Sometimes, one day at a time is almost too much to ask. Spoilers for pretty much everything. Slash, Danny/Martin.
Courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
Martin hides his addictions like he hides his emotions, badly. Even if he manages most of the time to keep the pills he takes far too regularly out of sight, those who notice know there are just as many pills he takes when no one is looking. Danny is the first to notice, far too familiar with the way Martin's gaze sweeps across the room before he reaches down into his coat to grab the bottle. Danny can almost taste the forced neutral expression and sense of casualness, remembers far too many times he tried to look the same way as he walked into the same liquor store only a few hours later.
Walking over, Danny settles himself on the edge of Martin's desk, well inside the boundaries of the other man's personal space. Martin leans back as his hand holding the bottle of pills drops less than subtly out of eyesight. The response makes Danny alternately want to smile and sigh; obviously Martin is aware just how many pain killers he's been taking.
"How're you feeling? More vitamins?" Danny asks cheerily, watching Martin's hand try to slide back into his coat pocket.
"Like I told you earlier this morning when you asked, I'm /fine/," Martin says with an exasperated sigh, quickly replacing the cornered expression with one of annoyance.
"Great, come down to get some coffee with me," Danny says, making it sound less like a question and more like a command.
"Haven't you already had enough coffee this morning?" Martin asks, pointedly looking over at Danny's desk where there are two empty cups.
"It's not possible for me to have too much coffee," Danny replies with another grin as Martin gets up stiffly.
"I'd beg to differ, having seen you jitterier than the Flash on several occasions," Martin snorts before he reflexively explains himself, "sorry, comic book reference. The Flash is a rather twitchy and high strung character."
Danny doesn't bother to tell Martin he knows who The Flash is, since Rafi's kid likes to watch the Justice League. Instead he places a hand over his heart as if affronted, "Are you calling me high strung?"
"If the shoe fits," Martin says with a grin. "Did you get any information out of Robert's mother this morning?"
"Not really, she says he's been increasingly closed off since he moved off to college. She wasn't even sure if he had a girlfriend," Danny says, willing to allow the change of subject back to their current case. Robert Sheffield, young, white, normal; but still missing.
"Parents," Martin sighs, "You would think they'd be just a little more involved in their children's lives."
"Weren't you commenting just last week about the crazy overprotective streaks of parents when we wrapped up the Chandrappa case?" Danny laughingly reminds him.
"There's got to be some kind of middle ground, that's all I'm saying," Martin finally replies as they reach the elevator.
His car isn't that badly damaged on the outside, only a crumpled fender and scraped paint up along the driver's side. The damage on the inside is far worse, the glass from the vodka bottle has ripped through parts of the seat and the smell of booze is everywhere.
/I can explain this/, Danny thinks for a moment, all thoughts of his impending bar exam banished with the collision. Then he looks down at himself, seeing his vodka soaked clothes, and takes in his appearance in the rearview mirror in a moment of clarity. As the other driver climbs slowly out of his car, Danny knows that his life is over; there will be no more lawyer dreams. He has blown this just like every other chance he's ever gotten.
The sounds of the outside traffic become intolerably loud as his own car's engine cuts out. Danny wants to scream, but the explicative that escapes his lips as he slams his hand against the steering wheel feels more like a whisper lost in the cacophony of noise.
A police car is there within minutes, perhaps because the other driver suggested he reeked of alcohol when he called it in. Danny, for the most part, has been desperately trying not to show his panic. He's pretty sure his blood alcohol isn't high enough to create trouble, but it will certainly be mentioned in the report, which is almost the same to anyone looking. Despite all of this, the single thought that keeps crossing his mind is /God, I could use a drink/. After all of this, Danny finally begins to wonder if the worst damage wasn't on the outside.
Two weeks later he walks into his first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting at the order of the court officer who reviewed his case, feeling more sober and terrified than he's ever felt in his life.
Sam is the second to notice, perhaps because she divides her limited free time between scowling at Jack and his new lover and flirting almost desperately with Martin. She notices him taking another dose when she comes back from field interviews and crosses over to his desk.
"How many of those have you taken today?" she very nearly demands. She's just loud enough that Danny can hear from his desk where he's doing background work on their current missing person.
/Nonono, you're doing it all wrong/, Danny thinks. He can't hear Martin's reply but he can clearly see both of them frowning. He's sure that whatever Martin said, it probably isn't the truth. He'd always subtracted a few drinks whenever someone asked him.
They continue to argue quietly for a few moments, Martin continually looking around as if he's desperately hoping that the entire office hasn't noticed their fight. Sam finally huffs back to the central table where she tosses down her field notes angrily.
"Did you get anything from the girlfriend?" Danny asks as he wheels away from his desk over towards Sam.
"Completely uncommunicative, she claims Sheffield broke up with her 2 days before he disappeared," Sam replies, flopping down into a free chair. She picks up her notes and flips through them.
"Yelling certainly isn't going to help fix that," Danny says quietly with a knowing smile, glancing over towards Martin's desk.
"Well, what the hell else am I supposed to do?"
"You can't help him if he doesn't want it." Danny replies with a shrug and rolls back to his own desk.
"Our line of work would seem to suggest otherwise," is all Sam says in return. The three of them work in silence until Sam gets up to report her findings to Jack and Vivian, who are camped out in his office.
"You look hungry, we should go eat lunch," Danny announces as he gets up and walks over to Martin's desk. He can't quite bring himself to confront Martin about it directly, that's far to close to dealing with why Martin's taking the pills in the first place.
"Why? So you can ask me how I'm feeling?" Martin replies sourly. Danny doesn't reply immediately but leans his hip onto the side of Martin's desk.
"That was uncalled for," Martin says. "Sorry. I suppose I should be grateful someone gives a damn enough to even ask, as annoying as it is. I wonder if all this would have happened if Sheffield had had someone to talk to when his roommate over dosed."
"Actually, I was just thinking that I'm pretty hungry myself and if I'm hungry, you must be wasting away underneath that horrid pink shirt," Danny says instead of acknowledging Martin's apology.
"Fine, we can go to the cafeteria. The financial background information should be in by then. But if you ask me how I'm doing, I'm going to go find my cane and hit you with it." Danny laughs at that, causing Martin to smile.
"His roommate cared, at least. The damn guy managed to report Colin missing from his hospital bed," Danny says with a subdued grin. He puts a hand on Martin's shoulder until he sees the other man's expression darkening and turns to get his coat with another chuckle. Danny can see Sam, Vivian and Jack sitting in Jack's office as they walk past. From the way that Sam glances at them through the window Danny knows she hasn't taken his advice to heart.
"Did I ever tell you about my first AA meeting?" Danny asks as they walk slowly towards the elevator.
"I thought you weren't supposed to talk about them with other people?"
"Not about what people say at the meetings," Danny simply replies before continuing, "I was so damn scared the first time I made it to a meeting. It took me two tries to actually make it into the room. The first week I tried, I made it into the building before I turned around and walked directly to a liquor store. The next week I spent 10 minutes outside thinking about how desperately I just wanted another drink, which is what finally made me go inside."
Martin doesn't say anything when Danny pauses and their ride down in the elevator is silent. Danny is content to leave it at that because he knows he can't push this with Martin, not this time.
There are so many bottles on the counter that Danny wonders how he ever fooled himself, let alone anyone else. His liquor cabinet is almost empty; its contents are mostly arrayed around the sink. For the past two hours he's been methodically pouring each bottle down the drain. On some conscious level he knows he shouldn't be doing this, watching each bottle's contents escape down the kitchen sink is a new and special kind of torture. He could easily call a friend to get rid of it all so he wouldn't have to watch, but Danny is stubborn. Now that he's decided on this course, he doesn't want to run away from it, instead he wants to force it, own it.
He thinks it shouldn't have taken nearly this long, but after the second bottle of scotch he had started shaking so badly he'd had to go sit down on the couch and stare at his new Alcoholics Anonymous book as the evening news blared on his television. The book is plastic and shiny with newness, despite its gray recycled color and bland printing.
1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol; that our lives had become unmanageable.
It took almost everything he had to make it into the meeting room earlier that evening but what he'd seen inside had shocked him. A man he'd initially pegged as another first timer from his haunted expression and nervous demeanor had introduced himself as "Jim, sober for 12 years, 3 months and 19 days." Danny is only a few days sober and feels as if his world is slowly collapsing around him, was it going to still feel that way in a year? In twenty? Danny doesn't even know if he's going to make it a week.
5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
Sitting there, listening to people who'd been coming to meetings for 10 or more years, Danny had begun to realize this wasn't something that was going to magically get better. It might not ever get better. But Danny wonders, maybe this is the point. If it is never going to get better, then perhaps it is worth trying to deal with it instead of letting the bottle destroy his life. Again.
8. Made a list of all the persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
He's down to the last bottle now, but this is the hardest one. It's a bottle of Glenmorangie 12-year, port-wood finish whiskey that Jocelyn had bought him to celebrate the end of their second year of law school. They hadn't been dating that long by that point, so perhaps she hadn't realized just what kind of gift she'd been giving him. Danny has no idea how the bottle has managed to remain unopened all this time, given the high turnover rate the cabinet had been seeing. She'd given him a choice in their last year of law school, her or the bottle. Perhaps that was why the bottle had remained unopened.
His hands are barely shaking as he uncorks the bottle. This isn't cheap whiskey and its smell physically assaults him when the cap comes off. The smokey odor with a hint fruit that wafts up to Danny's nose brings with it a vivid memory of curling around Jocelyn and licking into the curve of her neck. The true evil of the smell is that he knows he could probably leave her again for another drink.
Instead of pouring it down the drain along with all the other bottles, Danny shoves the cork back into the bottle and drops the whole thing into the trash. He can barely see as he makes his way back to the couch and picks up the book again. On the TV, President Clinton is making a speech to congratulate himself on reelection. A sentiment that rings hollow in Danny's ears.
No one says anything the next day when they all return to work. Nor the day after that. On the third day Danny reconsiders his assessment and thinks that maybe Sam did decide to back off. They find their missing teenage boy, no thanks to the uncooperative girlfriend or disinterested mother, and as they're doing wrap-up that afternoon Jack calls Martin into his office. The expression on Sam's face as she nearly bolts for the breakroom tells Danny his initial suspicion is correct. He can see that Martin suspects the same thing as the man walks away. Danny keeps talking to Colin's roommate on the phone, but his eyes follow Martin all the way into Jack's office.
Elena notices him watching Martin. "I would think that you'd have learned not to meddle by now," she sneers when he hangs up the phone.
"Or maybe you're going to offer him some relationship advice? Perhaps I should warn Sam."
"Callate antes que me enojo," Danny smiles back at her, all teeth. Elena rolls her eyes, completely unimpressed, but turns back to her own desk none the less.
Martin is only in Jack's office for ten minutes, but when he returns his expression is closed off. Vivian and Danny share a concerned look when Martin grabs his coat and backpack. Danny calls out to him as Martin walks out of the office, but he doesn't look back.
Danny heads for the breakroom instead, where he knows Sam is still hiding.
"Congratulations, not only have you failed in helping Martin, you've possibly also ruined his career," Danny hisses angrily as he sits down beside her at the table across from the vending machine.
"I had to do something, Danny," Sam retorts defensively. "What do you want me to do? Blithely ask him how he's feeling every day like you've been doing?"
"If anyone but Jack was our supervisor, Martin wouldn't be walking out of here on personal leave or whatever Jack has probably forced him into. He'd be put on suspension and told to report to a rehab facility. Did you even stop to think about that?"
"Do you think I would have done this if it was anyone besides Jack?" Sam says. Danny wonders if, perhaps, that is point.
"Tell me you didn't just fuck Martin over because of Jack," Danny demands. He knows he probably deserves it when Sam slaps him before storming out.
The urge to strangle Elena is nearly overwhelming when he comes back to his desk and she gives him a knowing look. Despite whatever she may think, he's convinced this is nothing like the situation with her husband 6 years ago. Danny packs up his things and heads home early, far too annoyed to do anymore paperwork.
In his first year in Missing Persons, Danny starts going back to his AA meetings on as close to a daily basis as his schedule allows. He'd gone daily for the first six months of sobriety and it had eventually slowed to a couple times a week until he'd joined the FBI. The cases are always difficult and the guilt over the people he can't save has started to eat away at Danny's expensively bought sense of control. The need for a drink looms larger and larger in his thoughts until one night he breaks down and frantically calls his sponsor, Richard.
Danny met his sponsor about a month into his attempt at sobriety. Richard Chang is a Peruvian Catholic in his forties and almost 9 years sober. They began talking to each other after the first time Danny talked about Hialeah and his father at the meetings. Danny thinks Richard must have been one hell of a mean drunk before he cleaned up, although he never says it. He would never have guessed that Richard spoke fluent Spanish but Richard eventually told him that his family was from the large Chinese population that lives in Peru. The two of them quickly developed a connection, not exactly a friendship, but that really wasn't the point.
They talk for hours on the phone that night: about the parts of his job that Danny is allowed to share, about his family, even about how the Mets are doing this season. Richard updates him on how his family is doing, the Changs are going on with their lives like normal people. Danny can't even envision what a normal person's life is like anymore.
The next night Danny talks at the meeting for longer than he's talked in months. When he finally comes home late that night, he still has trouble sleeping, but he wakes up the next morning and that's enough to allow him to get ready for work.
Danny spends most of the next couple weeks in and out of town as they search for a traveling salesman who never came back from one of his trips. He hasn't told anyone on the team yet about his alcoholism, although he thinks that Vivian suspects. He calls his sponsor a couple times in the second week because he hasn't been able to make any meetings in almost a month and he finds himself staring at the mini-bar in his hotel room. Danny knows he can't keep this up, something is going to give eventually and he just prays it isn't his control.
They find the missing salesman in Omaha's central morgue. Dead from a car crash that burned out most of the car, the local forensics team was only just identifying the car as a missing rental. The wife flies out to identify the body and her broken sobs as she's led back out eat at Danny's stomach the entire way to the airport.
"Lemme buy you a drink," Jack offers as they sit in the hotel bar, waiting for their flight.
"No thanks, Jack," Danny defers, wishing desperately that his cell phone's batteries weren't dead. He considers going to find a payphone to call Richard. But it's already 2am in Omaha, which means it is 3 or 4am in New York. Danny still can't remember what time zone Nebraska is in.
"You really look like you could use a drink," Jack insists, looking at him carefully.
"Yeah, that's kind of the problem," Danny says with a humorless laugh.
It takes him a week, but Danny finally gathers his resolve and makes his way to Martin's apartment. The building is pretty close to what Danny imagined, clean brick that's kept its age well. Danny is positive that if Martin lived anywhere but New York City, his house would probably involve some sort of white picket fence. He's not too sure when he started imagining what kind of life Martin had outside of work, but even this realization doesn't surprise him all that much.
Danny's not entirely sure that Martin will let him into the building because they both know Martin is smart enough to figure out why he's there. So he finagles his way inside when a woman comes back with groceries, flashing his FBI badge and a wide smile. She looks at him suspiciously when he explains he's here to talk with Martin Fitzgerald but lets him follow her in none the less. Danny wonders if any of Martin's neighbors even know what he does for a living. Danny's certainly don't.
Martin looks haggard when he opens the apartment door and Danny knows immediately that Martin has already tried to stop taking the medication. This is good news to Danny because it shows him that Martin is at least willing to try, even if he doesn't know quite how yet.
"I'm fine," Martin says emphatically before Danny can even ask. He lets Danny into his apartment, although from the glace he shoots down the hallway it probably isn't because he particularly welcomes Danny's presence.
"Are you enjoying your vacation?" Danny asks as he settles onto Martin's couch. Martin's apartment is neat and sparsely decorated. Danny has no idea how Martin manages to feel at home in a place like this, it looks as if someone hasn't finished moving in. Or possibly moving out.
"I don't think I'd call it a vacation," Martin replies dourly, sitting down stiffly on the other end of the couch. Danny wonders how badly Martin's hip is still bothering him. It's been almost 6 months.
"Well, you're sitting at home and don't have to show up at work in the morning. Most people I know would call that either a vacation or unemployment and I'm pretty sure you're still drawing a paycheck."
"It's boring, I'd rather be back at work," is all Martin says. He rubs at his jaw, which looks as if it hasn't seen a razor in at least 2 or 3 days.
"Sitting at home by yourself tends to be," Danny replies, trying very hard not to think about how the scruff covering the lower half of Martin's face might feel.
"What makes you think I'm sitting at home by myself?" Martin replies defensively, scowling minutely.
"Nothing in particular, Martin," Danny says. "Maybe it's the beard you look like you're trying to grow. Which I might add is not a very good look for you. Or maybe it's the week's worth of trash sitting next to your kitchen door."
"Always an agent, aren't you?" Martin says exasperatedly, leaning back into the couch.
"And you're not?" Danny asks with a smile. "I'm assuming you don't have plans tonight."
"I'll have you know I have a very involved evening planned with my television tonight. They're replaying an old Duke game," Martin says as his eyes close. Danny can see the tension in Martin's body, despite his reclined pose.
"I hate to break it to you, but they probably won," Danny says. Martin snorts but doesn't say anything in response, unwilling to take the bait and inquire why Danny asked.
"You should come with me to my meeting instead," Danny tries to say evenly, consciously willing himself to stay calm. Martin looks as if he's considering deliberately misunderstanding for a moment. Danny doesn't know what he's going to do if Martin does, he can't really help Martin if the man doesn't want to be helped.
"I..." Martin starts but changes tact, "how do you do this every day?"
"Talking helps, Martin," Danny says calmly, knowing just how hard it is for the other man to disclose even this much. Even if Martin is horrible at hiding his emotions, talking about them is an entirely different matter.
"Funny, Jack said the same thing right before he gave me a card for the FBI's very own Addicts Anonymous group," Martin says.
"Jack doesn't know what he's talking about, but I do," Danny asserts. Of course the Bureau has a group for situations like this, understanding the need for an additional level of insulation to prevent agents from being exposed to high risk individuals. But Danny understands the unspoken stigma that comes with attending those meetings, even if it isn't supposed to exist. That very same insulation means the faces there are never anonymous, first name only individuals. He's not surprised at all that Martin hasn't gone to one. Danny hadn't either when Jack handed him a similar card after they'd gotten back from Omaha.
"Talk about what?" Martin says. When Danny just looks at him, he says lightly, "The Knicks lost last night."
"This is an intervention, Martin, not a social call," Danny says with a grin, "Although it can be both if you want it to be."
Martin laughs humorlessly, "Did Jack put you up to this? Of course he probably did and told you not to say anything about it. You've surely done this before, so why not send the expert."
"Jack doesn't know I'm here and I've only done this once before," Danny says simply, although that isn't entirely the truth. He looks at Martin and realizes the man is never going to really talk to him unless he gets Martin to open up. Which shouldn't be difficult /at all/.
"Micah, my first...relationship in college, was the first person I tried to talk into it," Danny says picking his words carefully. "We used to drink ourselves into oblivion. That's when I learned the sin of a nice bottle of scotch. I was a pretty cheap drunk before that." Danny knows he could easily lie and say that Micah had only been a roommate, but he thinks that maybe the honesty will shock Martin into something.
Martin stares at him, a slight clench of his jaw the only change in his expression at Danny's revelation.
"So what happened?" he finally asks, tone neutral.
"Micah's taste for expensive scotch was a bit larger than our income. One of his Johns turned out to be an undercover cop and he got arrested."
"Did you know?"
"No, not really. But I was so drunk most of the time that he probably could have turned tricks in my living room and I might not have noticed," Danny says dryly. "After I sobered up and he got out of jail, he eventually came to see me. I'd only been sober for about 4 months by that point but I was obsessed with it. I tried to convince him to fix his own life."
"I'm guessing he didn't take that very well," Martin says, smiling at Danny's tone. The sight unclenches some of the tension in Danny's stomach and he has to pause for a second to take a deep breath, hoping to God it doesn't sound nearly as shaky as it feels.
"He poured a bottle of scotch all over my car afterwards and lit it on fire," Danny finally says. "He didn't really appreciate me telling him that he was ruining his life."
"I can't imagine why," Martin replies, a little pointedly.
"I couldn't fix him, nor can anyone else. These kinds of things, it's not something that someone else can force a person into. You have to do it for yourself," Danny says while he holds Martin's gaze.
The first time Rafi comes to see him after Danny sobers up, they end up fighting. When Danny opens the door, Rafi is standing there looking around surreptitiously.
"Rafi, what are you doing here?" Danny asks, his stomach tightening immediately.
"Aren't you going to let your big brother in?" Rafi says, smiling in a way that doesn't quite reach his eyes. He holds out a bottle of what looks like cheap vodka. Danny backs up to let Rafi in, but he doesn't take the bottle.
"I don't drink anymore, Rafi, I'm sober now," Danny says when Rafi offers the bottle again. His brother laughs, believing it to be some kind of joke.
"Really," Danny says again and backs up just a little more. "What do you want? I'm not going to give you any more money."
"I'm clean now," Rafi says, looking affronted. "Look, I got out last month and I got this job down at the mechanics on 74th near Northern Boulevard. One of the guys at work rebuilds cars and he's willing to sell me one for cheap, I just need a couple thousand to get on my feet." Danny knows full well that even if such a man existed, he'd never see any money from Rafi. His brother only comes to see him when he's out of money and desperately needing another fix. Danny is pretty sure he can see the slight tremors in Rafi's hands as the other man gestures.
Rafi follows him when Danny retreats into his living room and sinks down onto the couch. Danny closes his eyes as he rests his head in the palm of one hand. He'd started working on step 8 last week, making a lengthy list of all the people he'd hurt through his drinking, but he isn't quite prepared to deal with his older brother. He feels like he'll never feel quite ready for that.
"I've started attending these meetings," Danny finally says while Rafi stares down at him. "They really help, you know? I haven't had a drink in almost 11 months."
"What are you, a /puto/? I go away for a couple years and you turn into a goddamn weakling." Rafi laughs sharply.
Danny doesn't look up but continues speaking, "I know I've hurt you before while I was drunk and that we haven't...I haven't been there for you. I'm sorry, Rafi."
"Christ," Rafi mutters before storming out of the apartment. Danny pulls out his copy of the Big Book and stares at it for awhile.
/Take what you can use and leave the rest/.
Even that doesn't help with the rising nausea in his throat. He picks up the phone to call his sponsor, but only stares at his phone for a long time, listening to the dial tone before he finally hangs up and leaves his apartment. He almost makes it into a bar down the street before he succumbs to the terror beating in his chest and takes the train to Richard's house.
When they leave their first meeting together, Martin says nothing as they walk the three blocks to Danny's apartment. It's late enough that all the trains have stopped running and they'd both agreed Martin should crash in Danny's spare room. Martin's hands are shoved deep into his coat pockets, which Danny knows is a bad sign. He's not too sure when he became so adept at reading Martin, but he was already quite adept at it by the time Martin got shot by Dornvald.
Martin had finally agreed to come to the meeting earlier that day and they'd spent the afternoon watching a rebroadcast of the Knicks game from the night before. Martin hadn't said anything about Danny's coming out, but his occasional staring throughout the afternoon hadn't gone unnoticed.
As they walk, Danny hums to himself softly, thinking of a song his foster mother used to sing to him as a child. The Taylors had been nice people, even if they'd never really understood him.
"What's that?" Martin finally asks.
"Nothing, just a song I heard as a kid," Danny says easily. He's never told Martin about his foster parents, Vivian is probably the only one who even has an idea.
When they get back to Danny's apartment, Martin sinks down into the couch and stares at his hands. Danny sits down next to him, a little closer than necessary, but he suspects Martin needs to feel someone else's presence right now.
"I threw away the rest of my pills yesterday," Martin says finally. Danny doesn't say anything but continues watching him. He didn't bother to turn on most of the lights, so Martin's furrowed expression is partially hidden in shadow. "When you showed up this morning, I'd been slowly talking myself into digging through the trash to find them."
"I bet that took a lot of strength to stop yourself," Danny says evenly. Martin leans down until his head is nearly touching his knees. Danny can see the tense line of Martin's back as his friend covers his face with one hand.
"I don't think I would have been able to if you hadn't shown up," Martin says quietly, his voice coming from between his knees. Danny reaches out and puts a hand softly on Martin's back.
"That's why I keep going to meetings," Danny says as he moves his hand slowly across Martin's back. "I don't think I'd have made it two weeks, let alone 9 years and nearly 3 months if I didn't have someone to talk to. Some weeks are better than others."
"Does it ever get better?" Martin asks as his body leans into Danny's touch.
"For some people, yeah," Danny replies as he slides his hand up to rub Martin's shoulders.
In less than 20 seconds Danny's world collapses down to the small labored breaths escaping Martin's lips as he bleeds out onto the street.
"Martin, come on, stay with me," Danny pleads, pressing down on Martin's chest in a desperate attempt to slow the bleeding. "Please, God, just live, please."
The next week Martin comes back to work. No one says anything about it, but the entire team is watching him. Danny is positive it's driving Martin crazy, but at least Martin isn't taking anymore pills that he can see. The next night he shows up at Danny's AA meeting on his own. He sits in the back and doesn't say anything, but Danny knows that isn't unusual, there are people who come to meetings for years before they say anything.
Afterwards Martin follows him out and says he'll see him at work tomorrow before calling out for a taxi. Danny is a little disappointed that Martin didn't come back to his apartment with him again, but he's equally worried by this new reaction. He walks home faster than necessary and finds himself pacing before he throws up his hands in frustration and goes to bed.
It starts to become a regular thing, Martin comes to his meetings once or twice a week, although he never talks, wishes Danny a good evening when the leave and goes home. A couple times, after a particularly bad case with a young boy who they find eventually find buried inside a dumpster, Martin walks back to Danny's apartment with him and they talk. Martin sits much closer on the couch than strictly necessary when they talk and Danny notices the way he silently solicits physical comfort. If this is the least Danny can do to help his friend, then he is content to provide it.
Danny sees it coming long before Martin crowds him slowly up against the doorway in his apartment one night. He remains perfectly still and doesn't respond when Martin presses into him for a tentative kiss. Martin looks confused and hurt when he finally pulls back.
"Danny?" Martin asks, uncertainty starting to show in his eyes.
"I like you," Danny says softly, still not moving, "and I like having you as a friend. But more than that, I think you need me to be a friend right now. And I don't want to be that guy who you never talk to again afterwards." Martin doesn't say anything when Danny retreats to his bedroom and closes the door.
The hospital is stark and bare and mechanical when Danny finally returns. The little photographs and green tinted walls do nothing to detract from the labyrinthine feel of the hallways as he makes his way towards Martin's room. There is a feeling of panic and desperation surrounding hospitals that feels like it's been carved into his skin. Despite the hundreds of times he's been inside them for cases and searches, the only memories coming to him now are of the times when he wandered the halls in a panicked daze, searching desperately for his parents, for Rafi, for Martin. The same panic that has been churning in his stomach for days rises in his throat the closer he gets to Martin's room.
He stops just short of Martin's room and sinks into a chair, needing a moment to collect himself. Suspects even a lifetime couldn't help him at this point. His head is throbbing again, despite the gratuitous amount of Ibuprofin he's been knocking back, and his hands ache with the need to hold a heavy glass. One with a good, thick base. Clenches his hands into fists instead but even closing his eyes can't make the gut wrenching need for a drink any less real. It hasn't been this bad in a long time, even when Rafi had gone missing a month earlier he hadn't felt nearly this desperate. The last time he'd gone to Vivian to talk, but she's in a hospital room herself across the city. Considers calling his sponsor for the tenth time but its 2am and he's pretty sure that Richard is still in Peru with his family. Danny knows that shouldn't matter, addiction doesn't keep a 9-5 schedule, but he wants to believe he's not so far gone yet.
Danny's not sure he can do this, walk into that room and see Martin lying unconscious in a hospital bed. It will probably be a better sight than the image of Martin in the car, wheezing softly, that's been burned into his retinas for the past 3 days. But still. He hasn't been back since he peeled out of the emergency room to go help Jack find Dornvald. He's been living with the guilt for 3 days and even he has to admit it's seriously fucking him up. Jack has put him on indefinite desk duty, manning phones and collecting files. Danny left the hospital the first time so he could do something, not just sit at his desk and watch the clock tick away his sanity. Despite this, it took him 3 days to finally come back, because he knows the finality of it will hit him when he walks into the room.
This is his fault. He knows this as surely as he knows his parents were his fault. If he hadn't been talking on the phone to Jack, he would have noticed the blue van moving to box them in. If he had been doing his job instead of chumming it up with Martin, then his teammate wouldn't be in the hospital right now. Despite what he might tell everyone else, Danny's not sure he's ready to confront that. Inside he's terrified this might be the one faltering step that causes him to fall behind and back into his old self-destructive ways. The spiral downward is gaping before him and he feels like he can no longer see the path forward.
The door to Martin's room opens and Sam steps out into the hall before Danny can move. She spots him and smiles tiredly as she comes over to him. It doesn't look like she's gotten much sleep, which doesn't surprise Danny since he knows she's been spending every available moment sitting with Martin. He suspects it might be her form of penance for the failed relationship, but he can't even resent her for that, since he's been doing the exact same thing by staying away.
"Hey," she says softly. "I was just going to grab a snack, you should go in there and say hi."
"He's awake?" Danny asks, trying desperately to keep the sudden resurgence of panic out of his voice.
"Yeah, since this morning. He's been asking about you," Sam says, head titling to the side in that way that says she thinks she knows something and is watching his reaction to confirm it.
"I'm fine," he replies unnecessarily for what feels like the thousandth time.
"I'm going to go get something to eat, why don't you go in there?" Sam says again but doesn't move; obviously waiting for Danny to get up as if she knows he'll probably bolt the second she's turned the corner.
Danny stands up, flattening his tie against his churning stomach as if the action has any hope of soothing his nerves. He flashes Sam a wide smile and shoos her off to get herself some food.
"Oh, Danny?" she says just before he opens the door, "they have him on some pretty strong stuff, so don't panic if he drifts off in the middle of the conversation."
"Right, no panicking," Danny says with false joviality. Sam just smiles again and turns away. Taking a deep breath, Danny opens the door to Martin's room.
"That was fast, you give up on taunting me with your f..." Martin's words die off as he sees Danny step forward.
"Hey," Martin says, his voice raspy. He smiles at Danny from his reclining position on the bed and motions him over with a small movement of his hand.
"Hey," Danny replies and the panic is back as a solid weight constricting around his chest. It's all he can do to sink down into the chair pulled up next to the bed that Sam has probably been occupying. He leans forward, forehead resting against the edge of the bed, and has to close his eyes for a moment so the hysteria doesn't overcome him. Danny starts slightly at the feel of a hand ghosting over his scalp.
"It's good to see you're okay." The hand settles more firmly against the back of his head, fingers moving very so slightly through his hair. Danny can hear Martin's voice but refuses to look up, afraid of what he might see.
"I'm not," Danny finally replies, trying desperately to control his increasingly ragged breathing.
"I almost killed a woman two days ago. We followed Dornvald into a clinic, when we found him he had one of the doctors as a hostage in one of the rooms and I shot through the door without thinking."
"Jesus, Danny," Martin rasps and his hand tightens slightly against the base of Danny's skull.
"Jack put me on desk duty after we found Dornvald," Danny continues as he feels Martin's thumb brush back and forth softly against the edge of his ear. He turns his head slightly towards Martin, resting his cheek against the bed, but doesn't open his eyes because he doesn't want to see the tubes he knows are coming out of Martin's arm.
"And when I left tonight, it took everything I had not to stop at the liquor store that's 2 blocks from my apartment." Martin doesn't say anything immediately in response, just continues petting Danny's head softly.
"So I came here instead," Danny finally manages, pulling away and leaning back into the hospital chair. "So how has your day been?" he manages with a self-deprecating smile.
Martin looks like he wants to protest the change of subject, but the door clicks open before he can say anything. Danny tenses slightly, but it's only Sam returning with something that might pass for a bagel. Sam glances between the two of them and smiles tentatively. Danny gets up from the chair, he knows better than to intrude on these two, even if it means going home and staring at tauntingly empty glasses in his kitchen. He opens his mouth to make his excuses, but is cut off by Martin before he can even start.
"You look tired, Sam, you should probably go catch some sleep if Jack is expecting you in the office tomorrow," Martin says with a warm smile. Danny and Sam both freeze, surprised.
"You sure? I don't want to leave you here alone," Sam says, uncertainty tingeing her voice.
"Yeah, I'll be fine. Besides, Danny has to catch me up on all the office gossip he's heard while he's been on desk duty," Martin replies. Danny sits back down, he's not sure when his secret wishes started getting telepathically broadcast, but he's not about to object because right now he needs to just talk to someone. Anyone. To Martin. Sam picks up her coat and purse, wishing them both a soft good night before slipping back out.
When Danny looks back up again Martin's eyes are closed and his breathing has evened out. Leaning forward again, Danny whispers what he's wanted to say since he walked into the room, since he fled the hospital 3 days earlier, since he pulled Martin's limp body from the car.
Martin is still there the next morning when Danny cautiously comes out of his room, fully dressed. It had nearly killed him, trying to shower and get dressed without venturing into his kitchen for coffee. He gave up on shaving after nearly slitting his own throat twice. Martin is sitting at his kitchen counter, dressed for work and calmly drinking coffee as if nothing is wrong, which tells Danny that something is very wrong indeed. There are dark circles under Martin's eyes and Danny wonders if he slept at all.
"I think I've figured out what your problem is," Martin announces as Danny slinks into the kitchen.
"Do you?" Danny asks suspiciously as he pours himself a cup of coffee.
"Your problem is that you don't trust people, Danny," Martin says calmly.
"You're wrong," Danny says shortly. "I trust people way too often and get burned for it."
"My point exactly," Martin replies, "you're not honest with people. You might tell people a lot of personal things, but you only do it because it's convenient, not because you're being particularly honest."
"I don't know what you're talking about," Danny says and nearly gags from the mouthful of scalding coffee he swallows.
"Then why did you tell me you were gay?" Martin asks, his expression peculiarly focused as he watches for Danny's reaction.
"Bisexual," Danny corrects him.
When Danny doesn't actually answer the question, Martin continues, "You only told me because you wanted a reaction out of me. Not because you trusted me." Danny can almost hear the hurt in his voice as Martin continues to look at him. "I think the only time you might have ever been really honest with me was when you came to see me in the hospital."
"I trust you, Martin," Danny says as he glares into his coffee cup.
"Then why did you never tell me earlier?" Martin demands.
"Right, because that's certainly something that comes up in casual conversation. 'Hi, I'm Danny Taylor, nice to you meet you. By the way, I've fucked a few men in my life. Welcome to the team!' Is this some kind of revenge for turning you down last night?" Danny retorts angrily, throwing up the hand not holding his coffee.
"Well, I wouldn't exactly call last night a social call," Martin says seriously, "but it could be if you want."
"This is fucking ridiculous," Danny mutters and dumps the rest of his coffee in the sink.
"I agree," Martin says, his tone becoming angrier as he realizes that Danny fully intends to walk out on him. Danny turns back and finally notices Martin's hands are shaking enough that he has to put his cup down. "Of all the ways I thought I'd get rejected last night, a patronizing pat on the head and a little speech about saving the straight man from himself really wasn't one of them." Danny doesn't reply but moves to leave the kitchen.
"Well, it's tomorrow and I'm still here, talking to you," Martin says when Danny stubbornly remains silent.
"You shouldn't be," is all Danny says in reply.
"Do you really believe I'm that callous or naÃ¯ve?" Martin asks, stepping in close in front of him. Danny closes his eyes for a second but walks past Martin instead of replying. Martin realizes this isn't really about him, not this time, and he frowns as he watches Danny make his way to the front door.
Rafi gets out of prison again just after Thanksgiving, he goes back to his girlfriend and gets another job at a chop shop. They don't talk immediately, but he hasn't gone missing again, which is good news as far as Danny is concerned. Danny doesn't hear from him until the week before Christmas, when he calls.
"Rafi? Are you okay?" Danny asks when he realizes who's on the other end of the line. "Is something wrong?"
"No, no, everything is fine," Rafi assures him. "Look, I just want to, uh. You know it's the holidays. Â¡No gritas, Sylvia, lo voy a ser! Do you want to come over here and spend Christmas with us?" Danny smiles slightly when Rafi pauses to hiss at his wife but his expression freezes when Rafi asks the question. He's so surprised he's left speechless until Rafi asks if he's still there.
"I'm sorry but I've already got something planned," Danny says. He honestly can't remember how many years it's been since he spent Christmas with family. Last year he'd volunteered to fly out to California to do interviews on a pending case.
"Of course," Rafi says, sounding disappointed. "Look, we should talk sometime, I've started attending some meetings for a group like that one you used to go to."
"I still go," Danny interjects.
"Ah, yeah, anyway, we should talk sometime," Rafi continues. They talk for a few moments more before hanging up. Danny flops back down onto his couch and stares blindly at the pathetic little fake Christmas tree he'd put on the coffee table. He has no plans for Christmas and he's not really sure why he lied to his brother, but his heart is suddenly beating madly within his chest.
Pulling the phone back up before he can talk himself out of it, Danny calls Rafi back.
"Rafi, you know what, I can cancel my other plans. Set me a place and I'll be there," Danny says quickly before his brother can say anything. There's silence on the other end and for a moment Danny worries he might have dialed the wrong number.
"Yeah, okay," Rafi finally says, his voice rough.
Vivian is not the last to notice, but she's the last one to say something. When she finally does, she talks to Danny and not Martin.
"Did something happen between the two of you?" Vivian asks as they're driving out to interview the family of their latest missing person. Danny briefly considers lying to her, but he doubts she'll believe him.
"We got into an argument last week after an AA meeting," he finally says. It's not the whole truth, but he's not willing to tell her exactly why Martin is angry with him.
"And?" Vivian asks, looking over at him from the passenger seat. She's obviously not willing to let Danny off the hook with only that small admission.
"When I was first trying to convince him to come to a meeting with me, I told him some things about my past that he got the wrong impression about," Danny explains, being as vague as possible. He's never told anyone else on the team that he's bisexual and this doesn't really feel like the time to start.
"What kind of things did he get the wrong impression about?" Vivian asks again, fixing her best motherly stare of disapproval on him. Danny is suddenly glad that he's driving, so that he can pretend he doesn't know just how Vivian is looking at him.
"Look, he stopped popping pills and he's occasionally going to meetings," Danny says evasively. "What more do you want from me?"
"I want you both to be happy, Danny," Vivian says, her tone suggesting that should have been obvious.
"I'm perfectly happy," Danny replies sourly. Vivian harrumphs in response.
"Look, Danny," Vivian finally says as they pull into the driveway of the Parker residence, "I don't know what happened between you two and I really don't care to speculate if you won't tell me. But the two of you are walking around each other as if you're afraid the other is suddenly going to explode."
"Has Jack noticed?" Danny asks tensely, not wanting a repeat of Sam's intervention.
"No, not yet. And I'm not going to tell him," Vivian adds to forestall Danny's interruption, "unless you two keep trying to pretend everything is fine. Do you really want to get transferred because Jack thinks the two of you can't work together anymore?"
Although Martin is still going to meetings, he no longer sits near Danny and never leaves with him. Danny considers trying to talk to Martin several times, but it's so much easier to just pretend everything is fine and that the two of them are not talking to each other because they're busy.
Two months into the New Year Colin Sheffield commits suicide, drowning himself in his apartment's bathtub after taking most of an over the counter box of sleeping pills. Colin's parents had apparently stopped calling a few weeks after he'd been found, more than willing to leave Colin to his own devices again. His roommate calls Danny to tell him, brokenly trying not to cry over the phone as he says he tried so hard to help Colin after the disappearance. Danny knows the man has his own problems between the rehab and drug addiction, but his attempts at condolences ring hollow even in his own ears.
Danny tells the rest of the team and pulls up the case file to add a note about Colin's suicide but has to retreat to the bathroom a few minutes later, trying desperately not throw up. After he gets his stomach under control, he makes the note in Colin's file, sends an email to the New York Coroner's office to request a copy of the death certificate for the file and takes the rest of the day off. As he heads home, the only thing that Danny can think about is how easily he could have turned out the same way. Had he not started attending meetings he probably would never have survived his alcoholism. It scares Danny to his core to think just how easily he could have failed. But the more Danny thinks about it, the more it makes him think about just how easy it will be for Martin to fall back into addiction again. He hasn't been there for Martin, not in any real substantive way, since Martin had tried to kiss him. He'd deferred then, claiming the need to be a friend more important, but Danny had to be honest with himself and admit he hadn't been much of a friend either. Danny realizes, finally, that he's never going to overcome this if he can't face it.
So 8pm finds him at Martin's apartment again, knocking on his door. Martin looks surprised when he opens the door, but he invites Danny in. As Danny walks slowly to the couch, he notices the sparse decoration again. There are pieces missing and Danny wonders if Martin never finished decorating because of what it might show. He can't help wondering if Martin did this for Sam as well.
"I, uh..." Danny tries, but can't find the words. Martin sits down on the couch and Danny notices he's sitting at the opposite end again.
"I haven't been much of a friend recently, have I?" Danny asks finally, staring determinedly at his hands. He hears Martin snort but doesn't look up.
"I'm a bit of a coward, it seems," he continues and finally looks back up at Martin. Martin is looking at him, his blue eyes unreadable.
"How are you doing? Is everything going okay?" he finally asks, put on edge by Martin's stillness and lack of response.
"I'm surviving," Martin says, picking up the glass of water on the coffee table and shifting a little closer on the couch. He takes a drink and sets the glass back down before leaning back into the cushions. "Why are you here, Danny?"
"I don't know," Danny says with a frustrated sigh, "I was hoping that maybe I could fix this. Do you think we can still be friends?"
"I don't know, I doubt it," Martin says calmly. Danny closes his eyes with something like defeat and runs a hand through his hair. "I'd be willing to try though." Danny's eyes snap back open and he looks over in surprise.
"Okay, I'd like that," he says tentatively. He smiles thinly and Martin sighs.
"Can I get you something? Some water? A soda?" Martin asks, gesturing at his own drink.
"No, I'm good," Danny replies, relaxing minutely. He has no idea what else to say and Martin doesn't seem particularly inclined to talk either.
Danny turns on the television to cover up the silence he feels stretching between them. The local news is on and they watch in silence as one of the anchors talks blithely about an approaching winter storm. When Martin leans into him again Danny doesn't have any resistance left. As Martin's lips softly find his, Danny gives in and kisses back, sliding his tongue into the other man's slightly parted lips. Martin jerks in surprise, which re-cements the knot in the pit of Danny's gut.
"This is a bad idea," he says as he pulls away. This scares Danny, not because of what it is, but because if it fails he knows nothing will save him. And that's a risk he's unwilling to take. He likes Martin, far too much for his own good.
"Shut up," Martin says as he shifts and pushes Danny back into the couch. He slides between Danny's legs and presses down into him as Danny is corralled back up against the arm of the sofa. Martin slides a hand up over Danny's dress shirt and around his neck before he leans down for another kiss. Danny is much more responsive this time, kissing him back fiercely. One of his hands reaches up to grab Martin's yellow tie, pulling him down harder.
Danny can feel himself giving in, even though he's convinced himself he shouldn't. But Martin is like an addiction to him and he craves the other man's presence even though he tries so desperately not to.
Danny's body is nearly shaking with energy, a thought that turns Martin on even more until he realizes that Danny actually is shaking. He pulls away slightly to get a look at Danny's face, but the other man buries his face into Martin's collar before he can get a good look.
"Hey," Martin says softy, shifting slightly until he's lying on the edge of the sofa instead of on top of Danny. "Danny, it's okay." He runs a hand through Danny's short hair, rubbing softly; the arousal of moments before forgotten.
"I thought you were going to die, Martin," Danny says, his voice small and broken. "I watched you bleed to death and there was nothing I could do."
"Well, I'm not dead," Martin says softly, "unless you're into necrophilia and there was something the doctors weren't telling me." Danny laughs in short broken huffs that he hides in the collar of Martin's shirt.
"But when you got out of the hospital it was different, you were okay but you weren't right," Danny continues, "It's my fault, I should have seen the van earlier. I should have been paying attention instead of talking to Jack."
"Danny," Martin interrupts forcefully, reaching up to hold Danny's face in his hands, "this is not your fault. But you are the reason I'm not out of a job and in some rehab clinic, okay?"
"Yeah, okay," Danny replies, finally returning his gaze. Martin knows Danny doesn't believe him, but at least he's not shaking anymore.
"I don't know if everything is going to work out, probably not, but we'll make it through this," Martin says softly, "one day at a time if we have to."
"One day at a time," Danny repeats, eyes crinkling at some inside joke he doesn't share. He leans in and kisses Martin, parting his lips and tugging Martin closer to him.
"Maybe we should move this to somewhere a little easier," Martin suggests when he unsuccessfully attempts to shift around on the couch and nearly falls off. He stands up and offers a hand down to Danny.
"I remember this being a lot easier on a couch when I was 16," Danny grumbles but lets Martin pull him up.
"Yeah, but you were probably the size of a stick when you were 16," Martin says with a laugh before leaning over to kiss Danny again as their hands tangled together.
"Are you calling me fat, Mr. Fitzgerald?" Danny demands archly, tugging at Martin's tie again. They both laugh and Martin takes the opportunity to push Danny towards his bedroom.
"I was a pretty skinny kid, what with moving between foster homes and the group home they kept sticking me in. Regular meals wasn't a concept I was well versed in," Danny says when Martin gets him through the doorway of the bedroom.
Martin makes an obvious effort at looking Danny over while he unbuttons Danny's shirt and says, "You cleaned up rather nicely, I have to say."
"If I'd known it only took a near death experience to get you to be honest with me, I might have done that sooner," Martin continues with a smile that suggests he doesn't really mean it. Danny looks torn between being scandalized and annoyed, but pulls him back in again for another fierce kiss.
"That's not funny," Danny mutters, pulling Martin's shirt out of his pants and sliding a hand up underneath his shirt. Martin's breath stutters as Danny's fingers skitter softly up his abdomen. He pushes Danny down onto the bed and immediately follows.
Martin has to work to keep Danny focused, directing his hands and mouth away from the scars on Martin's chest and hip when the rest of the clothes come off. He knows that Danny is just trying to reassure himself of Martin's solidity and presence but the skin there is still damaged and feels uncomfortable when touched. As he finally pushes down into Danny, watching his lover gasp and push back into him, Martin knows he can't reach Danny's scars yet. At least not with his hands.
Martin's hip still aches a little when they collapse back onto the bed feeling completely spent, but he resolutely turns to watch Danny fall asleep instead.
When Danny wakes up the next morning he finds Martin curled into his side. He feels a surge of possessiveness wash over him as he watches the other man sleep. Danny could get used to this, waking up to the feel of Martin pressed into him. It is an addiction of an entirely different sort, one that Danny thinks he might be able to survive. Pressing a soft kiss into Martin's hair, he crawls out of bed and goes about his morning routine.
Martin appears in the bathroom doorway as Danny finishes shaving with the extra razor he stole from under the sink.
"What was that?" Martin asks sleepily. Danny looks up startled.
"Morning," he says with a smile, "didn't realize you were there."
"So you were talking to yourself?" Martin says with a smile as he steals his toothbrush back.
"Just something I say to myself every morning," Danny says, looking almost embarrassed, "Something my sponsor told me." Martin rinses out his mouth and turns to look at Danny, who is staring down at the sink.
"And what is that?" Martin asks softly.
"I'm a winner today, no matter what happens, as long as I don't pick up that first drink," Danny says clearly, looking back up at Martin challengingly. Martin smiles and pulls him in for a kiss, knowing how much it took for Danny to admit that. As Danny presses him back into the edge of the sink, Martin thinks he might be able to manage this, one day at a time.
Many many thanks to aesc for the beta and kerosteph for the Spanish translations. I heart you both.
The prayer at the beginning is the source for the title. It's a prayer used in AA, written by Reinhold Niebuhr.
Perhaps ironically, this story was originally supposed to be about Martin's problems. As you can see, that obviously did not last very long as the voice of Danny has pretty much exclusive control over my writing abilities.
One of the scenes, when Danny visits Martin in the hospital, is a major portion of an earlier story I wrote. I started writing that scene and kept thinking it sounded very familiar until I realized I'd written it before. I went back to reread The Simple Act of Walking and realized the Danny in that story is the same Danny in Serenity Prayer. So most of that story has been moved over intact, with some edits to make it fit a little smoother into this narrative.
The Spanish used, for the curious:
Callate antes que me enojo - Be quiet, before I get angry.
Puto - An insult. Puta is the colloquial equivalent of calling someone a bitch. Some translate Puto as faggot.
No gritas, Sylvia, lo voy a ser! - Don't yell, Sylvia, I'll do it!