Disclaimers: Nothing was gained from this fic, other than the pleasure of spending time with Martin and Danny. Who could ask for more?

Comments: This is for my friend and co-conspirator, Rhian, who challenged me to write a fic about Martin's scars. I threw in a reference to Mary Tyler Moore for extra credit (she knows why). This is a gen fic, by the way (although Manny fans might think otherwise).

It was a beautiful day; the kind of day when he used to get up, throw on his sweats, and run forever. That was before, of course . . . before his life went to hell in exactly two minutes and twenty-three seconds.

It didn't stop him at first. When Martin had first come home, just plain walking was a chore. But gradually, excruciatingly slowly, he'd progressed to brisk walking. And then one particularly awesome Saturday morning, he'd run.

He was never especially reasonable about things like that. It felt good so it must be good for him, right? And when it started to feel not so good, well, pain was gain, right? Wrong. By the time he made it back to his apartment, he could hardly breathe. He spent the next 48 hours holding his stomach together and guzzling green tea.

So maybe it was another grand morning in New York City. And maybe the temperature was a perfect 68 degrees and the trees were putting on their finest fall performance. He was not stupid and he would not make that mistake again. No, indeed. He would sit this one out.

He pulled a pair of sweatpants out of his drawer, (they were comfortable, after all--whether or not running was involved--and the drawstring made it easier to hide the fact that he was still thinner than normal), and added a Mets shirt to the ensemble--courtesy of Danny, of course--before heading for the shower.

It was a 'thing' now--a defense mechanism, avoidance, denial, or some other psychobabble term that he didn't care about--the way he carefully and deliberately avoided looking in the mirror as he undressed. It didn't take a genius or even a moderately bright shrink to explain it. He just didn't want to see the reminders of what had happened.

He could avoid it, most of the time . . . the pain, no, but the memories, yes. They were vague and dream-like; real life moments mixed in with hazy nightmares, and he could pretty much pick and choose which ones he'd decide to hang onto and which ones he'd file away in Viv's box. Most of the last ten weeks, in fact, where safely tucked away in that box and soon enough, he'd be able to throw away that particular key for good.

If it weren't for the scars, that is. If he never had to look at his body, he could pretty much forget it ever happened. Eventually, he'd be able to run again . . . eat fat, greasy burgers again . . . sleep the whole night through without reaching for a pill again. He had to believe that. He had to believe he'd be normal again, and he could believe that just as long as he didn't look in the mirror.

The warm water felt good running down his back, and for a few brief seconds, he forgot. But as he turned, the pressure of the spray hit the particularly sensitive incision line on his stomach and he gasped. It wasn't painful exactly, but uncomfortable--a feeling that didn't belong--and like always, he looked down to be sure that he hadn't sprung a leak.

Ridiculous . . . he felt absolutely ridiculous. Everything was back together, in its rightful place. The doctors had assured him that his arteries were in one piece, his heart was pumping, his lung was inflated (and would stay that way), and yes, his intestine was scarred and that could cause a problem down the line, but for now it was all there. No more tubes draining blood out of the wrong places, or replacing it to the right places. No more catheters or IVs or staples . . . foreign objects that didn't belong in any body, let alone his body.

Well and good, and no matter that his chest and stomach were marred and flawed permanently. He was never an egomaniac about his body anyway. The women might even find it sexy; poor Martin . . . brave FBI agent wounded in the line of duty. Battle scars . . . what a turn-on.

He wondered what Sam would think. Would she look away like he did? Would she cover them up and say, "Oh, Martin, let's not think about that today,"?

Or would she get upset? Would she maybe even shed a tear when she saw what they'd done to him just to keep him alive? Maybe she would say, "It doesn't matter, because all that matters is that you are here." That would be nice. He'd like that.

But really, truly, in his dreams, she always touched every scar tenderly . . . brushed them with featherlike kisses and said nothing at all. This, of course, was completely ludicrous because she was still in love with Jack. That dream was particularly dangerous; he was quite certain his fragile psyche couldn't take that kind of mental abuse, so he used his best avoidance technique and refused to think of Sam at all when he was home alone.

It was always easier getting dressed than undressed. There were no mirrors in his bedroom, save the one on the back of the door that he only looked in when he was trying to fix a tie, so it was fairly easy to slip on a shirt without actually noticing his body at all.

He could smell the coffee brewing, and he was inordinately pleased with himself that he'd remembered to set the timer the day before. It was just one of many tricks he'd learned in the past weeks. Anything to reduce stress, take less steps, expend less energy . . . especially on those difficult mornings when it took all he had just to pull himself out of bed.

He'd come a long way. Really, he had. It was no big deal that it was a beautiful Saturday morning and he didn't feel like doing anything. His job was draining, and he was still recovering, whether he liked to admit it or not. It certainly didn't imply that he was depressed.

The TV was still on from the night before, and he frowned at that. That wasn't like him; he must have been more exhausted than he'd thought. Pouring the coffee into an oversized mug, he settled down on the couch and turned to CNN. Natural disasters, war, terrorist acts . . . who wouldn't be depressed?

He tried the sports channel but at 7am, there wasn't much to choose from. How many times could he watch the White Sox win the World Series? Sure, it was nice that a Chicago team finally won, but it really wasn't the right Chicago team.

Home decorating? Reminded him of Sam . . . she needed one-on-one lessons, judging by her apartment.

Cartoons? He tried to recapture his youth, but then he remembered he didn't even like them as a kid. He always was an overachiever, preferring a well written comic book to the mindless garbage that the networks showed on Saturday mornings.

Oh, here we go . . . sci-fi. Of course, the problem with 'Now and Again' was that the damn network pulled it before the fans got any resolution. It was just sad that Michael Wiseman was never officially reunited with his wife.

Finally . . . the Dick Van Dyke show . . . who could be depressed watching that? He had a crush on Mary Tyler Moore . . . the shoes and those hot little Capri's she wore. He wasn't even born when it originally aired, but that didn't matter; he loved the reruns when he was growing up, and he used to dream of finding a girl just like her. Of course, that was before he caught on what love and women were really like. Maybe he should stick with brunettes.

Oh yeah, this was one of his favorites . . . the walnut episode . . . perfect blend of sci-fi and humor. He found himself giggling at first, then laughing – laughing so hard that it made his chest ache and his stomach clench. Tears were rolling down his face, and he couldn't remember why exactly, but it was alright. He was laughing; he wasn't depressed. He really wasn't crying . . . he wasn't.

It didn't matter that it was beautiful day and that he couldn't make himself get up off the couch. It didn't matter that he couldn't remember when he'd last taken a pill . . . it wouldn't hurt to take another. It didn't matter that he was sobbing, sobbing, while watching the Dick Van Dyke show. It didn't matter that he'd rather wear Danny's shirt all weekend than risk seeing just a glimpse of what it hid.

He didn't have a problem. He wasn't depressed. After all, it was a beautiful day.

+ + + + + + +

It was a beautiful day. So beautiful that Danny wanted to scream. How the hell could it be so nice out when everything in his life was wrong? Just . . . wrong.

He'd done pretty well getting past it, he thought; an excellent job of convincing everyone he was just fine, (himself included). After all, it was Martin who had the real adjustment to make. Martin, his partner and friend . . . the man he'd managed to avoid having a real conversation with for what? Ten weeks now?

Danny stood on his balcony breathing in the cool autumn air. It really was too nice to spend a day like this alone. So without thinking about it (because if he did, he'd chicken out), he picked up the phone and called Martin.


Martin's voice sounded hollow . . . weary with just one word . . . not right . . . just wrong.

"Hey, Martin. How 'bout we, uh, do something today?"

"You mean . . . together?" Martin finally choked out, obviously completely surprised and taken off guard, and how sad was that? They were friends, after all – maybe even best friends. Or Danny thought so . . . they used to be, anyway.

"Uh, yeah."

Hesitation . . . "Um . . . like what?"

Not a flat-out 'no', that was good. "I don't know. We could just, you know, hang out."

Lame, Taylor, really lame, but the best he could come up with on short notice. This was purely spontaneous and impulsive so what did he expect?

More hesitation on Martin's end . . . "Uh . . . thanks, man, but . . . um . . . I kind of have a lot to do today."

No he didn't. Something was totally not right with Martin's voice. Something was totally not right with Martin.

But no, he'd gotten past it, too, Martin had. He looked good, for the most part. Tired sometimes, but who didn't? He didn't eat as much, but hell, he was a walking garbage disposal before so that probably wasn't all bad. So really, all in all, Martin was handling things just fine, too. It was cool, they were cool.


Or maybe not . . .

"Well, okay then. I'll just uh, see you Monday," Danny said. The Real Martin would pick up on that lie right off.

But the Imitation Martin they'd all been dealing with for the past ten weeks apparently didn't, because he answered, "Okay. Bye."

It was only nine o'clock in the morning, but Danny found himself rushing anyway, as if Martin might mysteriously slip away in the next hour. Now that he'd finally made the decision to do this--whatever this turned out to be--he wasn't going to give himself time to back out.

He'd gotten in the habit of taking thirty second showers, finding it something akin to mental torture to stand under the steaming water too long. It made no sense that he couldn't scrub off his chest without seeing Martin's chest; all that blood spilling out of two small holes. He found himself wondering what those holes looked like now, but that was just too creepy and well, kind of girlish that he'd think about something like Martin's chest and Martin's scars.

But he did think about them, and his own unblemished skin constantly reminded him that he was the lucky one. So he started dressing in the dark, or with his back to the mirror, and wouldn't Dr. Harris get some mileage out of that one? Quickly pulling on his jeans, Danny grabbed his favorite Mets shirt. He'd given one to Martin, but he doubted the man ever wore it.

He was out his door and standing in front of Martin's door in under an hour, loaded down with bagels and muffins and donuts of every kind, because it seemed absurdly important that he bring just the right thing, and with the new, Slightly-Damaged-Model Martin, he no longer had a clue what that was. Although he was pretty certain his sudden visit might be less than appreciated by his reluctant host.

Martin's face when he opened the door verified that. In fact, for one hopelessly awkward minute, he thought Martin might just slam the door in his face without saying anything at all. But naturally, Fitzgerald manners overruled impulse.

"Uh . . . Danny? Uh . . . what . . . what are you . . .?" Martin stuttered.

The Real Martin would never have done that, either. The Real Martin would have said something along the lines of "What the hell Taylor? You that hard up? Or is that you don't recognize the word 'no' since you've probably never heard it before?"

"I . . . uh, I thought we could . . . well, you know, it's a beautiful day and . . . I need the fresh air and I thought you probably did uh, too." Oh man, now he was stuttering. He added hopefully (and probably somewhat pitifully) the deal-breaker, "I brought breakfast."

Not a spark of interest in Martin's eyes; not even a glimpse at what Danny was carrying.

This had gone too far; he'd let it go on too long. Martin was not right. And for the first time, Danny really looked at him and knew the truth. He couldn't say it, though; if he gave it away, Martin would be totally spooked and all would be lost.

So he went with his gut, which pretty much always knew where to go and how to get there. Pushing his way through the door, he ignored Martin's shocked expression and poured himself a cup of coffee.

"Nice shirt," he said casually, hoping he didn't show how ridiculously pleased he was that Martin was wearing his gift. Good God, when had he gotten so weird and girly?

"Yeah," Martin replied, a little breathless and apparently too stunned to move.

Danny pulled out the gooiest donut he could find and took a big bite. "Want one?"

Martin shook his head and pulled a hand across his eyes, and what was up with that? Ten in the morning and he's already tired?

"Danny . . ?" he asked, leaving the rest of the question unspoken . . . what are you doing here?

It hit him then, like the proverbial piano falling on his head . . . Martin was depressed. Well, duh. Of course, he was. What the hell had they all been thinking? Even Dr. Harris probably didn't know because imitation Ken-doll Martin was so damn good at hiding it.

"Let's go for a walk," Danny suggested. "It's a beautiful day."

Martin sighed and shrugged. "Okay. I'll get my shoes."

So not the enthusiastic response he was going for, but that was fine. It was a start. Danny now had a plan: get Martin out of the house, get Martin to talk, (this was the tricky part, getting Martin to talk while Danny listened and did not talk), get the Real Martin back, and everything, everything would be back to normal . . . including Danny.


+ + + + + + +

Well shit. Danny was not going away. Four, five, six weeks ago, Martin would have killed to have Danny on his doorstep. But not now. It was too late and he was too tired. But if there was one thing he'd learned about Danny Taylor, it was that Martin couldn't win in a battle of wills. Danny had the upper hand in persistence and stubbornness. He was also currently stronger and healthier (a temporary situation) and Martin was pretty sure he couldn't physically toss the man out of his apartment. Better to play along or Taylor would start playing detective.

He went to his room for his shoes, but for some stupid reason, his sneakers weren't in their usual and customary spot. In fact, they were tossed casually in the corner with a pair of socks stuffed in them, which he promptly pulled out and put on his feet. It bothered him only marginally that he didn't care enough to seek out clean socks . . . what the hell difference did it make anyway? Clean socks lost importance when you spent two weeks on your back in a hospital room wondering how your life got so screwed up and where the hell your best friend had disappeared to.

Of course, maybe Danny didn't know he was the best friend, and well, Danny was here now. And why was that again? Because it was a beautiful day and he needed fresh air? Right. Uh-huh.

Well, he wasn't talking, if that was what Danny had in mind. The time for that was long gone . . . buried in the box. Kiss it goodbye.

"Alright . . . let's go," he said half heartedly when he made it back to his living room.

Danny hesitated, "You sure?"

Hell no, he wasn't sure. But if he said 'no' now, it would look like he was: a) too weak and tired to go, which would set Danny to asking questions; or b) look like he didn't want to talk to Danny, which would set Danny to asking questions.

"Yeah. It's a beautiful day. Let's go."

It was a short walk, comparatively speaking. Martin wasn't even short of breath when they returned to his apartment, probably because Danny did all the talking. It was mildly amusing; in the annoying sort of way that Danny was always amusing. Taylor was obviously pumping him for information, but when he kept hitting brick walls, he'd go off on some tangent.

Danny talked when he was nervous, while conversely, Martin didn't. It was a perfect partnership. But it was immensely sad and unsettling that a walk together would cause either of them, let alone both of them, to be nervous in the first place. Too little . . . too long . . . too late . . .

Danny was eating again; opening the bag he brought and pulling out a muffin this time. "Try one, Martin. They're really good."

"No thanks. I already ate."

He hadn't, but his stomach was cramping up, doing that thing it did when he was nervous or he pushed himself too far. He needed to take something before it got out of control, so he excused himself and headed for the bedroom. Sitting on the edge of his bed, he downed the pill with a swig of water and waited for the pain to subside. But if anything, he became more miserable and more sick to his stomach . . . and oh yeah, good move, Fitzgerald, taking pills on an empty stomach.

He prayed, literally prayed that Danny could not hear him getting sick in the bathroom.

"Martin? You okay?" Danny asked from the hallway outside the bathroom door.

Shit. So much for the power of prayer. Yes, it was good for the big things--like saving his life--but he was apparently on his own when it came down to the finer details.

"I'm fine," he managed between gasps, and great, just great - he'd messed up his shirt. "I'll be out in a minute," he added, but he waited until he thought Danny was gone.

Slipping the shirt over his head, he quickly moved out of his bathroom--carefully avoiding the mirror--and headed towards the bedroom.

Where Danny sat on his bed, waiting for him . . .

+ + + + + + +

Oh God. He hadn't expected Martin to come out without a shirt on. And even though looking at another man's chest was not his thing (it really wasn't), he couldn't look anywhere else. He tried to stifle a gasp . . . and failed miserably. He tried to cover up the fact that he was staring . . . and failed miserably. He tried to act like it was no big deal . . . and failed miserably.

Oh God. It was so much different, so much more, so much worse than he'd imagined. It looked like they'd butchered Martin to save his life, and he suddenly felt stupid that he'd ever imagined it differently. What did he expect? That they'd just pull out the bullet and leave a nice, neat little hole? Well yeah, that seemed about right.

But he was there and he should have known better.

Martin must have been as stunned as he was, because he just stood stock still, before turning so alarmingly pale that Danny worried he just might fall over.

"God, Martin! Sit down before you fall down!" That was harsh, and oh man, not cool . . . not cool at all.

Martin did it though. He sort of folded up like a cheap lawn chair and sat on the floor, hugging his chest and looking down at the carpet like he was embarrassed or nervous or maybe even ashamed.

That was a load of crap. If anyone had anything to be embarrassed about it was Danny, and it was about damn time he faced up to it and told Martin exactly how he felt. Dropping to his friend's side, he wrapped an arm around Martin's shoulder and asked gently, "Hey? You alright?"

He could have counted it off in his head: one, two, three . . . Yep, three quick seconds was all it took for Martin Fitzgerald, accomplished actor, to reappear.

"I'm fine. I'm fine. Just . . . let me up."


"Danny. Let. Me. Up."

"No, Martin. We need to talk."

Shifting under the weight of his arm, Martin grew angry when Danny merely tightened his grip. But although Martin may not have been up to par, he was strong enough to throw Danny off and get to his feet. He roughly pulled open his drawer and tossed a Cubs shirt (what the hell?) over his head before stomping out of the bedroom.

Danny followed, his mouth flapping the entire way down the hall and to the living room where Martin sat pouting on the couch. "Martin! This has gone on long enough. We have to talk. We can't keep acting like everything is just fine when things are just . . . wrong. And you know it as well as I do."

Martin glared at him for a full ten seconds before practically vomiting the words, "Yeah? Really? And whose fault is that, Danny? You weren't there when I needed you so . . . what? I'm supposed to believe you care now? Is that what this is about? Or is it about you? You can't get past feeling guilty so you come over and bring donuts and take poor, depressed Martin for a walk and get him to spill his guts a little and that makes everything alright. You get rid of your guilt and you get your life back and what do I get? Huh, Danny? What am I supposed to get out of all of this?"

This time it was Danny's knees that gave out as he unceremoniously dropped into the chair across from Martin. It felt like the air had been sucked out his lungs, and he wondered if this was what if felt like when the bullet sliced through Martin's chest.

"I . . . I don't know," he all but whispered. "But . . . but we have to quit pretending, Martin. For you, as well as for me."

Martin's deep blue eyes held his gaze steadily as he answered, "I can't. It's the only way I can deal with this, Danny. So just . . . leave it alone."

Danny leaned forward, his elbows on his knees and suddenly he couldn't keep it inside one more second. God . . . if Martin only knew . . . "I thought you were dying. I thought . . . I thought it was my fault somehow. I thought if we got Dornvald it would be enough . . . and it wasn't. Not even close. Because you were bleeding out in front of me, night after night, every time I closed my eyes, and there was nothing, nothing I could do, Martin. You were . . . I was supposed to be your partner, your best friend . . . and I let it happen and there was nothing I could do. And then all I could think about was that you were suffering and I was . . . I wasn't. How could I look you in the eye and know that? I know it was wrong, and I know, I know it's too late but . . ."

"It's not too late," Martin said quietly, looking straight at him like he really meant it.

But how could he be sure? Was this Imitation Martin? Just saying what he thought Danny wanted to hear?

"You didn't let it happen," Martin added, as if he'd just caught up to that part of Danny's confession, which was okay because Danny was a couple of beats behind as well.

Martin was still staring at him intently, his eyes bright . . . and maybe, please God, let this be the Real Martin, his Martin at last.

"I never blamed you. I never will blame you. I'm glad you didn't get hurt, Danny, so just stop it. Stop feeling guilty and stop . . . thinking that way."

Like it was that easy . . . Sure, Martin . . . whatever you say . . . no sweat . . . we're cool.

He should speak now, it was his turn, but for once in his life, Danny was speechless. He'd come to help Martin, not the other way around. He wasn't there to seek forgiveness, he was there to find healing . . . for both of them. Because as horrible as the scars were on Martin's chest and stomach, they paled in comparison to what marred them both inside.

"It's not that easy, Martin," Danny finally spoke.

"No shit," Martin replied, and for some reason, it struck Danny as funny.

He laughed softly and said, "You getting anything out of your hour with Dr. Harris?"

Martin shrugged. "She means well, but . . . I don't know. I think she's more Jack's type."

Danny nodded. "Yeah. I know what you mean."

They were silent for several moments before Martin sighed deeply and leaned back against the couch. "It's exhausting," he said. "Pretending . . . trying . . . trying to . . ."

"I know," Danny interrupted, sparing Martin the uncomfortable struggle of finding words. It wasn't necessary; he understood all too well how difficult it was to pretend you were something, someone you weren't.

"But . . . you don't have to pretend with me, Martin. Not anymore."

Martin nodded, and his eyes were suspiciously moist when he said, "We really are cool, you know."

"I know. And I really am here for you now."

"I know."

It was a beautiful day.

The End....