Title: Behind the Smile
Disclaimer: Story based on Without a Trace characters. I own nothing
Behind the Smile
Finally I can go home. It had been a tough case, but in the end we were able to return our mp safely back to their family. I can't face the paper work right now but I'll probably regret leaving it in the morning.
"Well that's me, I'm off, night." Vivian's the first to leave probably wanting to get home to her son.
"Night Viv," Martin shouts from over his desk, he too is packing up for the night.
Jack is next to go, "See you all tomorrow."
Martin walks over to me and puts his arm around my waist, "Not here," I warn him. I'm really not ready for anyone to find out about us.
He gives me a disappointed sigh before removing his arm.
"No ones here, what's the problem?"
"The problem is anyone could walk around that corner and I'm not ready for us to go to go public, can't you understand that?" He looks a little hurt but I have to be firm. "Besides Danny's still here." Martin turns to sure enough see Danny sitting quietly at his desk.
"How bout we go back to my place then," he whispers seductively in my ear.
"As tempting as that sounds, I'm really looking forward to a nice long sleep before I have to come back and tackle this paper work." Again he looks disappointed, but I can fix that. Using my own seductive tone, I whisper in his ear, "I can always make it up to you tomorrow night." His face immediately brightens, and with lips parted into a wicked smirk he replies.
"I look forward to it." We say our good nights, and I'm left alone in the office. No, wait, Danny's still here.
My eyes glance over to Danny's desk to find him in the exact position he'd been in a few minutes early. Come to think of it, don't think he's moved since we got back from the field. Better go check on him.
"Hey Danny, are you ok?" No reply. I approach him and try again to stir a reaction. "Danny?" Still nothing. He's starting to scare me, there is no way he couldn't have heard me from that distance. I catch the expression on his face and my worry doubles; he's staring blankly into space, his eyes are empty, almost unseeing, his whole body seems hollow, like he's not really there. I wave my hand passed his line of vision and am able to guide him back to reality. He turns his head, noticing my presence for the first time.
"Sam?" his voice sounds scratchy, harsh with bottled emotion. Something is extremely wrong; this isn't the Danny we all know and love.
I pull up a chair and sit down next to him. "Hey what's wrong?" He says nothing and turns away from me. This action only encourages me more, so once again I gently prod him, "Danny, please talk to me." Finally he replies.
"Nothing, it's ok, I'm fine." He doesn't even bother to make eye contact.
"You don't look fine."
This time his voice takes a more serious tone. "Sam just drop it, I'm fine." Sighing, I get up to leave, there's no point trying to force something out of Danny, he's just too stubborn.
I return to my desk to collect my coat, then head to the door, "Goodnight, I'll see you tomorrow.
"No wait," I hesitate at his plea, "don't go." The words were spoken in such a whisper I almost missed them.
"Stay with me Sam, I don't want to be alone." My heart ached for him and the desperation his tone held.
"Ok." I sit back down at his side, "but you have to tell me what's going on."
"I, umm, I…I have to…" he sighs in frustration, unable to get the words out.
"Hey, it's ok, take your time," I place my hand over his in a comforting gesture, "I'm not going anywhere."
He turns and looks me straight in the eye; the empty shadow seems to have disappeared. He takes a deep, shaky breath in and continues his line of speech. "I have to go, I won't be at work tomorrow, I won't be at work again."
My mind starts asking a million questions, but I block them all back to reply with the only one that makes any sense, "Why?"
For a moment he appears lost, as though contemplating of a way to answer me.
"I don't know." The answer did nothing except increase my growing worry. Unsure of what he's talking about, but wanting to keep up flow of conversation, I quickly think up another reasonable question.
"How long have you been planning this? Why didn't you tell us?" He takes a few more deep breaths, calming himself down, as his hand begins to tremble beneath my own.
"Three, three o'clock this morning, and I, I wanted to have a normal day, no one fussing, no goodbyes." Paranoid thoughts jolt though my mind and a feeling of dread builds up within me.
"No goodbyes? You were just going to leave without saying anything?" I can't understand it, I know we're not that close, but even enemies say goodbye.
"I'm saying it now."
"Are you going home soon?"
"I thought I'd stay here." I'm still not sure where this conversation is going, nor do I want to find out. An idea slowly creeps to mind.
"Well you can't go anywhere without reminiscing anyway."
"Reminiscing?" he gives me a confused glare.
"Someone has to laugh at all your mistakes over your years with the F.B.I, and what better person than me!" a slight smirk appears on his face, "Come on then, lets start with your first day."
We end up swapping stories late into the night and before we know it it's early morning.
"Wow, time flies! Thought you weren't going to work today."
"Work hasn't started yet." I check my watch; it's 2:57am.
"In another four hours it does."
"Then I'll be gone by then won't I." I suddenly notice how pale Danny looks, his face is as white as a sheet, his eyes warn and drawn in.
"Hey are you ok?" He smiles sadly at me.
"Yeah just a little tired.
"Yeah, me too, and these chairs aren't exactly the ideal place for relaxation." I jump up and sit back down again on the floor; my legs sprawled out in front of me and my back supported against the desk. "That's better, now come and join me," I pat the spot next to me in a signal of encouragement. He relents and joins me. I check my watch again; it's 3:00am, which gives us four hours exactly.
Danny's breathing starts to quicken and his hands begin to tremble, I have no idea what's wrong but I try to help anyway. Gently, I place my hand over his once again, only to feel the unnaturally cold temperature of his palm.
"What's wrong? What's happening to you?" my voice is shaking with fear.
"I, I'm sorry Sam…it's, it's…I, I'm sorry, I…"
"It's ok, you'll be ok, I'll call an ambulance, just hang on." I move to get up but his words pull me back down.
"No, don't, just stay, stay with me," I'm more afraid now then I've been in my whole life, and not knowing what's to come makes it that much more unsettling.
I take him into my arms in an attempt to warm him up. "You're ok, just a bit cold," I think I'm trying to convince myself more than him, "yeah, just a bit cold, a goodnights sleep and you'll be fine." I look into his eyes, they're glazed over and unfocussed. He moves his head so that it's resting on my shoulder. I knew I should have asked more questions earlier, but I think I was in some kind of denial, maybe I still am, but either way now's not the time.
"Sam?" his voice is now a weak whisper, his whole body too exhausted for anything more.
"Yeah?" my voice quivers in reply.
"Thanks." Tears start to well up in my eyes, but for Danny's sake I hold them back, "You're a great friend."
"You too Danny, a wonderful friend."
I embrace him tightly until I feel him relax. His breathing becomes more and more shallow, causing me to hold my own just to hear the ex and inhale. And then it's gone.
I hug him close and cry myself to sleep.
"Humph," the sound of someone clearing their throat stirs me from my slumber. I gradually open my still tired eyes and after letting them adjust to the light of day, I notice the rest of the team standing over me. Viv is wearing a slightly amused grin, while Jack is giving me an unimpressed glare, and Martin; Martin's only readable expression is a hint of jealously that passes though his eyes.
I stare blankly at my colleagues for a minority of seconds, unsure of what's going on around me. I check my watch; it's 7:45am, works already started.
I turn to look at Danny; his entire body is now freezing against my own. I begin to release my grip on him, only to find my arm is numb from the luck of blood circulating. Viv senses my distress.
"Sam are you alright?" her face seems generally concerned.
"I carefully place a gentle kiss on Danny's forehead, ignoring Martins intense glare, then moving his weight against the desk I stand. I'm considerably wobbly on my feet, but Jack and Viv are quick to steady me.
"What's wrong?" Jacks tone is fill of concern, but I ignore his question.
"Someone take me home," I demand, I can't stand to be in this place any longer.
"Ok, I'll take you," Jack volunteers.
Out of the corner of my eye I see Viv approach Danny's body.
"No I want Martin." Both of them were about to argue with me when Viv's gasp breaks though the discussion.
"Oh god!" all eyes turn to Viv, her hand is resting on Danny's neck pulse, "He's…dead!"
With those two words the entire atmosphere changes. Jack instantly rushes to check for himself, moving a now sobbing Vivian aside. Martins at my side, taking my hand in his: an expression of shock and horror across his handsome features.
Jack looks to be on the verge of crying when he turns to me, "When did this happen? What happened?"
My mind is blank. Ever since I woke up I haven't properly been able to comprehend an emotion, and right now, I can even string a coherent sentence together to answer.
"Sam?" This time I answer with the shake of my head. I feel unsteady on my feet and just want to go home. Martin puts his arm around my waist but this time I don't push him away, this time I want him there.
"I'll take her home," Jack nods, he then looks away, silent tears running down his cheeks.
"Martin starts to lead me away and out of the office. Suddenly something comes to mind, "3:10," I shout back to Viv and Jack, they don't seem to know what I mean; I guess I'll explain it to them later.
We get into the elevator and make our way down towards Martin's car.
Thanks to traffic we make it to my house in just under half an hour. The drive was silent, Martin didn't know what to say, and I didn't want to say anything.
Being around more comfortable surroundings I find myself able to relax, so I plonk down onto the nearby sofa.
"Do you want to talk about it?" I ignore the question and stare at the floor, Martin taking my silence as a no, sits down next to me. He puts his arm around my shoulder and pulls me close.
Still feeling numb, I lie my head against his chest and fall into an uneasy slumber.
"Brrrng, brrrng," a few hours later I'm woken by the shrill ring of a phone.
"Fitzgerald, hey…sleeping…. not really…yourself?…oh…what did they say?…but how could that have happened?…yeah…you to, bye."
Martin finishes up his conversation with whom I assume was Jack, putting his cell away he turns to face me.
His eyes are red rimed and his voice is scratchy, "hey, you holding up?" Again I ignore the question.
"Was that jack?"
He looks down and sighs, "yep, they…they, umm, got the… the autopsy results in." He swallows hard; I guess the words really make it final. But it doesn't put me off; I need to know.
"And they found an unidentified substance in his blood stream."
"Unidentified substance? Danny doesn't do drugs, he…" Martin cuts me off.
"No, it was nothing like that. The doctors think it was in his system for about 24 hours before taking effect, they'd never seen anything like it."
"24 hours." I can feel my interior start to collapse, "he knew all that time."
"What? No he couldn't have, there is no way…he would have told us."
"He told me. Last night he said he wouldn't be at work today, said he just found out at 3:00 that morning." Martin catches on.
"3:10, is that what you meant, that's when he, he…"
"Yes." We both sit in stillness until Martin finally brakes.
"He knew all day! He didn't say anything! I didn't even notice something was wrong, he just seemed like his usual smiling self!"
I try to calm him down, "it's not your fault, he didn't want us to know, he said he wanted a normal day, no one fussing."
"But…but he was dying, he shouldn't have had to bare it on his own."
"He didn't." Slowly the dam of emotions I've been holding in begins to rupture, "he died in my arms. He was fine all-night then sometime in the morning he… he got worse; he didn't look very well, so I took him into my arms and held him. He was cold…I should have done something!" The dam gives way completely as my grief finally takes control.
"Hey it's ok, you did everything you could do, you were there for him, thanks to you his last moments we're alone." He hugs me tightly whispering soothing words, but he soon joins me in my tears.
We both cry for the loss of our colleague, the loss of that smile welcoming us every morning, the loss of someone who brought happiness into our lives, and the loss of a beloved friend who we will never see again.