Author: Auditory Eden

Rating: T

Warnings: Angst

Notes: I have only so much patience with the lack of continuity in the show. This was written between Shadow and Light so the hospital was still, to our knowledge, Rexford and we had no idea how long he'd be there or what had really been going on with Wesley. I refuse to alter basically irrelevant details.

Going Home

It had been three months.

Three long, terrible months. Terrible for everyone, not just him, though for him they were bad enough.

Three months since he'd walked into Rexford and had himself committed, with Max behind him and Kate at his side.

Three months of Kate working with the FBI to try and figure out how much was real, how much Daniel had imagined, or if he'd really invented any of it. They still barely knew.

Three months of seeing each other for half an hour, once every other week. Three months. Three hours. It had been the purest form of torture.

But he was well now, at least as well as he could be. He had a prescription to take and between Lewicki and Kate they were all pretty sure he'd keep on the medications. They were letting him go home.

And home was where Kate would be, at least for a while.

She didn't know that during his weekend of insanity, he had dreamed of a kiss with her. She didn't know why he alternately seemed to soak up any physical contact and shrank away from it. He couldn't explain to her that for sixteen glorious hours, he'd thought she loved him too, and she didn't know that now he was certain that that could never, ever happen.

Clutching the duffel bag that Lewicki had brought on his third day, the bag with his toothbrush and pajamas and twenty cassette tapes, Daniel tried not to shuffle his way out of the room. Part of him wanted to sing and dance his way to freedom, preach an ode to the wind as he stepped through the doors, but the leaden weight of the meds dragged at his soul just enough that a song would fall flat, and a dance would have a little lag. There should have been excitement. There should have been joy. He hated the hospital, with its confining walls and terrible food, its doctors and drugs. But instead all he had was a quiet sense of relief.

The hallway seemed to go on forever, and at the end of it, the exit seemed too bright. He almost didn't notice the figures waiting for him, one man and one woman.

As he drew level with Lewicki and Kate, Daniel tried not to look them in the eyes. He didn't particularly want to see the concern he knew would be on Max's face, much less the happiness of the pretty young agent. After three months of almost no contact, he wasn't sure how he was going to talk to her, work with her. The fantasy of his hallucination had had three months to brew, to sow the seeds of other tortuous scenarios, these played out mostly at night in his dreams.

Kate, though, wasn't having any of it. She didn't know about the kiss, didn't know that Daniel had spent every spare second since being admitted abusing himself with self-doubts, anger, and fantasies that could rival even some of her most graphic. But she knew Daniel, and she knew the shame his condition gave him, knew how much he hated that she'd seen it. Thirty minutes in a visiting area was different from walking back into the world together. She knew he'd be pulling away, and she had thought about what to do.

Physical contact between them was rare, she figured, but he'd broken that barrier, so now it was her turn.

Daniel came out of his room and moved up the hall towards them, looking withdrawn and tired. Worry made a hollow in the pit of her stomach—wasn't this place supposed to have made him better? Or did they only concern themselves with his grasp on reality, not his physical or emotional well-being? He was still Daniel, but there was a defeated undercurrent to his posture, the way he moved.

She wanted to run to him, but didn't. He might not understand it, might think that she was trying to baby him or in some other way undermine his already delicate confidence. She had years of experience not doing things, resisting urges, especially around Daniel. Instead, she waited until he stepped into the reception area, still looking closed-off, shoulders hunched as he clasped his duffel bag to his chest, the same way he carried his briefcase, like a shield. His only greeting was a tight, fake little smile, almost sarcastic.

There were papers to sign, and Kate held herself back as Daniel and Max went through them together. Finally the clipboard went to the doctor, who scribbled a signature and smiled at Daniel. Daniel didn't smile back. He turned away from the doctor, his shoulders hunching up again, the closed-off look in his eyes deepening, but he met Kate's gaze by accident, and she made her move.

It was incredibly good to step up to him, wrap her arms around him, though he was frozen for a moment, not responding, not reviling her. Slowly, his arms came up around her as well, and she turned her face into his shoulder, tears stinging the corners of her eyes. The familiar smell of him was a little altered—the detergent at the hospital was strange, and a faint, sterile kind of air hung about him, but it was still comforting to bury her nose in the collar of his sweater, standing on tip-toes even as he curled over to match her height. He was solid. A little skinnier from prolonged exposure to the hospital food, but his back was still wide and warm under her palms, a reassuring sense of realness about him that fell at odds with his delusions.

"I missed you," she told him, in a voice meant only for his ears. Her embrace tightened and she felt him tuck his face into her shoulder.

"I missed you, too," he replied, and another stab went to her heart. His voice was rough, strained, not the light, limber tones he normally spoke in.

It was simple, to raise her head and look him in the eye, to lean in, even with no assurance of success, and, focus switching from his lips to his eyes and back again, to press her mouth to his. The easiest thing in the world, just a little motion, a tiny tilt of the head. It was like moving a mountain.

She didn't know what she'd been expecting; maybe that Daniel would freeze up or something, but not that he'd respond so instantly and passionately. His arms tightened around her, pulling her up and taking her weight against him, and he angled his head a little to open the kiss. Still, though, it felt private, like they were alone in a bubble of peace, his arms and shoulders an impenetrable shield.

Daniel didn't care that they were standing in the lobby of the mental hospital, and even the drag of the meds wasn't weighing on him. He felt light as a feather, and he was burning with hot happiness and an intense, irrepressible hunger, the same hunger that had been preying on him since the hallucinated kiss. That kiss had been a pale imitation of the real thing, he found, the colorless beam of a flashlight, next to the bright orange flame of the real thing. Kate's mouth was soft and warm, the taste of her a drug, the kind of drug he hadn't known in far too long.

His heart swelled with the contact. His greatest fear, while he was trapped in the sterile white walls, was that Kate would run away from him, or worse, pity him and cover it up with sweet words. Instead she had kissed him, and after the three months of stewing thoughts and amorous dreams, his love spilled over onto her, and she received it gladly, and returned it in equal measure. It was the best moment of his life.

Inside the bubble of the kiss, there was no time. The linkage of one moment to the next held less significance than the link between themselves, and the touching of lips and tongue outshined the passage of seconds, mere ticks of the clock. As Daniel basked in the relief and comfort of the kiss, as Kate kissed him with all that she had, a thousand years might have passed. Or a few seconds. They didn't know, didn't particularly care. They very willingly would have stood there forever, intertwined, if it hadn't been for the presence of Lewicki.

Lewicki had been allowed to visit Daniel more than Kate had, and it had come out, by way of an overheard argument with Natalie and a serious talking-to, that during the Episode, Daniel had imagined something to do with Kate. "Something impossible," he'd called it bitterly, "Something amazing and impossible." Whatever it had been, Lewicki was pretty sure it had been romantic, because the Doc had been carrying a torch for the pretty agent almost as long as Lewicki had known him; when he'd landed at Rexford the first time, when he hired Lewicki, a driving force behind his deterioration had been Kate's moving to D.C., and before the meds had started to kick in Daniel had been both loud and anguished in his hallucinatory conversations, with both Kate and Natalie, although as usual his imaginary best friend seemed to occupy most of the airtime. That was part of what made Lewicki dislike Kate from the very first—she messed with Daniel's routine, and he knew that if Daniel got too involved and anything happened, anything at all, to take her away, his boss and friend would fall apart dramatically.

Now, though, Lewicki didn't know whether to be angry at Kate, for putting another indelible feeler in the Doc's heart, or to be happy for the Doc because that torch he'd been carrying had finally caught fire with Kate as well. One thing he did know, though, was that the receptionist was looking amused and Doctor Rosenthal was not. On the receiving end of a raised eyebrow, Lewicki gritted his teeth and tapped the Doc on the shoulder.

Daniel wanted to groan when he felt Lewicki's intrusive prodding, shattering the little bubble of warmth and happiness. Instead, he broke the kiss, pressed his cheek against Kate's for half-a-second, and rounded on his assistant. Lewicki was giving him one of the stupidest expressions he'd ever seen, a clownish mixture of apology and desperation poured into a wide grin, and Rosenthal had an eyebrow raised. Daniel gave him a challenging look and stooped to pick up his bag in one hand, the other still around Kate's waist.

"Let's go home, Doc," Lewicki said, still looking awkward.

Danile gave him a sardonic look, then looked at Kate. "Yeah," he said. "Let's go home."


Parting Comments: Well. Finally finished that.

Thankee kindly to theinvisiblequestion who was kind enough to read this over and do some beta-ing. It is much better as a result.

Hugs and Kisses,