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CSI NY fic: Learning to Breathe (1/2)

December 12th, 2015 (09:57 am)
busy

feeling: busy

Title: Learning to Breathe

Disclaimer: I do not own CSI NY.

A/N: Set some months after Danny is involved with the shooting of the undercover cop. Fills my hc_bingo square for unconsciousness. Unbeta’ed.

Summary: Danny has a bad day; Mac probably has a worse one.



-o-

As far as bad days went, Danny had had worse.

Of course, given some of the less savory events in his life, that probably wasn’t saying much. Sure, it wasn’t as bad as getting beaten to a pulp after a ride in a gypsy cab. And okay, it probably beat the hell out of breaking his wrist and ruining his baseball career. And yeah, it was better than accidentally shooting an undercover police officer (no matter how questionable the guy’s motives may have been). All things considered, this day wasn’t that bad.

It was still pretty crappy, though. On the day to day scale of misery in his life, this one ranked right up there.

Because Mac was on his ass and an accident in the lab had ruined one of the critical DNA samples and apparently it was all Danny’s fault if he didn’t fix it.

Now.

“We can’t wait until the morning, Danny,” Mac said in that tone of his. That this-is-totally-obvious-even-if-totally-unreasonable tone. The one he used when he looked down at Danny and shook his head, like Danny was still some newbie kid who needed to have the finer art of police work explained to him.

It wasn’t like he had messed up the sample. And it wasn’t like their vic was going to be any more or less dead tomorrow. “Come on, Mac,” Danny said, shrugging a little. “I caught this case at 5 AM this morning. I didn’t even get to stop for lunch. I’m running on fumes here.”

Mac looked vaguely sympathetic. Which was a dead giveaway to what came next.

“The first twenty-four hours are critical,” Mac reiterated pointedly. “If you want to get back on the promotion track...”

And there it was. Occupational blackmail.

As if Danny wasn’t dedicated to his job. As if Danny didn’t work his ass off, day after day. As if he didn’t do damn good work, either.

That was expected, though. In Mac Taylor’s lab, perfection was the status quo. The only damn way to impress the man was to go above and beyond. Because if Mac Taylor didn’t need a social life, then no one else did either.

It was tempting to say, in all truth. Danny was a team player as much as the rest of them, and he’d pulled his share of short straws over the last few months. And he hadn’t said anything, because he could still hear Mac saying we’ll see.

We’ll see.

Not a condemnation. Not an approval. An ambiguous statement that left Danny in limbo on the job. All he could do was work through it. And he had worked through it. He’d been nothing short of flawless since then. His paperwork had been impeccable. His attitude had been perfect. He’d been a damn fine model employee.

We’ll see.

This was the first time since that conversation Mac had even mentioned the promotion track. It was the first hint that Danny had had that he even had a shot at it.

We’ll see.

Apparently, Mac wanted to see. Tonight. After hours. At any damn cost at all.

Danny sighed. “Yeah,” he said. “Okay. I guess I can try to track Greggory down and get a sample back here for processing by the morning.”

A small smile played on Mac’s lips -- the closest sign of approval yet. “You should go see Flack,” he said. “Turns out Greggory has an outstanding warrant for assault. He’s going to bring him in for more questioning.”

The tricky bastard. He’d known that all along, but he’d wanted to gauge Danny’s response. More than that, he wanted Danny to take responsibility. That was what this was. Because Flack could tag the guy, and any yahoo from the crime lab could swab his mouth.

But this was Danny’s case. This was Danny’s responsibility. Mac wanted to see.

So Danny would let him see.

He smiled. “I guess I’ll go talk to Flack then.”

“Sounds like a good idea,” Mac said. He stood, reaching for his coat. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Danny chuckled. “Yeah, you’ll see the DNA sample tomorrow is more like it.”

Mac shrugged. “Whatever works.”

-o-

Whatever works.

If Danny didn’t know better, he’d think Mac was enjoying this. No, scratch that. Mac was enjoying this. The man was calm and professional, but he had his sadistic streak. In fact, Danny was pretty sure that this was Mac’s own particular brand of humor.

That was all well and good, though. Danny didn’t want to be spinning his wheels forever, so if he needed to work late to earn back some respect, that would be what he’d do.

Besides, a quick stop up with Flack, Danny could get his sample and be home in time to watch the end of the Knicks game.

“Hey, Flack,” Danny said, crossing across the room.

Flack looked up, surprised. “Messer,” he said. “What are you doing here?”

“What, a guy can’t come out of the lab?” he asked.

Flack smirked. “You’re all high tech up there,” he said. “Here, we work in the trenches.”

“Yes, well, that’s why I’m here,” Danny said. “Apparently one of the tech contaminated a sample from the trenches.”

Flack looked vaguely concerned.

“Fortunately,” Danny continued. “It was just a DNA sample from one of the vic’s roommates -- Greggory.”

“Yeah, I was about to round him up on a warrant,” Flack said. “Something about his story just doesn’t jive, and this gives us a reason to put pressure on him.”

“I know,” Danny said. “So I’m thinking, you arrest the guy, I get my DNA sample and Mac comes into work tomorrow with all the information needed to take this case to the next level.”

“Ah,” Flack said. “So this is for the boss.”

Danny made a face. “It’s my job!”

Flack was unimpressed. “He told you to jump, and here you are saying, how high.

“I am not,” Danny replied emphatically.

Flack gave him a look.

Danny sighed. “Okay, so maybe a little.”

At that, Flack grinned, slapping Danny on the shoulder. “Hey, don’t feel bad,” he said. “Why do you think I’m arresting this guy at all?”

Danny’s eyebrows went up.

Flack shrugged. “Mac Taylor is a hard man to say no to.”

Danny grunted. “And an even harder man to please.”

-o-

The weather was horrible. It’d been when Danny came into work, and it apparently hadn’t stopped yet. After approximately two minutes of sludging through the muck, Danny’s pants were soaked almost to his knees and his toes were half numb inside his shoes.

Sitting heavily in the passenger seat of Flack’s car, he zipped his coat up higher and blew into his hands. Flack sat down next to him and started the engine.

“What’s with this weather, huh?” Danny asked, trying to rub some warmth back into his fingers.

“I don’t know, man,” Flack said, jacking the heat up while he tried to clear the windows by turning on the wipers. The snow shifted but didn’t clear enough to see. “And they say there’s global warming.”

“It’s all counterintuitive with that,” Danny said, wriggling his toes.

“Story of my job,” Flack muttered.

“Hey, you and me both,” Danny said. “So what do you say we find this guy?”

“I’m all for that,” Flack said, squinting out the window, which was only marginally cleared. “I just hope this piece of junk gets us there.”

“Four wheel drive would be nice,” Danny commented.

“A heater that works would be better,” Flack said. “Tell you what, once this baby gets started, we aren’t turning her off.”

“That’ll be hell on your gas mileage,” Danny said.

“And I can declare it as a work expense,” Flack said.

Danny grinned. “I like the way you think.”

“Great,” Flack said, digging around in the back and pulling out a scraper. “Now let’s see if you like the way we clean.”

Danny wrinkled his nose. “Really?”

Flack produced another one for himself. “I got front.”

Danny sighed. “I don’t suppose the rear defrost works.”

“Not if you don’t want to start the car on fire,” Flack told him as he climbed out.

“Perfect,” Danny muttered, pushing his door back open as he climbed back into the snow.

-o-

It took a good five minutes to get Flack’s car driveable. Another twenty just to get off the main roads. It was dark by the time they pulled into the right neighborhood, and the snow was so thick that they basically had to park in the middle of the street.

“Here we are,” Flack said. “Greggory’s got a main floor apartment in this building.”

Danny looked out the window. “Nice,” he said. He hesitated. “I suppose now’s the wrong time to ask about calling for backup.”

Flack snorted. “In this weather, where’s Greggory going to go?”

“Yeah, running in this weather would be far less appealing than a jail cell,” Danny concurred.

“Besides,” Flack said, killing the engine. “Two detectives -- it’s totally within reason.”

“By the book,” Danny said.

Flack grinned at him. “Just the way Mac likes it.”

-o-

So it only went to figure that Greggory wasn’t home.

This was possibly not his fault. Maybe he was working. Maybe he went to a friend’s house, looked outside and thought better of even bothering to go out in this sort of weather. That would make him a smarter guy than Danny had been inclined to give him credit for.

Of course, it also made him smarter than Danny, so there wasn’t much more to think about that.

Flack looked just as put out. “We can always swing back by in the morning,” he suggested.

Danny shivered while fresh snow fell into his hair. “You sure we don’t have a warrant to just break in and wait where it’s warm?”

“No cause,” Flack said, sounding a little disappointed. “This warrant’s pretty old, so I didn’t get any additional measure to enforce it.”

Danny sighed. “Great,” he said. “So here we are, in the middle of a blizzard to serve an arrest warrant with no one home. Sounds like the perfect end to a perfect day.”

Flack turned, looking back down the street. “If you want to wait...”

“Here? In the snow?” Danny asked incredulously. “What are you, crazy?”

“Well, I was thinking in the car,” Flack said. “Greggory usually works the day shift down at this auto shop, but from our information, sometimes he pulls a later shift too for overtime.”

Danny pushed back the layers of his coat to look at his watch. “Which means, he’d be home any minute now.”

“It’s not like we’re going to get very far in this weather anyway,” Flack said.

“So your solution is to hunker down in the car and wait for a suspect who may or may not come home soon?” Danny asked dubiously.

Flack shrugged. “You’re the one wanting to impress Mac.”

Danny glowered. “Impress, yes. Die for him, no thank you.”

Flack rolled his eyes. “It’s not that cold.”

At that, Danny made a face. “Are you telling me you haven’t lost feeling in your toes?”

Shaking his head, Flack smirked. “I got a full tank of gas,” he said.

Danny considered that.

“And if you’re really nice, I will let you pick the music,” he said.

Danny rolled his eyes, making his way back toward the car. “You’re all heart, Flack.”

“Hey,” Flack said, arms wide as he followed Danny. “I do what I can.”

-o-

Back in the car, Danny bounced his knee, trying to increase the blood flow. Even with the heat on, there was no escaping the fact that it was cold.

Or miserable.

He was tired, and he’d been on his feet too much today. The constant stress was wearing him out, and he could feel the ache deep in his bones. The only solace of working a long shift was the idea of kicking back with a beer and a game.

And here he was.

In a car.

Staking out some suspect’s house to get a DNA sample that might or might not break the case.

“So did you have big plans tonight?” Flack asked, adjusting the windshield wipers to keep up with the snowfall.

Danny snorted. “Big plans,” he said. “Ask me that two weeks ago, maybe.”

“Something up with you and what’s-her-name?”

“Cindy,” Danny said. “And if by up, you mean nothing, then sure.”

Flack winced. “You break up?”

“We are taking some time apart,” Danny reported.

Flack grinned. “Her idea, then.”

“Apparently, I’m emotionally unavailable,” Danny said. “And she thought that when I kept cancelling dates that I had the wrong priorities.”

Flack chuckled. “Take it she wasn’t a civil servant.”

“Receptionist,” Danny said. “Comfortable office, good coffee, regular hours.”

“Nice,” Flack said.

“Yeah, so when I got called to go check on a dead body during the middle of dinner--”

“Let me guess,” Flack said eagerly. “She told you a real man knows when to say no.”

“Worse,” Danny said. “She told me that she was tired of being less important than a corpse.”

Flack grimaced. “Ouch.”

“Yeah,” Danny said, sitting on his hands as he watched the apartment. “Though, really, I can’t say I blame her.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah,” Danny continued. He sighed. “I mean ever since the shooting, I’ve just been trying to get it back together.”

“Hey, that’s behind you now,” Flack said. “Investigation went nowhere.”

“For a lack of evidence, not because they cleared me,” Danny said. “I still get glares from some of the guys in the precinct.”

“Well, they’ll do that,” Flack said. “It doesn’t mean anything.”

“It does,” Danny said. “I mean, you know what Mac told me? He said that he had doubts about hiring me. I mean, he took me off the damn promotion grid.”

“That’s pretty standard, though,” Flack said.

“It’s been six months,” Danny said flatly. “And he hasn’t moved past we’ll see.

Flack sighed a little, eyes on the door. “You just got to pay your dues, Danny.”

“And what do you think I’ve been doing?” Danny asked. “Why do you think no girl wants to date me for more than two months? Why do you think I’m sitting in a damn car after hours when I’m exhausted?

Flack’s eyes settled on him, his expression apologetic. “If it helps, you’ve got nothing to prove to me.”

Danny smiled. “You know, it does,” he said. “Or at least it would. But since you’re the one sitting in his off hours in the same car, I’m not sure your opinion counts.”

“Hey!” Flack said. “So much for having each other’s backs.”

“When it counts, buddy,” Danny assured him. He squinted out the window again and shook his head. “But you know what I’m thinking?”

Flack nodded. “That we’ve done what we can.”

Danny gestured toward the window. “The rate this stuff is coming down, there’s no way Greggory’s going to get home if he’s out and about.”

“We’ll be lucky if we get home,” Flack said. He hesitated. “You sure you want to go?”

Did Danny want to go? Maybe, maybe not, but he’d done his job. He’d done more than his job. Mac wanted to get the best out of him, and this was his best. At some point, he just had to take it or leave it.

And for Danny, that point was now.

Danny nodded. “We can swing by first thing in the morning, try to get him then.”

Flack’s mouth quirked up into a smile. “Speak for yourself,” he said. “I don’t have to work until 1 tomorrow.”

Danny made a face. “Man, that is just not fair.”

Flack laughed, putting the car into gear. “Minetti can serve it with you.”

“And that man is such a ray of sunshine,” Danny groused.

“Yeah, well,” Flack said. “Like I said, welcome to my world.”

Sinking lower in his seat, Danny sulked sleepily as Flack start to put the car into gear. He paused, and Danny saw lights flashing. “Snow plow?” he asked.


Flack frowned. “Yeah, we just need to let them pass--”

There was a clash of metal on concrete and a grinding noise. Snow sloshed, flying hard and landing against the car. First a little.

Then, a lot.

By the time the plow had passed, they were well and nearly covered.

Danny looked to Flack.

Flack looked concerned. “I’m going to have to clear her off again,” he said.

“Yeah,” Danny said, reaching for the handle. “I’ll even volunteer this time.”

Outside, the burst of cold was less inviting than before -- as if that were possible -- and he made it around to the windshield when he realized just how deep the snow was.

He turned in surprise when Flack climbed out after him, expression pinched. “My door won’t even budge.”

Danny shook his head. “Even if we got the stuff off the windshield--”

“We’ll never clear away enough of a path,” Flack confirmed with a miserable nod.

Danny stared for a moment, the realization finally taking form. “You mean we’re stuck here?”

Flack sighed. “We’re stuck here.”

“Perfect,” Danny said, glaring at the snow. “Just absolutely perfect.”

-o-

“We could call it in,” Flack suggested after several moments.

Danny glared through the still-falling snow. “And who’s going to come get us?”

“Well, if you hadn’t gotten dumped by your girlfriend...”

Danny turned his glare toward Flack. “Yeah, well, what about you?” he asked pointedly. “What friends and significant others do you have who’d be willing to come out during a snowstorm?”

“We can always call for a unit to pick us up,” Flack said reasonably.

“And be the laughing stock of the department?” Danny asked. “No thanks.”

Flack smirked. “Well, how about Mac.”

“Ha ha,” Danny mumbled sarcastically. He thought for a moment. “What about the subway?”

Flack looked around, shaking his head. “They’ve got construction on the line out here. We’d have to walk half a mile to make it to a stop.”

Danny made a face. “In this weather?”

“Yeah,” Flack agreed, a note of resignation in his voice.

Danny sighed, looking at the car again. It was plowed in. But -- and this was an important but-- “We have a car. We have a tank of gas. And we are technically waiting for a suspect.”

Flack looked uncertain. “You want to wait it out?”

“I’m just looking for the lesser of two evils here,” Danny said. “If we try to get ourselves out of this, we’re going to be soaked and freezing.”

“But if we hang out in the car, we can stay relatively warm and rest,” Flack said. He shrugged. “I suppose there are worse ideas.”

“Probably better ones, too,” Danny muttered. “Besides, isn’t this suppose to let up in an hour or so? So we could be able to dig out after it stops.”

“Well, I’m game,” Flack said. “But I call back.”

Danny frowned.

Flack grinned, eyes glinting. “Bench seats.”

Danny rolled his eyes, watching as Flack climbed into the back.

“Oh,” Flack said. “Did I mention the recline position in the front seats is broken?”

Danny’s face darkened. “Of course it is,” he said as Flack climbed in. He shook his head and headed back to the car. “Of course it is.”

-o-

The front seat wasn’t exactly comfortable, but it was warmer.

And it gave him direct access to the radio.

He was hopping between the game and a local music channel, when Flack finally protested. “Pick one and stay there,” he said.

“I don’t like commercials,” Danny said, hitting the scan button again. “And you’ve got junk channels programmed into this thing.”

From the back, Flack groaned. He was stretched out, tight wrapped around himself while he sprawled. “That’s because I usually am focused on driving, not changing channels.”

“I can’t stand the silence,” Danny said, lingering on another station.

“Long day at work, I’d think that’s all you’d want,” Flack said.

Danny shook his head, fiddling with the heater vent to blow more directly at his face. “I prefer background noise,” he said. “Of the mindless variety, though.”

“Mindless seems like a good word for you,” Flack said. “And stop hogging all the heat.”

Danny settled on a stationed, turning back with a grin. “Trade offs, my friend.”

“You know, I could drag you out of this car and lock you out,” Flack threatened.

“Yeah, but then you’d have to explain to Mac how I ended up as a popsicle,” Danny told him devilishly.

Flack gave him an incredulous look. “So you’re hiding behind Mac now.”

“There has to be some perk from my indentured servitude.”

Flack chuffed. “It really isn’t like that, you know,” he said, seriously now.

Danny settled back, trying to find a warm and comfortable position. He yawned. “Like what?”

“Indentured servitude,” Flack said. “Mac trusts you. Respects you, too.”

“Trusts me enough to double check all my work,” Danny mused, yawning again. “And respect -- I don’t know. I think we’re still on we’ll see.

“Nah, don’t do that,” Flack said.

“Do what?”

“Play the martyr,” Flack replied.

Danny craned his head, making a face. “The what?”

“The martyr,” Flack reiterated. “You’re not doing this all on your own. Even if you’ve got something to prove, that doesn’t mean that everyone isn’t there trying to help you do it.”

“I just thought I’d be past that point by now,” Danny said. “Kids I graduated from the Academy with -- they’ve moved on to better things. I’m just not sure there’s anything I can prove to Mac Taylor.”

“The crime lab is its own thing, Danny,” Flack said. “Give yourself a break.”

“I don’t want a break,” Danny said, slumping in his seat. “I want to feel like I have a place. Like I don’t have to fight for it on every case.”

“We all earn it, Messer.”

“Not like that,” Danny said, shaking his head. “Every time Mac looks over my shoulder, all I can think is that I screwed something else up. That I’m just not making the cut. I’m going to be stuck at the bottom rung of the food chain forever.” He trailed off, yawning again.

“That’s not going to happen,” Flack said.

“Mm,” Danny said, suddenly feeling drowsy. “You sure about that?”

“Yeah, I’m sure,” Flack said. “Look, Mac has...the most crazy standards of any guy I know. But if he didn’t think you belonged here, he wouldn’t have kept you along.”

Danny blinked sleepily. “If you say so.”

“I do,” Flack said. When Danny didn’t reply, he kicked the seat.

“What?” Danny asked, sitting up to glare over the seat.

“You sleeping?” Flack asked.

“I’ve been working since 5 AM,” Danny said. “Did I not mention that?”

“It’s not even late,” Flack objected.

“I have the early shift again tomorrow,” Danny said.

“Like that’s an excuse,” Flack replied. “My grandmother stays awake later than you.”

“Your grandmother is a crazy old woman,” Danny said, settling himself back down. He drew his coat tighter and reached toward the radio again as the commercials started.

In the back, Flack groaned.

“What?” Danny said. “You wanted me awake.”

“You know, Messer,” Flack said. “You’re lucky Mac does keep you around or I would have to kick you out on your ass.”

Danny grinned. “Aw, gee,” he said, messing with the dial before turning up the sound. “I love you, too, Flack.”

-o-

This was Danny’s idea -- from going along on this not-so-quick arrest to hunkering down to wait out the worst of the storm -- but after about thirty minutes, he was starting to regret it.

To start off, he could not get comfortable. Flack had all the legroom in the back, and he was able to achieve a position of repose without too much trouble. Danny had never exactly lived a life of luxury, but trying to find a cozy spot in the front seat of a car without reclining seats was pretty much easier said than done.

Plus, he was just so damn tired. The day had caught up to him -- and then some. It started with a crick in his neck but had spread down his back. His ass was numb, and his knees felt sore. Now the pressure behind his eyes was starting to build in what would seem to a headache.

He shifted again, grunting.

From the back, Flack grunted back. “You’re making me nuts back here,” he said.

“I’m making you nuts?” Danny asked. “You have the most uncomfortable car in New York City.”

“It’s a perfectly fine car,” Flack replied. “It’s just not meant stakeouts.”

“Well, we weren’t going on a stakeout,” Danny groused.

“Hey, this was your idea, remember?”

Danny sighed, sulking. “Yeah, yeah,” he muttered with a yawn. “Don’t remind me.”

There was a moment of silence, and Danny could actually hear the snow. Frowning, he looked out the window as best he could. “Is it really still snowing?”

“Unabated,” Flack confirmed.

Danny made a face. “Wasn’t it supposed to stop by now?”

“You trust the weatherman?” Flack asked.

Danny shifted again, wincing as the strain tugged at his neck muscles and exacerbated the growing ache in his head. “I just sort of figured that if we were going to start the next Ice Age that they would have predicted it a little more clearly.”

“Yeah, it’s really coming down,” Flack said. “Hey, how’s our gas?”

Danny moved again, peeking over at the dash. “Still good,” he said. “Though if it keeps up, we’re going to be stuck here all night.”

“Another hour,” Flack said. “Then I’m willing to look stupid and call for backup.”

Danny chuckled. “Better you than me, I guess.”

“Oh, so you’d let me take the fall?” Flack asked.

“Who here is not even on the promotion grid?”

“Point taken,” Flack said. “Though really, you should milk this for all its worth. Let Mac know the great lengths you’re going through to get the job done.”

Danny stifled another yawn, letting his eyelids start to droop. “He’d probably just get on my ass about why we didn’t track the guy down at his work,” he said.

“Oh, please,” Flack said. “You make him out to be impossible.”

“Have you met the man?” Danny asked, sitting up to look back at Flack. “He’s nothing but impossible.”

“He’s dedicated and thorough--”

“And impossible,” Danny said. “I’m going to spend my entire career just trying to make him happy.”

Flack nestled back with a small shrug. “I still think you’re thinking too hard about it.”

Danny flopped back with another yawn. “Well, stuck out here, what else am I supposed to do but think?”

“Okay,” Flack said. “You may have a point there.”

“Thank you,” Danny said, though he had to admit, being right wasn’t as gratifying as he might have hoped.

Which figured. That was just the sort of day he was having.

-o-

Danny gave up on the radio after a little longer. Although flipping the channels was a distraction, he found that it was starting to give him a headache.

Or maybe just making his headache worse.

Between his lack of sleep, his crappy posture, and Flack’s yapping in the backseat, Danny wasn’t sure what was to blame for anything at this point. And he was really starting not to care.

“I don’t know,” Danny said finally, looking at the snow-laden windows. With all the fresh snow on the outside, it was almost hard to see how badly they were fogging the place up. “Maybe we should cut our losses and call it in.”

“Ha!” Flack said triumphantly. “All your moaning, and you cracked first.”

Danny scowled. “You get the backseat,” he said petulantly. He yawned loudly. “I’ve seen sardines in better living conditions.”

“Nah, Messer, I’ve seen your place,” he said. “My car is an improvement.”

Danny groused, digging in his pocket for his phone. He swore. “My battery’s dead.”

Flack groaned and then rustled. “No wonder you’re on Mac’s bad side.”

“Ever the comedian,” Danny mumbled, closing his eyes and trying to keep the thrumming to a minimum.

“You know, this system is almost past,” Flack said.

Danny sat up, craning his neck around the seat. “We’ve said that for the last three hours.”

“No, really,” Flack said. “I pulled up radar.”

The bright illumination to the phone was glaring, which aggravating Danny’s head. Still, he made out the splotch of green -- moving steadily away from New York.

“Another thirty minutes -- hour, tops -- we’re in the clear,” Flack said.

“That means another hour after that and roads will be cleared,” Danny said.

“Two hours,” Flack said. “We’ll be home before 11.”

Two hours. It sounded like years. This was, perhaps, the longest day of his life.

And to think, it was all going to start again, early in the morning.

“I don’t know,” he admitted, shaking his head. The small movement made the headache flare up again. “I’m pretty tired.”

“By the time anyone gets through the mess to find us, it’s going to be almost eleven anyway,” Flack pointed out. He sat up, thumping the seat. “Come on. What if I spring for some snacks?”

Danny winced. “You got a stash hidden in here?”

“Nah, but there’s a 24-hour drug store on the corner,” he replied. “Take me five minutes.”

Five minutes, two hours -- it was all too long. Even if this wasn’t the worst day ever, it still needed to end.

“Come on, Messer,” Flack said, shaking the seat again. “Don’t crap out on me now.”

Danny glared at him. “Fine, whatever,” he snapped. “But I want some Funyons.”

Flack raised his eyebrows. “What are you, 12?”

“And I’d love a beer,” Danny mused, letting his eyes closed again.

Flack huffed. “You are a piece of work,” he said.

Danny offered a small smile. “I do what I can.”

The door opened, and the car was flooded with cold. A few stray flurries landed on his face before the door slammed shut again and Danny heard Flack trudge away outside.

He probably should have gone with Flack. But really, the only thing Danny had going for him was that it was relatively warm in the car. His head hurt, he was exhausted, and his entire body ached -- but the idea of stepping out into the cold would just make everything worse.

And if not, he was too tired to care about that now.

He was just too tired.

So he closed his eyes and gave in with a yawn, listening to the sound of snow falling outside.

-o-

It hadn’t been Danny’s intention to fall asleep, but in retrospect, closing his eyes had sort of been a surrender to the inevitable. Still, when the door opened, Danny found himself more than a little surprised. He flailed, getting his bearings while Flack sat down heavily in the back.

“It is not nice outside,” Flack announced, pulling the door shut behind him. He ran a hand through his hair, sending snow flying everywhere.

Danny squawked. “Hey, watch it,” he muttered.

Flack gave him a look. “Were you sleeping?”

Danny furrowed his brow. “Do I need to go over how long I’ve been on duty again?”

Rolling his eyes, Flack dusted his shoulders off. “No, I think we’ve belabored that point quite enough.”

“Is there a reason you’re trying to get snow on me?” Danny asked in dismay.

“Oh, cry me a river,” Flack said. “I was the one who just went out in that.”

“Speaking of which, what’d you get me?”

Flack feigned hurt. “A little gratitude, please. I risked hypothermia for you.”

“You’re being a baby,” Danny said. “Now, food.

A bag crinkled, flying over the seats into Danny’s lap. He grinned.

“Those were hard to find, by the way,” Flack said. “Very bottom row.”

Danny opened the bag, leaning himself back against the seat drowsily. With his eyes half open, he could almost control his headache. “Yeah, well, they’re worth it,” he said, popping one in his mouth. “Drinks?”

This time, Flack dropped the bottle on his stomach, and Danny grunted, opening his eyes further to look at the bottle of water. He made a face. “What about the beer?”

“Who’s on duty tomorrow morning?” Flack said, opening a Snickers bar and taking a generous bit. “Just be thankful I didn’t get myself one and drink it in front you.”

Danny frowned, sulking as he ate another Funyon. The chewing motion sounded louder than it shoulder, and he felt his teeth grind, echoing painfully in his skull. Wincing, he unscrewed the water bottle, taking a tentative drink that did little to alleviate the headache and made him suddenly aware that he was nauseous.

Closing his eyes, he kept himself very still, swallowing drying in a vain attempt to control the growing sensations.

The seat thumped. “You clocking out again on me, Messer?” Flack asked.

Danny groaned. “Would it kill you to let me get some rest?” he asked.

“There’s no way I’m spending the next two hours in silence,” Flack replied. “At least eat the chips. They smell horrible.”

“Funyons,” Danny clarified. “And I don’t know. I’m not very hungry.”

“Hey, I bought those things for you.”

Danny sighed, his eyes heavily again. He rubbed his temples. “I know, okay?” he said. “I just...” He wrinkled his forehead, trying to think. “I just...I can’t shake this.”

Flack paused. “You okay up there?”

“Yeah,” Danny said, and suddenly his heartbeat felt sluggish and his arms felt heavy. He yawned. “I’m just so tired...”

“Come on,” Flack said. “We can turn the game back on.”

It wasn’t a bad idea, but suddenly the act of lifting his hand was too much. Everything was too much. When he opened his eyes, the lights from the dash blurred together, and things started to get hazy. Flack was talking, but Danny couldn’t hear him. Something was wrong, maybe. More than a snowstorm; more than being stuck in the car.

Something...

He should know.

He should know....

“Danny,” Flack said, loudly now, almost in his ear.

Danny blinked, struggling to focus on the other man. “Just two hours, right?” he asked, hoping the words sounded clearer than the felt rolling off his tongues. “Just a nap, okay?”

Flack sat back with a groan. “You’re something else, you know that, Messer?”

Danny thought he did, but then, he didn’t know. He couldn’t remember what the question was. He couldn’t remember what he was supposed to be doing, but had the keen sense that he wasn’t doing it. Flack was asking him to wake up and Aiden was still walking away. Lindsay was flirting with him, and Stella joshed around like he was her kid brother. Hawkes joked with him and Sid put it all together with a neat and tidy COD. This was his life; these were the things that mattered.

These were the things that made sense.

Until Mac was there saying we’ll see.

Problem was, Danny wasn’t sure what he was looking for anymore.

Danny wasn’t sure of much of anything at all. All of the pieces were there, but none of them fit. Nothing fit. The evidence didn’t connect, and there was no conclusion to reach.

He was just so damn tired. Of working hard, of getting nowhere. Of breaking his ass and having it mean nothing. Of doing it right, of starting back at square one.

He was more than tired, he was exhausted. He couldn’t do this much longer. Hell, at this point, Danny didn’t know if he could do it at all. No matter how many other things mattered, that mattered more as he let his eyes slip closed and consciousness ebbed away.

We’ll see,
Danny thought. When he woke up. We’ll see.

PART TWO