Linda hears the front door open. She mutes the TV, looks at her watch, and waits for Danny to appear. It's late and he should have been home hours before, if the day had gone well.
She's not surprised by how loose Danny's tie is, or that his sleeves are asymmetrically rolled up. But the exhaustion that practically rolls off him in waves she doesn't expect. He looks haggard, like a much older version of the man that she'd sent out the door that morning. Only rarely does he come home looking like this and it is almost always because of a bad case.
He leans down to kiss her and she turns her head to meet it, putting her hand on his stubbly face. He tastes of stale coffee.
"Hey," he says, the tiredness bleeding into his voice.
"Hey," she replies. "You okay?"
"Yeah. Just a long day."
It has to be more than that, but she lets it go for the moment.
"The boys asleep?"
She certainly hopes so, considering the time. "Hopefully. Although I wouldn't be surprised if Jack started reading again after I told them to go to bed. He didn't want to put his book down."
He kisses her once more, before standing up and slowly heading towards their bedroom, each footstep like he's weighted down by lead. Stalling to give him a couple of minutes to himself, she turns the TV off and cleans up the magazines on the coffee table. Seeing the boys' door open, she knows where to find him. In the light from the hallway, she sees him sitting on the end of Sean's bed, elbows on his knees and chin resting on his hands. The boys are his centre and how he gets his footing back under him again when the world has proven to be too much. It adds to the feeling that it's more than just a long day.
"Dad?" Jack stirs and rubs his eyes.
Danny gets up and crosses to the other bed and kisses Jack on the forehead. "Go back to sleep."
"'kay. Night, Dad."
Coming back to Sean, Danny also kisses him, before joining her back out in the hallway and shutting the door. She can already see that his mood has lifted a little. Bottle up the magic of a child's love and they could make a fortune.
He pulls her into a hug, and she sinks into him, closing her eyes. His arms are strong around her and he never fails to make her feel safe and loved. The tense muscles she can feel start relaxing further.
"You sure you're okay?" She pulls back as she asks, wanting to look at him, see his response.
"I will be. It was just... The family I was dealing with, they were really falling apart. It was hard. Harder than normal."
"Shower then bed?" she asks, fairly certain that it's all he's really up to.
He nods and she leans into him for another moment, hand resting on his chest, before giving him a pat. "I'll get your clothes."
"Don't get used to it," she shoots back, with a smile. "Tomorrow you're back to serving yourself."
It gets a twitch of the lips, at least. "Don't worry, I won't."
He heads off wearily to the bathroom and she goes to their room. The water is running and Danny is about to step under it when she brings the clothes in to the bathroom.
"What the hell happened?" She can't help raising her voice, fingers going out to gently trace the outline of the large bruises on Danny's shoulder.
"It's nothing, Linda. Really."
She's not letting him shrug it off. That was not part of their deal. Bruises like this warrant notification. "That is not nothing. Were you even going to tell me?"
"Honestly? Not tonight. I'm just too tired tonight."
"What happened?" Her fingers won't leave his skin and she can't leave it alone, despite knowing how exhausted he is.
"A tackle went wrong, that's all. I'm okay. Honest." His hands are on her arms, rubbing up and down, trying to reassure her.
This is why he has to tell her, why she doesn't want to find out like this. After Joe, and then Frank... she needs to know. Danny's her husband, the father to her kids. It's a dangerous job and she can't deal with him holding getting hurt back from her. As perverse as it sounds, she has to know if she's come close to losing him.
He holds her close, reassuring her with his steady heartbeat and the warmth of his skin. She regains control again.
"The water will be getting cold," she says as she pulls away.
"You okay?" he asks.
"Are you?" she challenges back, still not quite forgiving him.
"It doesn't even hurt."
"Well, then, I'm fine too," she says. "Go, have your shower. I'll wait for you in bed."
He finally steps under the water and it sluices over his skin. She watches him for a few seconds. Facing away from her now, the bruises are hidden. Instead all she can see is his muscle and leanness, the body that she loves. But it doesn't mean she can forget about the bruises, even if she wants to. They're there.
Climbing into bed, she curls on her side, facing the empty half of the bed, and waits. She does her best not to think about all the things that could go wrong on any given day when Danny works. Does her best not to think about what could go wrong when he's not working. His job is dangerous, but so is driving a car. The Reagan family has been through too much loss and heartache for her to easily put it from her mind. She tries not to dwell, but there are times like these when she can't help it.
She has no idea what she will do if she loses Danny.
He climbs in under the covers, beside her, and she settles into his arms, closing her eyes. He's here now, and she's not going to waste it.