Lady Paperclip (paperclipbitch) wrote,
Lady Paperclip

"I'm lost; I can't tell where you end and I begin..."

Title: Postcards To No Man’s Land
Fandom: CSI:NY
Pairing: Danny/Peyton [Peyton/Mac, Danny/Lindsay]
Challenge/Prompt: alphabetasoup, D is for Dragon
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Het
Spoilers: Set post the season 3 finale, “Snow Day”.
Copyright: Tori Amos, “Dragon”.
Summary: Danny is broken, and Peyton makes her choice.
Author’s Notes: I wrote this in purple fountain pen, and it’s a bit odd. In a good way (I hope!). But I fully give you permission to hate it, because it’s… random. Even I’m not sure exactly what I’m trying to achieve with large sections of it. But it was fun to do as a Londoner. I hardly ever get to write things referencing my beloved home city, so it made a nice change…

{don’t tell me a woman did this to you}

Mac writes her postcards every other day, words printed out in black biro. Familiar places photographed and mailed across the Atlantic, now lying cheaply on her breakfast bar, lost in a pile of bills and the medical journals she still subscribes to. Mac writes cheerfully enough; he seems at peace since the change of scenery, and he says that Stella was only too happy to take the extra ticket. He doesn’t sound at all accusatory. It’s possible he isn’t; he always was a nice guy.

“Shouldn’t you be in London?” Sheldon asks one afternoon, file of autopsy results in his left hand. It’s taken him long enough to notice.

London? Oh, London. Well. Peyton has all the time in the world to go to London and she never liked it much in the summer anyway. Mac understood, when she told him; decided to go even when she pulled out, he took Stella instead.

“Go away, Sheldon,” she sighs out, with every bit of the upper-class brat she’s got. She looks at him like he’s giving her an awful headache; but Sheldon is used to her tantrums and haughtiness and merely laughs as he walks out the door.

{candy lies}

Lindsay succumbed to grief counselling and is taking some time to herself. Tiredness and guilt and it’s a lot to live with; Peyton can’t blame her for needing the alone time. It’s quiet, with Mac and Stella in London and Lindsay taking every day as it comes and Danny-

Well, the less said about Danny, the better.

“Should’ve gone to London,” Sid practically singsongs. He’s picking shards of glass out of a dead man’s back and the task is proving tedious. Peyton sighs, unrolling latex down her hands. Sid knows more than he should do because they spend so much time down here stuck with each other’s company and gory-looking corpses that he knows her too well.

“And miss this?” she asks with a bitter smile, indicating the naked teenage girl on the slab before her, face caved in beyond recognition. “Never.”

{you touched my hand, I felt a force}

“Did Mac send you these?” Danny asks, tapping the postcards held flat to her refrigerator with round black magnets. The London Eye, Buckingham Palace, Nelson’s Column, the Tower of London, Big Ben, Tower Bridge – all laid out in lines.

“Yes,” Peyton replies, beginning the task of unpacking her groceries. Danny turned up unannounced and she could hardly ask him to go. Not after so much silence. Though she has no idea what to say to him and there’s awkwardness on both sides.

When she turns he’s taken a postcard off; he’s holding it in his good hand and frowning a little.

“He doesn’t send his love,” Danny remarks.

“No.” Peyton hears the hesitation in her voice but things changed while Danny was hospitalised and she doesn’t want to discuss it yet. “No, he wouldn’t.”

Danny must hear the bite of semi-painful loss in her tone, but all he says is: “But he’s still sending you postcards.”

Peyton shrugs. “I did pay for the trip.”

{you called it dark}

Mac knew when she told him and it was almost a relief. He kissed Peyton’s lips and then her forehead and she thinks she might have cried a little. Cried a lot.

“I’m sorry,” she all but sobbed against his chest, trails of mascara on her cheeks. “Mac, I’m so sorry.”

“It’s been a strange year,” he mumbled, mouth pressed to her hair, “Do you mind if I still go?”

And later, when her tears were dried and she’d explained all that she could manage, Mac said:

“When the time comes, tell Danny that I don’t blame him.”

{but now I’m not so sure}

“I thought you were going to London. You know, with Mac,” Danny says, ignoring the coffee she’s made him. “I was with you when you booked the tickets.”

Peyton leans back into the cushions of her couch, pressing her hands against her face.

“Well, I didn’t.” Her tongue feels clumsy, there are so many words that she doesn’t know how to say.

“Did you choose?” Danny asks suddenly, “Did you finally choose?”

Months and months on end in a complicated, stupid situation where Danny knew all of it and Peyton hoped that Mac only knew his half of it. Because it was more fun to sleep with both of them than face having to make an actual decision. Then the situation changed; and so did the odds.

“I didn’t choose,” Peyton insists, “I just… didn’t want to leave the country at the moment.”

Danny just looks at her, blue eyes suddenly steely behind his glasses; she isn’t fooling anyone.

“All right,” she sighs, “I didn’t choose Mac. But it doesn’t mean that I chose you.”

{Just stay awhile, why don’t you stay awhile?}

Thursday begins with another postcard delivered before she goes to work, the Thames Flood Barrier – Peyton suspects this is a sign of how sick and tired Mac is with her, that she no longer gets the attractive landmarks – and grows ever steadily worse.

There are altogether too many bodies and today Peyton just… can’t. She has Earl Grey all over her shoes, and a headache.

“Bet London’s looking pretty good right now,” Sid suggests brightly, when she’s sitting outside the morgue with her head in her hands.

“Enough about bloody London,” she snaps. It isn’t funny any more. And besides, it’s too late now. She made up her mind weeks ago; she can’t go back on it.

Danny texts her later: we need to talk. Peyton doesn’t want to talk but says that she’ll come over later anyway.

{‘cause your wild card, boy, needs playing}

When she walks into the apartment, he’s in the shower. Peyton listens to the way he isn’t humming under the water and presses her lips together, because Danny is a broken man. Kidnapped, tortured – Lindsay couldn’t handle his darkness alongside her own, backed away from their subtle flirtation. Peyton is still clinging on to whatever the hell this is. She doesn’t know why.

Peyton greets him with a towel when he snaps off the water, smiling almost hesitantly. Danny kisses her instead of taking it, winding the wet fingers of his good hand in her hair.

“I slept with Lindsay,” he says, and it comes out as a slow sigh against her cheek. He’s still naked.

“Ok,” Peyton whispers, and she wonders if this is the part where he tells her she left Mac for nothing.

“The day before it- before it happened, I slept with Lindsay. I took her shift. That’s why I was…” He can’t continue. She feels him swallow, and water is soaking into her blouse.

Danny’s injured hand skitters down her spine, don’t get the bandages wet, though it’s a little too late for that now.

“I’m in no position to judge,” Peyton tells him, while the steam curls her hair.

{don’t believe the lie}

Sheldon hands her a mug of tea when she walks in on Saturday, no rest for the wicked after all, and people don’t stop dying horribly just to let them catch their breaths.

“Mac sent us a postcard,” he says, flicking it back and forth in front of her cheerfully. “Sent it to the 35th floor, anyway.”

Peyton snatches it from him, not in the mood for whatever it is he’s trying to achieve.

“Who did he think was going to read it?” Peyton murmurs to herself. They’ve fallen spectacularly apart these last few weeks, everything’s all got too much. It’s just Sheldon and Flack rattling around in the glass shoebox of the 35th Floor, and it’s not as though Don is ever around at the moment. Peyton would pity Sheldon, if she weren’t so busy focusing on herself and Danny.

The words on the postcard are sweet, ambiguous, cheerful. Peyton sips her tea; she’s heard it all before anyway.

“He’s taken another week’s vacation,” Sheldon informs her. Peyton looks around her at the breakroom and all the grey-looking, depressed people in it, spilling coffee across the tables.

“I can’t blame him,” she says.

{your dragon needs slaying}

“I talked to Lindsay,” Danny announces. Peyton sticks an art postcard from the Tate Modern to her fridge, Mac wrote her half an essay on the Mark Rothkos and Peyton feels a twinge of something half-desperate as she snaps a magnet into place.

“You did?” she asks, trying to keep her voice neutral.

“We’ve agreed we should be friends,” Danny tells her. Peyton presses her fingers to the postcard’s glossy surface, straightening it, closing her eyes and catching her lower lip between her teeth.

“But you’ve been after her since she arrived,” Peyton finds herself saying, words pouring out. “And she’s been here longer than I have. I thought I was filling the space until she said ‘yes’.”

“I can’t save her, she can’t save me.” Danny half-laughs; he sounds tired. “It’s too late.”

Peyton can’t turn around. She breathes in anxiously, and it sounds like a shiver.

“Just ‘cause I didn’t choose Lindsay doesn’t mean I chose you,” Danny murmurs, and he’s suddenly got too close. Peyton finally faces him, back against the postcards Mac sent her.

“Oh,” she murmurs, “God. This has got horribly serious.”

Danny laughs, and wraps his arms around her to stop her shaking.

{won’t you lay here with me?}

Peyton offers her couch, which sounds ridiculous, but they’re trying to negotiate new terms in this apartment of suffocating ambiguity and Danny’s fingers are still warped beneath their clean white bandages. They shattered him that day, he’s in hours of therapy he has no patience for, and Peyton should have gone to London with the man she was supposed to be all kinds of in love with. Now she’s here, and none of the pieces fit where they’re meant to.

“I should get home,” Danny tells her, undamaged fingers brushing her hair back from her face.

“I don’t know-” Peyton begins weakly, and watches him smile. He’s as lost as she is.

It shouldn’t be reassuring, but it is.

{and I will bring kisses for the beast}

She spits a mouthful of orange juice on the morning’s headlines, yet more people uselessly dead in the human race’s quest to fuck itself over. No postcard this morning – it’s not surprising, she got one yesterday, and to send her one every day implies there’s still something salvageable between them – and the post is full of bills and exhaustion. Newsprint on her fingertips and she puts glasses in the dishwasher, leaving the apartment not in the mood for work.

“You look happy to be here,” Sheldon says, taking a cardboard file from her. Dead man on the slab, ribs broken through, blood on her latex gloves.

“Isn’t there something more productive you could be doing, Sheldon?” she asks tiredly. He brings out the whiny brat in her; she thinks he likes doing it.

“When I could be annoying you?” he smirks, and she wonders if he’s lonely, waiting for everyone to return to the department. He’s part of someone else’s team now, trapped in the meantime.

Peyton does her best put-upon sigh, rolling her eyes at him. Sheldon laughs and leaves her to it.

{when I look back over documents and pages}

“The Rumour Mill knows everything,” Peyton tells Danny over the phone. Earl Grey steeping in a blue mug and feet bare on her kitchen floor. “So much for discretion.”

Danny laughs, shaky but genuine. “Is there a betting pool?”

“Naturally.” Peyton tucks the cordless under her ear, cuts herself a slice of lemon to add to the tea.

“Did you put any money in?” Danny asks her, he sounds bemused. Peyton sucks the juice off her fingers, astringent on her tongue.

“I thought it was too soon to tell,” she replies. “Want me to put some down for you?”

“Is there a favourite?”

Peyton dumps the loose-leaf teabag, breathing in the soft bergamot-scented steam.

“There are fascinating odds on me running off with Lindsay,” she says lightly, “Which was something I hadn’t even considered until now.”

Danny seems to be thinking about this. “What has Sid got his money on?” he enquires; he knows as well as Peyton does that Sid has great intuition in these cases.

“I don’t know,” Peyton lies. “I suppose we’ll have to work this out for ourselves.”

{ancient savageries christened those inflated}

She’s always liked London; her parts of London, anyway, which are Kensington and Knightsbridge and all the places coloured indigo on a Monopoly board. She’s got money, you know, more money than she’ll ever let on; for one thing, she doesn’t need the day job. She could up and quit tomorrow and still live on daddy’s legacy til Judgement Day. Mac and Stella are staying in The Savoy, not just any old hotel. And she does her Christmas Shopping in Harrods and Liberty, whenever she’s home.

Peyton has never asked but knows enough of Danny’s past to know that they don’t exactly correlate.

She drinks a glass of pink grapefruit juice in lieu of real breakfast, and reads the back of her postcard – St Paul’s Cathedral – and reflects she got rather fond of the Southbank too, once they cleaned it up. Mac tells her he and Stella went to the Globe Theatre; Othello.

“‘He has a daily beauty in his life that makes me ugly,’” Peyton mumbles to herself, finishing her juice.

{now it has come to light}

Peyton wakes from a nightmare – Mac sending her a postcard with I still love you in damning black ink – to find Danny murmuring in his sleep. There are pills on the bedside table next to his glasses and he looks anxious. As though some therapy and some medication could block out the worst of the voices in a man’s head.

She watches him until he wakes, blue eyes wide in the semi-dark. He breathes too hard and she doesn’t know what to say to comfort him, isn’t sure how to deal with this in any sense. After all, Peyton talked to Mac, had the relationship with Mac. She fucked Danny, took him for drinks with her knee pressed to his under the table. Nowhere near enough, not now, not with so much encroaching loss. There is so much she cannot fix.

“I stayed in New York for you,” she tells the darkness. “Isn’t that crazy?”

“Should’ve gone to London,” Danny murmurs.

“Should’ve stayed at Lindsay’s,” she returns quietly.

They take hands, under the quilt.

{the Gods; they have slipped up}

While they’re stripping the flesh off a skeleton with bleach, Sid says:

“Is it paying off?”

“It’s complicated,” Peyton sighs, drawing out the word into all its syllables, so she can taste each of them. “It’s not something that can be fixed in a matter of weeks.”

“They’re good at this,” Sid tells her neutrally, and together they heave the body up to see how well the whole stripping-off-skin-and-muscle is going, before lowering it back into the hot, bubbling, red-stained water. “Danny’s faced worse. He can get through this without you.”

Peyton watches another piece of skin detach itself and float to the surface.

“That may be the problem,” she admits finally. For once, Sid doesn’t say anything, and he doesn’t bring up an eye-wateringly inappropriate anecdote. Instead, they both watch as a corpse is reduced to soup, literally stripped down to the bone.

“God, my life is fucked-up,” Peyton remarks to no one in particular.

{they forgot about the power of a woman’s love}

“I can’t sleep.” Danny’s voice is calm, although it’s four a.m and he’s pacing her kitchen, “I can’t eat, my damn hand hurts all the time, and Lindsay won’t return my calls.”

Peyton says nothing, and looks at the scary rows of postcards on her fridge.

“You can get through this,” she tells him eventually, echoing Sid’s words without even thinking, “You know you can.”

Lindsay would probably know what to say in this situation. Or maybe she wouldn’t; after all, she’s got enough of her own to deal with. No one seems to be in the right place at the right time for Danny. Peyton wraps her arms around him anyway, on the off chance it might make a difference.

“You never know,” she whispers against his neck, “We might be all right after all.”

“I’m glad you stayed,” he mutters into her hair, and this could be the only time he ever says it, four in the morning and shaking like a leaf. “I’m glad you didn’t go to London.”

Peyton almost thinks I’m glad one of us is, but that would be cruel, and a lie. At least, she hopes it would be.

{just stay awhile}

Mac’s last postcard – a Union Jack – arrives on the day he is supposed to return to work, and Peyton presumes that this is deliberate. Danny is asleep in her bed, exhausted, and she doubts Mac will be impressed when he comes back to discover the huge nothing those left behind did in his absence. She couldn’t even sort out a definite relationship with the man she left him for; things are still too fragile, even for that.

One day, presumably, Lindsay must return to work, patched together with therapy and the knowledge the man of her nightmares is behind bars. Peyton wonders if it’ll be awkward, if Sid will give her looks over his glasses for days. When all this began, she could think only of Danny; but it doesn’t mean she isn’t speculating about how it will all end.

In the final line, Mac says thank you. Peyton stares at the words for a long time, shower-wet hair dripping damp down her back. What exactly does he mean? She’s done nothing but let him down recently.

“Jesus Christ, don’t thank me,” she mumbles. And when she attaches it to her fridge, the magnet holds it in place with a damning click.

Tags: challenge: alphabetasoup, character: danny messer, character: mac taylor, character: peyton driscoll, character: sheldon hawkes, character: sid hammerback, pairing: danny messer/peyton driscoll, pairing: lindsay/danny, pairing: mac/peyton, tv show: csi:ny, type: het

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