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In the Company of Unicorns

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Danny doesn't remember much about his parents' death. He's heard the stories, seen the newspaper articles, but he doesn't remember anything about the actual crash that killed them.

What he does remember is waking up four days later, in a hospital, a pretty nurse fiddling with something at his side and when Danny asked her where he was she flinched before answering.

The hospital, sweetie, she told him, sparing only a glance, like his question didn't require further explanation.

Two days later he was released into the custody of Child Services.

The day after that he found himself standing in the hallway of his first foster home.

No one would tell him what had happened to his parents.

He found out about their death weeks later, Danny asking where they were and his foster mother --a kindly woman named Rosa that Danny hasn't seen in almost twenty years-- sat him down and told him that, sometimes, bad things happened to good people.

Danny didn't tell her that he didn't think his parents were good people.

After that he remembers feeling lost; uncertain of where he was or how he got there, not quite able to process the reality of his parents dying. He couldn't understand why he wasn't allowed to go home.

He feels much the same now.

Except now he isn't sitting at Rosa's kitchen table, the weight of Rosa's hand warm against his shoulder. Now he's standing in the hallway of an empty apartment, his furniture en-route, the stark white of freshly painted walls making the room feel colder than it actually is.

It's raining outside.

Drizzling, actually, Danny's clothes only mildly damp, but they feel more awkward than they would if they were soaked through.

He thinks about changing, but he can't seem to move, the hallway seeming impossibly long, despite opening into his living room not three feet from where he's standing.

This is the first time he's seen the inside of what is now his home --for weeks or months or years or decades; he doesn't know. He's seen pictures, but images on a website are never very telling and the reality of the place is nothing like he imagined.

It's smaller for one, starker; new in a way his apartment in New York never was and Danny finds himself missing the character that came with living in a turn of the century building.

Mostly, though, it just feels foreign.

Different, awkward in a way he wasn't expecting. Awkward in a way he wasn't prepared for.

He knew, technically, that this might some day happen. That his job would eventually take him away from a city he's known and loved practically his entire life. He was fourteen when he first moved to New York.

He knew too that, on that day, he would likely go only reluctantly, leaving the city harder than losing his family and Danny's starting to think that he should have just quit.

Jack did.

Handed in his resignation on the spot, the second he learned of his transfer and Danny's starting to think that maybe it was Jack who made the right decision.

At the time, though, he didn't consider the option; couldn't process the thought, weeks of OPR investigation blurring his vision and the splitting of the team took him by surprise. He knows he still hasn't really processed it.

Knows too that, one day, he'll wake and it will hit him, just like he woke on a cold Sunday morning in Rosa's house and understood that he could never go home.

~~~

His clothes are hanging off the back of the breakfast bar, drying. The bar divides the room in two, his kitchen opening into his living room, flanked by the hall that leads to his front door. Another hall leads out of the living room, down to a small bathroom and a bedroom that looks exactly like his living room in miniature.

This is the first apartment he's had that has carpet; Berber that he thinks might be new, steel grey in colour and it makes the floors look drab and uninteresting. Everything else is white. He thinks it's meant to create the illusion of space, but the ceilings are so low that he can't help but feel slightly claustrophobic.

It's almost like living in a box.

It doesn't help that the space is empty; void of his things, his only possession the suitcase currently sitting open on the kitchen counter, its contents still neatly folded inside.

He's taken to sitting cross-legged on the floor, facing the far window and watching the sun set behind dark grey clouds. There are several empty Thai take-out boxes on the floor beside him, because he hasn't had a chance to find a grocery store and even if he had his dishes are on a truck somewhere between New York and Seattle.

~~~

He wakes to the sound of his cell phone, the ringing harsh and Danny almost answers before remembering that it's only his alarm. For a moment, he doesn't remember where he is, his body stiff from sleeping on the floor, jacket balled under his head as a pillow.

It comes back to him then, suddenly, and Danny's tempted to panic. For a while, he'd almost managed to convince himself that this was all a bad dream.

Obviously that's not the case and Danny groans before pushing himself up off the floor, ignoring the mess that he didn't bother cleaning up last night before making his way into the kitchen, rooting through his suitcase to find a towel, toiletries and a change of clothes.

He considered spending the night in a hotel, waking to an actual bed and a complimentary breakfast. He's not sure why he changed his mind, but the second he steps into the bathroom he wishes he hadn't. The shower's not actually a shower, but rather a tub with a steel bar screwed into either wall. Danny didn't think to pack a shower curtain.

By the time he climbs out and reaches for his towel, the floor is soaking wet.

~~~

He knows the building as soon as the cab pulls up in front of it.

It's just like every other Federal building; towering concrete divided by rectangular glass windows and, if Danny concentrates hard enough, he can almost imagine that he's still back in New York.

New York doesn't sound like this, though; the sound of traffic lighter, void of honking cabs and crying street vendors. It doesn't smell like this either; exhaust and ethnic food replaced by the scent of burnt gourmet coffee. The weather is different too; milder than it should be, but damp in a way that feels almost chilly.

Danny steps out of the cab and the image of New York vanishes.

He thought about walking, knowing from the maps he spent the plane ride poring over that his apartment wasn't far. But he doesn't know the city --not yet, anyway-- and knew he'd likely end up getting lost if he left it to chance.

He regrets the decision not to walk, though, the cab taking entirely too long to show up at his apartment this morning and Danny's due upstairs in just under ten minutes. So much for being early on his first day.

Inside he makes his way to the front desk, pulling out his badge and service weapon, placing the gun in a tray before stepping through the metal detectors, picking it up again on the other side before making his way to the elevators. Obviously they were expecting him, no one batting an eyelash at his presence.

He's not entirely sure where he's going, except that White Collar Crimes is located on the eighth floor, so Danny steps into the elevator, hits the button and hopes he can find his way once he makes it upstairs.

He almost feels like a rookie again, like he did fresh out of Quantico and Danny thinks idly that he's really too old for this. They requested him, though, his record for being street savvy something White Collar was looking for, so he knows he shouldn't have anything to worry about.

Still, it's nerve wracking, awkward and Danny suspects he's going to have to start from scratch; earn people's respect and trust all over again and Danny's not sure he's ready to do that.

He doesn't want to be here, after all; doesn't want to spend his day investigating fraud cases and chasing down white collar criminals. There's no challenge in that, no sense of accomplishment and it's only then that Danny realizes just how lucky he was to earn a spot in Missing Persons right out of the Academy.

The elevator opens into a long hall, not unlike the one in New York, the layout only slightly different. The colours are lighter, though, and every single agent he sees is clutching a Starbucks coffee like it's a lifeline, so he knows it's not the same.

He has half a second to glance around, get his bearings, before someone calls out to him, a black man around Jack's age, Danny's name passing over his lips like a question and Danny turns to face him, nods in acknowledgement.

"Special Agent Harold Jones, glad you could join us," he says by way of introduction, gesturing for Danny to follow him.

"Glad to be here," Danny lies, falling into step behind the man, following him down the hall and toward a corner office.

And this is one of the things that differs from New York. The offices here are closed in, walled by drywall instead of glass and it makes the entire floor seem almost oppressive, the lack of openness stifling. Danny tries not to think about it as he follows Harold toward his office.

His office is sparse, a single desk facing into the room, two chairs in front of it with a high-backed chair behind it. The only other furniture are two sturdy bookcases and a couple of filing cabinets. There are a few pictures on the desk; a woman smiling brightly for the camera, two boys, each in their own frame, almost glaring at the camera, like they've long outgrown the desire to have their picture taken. Harold's family, Danny assumes.

Harold himself is just as sparse, dressed simply in a grey suit that is slightly outdated, his jacket pulling across his waist like he hasn't bothered to replace his wardrobe since his youth. He's taller than Danny pictured, black hair tinged with grey, his moustache entirely grey. Only his eyes belie his age; dark and clear and Danny knows that they likely see everything.

He gestures for Danny to sit, waiting until Danny's seated before moving around behind his desk, sinking into his chair and crossing his arms across his chest.

"I've been looking over your file. Some impressive, if not diverse, work. How much do you know about White Collar Crimes?" Harold asks, tone professional and Danny has a feeling he approaches everything like a case. Already his barb about Danny's work history has earned him Danny's respect.

"Occasionally Missing Persons would coordinate with the White Collar office in New York, but aside from that, just what I learned in the Academy," Danny tells him, hating that he's already being forced to defend his background.

"I think you'll find that things work differently in the real world. Well, come on," Harold begins, pushing himself out of his chair, standing before continuing, "let's introduce you to the team, and your new partner."

Danny nods before standing, letting Harold usher him out of the room, biting his tongue to keep from asking what Harold meant by partner. Missing Persons operated as a team, the group rotating more often than not and Danny's not entirely sure he's willing to spend all his time working with the same person.

He knows pairing agents off as partners is commonplace in a lot of departments, and that, eventually, the two people learn to work as a single unit, but there's always the possibility that he'll get paired up with a complete asshole and then his time here will be even worse than he first imagined.

He's not prepared for his first sight of the White Collar Crimes office. It's narrow, a hallway running down the centre, desks placed on either side, almost haphazardly. There are no cubicles, just open space around the desks. The windows are dark, shades drawn down to block out sunlight. Florescent bulbs line the ceiling, providing the only light; an eerie white that flickers, the bulbs humming and Danny instantly misses his old office.

The New York offices used to look like this; or so Danny's been told. They were renovated before he joined the team, so he's not used to the chaotic sprawl of desks and white boards.

Leading him to the far back corner, Harold pauses next to a woman that Danny thinks might be close to Harold's age. She strikes him as someone warm and earthy, but her features are sharp and knowing, eyes tight like she's seen too much in her career and has learnt to block most of it out.

"Special Agent Maureen Grant, this is Special Agent Danny Taylor," Harold introduces, Maureen eyeing him critically before extending a hand.

"Agent Taylor," she says, grip firm, hand cold and dry and Danny smiles in acknowledgement.

"Maureen," Danny replies, earning an arched eyebrow and purse of her lips.

Danny mentally chastises himself for thinking that the same informality he was used to in New York might extend here.

He doesn't get a chance to apologize, or correct his mistake, Harold leading him on to the next desk, a dark haired man bent over several open files. He glances up at their approach, pausing a moment to push his glasses back up his nose, eyes crinkling in suspicion as he takes in Danny's presence.

"And this is Agent Grant's partner, Special Agent Mike Rosa," Harold introduces, Danny extending a hand that Mike frowns at before accepting.

"Agent Taylor," Danny tells him, earning a grunt like Mike could care less who Danny is. Danny chooses to ignore him, instead letting his hand fall back to his side, following Harold deeper into the office.

He did a little research upon learning of his transfer, but aside from Harold's profile he really couldn't find anything else on the other team members. Not even their names, although Danny suspects that has more to do with the fact that White Collar occasionally works under cover than anything else.

He's not entirely surprised, though, when Harold leads him to a pair of empty desks in the far right hand corner of the room. One is his, he suspects, the other likely his partner's and Danny finds himself glancing around the room. He's just about given up when he spots him.

Younger than he was expecting, likely around Mike's age, but whereas Mike's features were harsh and cold, this guy's features are open and boyish, the kind of guy that girls might call cute. The kind of guy that Danny's thought about fucking, but could never work up the nerve to proposition.

"Ah, Agent Fitzgerald," Harold says upon spotting him. "Danny Taylor, this is Special Agent Martin Fitzgerald," Harold introduces, stepping back to let the two men shake hands.

"Agent Fitzgerald," Danny says, the name sounding oddly familiar, but for the life of him he can't place it.

"Welcome aboard," Martin answers, shaking Danny's hand briefly, looking slightly unimpressed and Danny's not surprised that his new partner seems unwilling to welcome him with open arms.

Danny tells himself that that might be a good thing, Martin even more attractive close up and Danny suspects that Martin's distance will come in handy. It'll certainly make him less tempting, anyway.

"I'll leave Agent Fitzgerald to run over the details of our open cases," Harold tells him, not waiting for a reply before making his exit, Danny suddenly uncertain of exactly what he's supposed to be doing.

Martin obviously knows, pointing out Danny's desk despite the fact that Danny could have guessed; the only one of the two void of paperwork and Danny knew he should have brought the box of his work things on the plane rather than leaving it with the truck.

"We have four open cases right now. You might want to start by going over the files," Martin tells him, rifling through his desk drawer, pulling out four file folders, dropping them unceremoniously onto Danny's desk.

Danny smiles somewhat sarcastically before taking the first off the pile, flipping it open and, great, an insurance fraud case; this should be interesting.

When he glances up again, Martin is gone.