*Disclaimer: This is just for my own amusement. I don't own the characters. I just like treating them like puppets should inspiration strike. Peace*
*AN1: Takes place early Season 2ish. No real spoilers anymore. This is more a Kate-centric piece with some Kate/Daniel mixed in because I like it. Ignores Caroline, sorry Caroline fans.*
"Donnie! What the hell are you doing here?!"
Blood boiled hot through Kate's veins as she stared into the arrogant, self-satisfied smirk of her ex-husband. Well, soon-to-be ex-husband; the official paperwork hadn't gone through yet, but in Kate's opinion it couldn't come soon enough. Gripping the frame of her apartment door so tightly that her knuckles were turning white, she stood her ground directly in front of the entryway, blocking any chance of passage into her inner sanctum. It was hard to make herself look remotely imposing in the oversized sweat shirt and yoga pants she was wearing, her chestnut hair flowing freely over her shoulders, but Kate put on her best interrogation face and glared daggers into the cocky young attorney. His return grin only incited her further and she hissed.
"Honey, I'm home. Nice to see you, too." His voice was overly cheerful as he held out a bouquet of daisies toward Kate. She deliberately ignored them, and his sarcastic comment, as she continued to stare Donnie down. It was taking everything in her to not slam the door in his face and go back to the quiet evening in she had planned just before his unannounced visit, but she had vowed to herself back when they had first separated that she would never again give him the satisfaction of knowing he'd gotten to her.
"C'mon, Kate. I'm not here to fight." Donnie gave off the appearance of a shy teenager as he glanced towards the floor and ran his free hand through his short brown hair. "I'm actually here to apologize…to you. For everything…" His tone was halting as he ground out the words that were so difficult for him to utter. "You know I've never been one to admit when I'm wrong, but I'm willing to admit now that it's my fault we failed as a couple, and I'm sorry for that. I miss you, Kate. I guess I was just hoping that maybe we could talk, bury the hatchet; that you might forgive me a little bit…" He looked around self-consciously as he spoke and Kate gave an internal scoff. Typical Donnie; always concerned with his image. "Can I come in, please? I really don't want to be having this conversation in your hallway."
While her defensive stance may have eased in the slightest, Kate still wasn't buying his plea and she definitely wasn't ready to let him in. Though outwardly he seemed sincere enough, she knew from experience that Donnie was a master manipulator and would do whatever it took to get what he wanted. She'd been burned before and she was determined to avoid that inferno at all cost.
"I think we moved past apologies a long time ago, Donnie. I've got nothing to say to you." Kate said, as she moved to close the door.
"Wait, wait, wait!" Donnie whispered; hushed but urgently, reaching towards the rapidly shrinking sliver of light. He managed to thread his fingers between the frame and door just as the heavy oak crushed in on them.
"Oww!" Kate heard him howl as she flung the door back open.
"Are you all right?! Dammit, Donnie! What were you thinking?" Kate's initial concern morphed into irritation at his recklessness, and the sudden realization that she couldn't just leave him out there now. She had no choice but to let him in. Damned sense of honor…
"I wasn't really. I just couldn't let you shut me out again." He hissed through clenched teeth. The flowers he had brought were left discarded on the floor as he held his injured hand protectively in the other; the fingers throbbing painfully to the steady thrum of his pulse.
Out of the corner of her eye Kate saw her elderly neighbor, Mrs. Vitali, had cracked her door and was watching them with curious interest; a tuft of white hair and flowered robe barely visible as she tried in vain to spy on them.
"Get in here." Kate ordered, grabbing Donnie by the lapel of his pricey sport coat and dragging him inside, hoping to avoid any further attention from nosy neighbors. She wordlessly shut the door behind them, and pushed Donnie gently but firmly toward the nearest armchair as she continued into the open kitchen. When she returned, she had an cold pack wrapped in a dish towel which she none too kindly pressed onto his rapidly bruising digits, eliciting a yelp from him.
"Hey! Be nice! Your door attacked me."
"You deserved it for that little stunt you just pulled." Kate huffed as she took a seat across from him on the coffee table. "Lemme see."
Kate took his hand carefully in her own and scanned the damage. The basic first aid that had been a part of her FBI field training had taught her how to judge the severity of an injury. She would be able to determine quickly whether or not he needed a medical attention. As much anger as she felt toward Donnie, not only for tonight but for everything that still hung like a heavy thick fog between them, she didn't wish him harm. Plus, part of her wouldn't put it past him to sue her for the liability.
After checking for breaks and doing a couple motion tests that made him whine dramatically, Kate stood again, putting some distance between them saying, "Keep that icepack on it for a bit. It'll help with the swelling and the pain."
"Thanks, Dr. Ryan." Donnie shot her a grin as he tended to his hand; Kate cringed at his casual use of her married name.
"It's Moretti again, actually. I've been going by Moretti since the separation and have legally started changing all my stuff back. Figure it'll make the transition easier once the divorce is final."
The truth was that Kate had never wanted to change her name in the first place, but had bowed to pressure from both Donnie and his large, traditional, Irish-Catholic family. She thought she noticed a flash of disappointment in his eyes when she mentioned her name change and she felt bad for hurting his feelings, but they were in the middle of a divorce. He couldn't honestly expect her to keep his name.
Kate cleared her throat and redirected the conversation. "Is your car downstairs?"
"Nah, I took a cab. I wasn't keen on leaving the Volvo parked on the street in this neighborhood." More like he didn't want to be seen slumming around in Kate's neighborhood, period. Donnie fidgeted idly with the cold compress on his hand looking a little too at home for Kate's liking.
"Good. You probably shouldn't be driving with that mangled claw you've got going on there anyway. I'll call you another…" Kate moved toward her desk, reaching for her cell phone where it was charging on the docking station.
"Trying to get rid of me so soon?" Donnie broke in with that same glib tone of voice. Despite his injury, he was really turning on the charm and Kate was reminded of just how charismatic Donnie could be. After all, you didn't become a golden boy in the U.S. Attorney's office without being able to fast-talk a few people along the way. She had fallen for it herself, once, which had turned out to be one of her biggest mistakes. One she felt she was still paying for in this very moment. Kate sighed deeply.
"Like I told you before, I really don't think there's anything left to say…" Kate didn't make eye contact as she unlocked her phone and searched for the number of the nearest cab company. Donnie barked out a harsh laugh.
"Jesus, Kate! You haven't lost your bullheadedness, I see. I'm sticking my neck out here and trying to be the better man! Why can't you just give me a chance to say my piece? I think I deserve that much." Donnie blurt out in frustration, causing Kate to stop what she was doing; her cold stare pinning him to the plush armchair.
"Because it's always about you isn't it, Donnie? About what you give up, what you sacrifice, what you've done? Just like it's always been. You can't really expect me to treat you like some kind of martyr." She spat back. A small but clear voice in the back of her mind that sounded suspiciously like her father's scolded her for allowing Donnie to draw her back into the same old argument she had been hell-bent on never having again.
Fortunately for Kate, Donnie didn't seem to have any interest in fanning the flames. Raising his uninjured hand in a placating gesture he said, "Okay, okay. Power down. That didn't come out the way I meant for it to. When it comes to you, I seem to be a pro at saying the wrong thing. I'm sorry…again."
His apology trailed off between them. In Kate's jaded mind it was just another empty concession, another bone he threw her way in the hopes that it would buy him more time to accomplish whatever objective he had set out to complete tonight. But she wasn't about to spend one more minute speculating about his ulterior motives; she just wanted him out of her apartment. She shook her head as she called him a cab.
After she had hung up, she turned to face Donnie, her expression stony. "Your cab will be here in twenty."
"Thanks." He looked like he wanted to say more, but was erring on the side of caution with the air still electrically charged between them. Kate was grateful; this was one exchange she was nowhere near prepared for. And as petty as it may have sounded, she wasn't sure she was ready to forgive him so easily for his part in the collapse of their relationship.
Kate started mentally counting the minutes as the awkward silence dragged on. The only sound in the small, confined space being the voice of Cubs announcer, Len Kasper, as it filtered through the flat screen on the far side of the room. She had just been sitting down to watch the game she had DVRed before Donnie had stopped by and officially ruined her first night off in three weeks.
"The Cubs? Really?" Donnie's voice cut through the quiet. Kate looked up at him questioningly. "Is this part of my punishment?" His face was sour as they listened to Kasper give the starting lineup.
Back when they were together, Kate learned early on just how much of a die-hard Sox fan Donnie really was. Since then she had been subjected to almost every form of White Sox superstition and even uttering the term "Cubs" in his presence was considered a sacrilege to this steadfast Southsider. So Kate had learned to bite her tongue when it came to baseball; it wasn't worth another battle.
"For your information I had the game on before your little surprise visit, and last time I checked this was my apartment." Kate retorted.
"But you've always been a Sox fan." He seemed genuinely perplexed. "We'd always watch the games together. When did you switch to the Cubs?"
Kate smiled and shook her head ruefully; a part of her hated to burst his bubble on a seemingly happy memory during their brief marriage as there were so few of them.
"I didn't switch, Donnie. I was raised on the Cubs." Kate wandered a few steps away, picking at a thin scratch on the surface of the foosball table. "But I knew how big of a fan you were and…I guess I just didn't see the point of creating something out of nothing so I went along with it because I liked you. The games, all your little rituals…"
He gaped at her; eyes wide and disbelieving, "Are you saying you faked it?"
Massaging the bridge of her nose trying to stave on the impending headache she felt forming behind her eyes, Kate muttered under her breath. "Trust me, that's another can of worms neither of us wants to touch."
Donnie stared face forward, absorbing this new information; the cold pack lying in a pool of condensation on the coffee table. "Wow...After all this time, I feel a little betrayed. I won't lie." He glanced over at Kate. "Is that why your father hated me so much?"
"Well, that…among other things." Kate nodded. "I think the whole 'sleeping with his daughter' thing may have been the biggie."
"Well played, Mata Hari." Donnie mused, more to himself, and drew an exhaled chuckle from Kate. Donnie turned to her. "But, come on, I wasn't that bad now, was I? Smart, stable, handsome; we had similar interests. It's not like I was some loser philosophy major you dated in high school…"
Kate inhaled sharply at his barb, but she did her best to keep her features schooled. Grabbing at a glass of tepid water sitting on a side table, she took a long sip to avoid the biting comment that so badly wanted to escape her lips. He always managed to bring out the worst in her. She wasn't about to get into it with him about past three-week relationships. How long does it take to get a damn cab here? Kate brooded to herself as Donnie continued talking, not in the least bit concerned that she had tuned out his rambling monologue.
"But, even you have to admit, when we were good together we were good together, Kate. We both have ambitions. Aside from the Cubs thing, which I can forgive, we make so much sense!" He paused for a moment. "I suppose I should come clean about why I really came here tonight. I want to give us another go, Kate."
Kate was unable to hold back her shock as the swig of water she had just taken made a wrong turn causing her to cough violently. After regaining herself, she looked over at him with an incredulous expression.
"Donnie, you can't be serious! Okay, for a second, let's put aside the minor detail that you slept with my best friend. Sure, we had our moments, but it was World War III the rest of the time. What we had was not a healthy relationship and you want to give it another try? Yeah, right!" She finished sardonically.
"Why not? We know now what went wrong the first time and we fix it this time around. I just think we owe it to ourselves to take a second look at this whole thing before we sign the final papers." Donnie explained and shrugged his shoulders as though he couldn't understand why she wasn't completely on board with them giving their marriage a second chance.
Kate laughed softly and shook her head. He made it all sound so simplistic, so easy, and so flat. No declarations of love or impassioned pleas for her to take him back. Just…blah. The raw passion that they had lived on during the brief time they were together; the fire and the fury that was always present in good times and bad just wasn't there any longer. She may have been blind to it at the time, but Kate realized now that she couldn't be sure that what they had had was even love at all, at least not on her part. Not that she'd ever confess that to Donnie.
"Look, Donnie, we were way too similar in some ways, and way too different in others. And both of us were too stubborn to give an inch. What makes you think that our personalities are suddenly going to change just because you want them to? I just can't see this working out any differently. I'm sorry." She tried to be as sensitive as she could towards his feelings, whatever they may truly be, but she respected herself too much to put herself through that again.
"There's someone else isn't there?" Donnie queried. Still seated in the armchair, he surveyed her with suspicion. "That professor you work with? From the other day at your office? The one you talk about constantly?"
Kate gaped wordlessly at him, unsure of whether she was more surprised at his bold-faced accusation or that it seemed he could see through her so easily. Daniel and Donnie had first crossed paths at FBI headquarters a few days ago, despite Kate's best efforts to keep them at separate corners of her life. Sure, Daniel knew about Donnie, her marriage, and pending divorce, but knowing both of them as well as she did she'd wanted to delay the inevitable pissing match for as long as possible. She'd managed to keep the introductions brief and Donnie had seemed more interested in his phone than Daniel, so Kate had pushed it from her mind. Apparently, the damage had been done.
Her halting response was all the answer Donnie needed as he snapped his fingers and pointed at her. "I knew it! I had it pegged all along." He seemed to take some perverse pleasure out of being proven right. "So how long have you been sleeping together?"
"We're not!" Kate finally found her voice again. "Daniel's just a good friend!" Her rebuff a little too emphatic, she cringed inside. It was true enough they weren't sleeping together, but even Kate was having a hard time believing her 'we're just friends' line. She was no longer in denial of the feelings she secretly harbored for her former professor turned colleague, and her gut told her he felt… something for her. Daniel's barely suppressed jealousy toward Michael Hathaway during their brief fling was evidence enough, but since then they had remained in a holding pattern that neither of them wanted to be the first to break. Each clinging to their friendship and partnership for fear of what a change to the status quo might bring, for the better or the worse.
Donnie was unconvinced. "It doesn't take a genius to figure out that there's something going on, Kate. I guess I just never thought that tall, dark, and loony was more your type, but I'm learning all kinds of new things about you tonight!" He chuckled.
The color rose in Kate's cheeks as her ire flamed anew. Was this all a big joke to Donnie? It was one thing for him to attack her for her refusal, their history, or whatever. That she could handle; but it was a new low entirely for him to go after Daniel without even knowing him.
"Donnie, you have no idea what you're talking about so just stop…" She warned, but he continued on as if he didn't hear her.
"No, no, I am nothing but happy for you and the Nutty Professor. I'll make sure to drop you two a Christmas card at the funny farm."
"OK, that's enough!" Kate rushed forward and looped her arm through his uninjured one, unceremoniously hauling Donnie to his feet ushering him toward the front door. "You've officially worn out your welcome. Not that you were exactly welcome in the first place." She added the last bit sotto voce. "You can go wait for your cab out on the stoop."
Stumbling awkwardly as they walked, Donnie tried to backtrack. "OK, OK, OK! Ow! Wait, Kate! Not so fast I—"
The words froze between them when Kate pulled the door open to reveal a puzzled looking Daniel on the other side, stooped low and gripping the abandoned bouquet of daisies in his hand. He looked very distinguished in his black pea coat, dark wash jeans and a dark blue scarf looped neatly around his neck; his ever present messenger bag slung across his body. In another time and place, the sight of Daniel outside her door with flowers in hand might have caused a different set of butterflies to take up residence in her stomach rather than the anxious ones fluttering fiercely in there now. Daniel slowly rose to his full height; the confusion in his hazel eyes melting into comprehension as he took them in, pressed against each other side to side, her arm tangled up with Donnie's, her casual state of dress, the flowers. Kate noticed Daniel's face fall before he quickly donned a mask of quiet indifference and she could only imagine how this must look to him. Moments where it seemed everything was completely under Murphy's control were not unfamiliar to Kate, but never before had she wished more for the earth to open up and swallow her whole. She tried to reel in her embarrassment so that she could speak, but Daniel beat her to it.
"I'm interrupting." It wasn't a question. He shuffled from one foot to the other; one of the many nervous ticks that gave away his discomfort and Kate's heart went out to him. After a few endless, awkward seconds, Kate found her voice again.
"Not at all, Daniel, Donnie was just leaving actually…" Despite the fact there was nothing going on between she and Daniel, Kate still felt the irrational need to reassure him of Donnie's place in her life.
"Dr. Pierce, right?" Disentangling himself from Kate, Donnie stepped forward and addressed Daniel directly. Kate was surprised that Donnie even remembered Daniel's name after their first meeting. They had obviously made more of an impression on each other than Kate had originally thought though Kate wasn't convinced that was necessarily a good thing.
"Mr. Ryan," Daniel nodded politely towards Donnie, avoiding direct eye contact.
"Donnie, please." Donnie was being eerily jovial which only served to heighten Kate's suspicion. "It's nice to see you again. I'd shake your hand, but…" he held up his swollen purple digits for Daniel to see.
Daniel winced, "Are you all right?
After Kate dropped the bombshell of her marriage on Daniel during the Date Night Killer case, they had had a handful of short, somewhat uncomfortable, but revealing conversations about Kate's time on the East Coast. Based on those conversations, she knew that Daniel didn't think much of the brash young lawyer, but he seemed to be making a staggering effort to be cordial.
"He's fine." Kate interjected before Donnie could start up again.
Stepping forward, Kate pried the forgotten bouquet of flowers out of Daniel's tightened grip; yet another subtle hint of Daniel's unease that only Kate picked up on. With Donnie's words still ringing true in her ears, she bit back the urge to brush her hand over his; linger just for a moment, in a small gesture of reassurance.
"Yeah, nothing that an icepack and a shot of bourbon won't take care of." Donnie grinned at Daniel whose eyes kept darting toward the door like a caged animal looking for escape. "So, Dr. Pierce, what brings you by this time of night?"
Kate's angry eyes bored into Donnie at his thinly veiled insinuation, but his remained focused on Daniel. What nerve did he have to question her friend's presence in her own apartment? She honestly had no idea what brought Daniel by her place after 9:00 on a Tuesday when they weren't active on a case, but if that smug son of a bitch was enjoying watching them both twist, then maybe she'd just have to give him something to twist about and save Daniel from the Inquisition.
"Not that it's any of your business, but I invited Daniel over to watch the game. We're both Cubs fans and thought it'd be fun to get together, order some takeout, and discuss the merits of Samardzija's cutter."
Donnie's eyes narrowed at Kate while next to him, she didn't miss the bewildered expression on Daniel's face, and suddenly she felt guilty for dragging him in the middle of their twisted little game. All the same, as brown eyes grabbed hazel, she wordlessly pled with him to play it out.
"Yeah, we do that sometimes." Daniel said, dryly, as he stared Kate down, pressing his lips into a firm line. Message received. Yep, she'd definitely be paying for this later.
"Oh, like a date?" The fake tenor in Donnie's voice rose an octave. "That's funny because Kate was just quite adamantly telling me how there isn't and never has been anything between you two."
It was official, Kate hadn't really thought this through and now Donnie was determined to embarrass her thoroughly as she had done him when she turned him down. Despite the truth behind his exaggerated statement, Kate didn't miss the hurt that flashed across Daniel's features at Donnie's revelation.
Feeling both heartened and shattered by having proof of Daniel's feelings towards her and the inability to do anything about it, Kate could only silently gaze into Daniel's eyes and try to communicate her apology. Daniel wasn't looking at her anymore, however. He was already far away, she knew it was only a matter of time before he made his excuse and bee-lined for the door. Kate couldn't watch anymore. She glanced downward and studied the swirl pattern on her carpet as she waited helplessly for the resounding click of the latch as he left.
The sound never came, and Kate was left completely dumbstruck by what she heard next.
Daniel heaved a sigh. "Well, you know Kate; for an FBI agent she's not very good at keeping secrets."
Kate's stunned and Donnie's mildly disgusted gazes followed Daniel as he sidled up to Kate and looped his arm around her shoulders and leaned into her imperceptibly. Inwardly, Kate knew they weren't fooling anyone let alone one successful Assistant U.S. Attorney but it didn't stop her from reciprocating the charade and winding her own arm behind Daniel's slim but sturdy back. She felt his body stiffen as her hand came to rest at the small of his waist and gave a little tug, pulling him closer and settling herself back against his shoulder.
Kate did her best to ignore how nice it felt. Per unspoken agreement, touching was something they just did not do. The last time Kate had been so close to Daniel had been when he had embraced her following the two days he had spent trapped in a hallucinatory state. Even now, months later, he would still deflect whenever she asked for the whole story of what went on in his mind during that time, or he'd claim not to remember. From what she could garner he had thought her in danger, or worse, and had been acting out in a moment of relief when he had hugged her. Since then, he had been doing a hell of a job making sure they wouldn't have to so much as hand off a file between each other or risk crossing some invisible boundary. Until now, that is.
Kate gave Daniel's side another small squeeze for encouragement as she took up the curveball ball he had lobbed in her direction, "Yeah, sorry about that Donnie. Just can't be too careful, you know? While Daniel's not officially FBI we do still work together from time to time. So long as it doesn't affect that we figured our private life should stay private." She gave Donnie an innocent look. "You won't tell anyone will you? I'd hate to have to remind your boss of how you requested to transfer back here and work with me in spite of the fact that we are still technically married. So you understand, right?"
Donnie, not so subtly, rolled his eyes at the pair with a humorless smirk on his lips as he headed towards the door. "Yeah, yeah. Touché, Kate. I think I'm going to go check on my cab and you two can go back to your game. Enjoy watching Soriano choke again."
Kate felt Daniel squeeze her shoulder tighter unconsciously as he retorted, "You don't know what you're talking about, Ryan, Soriano singled on his last three at bats and need I remind you who is at the bottom of the AL Central right now?"
"Let him go, Daniel. Let him go." Kate ground out through clenched teeth as she stood in front of him and urged him back further into the apartment and away from Donnie's retreating form. Fortunately, Donnie didn't look back as he gave a brief wave of his bruised hand over his shoulder before the door fell shut behind him.
Kate and Daniel stood stock still for a moment, her hands holding onto his shoulders, neither speaking as they waited to see if Donnie would return. Kate released the breath she didn't know she had been holding as she heard his footsteps echo down the hallway in the direction of her elevator. Kate's attention was suddenly drawn to the fact that she was still holding onto Daniel and she let go as if shocked. Daniel's eyes shown with what appeared to be amusement as she backed away, bumping into the desk behind her.
"Sorry…about that, Daniel." Kate stuttered. She wasn't sure if she was apologizing for hanging all over him or for everything that had happened just now. She decided to go with the latter. "Thanks for playing along with…" Kate's voiced trailed off as she motioned broadly towards the area Donnie had just vacated. This whole ordeal had exhausted her. All she had wanted was a quiet night…
"I trust I'm going to be getting the full explanation for what this was all about." Daniel commented as he brought his messenger bag up and over his head, leaning it against Kate's desk; noticeably more at ease now that Donnie was gone.
"Yeah, I'll explain everything. Just let me get a nice stiff drink first." Kate droned before heading to her kitchen area and pouring Daniel a glass of purified water and herself a finger of scotch, laying them both on the counter.
"I just have to ask. What is it with men and your baseball teams? I can only hope one day to find a guy who will fight for me as hard as he does for his favorite baseman."
Kate had meant it as a joke, but after receiving no response from Daniel, she glanced up to find Daniel with his hands in his pockets, his eyes focused on her and an expression so soft that Kate felt the warmth of blood rushing to her cheeks as she blushed. She kicked herself for acting like a smitten schoolgirl.
"I believe you will, Kate. Someday…" Daniel spoke gently, smiling slightly, before breaking their gaze as he took a sip of his water. "But, hey, you got to give some credit to the guy who would pretend to be your secret boyfriend in order to get back at your ex."
Kate smiled widely and studied him intently. It didn't take a mind reader to guess who the somebody Daniel was referring to was, but Kate also sensed he wasn't near ready to take that step yet. At least now she had a better idea of where she stood and she was more than willing to let him take the lead and let things happen in their own time. Until then, they would continue to do what they do, but she didn't see anything wrong with giving him a little nudge here and there.
"Good thing for that future lucky bastard that I happen to like baseball and am pretty partial to the Cubs."
"He is one lucky bastard." Daniel chuckled as Kate raised her glass to Daniel's in a toast.
*AN2: I started writing this one as a speculation piece sometime last winter, right after the announcement of Scott Wolf's casting as Donnie for Season 2, then came down with a really nasty case of writer's block. Finally picked it back up again a few weeks ago. Any mistakes are my own. Please read and review. Reviews are like candy and make me write more. Peace! ~Zephyr~*