Author's Note: Hello again! I am proud to say that I have officially formulated a somewhat schedule for my writing and also beta-ing now that my computer is up and running with no issues in the foreseeable future. I am planning on having at the very least one chapter out to you a week, more than likely late Sunday evening to be exact. I hope that is agreeable to you guys.
Anywho, thank you again to all of you who have offered me supportive words via here or on Twitter. It truly means more than I can say.
No note at the end of this chap so, follow me on Twitter for updates and randomness: at NicAm13.
P.S. Speaking of beta-ing, the story and author I currently beta for is called FML by my-little-obsession. It is a Suits fiction of the Marvey slash variety, so if that isn't your cup of tea, don't go look lol. If it might intrigue you, please go check it out! (Shameless plug over)
The ticking of the clock on the fireplace mantle was slowly driving her insane. She kept glaring at it, willing it to either stop or rewind to a point in time where she didn't have to have this conversation…again. But she knew if she didn't do it now, especially after yesterday's events, her kids would probably take it worse if they found out from someone else.
Dani let out a long sigh and walked over to the foot of the staircase.
"Lindsay! Ray Jay! Can you come down here please?"
There was silence for a moment and then she heard her daughter's voice call back.
"We're kind of busy. Can it wait?"
Dani rolled her eyes and crossed her arms over her chest.
"It was phrased as a question out of politeness. Get down here. Now."
It took a few minutes but she finally heard their doors open and the stalking feet of two teenagers make their way down the stairs. Dani turned and led them back in to the living room where she stood waiting in front of the couch.
They stopped at the doorway and Dani gestured for them to sit. Lindsay's shoulders slumped and Ray Jay looked scared. The poor kid probably thought this was about his pending court date. Dani settled herself on the coffee table so that she was eye level with her children and leaned her elbows on the tops of her knees. She drew in a deep breath to steady herself, nit picking in her head on where best to start.
"Okay so, I know Ray Jay knows but Linds you know too that I'm no longer with Matt right?"
Dani had to suppress a chuckle as she watched Ray Jay's shoulders sag away the tension, and then perk right back up with curiosity. Lindsay looked her right in the eye, her expression a mix of curious exasperated.
"Yeah mom, that's old news. But if this is about you wanting to know how I feel about it, then all I can say is good. He wasn't the right guy for you mom. Way too young."
Dani tried her best to look offended but she couldn't help the small feeling of relief that washed over her.
"Well I'm glad you're okay with it, but no, this isn't really about Matt."
With that both of them straightened and looked at her intently.
"Who is it?" They both asked in unison, obviously more observant then she had given them credit for.
"Do you guys remember Nico?" Dani cringed as she asked the question, finally saying his name out loud to them felt like ripping off a band aid.
Ray Jay's eyes went as wide as dinner plates and Lindsay's jaw nearly hit the floor.
"That creepy security guy that busted us for the TK stuff? You're kidding right?" Lindsay's voice was bordering on hysterical and Dani felt her own panic rise up. But she had to stand her ground. She had finally come to the realization that she was in love with Nico and she had to at least try to get her kids to understand that.
"No Linds, I'm not joking. Look, I don't know why it happened or when…well okay maybe I do know when. And that is why I wanted to tell you guys because I don't like keeping things from you; especially something as monumental as this." Dani's voice trailed off and her eyes darted back and forth between the kids.
They were all silent for a moment, the tension was suffocating. And then Ray Jay did something that would forever go down as the moment he became a man in Dani's book. He turned to look at Lindsay and made sure he had her attention before speaking.
"Linds, I think we need to give mom some room to breathe. She's an adult and she needs to have a life. We aren't going to be around forever and I don't know about you, but I'd like to know she's being taken care of when we're gone."
Dani sat in shock, her eyes glued to her son's face; which was now blurring due to the tears brimming in her eyes. Lindsay looked down at her hands and chewed on her lip, obviously taking what her brother said in to consideration. When she finally looked up, it was at Dani, who had to quickly wipe at her eyes and try to play it off that she wasn't crying.
"Alright, fine. He's right, as much as it pains me to say it. And I guess you could do worse than Nico. At least he seems to have his shit together."
"Watch your mouth." Dani scolded her daughter halfheartedly. They smiled at each other and Dani leaned in to hug the both of them.
"I love you guys so much, you know that right?"
They pulled back and rolled their eyes in unison.
"Yeah mom, we get it. Love you too." Ray Jay muttered as he pulled out his phone to check his messages. Dani stood and smoothed her sweater down before turning to walk to the kitchen. She turned at the door way to the hall with a sneaky smile on her face.
"Oh, since you guys are being so understanding, Nico and his…Juliette are joining us for dinner tonight. Take this as your first chance to get to know him as someone other than 'that creepy security guy.'"
Two hours later, Dani found herself pulling in to the gravel parking lot of Two Oaks rehab center. It was time to face TK for the first time since she helped him readmit himself. You'd think in the little over a year that Dani had been working with him, that she would have gotten used to his rollercoaster of emotions by now. Dani prided herself on being someone that was hard to surprise. Well, Terrance King took the fucking cake in the area of shock and awe. Well, maybe she could through Nico in there as well. God knew how loving he could be was just about as shocking as it could get.
Dani grabbed her purse and stepped out of her car just as the devil himself pulled up beside her. Nico was wearing his typical dark sunglasses and black turtle neck with a blazer over top, and he had never looked sexier. She could literally feel her mouth start watering. Dani shook her head to rid herself of the indecent thoughts. Here was most certainly not the time or the place. Though the further they delved in to this new 'relationship', the more she wanted to find a time and place.
Nico shut his car off and Juliette rolled down the tinted passenger side window to offer a half smile to Dani.
"Hi." Her voice was tired and Dani could tell with one glance that she was feeling run down.
"Hey sweetie. How are you feeling?"
Juliette scoffed and wrapped her arms around her seatbelt covered waist. Nico took the opportunity to climb out of the car and walk around to stand beside Dani.
"She's having a rough day. I keep telling her it'll get better but she insists I'm crazy."
"That's because you are. You're absolutely insane if you think I'm just going to stop wanting to get high and get fucked." Juliette's tone reeked of bitterness and anger. Dani felt Nico flinch beside her and she couldn't help but mimic him; the words were hard to hear. An awkward silence fell over them before Dani shifted her weight and came up with what she thought was a brilliant idea.
"Hey, how about you come in with us? I know Nico originally brought you because he didn't want to leave you in the city alone but I think it might be good for you to be around people who are going through the same thing. Plus I'm sure it'd brighten TK's day to see you."
Nico stiffened beside her and she felt him let out a long breath before he nodded in agreement.
"Why not. It'd give you a chance to talk to someone other than my 'crazy old ass.'"
Dani snorted and cleared her throat to try to play off her laughter, her eyes flashed to his and her whole body warmed at the playfulness she saw in them. The bags under his eyes didn't go unnoticed either.
Juliette was up and out of the car quicker than either of them thought possible in her state.
"Oh thank god. Dani, you're a life saver. No. A sanity saver. But I guess you already knew that huh? Otherwise you wouldn't be a therapist." Juliette looked thoughtfully up at the sky contemplating her own words before shrugging and walking towards the front doors of the facility.
Dani watched her go before turning to face Nico, only to find him already staring at her with a tiny smile on his lips.
"You know that's creepy as hell right?"
His smile grew wider as he stepped closer, only stopping once his nose brushed hers.
"You love it."
Dani returned his smile and wrapped her arms around his shoulders before kissing him lightly.
"I do. I love everything about you Nico Careles."
A flash of something dark crossed his face, but it was gone before she could even attempt to grasp what it was.
"Yo Doctor D! You finally got ahold of Nico man? It's about damn time! Dude is scary as hell but makes a lot more sense for you then Matty-D ever did. Kudos Doctor D, Kudos. Get you some!"
TK's voice rang out over the parking lot from the front porch of the building, where he stood with Juliette. Dani jumped back from Nico and crossed her arms over her chest. She watched Nico's face and knew TK would be long buried if looks could kill. Dani started forward but was surprised when Nico stopped her momentarily before taking her hand in his and walking beside her, pulling her forward.
"Terrance, the only reason your arm isn't broken in three places right now is because I actually like you. In the future you'd do well to keep comments like that to yourself, especially concerning Danielle. Do you understand?" He paused and waited for TK to acknowledge his words.
"Good. Now, yes, this is what it looks like. No, no one else on the Hawks payroll really knows. So, I'd be grateful if you kept this to yourself."
The shit eating grin that covered TK's face was enough to make Dani feel weary.
"I'm really the first to know? Hells yeah! You bet your ass Imma keep this one close to the vest man. You two are too good together to let any kind of bullshit drama get in the way."
Dani rolled her eyes at him.
"Terrance you've only known we're together for five minutes."
"And? Anyone with half a brain watching you two work together for the last year knew this" he gestured to their entwined fingers "was going to happen sooner or later. I'm just glad it happened period."
"Oh god, you mean this only just started? You've had to be around these two for a year with all the tension and shit? God, I would have died." Juliette chimed in from her place beside TK. Nico grumbled and finally let go of Dani's hand to run his through his hair.
"Alright, I think it's time to separate you two. Enjoy your session. I'm going to introduce Juliette to Corrine." Dani looked at him shocked.
"How do you know Corrine?"
Nico offered her a slick smile as he pulled back on his sunglasses.
"Have you met me Dani?" He used her own words against her and sauntered off with Juliette in tow like he owned the damn place. Dani shook her head in disbelief and turned to face TK who was shaking with laughter.
"Oh yeah, you two were made for each other."
It was Dani's turn to grumble.
"Either you change the subject now or I'm telling Corrine to lock you in your room and throw away the key."
TK held up his hands in surrender and sat down on one of the wicker chairs on the porch. Dani let out a grateful sigh and sat opposite him, pulling out her notebook from her purse.
"How are you feeling Terrance?" Dani focused her eyes on his face. Her heart felt heavy as she watched his playful demeanor drop in to one of sadness.
"I mean, I could be worse right? I'm past the itch finally. I'm not thinking about pills constantly anymore and I'm actually getting myself back in to shape. I should be happy about all that right?" He looked pleadingly to Dani, begging her for the right answer.
"So why don't you?" It was a simple question, but she knew it would help open the floodgates. TK shook his head.
"I don't know. Every time I start to feel up about making progress, I see Jimmy's face in my head, messing with me; telling me it's not fair. Like how can I be happy about getting clean when he's dead? How can I continue to try to make my life better when he's gone and it's my fault?" TK choked out a sob and buried his face in his hands. Dani set down her notebook and leaned forward, resting her had on his forearm.
"It is not your fault Terrance. Jimmy made his own choices, and he paid the price of making the same choice over and over again. You had no control over that."
"But I should have told him no! We should have stayed here! It's my fault we were out there and that he even had access to the shit in the first place! I was selfish and it got him killed."
There was the anger she had come to expect. But the amazing thing about his outburst this time was that he wasn't lashing out for once, he was turning it on himself; which was just as dangerous.
"TK do you really think Jimmy would have stayed here regardless? Can you look me in the eye and honestly tell me you believe he would have completed detox and stayed sober?"
TK looked up and out across the parking lot. It was obvious her words had gotten to him and for that she was grateful. Blaming oneself for the death of another was hard on even the strongest of men. She had seen it take its toll on Nico just last night. But that kind of blame in someone as fragile as Terrance could be downright lethal.
"I promise you Terrance, you have every right to be happy about the progress you are making. Don't take Jimmy's death and use it as a way to keep you down. Use it as a lesson to help lift you up. You are doing so well here, and for what it's worth, I'm proud of you."
A smile played on the corners of his lips as they fell in to silence. Dani let him have his time. When he finally spoke, she wasn't shocked to hear him change the subject.
"So what's the deal with the littlest Pittman? Why's she tagging along with Nico?"
Dani let out a breath, glad he had brought her up. Dani was hoping he would help her with a small project.
"Long story short, she is a recovering addict. Mostly pills, some harder stuff. Her self-esteem is a wreck, and right now, what she really needs is a friend." The words fell from her lips quickly, hoping he would pick up on the last part if nothing else. Dani glanced up to seem him looking at her thoughtfully.
"So she's pretty much in the same sinking boat I am then?"
"Is she seeing you? Like all professionally and shit?"
"Yes Terrance, 'all professionally and shit.'"
"Well how about the three of us get together once a week and, I don't know, do some sort of mini group or something? You know, since we have so much in common."
Dani smiled genuinely at him. Even though she had coaxed him in that direction, she knew TK's big heart would help bring him around to what she was thinking.
"I think that would be a fantastic idea Terrance."
TK beamed at her.
"Yeah well, you know me; I'm here to help those less fortunate."
Dani rolled her eyes and smacked his arm playfully. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Nico and Juliette making their way back towards them.
"You guys ready to go?" She asked once they were closer. Nico nodded at her, looking more run down than the past four days combined. Juliette's shoulders were slumped and she played with the ends of her sleeves.
"More than ready. We need to head back to my loft to change and then we'll be over for dinner." His voice was so tired it nearly made her yawn. Dani nodded at him once and stood to hug him.
"Okay, just come over whenever you're ready."
Nico bent and placed a chaste kiss on her lips and pulled Juliette towards the car.
It was only after they pulled away that Dani said good bye to TK and returned to her own car. Once inside, she pulled out her phone and sent Nico a text.
Hey…is everything okay? –D
She started the car and headed back home, enabling voice to text in case he responded. Two minutes later he did.
Not particularly no. Will talk later. Love you. –N
Dani sighed heavily.
I love you too Nico. See you in a bit. –D
She pulled on to the highway and let her mind wonder, trying to figure out exactly what was wrong with him. It frustrated her that she could read his emotions so well but couldn't for the life of her even begin to really figure them out. But she would. She was determined to know this man as well as he claimed she already did.