Mild slash content
It was rare that Danny offered to let him drive, so Martin couldn't help be a little suspicious when Danny tossed him the keys. He tried to prepare himself for whatever words Danny might have in store for him -- not that being prepared had ever done any good before. Martin almost always ended up flustered and tongue-tied and feeling foolish, something that Danny seemed to take great pleasure in. It wouldn't be until much later that any intelligent comebacks would pop into his mind and by then it was always too late.
Oddly, Martin felt slightly disappointed when no battle of wits -- if that's what they could be called -- ensued. He took his eyes off the road and gave Danny a once over, noticing that he seemed distracted; his eyes were a little glassy and he was clutching the stuffed dog tightly in one arm. "You hungry?" he asked, since it was only a little past noon.
"Nah, we grabbed something, earlier. You?"
Martin shook his head. "I'm good."
Danny nodded, still clutching the stuffed dog, absently rubbing the pad of his thumb over its sad-looking eyes. It occurred to Martin that this was a perfect opportunity to make a cutting remark, but he just couldn't bring himself to say anything.
Danny was probably thinking about the little boy and Martin knew all too well how easy it was to let a victim, especially a child, get under your skin. If this little boy could so easily bring Danny's emotions to the surface, Martin would just have to try and make sure he somehow kept himself distanced. At least one of them needed to remain focused and unbiased.
They stopped in front of an old warehouse that, in Martin's opinion, didn't appear habitable. He was both surprised and impressed to find that the apartment on the top floor looked like something you'd expect to find over on Park Avenue. "Nice," he murmured, getting a nod from his partner.
The man who greeted them at the door was handsome and friendly, at least as tall as Danny, with dark hair and a mustache. He seemed easy going, although he looked tired and his eyelids were red and puffy.
Once they were seated on a dark leather couch, Danny started asking the questions that Vivian had highlighted in her notes.
Yes, the man knew of Ella Gaines, in fact, he suspected she had something to do with the deaths of his partner's wife and son, although they had no substantial evidence to prove it. To his knowledge his partner hadn't spoken with her for over a year, but they'd caught sight of her lurking around their old apartment building on several occasions, in spite of the restraining order they'd had issued since the boys had come to live with them. One of the reasons they'd moved was because they were concerned for the boys' safety.
At one point, a small dark haired boy with dark eyes and chubby cheeks bounded up into the man's lap, whispering something in his ear. The man smiled and nodded and the little boy climbed down then bounced away. Martin was warmed by the tenderness he saw in the man's tired eyes as he watched the tiny boy disappear around a corner.
They continued the conversation, gathering information on Ella Gaines. From what little he learned, Martin thought she sounded like a woman perfectly capable of kidnapping, or worse. A short time later, the boy was back, tugging another boy along with him. The second child was taller and thinner than the first one. He had sandy blond curls and big, expressive blue eyes that seemed strangely familiar. One look in those eyes and Martin knew that he'd never be able to forget them.
"Do you mind if we ask him some questions?" Martin asked, nodding to the little blond haired boy.
"Be my guest, but he hasn't felt much like talkin'." The mustached man pulled both boys onto his lap, brushing a big hand over the blond curly head. "Have you, pard?"
The little boy didn't reply, just leaned into the man's chest and closed his eyes, pretty much blocking them out.
"Hey, I brought you something," Danny said to the boy, his voice sounding upbeat. Martin was always impressed at how relaxed and comfortable Danny was around kids. The little boy opened his eyes and turned his head to Danny, but held tightly to the security of his dad's arm. "I know it's not the same as your Cat, but he looked lonely." Danny held the stuffed dog up. "See, look at his eyes."
The little boy studied the hound dog's eyes, then looked up at Danny and nodded solemnly.
Danny smiled at the boy and tucked the dog into his arms. "Maybe you could keep each other company until your dad finds your Cat?"
The boy's other father sighed. "Yeah, we're pretty sure Cat's downstairs in the storage room. We still have a lot of boxes left to unpack."
"Would you mind if we took a look around that storage room before we leave?" Danny smiled at the little boy, who ducked his head shyly.
The man's eyebrows drew together like he was considering the question, then he nodded. "Sure, but I thought your guys already poked around down there, earlier."
"Probably, but it wouldn't hurt to look around again," Danny said, amiably.
Something, some little bell rang in Martin's head, at that point. He knew the storage area had already been searched, but he still felt a compulsion to go down there and look again. He didn't say anything, because false hopes were all too common in these situations. It was so much easier to latch onto some ridiculous theory or speculation than it was to accept that your loved one probably wasn't coming home. He saw it happen all the time and he didn't want to encourage anyone to hope for something that could turn out to be nothing at all.
"Would you mind taking us down there now?" Martin asked.
Danny turned towards him, one eyebrow raised.
Martin shrugged a shoulder, trying to look casual. "I'd like to take a look around. You never know . . .."
"Okay, sure. I'm expecting one of our partners to show up any minute, if you don't mind waiting."
A few seconds later, there was a knock on the door. The younger boy climbed over the arm of the recliner they'd been sitting in, ready to answer it when his father snatched him back. "You know better than to answer the door, li'l bit."
"But, I already know who it is!" the boy whined.
The older boy's eyes were glued to the door; the look Martin saw was mostly anticipation, with a not so small amount of trepidation, as well. Martin figured the boy knew who was knocking on the door, but that knowledge didn't keep him from hoping that somehow when the door opened, his missing dad would be there.
"Hey there, Ace." The tall man greeted the newcomer when he entered the apartment. Martin recognized him from earlier when he and Sam had been down at the PI firm.
The younger boy squealed, hurling himself into the man's arms and began rambling on and on, seemingly without taking a breath.
Martin exchanged a glance with Danny. "One of their partners. Goes by the name of Simmons. I met him earlier down at the investigation firm." Martin had looked through the background information they'd been given on all of the partners, so he knew the man's name wasn't really Simmons, but his co-workers also knew the man was using an alias. Martin couldn't figure out
what the purpose was, but he also couldn't find anything that might make him a suspect in the other man's disappearance.
He watched as the older boy quietly approached the man, tilting his head back and gazing up at him with those sorrowful eyes. When Simmons looked down, the unreadable expression he'd worn all day melted into a tender smile; he ran a hand over the child's soft curls and gave him a wink.
"Mr. Simmons," Martin greeted.
"Mr. Fitzgerald, how nice to see you again," the man said, with a deep southern accent.
Martin nodded, reaching out to shake the man's hand then he gestured to Danny. "This is my partner, Special Agent Taylor."
"Charmed to make your acquaintance, sir."
"We're gonna run downstairs for a few minutes," the boys' father said to Simmons. "Do you mind keepin' an eye on these two hooligans?"
"Of course not," Simmons answered, bending down to scoop the other boy into his arms. "What have we here?" he asked, nodding toward the stuffed dog in the boy's arms.
"Mister Special Agent Taylor gave him a doggie so he won't be so lonely without Cat. It's okay that he didn't get me a doggie 'cause I already gots Blue," the younger child explained.
Danny groaned and smacked his forehead, making the other three adults smile. Martin foresaw another trip to the toy store in the near future.
"I have Blue," Simmons attempted to correct the boy.
The dark head tilted to one side, questioning. "You gots Blue? How'd you get him?"
Martin watched as the older boy's eyes twinkled, dimples forming on his cheeks as a smile spread across his face.
"You think that's funny, do you?" Simmons said dangerously, narrowing his eyes at the little blond boy. The boy's smile grew wider and he bobbed his head.
"I see a lesson is in order," the man said, dumping both boys onto a large, pale green beanbag chair in the middle of the room. "Now, where shall we begin?" He rubbed his chin thoughtfully, gazing speculatively at each boy. The boys watched him with wide eyes and barely contained excitement.
The three men exited the apartment just as both boys burst into peals of laughter, making their father chuckle as he locked the door behind them.
As they descended the stairway, Martin felt his anticipation grow. He just had one of those gut feelings, and couldn't push it away. There were two levels of stairs from the main floor to the basement, and a bomb shelter sign on the wall at the bottom of the steps. The warehouse was huge and sturdy, but mostly empty and Martin vaguely wondered what it had been used for in the past.
When they turned off the main corridor the man paused, flicking a light switch that didn't work. "Hell, one of them damn fibbies must have left the light on." Then he grinned sheepishly. "Sorry, no offense, but I don't even want to think about changing that bulb."
Martin waved off the apology as he looked up at the tall ceiling. He couldn't blame the man; he wouldn't want to hassle with changing a bulb that high up, either. They continued down the hall, thankful there was enough light coming from the main hall to allow them to see. Martin squinted trying to adjust his vision as the hall grew darker. His heart leapt when he spotted a set of keys dangling from one of the locks.
"Damn, they must not have searched too hard," the other man said softly when he spotted the keys. He stood there motionless for a long moment, hand hovering as if he were afraid to open the door. Finally he shook his head then reached for the keys, unlocking and opening the door in a hurried movement. The room had no windows, as far as Martin could tell, but there were a few overhead light fixtures that gave off a dim, yellowish glow. The walls were lined with shelves, a freezer stood at one end of the room and there were stacks of boxes and crates, along with a few pieces of old furniture.
"Took you long enough." They heard a man's low, disinterested sounding voice and their eyes swept to the middle of the room where they found him lounging on a toddler-sized bed. The man had blond hair, was wearing a robe and a pair of cowboy boots and holding onto a stuffed cat.
"Chris!" The other man bolted forward, pulling his partner up and wrapping him in a bear hug. "Jesus, Larabee, we been worried sick over you."
Larabee returned the hug, then he pushed back a little and gave the taller man a wry grin. "Nice to see you, too, Buck. Now, if you don't mind, I'd like to get the hell out of here." Wilmington kept his arm around his partner and ushered him out of the room.
Danny gave Martin a speculative look and Martin shrugged. "Just had a feeling," he said, unable to contain a grin.
"Martin the Wonder Boy saves the day." Danny gave him a playful jab in the shoulder and ruffled his hair, which Martin hated.
They started to follow the other two men, but before they got to the door Danny stopped suddenly, then backtracked to pluck the stuffed cat off of the small bed. "Hey, how could they forget this guy?"
Just as Martin turned to see what Danny was talking about, he heard the loud click of the heavy door closing. No, he said to himself as he stood there wide-eyed, staring at the fuzzy, gray stuffed cat Danny was holding. No, no, no . . . he refused to believe it, refused to turn around and acknowledge it. "Danny . . .."
Danny was smiling at the cat, but he looked up when he heard Martin's strained voice. His smile vanished, his dark eyes immediately flicked toward the door.
"Tell me the door's not closed," Martin said, still afraid to turn around.
Danny stood there frozen for a moment, but then he relaxed and smiled a little. He casually walked past Martin to the door, his hand lingering above the handle for a moment before he took hold of it and tried to turn it. "Shit!"
Martin spun around, hundreds of thoughts racing through his mind. He whipped out his cell phone, pushed a number and held it to his ear. "Nothing," he said, then he closed his eyes and flipped the phone shut. "Try yours."
Danny pulled out his phone, cursing when he got no signal, either. He moved to a different spot then tried it again with no success. "I can't believe this." He turned back to the door, which Martin noticed was made of steel, and began pounding. Martin thought for sure the sound had to be echoing throughout the corridor. They stood staring at the door, waiting and waiting . . ..
"I'm sure they'll be back any minute," Danny said, trying to sound confident. "They have to notice we're missing, right?"
That sounded reasonable to Martin. "If they don't, then maybe they'll come back for the cat?"
"Right, of course . . ." Danny nodded, his voice overly positive. " Of course they'll come back for the cat."
"Probably any minute, now."
"Yep, any minute." And then Danny folded his arms across his chest and, much to Martin's dismay, began to whistle.
~ * ~
Almost ten hours missing -- that is, if anyone besides them was counting, Martin thought as he glanced away from the ancient clock on the wall. With a weary sigh, he shifted on the small but sturdy toddler-sized bed, turning his attention back to Danny, whose relentless pacing and cursing had long since lost its entertainment value. He could understand the man's frustration at being trapped in this room -- the ridiculousness of the situation, the helplessness of not being able to do anything about of it --
but it wasn't like they were in danger, really. Sooner or later someone was bound to realize they were missing and track them down. Wearing a hole in the floor wasn't going to make it happen any sooner.
As anxious as Danny was for someone to find them, Martin was equally anxious about being found. It wasn't like he was enjoying himself down here, but he had no doubt that once they were freed, they'd never hear the end of it. Martin was pretty sure that Danny would take it all in stride. Most likely, the incessant teasing wouldn't bother him a bit. But Martin had never been able to handle that sort of thing very well. Of course, he'd act like it didn't bother him, he was always good at that, but whatever criticism, teasing or not, would only add to his own self-censure and sometimes that got to be a little too much. God, he just prayed his father didn't find out.
"You know," Danny halted, shouting up at the ceiling as if the family could hear them, "I think they've had more than enough time for their happy little reunion. What the hell are they doing up there?"
Martin shook his head, trying to hide his bemusement. "You keep repeating that, but it doesn't seem to be doing us any good."
"Yeah? Well, maybe it's doing me some good!" he shouted to the ceiling again then resumed his pacing and muttering.
Martin briefly wondered if he could get away with stuffing Danny into the freezer. Not for an extended period of time, just for a while so he could get a little peace and quiet. He'd try to let him out before the air ran out. "Danny, why don't you sit down?" Martin said tiredly.
"I don't know how you can be so calm about this," Danny said, his tone accusing.
"Believe me, it isn't easy with the way you're acting all . . . hysterical."
"Hysterical?" Danny glared at him as he passed by. "I am not even close to hysterical."
"Okay, maybe not quite hysterical, but you are driving me crazy."
Danny halted mid-pace and turned to Martin with astonishment in his eyes. "Me?" he gestured toward himself, "I'm driving you crazy? I'm driving you crazy?" he repeated, with a humorless chuckle. "That's a good one, Martin."
"How can you say I'm driving you crazy, when you're just sitting there like nothing has happened at all?"
Martin shrugged again, trying to keep his voice calm. "Because, nothing has happened. I mean, sure, we're stuck here for the moment, but it's not like we've been kidnapped or anything."
Danny ran a hand through his hair, making it spike out even more. "Well, you know what? I'm bored! I'm starving! It's been," he checked his watch, "almost eleven hours since I had anything to eat."
"Have another Popsicle." He waved in the direction of the freezer. When they'd first spotted it, they'd hoped for something edible. Unfortunately, the only things they found inside were a bag of ice and a half full box of Popsicles, which was why Danny now had orange tinted lips.
"I don't want another Popsicle," Danny complained. "I want a thick juicy steak . . . and maybe a baked potato with sour cream, and some homemade tortillas . . .."
Martin patted his pockets then brought out a package of chewy Sweet Tarts and offered it to Danny. "Here, have some of these."
"Sweet Tarts?" Danny gave him a look of disgust. "Those are not food, Martin. I want food! Real food!"
"Fine, be that way." Martin tore open the package, poured a few of the candies into his mouth then set the package down. He singled out three green pieces and popped them into his mouth.
Danny stared at him incredulously for a long moment, then put his hands on his hips and shook his head. "How can you eat those things? It's making my teeth hurt just to watch you."
"I like 'em," he answered simply. "They're sour on the outside and fruity on the inside."
At this, Danny's eyebrow raised. "Oh, really?"
"Yeah, the outside's hard, so you gotta suck on it to get to the good stuff." He looked up to find Danny studying him, his lips parted, his eyes riveted on Martin's mouth.
"The good stuff?" he asked, settling his lanky body down beside Martin on the little bed.
"Yeah, the sweet stuff inside." When Danny just kept staring, Martin raised his eyebrows and held out the bag. "You want some?"
Danny blinked his eyes then swallowed hard and nodded.
"The green ones are the best." He tipped the bag, spilling several pieces of candy into Danny's palm.
"I . . . " Danny cleared his raspy throat, "I like orange."
Martin grinned and slipped a couple more green candies into his mouth. "Yeah, I can tell," he said, tilting his head to gaze at Danny's mouth. An image of Danny sucking on an orange Popsicle suddenly popped into his head, nearly making him choke on his candy. He took a deep breath, managing to recover without need of the Heimlich maneuver, and smiled as casually as he could. "Your lips."
Danny licked his orange-tinted lips, one side of his mouth twitching upwards. "You remember what I said about green not being a good color for you?"
"Yeah." Martin's throat seemed suddenly dry; he swallowed carefully so he didn't choke on the candies.
"Uh, maybe," Danny murmured, clearing his throat again and leaning even closer, his gaze locking with Martin's, mesmerizing him. "You know, maybe I was wrong about that."
Martin opened his mouth to reply, but nothing came out. The look in Danny's eyes was making him feel warm and melty and a little light-headed. He thought maybe he could just stay there in that little bomb shelter forever, gazing into Danny's dark, glittering eyes. It took another second, but he managed to make his voice work, although nothing intelligent came out. "Oh, yeah?"
"Oh, yeah," Danny was quick to reply, the words spoken so close that Martin felt the puff of breath against his skin. Then Danny tilted his head ever so slightly, a seductive smile on his face. "Martin?"
"Did you hear something?"
Martin's heart was pounding so furiously that he could barely hear anything over the whoosh of blood echoing in his eardrums.
"Listen," Danny whispered, still gazing into Martin's eyes.
And then, between one heartbeat and the next he thought maybe he did hear something. He tried to listen more carefully and sure enough he was able to make out a vaguely familiar jingling sound that could only mean one thing.
The two men pulled away from each other and just like that, the strange, hypnotic spell was broken. In fact, Martin wasn't sure if anything had happened, or almost happened, at all. Danny gave him a sly, suggestive grin that said maybe something had almost happened, but Martin's head was spinning and he couldn't be sure of anything. He wasn't even aware that he was still staring at Danny, until Danny winked at him, eyes filled with mirth, then sang out, "They're he-ere."
The door opened and Sam and Jack stepped into the room, followed by the tall mustached man who had the keys. For a moment, the three of them stood in silence, just staring at Martin and Danny. Then Sam nudged Jack and held her hand out. "You owe me ten bucks."
Jack looked at her with disbelief. "How do you figure?"
"I bet we'd find them in bed together, and I was right." She smirked, raising one eyebrow and looking down at them with smug satisfaction.
Jack snorted. "This does not qualify as being in bed together."
Sam shook her head, still smirking. "It's a bed, they're together, what more do you want?"
"I am so sorry about leaving you boys down here all day," the mustached man apologized with obvious remorse. "If there's ever anything I can do to make it up to you . . .."
"Don't worry about it, man," Danny said, grinning as he hoisted himself up then reached for Martin. "We're just glad everything turned out okay for you and your family. Right, Fitzie?"
"Uh, right," Martin agreed, but his brain was struggling to get beyond the fact that Jack and Sam had made a bet that involved him and Danny . . . and a bed, and that nobody else, not even Danny, seemed the slightest bit disturbed by it. Maybe they were all crazy, or maybe it was Martin who was out of his mind? He remembered hearing that mentally ill people usually didn't even realize they were mentally ill, so it was entirely possible that Martin was crazy and didn't even know it. Boy, he thought with the slightest hint of a smile, his father would really hate that.
"Come on, I don't know about you, but I'm in desperate need of some real food and a real bed." Danny winked, then gestured for the door.
Martin stared dumbly at him, until Danny gave him a friendly shove. He felt like he was in a waking dream and it took a moment for Danny's words to register. "Did you just say . . . we needed to find a real bed?"
"Martin, Martin, Martin . . ." Danny made a tsking noise and shook his head sadly. "I said I needed food, and a real bed. I don't know about you, but Popsicles and candy do not a meal make. And that little hard plastic thing back there doesn't even come close to qualifying as a bed, in my book. You, my friend," he leaned closer, draping an arm over Martin's shoulders, "need to get your mind out of the gutter."
Martin stood there for a moment, until Danny again prompted him to move. As they made their way up the stairs he glanced at his watch and smiled. The night was still young. He had plenty of time to kill Danny and get rid of the body before the clock struck midnight.
~ * ~
They arrived at the federal building and parked the car just as Vivian was leaving.
"Good to see you two. You had me a little worried," she told them, looking genuinely happy but trying to hide it. "I'm glad you're both okay." She studied them for a moment, her eyes searching for something, but Martin wasn't sure what. Then an indulgent smile crept over her face. "It's late, why don't you two go on home. The paperwork can wait until morning."
They both were quick to agree, neither of them in the mood to sit at a desk doing paperwork this late at night. Martin vaguely wondered what had become of Jack and Sam. They'd been a couple cars behind them on the freeway, but he had no idea where they were now. He was too tired to do anything but assume that Vivian had to have spoken with them. Everything must be okay, or she wouldn't be leaving.
Danny somehow managed to hail a cab the moment they stepped out of the building. Martin was torn between stopping for something to eat, or just grabbing the next cab and heading home. Either way, he'd most likely have to walk a couple of blocks.
"Hey, Martin?" Danny called out as he opened the back door of the cab.
"You, uh . . . wanna share a cab?" he asked, with a devilish gleam in his eyes.
"But," Martin hesitated, realizing the irony of the déjà vu situation. "I live uptown."
"Yeah, I know."
He had to admit that the idea of sharing a cab this time seemed a hell of a lot more appealing than it had the time before. Which should probably alarm him or concern him, at the very least, he thought as he slid into the backseat and found Danny smiling at him. Amazingly, as the cab pulled away from the curb, the only thing he felt was a heady rush of exhilaration.