The first day at the lab is a haze of procedures and rules--Danny wants to shrug them off, rules never his thing, but the clipped seriousness in Mac's voice makes him sit up straight and pay attention. Still, the edge of adrenaline (it's your first day, Messer, don't fuck it up) has faded a bit when Mac calls everyone together for a sit down about the latest case. Danny's reading through the file when Mac's voice pushes in on his thoughts.
"Danny, this is Detective Don Flack. He works closely with our lab, I'm sure you'll be seeing a lot of each other. Don, this is our newest CSI, Danny Messer."
The normal hey how are ya's die in Danny's throat as he looks up finds himself staring at the smiling detective, attention derailed by electric blue eyes and pale skin. Oh, Jesus, Danny thinks and he tries to swallow and murmur something intelligent as he shakes hands. At the touch, he thinks he can see Flack's eyes widen, and he can't kid himself that he doesn't notice the quick twitch in Flack's throat as he swallows.
The moment (if it is a moment, Danny's not quite sure and knows he has to forget about it even if it is) ends, and even though it should be awkward, it isn't, quite. By the end of the next day they're just Flack and Messer, Don and Danny, and by the end of the week they're working together to tease Aiden and damn near finishing each other's sentences.
Don signs off on the last page of the report he's writing, a flash of vindictive pleasure at the idea that Bill Rendish is now locked away for a good long time, far away from hurting any young girl again. At the sound of his name, he looks up and sees Mac standing next to his desk. "Stella's buying everyone a round down at Sullivan's. Interested?" The slightly sheepish and sulky look that goes along with the words must mean that Stella twisted Mac's arm into showing up. It's enough to make Don laugh a little and follow Mac. They don't get together much as a team anymore, haven't really since Claire died and Mac closed up, but Don knows that he's more excited about this than he should be, and he can't stop the slight jump in his pulse when he sees Danny throw him a wave before continuing a conversation with Hawkes. That would be a terrible idea, Don reminds himself for what feels like the millionth time. He and Danny are just friends, friends who spent time together bitching about work and sports and even if sometimes Don can't stop thinking about how cute Danny's smile is, they're not going to do anything about it. No way.
Something Stella says must make Danny laugh, and the sound of it races across Don's skin, makes his fingers twitch against the beer he's holding. Only one more drink, he promises himself.
But one round turns into three, and somewhere in that Mac and Stella head out and there's a re-shuffle of chairs; Danny sliding over until Don can feel the press of Danny's warm thigh against his while Danny argues with Hawkes about basketball. Although Don's so lost in the slight friction of denim against his skin that who knows what's going on anymore.
"Hey, Flack," and Don looks over, realizing that he'd zoned out. Danny's grinning. "I think think we need to teach Hawkes here how stupid the idea of the Celtics beating the Knicks is. Game tomorrow at your place?"
Don manages to nod, even when Danny's bright smile makes his mouth dry and he can't completely ignore the line of Danny's throat when he tilts his head back to drain his beer.
Danny knocks on the door before he can think too hard again and he knows that he must look kind of embarrassed when Flack opens the door.
"Got a call in the cab on the way over, Hawkes can't make it. But I brought beer?" Danny winces as how unsure he sounds.
For a minute he's sure Flack's gonna close the door, actually admit that he's been looking at Danny the way Danny's been looking at him and that eventually the heat between the two of them will burn up their reputations and their jobs and their friendship, but Don smiles and holds the door open.
The game's not a bad one (even though the Celtics suck) and as usual they're both yelling at the tv and each other, swearing and teasing and they're just two friends watching a game together, but as they finish the beer Danny brought and Flack pulls another six pack from the fridge, the slight edge in the room sharpens, the tension ratchets up higher.
This is why they don't hang out together alone, Danny remembers. Because the beer isn't helping; Danny tries to think about how this would fuck up their friendship... but then Don shoots a humor-filled smile at him and oh, God, he wants that, needs that wrapped around him.
He tries to remember that they're cops, for God's sake, being out and a boy in blue isn't exactly easy and they work together, get a grip, Messer but he can feel all the empty space between the two of them like it's electrified, and the way that Don's fingers stretch against his knees as he's slouched against the couch shouldn't make Danny hard and hot and breathless, but it does.
So Danny fully admits that it's his fault that while the Celtics are getting fuckin' killed by the Knicks with two minutes to go in the fourth, the announcer's voice unable to drown out the moaning and bitching of hundreds of disappointed fans, Danny happens to look over at Don, who's laughing at how pissed Hawkes will be come tomorrow... and in the middle of all that, Danny leans over and kisses Don.
It isn't his fault that Don kisses him back.
Don wishes he could say that he doesn't remember that first morning after, waking up in a tangle of his limbs and Danny's, Danny's breath warm and slow against the back of his neck, that the sight of Danny quickly tumbling from the bed and into clothes and out the door, awkward and silent, is a blur. But the truth is that Don doesn't want to remember that he remembers, doesn't want to relive the crashing down of reality again. Once is bad enough. Don forces himself to eat something in the too loud silence of his apartment, downing too much coffee and knowing that he looks like shit.
He's tempted to call in sick, but knows that Danny won't dare and there's avoiding something and then there's being a coward, and Don Flack, Jr. is no coward. When he visits the lab later that day, it's both better and worse than Don had thought. Better because a labcoat-wearing Danny behind a microscope focused on blood samples has only a passing resemblance to a Danny stripped naked in Don's bed murmuring things into Don's ear that he can't think about without losing it completely . It's worse only because now Don has the sense memories to go along with the fantasies in his head; he actually knows what Danny's mouth tastes like, the way he sounds right before he comes, the quirk to his mouth and ease to his shoulders afterwards.
Fortunately, Stella is the lead on the murder case he's working, and when a botched kidnapping comes up, it's him and Aiden and Mac, so Don takes the coincidental gap of Danny-time to try and hash out what's going on in his head.
It's been almost a week without Danny when there's a call about a robbery gone wrong and then Flack falls into the mess with Moran and his betrayal and now Don can't wipe the memory of Moran's guilty acceptance from his mind, can't stop feeling his stomach drop as it did when he held the hidden soda can in his hand.
The night after he takes Moran to booking, Don can't sleep. He sits on the couch, working his way through a six-pack of beer and flipping from one channel to the next, so the sound of a knock at his door startles him even as he gets up to answer it.
Danny's standing there, keys still in his hand, which answers how he got this far. Don remembers sharing out keys with Danny and Mac a few weeks back after working a case where a death went unreported too long.
"Yeah?" Don can feel the sharpness in his voice, knows he sounds pissed. "What do you want, Messer?"
"Came to see if you were okay."
Don feels the urge to hit Danny rise up in him, but clamps down on it, stepping away from the door before he does something stupid. He's pretty sure Danny doesn't want the beer Don gives him, but Danny sits and matches him bottle for bottle for a while just the same.
"Will you do me a favor, Danny?" Don murmurs eventually.
"Yeah." Danny says, and Don is impressed at how quick he responds.
"If I ever lie during a case," Don looks down at the beer in his eyes, can't look at Danny. "If I ever try to pull some shit like Moran did, pull out your gun and shoot me, yeah?"
"Jesus, Don." Danny sounds sickened, and Don feels an answering burn in his throat as he swallows. "Don't say shit like that."
Don sighs, feels rather than sees Danny slide a little closer on the couch.
"How do I know I'd do any different?" Don swallows, his tongue feeling slow and stupid. "I mean, if that was my kid and I was in that deep..."
"... you'd do the right thing," Danny says, and God, he sound so sure that Don has to look up at him, see if there's confidence in his eyes and not just a lie in his voice. "You're so damn proud of being a cop, Flack, and nothing Moran did should change any of that. You're not him."
A hard knot slides around Don throat and he tries to clear it, nodding his head even though he doesn't believe Danny, not totally. The quiet stretches into along silence. Eventually, Danny moves as if he's going to get up and before he can really think about it Don reaches out, grabbing his hand.
"Stay." Don may not believe that he's different, but Danny does and he'll ride that knowledge as long as he can. He'll steal it from Danny in kisses and gasps of breath, bleed it from the heat of his skin and the sweat at the small of his back, take it fast and hard enough that the doubt will flow away, giving Don enough peace that he can finally close his eyes.
If the first time was awkward, the second is even more so. Danny worries that he's screwed it up, that Flack's never going to speak to him again, but after a few days, days Danny spends with his stomach churning with the fear that his life--job, friendship, everything---has ended, Don talks to him, laughs at his jokes, has his back in the field and in the interview room.
And that should have ended it, one more stupid night that they have apparently decided to never talk about. Moving on.
But then there's the case with the Tanglewood Boys, and even though Mac doesn't say anything, Danny feels like he lied, like he's been called out as a fake and nothing better that those thugs in the interview room. Never gonna get away from it, never be more than Louie's kid brother chasing after the big boys and it makes Danny want to throw up. He's sitting at his desk and trying to decide if he's going to go out to a bar and get hammered or simply just buy something on the way home and drink himself stupid when he notices someone standing at his desk.
"Up to watch hockey tonight, Messer? I got five bucks that says the Rangers are toast," Flack's says, and if Danny sees pity in his eyes, he's gonna punch Flack in the face and damn the consequences, but Don's looking at him like nothing's wrong.
Don breaks out the whiskey when they get to his apartment. Danny cradles his glass in his hand, feeling the burn of it in his throat to match the one behind his eyes.
"I almost got one, you know." Don's looking at him like he's crazy and Danny hitches a shoulder. "A Tanglewood tattoo. They were the kids I grew up with, you know? And in my family... my brother... but then there was baseball and college and I was getting out, until that damn pitcher from Portland threw a fucked up fastball that riled the damn crowd up so much that I ended the night with a shattered wrist on top of the damned concussion." He holds out his hand to look at the faint scar along one side of his wrist and can't stop the noise he makes when Don slides his thumb along it, the heat making Danny shiver. He swallows, hard, and continues. "But I got out, couldn't play ball but couldn't stand what Tanglewood had made my brother, went to the academy, came here. Left it behind, until today, when a fucking murderer in the box says my name like he knows me. Fuck."
"He doesn't know you," Flack says, and he closes his hand around Danny's wrist tight enough to stop him when he starts to disagree. "He may know the name Danny Messer, shit, he may even think he knows you. But the Danny Messer I know is better than all those damn Tanglewood Boys, smarter than 'em too. And if I know that, sure as shit Mac knows it too."
Danny's never been good with words, can't ask for what he really wants, doesn't have the language to articulate how much what Flack said means to him, but instead pushes Don down against the couch, kisses him hot and hard to hold him there, letting the alcohol he's drunk and the insistent heat of Flack's body against him drown all the rest of the words away.
"Hey, Flack, what's up with you and Messer?" Aiden looks over at Don even as she's wrist deep in evidence, sorting through a trash heap in an alley at the edge of a murder scene. Don's so surprised by it that he knows his face shows some mix of anxiety and confusion and fear (and hopefully nothing of the knowledge that he and Danny are only two days out from another beer-filled night of that ended in bed). "You guys both seem a little off today."
"It's... nothing." Don knows that sounds like the crappy lie that it is, so when she simply tilts her head at him in a very don't lie to me, asshole way, he adds, "We had a little disagreement a couple nights ago."
It'd be so much easier if that were the case, as opposed to fallout from the fact that Don still had bruises from fucking Danny into the mattress and could tell from the way Danny moved that he did too. It's happened more times that he wants to count and while Don likes to think that if he and Danny talked about it, they'd promise it would never happen again, he knows himself too well, and now that he's said yes once, he doesn't trust himself to say no.
"You guys are such good friends, Flack. Don't let something stupid mess it up." Flack almost stops breathing, because either Aiden is a fucking mindreader or it is obvious, so damn obvious and oh, he can hear the jokes in the break room now, about which of them is the "lead" when they're in bed, and then will come the sidelong glances and then it'll all snowball from there, down to a slow-to-respond backup and he's seen good cops die that way, too many of them. He and Danny have let things get the best of them too many times and it's only a matter of time before it blows up in their faces.
"Yeah, Burn, thanks," he says, even as he feels bile in his mouth when he swallows, knowing that he has to stop this now, before it grows into something that will break him and Danny into pieces against a impenetrable wall of blue.
When he gets back to the station, Don buries himself in paperwork, trying to ignore the clench in his stomach when he silences the call on his cellphone (DANNY'S CELL says the screen) without answering.
Aiden's thrown out of the lab, fired, and nothing seems right anymore. It's worse than that; for all that he still shows up to the lab every once in a while to check in on cases, it's like Flack's gone too. Even when he asks Danny a question, it's all business: no jokes, no friendly back-and-forth. Danny can't even get into a fight with him about it, because it's damn near impossible to fight about something they've never talked about. And because he can't fight with Don, he fights with everyone else: he's pretty sure Hawkes isn't speaking to him at the moment, and if he questions Mac one more time, Danny's pretty sure Mac will fire him next.
"Flack been acting strange, you think?" Stella asks him one day in the lab, and it's only because he's trying really hard that he doesn't let the samples in his hand shake as he loads the microscope.
"Don't think so," he finally responds. "Why?"
"Something seems off with him. You guys were hanging around so much, I thought you might know. He hasn't been by here in a while."
"I'm not his babysitter," Danny says with what he hopes comes across as lightness, even as he feels like he can't breathe. He'd been right at the start--he and Don getting together (if that was even what you could call it) had been a terrible idea and it has screwed up their friendship. Now Danny knows he has to be careful and make sure it didn't take his job down with it.
Aiden has been gone from the lab for two months. One burned out car later: Aiden was gone. Don goes through the motions with a kind of urgency that would scare him if he had time to think about it, if he could take time to worry that Danny's eyes looked hollow and empty of all but anger as he was sent to work Price's murder instead, how chasing down leads brings back all the different ways that Aiden had made him laugh or pissed him off and how those were the last things he'd have to remember of her.
Don goes down to Autopsy to get results (he doesn't envy the MEs the task of assigning that postmortem) and sees Sheldon Hawkes sitting in the hallway on one of the chairs where the victims families wait to identify bodies.
"I hadn't talked to her since she left," Hawkes says quietly and rubs a hand over his face. Don freezes next to him, torn between sitting and running the hell out of there. "I was angry at her, so damn angry. Seems..." he trailed off, swallowing. "Seems stupid to have let stuff get in the way of remembering we were friends, you know?"
Don finds himself nodding, thinking of the closed look on Danny's face now when they ran into each other in the hallway, the way that meetings dragged without the two of them competing to make Stella laugh. How even when they were interviewing a subject the easy give-and-take was gone: now it was angry cop and angrier cop. The door swings open and Sid appears, calmly assessing the situation before sitting down next to Hawkes.
"I'll sit with Sheldon, Detective. I'm sure you have things that need solving." Don takes the escape for what it is, but can't shake the tension in his jaw. That pressure stays with him later even as the team sits toasting Aiden at Sullivan's, Pratt behind bars and Price's murder closed thanks in no small part to Danny's work. Don can only stomach half a beer before he bolts.
Danny tilts the bottle towards the glass, filling it to the brim. After Flack left, Danny only stayed to make sure Stella and Lindsey got into cabs before heading home. He'd been digging around in the cupboard for something to eat and found an unopened bottle of Jack Daniels, a present from Aiden on his last birthday. The last night he'd had anything hard like that was weeks ago, the last time he and Flack... but that's pointless to think about, so Danny looks instead at the bottle and wonders how much he can drink of it before he vomits or passes out. Then he wonders what Aiden would think if she saw him like this. Fuck up, offers the Aiden in his head. Danny sighs and leans forward to pick up the glass.
There's a knock at the door and the glass slips a little, spilling on Danny's hand. He swears and is wiping one hand off on his jeans as he opens the door with the other... and freezes at the sight of Don standing there, clutching a six-pack in one hand so tightly that his knuckles are pale.
"I brought beer?" Don says quietly and it's so automatic that Danny backs up to let him inside and Don's through the damn door before Danny has time to think about it. But then he does start thinking and his vision blurs, wavers like he's drunk but it's not that, he so fucking furious that he can barely breathe. He starts towards Don, fists clenching, but instead finds himself grabbing Don by the shirt and backing him up against the wall until they're so close they're sharing air.
"You think it's that easy? Walking back in here with your damn beer and hoping that I'll get drunk enough to forget that I'm pissed at you and you've been a lousy friend and the fact that sooner or later, this damn thing between us will eat both of us up until we're dead or fired? Fuck you, Don."
Danny tries to back up, walk out the open door (because if Don's here, he better not be or he's putting a fist through the wall) but Don has him by the shoulders.
"We should have talked about it. I thought that if we just left it alone things would work itself out, but apparently that was a damn stupid idea. Aiden told me once," and Don's voice gets hoarse, Danny can feel his fingers tightening on his shoulder. "She told me that I shouldn't let stupid things mess up a friendship."
"So you're saying this was stupid?" Danny asks, and he knows he should agree, but he can feel the flex of Don's arms against him and the way he smells and Jesus it's all he can do to focus on the conversation.
"It's dangerous and terrifying and most likely will end us in a whole fuck ton of trouble," Don says and Danny starts to pull away again, but then Don's hand is warm and solid on the back of his neck, thumb gentle and deliberate along the line of his jaw, slow like they never let themselves be. "But I don't think this is stupid."
Danny looks at him.
"You're just saying that because you're drunk."
Don uses his grip on Danny's shoulders to spin them, so now it's Danny against the wall, Don pressed tight against him. Dimly, Danny registers the beers falling to the floor, a muffled crack telling him the bottles broke in the plastic bag.
"I had three sips of beer at the bar two hours ago and have been walking damn near the entire city since," Don whispers in his ear, the heat of it making Danny shiver. "If you don't believe me, I can go downtown and get a goddamn breathalyzer. Clear?"
That's all the words that Danny lets him get out, because now he's kissing him, tasting bar pretzels and breath mints, knowing that Don's tasting nothing stronger than the one beer Danny managed to finish sitting next to Mac and Stella. When Danny finally pulls back, they're both breathing hard.
"Now what?" Danny's enjoying taking the time to touch, smooth a thumb just under the neck of Don's t-shirt to feel the heat of skin on skin. Don flutters his eyes closed. When he opens them, his gaze his affectionate and aware and smoldering.
"Let's go to bed. I'm looking forward to remembering this in the morning."