Pairing: Lindsay/Danny (implied and angsted about, but nothing concrete)
Challenge/Prompt: fanfic100, 074. Dark and psych_30, 020. Learned Helplessness
Summary: Danny really deserves more than this.
Author’s Notes: Written about an hour after seeing “Love Run Cold”. I know why Lindsay can’t face being with Danny (damn Wikipedia spoilers and my inability to stay away from them), but felt it was more fun to allude to it than actually say anything (that fic is coming later, when that episode airs in the UK). Anyway, angsty Lindsay, angsty Danny/Lindsay. *grins*
When I get back I will dream in Barnes and Nobles;
Oh leave me here, oh leave me where angels fear to tread...
When I get back I will bleed after my beating,
Don’t leave me here, don’t leave me here-
I’m scared to death.
Even though it’s late, she keeps the lights in her apartment off. She doesn’t like the dark but at least she can pretend to be nothing and no one here, ambiguous in the silence. Or, at least, as silent as it gets in New York City, which is not very silent at all, but she is learning to block out the sounds of traffic and people all crammed in incestuously close, killing each other with words and guns and fists and sheer proximity.
Fuck, she didn’t mean to think about death again. Not like this, so close in the breathless dark.
One telephone call, that’s all it took to shatter the equilibrium that she’d forcibly constructed, piece by desperate piece, stuck together with duct tape and tears and almost tangible hopes that shook and trembled and weren’t all that steady to begin with. She thought she was better than this, that she could grit her teeth together and not have to hold this so close. She thought… fuck, she thought so much. Now she’s crying with the lights out and- Jesus, is that the time?
She lies on her couch and watches the luminous lights on her DVD player inform her that even now she should be calling a cab and going to meet Danny. Maybe she should. Stick two fingers up at the memories attempting to throttle her, wear something pretty, grab some dinner with Danny. He’s a co-worker and he’s a nice guy and he can almost always make her smile, but… she knows how this evening will go and how it will end. She will go, pick at her food, drink too much wine, get too drunk and attempt to seduce him, all clumsy fingers and smiles. And Danny could act the gentleman and bring her back here, to her tiny apartment, the bathroom mirror shattered in the sink because she threw the telephone into it, to the clothes strewn across the floor and the photograph albums open on the coffee table, spilling memories and pain in equal measure. But there’s the chance that he’ll be drunk too or he won’t be able to hold back any longer, and there’ll be hands and touches in the dark or the light or whatever they choose and she’ll wake up tomorrow and wear one of his t-shirts, drinking his coffee and fighting off the hangover and the guilt.
She thinks about this option, runs a tentative hand up the thigh of her jeans, tracing the inner seam the way she thinks Danny might, and almost screams, and not from any sort of pleasure. She can’t do this. Tonight, she cannot be touched, she cannot face social contact of any kind, and she should call him and tell him to stay home and order a pizza and watch the game. There must be a game of some kind on. There usually is.
But then there will have to be explanations. And she honestly can’t face the explanations. She’d rather fuck Danny while drunk on Chardonnay and panic than have to look him in those blue eyes and tell him the truth. God, maybe she should have stayed in Montana after all. At least back home they all knew, to certain degrees, and no one asked her out or even flirted with her. It frustrated her to begin with, then it became a relief. That she wouldn’t have to worry about ever trying to patch together a relationship again.
Now, of course, there’s Danny. He has that smile and that habit of calling her Montana, which never irritated her but she felt she ought to put up a fight to begin with, because Danny had that edge to him that told her she’d have to be careful, or else she’d wind up attempting to break down her barriers for him. Only for him. Mac is gentle and Sheldon is sweet and Don is probably the most sensible option but she and Danny have had this spark since they first met. It terrified her from that first day and it still terrifies her. She has this irrational fear of losing him (well, it’s not entirely irrational, but she’s not thinking about that tonight, she’s not), but more than that. She has… oh, she doesn’t even know, except that she probably needs more therapy and she won’t go. She’s been crazy and she’s been sane and she hasn’t quite worked out which one she hates more.
He’d looked… so nervous, asking her. She thought that was madness; Danny has this air of always being confident, always being cool; if she’d ever thought about him asking her out, it had always been a throwaway remark. Hey, Montana, you wanna grab some dinner? I’ll pick you up at eight or something, not giving her a chance to reply, just a grin that would make her stomach lurch and a blush rise in her cheeks. It hadn’t happened like that.
She was putting her coat on, grabbing her bag out of her locker, getting ready to go home and face another evening of being alone on her couch watching TV shows she had absolutely no interest in, when she noticed Danny watching her, hands in his pockets.
“What’s up?” she’d asked, because she’d never seen Danny look that awkward or out of place.
“Lindsay”, he said, and that was her first clue of what was coming, since he wasn’t calling her Montana and that had to mean something pretty big, but she didn’t pick up on the clues quick enough and so couldn’t cut him off and run for it in time. “Do you want to… have dinner? With me?”
“You’re asking me out?” She shouldn’t have been so surprised, she knows that, but she’d always thought it was casual flirting, nothing more, no matter that sometimes she caught herself wanting to stare into his eyes for ever and ever.
“It’s not… I’m not…” she’d never seen Danny helpless before, and it scared the shit out of her, “I guess… yes. Will you go out for dinner with me… next Tuesday?”
Oh fucking hell. She should have said no, she should have made up a prior engagement or told him she was gay or not interested in him or allergic to… eating or something stupid, should have done something. Under no circumstances should she have smiled and said:
She knew it was going to end like this. Or maybe she didn’t. She wasn’t planning on breaking down and screaming into her sofa cushions for over an hour, but she knows she wasn’t planning on going because even before the phone rang she hadn’t made a move to find an outfit or fix her hair or anything.
Danny really deserves more than this.
But it’s late and she’s still sobbing and it’s still dark and she should be there by now. She can picture him looking up and seeing her standing there and smiling like he did when she arrived at the crime scene wearing her opera dress (her stomach lurches with the memory; she wishes she didn’t have it so bad for him, it would probably help with the whole letting-him-down thing), sitting down, letting him order for her, making small talk until they both relaxed. Fuck, it could work.
But not today, and not tomorrow, and probably not next week either, or maybe even longer than that because who knows how long it will take to cram all this back into that box in her head where it really all needs to stay because she can’t live like this.
He’s going to call her, she thinks, then lunges for her cell phone and switches it off before he can try to speak to her, and she doesn’t have to worry about him calling her at home because the phone is kind of a write-off (throwing it at your bathroom mirror will do that). Maybe she should duct-tape all the doors and windows shut too. Danny-Messer-proof her home. For a moment her lips twitch in something that’s almost a smile, and has to mentally thank Danny, because she wasn’t expecting to find something to smile about tonight.
There is nothing about this situation that isn’t screwed-up beyond what human tolerance can take, and really, she should call and apologise and not leave him sitting there, but an uncharitable part of her imagines that Danny could never really be all that miserable about being left on his own; there’s bound to be a leggy blonde or something who can distract him from her conspicuous absence. So she stays lying on the couch and wipes at her eyes and prays for this shaking to pass because this is stupid and painful and she’s sure she used to be so much stronger.
But she- fuck, he held her so tight and he was so worried; left the arresting to Stella and simply walked through the smoky air screaming “Lindsay!” until he found her. Single minded in his desperation and oh, that hurt, how much he cared. His arms around her, pressing her face into his shoulder, shaking so hard and she realised Danny had really thought he’d lose her. Honest-to-God believed she was going to get hurt or killed, and although that was sort of insulting, that he had so little faith in her abilities, it was sweet. It was more than sweet. She’d dug her fingers into his upper arms, clinging to the only tangible thing she had left, and he hadn’t said anything, even when the smoke cleared and Stella was staring and the cops were dragging everyone off in handcuffs and Flack’s eyes were wide and they really should let go and go back to the lab and write this whole mess up, but she couldn’t let go and Danny seemed to understand (he didn’t seem any more inclined to step away).
Time ticks by and she watches and screws up her face, hating herself for doing this to him and it really isn’t fair. So eventually she reaches for her cell, turns it on, is about to punch his number in and apologise, make up a sick relative or whatever, anything to stave off the truth, when it rings. She answers immediately, before she even gets a chance to look at the caller ID, half-expecting it to be Danny asking what the hell happened to her and-
But it isn’t. It’s Mac, telling her that he knows it’s her night off but he’s having difficulty getting hold of Danny and a woman’s been killed at a Vodka launch party, can she come over? She seriously thinks about saying no, but that won’t get her anywhere, lying here in self-pity and crushing, sucking misery, so she scrambles for a pen and turns on the light and writes down the address, promising Mac she’ll get there as soon as she can.
It takes a while to fix her face up, no matter how much cold water she splashes on the skin, and she suspects she’s going to be looking shifty and unhappy all night; there’s nothing she can do. She is feeling unhappy, and guilty, and tired, and all sorts of other things, and she isn’t quite strong enough yet to shove them all to the back of her mind and jump on them until they pretend to not be there, so she’ll have to just deal with this as best she can. Mac would probably give her time off if she explained the circumstances, but she’s not sure that would help and she can’t find the words to articulate or explain exactly what this is and why-
He’s late. She’s cold, wishing she’d worn something warmer, pitying the scantily clad models because there’s just too much ice around, and Danny is late. She gets on with processing the scene, can see concern in Mac’s eyes, shrugs it off as easily as she shrugs everything off these days (didn’t even bother going to the compulsory counselling she was sent to after almost being blown up), and he lets it go, which is a relief. Hell, maybe he knows. There must be background checks for this sort of thing.
“Sorry, Mac, something came up.”
Casual, calm, nothing’s wrong, it’s just Danny, they can both deal with this like the adults they are. But she closes her eyes momentarily, half expecting him to stride over and berate her right there, but she remembers that that isn’t actually Danny’s style, she’s attributing characteristics to him that he’s never had, because tonight nothing in her head is quite right and everyone and everything’s all wrong.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve been stood up on a date,” Danny tells her quietly, and she feels her stomach plummet. She could actually throw up on the crime scene, and wouldn’t that go down well with Mac? She can tell from his tone of voice that he’s hurt, actually genuinely hurt, and she wishes that he’d hate her rather than feel injured by her.
“Sorry, Danny, something came up,” she mumbles. It’s not enough, but she can’t tell him any more. She won’t. It doesn’t even sound sincere, but if she attempts sincerity she might actually cry.
“Phone’s not working?” he enquires. Hang on; maybe he isn’t hurt, maybe he’s angry. She can’t even look at him. Fuck, this is way too awkward, she’s in over her head but she never meant to be, and nothing is right.
“I’m really sorry,” she tells him, but she doesn’t sound it, and she’s still not managing to make eye contact.
“Are we alright?” he asks, and for a moment she pictures him all nervous, asking her out, and realises he’s halfway nervous now. For all he knows, she’s taken offence from some little thing and hates him. She wants to laugh. Danny, you’re fine. I’m the one completely fucked up.
“Yeah, sure,” she mutters, and wants to hurt herself for how non-committal and unhelpful she sounds, and she still won’t look at him because that might actually break her heart.
And it gets worse, having to work with him, having to work at all, because it’s too bright here and she can’t keep it together any more, having to creep off to the bathroom to cry in the stalls, dabbing at her face with wet tissue paper so she’ll look almost normal, praying Stella or Peyton or someone who might recognise her won’t walk in, because she won’t- can’t- deal with questions. She’s supposed to be working through this, supposed to have worked through this in the first place, supposed to have acknowledged that what happened was tragic and fucked-up and wrong but she has to let it go or face the fact that in a way, she died too.
She isn’t dead. She has to remember that.
It would be so fucking easy just to walk into the lab, and kiss him, and lose herself in him, but it wouldn’t last and she has enough sanity left to remember that he can’t save her, and it isn’t right for her to expect him to. Too much pressure and Danny is strong but anyone would crack under that much strain. He’d come to hate her and she wouldn’t blame him.
Besides, she doesn’t want to tell him about the nightmares and the fear and how much she wants him to hold her in the dark and tell her it’s all right (actually, she wants anyone to do that, except that she’s still jumpy about being touched and, oh fuck, could she get more screwed-up), because Danny is part of the new life she is trying to make, not part of the old one she’s trying to run from, suppressing her memories, barely remembering to call home, and she doesn’t want him mixed up in the suffocating little things that eat at her soul. She doesn’t want any of them getting involved, which is why she hasn’t confided in Stella over coffee, or admitted it in the safety of Mac’s office, or turned to Danny in the lab and said- there’s something I have to tell you.
Besides, who’s to say Danny wants the real her? He knows Montana, he knows cheerful Lindsay Monroe in the lab who smiles and flirts and doesn’t volunteer much about her home apart from a couple of cracks about wheat fields and rawhide braiding and other generic things she could have picked up from a tourist guide. He doesn’t know what she looks like when she snaps the face off, cries for hours because she can’t cope with any of this, screams down the phone at people who are supposed to be her friends because she doesn’t want to talk about anything. Danny knows the version of her that she so desperately wants to be but isn’t, not yet, not quite, and she isn’t prepared to offer up the desperately frightened and lonely person she is inside for his perusal.
And maybe, maybe they could have pretended everything was all right, except that she’s in no fit state to keep up the lie. She can’t return to flirting and in the end they’re practically shouting at each other in the street, Danny completely perplexed because all he wants is to grab some pizza and all she wants to do is get the hell away from him, and she knows that he has no idea why. She’s not even sure she knows why. Pizza could lead to anything and god, that sounds stupid and paranoid and it’s not like she’s a virgin or even inexperienced; she knows what she’s doing but she can’t do it with him, with anyone.
People are staring and her breath is tight in her chest; it’s not really even an argument, it’s a disagreement, she wants to work and Danny doesn’t (nothing entirely new there then), fine, but there isn’t friendship under the words and for the first time she’s terrified that she’ll end up getting genuinely angry with him; there’s a hint that Danny is thinking the same thing, but he’s more confused and hurt than furious, and she leaves him standing there anyway.
She wishes she could be content with him thinking she’s a complete bitch, who lead him on and broke him up at the last minute all for some kind of cheap kicks; but, unfortunately, somewhere along the line, Danny’s opinions have started to matter to her. It’s crazy. She should never have let herself get this close, never have started to fall for his smile and his charm and when he had Cindy, it was all fine. It isn’t any more, though, because she could have him if she made the slightest effort. It would be so easy, to walk into the lab, or the locker room, or wherever, to kiss Danny and beg him to fuck her until her mind goes blank and it all fades away, and he’d tell her ‘no’ and refuse, at least at first, but she suspects that Danny would do anything for her, if she found the right leverage. Besides, she knows Danny well enough to understand how much he wants to save everyone, how caring he is towards the needy, and he isn’t going to find anyone this year needier than her.
She bites down a bitter laugh and reminds herself that self-pity is not attractive.
Perhaps if he wasn’t so confused and wounded it might not matter so much, and she knows that she was stupid for thinking that she could get away with fobbing him off on a “we’re fine but I’m not going to tell you anything resembling the truth, and I don’t even respect you enough to come up with a lie”. They find the murderer (it was the boyfriend; ooh, what a surprise), but it isn’t over.
“Lindsay Monroe, can I talk to you for a second?”
Something about Danny using her first name scares the hell out of her; maybe it’s the way he sounds like a teacher, calling her into the principal’s office- boy, is she in trouble. All the little voices in her head are screaming at her to run; she stops and lets him talk. She owes him this much.
“I have to know what's going on with you. Look. I mean you and I, we have this, this thing right? This chemistry? It's like we're into each other. But every time we're in the same room together today, it's like- don't tell me you don't feel it also.”
Fuck, fuck, fucking hell. Danny’s smart and sometimes she forgets this. He’s probably more aware of what’s been going on today with her than she is; only he doesn’t understand and she’s not in the mood to tell him. She can picture his reaction; staggering back, or maybe hugging her close. She refuses to be a pity fuck. So she takes the last chance to run for it.
“I can’t do this, Danny,” she tells him, and attempts to step around him. He blocks her path in an entirely non-threatening matter, and she’s too tired to try and evade him any more.
God, she thinks, you break me into pieces sometimes.
“You can’t do what?” he demands.
“I can’t… be in a relationship with you,” she admits softly. Might as well get her cards down on the table, scare him off any way that she can manage. Maybe the intimacy card will send him running. It occurs to her that she doesn’t know Danny well enough to be able to tell.
“Alright, I'm not, I don't, I don't, um... I just...” That throws Danny, she can tell, and it’s a relief although it makes her chest hurt in some small way she doesn’t want to understand or even think about. “I'm talking about spending some time together. Dinner. A few drinks. Some laughs.”
But she can read in his eyes that that isn’t all he wants, and there’s a look there that’s screaming, Montana, you’re breaking my heart, whether he’s aware of it or not (she thinks not. And that has to be a good thing). Fuck it Danny, she thinks, I know.
She reflects that she would actually cry if she could remember how to, and Danny is standing between her and her exit, and for a moment she considers just collapsing on him and admitting in the world’s tiniest voice just what’s going on in her head right now. But that would be stupid and she can’t handle any more emotional torture today, the inevitable questions, the pity and horror in his eyes. Couldn’t Mac have researched this, forewarned the department? Why does it all have to be up to her? She’s sick and tired of all of this, and maybe she really was wrong in trying to leave home and start somewhere anonymous and new.
“Look. Danny... I like you... a lot. But right now I can't. It's not you really. I just, I need to be by myself so I can work some stuff out that I thought was behind me. I didn't mean for this to happen. Maybe we should just do our jobs and-”
And we’ll pretend to be platonic, and we’ll exchange glances over dead bodies, and I’ll never tell you why, and you’ll eventually tire of me and trying to play the waiting game, and it’ll all work out fine. Please, Danny, just let it go.
She turns to leave, unable to have this conversation any more, needing to go home and throw up and fix herself properly so life can go on as though this never happened.
“If there’s anything you need from me, just let me know, ok?” he calls after her.
And what the fuck is she supposed to say to that? Ok? Thank you? I need more from you than I can ask for and you can give me? She feels the first tear slide down her face without the comforting warning of her eyes burning or sobs rising in her throat; Danny doesn’t understand and she can’t tell him. It’s better off this way, it has to be.
So she just keeps walking, because she can’t look back.