A/N You guys rock! Sorry this has taken so long to get up. You know how college gets! Enjoy :)
"Hello Doctor Santino, this is Gabrielle Pittman. That little teaser tape released today, was just a warning shot. I'm changing the rules. I don't want you alone with Nico, at all. No car trips, no extended lunch breaks. You will push him away and make sure that he knows you are not interested or I will release every last tape I have of your patients spilling their guts to you. This embarrassing tape released today will be the least of your worries. And don't go trying to whine to Nico, remember who I am. He was in love with me for almost 20 years. I know all his methods, habits, and secrets. And believe me I have backup plans if he tries to foil my Plan A. Do I make myself clear?"
Dani sat on her front porch staring out into the yard, eyes glazed over as she nervously chewed on her bottom lip. It had been three weeks since she last heard from Gabrielle Pittman, and no more tapes had been released. For all intents and purposes it seemed that as long as she stayed away from Nico, her patients would be fine. Which wasn't as hard as she had thought it would be, given that he was studiously ignoring her.
Unfortunately, she could not resume therapy with her clients until the tapes were destroyed, and no matter how many plans she came up with, she had no idea how to take down the evil she-witch.
Walking into the General Managers office she found Nico and Matt in their usual positions; one standing, one sitting, and both scowling at eachother. She hung back by the door and cleared her throat slightly, smiling cautiously with her head tilted to the side.
"Uh, guys? Everything okay in here?" Both their glares immediately turned in her direction. Wonderful, both of the men in her life she cared the most about were still mad at her. It had been weeks since her fight with Matt, and as far as she was concerned, he was the one who owed her an apology. Not that she was likely to get one from the arrogant jock. She had hurt his ego too badly when she broke up with him. Nico on the other hand, she simply could not figure out. Was he still upset that she wouldn't tell him what Gabrielle had said to her, or was he upset that he had pushed him away when he kissed her? Looking back and forth between the two men, she shivered and folded her arms across her chest, wondering why the air conditioning in this building was suddenly so cold.
Nico turned back to Matt, eyebrows raised and eyes impatient.
"Are we done here?" Matt nodded curtly.
"Yeah." Nodding in return, Nico spun around on one heel and strode out of the room, eyes focused straight ahead as he passed Dani. Frowning, Dani looked to Matt for answers, hoping he would fill her in on whatever they had been discussing before she had walked in. Matt gestured to the chair across from his desk. At the very least their professional relationship seemed to have remained intact.
"Gabrielle is in deep hiding, best guess is somewhere in South America. Nico can't find her from here so he's heading down to Brazil with Vera. He just received a letter from Gabrielle's lawyer." Matt passed her a piece of paper.
The pieces are in place, enjoy the game. -Gabrielle
Sighing, Matt continued. "We can't get the tapes back, Dani. Hell, at this point we can't even deliver a subpoana since she's fled the country. I am so sorry, I don't even know what to say. You're in this mess because of me. The Hawks will cover your losses until this fracas is sorted out."
"No, Matt, this isn't your fault. I took this job on my own terms. Look, there's something I should probably tell you. Gabrielle has called me a couple of times. She'll hold off on releasing more tapes as long as I stay away from Nico. I dunno she's somehow got it in her head that there's something going on between him and I and she's jealous." Matt looked down and rubbed the back of his neck with his hand before asking curiously,
"Well, is there? I mean, anything going on between you guys?" His eyes contained a hint of hurt, but mostly they were concerned, as if he genuinely cared for her well-being. Dani had not seen that look in his eyes since they broke up and it led her to answer more honestly than she might have otherwise.
"No. Of course not. I mean..." She sighed and looked up at him sadly from underneath her long eyelashes. "I don't know." Matt pursed his lips and nodded, before regaining his professional demeanor and inquiring,
"Have you told Nico that Gabrielle is blackmailing you?" She shook her head from side to side vigorously.
"No, I can't, he'd do something irrational and then Gabrielle would have the excuse she wants to ruin my life and the lives of all my patients. She made it clear that I can't have any sort of contact with Nico beyond our professional relationship. I can't be alone with him at all. Ever." Matt had the grace and good breeding to not look delighted at the idea of his rival not being allowed anywhere near Dani. Unfortunately, in this situation, he had to advocate for the enemy.
"Dani, he needs to know. He might be able to track where the signal to your phone came from. Knowing why she is doing what she's doing might be the information he needs to pin her down."
"I can't, Matt, so please, just let me handle this in my own way." The tall ex-basketball player placed his hands flat on the desk in front of him and nodded.
"Okay." Dani started to get up but Matt spoke, causing her to drop back into her chair.
"Look, Dani, about what happened a few weeks ago." Staring down at her cuticles, she averted her eyes from his suddenly intense gaze.
"Yes?" Matt looked down at his lap, also studiously avoiding eye contact as he spoke, struggling to keep his emotions at bay. He took a deep breath in.
"I thought you should know that I broke up with Noelle." Frowning, Dani tried to understand what kind of response Matt wanted from her.
"I'm sorry." She crossed her arms, body language making it clear that sympathy over his break up was not on offer.
"No, I'm not trying to make you feel sorry for me. The way I treated you was unforgiveable and I'm done making excuses. I hurt you. Dani, I'm really sorry," He lifted his eyes to meet her, blinking back unexpected tears as he finally acknowledged the pain he had caused her and took responsibility for the way he had behaved. His own watery eyes were mirrored in her brown ones as she smiled back at him.
"Thanks, Matt." Choking on tears, she lifted soft eyes to his, and Matt saw the forgiveness he needed in their depths, acknowledging the exchange with a brief dip of his head. Smiling tremulously, tears still swimming in her eyes, Dani got up to leave. As she reached the door, Matt called after her.
"Dani, if you want my advice, tell Nico the truth. You can't fix this thing on your own."
Dani went straight from Matt's office to her own and sat in front of her laptop, typing and retyping emails to Nico. It seemed to be the least trackable option, and hopefully Gabrielle would not even notice anything had been communicated.
Nico, I need to tell you something before you leave, is there somewhere safe we can talk? -Dani
The response was immediate.
I'll send you a car. -Nico
10 minutes later a sleek black Mecedes-Benz with heavily tinted and probably bulletproof windows pulled up outside the Hawks Stadium. Head down, she ran to the car, hoping there was no-one tracking her movements. Climbing in car as quickly as possible, she was relieved when she recognized the security guard driving it. Stopping at a crowded duck feeding park 20 minutes away, the driver spoke quietly.
"Nico will be standing on the east side of the playground, by the swings. There are kids screaming, and ducks squawking, and parents having deep conversations with their friends. Nobody will be able to listen in on your conversation." Looking over his shoulder at her sympathetically, the big security guard smiled reassuringly, giving her the burst of courage she needed to face Nico after weeks of silence broken only by tersely spoken words when necessary for Hawks related issues. She spotted him standing by the swings in his usual black trench coat, hands in pockets and back ramrod straight. Meeting his cold eyes briefly before he looked away, she moved closer to him until they were standing arm to arm, touching lightly. Nico jerked back as if her touch burned him, then spoke in a low voice that was all business.
"You had something to tell me?" She placed a calming hand on his arm, pleased when this time he did not pull away.
"Gabrielle Pittman has called me twice. Matt said you might be able to use the signal to track her down? She said that I had to push you away or she would release the rest of the tapes of my patients sessions. And that she also had compromising information about you." Nico's body froze as she spoke, not a single muscle moving until she finished when he extended his hand in front of his body and gestured to her demandingly. He still refused to turn his head, refused to meet her gaze.
"Give me your phone." Placing it in his out-streched hand, Dani lingered a few seconds longer than was strictly necessary as Nico spoke brusquely. "I'll have a new phone for you in the morning. Is there anything else?" She tried to keep her mouth shut but she had to know.
"Matt said you're going to Brazil with Vera. Are you and her...you know?" Raising his eyebrows innocently, Nico feigned ignorance. She could have sworn she saw a hint of a smile tugging at one corner of his mouth as he replied.
"Are we what?" Glowering at him, she clarified, since he seemed to have contracted a sudden case of stupidity.
"You know... together?" He finally turned to her, his whole body facing hers, their chests and faces less than a foot away from each other, but his eyes were once again icy as he replied testily.
"I fail to see how my relationship with Vera is any of your concern, Doctor Santino." She blinked rapidly, refusing to allow herself to cry no matter how much his words hurt.
"Damnit Nico, you kissed me three weeks ago and you haven't voluntarily spoken to me since. What did I do?" Regarding her carefully, his eyes finally softened, and he sighed.
"You've done nothing wrong, Doctor Santino, I am simply focused on my job currently and cannot afford to be distracted by emotional attachments." Grinning mischievously up at him through seductively lowered eyelids, she bit her lip and responded,
"So, I'm a distraction to you?" Eyes pinning her in place with their fierce intensity, he growled in frustration.
"You are much more than a distraction, Danielle. You are a weakness I cannot afford to have." Turning, he strode away quickly, leaving her bewildered and alone, staring at ducks fighting for bread on the pond. She resisted the urge to run after him, to demand answers. She knew that for such a private man, even the admission he had just made was a huge step forward. As far as she was concerned, the ball was in his court. She wasn't about to make this easier for him. If he truly cared for her that deeply, then he needed to come to terms with his feelings in his own time.