonna go grab a drink I'll be back." Jeanette stood and made her way to the kitchen as Dani answered the phone.
"So how's she doing?" Nico asked when he saw Jeanette step into the kitchen.
"Alright I guess," She said, grabbing a bottle of water from the fridge and moving to sit next to him.
"I didn't realize she'd forgotten about Matt too, I kind of gave her the abridged version, are you gonna fill her in?" She almost laughed at the look he gave her.
"Okay, so better question, do you think it would be in her best interest to fill her in?" She asked instead.
"I think she has the right to know but as far as I am concerned I am not going to be the one to tell her." Nico said evenly.
"You want Matt to?" He nodded.
"You really don't like him do you?" She said with a laugh.
"I respect Mathew as a person; however I think he's a bit to reckless when it comes to relationships." He told her. She gave him a look and he could tell she wanted him to elaborate further.
"Weather she wanted to admit it or not at the time I think Matt really hurt her. I think she expected him to be the perfect guy but they had their issues and I don't think the breakup went as smoothly as she expected and then not three weeks later and he's already with someone else." He said. Jeanette's eyes widened.
"You didn't hear that from me." He said, giving her a look which she read very clearly.
"I didn't hear anything." She said with a smile.
"But you really think he'll tell her the truth about all that?" Jeanette asked.
"I'd like to think he'd be an adult and tell her the truth but no I think he'll probably embellish it and say whatever he can to get them back together." He said honestly.
"So what are you going to do?" She asked. He gave her a small smile and she nodded.
"Look, I may not know you very well but I've known Dani my whole life. I know what she's thinking probably better than she does and when she asked about you, her eyes lit up and everything. I am not sure what happened between the two of you before the accident but I think you should know that she really trusts you right now, in fact I think I'd be right in saying that she's got some pretty deep feelings for you." She smiled and laid her hand on Nico's.
"In other words I don't think you have anything to worry about with Matt, she trusts you." He nodded and let her move back into the living room with Dani.
A half hour later Jeanette was standing at the door saying goodbye, Nico walked up beside her but she shook her head,
"No, I called a cab, I can get myself to the airport fine, you're needed here." She said giving Nico a light push.
"Behave Dani," She said with a wink. "You'll get through this I know it." She wrapped her in a hug and held on tight. When the cab rolled up the driveway she grabbed her purse and waved goodbye to the two of them.
Dani turned around and smiled up at Nico.
"Thank you for getting her here." She said.
"I knew you could use some time with your friend, it was no problem." He said. She smiled and held his gaze. She wanted so badly to reach out and touch him it was almost painful. She was to confused right now though. She had such strong feelings for Nico but now Jeanette had told her about Matt so she wasn't really sure where she stood relationship wise and she didn't want to make a bad judgment call.
"The kids will be here soon so I'll head out."
"You can stay for dinner." She said it so quickly she didn't really have time to think about it. He glanced at her, trying to read her expression and make sure she was really okay with it.
"Alright, if your sure."
"Of course, besides the kids could use some help in the kitchen, there not really great cooks and they won't let me bake yet." She said with a laugh. Nico smiled and followed her into the kitchen.
They sat together at the island to wait for Lindsey and Ray Jay. He asked her about her visit with Jeanette and if she'd remembered anything else. He was happy when he realized that Jeanette had filled in a lot of blanks for her. She could remember meeting Matt and getting the job with the Hawks, she could remember going to games with her family and even something as miniscule as the Hawks charity banquet. Slowly but surely she was getting her memory back. There was still no mention of TK so he had to assume she hadn't figured him out yet and she hadn't said anything to him about Marshall so he knew that was still a missing piece. Unfortunately that was the one he worried about the most. She'd already broken down once over what Marshall did, he knew it would hit her all over again when she finally remembered, it was a moment he wasn't exactly looking forward to.
Lindsey and Ray Jay were home around four, Lindsey was carrying a small plastic bag with her.
"Mom, look!" She walked into the kitchen to find her mom and Nico seated at the island and she smiled.
"We got a new fish." She said, handing the bag over to her mom.
"He's very pretty." Dani said as she watched the small blue and purple beta fish swim around the bag. Lindsey filled up the empty fish bowl and set it in the middle of the island.
"Ray Jay helped pick him out." She said.
"Well you had pretty much already decided I just agreed with your choice." He said.
"What are you going to name him?" Nico asked. Lindsey shrugged and bit her bottom lip.
"I don't know yet, why don't you pick mom." She said.
"Why don't we let him swim around for a while, get to know his personality before we give him a name." She said, the other three nodded and Lindsey set the open bag in the bowl and they watched the little fish swim into his new home.
Dinner was eventful to say the least. Nico finally convinced the kids to let Dani help and then the three of them convinced her to make chicken parmesan. It was a simple recipe and Dani had done it a million times before but never with three other people trying to help. The first thing that surprised her was how serious Nico was about it. His suit coat came off and he rolled his sleeves up, Dani smiled as she watched. The kids didn't exactly know what they were doing but they were content to make a mess as they coated the chicken. Dani had never really cooked with anyone else before. Ray couldn't boil water to save his life so it was never an option. Cooking with Nico, she found to be an enjoyable experience. Every time they bumped into each other or brushed hands Dani could feel sparks and after a half hour she wasn't even trying to avoid it anymore instead she found herself purposely looking for reasons to touch him just to feel it again. At some point Lindsey and Ray Jay disappeared leaving Dani and Nico on their own to finish and clean up.
"So why did we leave them again?" Ray Jay asked as he and Lindsey took a seat in the living room.
"Because they were flirting and we shouldn't be in the middle of it." Lindsey said.
"God you're such a guy Ray Jay."
"Well yeah but mom wasn't flirting." He told her.
"Yes she was."
"They were barely talking." He insisted.
"You don't have to talk to flirt." She said, Ray Jay looked completely confused.
"You didn't see the way she kept 'accidently' bumping into him?" She asked, his brow furrowed and he shook his head.
"Or how many times she just conviently happened to brush her hand against his if she was reaching for something?" He shook his head again.
"Wow, how long were you and Olivia together again?" She asked sarcastically, he refused to acknowledge her question.
"Okay so you're telling me mom has a crush on Nico?" Lindsey nodded, a smile spreading across her face.
"For how long?" He asked quietly, sitting down next to his sister.
"Since before the accident." She said
"How do you know?"
She sighed and glanced over at the door that lead out of the living room, making sure no one was standing watching them.
"You remember the night Little Dude died?" she asked. Ray Jay nodded
"So I heard mom come home that night, it was really late and I was wondering what she was doing out. I waited a while for her to come upstairs but she never did so I decided to go down and check on her to make sure she was okay."
"And what does any of this have to do with Nico?" Ray Jay interrupted.
"Stop interrupting and I'll get to it." He rolled his eyes and Lindsey continued.
"So I came down the back steps and I saw mom sitting outside with Nico."
"I said stop interrupting." She punched him in the arm and he shut up.
"They were hugging and then he said something, I don't know what I couldn't hear, but," She could read the bored expression on her brothers face.
"Oh, jeez, they kissed okay?" She said finally. Something akin to shock or horror crossed Ray Jays face.
"What?" He said it a bit to loudly and Lindsey shushed him.
"What?" He said a bit quieter.
"They kissed." Lindsey said, her smile growing bigger.
"How are you okay with this?" He asked her.
"Because, I trust Nico, he looks after mom; he cares about her, what's so wrong with that?" She asked.
"Nothing I guess, I just, we don't know him that well." He said with a shrug.
"We didn't know Matt that well either." She said.
"Yeah well, look how that turned out." Ray Jay said with a sigh.
"So what are we supposed to do with this information?" He asked Lindsey.
"After the accident mom forgot who he was, so she doesn't remember kissing him. You can tell she still has feelings for him but she's probably just confused about them." Ray Jay shrugged, he still didn't understand.
"Just give them time alone together, she has to realize that Nico really cares for her and then they can be together." She said.
"So we want this to happen?" He asked.
"Of course, mom deserves someone who can look after her and take care of her and who'll always be there when she needs them, that's Nico." Ray Jay sighed and shook his head.
"Alright, whatever." Lindsey smiled and patted her brother on the back.
Dinner was delicious, Lindsey and Ray Jay decided they should take most of the credit because they put the parmesan on the chicken and clearly that was the most important bit. Dani laughed and told them they'd done an excellent job. She told the kids that Jeanette had flown in to see how she was doing and that even though she was already on her way back Jeanette had asked Dani to tell Lindsey and Ray Jay hello and that she hoped they were doing well. Lindsey nodded and smiled knowingly at Nico, not anyone could pull something off that last minute so she knew he'd had something to do with it. He smiled back at her and nodded, reading her thoughts clearly; she mouthed a quick thank you and then asked her mom what all they talked about. After a quick discussion about who was going to Barcelona when the baby was born Lindsey and Ray Jay offered to clean up dinner.
"We'll make sure it all goes back where it came from." Lindsey said as she tried to move Nico and her mom to the back door.
"And then we'll go upstairs and do our homework and be in bed by nine, don't worry about us." She said, offering a sweet smile.
"You two go get some fresh air, have a chat, we'll be fine." She said. Dani gave her daughter a curious glance but decided whatever they were up to it could wait; she was exhausted after making dinner and could use a break.
Lindsey smiled as the back door closed behind Nico,
"Yeah because that wasn't obvious at all." Ray Jay said with a laugh.
"Shut up and wash some dishes." She said, pushing him over to the sink.
"I have another question." Ray Jay said as he started cleaning the plates from dinner.
"How do we know that Nico still feels the same way?" He asked.
"He kissed her." Lindsey said, stressing each word to try and get through to him.
"I know that, but that was like, what, a month ago almost?" Lindsey nodded.
"So how do we know that he still has feelings for her?" She smiled and turned her gaze to the window that looked out on the back porch.
"Just watch." She said.
"Thank you for helping with dinner tonight." Dani said as she took a seat on the steps that led into the back yard.
"No problem, chicken parmesan really is your specialty." He said taking a seat next to her.
"How did you know that?" She asked. He sighed; he'd forgotten that was something she said after she started working with the Hawks.
"You kind of had a big blow out with coach about your credentials when you started working for the Hawks, you started listing off your specialties with therapy and you tossed in chicken parmesan as well, you were being sarcastic." He said with a bit of a smile.
"It got my attention though, no one had ever really mouthed off to coach and gotten away with it before but I think that's why he hired you, he liked that you didn't back down." He added. Dani smiled as the memory slowly started to form in her mind. She could see the big room with all the TV screens a man that she assumed was Coach stood in front of her, she could see Nico off to the side and the person she now knew to be Matt sitting next to her. The words slowly came back to her and she could hear herself talking about lifetime guarantees and washing machines.
"Yeah I was kind of being sarcastic about it." She said with a laugh. Nico smiled at her, glad that she'd remembered so easily.
"Look this whole thing about Matt; I think maybe it'd be best if I talked to him." Dani said after a few minutes, she looked up at Nico to try and gauge his reaction but she found that he'd closed himself off all of a sudden, that was enough of a reaction for her.
"I can bring him over." Nico said quietly.
"No, he doesn't have to come over. I was actually thinking it might be better for me to go to the Hawks, maybe if I walk around I'll remember some more." He smiled again but it was smaller and more reserved this time.
"That sounds like a good idea."
She could tell she'd upset him and she felt horrible about it.
"I didn't mean to,"
"It's alright Dani, you need to remember everything and Matt is part of that, I understand."
"You don't like him?" She asked quietly.
"I can't say anything about him, you deserve to make your own opinions or reclaim the ones you already had. I won't force you one way or the other." He said.
She frowned and took his hand in hers.
"It's getting late; I should let you get some sleep." He said, effortlessly changing the subject.
"I'll see you tomorrow?" She asked. He nodded.
"Oh, tell Xeno thanks again for breakfast and that he's welcome to stop by again if he wants." Nico smiled and nodded.
"I'll tell him." He still seamed closed off, Dani didn't want to end the night like this.
"I do trust you Nico." She said. He gave her hand a squeeze and then let go, reaching up to tuck a strand of hair behind her ear, she closed her eyes at his touch and when she opened them again he was gone.
Anger pounded through him the entire way home. He didn't want to leave her but he'd gotten to close. The entire night they'd been to close but he'd been enjoying it because it finally felt like she was back to normal, and then she brought up Matt and he remembered that there were still things she didn't remember, and he was one of them. He'd let himself get to close to soon and now she was probably even more confused. He shouldn't have just left, he should have said something, he slammed the steering wheel with his hands. He'd just wanted so badly to touch her.
He hated watching her be so confused over everything. He wanted to sit down and tell her everything, every last detail but he knew he couldn't and tonight his emotions had gotten the better of him. She just looked so sad; she was worried about upsetting him by talking about Matt.
He should have kept his opinions to himself, he'd tried but she could read him so damn easily and that was something he wasn't used to.
He'd go back tomorrow and he would keep his emotions in check. He would let her meet with Matt, he would let her gain her own opinions and he wouldn't push her. If in the end it turned out that she would decide to go back to Matt then he would be happy for her, he'd forget about his feelings, he'd move on.
He sighed to himself as he pulled into the parking lot of his apartment. Somehow that scenario sounded all to familiar and it wasn't one he was comfortable with, the only thing he'd gained from it was a dead friend, an extremely unhappy Gabrielle and a very confused teenage girl.
Maybe if she chose Matt he would just leave, he wasn't sure he could stand to be around her, watching her be happy with someone else. He sighed again and tried to shake the thoughts from his head but he could tell he wouldn't be sleeping much tonight.
Dani was confused to say the least. She wasn't sure why Nico had left, one second she was almost in bliss because he'd finally touched her and the next she felt cold and lost because he'd just up and left. She walked back into the house which was now dark. The kids had done as promised and cleaned everything up, locked the front door and went upstairs for the night. Dani locked the back door and headed upstairs to join them. She walked slowly to her bedroom and closed the door behind her.
"So what do we do now?" Ray Jay asked as he and Lindsey poked their heads out of their rooms.
"I don't know." She said honestly.
"Why did he leave?" He asked.
"I don't know." She said again.
"Do you think maybe he doesn't feel the same way anymore?" Ray Jay said.
"Just go to bed Ray Jay, let me think." Lindsey said frustrated.
Ray Jay sighed and closed his door, Lindsey did the same. She sat back on her bed and pulled her phone over to her. She scrolled through the contacts until Nico's name popped up. She wanted to ask, but she didn't think he'd answer her. She shook her head and brought up a new message.
Is everything okay with you and mom?
Her finger hovered over the send button for a few minutes before she finally worked up the courage to send the message off. She waited a total of five minutes before her phone vibrated.
You're very observant you know?
She wasn't sure what to make of that, was he being serious or sarcastic, she couldn't tell.
She sent back. It was the simplest reply she could think of
I won't lie to you Lindsey, I do have feelings for your mother, but right now she doesn't remember much about me and I won't force her into a relationship because I can't control myself. She'll make her own decisions and until she remembers I will be there to look after her.
Lindsey smiled, she may not know much about Nico but she did know that he wasn't one to share feelings easily so she felt a bit privileged that he'd opened up to her.
I am pretty sure mom has feelings for you too; she's just confused about what they are. I don't think you have anything to worry about though, I know my mom and she really likes you.
She gave a short laugh at his reply.
She typed back quickly,
Someday you'll have to teach me how to evade conversations; I think you're a master.
She shook her head, she should have known he wouldn't reveal more than necessary.
You remind me so much of your mother, that's something you should be proud of. Goodnight Lindsey.
There was a time a while ago when she would have hated being compared to her mom but she was slowly starting to realize that her mom was an extremely strong person and she was proud that she was so much like her.
She lay back in her bed and closed her eyes. She knew in the end her mom would make the right choice.