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In Vino Veritas

Chapter Text

He woke to the static hum of electronics, the taste of ash upon his tongue and the harsh brightness of cold, winter sunlight.

Consciousness was a daily struggle, the weight of sleep growing with each passing day, pressing hard against his chest, drowning him in the soft grey blankets twisted around his body.

Their scent was unfamiliar.

Blinking against the early morning light filtering in through the window's half lidded blinds, Danny fought against them, finally managing to push them to his waist before struggling to sit, the room tilting, lurching into a slow spin with the movement.

Bile climbed its way up his throat.

He swallowed against it, squeezed his eyes shut and exhaled slowly until the room finally settled.

This wasn't the first time he'd woken to find himself in a strange bed. A strange room in a strange house. But it was the first time he'd woken alone, no stranger beside him to give insight into the night. No warm body to shy away from in his haste to find his way home.

It was only mildly surprising to find himself still dressed, his shirt beyond wrinkled, his pants twisted around his legs, exposing his ankles and the bareness of his feet. Strange to think he'd managed to remove his socks, but not the rest.

The night came in flashes, brief images drifting across his memory: the haze of blue smoke, the press of bodies, sticky and damp with sweat, the blare of music vibrating against his heartbeat. The taste of loathing on his tongue.

Shaking his head did nothing to displace the memories, none of them telling. Instead it only made the room lurch a second time, Danny's legs shaking beneath him as he swung them over the side of the bed to stand.

He found his socks, along with his jacket and tie, neatly folded on the room's only dresser. An expensive piece of furniture, the wood dark with age, obviously oak, abstract scrolls carved into the sides, the pattern reminding him of water.

Running his fingertips across them, the scent of spice was unmistakable. A man's room, neatly kept and shrouded in darkness, all the furniture matching, the grey quilt he'd fought against the only hint of colour in the room.

Someone respectable, then. Someone not in the habit of taking advantage and Danny wanted to laugh at the thought. He didn't, instead pocketing his socks and tie, shrugging into his jacket before creeping toward the door.

It led into a hall, shorter than he expected, three steps bringing him to an open space that spoke of New York's older apartments. Unimportant, he told himself, shrugging off the thought upon spotting his shoes by the door, neatly placed in a manner that spoke of respect.

Given any other circumstance, Danny might have waited around to meet the man who'd so clearly cared more about Danny's welfare than his own needs. Men like that were few and far between.

Besides, it was easier not knowing their names.

~*~

His phone rang at exactly twelve past midnight. An ominous sign, he thought before answering, voice thick with sleep.

Sleep vanished halfway through the conversation, Martin already moving, rooting through his dresser to find something suitable to wear. Within ten minutes he was downstairs, hailing a cab and heading out to an area of town he only knew through work.

A missing girl, eighteen, had died not far from his destination, her body turning up in an alley behind a bar, dark ligature marks stark against the paleness of her throat.

"Martin Fitzgerald, someone called me," he shouted over the music, flashing his badge a second later, startling a nod out of the bartender.

"He's over there," the man told him, nodding and pointing toward the back of the room.

Martin nodded his thanks, pocketed his id and stole his breath before pushing his way through the crowd. He found him at one of the tables in the back, half unconscious in his chair, forehead pressed against the table, breathing shallow and it was all Martin could do not to shake him awake.

Sliding into the vacant chair at his side, Martin sighed before reaching out, hand meeting shoulder, fingers squeezing ever so gently. This wasn't the first such trip he had made.

"Danny. Danny. Danny, wake up."

There was a trick to it. Gently, so very gently, the only way to avoid anger and wrath. The only way to avoid Danny shrugging him off, storming away to places Martin would rather not think about.

"Martin?"

The question was hesitant, Danny's eyes glazed and hooded, lacking their usual warmth. Their usual clarity.

"Come on, I'm taking you home," Martin said, sliding an arm around Danny's shoulder, easing him out of the chair.

Danny nodded before struggling to his feet, his weight heavy on Martin's side, Martin all but carrying him from the bar.

~*~

He'd ended up uptown, the neighbourhood vaguely familiar. Nowhere he'd go on his own, so obviously the man he'd met had been slumming downtown.

Slumming and not finding what he was looking for, Danny thought with a laugh. It was easy to imagine the man's disappointment. Easy to picture eyes crinkled with disgust when he'd discovered just how far gone Danny was.

Once, the thought would have brought guilt, but that was years ago, too far gone now to be anything but faded memory.

So unlike the apartment he'd woken up, his place was a disaster. Dirty dishes covered every available space, his floor a maze of newspaper clippings and discarded clothes. The air held the scent of mildew, stale and musky, overwhelming to the point of nausea.

Danny crossed the room and flung open one of the windows.

Air heavy with frost crept its way into the room, the scent of car exhaust and street side vendors only marginally better. He left the window open before disappearing into the back of his apartment, finding a slightly damp towel on the bathroom floor and it would do.

~*~

Getting Danny out of the cab took all of Martin's concentration.

Getting Danny into his building was only slightly more difficult. Then it was just a matter of propping Danny against the elevator's far wall, waiting in silence during the seemingly endless journey to the eighth floor before wrapping his arm around Danny's waist and dragging him down the hall.

In the past, he'd brought Danny home, tucked him into his own bed to sleep off the night. Tonight was different, Danny adamant about not wanting to be alone and it left Martin with little choice.

Except to drag Danny back to his apartment, Danny passing out the second the cab took off and too late Martin realized he could have brought Danny home and Danny wouldn't have known the difference.

This was easier, though, Martin ignoring Danny's murmured protest as he bent down to ease off Danny's shoes. Ignoring Danny's indignant grunt as he led Danny down the hall, easing him slowly into Martin's unmade bed, sliding off his socks and jacket, removing his slackened tie. Danny would just have to deal with the rest.

Covering him in the quilt Martin had bought not three days ago, Martin paused only long enough to fold Danny's things, placing them in plain sight before leaving the room, padding down the short hall and into the living room, curling onto the couch to salvage what little sleep was left.

~*~

Voices seemed to echo in his skull.

They sounded hollow, but tinged with urgency. A new case, then, Danny reasoned, spotting the latest picture on the white board. An elderly man, face crinkled with age and experience.

Coffee clutched in one hand, Danny ran the other over the stubble on his cheek. He hadn't found time to shave. Hadn't found time for a lot of things, his suit only marginally clean, still wrinkled from its place on the floor.

The others were already in, Jack frowning from his place at the conference table, gesturing for Danny to join them and Danny offered a smile he hoped was convincing.

It seemed to set the others in motion, Vivian taking her place at Jack's side, Sam and Martin abruptly ending whatever conversation they'd been having and making their way to the table.

Danny ignored them and focused on sitting, the chair creaking beneath his weight, leather warm from the heat of the sun filtering in through the open blinds.

~*~

He woke to stiffness that came from sleeping on a couch.

Danny's shoes were still beside the door, toppled against one another where Martin had left them before falling asleep. Stretching, Martin eased himself off the couch, ran a hand through his hair and crossed the room.

He paused only briefly to straighten Danny's shoes before sliding into his runners, ignoring his morning urge for coffee before heading out the door. Running came first, otherwise he'd never get around to it, and too many times he'd found himself skipping out on it, his body quickly deteriorating each and every time.

~*~

This wasn't the first time he found himself stuck in the office, manning the phones, as Jack put it. It was becoming increasingly frequent, Jack no longer trusting him in the field and that should have bothered Danny.

It didn't, his job no longer as consuming as it once was. Besides, being stuck inside staring at a silent phone affording him time for his own projects. His own research, each day bringing a little more insight, a little more depth, a potential lead.

They didn't understand. Couldn't possibly and Danny had long since given up trying to convince them. This was all there was left, the last piece of himself vanishing into a box marked unsolved and giving up searching would mean giving up everything that he was. Everything that he could be and Danny wasn't about to let that happen.

The process came with long dead ghosts, ghosts that had never really stopped haunting him. They were louder now, more obvious, screaming in his ear rather than whispering and only drowning them out made them disappear. Until the next morning, when they appeared just as loud as they'd ever been.

Shivering, Danny turned over the file in his hand, flipping open the manila folder to stare into eyes that no longer seemed real.

~*~

As expected, he'd arrived home to find Danny gone, his apartment void of sound and Martin had merely shaken his head before heading into the kitchen, starting coffee before heading for the shower.

He doubted Danny knew just how many times some bartender had called the first number on Danny's speed dial. How many times Martin had trucked across town to pick him up at some hole in the ground bar. Too many, Martin thought with a sigh, enough that he'd taken to sending Samantha home at the end of a night, putting her in a cab and sleeping alone, knowing his phone could ring at any given moment.

He still wasn't sure why Danny had him listed first. Perhaps the only numbers buried in memory were those of the team, all entered alphabetically and that would place Martin's first.

Shaking the thought off, Martin glanced around the office, spotting Vivian by her desk and Sam shrugging out of her coat. Forcing a smile, Martin made his way over to her, trying and failing to keep from appearing hesitant.

Too often she was angry after he'd sent her home. Too often he found himself relieved at her anger.

"So?" Sam asked, not needing to elaborate. She knew as well as he did.

Martin didn't answer, instead nodding, weariness evident on his face and Sam's lips pursed into a grimace.

"This is getting ridiculous, Martin," she said, but she offered no solution. No suggestion.

Martin doubted she had either.

"What exactly am I supposed to do about it?" he asked, the question meant to be rhetorical, meant to be a point of victory. She answered him all the same.

"Martin, you're his closest friend. You need to…"

"What? Talk to him? I've tried, Sam. Besides, Danny doesn't have any friends," Martin told her, wincing the second the words left his mouth, guilt weighing heavy on his chest.

He had tried, though. They all had, Danny unreachable and, besides, it was easier to simply ignore the problem. Easier for the team. Easier for him. Easier for Danny.

Not that Sam would understand, Martin rarely sharing anything with her these days. The words no longer came, the space between them growing as distant as Danny had become.

He watched as she shook her head, mumbling under her breath the way that she did when she was disappointed. The way that she did when she thought he was being unreasonable. Martin was used to it now.

For a moment, it looked as though she was going to argue. The moment faded just as quickly as it had come, Sam glancing over his shoulder and Martin didn't have to turn around to know Danny had arrived.

In front of him, Sam shook her head a second time, creases forming at the sides of her mouth as she frowned.

Martin couldn't quite remember when she'd first started showing age.

Chapter Text

He'd been putting this off for months.

Longer than that, actually. An entire year passing in the blink of an eye, time slipping through his fingers until once again the earth was blanketed in white.

Danny released a shaking breath and stepped out of the cab.

The ground crunched beneath the soles of his boots, ice hidden beneath new fallen snow giving way to his weight. Shivering, Danny pulled his coat closed with one hand before cupping the other over his mouth, blowing hot air into the palm of his hand.

It did nothing to combat the chill reddening his nose. Nothing to replace the heat lost upon leaving the cab. Letting his hand fall back to his side, Danny exhaled and stepped up onto the sidewalk, the cold forgotten as the gates came into view.

They seemed to loom today, twisted black iron arching skyward, seeming almost menacing in their simplicity. Danny tore his gaze away, focusing instead on the ground beneath his feet.

The sun had only just made its appearance, cresting over the horizon and even with his eyes locked on the ground Danny had to squint against it. The sudden light only amplified the silence, the stillness of morning deafening.

Rafael's grave wasn't far from the gates.

It was one of the last rows on the south-west corner, the cemetery inching outward with each passing year. Each passing generation. Twice Danny was forced to walk around newly ploughed frozen earth before reaching a familiar grey headstone.

Absent of flowers, Danny noted, wondering if Sylvia ever visited. If she brought Nickie and told him about his father. If he still knew he had an uncle.

Questions best left unanswered, Danny decided, knowing Sylvia still blamed him for Rafi's death. Blamed him for putting Rafi back into the system that later killed him.

Danny found that only marginally ironic: he would have died years earlier if left outside.

A moot point, now.

There was such permanence in seeing someone's name etched into the face of rock. Such finality and Danny found himself wanting to leave. Wanting to run back to the street and hail a cab, head to work early because for once his head was clear and that might mean Jack letting him do something useful.

He didn't, instead sinking to his knees, ignoring the sharp bite of cold as snow melted beneath him.

~*~

There was a trick to insomnia, someone once told him.

Of course, he couldn't remember what that trick was, but he was fairly certain that wasn't the point. The trick existed and sooner or later he'd figure out what it was.

And it wasn't so much that he couldn't sleep, but rather, that he was afraid to sleep. Afraid to miss a call that hadn't come. Afraid to miss a call that might come.

This wasn't the first night he'd spent staring up at his ceiling, flinching at every sound, compulsively checking his cell to make sure it was still working. He was fairly certain that made him pathetic, but he knew, on the day he wasn't home to receive the call, things would end badly. Danny would turn up in a morgue; or worst still, not at all.

Unpleasant thoughts, which was exactly why Martin wasn't sleeping. Exactly why Martin had told Sam he wanted a night alone. Exactly why his nights alone were becoming almost the norm.

He knew she understood, Danny her friend as much as Martin's, but Martin could tell it was pushing the limit. Sometimes Martin wanted to see just how far that limit might stretch. Sometimes Martin wanted to shatter that limit beyond repair.

Checking his cell for the third time in as many minutes, Martin sank back onto the bed, blinked up at his ceiling and fought against the urge to close his eyes.

~*~

Danny could count the number of times he'd seen Jack surprised on one hand. Not often. Almost never, in fact, but Jack was surprised this morning. Surprised and wary, like he wasn't quite sure what to make of Danny showing up before the rest of the team.

Danny thought briefly of reminding Jack that it was Wednesday.

He was always early on Wednesdays.

It was a system, one he'd worked out back in college. It was almost funny that he never thought he'd actually return to it. It worked well, though; nothing but water on Tuesdays and Saturdays meant he didn't have a problem. He was in control. Control was everything.

"Morning," Danny said, resisting the urge to ask to be let out into the field. Too many Tuesdays had slipped his attention and fallen out of his system.

"Morning," Jack answered, almost hesitantly and Danny sighed before making his way to his desk.

Files littered the surface, wood buried beneath a sea of paper and Danny didn't remember leaving his desk such a mess. The files were his, though, spread out in an arc and Danny couldn't help but wonder if he'd found some pattern.

It was forgotten now, vanished to the haze of exhaustion and Danny released a breath before pushing the files aside, setting his coffee down on the newly cleared surface.

When he glanced back up, Jack was gone, retreated back into his office to start the day and Danny had half a second to wonder why he hadn't said anything before Sam's voice distracted him.

She was alone, Martin not plastered to her side and Danny found himself wondering when that had happened. They arrived every morning together. Left every evening together too --had for years and he couldn't remember the last time he saw either of them without the other trailing behind.

"You're in early," Sam said upon reaching his side and Danny knew that she was unimpressed.

Hostile, almost, eyes flashing with disappointment and Danny offered her a smirk.

It fell flat, Danny no longer able to force affection.

"Is there something wrong with that?" he asked, still half expecting Martin to materialize out of thin air.

He'd long since given up on Martin. Oh, there was still the occasional fantasy. The occasional vivid dream that left him panting, sheets damp with sweat and come. And sometimes Martin would hover at his side and Danny would wonder, but six years was a long time to pine over anyone, and Danny had never been good at pining.

"No, it's… You look… good today," Sam replied, clearly back-peddling and Danny knew what she meant to say.

You look clean. You look shaved. You look sober.

Sam was worse than Vivian some days.

"Spare me," Danny told her, saved from having to endure the brief flash of hurt in her eyes by Martin's arrival.

Martin, who, incidentally, looked like shit. Eyes red, stubble dark against his cheek, tie already slack around his neck; Martin was practically the poster child for over-worked, under-paid agent.

"You know, you might want to try letting him sleep occasionally," Danny whispered to Sam before walking away, heading toward Jack's office and there was no way in hell Jack was keeping him in the office when Martin looked worse than Danny ever had.

~*~

"Fitzgerald," Martin mumbled into his phone, grogginess quickly receding and when no one answered, Martin blinked and glanced over at his alarm clock.

Which was still blaring, noise echoing throughout the room and Martin cursed before switching it off. Shaking his head to dissipate the last remnants of sleep, Martin checked his messages --none-- before setting his cell down on the nightstand and climbing out of bed.

And of course the one night he spent waiting, Danny hadn't called. No one else had either and Martin couldn't help but wonder where Danny had ended up last night.

When he'd left work, Danny was still bent over his desk, files covering his desk. Martin had offered dinner, coffee, but Danny had merely shaken his head, absently declining without ever looking up and Martin knew better than to ask twice.

Danny could obsess with the best of them.

So Martin had left, blowing Sam off before climbing into a cab and heading home to wait.

Once again ignoring the need for coffee, Martin slid into his shoes, grabbed his keys and headed out the door, telling himself, not for the first time, that Danny wasn't his problem.

~*~

There was something distinctly vindicating about being out in the field.

He was even willing to endure Martin's silent sulking if it meant being able to breathe actual air and stare at something that wasn't the wall beyond his desk.

They were still waiting on Jack's call, though, their car parked at the side of the street, Martin staring out the front windshield, expression blank and twice now he'd brushed off Danny's attempts at conversation.

Maybe he and Sam really were fighting.

A slightly pleasant thought and Danny wondered just what it would take to get into Martin's pants.

Not that he stood a chance, Martin straighter than straight, the perfect Fitzgerald in more ways than one and Danny's good mood faded almost as quickly as it had come.

"You know, it's like minus ten outside," Martin said suddenly, glancing pointedly at Danny's open window and Danny couldn't help but miss the silence that had passed between them until now.

"I'm sorry, I forgot that you country club boys were delicate," Danny retorted, instantly regretting the barb when Martin glared at him.

The look was steel, harsh and colder even than the air drifting in through the open window. Danny held his hands up in a gesture of surrender before rolling up the window.

Martin didn't stop glaring.

~*~

He ended up riding up with Vivian, Vivian arching an eyebrow at Martin's dishevelled appearance before pushing the button for the twelve floor.

"You okay, Martin?" she asked, expression demanding an honest answer.

Martin knew better than to brush the question off.

"Yeah. Did you see Danny last night at all?" he asked, Vivian's expression softening, becoming almost sympathetic as she shook her head.

Martin forced a smile, telling himself that it didn't matter, that Danny was fine and more than capable of taking care of himself.

"Martin, you can't keep doing this to yourself. Danny needs to want help before he'll accept it," Vivian told him, the same speech he'd heard countless times.

The same speech Danny's sponsor had given them, shortly after their second attempt at an intervention.

"I know. I just…"

"You care about him," Vivian filled in and Martin wanted to deny it.

Wanted to protest and tell her she was wrong. That he didn't care. That Danny didn't touch him. That he didn't spend half his nights up worrying about what Danny was doing and who Danny was doing it with.

Instead he merely nodded, earning a motherly pat on the shoulder and a second sympathetic smile.

Vivian didn't say anything else, the elevator doors opening, Martin following her into the hall and he made it all of three feet before Jack caught up with them, gesturing for Martin to follow him into his office.

A strange way to start the morning, but Martin followed, eyeing Jack curiously when Jack closed the door behind them.

"I'm sending Danny out into the field today," he said as soon as the door clicked shut. "With you," he continued and Martin had a feeling Jack was not open to debate.

"So I'm supposed to, what? Baby-sit him?" Martin asked, suddenly dreading the day. Jack knew as well as he did that Danny was no longer fit to be in the field. Hell, the man shouldn't even be allowed to carry a gun at this point.

"No, you're supposed to do your job and make sure he does his," Jack explained and Martin restrained himself from asking if there was a difference.

"Fine," Martin conceded, waiting for Jack's dismissal before leaving, heading back into the office to find Danny standing at Sam's side, Sam looking slightly apologetic, Danny looking more than just a little angry.

Martin shook his head and forced himself forward, not missing Danny leaning forward to whisper in Sam's ear, or the sudden scowl that replaced Sam's forced smile.

Chapter Text

He liked this place.

It was the kind of place his father used to frequent. The kind of place his mother used to curse about after she'd been forced to drive the family car through the dark streets of Hialeah to pick Papi up at the end of a night. A fitting place, one that Danny found himself at more often than not.

This wasn't Hialeah, though. This was New York and there was no such thing as a simple blue collar bar in New York. It looked the same, though; the walls panelled with the same dark wood, the tabletops marred with the same condensation circles, the stools covered with the same synthetic red leather. It even smelled the same; like beer and cigarette smoke and sweat that came from an honest day's work. Like his father and Danny half expected to turn around and see his father at the bar, protesting having been cut off.

A different man, though, this one young and blond and drunker than Danny could ever remember being. Danny smirked and made his way toward him.

The after work crowd was just beginning to thin, the night regulars slowly trickling their way inside, claiming their usual tables or spots around the bar. Danny nodded to those he recognized, ignored those he didn't.

The blond was still shouting, practically begging now and Danny recognized the thin edge of desperation that came with wanting to drown in oblivion. An all too familiar sight and Danny held up two fingers, silently asking for his usual, the bartender nodding and turning away, the blond cursing loud enough to overwhelm the din of conversation.

"You see that table in the back," Danny said upon reaching his side, leaning casually against the bar, hip pressing into the brass bar that ran its length. The blond nodded. He could have been Martin's twin. "If you want to keep drinking, you should be nice to me," Danny told him, earning a second nod, the sight of a pink tongue darting out to lick dry lips.

Danny tried not to shiver.

He never came here looking to get laid. Most of the time he was simply too far gone to care, but tonight was different. Tonight he had energy to burn and wanted to know who he'd be fucking long before he lost the clarity of sobriety.

~*~

The sun had long since set by the time he made it back to the office.

A common sight in January, but Martin still found himself longing for the eternal light of summer.

It could have ended worse.

It could have ended better too, but that was beside the point. It ended with everyone alive, their missing girl turning up well into the twelfth hour, half frozen and suffering from hypothermia, but she was alive.

They should have found her sooner. Would have had it not been for Jack and his insistence that Danny could handle being in the field. Martin knew that wasn't entirely fair --they all made mistakes today-- but Danny had been distracted, once disappearing for over an hour and that hour could have cost them a lot more than just lost time.

His hands had stopped shaking upon his return, though, his eyes no longer glazed and unfocused and it was his lead that led them to the girl, so Martin hadn't said anything.

He'd wanted to. He wanted to still, Danny smiling entirely too brightly, looking for all the world like the day had gone exactly how he'd hoped it would.

Martin draped his coat across the back of his chair and tried his best to ignore Danny.

~*~

He should have known the blond was a cop.

Cops always looked like they were falling apart at the seams and this guy was no exception.

It didn't help that he wouldn't stop talking, rambling on about death and blood and the sulphuric scent of gunfire. Danny wanted to hit him.

He didn't, instead nodding absently, feigning attention while he pictured the cop on his knees, mouth stretched around Danny's cock --one way to shut him up.

"It was my fault," he said, his words finally registering and Danny struggled to remember his name.

Mike. Or Mark. Something with an M that wasn't Martin but close enough that Danny didn't care.

"Mmm…" Danny trailed off, hoping the effort would be enough. "It wasn't your fault, these things just happen," Danny continued, the words spoken knowingly and he flashed back to the last time he'd heard those words.

This wasn't your fault, Danny, Vivian had told him.

It wasn't your fault, you were just doing your job, Jack had said.

It wasn't your fault. You saved my life, Danny.

Sometimes Danny could still see Martin sprawled out on the wet pavement, bleeding from twin wounds, pulse slowing beneath Danny's hands and Danny shook his head to displace the image.

"You need to put it behind you, forget about it. Trust me on this one," Danny said, sound advice that had taken Danny years to figure out. He shifted closer, letting his hand fall on the cop's knee, emphasizing the point with a squeeze of his hand, fingers kneading tight muscle.

~*~

His vision was blurred by the time movement from across the room drew his attention. Too long staring at a computer screen and Martin blinked before bringing a hand up to rub against his eyes.

Behind him, he could hear Danny struggling into his coat, grumbling under his breath and Martin turned to face him.

"You heading home?" he asked, the first civil thing he'd said in hours and Danny had the nerve to laugh.

"Actually, I feel like celebrating. You up for it, Fitzie?" Danny offered, smiling in invitation and Martin shook his head.

"I don't think so," he replied, tone disapproving and Martin hoped Danny heard what he wasn't saying.

That he didn't think Danny should be out celebrating either. That he didn't want to deal with Danny tomorrow if he had been. That he didn't want to deal with the inevitable phone call that Danny would never remember.

"Your loss," Danny answered, missing the point entirely and Martin tried not to grimace.

Tried and failed, but Danny didn't notice, waving over his shoulder as he made his way toward the elevators, footsteps light and Martin waited just until he'd disappeared around the corner before grabbing his jacket.

~*~

His legs were surprisingly steady, although Danny suspected that had more to do with the arm wrapped around his shoulder than anything.

His head was anything but steady, the heat of the bar making his vision swim and as soon as they stepped outside, Danny stopped, tilted his head back and breathed in deep.

Cold, cleansing air cleared away the fog, leaving him feeling only comfortably numb. Not what he'd wanted, but twice in the last hour Mike had passed out on him and that had forced Danny to start ordering coffee. It meant Mike could walk, though, enough for Danny to follow him home, anyway, the image of Mike on his knees still lingering in the back of his head.

The sidewalk was slick with a thin layer of ice, enough that he nearly fell twice, only just catching himself on Mike's arm. Mike didn't seem to notice, too intent on picking his own path, his earlier desperation fading to resignation and something Danny could only classify as hopelessness.

It was enough to make Danny question what he was doing. He liked his partners interested, wanting and Danny doubted Mike was capable of either.

He opened his mouth to say something, tell Mike to go home and get some sleep, but shouts from across the street drowned out his words.

Mike tensed beside him, reaching for a weapon that wasn't there and Danny glanced up just in time to take in Martin's furious eyes before Martin stormed past him, arms coming up, hands making contact with Mike's chest, sending him flying back, Mike landing hard against the brick of the building.

"Get the fuck off him," Martin shouted, rage rolling off of him in waves and Danny was torn between interfering and remaining far enough back to not incur Martin's wrath.

Wrath that seemed to have come out of nowhere and it was only then that Danny thought to wonder why Martin had been waiting outside the bar.

~*~

He felt like some kind of deranged stalker. In truth, that was exactly what he was, but he found himself pulling in behind Danny's cab anyway, following Danny halfway across town and parking on a dimly lit street to watch Danny make his way into a bar.

A familiar bar, one Martin had been to several times in the last few months. One of Danny's regular places, this one slightly more upscale than the others, but not by much.

He knew he could simply get out of the car, wander inside and maybe even tell Danny that he'd changed his mind. But that would mean having to watch Danny drink the night away and that was something Martin had yet to experience; retrieving him at the end of the night was one thing, helping him get there something else entirely.

He was tempted to simply go inside and drag Danny out, take Danny home and lock him inside until Danny started listening to reason. He doubted that would help, which was probably why he was still sitting in his car, watching the soft play of snowflakes against the streetlamps lining the sidewalk.

Ten minutes into his silent vigil, his cell rang.

Sam, tone angry and Martin cursed himself for forgetting they had plans. He apologized, lied and told her something had come up, but he could tell she didn't believe him. Tell she was close to the end of her rope. Martin couldn't seem to make himself care.

~*~

There was something vaguely familiar about the building in front of him. It hovered at the edge of his consciousness, hinting at memory, but for the life of him Danny couldn't place it.

He told himself it wasn't important, focusing instead on following Martin up the stairs and how many times had he pictured this? How many times had he fantasized about following Martin home? Martin leading him into an elevator and into his apartment and Danny tried not to bounce on the balls of his feet.

Martin still looked angry, though, furious, like it was taking all his willpower not to hit Danny and Danny had a feeling pushing the line between them might earn him a black eye.

It had taken him near ten minutes to convince Martin that he was just helping Mike out to a cab. That Mike was further gone than he was and Danny wasn't exactly the type to take advantage. Danny still wasn't sure Martin believed him, but he'd let Mike go, hailing a cab on the spot and tossing Mike inside, badge flashing at Mike's protest and Mike had had enough sense not to say anything after that.

As soon as Mike's cab had pulled away, Martin had grabbed his arm and dragged him across the street. He even went so far as to threaten to cuff Danny if he didn't get into the car.

Danny had seen enough kidnappings in his life to know not to argue.

"Did you move?" Danny asked suddenly, the elevator opening to a familiar hallway that looked nothing like the one filed in memory.

"A year ago, Danny. Remember? I stayed on your couch for three weeks," Martin told him, leading Danny by the arm out of the elevator, down the hall to a non-descript door that could have belonged to anyone.

"Right, you were living with Sam, she kicked you out," Danny replied, the memory surfacing and Danny was rather proud of himself for being able to recall that small detail.

"She didn't kick me out, I left," Martin answered, struggling to get his key in the door, jaw tight with residual anger.

"Huh," Danny managed, leaning against the doorframe, waiting for Martin to finally get the door unlocked, resisting the urge to ask why they still showed up at work together, why they still left together.

He was fairly certain he should know the answer.

~*~

He'd been over it a thousand times, but he still couldn't figure out why he was here. Why he was sitting in his car in the freezing cold, staring at the front doors and waiting for Danny to appear.

He told himself he'd just end up here eventually, that sooner or later Danny would pass out and someone would call. Then he wouldn't have to truck across town, so really, he was just saving himself time.

Except the hour had bled into two, enough time to make four trips to and from his apartment, so Martin knew that wasn't the reason.

He was just about to start the car, head home and if someone did call, he wouldn't answer, when the door opened, Danny stumbling into the street, clinging to some blond guy who was very likely ten years Danny's junior.

"Son of a bitch," Martin cursed, flinging open the door and before he could stop himself, he was halfway across the street, already calling out Danny's name.

The blond on Danny's arm flinched, an obvious sign of guilt if Martin had ever seen one. He reached toward his waist and before Martin could process that he might have a weapon, Martin was on him, shoving him back, his body colliding with the wall in a sickening thud and all Martin could think was, good, serves you right.

"Get the fuck off him," he warned, realizing too late that the blond was just as drunk as Danny, if not drunker. Enough that Martin was no longer sure who was taking advantage of whom.

"Martin, Martin."

It took him a moment to register Danny calling his name. Another moment to realize he was still holding the guy against the wall, t-shirt clenched in his hands and Martin dropped him, letting his hands fall to his sides before taking a step back.

"Jesus, what the hell are you doing? I was just helping him out to a cab," Danny shouted, words slightly slurred and this was quite possibly the first time Martin had seem him pre-crash.

"So we'll put him in a cab," Martin replied, words hissed between clenched teeth and Martin shrugged off the hand on his arm, Danny's.

Hailing a cab took next to no time, the fronts of bars beacons for them. As soon as one pulled up he was moving, grabbing Danny's companion roughly by the arm and dragging him across the ice-slick sidewalk.

He struggled, forcing Martin to reach into his pocket, pull out his id and as soon as the guy saw it, his face paled, eyes going wide, but he stopped fighting. Someone who knew better than to interfere with the Bureau and Martin resisted the urge to interrogate him.

"You know, you're not my keeper," Danny growled as soon as the cab took off, Martin shaking his head before turning around, glaring until Danny fell silent.

"Come on. Now," he barked, grabbing Danny's arm and Danny's struggles were nowhere near convincing.

~*~

He should have known the night would end like this.

It was practically inevitable, written in stone the second Martin turned up and Danny tried to ignore the pounding of his head long enough to block out Martin's words.

Angry words, ones he'd heard more times in the past few months than he could count and Danny wanted to scream.

Danny, we think you have a problem.

Danny, you need help.

Danny, you have to stop this.

Danny, you're a failure, a disgrace to this family.


The last made him laugh, a harsh, bitter sound passing his lips without permission and Martin finally stopped pacing.

"Danny. God, Danny. He's not worth it," he said, eyes sympathetic and it was only then that Danny realized he'd said the last out loud.

Danny laughed that much harder.

Chapter Text

He recognized the dream as soon as it began.

The colours were too muted to be anything other than a dream, the sounds too distant and Danny told himself to wake up.

He didn't. Couldn't, regardless of how many times the dream came. He was powerless here, as surely as he was the first time, events unfolding in leaps, like stop motion animation, each motion jerked, each movement jagged.

He was never part of the dream, instead watching the events unfold, like a ghost hovering on the precipice between worlds, lingering just outside real time, unable to touch the world before him.

Sylvia was always the first face he recognized, her cheeks stained red with tears, the colour the only vivid texture in an otherwise sea of washed out grey.

She never glanced in his direction, eyes locked on the ground, the weight of grief pulling at her neck and Danny half expected her to fall to her knees and weep against the earth.

"No, no, no," he found himself shouting, the sound echoing in his skull, never leaving the confines of his mind.

His words lacked voice here.

The world lurched, the ground shifting beneath what should have been his feet, if they existed here. Only then did the colours come, streaking past his peripheral vision, unfocused and they always left him dizzy and nauseous. When the world stopped, he was staring into Rafael's empty grave, watching vibrant red earth worms struggle their way through steel coloured dirt.

This never changed. In a moment he'd look up and find himself staring into a reflection of himself, find himself watching as his mirror image ran shaking fingertips across the top of Rafael's closed casket. Then it would begin.

He seemed so much more distant in the dream, remaining half hidden behind the sea of mourners and regardless of how hard Danny struggled to recall the details, he could never solidify his face.

A second later his twin self would spot him, glance over and pause, features freezing in recognition as the pieces came together and fell into place. They'd run together, merging into one as they crested the hill and Danny's words would finally find a voice.

Papi?


Danny woke covered in a thin sheen of sweat, the sheets impossibly tangled and he struggled to free himself from their grasp. The sudden freedom did nothing to still the dull pounding of his heart, nothing to ease the tightness in his throat. He swallowed against the urge to scream.

It took him a moment to realize he wasn't at home, the bed beneath him unfamiliar, the room foreign. Frowning, Danny ran a shaking hand through his hair, fingertips coming away damp and Danny let his hand fall to his side, absently wiping it against the expensive grey sheets beneath him.

Releasing a shaking breath, Danny swung his legs over the side of the bed, feet landing with a dull thud. He pushed himself up, ignoring the tremors running through his legs as he stood.

There was something oddly familiar about the room. Like the memory of a memory, faded but there, right on the tip of his tongue. Like the echo of a song heard years before. He stepped forward and spotted the dresser.

An expensive piece of furniture, the wood dark with age, obviously oak, abstract scrolls carved into the sides, the pattern reminding him of water.

The memory surfaced and it came back to him: the night, the bar, the blond.

Martin.

Which meant he was in Martin's room; Martin's bed in Martin's apartment and how many times had he ended up here?

How many times had he forgotten?

~*~

He'd seen men fall apart before. Seen reality crash down with such certainty that those facing it were forced to cave and give way to its truth. He knew the look. Knew the expression and he was watching it now.

Watching Danny withdraw into himself, a lifetime of lies finally nipping at his heels and Martin was powerless to stop it. Powerless to do anything but watch and wait, endless hours dragging forward until eventually Danny gave in, fell asleep curled into the corner of Martin's couch.

He'd spoken in riddles, the language foreign to Martin; half Spanish and half English and all of it slurred by drink. When it was over, Martin calmly stood from his place on the edge of the couch, stepped forward and gathered Danny into his arms.

His weight was slight, skin stretching over bones that Martin had never seen before and Martin knew he was dying. Killing himself, slowly, obsession and addiction all that remained inside Danny's world and the weight of helplessness that Martin felt overwhelmed the weight in his arms tenfold.

It was strange to tuck Danny into his bed. Strange to draw the covers up to his chest and leave him there. Strange and yet familiar, hauntingly so and Martin couldn't bring himself to linger.

He strode quickly from the room, pausing only to flick off the light switch, bathing the room in darkness and by the time Martin made it back to the living room, the weight in his chest was practically suffocating.

~*~

This time his shoes weren't placed neatly by the door. He found one beside the closet door, the other three paces away, toppled onto its side. Very deliberately, Danny avoided glancing at the couch, not wanting the visual reminder that Martin was sleeping there. That Martin had slept there at least once before because of him.

He couldn't quite help himself, though, glancing up just long enough to take in the sight of Martin sprawled across the couch, legs bent to keep them from dangling off the end, a worn wool blanket pulled to his chin.


It was enough to start Danny moving, pulling his last shoe on without bothering to untie the laces and before Danny could stop himself, he was slipping out the door.

Closing it softly behind him, the click of the lock connecting sounding entirely too loud in the otherwise silence of the morning. He counted to three before turning away from the door, moving toward the elevator, images of the last time he'd done this flickering in the back of his head.

He'd been so smug. So certain that he was leaving some anonymous guy's apartment, someone he'd likely never see again. So amused that the guy hadn't found what he was looking for.

Climbing onto the elevator, Danny half expected to glance back down the hall and find Martin watching him go. He wasn't there, the hall empty and Danny told himself he wasn't disappointed when the doors slid shut, blocking out the vacant space in front of Martin's door.

~*~

Despite knowing that Danny was only a few feet away, safe in Martin's bed, Martin couldn't sleep. Couldn't stop listening for a phone that wouldn't ring. Not tonight, anyway.

He occupied himself by watching the play of shadows across his ceiling, pale winter moonlight seeping in through the window, rolling clouds making its light shimmer and dance across the white of his walls.

He spent his days trying to save people, often from themselves, so he knew why he was trying with Danny. It was what he was trained to do, after all. He knew he was doomed to failure, though, the only person capable of saving Danny passed out in a room not twenty feet away and the knowledge frustrated him.

It would be so easy to just give in to that knowledge and leave Danny to his own devices. So easy to just step aside and watch as Danny slowly drank his way into an early grave. So easy to convince himself that he didn't care.

Except he did, so the thought of doing any of those things was beyond him. He wanted to, oh how he wanted to, because it would be easier for him, easier for everyone involved, except Danny, of course, and therein was the problem.

He'd tried blocking Danny out in the past. Tried ignoring the growing chasm between them until it became almost irreparable. That had been years ago, after twin bullets had left him with a permanent limp, permanent scars that ran deeper than flesh. It had taken him months to climb back from that, months to rebuild a friendship lost and Martin knew second chances were few and far between.

Sam once accused him of being in love with Danny. He'd denied it, of course, but there were days when he wasn't so sure. Love was sacrifice, in his experience, and he'd sacrificed more for Danny than he ever had for Sam.

~*~

Some days the connections were easy to see. Some days he'd struggle for hours and end up walking away more lost than he was when he began.

Today he was struggling.

He'd spent the entire trip back home from Martin's thinking about it, and the more he thought about it, the more he was certain: salvation lay in finding the connection.

Solving the case, because the dead wouldn't leave him alone until he did.

Pausing to take a sip of his morning coffee, Danny relished the slight hint of liqueur buried beneath bitter caffeine. He let the mouthful rest on his tongue for several seconds before swallowing and placing his cup back down on his coffee table, careful not to disrupt the photographs spread out across its surface.

He'd called in sick this morning, the first time in weeks, but Jack hadn't bothered questioning why. He knew, just as Danny did, and so long as neither of them mentioned it, it didn't matter.

Across the room, taped to the wall between his living room and bedroom, newspaper articles stared back at him, stark black letters on slightly yellowed paper providing no new insight today.

His kitchen table held maps, all of them marked with post-it notes and angry red circles. Potential sightings and, for reasons Danny couldn't explain, he knew he was still in the city.

Hiding. Moving around to keep from being found and Danny wanted to curse.

There were other newspaper clippings, other maps, other photographs; spread out around the room, taped to walls and windows, held down on tabletops by whatever was handy. The desk in the corner held three boxes, each filled with transcripts from interviews.

He had no recollection of that night. No memory beyond waking up two days later, being told his parents had died, that he was being transferred into a foster home and that someone would take care of him.

It'll be okay, you'll see.

A nurse had told him that, right before patting his head, like he was a dog rather than a person.

It hadn't been okay. It still wasn't and Danny knew now where the blame for that lay.

~*~

Echoing silence told him Danny had left long before Martin glanced over to the door to find Danny's shoes gone.

He hadn't expected anything different, but he still found himself disappointed, the lingering hope that maybe he'd gotten through still lurking in the back of his head.

Shaking the thought off, Martin pushed himself up into a seated position, his entire body aching with a night spent sleeping curled in a ball. His couch was not designed for a good night's rest.

He wouldn't be able to run today, his hips cracking as he pushed himself off the couch, knees protesting movement as he made his way out of the living room and into the kitchen.

It meant actually having coffee before being forced to function, so Martin ignored the slight twinge of guilt that came with abandoning his morning routine and set to making a pot. He'd forgotten to set the automated timer in his exhaustion last night.

 

Chapter Text

The absence of light made the room appear smaller somehow, half of it hidden in shadow and Danny blinked before remembering where he was.

Sprawled across his couch, clothes rumpled and Danny tried to calculate how long he'd been wearing them. Days, surely, but it felt more like weeks, the fabric stiff with wear, stained with use. He felt just as bad, his mouth stale, his hair matted against his head, his skin itchy with dirt and sweat and Danny briefly considered showering.

The thought vanished with movement, Danny shifting, papers crunching beneath him and Danny glanced down to find the couch covered in transcripts. Case files lay at his feet, pictures falling off his coffee table to pool on the floor and his laptop was dark, the green light in the bottom right hand corner flickering in steady pulses.

How long had he been asleep?

Leaning forward, Danny hit the space bar and blinked against the sudden light before registering the time. Six-thirty and it took Danny several seconds to recall what day it was.

His last memory was leaving Martin's apartment, but that felt like weeks ago. Months even, yet he knew it had only been this morning. For the life of him, he couldn't recall the details in between.

The empty coffee cup sitting next to his laptop told him why, the stale scent of alcohol still thick in the room. Shaking his head, Danny tried to recall what had woken him.

The question was answered a second later, three sharp raps on his door drawing his attention and Danny flinched at the sound. They came again a few seconds later, these more urgent than the first sets and Danny pushed himself off the couch, legs shaking and head swimming. Danny ignored both and made his way toward the door.

~*~

The office seemed quiet today, the usual hum of activity dulled to a mere whisper.

Martin knew it was a sign they didn't have a case yet. Knew too that that would soon change. Shifting his weight, Martin winced against the stiffness of his joints before flexing his leg to work out the kinks. It only helped a little, but enough that he could move without limping and Martin schooled his face to impassiveness as he pushed his way past the heavy glass doors that led into the office.

Halfway to his desk he realized he was the first one in; an oddity given the hour. He wasn't late, but he wasn't early either and Martin couldn't remember the last time he'd beaten Vivian in. A second later he heard the door open behind him, Martin turning mid-step, but instead of Vivian he was met with the sight of Sam, her expression neutral, her steps purposeful.

"Morning," he said as she caught up to him.

She didn't reply, gaze locked straight ahead as she brushed her way past Martin on the way to her desk. She didn't slow until she reached it, still not saying anything, pointedly ignoring Martin as she set down the styrofoam cup she was carrying and slid out of her coat.

Martin tried not to question what he'd done.

He knew. She did this often, whenever she was sick of playing what she liked to call 'his games'. She was sick of them often, in fact, but Martin still hadn't figured out what constituted games.

In truth, he wasn't even entirely sure why they were still together. Why they bothered trying, except maybe that neither of them had a better prospect, or the time to find one. It was simply easier to maintain the status quo.

He'd thought it was over after he'd moved out of their shared apartment. He'd actually found himself somewhat relieved, Sam's distance and distraction, cornerstones of their relationships, too much to handle at work, let alone twenty-four-seven.

They'd gone months without speaking after that. Months of silent tension that dissipated only when a case forced them to work together. Eventually that had faded into a professional working relationship, neither of them mentioning their on again, off again relationship, or the time they'd spent trying to build a life together.

He still wasn't sure what brought Sam to his doorstep that night.

One minute they'd been working side by side, refusing to acknowledge that they were ever more than friends and the next she'd shown up at his apartment, expression crestfallen and Martin hadn't been able to send her away.

After that it had just become habit, the two of them dating again as though nothing had ever come between them. It was a strained relationship, though, overshadowed by Danny's brother's death and sometimes Martin suspected it was more than that.

Ignoring the icy shoulder Sam was giving him, Martin hung his coat and went in search of coffee, the two cups he'd had before leaving his apartment nowhere near enough to cut through the exhaustion that was pretty much a permanent feature these days.

He spotted Vivian exiting the elevator as he passed into the hall, Martin nodding, earning a tight-lipped smile that Martin chose not to question. He found Jack standing next to the coffee maker.

"Morning," Martin said, thankful for the opportunity to stop walking, his body still cramped from his night on the couch.

"Morning," Jack answered, turning to give Martin an appraising look, one that suggested he was slightly worried by Martin's appearance. "Late night last night?" he asked.

"Something like that," Martin answered, unwilling to elaborate.

Danny hadn't asked him not to say anything, but the thought of telling Jack exactly why he looked like death walking brought him up short, guilt surging in his chest like even acknowledging the night would somehow be a breach of Danny's confidence.

"Well, I hope you're good enough for the field, because I'm a man short today and it looks like we have a kidnapping," Jack told him, picking up his cup and nodding toward the office before starting forward.

He got all of three steps before turning around, Martin frowning, question on his tongue, but before he could ask, Jack was answering.

"Danny called in sick today."

Martin nodded, not needing clarification. They both knew what Danny meant by sick.

~*~

His hand froze on the doorknob, sudden apprehension surging in his chest. It gave way to anticipation, Danny pausing only long enough to run his fingers through his hair before opening the door.

Vivian was a surprise.

He wasn't sure why he was expecting Martin, except maybe that Martin seemed to turn up everywhere lately. It was almost as though Martin was stalking him, hovering at his side like a misguided guardian angel and Danny was starting to enjoy his constant presence.

Nothing he'd ever admit to, but it was nice knowing Martin cared. He'd spent too long assuming Martin didn't care. Too long assuming Martin wasn't interested.

"Are you going to let me in? Or am supposed to just stand out here in your hall all night?" Vivian asked, drawing Danny from the thought and Danny blinked before stepping aside, gesturing for Vivian to enter.

She strode in like she owned the place, eyes scanning the room, lips pressing into a thin line that spoke of her disapproval.

Danny swallowed the urge to apologize.

"Here," Vivian said upon completing her appraisal of the room, handing him a container of something that smelled distinctly like chicken soup.

Danny's stomach rolled.

"Thanks," he managed to get out, having no intention on eating, a wave of nausea forming in the pit of his stomach.

"Don't thank me, and you will eat that," Vivian told him before turning, carefully picking her way across the room.

She stopped at his couch and bent down to push aside the mess of papers covering its surface. She sat without invitation, glancing back across the room to make eye contact, silently ordering him to join her and Danny was moving before he even registered the intention to do so.

Disobeying Vivian was something he'd never been good at.

~*~

They'd been tossing around theories all morning and still hadn't managed to find something that fit.

Jack was convinced this was a kidnapping, but Vivian suspected the girl had simply run off, evidence of an affair adding weight to her theory and Jack had been forced to concede the possibility.

Which meant they were in investigation mode, Sam and Jack running leads that seemed to point to a kidnapping, Martin stuck in the office with Vivian tracing credit card receipts and phone records.

So far neither theory had panned out.

Martin knew they were missing something. Knew that as soon as they found it the pieces would come together and they'd find her. He couldn't focus on the case, though, his mind drifting and Martin had spent the better part of the day alternating between staring blankly at the records in front of him and worrying about Danny.

It was stupid, he knew, because he'd seen Danny last night, knew Danny was okay, but regardless of how many times he vowed not to think about Danny or worry about Danny or wonder about Danny, Martin found himself doing exactly that. It was no wonder Sam had told him he was being distant.

"Here's something. Two weeks ago she placed a call to a travel agency," Vivian said next to him, Martin only half hearing.

"Uhuh," he answered, still staring at a receipt for groceries, purchased two weeks ago and he probably should have discarding it the second he picked it up.

"Martin, are you okay?" Vivian asked and this time Martin glanced up.

He took in Vivian's worry, the concern written across her face and Martin flushed before tossing the receipt into the reject pile.

"Yeah… just…"

"He's stronger than you think, you know. He'll get past this," Vivian interrupted, knowing exactly where Martin was and Martin shook his head.

"I know. I just… I keep trying to figure out when it started. He kept it hidden for so long, you know? I just… I wish I knew what it was," Martin found himself saying, Vivian always bringing the honesty out of him and he was too tired today to fight it.

"I'm not sure there's ever one reason. More like a series of events," Vivian answered a moment later, expression sympathetic, but Martin could tell she was just as upset as he was.

Just as worried as he was.

"I thought I got through to him last night," Martin admitted, Vivian arching an eyebrow in response, clearly surprised that Martin had tried.

"You know, Marcus is working late and Reggie's got a study date planned. I could stop by, if you like," Vivian offered, placing her hand on Martin's arm, touch warm and comforting and Martin smiled something close to thanks.

~*~

His head was spinning by the time Vivian left.

Danny closed the door behind her and waited until he was sure she was gone before turning away from the door, hands shaking as he made his way into the kitchen.

She hadn't lectured him. Hadn't said much at all, instead sitting in silence, watching him, listening to him talk through the puzzle spread out around his apartment. She'd pried information from him, though, questioning him as surely as she did suspects and it wasn't until she'd left that Danny clued in to what she'd been doing.

Approaching him like a case, one she needed to figure out so that she could solve the problem. Danny wasn't sure how to feel about that.

He wanted to feel resentful, but out of everyone on the team, he'd always been closest to Vivian, so it was hard to conjure up the emotion. In the end he decided on hollow, void of feeling and that worked almost as well.

Opening the cupboard above his sink, Danny pushed aside a box of cereal to reveal a half empty bottle of vodka. His hands didn't stop shaking until he was back on the couch, coffee cup once again empty, Vivian's soup churning in his stomach.

~*~

He'd wanted to go with her, going so far as to suggest they present a united front. An excuse, he knew; in truth he'd simply wanted to see Danny for himself, but Vivian had told him to go home, get some sleep, and Martin wasn't about to argue with her.

He watched her leave, Vivian disappearing behind the sliding doors of the elevator, expression focused and Martin waited until the elevator started moving before turning away, heading back into the office to retrieve his coat.

The day had ended well, their missing person found waiting for her flight to Mexico, her suitcase packed with beachwear. Her boyfriend was with her and Jack had been forced to break the news to her husband --all in all, not a bad way to end the day, for them at least.

Sliding into his coat, Martin glanced up in time to see Sam returning to the office, her expression still slightly frosty. Sighing, Martin made his way across the room to intercept her, Sam pausing mid-step the second she spotted him.

"Hey," he said, upon reaching her, not quite sure what he was doing or why he was doing it.

"Hey," Sam answered, the word hesitant, like she was half expecting Martin to blow her off, despite the fact that they hadn't made plans.

"You want to grab some dinner?" Martin asked, not really wanting to head home alone.

Not really wanting to head home period, his apartment strangely empty lately and Martin didn't want to question when that had started happening.

"Um… sure. Let me just grab my coat," Sam replied, but Martin could tell she was just going through the motions.

In truth, so was he.

Chapter Text

He wasn't here.

Danny didn't make these trips often; couldn't, the process exhausting, the weight of failure heavier each time.

Sometimes, though, he'd find himself walking the cold, dark streets of New York. Find himself retracing long dead leads, hoping for some new insight, some proof that he hadn't truly lost his mind.

He'd been here before.

Jack had interviewed the bartender currently standing behind the bar, expression bored and Danny could still recall his dull nod at seeing the photograph in Jack's hand.

Nothing more, just confirmation that, yes, he'd been in before. Several times in the past. Danny had assumed that might mean several times in the future too, which was why he found himself here at least once a week, sitting at a table in the back, glass thick with condensation in front of him, eyes scanning the crowd for familiar faces.

Faces he never recognized, regardless of how many times he came and Danny glanced down long enough to reach for his glass.

He missed, his fingers heavy and thick, dexterity long since vanishing and the glass toppled onto his side, liquid spilling over the table, dripping over the side to pool on the worn wood planks of the floor. Danny cursed and gestured to the waitress passing his table.

She frowned at him, but stopped, pad coming out and Danny didn't miss the vacant expression in her eyes that told him detachment was how she survived doing this day in and day out.

"Whiskey," he told her, finally catching his glass, turning it upright and the waitress nodded before turning away and heading back toward the bar.

His father had hated whiskey.

Cubans drank rum, his father had once told him, calling it the nectar of the gods. Danny had never found a taste for it, regardless of how many times he'd tried.

Not that it mattered in the end, Danny thought with a bitter laugh, struggling to recall how long he'd been sitting and watching.

An hour, at least, the rest of the night a blur. He remembered Vivian's leaving. Remembered poring over the transcripts he'd abandoned with her arrival. Remembered Jack's notes from the interview with the bartender, 'possible lead' underlined in red at the bottom of the page. It had been enough to set Danny moving, Danny sliding into his coat and slipping out the door before he could stop himself.

He'd called Martin.

He remembered that clearly, Martin not home and Danny couldn't remember if he'd left a message.

Couldn't remember why he would, or even why he'd thought to call, except maybe that he was tired of doing this alone, the city entirely too big for one person to search and once again Danny found himself wanting to ask Jack to reopen the case.

Tomorrow, he vowed, the thought forgotten with the waitress' return, Danny nodding his thanks before pulling out a fistful of ones, handing them over wordlessly and he waited just until her back was turned before bringing the glass to his lips.

~*~

This wasn't the first time dinner had passed in awkward silence.

His fault, he knew, Sam trying twice now to start up a conversation and both times Martin had responded with one word answers. She'd obviously given up now, preoccupying herself with the plate in front of her and Martin still didn't know what to say.

Once, their conversations had been never-ending; there had been no shortage of topics for them to discuss and neither of them had had to feign interest. Martin wasn't sure when that had changed.

His fault again, he was sure, but that didn't stop him from glancing down at his plate, fork absently stabbing at something he thought might be chicken, the action only serving to solidify the silence between them.

~*~

He was vaguely aware of his cell phone ringing. Vaguely aware that people were staring at him, scorn and accusation apparent in their expressions and Danny scowled before reaching into his pocket.

It took several tries to find what he was looking for, Danny fumbling against the fabric of his pocket before finally finding his phone, pulling it out and it took all of his concentration to flip it open and hit the talk button.

"Taylor," he said into the receiver, only then realizing how slurred his words were. How far gone he was.

"Where the hell are you?" came the answer, Martin and Danny was laughing before he could stop himself.

"You think this is a joke? Danny, where are you?" Martin asked again and Danny let his laughter trail off.

"He's not here," Danny answered, glancing around the room to be sure.

"Stay put," Martin told him, Danny's answer obviously enough to tell Martin exactly where he was.

Danny nodded before realizing Martin couldn't see him. Shook his head and mumbled something that was meant to be affirmation before realizing Martin had already hung up.

~*~

It felt strange to lead Sam into his apartment. Strange to close the door behind them, Sam shifting awkwardly in his hall as she toed off her shoes, setting them aside and Martin found it strangely fitting that they were facing the door.

Like she wanted to be able to slide into them quickly. Like she was planning on making a hasty retreat.

"You want something to drink?" Martin heard himself ask, moving into the kitchen, steps laboured and Martin was obviously more exhausted than he'd first assumed.

Too exhausted for much and he almost missed Sam turning down the offer.

Which meant she was only here for one thing, Martin cringing at the thought and he could remember a time when sex with Sam wasn't a chore.

Remember a time when he'd actually looked forward to Sam following him home. He still wasn't sure when that had changed. Or what had changed it.

Turning, Martin was about to say something, tell Sam he was tired and that maybe she should head home, when he spotted the blinking light of his answering machine.

Sam followed his gaze, sighing audibly when she spotted what he was looking at.

"Ignore it," she told him, stepping forward, placing her hand on his arm and it took effort not to pull back.

"It might be important," Martin explained, not needing to elaborate, it might be Danny as obvious as it would have been if he'd actually spoken the words out loud.

Sam shook her head, jaw clenching, but she dropped her hand, letting Martin cross the room to retrieve his phone.

Sure enough, it was Danny, his message garbled, Vivian's visit obviously not working and Martin forced himself to listen to the entire message before deleting it.

"Let me guess, you have to go," Sam said the second he hung up the phone, tone disbelieving and Martin sighed before running a hand through his hair.

"Sam, I'm sorry… I…"

"Don't. God, I don't even know why I keep trying with you," she said, already crossing the room to slide into her shoes, Martin unable to stop her, the words not coming and Martin couldn't decide whether that was because they didn't exist, or because he didn't want them to.


She didn't say anything else, shoulders squaring as she made her way out the door, letting it fall shut behind her. Martin stared at the place she'd been, guilt surging in his chest when he realized he was actually relieved that it was over.

Releasing a breath, Martin grabbed his keys, slid back into his shoes and headed out the door, taking the stairs to avoid having to share an elevator with Sam. It was official. He was an asshole.

~*~

He could no longer remember what he was waiting for. Someone had told him to wait, though, hadn't they? Told him to stay where he was and Danny glanced down at the line of glasses covering the surface of the table.

Six, he thought, but the number kept changing, glasses fading in and out of his vision and Danny blinked before bringing them back into focus.

Sitting was bad.

Difficult, anyway, and Danny pushed himself back, sliding off the chair and as soon as his feet hit the floor he was falling. Slipping down, the movement stopped by the sudden arm around his waist and Danny glanced up to meet Martin's eyes.

Cold eyes, anger and irritation and worry swimming in their depths and Danny tried to apologize.

The words came out as a groan, Martin shaking his head before pulling Danny upright, his body warm against Danny's and Danny let himself lean against it, Martin's scent assaulting him and Danny hummed in appreciation.

"Come on," Martin said, voice low by his ear and Danny shivered before pressing his face into the crook of Martin's neck.

Martin sighed and led them out of the room.

Cold air washed over him the second they stepped outside, Danny's head swimming and he blinked until the world came back into focus. He was still leaning on Martin, Martin seeming to sway against the light breeze that spoke of a coming snowfall. Danny inhaled and pushed back, moving away from Martin's warmth and it took several seconds for him to find his footing.

"I'm fine," he said, not wanting Martin to see him like this, knowing Martin had seen him like this countless times in the past.

"Okay," Martin answered, hands still hovering as he led Danny toward his car, opening the passenger door and Danny let Martin usher him inside, Martin's hands gentle as he reached around Danny's waist to buckle the seatbelt.

Danny bit his tongue to keep from laughing and found himself crying instead, silent tears forming in his eyes and he blinked them away before Martin could notice.

~*~

By the time he parked in front of Danny's building, Sam was already forgotten. He knew he owed her an apology, several, in fact, but he wasn't thinking about that now. Instead he was thinking about Danny's message, the slight hysteria in his voice and from what little Martin could understand he was fairly certain it had something to do with Danny's father.

Danny's father who was supposed to be dead, that was, until he'd shown up at Rafael's funeral, very much alive and his sudden appearance had led to them opening a case, the case ending cold and Martin knew Danny had never stopped looking.

He wished he could understand it. He wanted to, but he'd never been close with his own father, and Danny's father had essentially abandoned him, so Martin couldn't figure out why finding him was so important to Danny.

Except maybe that he was the last living relative Danny had. The last tie to his life before now and, not for the first time, anger directed at the man responsible surged in Martin's chest.

He pushed the emotion aside before pushing through the doors of Danny's building and climbing the stairs, practically running until he was standing in front of Danny's door.

He knocked then, the sound loud and echoing, displacing the silence of the building and Danny didn't answer. Martin knocked a second time, this time louder, knuckles stinging with the force of his knock. Danny still didn't answer.

"Danny. Danny, it's me, open the door," Martin tried, waiting several seconds with no response before finally pulling out his cell.

Danny answered after six rings.

~*~

He was almost disappointed when Martin pulled up in front of Danny's apartment, the car falling silent and Danny had half a second to contemplate protesting before Martin was vanishing.

Exiting the car, Danny watching through the front window as Martin made his way around to the passenger side door. Danny fumbled with his seatbelt, getting in unclasped just as Martin opened the door, Danny offering a hesitant smile as Martin offered him an arm.

He took it, letting Martin pull him to his feet, Danny flinching at the sound of the car door slamming shut.

Getting up the stairs was difficult, Danny stumbling several times and by the time they made it to his front door, Danny was certain he was going to be sick.

His stomach was reeling and Danny cursed Vivian and her soup. He knew he shouldn't have eaten it, Vivian's disapproving stare aside.

"Keys, Danny," Martin said next to him, Danny blinking before realizing he'd been standing in front of the door, staring and waiting for Martin to unlock it.

"Um…" he got out before Martin cursed, stepped forward and reached into his pocket, Danny's eyes falling closed at the feel of Martin's hands searching his pockets.

Twice Martin brushed fingertips against his erection, but if Martin noticed, he didn't say anything, instead pulling out Danny's keys and unlocking the door, lips drawn into a thin line and Danny wondered if Martin hated him now.

Wondered why it had taken this long for Martin to grow annoyed with him and a wave of self loathing settled in the pit of his stomach, adding to the nausea and Danny swallowed until his mouth was dry.

"I…" he got out before Martin was dragging him inside, freezing in Danny's hallway to glance around the room and Danny watched as Martin shook his head.

"God, Danny," he said, exasperation obvious and anger surged in Danny's chest.

How dare Martin judge him? How dare Martin even pretend to understand?

"You don't know," Danny heard himself say, pushing away from Martin's hands, forcing himself across the room and it was pure luck that allowed him to make it to the couch without falling.

"Yes, I do," Martin practically shouted, tone angry now and Danny flinched at the harshness of Martin's words. "He left you. He left you, Danny. God, he's not worth finding," Martin continued, footsteps heavy against the floor and Danny let himself fall onto the couch, ignoring Martin's approach.

He's my father, Danny didn't say.

~*~

He found him at the third place on his list.

Getting direct answers out of Danny was never as simple as Martin wanted it to be.

Never as easy as it should be and that often left Martin with searching half the city before finding Danny. It was never done blindly, though, Martin knowing which places Danny frequented when he was on one of his quests. He considered himself lucky to have only had to make three stops tonight.

He knew the second he spotted Danny that Danny wouldn't be much use tonight. He was better than he was some nights, but worse than Martin had seen him in a while and Martin slowly made his way across the room.

Danny didn't notice him.

Didn't notice much of anything, too busy staring at the top of the table and Martin tried clearing his throat.

Danny didn't glance up at the sound, but he started moving, pushing himself back and Martin barely caught him before he slid beneath the table.

He glanced up then, blinking like he was trying to figure out exactly who Martin was and Martin smiled.

"Come on," he said, and Danny hummed in recognition before leaning forward, nuzzling against Martin's neck and Martin froze.

And this was bad, really bad, because Danny was still nuzzling, lips ghosting across Martin's flesh, Danny's hands clutching at the fabric of Martin's shirt and Martin moaned before he could stop himself.

The sound brought him up short, Martin cursing his body's reaction as he drew back. Danny's eyes were glazed, expression almost lost and Martin suspected only part of that could be blamed on drink. It didn't make him feel any better, Martin exhaling sharply before leading Danny out of the bar, telling himself to ignore the heat of Danny's weight against his side.

Chapter Text

Mornings were becoming increasingly difficult.

The haze of sleep increasingly heavy and Danny had to fight against it just to open his eyes.

He closed them a second later, the light too bright, the world too clear and he hadn't had that much to drink, had he? Enough for a hangover, obviously, a dull pounding taking up steady residence in his head and Danny swallowed against the paste in his mouth.

It did nothing to diminish the taste, staleness coating his tongue and it was sudden thirst that made him open his eyes a second time. He blinked against the light, spots forming in front of his vision as he pushed himself up into a seated position.

And found himself in his bed, in his room, in his apartment and Danny could have sworn he was at Martin's.

Obviously not, Danny struggling to recall the night's details, failing miserably, the night hazy at best and for all he knew Martin's presence had been nothing more than a dream.

He could picture it so clearly, though; Martin's anger and Martin's irritation and Martin's frustration and Danny's dreams of Martin were never that unpleasant.

He remembered Martin's warmth too, the feel of Martin's hands around his waist, the rough stubble of Martin's jaw against his lips and Danny groaned as it came back to him.

He'd tried to kiss Martin. Or near enough, Martin rejecting him and no wonder Martin had been angry. Danny could kick himself for being so stupid. Martin would likely never speak to him again and then he'd be forced to transfer and his father's case would remain unsolved and the whole thing was so frustrating he could scream.

Telling himself there was nothing he could do about it now --what was done was done and if he was lucky Martin would just chalk the entire thing up to alcohol-- Danny pushed himself off the bed, wincing as his feet came in contact with icy coldness that accompanied bare flooring in the winter.

The movement only served to increase the pounding inside his skull, Danny gritting his teeth until the worst of it passed before forcing himself to move, footsteps heavy as he made his way out of the room.

He got as far as the living room before he stopped, mouth falling open as he took in the sight of his apartment.

Clean, absent of everything he'd spent the last few months collecting, the entire room void of articles and pictures and maps and Danny exhaled against the sudden surge of panic welling in his chest.

The panic only increased as he moved into the kitchen, taking in the pile of clean dishes drying beside the sink and the empty bottles lining the counter. The entire room held the scent of bleach, so overwhelming that he didn't notice the pot of brewed coffee until he glanced over at the machine, green light telling him it was fresh and Danny knew that was Martin's doing.

This was all Martin's doing, Martin's words coming back to him then, Danny cursing himself for ever agreeing.

I'll help you find him, on one condition, Danny, he'd said, glancing at the empty bottle on Danny's coffee table and Danny had nodded.

Danny swallowed and reached for the coffee pot, pouring himself a cup with shaking hands and it wasn't until he set it down that he realized it was two cups shy of full. The one in his hand was his first.

~*~

For a moment, he was certain Danny had passed out on him.

It seemed that way, anyway, Danny slumped against the back of the couch, head lolling on its side, eyes closed and Martin sighed before pushing himself off Danny's chair and crossing the room.

He got as far as wrapping a hand around Danny's waist, fully intending on carrying Danny into the bedroom and putting him in bed, when Danny glanced up. His eyes were clearer than they had been, but Martin could tell he was struggling to focus on Martin's face.

"Hey, sorry," Martin said, pulling back and Danny frowned at him like he couldn't figure out where Martin had come from.

He was shaking his head a moment later, mumbling something that Martin didn't quite catch before pushing himself up off the couch and standing on shaking legs.

Martin braced himself to catch Danny's weight.

It didn't come, Danny shaking his head a second time, obviously clearing away the worst of it and Martin stepped back as he started moving. Torn between letting Danny make his way to the bedroom on his own and following, Martin remained frozen in the centre of Danny's living room, watching and waiting.

The decision was made for him, Danny connecting with an end table, lamp falling to shatter on the floor and Martin was moving before the pieces even settled.

"Come on," he said, once again wrapping his arm around Danny's waist, ignoring Danny's murmured protest as he all but carried Danny down the hall.

They got as far as the doorway when Danny twisted in his grasp, forcing Martin to break contact, but Danny didn't move away.

"Did you mean it?" he asked, expression uncertain, like he honestly expected Martin had lied.

"Of course I did. Danny, I'll help you find him, but you can't keep doing this," Martin answered, gesturing absently between them and Danny nodded.

Tension seemed to drain out of Danny at the words, Danny smiling for the first time all night, grin lazy and Martin knew that had a lot to do with his present state of mind. He wasn't too far gone, but enough that he wasn't himself, wasn't the Danny that Martin knew and missed.

"Thanks," Danny said, the word practically a whisper and Martin had to bend forward to catch it.

The second he did Danny was moving, arms wrapping around his waist and Martin grunted as Danny tightened his grip. This was a side of Danny he'd never seen before.

He'd seen confused Danny and angry Danny and resentful Danny, but never grateful Danny, never affectionate Danny and Martin awkwardly brought a hand up to pat his back.

The hand fell to his side when Danny twisted his head, warm lips pressing against Martin's jaw line.

~*~

The moment he stepped off the elevator he was convinced maintenance had replaced every bulb on the twelfth floor with ones coded for industrial strength wattage.

The light was glaring.

Harsh and heavy and Danny briefly contemplated the logistics of wearing sunglasses indoors.

Keeping his eyes trained on the ground, Danny slowly made his way down the hall, twice bumping into other agents before he finally found safety behind the glass doors of the office. Glancing up, Danny found the entire team staring back at him.

He had half a second to wonder if maybe his fly was open when he spotted it, his father's picture on the white board, the things from his apartment spread out across the conference table and Danny glanced in Martin's direction.

Martin was watching him, just like the others, a soft, hesitant smile on his face and Danny felt the corners of his mouth drawing up, Martin having kept his promise and Danny found himself vowing to keep his.

~*~

He wasn't sure how long he'd been standing there, leaning against the doorframe of Danny's bedroom, watching Danny sleep, before he finally forced himself to leave.

He didn't even know what time it was, except that it was too late by far. He told himself to go home, get a decent night's sleep for once, but as soon as he made it into the living room, spotting what was left of the lamp, he knew that wasn't an option.

Sighing, Martin made his way to Danny's closet, pushing aside coats and shoes until he found a broom and dustpan.

He was halfway through Danny's dishes before he thought to question what he was doing.

Curled up on Danny's couch before he realized that he didn't know.

~*~

Jack still wouldn't let him out of the office, despite the fact that, technically, this was his case.

Or it should have been, before Jack decided to take over, leading the investigation the way he hadn't the first time around. The first time around he'd left the decisions to Danny, knowing this was more of a personal project than official FBI business.

Things were different know, the case official and Danny resigned himself to sorting through phone records; records he'd spent the last six months staring at and Danny wasn't sure what Jack expected him to find.

Sudden movement disturbed the numbers in front of him, a coffee appearing seemingly out of nowhere and Danny glanced up to take in Vivian's smile.

"Looked like you could use some," she said, pulling out the chair next to his, setting her own coffee down on the table before sitting.

Danny nodded his thanks and reached for the cup she'd placed in front of him.

He managed to take a sip without spilling any, a feat considering how badly his hands shook. It was ridiculous, really, because he'd lasted longer than this before.

"You okay?" Vivian asked suddenly, Danny glancing over long enough to notice her staring, eyes locked on his hands and Danny called himself eighteen different kinds of fool for thinking she hadn't noticed.

"Yeah… just…"

"One day at a time, right?" she filled in, smiling softly at his nod. "Have you called your sponsor?" she asked, expression not changing, even when Danny shook his head.

"There's a meeting tonight," he told her, pride flashing in her eyes and Danny took another sip of coffee to mask the guilt he knew was reflected in his.

He had no intentions of attending the meeting, the case too important and, besides, he had time.

~*~

It took him three trips up from his car to bring in all of Danny's boxes. Six in total, three filled with old transcripts and case notes, two filled with photographs, some of them likely from Danny's personal collection, and one with miscellaneous odds and ends. A haystack in which they had to find a needle and Martin pushed aside a wave of weariness as he set the last two boxes down onto the conference table.

"Should I ask?"

Martin jumped at the sound of Jack's voice, spinning around to find Jack staring at him, expression slightly bemused and Martin shook his head before answering.

"It's Danny's dad's case," Martin told him, earning an arched eyebrow that Martin ignored before continuing. "We're reopening it."

"Funny, I thought I made those decisions around here," Jack said, arms crossing over his chest and Martin knew Jack well enough to know that he was playing the intimidation card.

Martin knew Jack too well for it to work.

"Jack, we can find him," he said, tone steady and Martin was rather proud that, so far, he hadn't resorted to begging.

"And if we do?" Jack asked, still not buying it and Martin forced himself to release a breath, cool his temper before he started coming off as petulant.

"Then maybe Danny can put this behind him. If it was your father…" Martin got out, cutting off at Jack's expression, Jack still not willing to talk about his father's death.

For a moment, he thought Jack was going to argue, tell him to put the files away and forget about it. His decision to close the case hadn't come lightly the last time and Martin knew he was already dreading having to close it a second time. Dreading the look on Danny's face when he was forced to tell Danny it was too late.

"Okay," Jack said instead, nodding slightly and Martin smiled his thanks before opening the box he'd just been carrying to pull out one of the photographs, smile lingering as he brought it over to the white board and pinned it up.

~*~

Red rimmed eyes stared back at him, his reflection wavering, blurring in and out of focus and Danny leaned forward to turn off the tap, water still dripping from his face.

He felt clearer, anyway, focused, his hands no longer shaking and Danny told himself that, technically, he hadn't broken his promise.

He was trying and that didn't necessarily mean he was going to succeed the first time around. Martin had to understand that.

Tearing off a sheet of paper towel, Danny dried off his face, tossing the used paper into the trash before reaching into his pocket, pulling out a package of cough drops, tearing into the foil before slipping one into his mouth.

Releasing a shaking breath, he left the washroom, squaring his shoulders as he headed back into the office, refusing to glance at the white board and meet his father's eyes.

Chapter Text

Despite his vow not to glance at the whiteboard, Danny found himself doing exactly that, his father's eyes seeming to watch him cross the room and for the first time in months, Danny let himself look.

Let himself take in the lines around his father's eyes, the hollowness of his cheeks. He'd aged from the man Danny knew as Papi, the picture five years old and Danny struggled to recall what he looked like now.

The last time he'd seen him had been at Rafi's funeral, but then he'd only managed a brief glance. Even with the fleeting look, it had taken him several minutes to place the name with the face, the memory surfacing and Danny had been too shocked to pay attention to details. Too busy running to commit his father's current face to memory.

Forcing himself to glance away, Danny released a breath, his legs feeling suddenly unsteady and he fell into his chair, eyes closing and Danny resisted the urge to reach into his pocket and pull out the flask he'd hidden there before leaving his apartment this morning.

~*~

Martin didn't let himself breathe until he saw Danny's half smile. He hadn't even realized he'd been holding his breath, his head spinning from the sudden intake of oxygen and Martin waited for Danny to finish crossing the room before taking his place by the white board.

Danny looked rougher than he had the last time Martin had seen him; eyes dark from broken sleep, stubble dark against his jaw. As soon as Danny was seated, Martin cleared his throat and began.

"Mario Alvarez, last seen approximately twelve months ago," he said, glancing in Danny's direction and Danny nodded for him to continue. "Just to go over what we know..."

And this was usually Jack's job, but Martin had asked to go over the background and Jack had agreed. Standing at the front of the room, Martin found himself regretting that request.

"1983, he's involved in an accident that leaves his wife dead. Alcohol was the suspected case. He spends four days in hospital before signing himself out, despite a warrant for his arrest that the hospital was apparently not aware of. A record mix up lists him as DOA, allowing Alvarez to essentially slip through the cracks."

Not to mention fating his two sons to a life in foster care, Martin didn't add, but glancing in Danny's direction, Martin knew he was thinking it.

"After that he turns up in Los Angeles under the name Pedro Valdes," Martin continued, Danny scoffing at the name and Martin had had to ask the first time around why Danny found it so amusing.

He'd told Martin that, in Cuba, orphans were given the last name Valdes when their family name was unknown.

"Employment records indicate he remained in L.A. for a little over five years. After that we lose track of him," Martin said, acutely aware of Danny's stare, Danny watching him with rapt attention, despite knowing the details better than anyone.

"Two years later he turns up in Sacramento where he does seven years for aggravated assault. We lose track of him again between 1997 and 2001, but in 2002 he shows up back in Hialeah, where he remains until 2007," Martin finished, unwilling to elaborate on the events that had led to their investigation.

He knew them as well as anyone else. He'd shown up at Rafael's funeral and it had taken Danny almost four weeks to convince the team he hadn't just imagined the entire thing. In the end, it had taken Danny finding the record mix up to convince them. Things had gone downhill after that.

Martin still wasn't certain when Danny had first started drinking. Sometime around the second month, he thought, but they hadn't known about it until the sixth, the case cold and closed by that point and it had been Martin who'd spotted Danny in the bar.

He'd managed to keep it quiet for three weeks after that, until Danny had stumbled into work late, reeking of booze. Martin still blamed himself for not saying something sooner. If he had, maybe things would have turned out differently.

"We think it's likely that he's still in the city, although he's probably using a different name," Jack said suddenly, obviously realizing Martin wasn't going to continue.

Martin didn't protest.

"Sam, I want you and Martin to head out and re-interview bartenders, anyone who recognized his picture the last time around. Danny, I need you to pull old phone records, every number we have for anyone with the last name Valdes; it's possible he kept the surname. See if you can find any connection. Vivian…" Jack trailed off, Vivian eyeing him curiously. "Work with Danny," Jack finished, standing and that seemed to set the team in motion.

Martin spared a glance in Danny's direction before falling into step at Sam's side, Danny's expression unreadable and Martin tried not to wonder what was going on inside his head.

~*~

The hours were slipping by and aside from finding that, in the last six months, five Valdes had been added to the phone book, Danny had accomplished nothing.

Nothing of use and nothing more than he had before and he was starting to suspect this might end in the exact same stalemate it had the last time. A depressing thought, one Danny tried not to focus on.

He felt unfocused, his mind drifting when he should be concentrating and Danny contemplated making a second trip to the bathroom. He didn't, squeezing his eyes shut instead, releasing a breath through his teeth and telling himself he could do this.

He'd done this for months, after all, making it through endless days without a drink. This wasn't any different.

Except it was. Different in ways Danny didn't want to think about, because then he'd get his hopes up and the second that happened Jack would close the case and he'd be right back to where he started.

He wasn't even sure why he wanted to find his father. Why he needed to, except maybe that he just wanted to understand. Needed to know why and until he did nothing was ever going to change.

He was so caught up in the thought that he almost missed Jack's approach, Jack's shoes clicking on the floor tile and Danny glanced up in time to notice Jack frowning at him.

He offered a smile, Jack returning it hesitantly, like he was still considering sending Danny home. He'd tried several times already.

"Where's Vivian?" Jack asked after a moment, glancing around the room like he might have missed her the first time around.

"Tech room," Danny said, tone neutral and he could do this.

Jack frowned a second time at the answer, looking almost disappointed and Danny was half expecting him to walk away. When he didn't, Danny found himself speaking.

"What's up?" he asked, holding his breath in anticipation of Jack's words. Danny knew Jack well enough to know that he was holding something back.

For a moment, he thought Jack was going to ignore the question, Jack staring without speaking and Danny was half a heartbeat away from squirming under the weight of Jack's gaze when Jack spoke.

"I've got a guy coming in who says he works with your father. Think you're up to an interview?" he asked, the question awkward, like he was still hoping Vivian would show up and take Danny's place.

Danny was out of his chair before the last word left Jack's lips.

~*~

He should have known this would happen.

It had happened the last time too, Sam distant and distracted after their last breakup and Martin found himself wanting to apologize.

He didn't, instead parking the car wordlessly, glancing across the street at the next bar on their list.

He vaguely remembered this place, the bartender only briefly recalling the picture of Danny's dad that Vivian had handed over. Martin hoped time had clarified his memory.

Turning off the ignition, Martin climbed out of the car, Sam a pace behind him as he headed across the street. She closed the distance between them as he pushed through the doors.

It was a surprise to find several tables occupied, despite the early hour, the room dimly lit and Martin winced at the scent of stale beer before crossing the room, leaning against the bar and signalling for the bartender at the opposite end.

He wasn't the guy they were looking for, but Martin pulled out his badge anyway, making sure the guy saw it before sliding it back into his breast pocket.

"Special Agent Fitzgerald, this is Special Agent Spade. Is Paul around?" Martin asked, Paul the bartender who'd recognized Mario's picture the first time around.

"No, he doesn't come in until later, four, I think," the guy answered, eyeing Sam like her presence had just made his day and Martin braced himself for a surge of jealousy that didn't come.

He didn't have time to wonder about that, Sam pulling out Mario's picture, handing it over and Martin was still stuck on exactly why he wasn't bothered by other men checking out Sam when the guy nodded.

"Yeah, he was in here… two weeks ago, maybe. Yeah, I remember this guy. He started a fight, we had to call the cops, but he slipped out before they got here," he told them, still staring at the photograph and Martin's breath caught in the back of his throat.

"Two weeks ago, you're sure?" Martin questioned, waiting for the bartender's nod before continuing. "And you haven't seen him since?" he asked.

"Nah, Paul told him not to come back," the bartender answered, Martin nodding, Sam smiling entirely too brightly.

~*~

"So he just, what? Stopped showing up?" Danny asked, leaning across the table and it took effort not to grab the guy sitting in front of him and shake the answers out of him.

Danny was positive he would have done exactly that, if it weren't for the fact that Jack was obviously expecting Danny to do something, hovering at his side like he half expected to have to bodily remove Danny from the room.

"About two weeks ago. He just didn't show up. Didn't even come in to pick up his last pay," the man explained, Danny tired of hearing the same words repeated back to him.

"See, I think you're lying. I think you know exactly where Señor Alvarez is," Danny baited, tilting his head in invitation and there was a fine balance between intimidating a suspect and earning their trust.

"Look, I don't know, okay. He'd said something about wanting to go home, but I thought he just meant that he didn't want to work that night," the guy explained, clearly on the defense and Danny was breaking him down.

Danny opened his mouth to say something else, the words on the tip of his tongue when Jack cleared his throat.

He cleared it a second time before Danny glanced over, Jack nodding over his shoulder and Danny stared at him disbelievingly.

"Now, Danny," Jack finally said, jaw clenching and Danny stood up so fast that his chair tipped back, falling to the floor in a clatter.

He left it there, following Jack out into the hall, waiting until Jack closed the door before speaking.

"What the hell was that? I had him, Jack. I had him," Danny shouted, voice carrying, echoing through the hall and Jack crossed his arms over his chest.

"You done? He's not a suspect, Danny. He doesn't know anything." Jack explained, tone patient and just a little bit patronizing and Danny scowled.

He didn't answer, couldn't, Jack likely right, but that didn't mean Danny had to like it. This was the first time in a long time that they'd found anything new. The first time the case had moved forward since before it was closed.

~*~

He let Sam drive them back to the office, the morning wasted driving from bar to bar, re-interviewing over a dozen people and the best they'd gotten was a confirmed sighting two weeks old.

It was better than nothing, though, Martin thought, stifling a yawn as Sam parked the car. She glanced over at him then, eyes slightly worried and Martin once again found himself wanting to apologize. She was speaking before he could form the words.

"Danny's really luck to have you, you know," she said, making no move to get out of the car and Martin felt himself blush at the comment.

"He'd do the same for me," Martin answered after a moment, suddenly finding himself uncomfortable, Sam's gaze measured, weighing him as affectively as she weighed a suspect.

"You're probably right. But he is in love with you," she said, nothing more, the words hanging between them and by the time Martin could formulate a response, she was already out of the car, heading toward the elevators.

Shaking his head, Martin followed, letting the door slam shut behind him in his haste to catch up.

They'd had this conversation before. He could still hear Sam's words, you're in love with him, aren't you? echoing between them and that had been the first time she'd kicked him out of her bed.

Martin caught up to her by the elevators.

"That's what this is all about, isn't it? You're not mad because I'm spending time with him. You're mad because you think I'm in love with him, and not you," Martin said, the elevator doors sliding open and Sam didn't say anything until they were both inside.

"I'm not mad at all," she answered then, soft smile flittering across her face and Martin told himself he didn't want clarification.

Instead he kept his eyes focused straight ahead, staring at the elevator doors until they opened, Martin stepping out wordlessly, turning just in time to see Danny slipping into bathroom.

~*~

Jack was frowning at him again, obviously unimpressed with Danny's pacing and Danny couldn't make himself care. It meant something. The bartender Sam and Martin had interviewed had last seen him two weeks ago. He'd left his job two weeks ago. He'd wanted to go home two weeks ago and…

"Jack, he's in Florida," Danny said suddenly, steps freezing and Jack lifted an eyebrow, nothing more.

Chapter Text

Jack was still staring at him, frown firmly in place and Danny found himself wanting to scream.

It all made perfect sense, his father ending up back in Hialeah, returning to his roots because where else was he going to go? He'd wanted to go home and Danny could only think of one place that was qualified to carry that name.

"Jack, did you hear what I said? He's in Florida," Danny said a second time, tone almost pleading this time and Jack's frown shifted to something less intense, more thoughtful and Danny found himself holding his breath.

"I heard you," Jack replied after a moment, pushing himself out of his chair, pacing in almost the exact same manner Danny had before the pieces had fallen into place.

"Jack…" Danny tried, Jack cutting him off with a wave of his hand and Danny instinctively fell silent.

"Okay, Martin and I will head to Florida, look around, but Danny," Jack said, stopping and glancing over then, "don't get your hopes up."

The warning wasn't needed, Danny missing everything Jack had said after Martin and it took every ounce of effort he had not to jump across Jack's desk and hit him for even suggesting that he leave Danny behind.

"Jack, this is my case. My father. I'm coming with you," Danny said, proud that he'd managed to keep his voice so steady. Proud that he wasn't quivering with rage.

For a moment, he thought Jack was going to agree, Jack watching him, eyes weighing, but then Jack was shaking his head, frowning once again and Danny wracked his brain for any argument that might win Jack over.

"You're too close to this, Danny. I don't want you out there," Jack answered, expression detached and colder than Danny could ever remember seeing.

Danny opened his mouth to argue, Jack once again cutting him off with a raised hand, waiting just until he had Danny's attention before pointing toward the door and Danny was halfway to turning when he realized what he was doing.

Giving in, caving to Jack's demands like Jack had any clue what he was going through. What he'd been through and Danny squared his shoulders before twisting back around to face Jack a second time.

"I'm going with you," Danny tried, a demand this time and when Jack shook his head, Danny found himself growing desperate. "Please," he added, the word practically a whisper and Jack released a heavy breath.

"Danny…"

"Jack, I need to do this," Danny continued, practically begging now and Jack must have seen the desperation in his eyes, because a second later he nodded, obviously uncomfortable with the decision, but it was made.

"Thank you," Danny said before leaving, waiting until he was safely outside Jack's office and halfway down the hall before releasing a ragged breath, the surge of hope welling in his chest tainted by irrational fear.

~*~

Sam didn't wait for him, already halfway down the hall by the time the elevator doors closed. Martin shook his head before starting forward, ignoring the sudden urge to follow Danny into the bathroom and… what? Check in on him? Tell him that, two weeks ago, his father had been alive and still inside the city?

He knew he couldn't do either, Martin berating himself for even considering it as he walked past the door to the men's room, heading into the office instead and he found Vivian seated at the conference table, paperwork spread out around her, empty coffee mug in front of her and the second cup on the table was full. Danny's, then, Martin realized, smiling hesitantly when Vivian glanced up, only just noticing Martin's presence.

"How did it go?" she asked, eyes tight with worry and Martin knew Danny wasn't the only one dealing with the burden of reopening this case.

"Two week old sighting, but nothing recent," he told her, eyeing Danny's vacant chair, fighting against the urge to sit and Martin decided on standing, not sure he could make it back up if he did sit down.

"It's something," Vivian answered and Martin nodded at her words.

She didn't say anything else, Martin uncertain what else to add to their non conversation. He wanted to ask about Danny. Wanted to know if Danny was handling this any better than he had the first time around, but he knew the answer to that already and hearing it would have only served to increase his worry.

"Give him time, Martin," Vivian said suddenly, obviously reading his mind and Martin felt himself flush, redness creeping into his cheeks, the colour confirming Vivian's suspicion.

"Yeah," Martin answered, more to clear the awkwardness in the room than anything.

Vivian took it for affirmation, nodding before pushing herself out of her chair, smile oddly pleased and Martin chose not to question the meaning behind her sudden mood change.

"I'm going to go grab some coffee. Jack wanted to see you once you got back," she said, patting him lightly on the arm before leaving.

Martin watched her go, Vivian disappearing around the corner and as soon as she was out of sight, Martin headed out of the office. Pushing through the glass door that separated the Missing Persons offices from the rest of the floor, Martin found himself glancing in the direction of the men's room, finding the hall vacant and Martin told himself he wasn't disappointed.

~*~

He knew it was only his imagination, but Danny swore people were staring. Watching him make his way from the elevator, overnight bag draped over his shoulder and Danny shifted the bag, redistributing the weight before heading back into the office.

Usually, he kept an overnight bag stored under his desk, just in case, because he never really knew when a case would send him out of town. It had been a long time since Jack had last let him out of the office, though, let alone out of the city, so Danny had been forced to cab home just to retrieve the bag currently weighing down his shoulder.

He'd spent the entire trip worrying that Jack would go back on his word. That Danny would return only to find Jack gone, Martin with him and it wasn't until he passed Jack's office, Martin standing in front of Jack's desk, that Danny let himself relax.

His name drifted through the open door, Danny pausing mid-step, attention focused on what was being said and it was Martin's words that gave him pause.

"Are you sure this is a good idea, Jack?" Martin asked, and Danny told himself Martin was just looking out for him, that it had nothing to do with Martin not trusting him.

"No, I'm not, but…" Jack trailed off, whatever else he'd said lost to Danny's ears.

"Just…"

"I'll watch his back," Jack answered, Danny's breath catching at the concern in Martin's voice and he couldn't help but wonder how Martin had managed to convince Jack to reopen the case.

Wonder exactly what he'd said and Danny was so caught up in the thought that he missed Jack and Martin's conversation ending, Martin slipping into the hall, wearing his coat, Danny noted as Martin spotted him, Danny glancing up long enough to take in Martin's abashed expression.

~*~

By the time he made it into Jack's office, Martin had managed to push aside thoughts of Danny. The second he made it past the door, Jack was glancing up, urging him in and Martin arched an eyebrow before stopping in front of Jack's desk.

"Something come up?" he asked, Jack handing over a slip of paper before speaking.

"I had Vivian run Mario's picture in the paper. A guy by the name of Jose Gutiérrez recognized him, said he works with Mario. I need you and Sam to pick him up," Jack began, Martin glancing at the paper Jack had just handed him, the address written in Jack's sprawling handwriting.

"You want us to run the interview?" Martin asked, slipping the address into his pocket.

"No, I'm going to get Vivian to sit in with me. Just bring him in," Jack answered, tone dismissive and Martin nodded before heading back the way he'd came.

He made it as far as the office doors before Sam caught up with him, Sam oddly out of breath and Martin spared a glance into the office, spotting Danny back at the conference table, Vivian nowhere to be seen. Danny was staring at the picture on the whiteboard, looking more lost than Martin could ever remember seeing him.

"Vivian filled me in, you ready?" Sam asked, distracting Martin from the sight before him and Martin managed a nod before forcing himself forward, Danny forgotten by the time he made it to the elevators.

~*~

He couldn't decide how he felt about the prospect of finally finding his father.

He told himself that hadn't happened yet, that there were still likely days of searching ahead of him, and even then that didn't mean the lead would pan out. It was still closer than he'd gotten in a while and Danny couldn't quite help but feel excited.

And nervous, nervous tension running through his body, legs twitching and Danny found himself clasping and unclasping his hands as the cab pulled away from Federal Plaza.

Jack was seated next to him, head resting on the seat behind him, eyes closed and Danny turned to stare out the window, watching the city streak by as the made their way toward the bridge that would eventually lead them to LaGuardia.

Foot tapping nervously, Danny released a breath, glancing forward and out of the corner of his eye he spotted Jack. Jack was staring at him, expression guarded, like he was regretting the decision to let Danny come along and Danny forced himself to stop moving, body becoming ridged.

Jack didn't stop watching him until Manhattan disappeared from sight, replaced by the towering cables of the Brooklyn Bridge and by the time they made it across, Danny's nerves had settled to a dull sense of numbness.

~*~

Jose was hiding something. Martin could tell, even without questioning the guy. He looked guilty, constantly glancing over his shoulder and Martin found himself escorting the guy roughly down the hall, all but tossing him into an interrogation room before pulling out his cell, calling Jack to let him know Jose was here.

The second he filled Jack in, Jack was ordering them out to a motel in East Harlem, Mario's picture recognized by the owner and Martin sighed before hanging up the phone.

This was just like the last time; hundreds of leads sending them running across the city and, so far, just like last time, none of them had panned out.

~*~

Waiting had never been his strong point, especially when it came to flying, Danny of the opinion that getting it over with sooner rather than later was preferable.

It didn't help that Jack had disappeared; heading in search of a washroom and Danny found himself eyeing the duty free shop next at the end of the terminal.

He hadn't brought his flask, having left it at home when he'd gone to retrieve his overnight bag. He'd wanted to, the only thing stopping him the thought of having to pass it through security and Jack would have seen it, would have questioned it and Danny was moving before he could stop himself, glancing once over his shoulder before making his way down the never-ending hall that led to salvation.

~*~

He couldn't remember the last time he'd accomplished so much in a day, the day nowhere near over and Martin didn't bother stopping to drop off his coat before heading for Jack's office.

He found Jack alone, a bag sitting on the chair in front of Jack's desk and Martin raised an eyebrow before speaking.

"They guy we spoke to said Mario was living there, but get this, he hasn't seen him in over two weeks. He'd paid till the end of the month, but there wasn't much in his room and the owner didn't think he was coming back. Said something about him wanting a change of scenery before he left for work that night. He didn't turn in his keys," Martin explained, glancing down at the bag a second time and Jack followed his gaze.

"Danny thinks he might be in Florida," Jack said, Martin nodding, trusting Danny's judgement.

"When do we leave?" Martin asked, Jack sighing and Martin frowned at the sound.

"Danny's going with me," Jack replied after a moment, expression set and Martin knew better than to argue.

The knowledge didn't stop him.

"Are you sure this is a good idea, Jack?" Martin asked, worry bleeding through his tone and Martin couldn't even bring himself to care whether Jack noticed.

Letting Danny work the case was one thing. Sending Danny halfway down the country was something else entirely.

"No, I'm not, but I agreed," Jack told him, glancing at Martin like this was Martin's fault and Martin suspected it probably was.

"Just…" he couldn't finish, the words not needed, Jack knowing exactly what Martin was about to say.

Martin was starting to suspect that he was the last person to clue into his growing feelings for Danny.

"I'll watch his back," Jack answered, and it wasn't until he said it that Martin felt the tension drain out of his shoulders, Martin nodding before excusing himself, heading out of Jack's office and he made it as far as the hall before spotting Danny.

Danny was watching him, obviously having heard their conversation and guilt surged in Martin's chest.

"Hey," he said, forcing himself forward, stopping just in front of Danny and Danny smiled awkwardly.

"I guess you've heard?" Danny asked, Martin nodding.

"I didn't… I just…"

The words wouldn't come, Martin trailing off to offer Danny an apologetic smile.

"It's okay… I mean, thanks," Danny interrupted, smiling softly and Martin found himself nodding, hesitating for half a second before reaching out, hand closing over Danny's shoulder and squeezing gently.

Danny's smile widened in response.

Chapter Text

There was something decidedly claustrophobic about airplanes; something decidedly unnatural about being crammed into a steel tube that was flying thirty-thousand feet above the earth's surface.

Over the years, he'd gotten pretty good at ignoring his fear, ignoring the slight edge of panic that started on take-off and didn't end until he was safely inside the terminal. Sometimes, though, it would hit him, the sudden realization of exactly where he was and exactly how little control he had and then the panic would hit him harder than ever, Danny forced to pant through the worst of it until he could breathe again.

It was one of the reasons he tried to remain bolted to his seat for the duration of a flight. It was easy to forget where he was with something solid beneath him.

It was one of the reasons the panic was present now, Danny locked inside the small bathroom near the back of the plane, standing on shaking legs and this was the third time he'd found himself here.

The mirror in front of him, plastic rather than glass, was warped in the middle, his reflection distorted and Danny squinted to try and bring his features into focus.

It didn't help, his mouth still curving into an unnatural line and Danny forced his gaze away, the plane lurching beneath him, Danny's hands curling around the lip of the sink to steady himself, knuckles turning white with the force of his grip.

Releasing a breath, he experimentally let go with one hand, the plane remaining steady and Danny reached for the tap, turning the water on cold, letting it pool into his cupped hand before bending down to splash his face.

And there, he was clearer. Steadier, the flight well over halfway to its destination and Danny reminded himself that he was doing this for a reason. That being here had a purpose and the end result was more than worth a little turbulence.

Reaching for a fistful of paper towel, Danny dried his face before sliding back the lock, opening the door and stepping out into the cramped hallway that divided the plane in two.

They had seats off the wing, Jack sitting against the aisle and Danny released a breath before stopping at Jack's side, clearing his throat a second later and Jack opened his eyes to glance over.

He mumbled an apology before standing, stepping into the aisle to let Danny pass and Danny waited just until the way was clear before shuffling past Jack's seat.

He didn't quite make it, Jack grabbing him roughly by the shoulders, pushing him back into the seat he'd just vacated and Danny got so far as a grunted hey before Jack was reaching into his breast pocket, pulling out the small bottle he'd purchased at the duty free shop, the contents already half drained.

Jack didn't say anything, instead sliding the bottle into his own pocket before gesturing for Danny to move to his own seat, expression dark and Danny swallowed the urge to protest, Jack's expression unwavering and the last thing Danny wanted was to give Jack the opportunity to put words to his disappointment.

~*~

He'd told himself a dozen times that Jack was right in agreeing to take Danny. That Danny needed to do this, but watching Danny follow Jack out of the office, Danny practically vibrating with tension, Martin wasn't so sure.

It was almost enough to make him wish that he hadn't asked Jack to reopen the case, the thought of Danny in another state, too far away to watch out for, enough to make Martin wish he'd protested.

He had a feeling Danny would have taken that the wrong way, though, which was likely why he hadn't. Martin was starting to suspect Sam wasn't far off in her assessment, her insight closer to the truth than he'd like to admit, anyway.

Turning away from the elevators, Martin made his way back into the office, forcing thoughts of Danny out of his head as he crossed the room to join Vivian by her desk.

~*~

Danny couldn't remember the last time he'd gone this long without speaking.

It had gotten to the point where he was starting to think he was no longer capable of forming words, his tongue seeming frozen in his mouth and Danny knew that had a lot to do with Jack's mood.

Jack had spent the remainder of the flight ignoring him, refusing to acknowledge Danny's presence and Danny had had to jog to keep up with Jack once they'd gotten off the plane.

He was fairly certain it was only his ability to move fast that had kept Jack from leaving without him, Jack pulling out of the parking garage of the rental car depot before Danny had even managed to close his door.

It didn't help that his head was clearing, the warmth of alcohol replaced by a dull headache and blurry vision. Jack had tossed Danny's bottle into the trash the second they made it into the terminal, Danny having briefly contemplated retrieving it before seeing Jack's expression, Jack's eyes flashing with anger and it had been fear of reprisal that had stopped him.

He was regretting that now, the harsh light of the setting sun too bright and Danny fumbled in his pocket, pulling out a pair of sunglasses and it took three tries to get them to sit on his nose straight.

He hadn't been to Miami in years.

It looked pretty much the same; long stretches of asphalt lined on either side by weather worn palm trees, concrete buildings spreading out as far as the eye could see, spiked grass dotting the landscape wherever the concrete stopped.

Four miles would bring them to Hialeah. Four miles would bring him home.

Staring out the passenger window, Danny let himself take in the sights that had been a constant in his youth. The city had changed, but several landmarks remained, all of them instant reminders of something he swore he'd never think about. It had been a road just like this that had determined his fate. A freeway just like this that had ended in twisted steel and broken bones. A stretch of city just like this that had brought him back to this place.

Closing his eyes, Danny tried to block out the memory, the sound of crunching metal still echoing inside his skull.

~*~

"Martin, check this out," Vivian said suddenly, distracting Martin from the file in front of him and Martin glanced up to stare at the screen Vivian was pointing to.

He noticed the time before he noticed the record, automatically noting that Danny was an hour gone, likely boarding his plane and Martin tried to recall what he'd spent the last hour doing.

Going over old leads, tying up loose ends from the leads they'd followed today. Standard procedure and Martin once again found himself wishing he'd gone in Danny's place. This time the thought was selfish.

Taking in Vivian's expectant state, Martin shook the thought off, realizing he'd drifted and he forced himself to actually read what was written on her screen.

And shit.

How they'd missed this the first time around, Martin didn't know, but there is was, the information written across Vivian's screen and Martin found himself shaking his head.

"I'll arrange for someone to bring him back in. You call Jack and let him know," Martin said, already pulling out his cell phone, cursing himself for not seeing this sooner and he knew Jose was hiding something.

He just didn't expect that that something was a shared history with Mario. That Jose had spent six years inside the same prison as Mario. That Jose had likely known Mario before that and Martin knew now that Jose was a lot more than just Mario's former co-worker.

~*~

Danny was almost disappointed when Jack pulled into a strip motel; the best the Bureau could afford given the case and Danny had hoped to spend at least some time searching before checking in.

He told himself they didn't even know where to start, so getting settled was as good a place as any and Danny waited just until Jack shut off the car before unfastening his seatbelt.

"You stay here," Jack told him before Danny could make it out the door. "I'll check us in," he finished, not waiting for a reply before exiting the car and all Danny could do was watch him go.

And wait, seconds bleeding into minutes and Danny was halfway to getting out of the car, going in search of Jack, when Jack re-emerged from inside the motel's office.

Danny waited until Jack was halfway across the parking lot before getting out, reaching into the backseat to grab his bag before crossing over to meet Jack by one of the motel's bright orange doors.

Jack didn't acknowledge his presence, Danny sighing before holding out a hand, Jack finally glancing over and Danny tried to keep from sounding irritated.

"Are you going to give me my key?"

He failed miserably.

"Actually, they're overbooked. We're sharing," Jack told him, Danny arching an eyebrow in response and something told him this was Martin's doing.

He couldn't help but flash back to Martin's conversation with Jack, Jack's promise to watch his back and Danny grit his teeth before forcing a smile.

He waited patiently while Jack unlocked the door, hands twitching by the time Jack got it unlocked, Danny fighting not to push past Jack on his way inside.

"So where do you want to start?" Danny asked, dropping his bag on the bed furthest from the door and Danny hated knowing that Jack was still running this show.

Were it up to him, he'd be combing the streets by now.

"Over here," Jack said, Danny turning to find Jack nodding into the bathroom, Danny frowning as he made his way over to see what Jack was looking at and as soon as he made it to the doorway Jack was shoving him inside.

Closing the door behind him, the unmistakable sound of Jack dragging a chair to place under the doorknob filling the air and Danny pounded on the door.

"Jack! What are you doing?" he shouted, the door shuddering against its frame under the weight of his fists.

"Here's what we're going to do," Jack said from behind the door, his tone preoccupied and Danny heard him shuffling around, the door shifting, Jack kicking wedges under the frame to hold it in place and Danny cursed. "I'm going to go look around. You're going to stay here and sober up," Jack finished.

The door shuddered one last time with Jack's words and Danny tried throwing his weight against it, the door not budging an inch.

"Jack. Damn it, I'm not drunk. Look, I'm sorry about the bottle…"

"There were at least seven shots missing from that bottle of yours, Danny. You're drunk and the fact that you don't know that isn't changing my mind," Jack interrupted, voice growing distant and Danny was halfway to responding when he heard the motel door slam shut, Jack already gone.

~*~

"Where is he, Jose," Vivian asked, leaning across the conference table and Martin remained where he was standing, leaning against the far wall and watching.

"Look, we know you did something to him. We know you two shared a cell in Sacramento. We know you got him that job. And we know you're lying to us," Vivian continued, pressing hard and Jose licked his lips and glanced in Martin's direction.

Martin's stare never wavered.

~*~

The change in light from beneath the door told him the sun had set, Danny shifting against the cold tile of the floor beneath him.

He had no idea how long Jack had been gone. How long it would be before Jack returned.

He'd tried everything short of using his gun --that option taken away from him and here he'd wondered why Jack had claimed both pieces upon leaving the plane-- to get through the door. He'd hit it and kicked it and bruised his shoulder trying to batter his way past it.

Whatever Jack had done on the other side seemed to be working.

Jack was wrong. He wasn't drunk. Nowhere near, in fact, the tension of flying nullifying what little he'd managed to drink before Jack had unceremoniously claimed Danny's vodka for his own.

What he was was desperate, wanting nothing more than a chance to see for himself. A chance to contribute to an investigation that was his by right. Not for the first time, Danny found himself wishing Martin had come in Jack's place.

Martin never would have locked him in a dingy motel bathroom.

Chapter Text

The scent of bleach registered long before the cold chill beneath his cheek, Danny blinking as he slowly regained consciousness. He frowned as he tried to process the sight before him; endless tiles, their pattern non-descript, worn with age and use and Danny jerked upon realizing where he was.

Face down on the floor, still locked in the motel's bathroom and Danny shuddered to think that he'd fallen asleep without even realizing it.

Pushing himself up into a seated position, Danny glanced up at the small light above the mirror. It flickered, light pulsing, casting unnatural shadows about the room and Danny knew, even without glancing at his watch, that it was still dark outside.

He glanced at his wrist all the same, confirming the time, eleven-fifteen and Danny couldn't recall when he'd fallen asleep. He tried to figure out how much time had passed since Jack had left, but aside from knowing that their flight had landed at seven, Danny couldn't be certain beyond knowing it had been hours.

Movement from the other side of the door drew Danny's attention, Danny registering the sound that had woken him. Ignoring the protesting of his muscles, Danny pushed himself up off the floor before moving cautiously to the door, holding his breath as he took in the sudden appearance of light beneath the doorframe.

Jack, having obviously returned and Danny threw his fists against the door.

"Jack!" he shouted, anger overwhelming the dull throbbing of his head.

Hope surged in his chest when one of the wedges disappeared from beneath the door. The second followed a moment later, Danny stepping back as Jack removed the chair from beneath the doorknob.

A second later, the door opened.

There was no apology in Jack's eyes. No regret, just resignation and Danny glared before starting forward, pushing past Jack as he made his way into the room, spotting his weapon on Jack's bed and he was halfway toward it when Jack's voice stopped him.

"Danny."

Danny didn't bother turning around, instead merely stopping where he was, shoulders tensing and this time Jack's tone was forceful.

"Danny."

Releasing an even breath, Danny turned, anger still thrumming in his bloodstream. It vanished the second he saw the expression on Jack's face, Danny's heart sinking as he took in the thin lines around the corners of Jack's mouth.

"What?" he asked, calmer than he felt, panic tightening his chest and Danny wasn't sure he wanted to hear what Jack had to say.

Jack released a breath before answering, Danny tensing as he waited for the words he knew were coming long before they left Jack's lips.

"Martin called. They found him."

Knowing they were coming and hearing them were two different things, the world lurching with Jack's words, the room spinning and it wasn't until Danny felt Jack's hand on his shoulder, Danny forced to glance up to take in Jack's concerned expression, that he realized his knees had given way.

~*~

Martin had long since gotten involved in the interrogation.

At first he'd been content to merely stand at the back of the room, let Vivian do her thing, offer her silent back up in the form of knowing scowls. Eventually, though, two hours into what was fast becoming the longest interview of his life, Martin had stepped in.

He could still picture the expression on Jose's face; eyes going wide, entire body flinching as Martin had slammed his palms down onto the table, startling a glance out of Vivian and a confession out of Jose.

"One more time," Martin said, needing to be certain, half afraid he wouldn't be able to restrain himself and then Jose would walk away, police brutality his get out of jail free card.

Jose's story didn't change this time. It hadn't in the last three times he'd told it, but procedure dictated they go over it again, despite Martin knowing that this version was likely the truth.

"Write it down," Martin continued, pushing the pad of paper and pen in front of him across the table, Jose accepting it with shaking hands.

They didn't have confirmation, despite Jose telling them exactly where the car had gone off the road, exactly where he'd come out of the water and he'd assured them that he'd tried to get Mario out of the car. Tried and failed, the need for oxygen the only reason he'd abandoned a friend to death. Martin had had to bite to his tongue to keep from asking why Jose had taken off. Why he hadn't thought to call and report the accident. Why he'd lied about it during their last interview.

They didn't have a body, though. Nor a car and until the diving team found something, Jose's story was exactly that; a story.

Martin frowned as he watched Jose write down the details, his hand still shaking and Martin tried not to hope that Jose was wrong.

~*~

Danny was still staring at the floor when Jack returned.

He'd only been gone a few minutes, telling Danny to stay put after he'd picked Danny up off the floor and sat him on the bed.

Danny glanced at Jack expectantly, waiting just until Jack nodded before standing, the bed creaking with the sudden absence of his weight.

"I got us a twelve-thirty flight," Jack told him, Danny nodding despite the fact that Jack had already turned away to grab his bag and move toward the door, glancing over his shoulder once to ensure Danny was following.

Crossing the room on shaking legs, Danny grabbed his own bag and followed Jack out of the room, New York still a long way off, Danny not quite certain how he was supposed to endure the long flight home.

~*~

His stomach sank at the diver's nod.

The call had come twenty minutes ago, Jose only just finished writing out his confession. He'd left Jose with Vivian, Vivian nodding at Martin's wordless request to finish up and it had taken him fifteen minutes to make it across town.

Fifteen minutes that felt more like fifteen hundred, time slowing to a crawl and Martin watched as the diver secured the final cable.

"You call Jack yet?" Sam questioned, Martin glancing over long enough to take in the vacant expression in her eyes.

She shivered slightly, drawing her coat tight before glancing over, her expression shifting to sympathy and Martin shook his head.

"Not yet," Martin answered, not needing to explain why.

Until he saw the body with his own eyes, confirmed identity, there was no sense in letting Jack know. No sense in crushing Danny's hope.

Sam didn't press, instead nodding like it all made perfect sense and Martin found himself hoping they could rebuild their friendship. Once, he'd enjoyed Sam's friendship. He had a feeling he was going to need it again.

The sound of rushing water drew him from the thought, Martin turning in time to take in the glint of wet metal rising out of the water. It was too dark to see much, but Martin found himself squinting, trying and failing to make out a shape in the driver's side.

~*~

It wasn't until they'd finished their ascent that Danny realized he hadn't spoken in hours.

Not since Jack had let him out of the bathroom, his thoughts too chaotic to be put into words and Danny found himself wanting to say something now.

Anything to disrupt the heavy silence that was disturbed only by the roar of the engines beneath them and murmurs of other passengers.

Jack hadn't spoken either, but he'd offered several glances since leaving the motel, each meant to be comforting, but Danny couldn't bring himself to acknowledge Jack's efforts.

Couldn't bring himself to do anything but stare at the seat back in front of him, hands twitching against the urge to play with the clasp on his tray table. He didn't, clenching his hands tightly together in his lap and Danny knew the second he moved them he'd be flagging down a flight attendant, ordering a drink, Jack's presence be damned.

As soon as he thought it a flight attendant appeared, Danny opening his mouth to order something, anything that wasn't water, but before he could get the words out, Jack was speaking.

"Scotch, on the rocks. Two," Jack told her, glancing over to make eye contact and Danny found himself frowning, opening his mouth to question Jack's order, Jack silencing him with a wave of his hand.

Jack didn't say anything else, ignoring Danny's stare, staring straight ahead and he didn't even glance over at the flight attendant's return, waiting until she'd left before wordless handing over one of the drinks, Danny taking it with shaking hands.

~*~

Hands shaking, Martin turned away from the sight of twisted metal, breathing through his mouth to block out the scent of death before reaching into his pocket and pulling out his cell.

Jack answered after three rings.

"We found him," Martin said into the receiver, glancing up to take in Sam's profile, Sam watching the wreck behind him intently, unable to glance away.

~*~

He could feel Jack's eyes on the back of his head. Feel the weight of that gaze pressing against his shoulder blades. Danny ignored it and forced himself to move forward.

He'd been here countless times. Countless cases and countless missing persons, but despite telling himself that this wasn't any different, it was.

The hall seemed longer for one, the colours muted, rendered in grey scale and Danny couldn't help but think that it was fitting that this would end in the same hues that had plagued his dreams.

Turning a corner, Danny spotted Martin standing outside the morgue door, shoulders drooped with exhaustion. He glanced over at the sound of Danny's footsteps, expression falling and it took every ounce of effort Danny had left to keep moving, breaking eye contact with Martin and now Danny could feel two sets of eyes watching him.

He got as far the door before his footsteps faltered, fear effectively stopping him, Danny's legs shaking with the effort to move.

He heard Martin moving behind him, felt Martin's light touch against his shoulder, Danny leaning into it, trying to absorb Martin's warmth and resolve, neither transferring through the touch and it was Martin's words that kept him from turning back.

"Do you want me to come with you?" Martin asked, the question hesitant, like he didn't think he had the right to ask, but needed to all the same.

Danny shook his head before releasing a breath, turning then to glance over his shoulder, making eye contact and the raw pain reflected in Martin's eyes took his breath away.

Pain that existed for him and Danny swallowed the sob building in his throat.

"No… I… I need to do this," Danny explained, Martin nodded, letting his hand fall away and Danny inhaled sharply before starting forward again, vision swimming as he spotted the body, covered head to toe in a white sheet and he let momentum bring him to its side.

~*~

Sam had long since gone home for the night, telling Martin that he should do the same.

He couldn't, though, needing to be here, despite knowing it would be hours before Danny's flight got in. It gave him time to think, though, time to consider what he was going to say and how was supposed to tell Danny that his father had died because he'd been stupid enough to get into a car drunk?

It all came back to that, Danny's father an alcoholic as surely as Danny was and Martin couldn't help but wonder if he'd end up back here some day, Danny on the other side of the door, covered by a thin white sheet and Martin closed his eyes to block out the sight.

Found himself pacing to pass the time.

~*~

There were so many things he wanted to say. So many questions he wanted answered, but the words wouldn't come.

The coroner had long since left, giving Danny his moment and Danny didn't want it. Didn't need it, frustration and irritation blocking out the grief he knew he should feel and Danny turned away from the sight before him, his father years dead rather than just a few weeks and this didn't change anything.

Three long strides brought him back into the hall and he spotted Martin across the hall, alone, Jack having disappeared and Danny didn't think before reaching down to pick up one of the plastic chairs lining the wall.

It hit the wall with a satisfying crunch, rebounding almost violently before clattering to the floor, Danny watching its progress and he didn't feel any better.

Didn't feel anything at all, Martin's sudden presence going unregistered and this time Danny didn't suppress the sob welling in his chest.

~*~

Night was quickly creeping into early morning, Martin halfway to delirious when he heard approaching footsteps.

He turned in time to see Danny striding toward him, Danny's face pale, his lips drawn tight and Martin didn't miss the dark circles beneath his eyes.

For a moment, Danny caught his eye, Martin's breath catching at the pain in Danny's eyes. Danny glanced away just as quickly, brushing past Martin as he made his way to the door, Martin glancing at Jack, taking in Jack's nod before he realized that Danny had stopped.

He seemed to be frozen in place, his entire body trembling and before Martin could stop himself, he was stepping forward.

Placing a hand on Danny's shoulder, squeezing lightly and when Danny leaned into the touch, Martin found himself speaking.

"Do you want me to come with you?" he asked, Danny glancing over then, eyes red but focused, like he was finding his resolve and Martin tried to convey his sympathy through their shared look.

He couldn't tell if it worked, or if Danny even noticed, Danny shaking his head a second later, pulling back and Martin had to fight not to draw Danny into his arms and hug him. He had a feeling doing so would only make matters worse.

"No… I… I need to do this," Danny said, Martin nodding his understanding before letting his hand fall back to his side.

A second later Danny was moving again, disappearing through the doors and Martin forced himself to glance away, offering Danny what little privacy he could.

He stepped away from the door, meeting Jack against the far wall, Jack watching, a detached expression on his face and Martin ran a hand through his hair before speaking.

"Is he…"

"No," Jack answered, not letting Martin finish and Martin knew Jack had been expecting the question.

Knew the answer long before Jack gave it, Danny obviously not okay and Martin once again found himself regretting starting this. Not knowing had to be better than this.

"But he will be," Jack said a second later, Martin glancing up in time to see Jack push himself off the wall.

Jack hesitated for a brief moment, gaze locked over Martin's shoulder and Martin knew what he was seeing. Knew too that there were no words either of them could say that might make this anything other than what it was.

"Make sure he gets home," Jack said a second later, tearing his gaze away from the place Danny had disappeared, glancing back over to make eye contact and Martin nodded.

Jack didn't say anything else, turning the second he took in Martin's nod and Martin watched him go, not turning back until Jack had disappeared around the corner.

He wasn't certain how long he'd been waiting, still leaning against the far wall, giving Danny whatever time he needed, when Danny suddenly appeared.

Danny glanced over to make eye contact, Martin watching, waiting for Danny to come to him and when Danny glanced away, Martin forced himself to relax. The tension returned a moment later, Danny bending down to pick up one of the chairs and Martin had half a second's warning before Danny was throwing it against the wall, the sound of impact deafening in the otherwise silence of the hall and the second the chair hit the floor, Martin was moving.

Crossing over to Danny's side, waiting just until Danny noticed his presence before reaching out to touch, hand cupping Danny's shoulder and the anguish in Danny's eyes took Martin's breath away.

"Danny…"

His words cut off at the sound Danny made, like an animal dying and Martin found himself frozen, uncertain what to do. Danny made the decision for him.

"I don't want to end up like him," Danny said, words pleading, like he was begging Martin to change the course of history and Martin found himself lost for words.

"Danny… I…" he got out this time before Danny was pushing him back.

"I just… I can't…" Danny trailed off, bringing a hand up to rub at his eyes and before Martin could say anything else Danny was leaving.

Heading back the way he'd come and Martin watched him go, unable to bring himself to follow.

 

Chapter Text

On a Thursday morning, Martin drove to work with his window open for the first time in months.

The air still held the slightest hint of cold, his breath still leaving plumes of mist in its wake, but the temperature was rising, the air thick with dampness that spoke of melting snow.

A sign of impending spring, anyway, Martin almost regretting making the turn that brought him into the Bureau's employee parking garage, the weak morning sun vanishing as he winded his way underground.

By the time he was parked, he'd managed to forget about the weather, the day looming before him and work didn't take a break just because the weather had seen fit to.

Halfway through his elevator ride to the twelfth floor, Martin could no longer recall what month it was.

Time had been fuzzy lately, each day bleeding into the next and Martin had grown used to operating purely by habit; wake to the sound of his alarm, run, shower and dress, drink coffee, head to work, solve a case, head home, sleep, repeat.

He managed to fit little things in between, but even those had become habit; Martin stepping off the elevator, walking the few short paces to the office, pushing through the glass doors and, like every morning, he found himself glancing at Danny's empty desk.

His name plate was still perched on top of his cubical wall, his favourite coffee mug still sitting next to his mouse, dozens of badges still pinned to his bulletin board, but regardless of how many times Martin told himself that nothing was missing, he knew something was.

He didn't know where Danny was. Jack knew, but every time Martin had asked Jack had given him the same answer. That Danny was safe and needed time.

The not knowing still drove him crazy, despite the fact that he'd stop asking, Jack's answer never changing and Martin knew that it was likely in Danny's best interest. Or maybe Martin's, but Martin didn't like to consider that option often.

They all knew, the entire team well aware of his feelings for Danny --feelings that Martin was no longer capable of denying, even to himself. Sam had accepted it with resignation, telling him that she was happy for him. Vivian had been thrilled. Jack had merely nodded, like he hadn't expected anything else and from that point on he'd simply ignored it.

Vivian had told him that his feelings weren't unrequited, but with Danny gone, Martin couldn't help but think that it amounted to the same thing. Likely the reason he still checked every morning, still clinging to the hope that one day he'd come in and find something out of place, proof that Danny was indeed coming back.

Jack's reassurances had long since grown stale.

~*~

He called Danny's apartment on Saturday, something he did every Saturday, but Danny had yet to answer.

He'd disconnected his machine, so every time Martin called he was forced to listen through countless rings before eventually being forced to hang up.

Sometimes he counted the days that had passed since he'd last seen Danny, but thinking about that night in the morgue brought more pain than reassurance, so whenever he found himself remembering, he quickly found himself trying to forget.

Danny hadn't even come to his father's funeral, despite Martin learning later that Danny had paid for his burial. He had a plot next to Rafael's and Martin had stood alone in the freezing rain to watch them lower him into the ground. After it was over, he left, the only mourner in the entire cemetery and Jack had given him Danny's thanks.

Martin had asked Jack for the third time where Danny was.

Jack's answer hadn't changed.

~*~

On Monday he was running leads with Sam, Sam rambling on about some bartender she was seeing and Martin knew exactly who she was talking about even before she provided his name.

Derek, the guy who'd given them their first lead in Mario's case and Martin found himself frowning.

"Isn't he a little young for you?" he asked before he could stop himself, Sam glaring daggers and Martin vowed never to bring up the subject again.

Later he found himself apologizing, Sam forgiving him and Martin told her he was happy for her.

He was.

~*~

Thursday sent him out of town with Vivian.

Sunday brought him back to New York.

On Sunday night his mother called, asking him if he was all right, telling him that he sounded depressed and Martin reassured her that he was fine. Work was just busy and he was tired from flying halfway across the country.

It took him close to two hours to get her off the phone.

~*~

On Monday something was different.

Danny's coffee cup was gone and Martin's knees buckled.

He forced himself to cross over to his desk and hang his coat --which was getting to be entirely too warm and Martin made a mental note to take it out of his regular wardrobe rotation-- before heading in search of coffee.

He got as far as the hall when he spotted him, Danny standing in Jack's office, engaged in conversation and Martin froze, watching through the glass walls of Jack's office as Danny laughed at something Jack had said.

Coffee forgotten, Martin headed back to his desk to wait.

Danny didn't show up again until Wednesday.

~*~

On Wednesday Martin was running late.

A fuse had blown in his building, rendering his alarm useless and by the time Martin made it out of bed he barely had enough time to shower, shave and dress before making it into work a minute before he was due.

His first coffee had been Bureau brew, dark and entirely too strong for Martin's taste.

It was still sitting on his desk, the bottom half undrinkable and Martin yawned before contemplating getting a fresh cup. He decided against it, instead focusing on finishing the night's reports, trying to get caught up because for once they didn't have a pressing case.

Or any case at all, for that matter; strange that outside it was raining, the sky practically black with clouds, yet inside the office had fallen into an odd sense of tranquillity.

He'd asked Jack yesterday if Danny's presence meant that he was coming back. That he was better, but Jack had remained tight lipped on the subject, telling Martin that Danny would come back when he was ready and not before. Martin was starting to suspect that Danny had asked Jack to keep things from him.

Martin tried not to question the whys.

He couldn't help himself, though, dozens of reasons surfacing, Martin discounting each in turn and Martin shook his head to block out the new set currently rattling through his head.

It was almost ironic that he was becoming just as obsessed with Danny as Danny had become with his father.

"You know, it's actually tea leaves will tell you your fortune, not coffee grinds."

It wasn't until Danny spoke that Martin realized he was staring absently into his coffee cup, still contemplating getting that second cup and Martin was halfway to a retort when he clued in to the fact that Danny was standing behind him.

That Danny was in the office, expression teasing like this was something he did every day and Martin was out of his chair in a heartbeat.

"You… um…" Martin trailed off, the words not coming, his brain still stuck on the fact that Danny was standing in front of him, looking better than he had in longer than Martin could remember.

"Smooth, Martin," Danny answered, smirk firmly in place, but Martin didn't miss the dark shadow that flickered across his eyes, gentle reminder that the last few months had indeed happened.

It spoke of uncertainty, of regret and fear and Martin forced himself to smile, surprised that it came out genuine.

"Sorry, I just… how are you?" Martin asked, watching the tension drain out of Danny's shoulders and Martin held his breath waiting for Danny's reply.

"Okay," Danny answered and Martin knew he was speaking the truth. He wasn't fine. He wasn't good. But he was okay.

"Where…" Martin trailed off, Danny's features shifting and Martin shook his head before continuing. "Sorry, none of my business," he finished, Danny chuckling somewhat nervously.

For a moment, Martin wasn't certain what else to say. Words didn't exist for this moment, despite the countless times he'd imagined it. The countless times he found himself rehearsing what he'd say when Danny finally returned.

It was obvious Danny was just as lost, Danny seeming to struggle with himself and Martin got out an I just as Danny got out a so, Martin chuckling softly, Danny joining him a moment later and Martin gestured for Danny to continue.

"I owe you an apology," Danny began, Martin acutely aware of the nervous tension in Danny's tone.

"You don't…"

"Yeah, I do," Danny interrupted, waiting for Martin to fall silent before continuing. "Step nine," he said by way of explanation, Martin nodding and suddenly the last few months made sense.

Danny hadn't gone off to destroy himself, a fear that had kept Martin up more nights than he'd like to admit.

"I… um… I took advantage of your willingness to help and brushed off your concern and I'm sorry," Danny finished, releasing a heavy breath and Martin knew exactly how hard that must have been for him.

He wanted to tell Danny not to worry about it, that it didn't matter, because everything had worked out in the end, but Martin knew Danny needed more. Knew Danny needed forgiveness, Martin's limited knowledge of AA telling him that much.

"I forgive you," Martin said, simply, Danny grinning in response and Martin found himself grinning back.

~*~

Danny came back to work on the following Monday, Martin fighting nervous excitement as he rode the elevator up from the parking garage.

He hadn't spoken to Danny since Danny's brief visit on Wednesday, Danny telling him that he'd see Martin on Monday and Martin had echoed the statement, Danny smiling softly before heading in search of Vivian, his list of atonements unfinished and Martin had found himself wondering exactly how many people had made the list.

Too many, Martin still suspected, knowing it wasn't his place to question.

He'd talked to Jack on Thursday, Jack finally filling him in on exactly where Danny had been. A detox centre in Brooklyn, Bureau sponsored and Jack had had to approve the expense, the only reason he knew and Martin didn't and Martin had felt slightly vindicated upon learning that.

Still, Danny hadn't told him, obviously needing to do this on his own and only the knowledge that he was doing it kept Martin from feeling any sense of resentment.

Shaking the thought off, Martin braced against the elevator's stop, waiting until the doors had slid fully open before stepping off, making his way into the office and by the time he reached his desk, his nervous excitement had become dull panic.

He spotted Vivian first, Vivian smiling knowingly and Martin knew she'd spent the last few months worrying more about him than Danny, half fearful that Martin might do something drastic in his quest to find Danny. Martin didn't blame her --he had, after all, suggested they open a case, leading to Jack's first confession that he knew where Danny was.

"You're in early," Vivian commented when she reached his side, smile still in place and Martin ducked his head before nodding.

"Well, you know what they say…" Martin trailed off, suddenly alarmed that he was about to sprout off some nonsense about birds and worms.

Vivian seemed to understand, nodding thoughtfully before peering up at him, Martin halfway to squirming under the weight of her look when she glanced away.

Staring over Martin's shoulder, Martin turning to follow her gaze, taking in the sight of Danny, Danny looking more than just a little nervous. He looked resolved too, though, like he was set on doing this, more prepared to return to work than Martin was to have him back.

Martin didn't excuse himself before crossing the room, instantly forgetting that he'd been in the middle of a conversation with Vivian.

The second Danny spotted him, Danny stopped, head tilting to the side and as soon as Martin reached him, Danny smiled.

"You the welcoming committee?" Danny asked, grinning nervously and Martin laughed.

"Something like that," he answered, no longer certain why he'd thought to greet Danny at the door, not really caring that he didn't have a reason, Danny's presence welcome and Martin was beyond pretending that he hadn't missed Danny.

Danny was still laughing at his answer, smile bright and Martin couldn't help but think it looked good on him. He'd spent Danny's absence coming to terms with the fact that he was interested in Danny. More than that, he was crazy about Danny, very likely head over heels and watching Danny laugh Martin couldn't help but wonder why he hadn't noticed sooner.

"I…" Danny got out, shaking his head a second later and Martin liked that he wasn't the only one stuck on what to say.

"Yeah," Martin answered, knowing exactly what Danny was thinking, able to read Danny for the first time in forever and Danny's smile brightened.

Stepping aside, Martin gestured for Danny to continue, Danny releasing a breath before starting forward, heading toward his desk and he got all of three feet before Martin stopped him.

"Danny?"

"Yeah?" Danny asked, glancing over his shoulder, expression curious and Martin ignored the slight hitch in his breathing that came with knowing what he was about to do.

"After work, do you… Do you want to grab a coffee, or something?" Martin asked, suddenly nervous, Danny watching him, surprise evident in his eyes.

"I'd like that," Danny answered, Martin smiling, Danny shaking his head before continuing. "But ask me again in six months," he finished, the promise in his words enough to combat any disappointment Martin might have been tempted to feel.

He knew, after all, that Danny had to put himself first, make it through the program before starting anything that might distract him. Besides, six months wasn't that long and Martin had a feeling Danny was worth waiting for.

"Okay," Martin answered, Danny grinning in response before turning away, completing the journey to his desk and it wasn't until later, after the first case had turned into ten, after spring had bled into summer, that Martin finally let himself believe that things would work out.

Fin.