The Sorry Road
He stood, staring in shocked disbelief at the unimaginable sight before him. "Martin? Martin!"
Martin struggled to raise his head, one shaking hand wavering over his blood-soaked chest. His mouth opened but no words issued forth. His head drooped, his hands flopping lifelessly to his sides.
He couldn't move, stood frozen, the air sucked from his lungs. Dying… Martin was dying. No!
The awful thoughts galvanized him into action and he stumbled forward, around to the driver's side of the car, yanking frantically at the door, cursing when it refused to budge and then it was open and Martin slid sideways into his arms.
Danny Taylor's eyes snapped open and he sat up with a gasp. Sweat trickled down his back, chilling him. He scrubbed shaking hands over his face and took a deep breath. Dream, that's all it had been. He grimaced. Nightmare, one of the worst he'd had since Martin had been shot.
He reached out and grabbed a tumbler of water from his bedside table, took a couple of swallows to get rid of the dryness in his mouth then lay back down and stared up at the darkened ceiling.
God, this was getting old. Why now? Martin had been back at work for months now. Was alive, was safe… was sick. Danny had known for months what Sam had only seen recently. It wasn't just the gauntness or the pallor, the seemingly constant lines of anxiety on Martin's forehead, the trembling hands. Danny knew only too well the helplessness of addiction. The way it kept you in a grip of neverending hopelessness, of thinking that just one more drink, one more pill would help to quell the fear or guilt, the frustration and pain. And then the utter humiliation of knowing you'd failed again to get your life back on track, to become once more a member of the human race.
Even now, though on the surface, things seemed fine between them, Danny knew he and Martin were walking around each other like strangers, neither one ever quite catching the other's eyes, too afraid perhaps to see their own weakness mirrored in them.
Danny knew his insecurity now had nothing to do with being reminded of his own struggle with addiction. He'd conquered that and moved on. It had more to do with the reason he'd not been able to go see Martin once he'd been discharged from the hospital. Why it had pained him so much to see Sam's grief over Martin's life and death struggle; the way she'd sat at his bedside, promising to be there for him from now on. Only now, she was asking Danny to do that and he doubted she knew just what that meant. Could he even admit to himself what he couldn't say to others? Even if he couldn't, he knew he'd been wrong to say no to Sam. At the end of the day, with all other feelings set aside, Martin was his friend, his colleague, almost a brother. He'd turned his back on one brother, he wouldn't do it again.
Danny's first tentative tap on Martin's door was met with silence so he knocked more forcefully. This time, a voice responded.
"Who is it?" It was Martin's voice but it sounded quavering and hesitant.
"It's me, Danny. You want to let me in?"
There was the sound of coughing and then a soft groan. Danny knocked again. "Martin? Come on, man, let me in. I need to talk to you."
"Tomorrow, all right?" Martin replied. "I need to get some sleep."
"We need to talk now! I'm not leaving till I see you, so you might as well open the door." A door creaked open behind him and Danny turned his head and saw a wizened face peeking out through a crack in the apartment door opposite. He gave a courteous but curt nod of his head and turned his attention back to Martin. "I'll talk through the door if you want, but do really want everyone in the building knowing your business?"
He waited a beat and was about to call out again when he heard shuffling footsteps, the clinking of the security chain, then the door was opened so abruptly, he almost fell inside. When he regained his equilibrium, he looked up and grimaced. Martin looked like death warmed over. His red-rimmed, bloodshot eyes were stark in the pallor of his face, framed by black circles that spoke of too little sleep. He was unshaven, a look Danny had always thought suited him, but tonight, it just made him look haggard.
Danny forced a smile and pointed a thumb over his shoulder. "Mrs. Macgillicuddy is taking an interest in the proceedings."
Martin heaved a sigh, looking defeated. He swung the door open wider and gestured for Danny to enter. "Bryant," he muttered as Danny walked past him. "Her name is Mrs. Bryant and she thinks she's my grandmother." In a louder voice, he addressed the old woman across the hall. "Good night, Mrs. Bryant." Then he closed the door and turned to face Danny. "What's so important it couldn't wait until tomorrow?"
Martin shivered suddenly and chafed at his shirt-clad arms, though to Danny, the apartment seemed uncomfortably warm. "What about me?" There was an open challenge in Martin's eyes, and, Danny thought, a hint of guilt.
"Sam said you're having problems with the pain medication. She thought I could help." He immediately regretted the bald statement when Martin bristled.
"Is that right?" Martin said. Sarcasm dripped from the words. "Well, tell Sam thanks for caring but I've got it under control."
Danny snorted softly. "Yeah? Doesn't look like it to me -"
"What would you know?" Martin was shouting now, and sweat beaded his brow. He took a step forward and stumbled as he caught his foot against the corner of the couch. Danny reached out a hand and steadied him but Martin pulled out of his grasp quickly. "I'm fine! What do you or anyone else know about what I'm going through, about how I should be feeling? Where were you when I came to in the hospital? Where were you when I came home?"
"I told you I was sorry," Danny replied, hating the defense in his voice. "We were busy. Besides, Sam was there. I figured you -"
"You didn't figure anything!" Martin spat. He paused a moment, his chest heaving with exertion and the look in his eyes became haunted, wounded. He raised a hand, waving Danny away. "Look, it doesn't matter what you figured. I got through the shooting fine. I'm back at work. I'll get through this too."
"Martin, please, I've been where you are. I know how tough it can be. Let me help you with this. I'm sorry I wasn't there for you before. I felt guilty that you'd been shot. You have no idea how many times I'd wished it had been me. I couldn't bring myself to see you hurting." Danny held out his hand, then dropped it back to his side when Martin ignored the gesture.
"Just go, okay, Danny?" Martin turned away and walked toward the bathroom. "Thanks for calling by. I'll be fine."
Danny watched the bathroom door close and turned dejectedly to leave. Sounds of retching came from the bathroom and he turned back, his resolve firming. Not bothering to knock, he opened the bathroom door and moved over to kneel at Martin's side. Reaching out, he stroked a gentle hand down Martin's bowed back. "Not going anywhere," he vowed softly, though he wasn't sure if Martin could hear him, "not until you're over this."
When the bout of vomiting was over, Martin sighed and straightened a little. Danny lifted his hand and gently massaged the back of Martin's neck, hoping to ease some of the tension. He shifted away a little, allowing Martin some space to pull himself together. Instead of the expected rebuff, Martin leaned into Danny's support and raising a hand, clasped Danny's free one. "Thanks."
Unthinking, Danny pressed a chaste kiss to Martin's cheek. He stood, bringing Martin with him, wrapping an arm around his waist and leading him from the bathroom. "Let's get you into bed and I'll help you clean up. Then you can get some rest."
Rest, though, was elusive, as Danny knew from personal experience that it would be. Martin alternately sweated and shivered, his restless dozing fractured by vivid nightmares and hallucinations. Toward dawn, just when Danny thought that the extreme effects of the addiction were beginning to ease, Martin woke and sat up in the bed, fretfully slapping at his arms and legs.
"Stop it!" he muttered, his eyes wide open, his gaze fixed on something only he could see.
Danny reached for Martin's hands, attempting to stop the agitated motions. "What, Marty? What is it?"
Martin appeared to ignore him, pulling his hands from Danny's grasp, smacking again at his legs. "My legs, my arms. Can't keep still." He raised his face, his expression imploring Danny's help. "Make it stop."
"Okay, okay," Danny soothed. He remembered this sensation, of feeling as if your legs had a life of their own, the cramping and twitching of overloaded muscles. Reaching for the blanket that was folded on the foot of the bed, he wrapped it around Martin's trembling body, tucking it closely around his arms and legs.
Martin fought against the restraint for a moment then stilled, and slumped against Danny's chest. Danny lifted his legs and slid onto the bed then pulled Martin into the shelter of his embrace. He lay down, sighing in relief when Martin followed him, pillowing his head on Danny's chest. Danny ran a hand over the sweat-slick spikes of Martin's hair. "There you go," he whispered. "Just rest."
Early morning sunshine was lighting the bedroom when Danny awoke. He sat up and stretched, noticing belatedly that Martin was gone. He heard muffled sounds from beyond the bedroom and got up, pulling his sweater back on.
It had been a disrupted night. Martin had muttered a little in his sleep, tossing and turning. At one point, his stomach had cramped and Danny spent the best part of a half-hour, massaging the convulsing muscles until they relaxed and Martin drifted off again. He tried not to think about how much he'd wanted to do more. To take Martin in his arms and kiss him; to make slow, sweet love to him to help him escape the pain.
He headed into the living room and stopped, staring at the small kitchenette. Every cupboard and drawer had been flung open. Dishes, pots and pans, even food, littered the floor and counter. "Martin? Spring cleaning, buddy?"
Martin turned from ransacking another cupboard. His face was far too pale, his eyes wild. "Where are they?" he demanded.
Danny moved into the kitchen. He reached a hand up toward Martin's face, but it was angrily batted away.
"Where are they?" Martin asked again.
"Where's what, Marty?"
"Don't call me that! You know what I'm talking about. Where are my pills?"
Danny held both hands out helplessly. "I haven't touched your things. You sure you still had some?" He hoped if he could find the stash, if there was one, he could get rid of most of them before Martin got his hands on them.
Martin rubbed at his forehead, his brow wrinkled. He looked so confused and lost, it was all Danny could do not to take him back into his arms. "I thought…" He trailed off then looked uncertainly at Danny. "The pharmacist said there weren't any repeat orders on the prescription. He wouldn't call the doctor." His expression changed to one of determination, his lips set in a thin line. Pushing past Danny violently, he headed for the front door.
"Whoa!" Danny took a hurried couple of steps and placed himself between Martin and the exit. "Where you going, Martin?"
Martin stopped and turned back to him, his jaw squared tensely. "Out."
"Yeah?" Danny forced a casual smile that strained at his cheeks and lips. "How about I come with you?"
"Don't fucking patronize me!" Martin hissed.
Danny flinched at the unaccustomed cursing. "Look, Martin, I can't stop you walking out that door. You know that and so do I. But I don't think you want to either." He took a step closer and grasped Martin's shoulders, his stomach clenching when he saw unshed tears glittering in Martin's eyes.
"Why do you care so much?" Martin asked, his voice breaking.
"Because I don't want to see someone I love hurting."
A tear overflowed and ran down Martin's cheek. "What did you say?"
"I don't want you to hurt anymore."
Martin shook his head. "Tell me what you said. Word for word."
Danny sucked in a breath. The air felt thick around them and he realized his hands were shaking. "Because I don't want to see someone I love hurting."
"You love me? Or you're in love with me?"
Danny shrugged. "Both, I guess." He tilted his head forward and touched Martin's forehead with his own. One hand shifted to grasp the back of Martin's neck, massaging at the knotted muscles beneath his touch. "Doesn't matter that you don't…" He trailed off, unable to voice the words. "Doesn't matter."
Martin lifted his head and Danny loosened his grip, expecting Martin to pull away but instead, Martin's lips touched his in a soft, chaste kiss. Danny stiffened and pulled away but when Martin grabbed his arms and pulled him closer, he didn't resist. He felt Martin's mouth open beneath his, deepening the kiss. Wrapping his arms around Martin, Danny trailed his hands down Martin's back, cupped his buttocks, drank in the taste of him. He could feel Martin's hands at his pants zipper and when his fingers touched bare flesh, reason took hold. Forcefully, he pulled out of the embrace, smacking into the door behind him, and stood, panting, staring at Martin. "No," he said, his voice croaking.
Martin's brow creased in puzzlement. "What do you mean, no. I thought this was what you wanted."
"It is. Just… too fast." He walked over and sat on the couch. "Why now?"
Martin had followed him and stood, staring down at him. "You never told me before that you loved me."
"Neither have you," Danny retorted. He sat forward and rested his arms on his thighs. "Look, your emotions are all over the place right now. Just because I have feelings for you doesn't mean that you have to reciprocate, or is it because -"
"That's what you think?" Martin cut in. "You think I kissed you so you'd let me go out and get some pills?"
Danny looked up at him. "Did you?"
"No!" Martin's shoulders slumped and he scrubbed a hand over his face. Sighing, he sat down next to Danny. Reaching out, he grasped Danny's hand and stroked his fingers over the knuckles. "Did you say what you did in the hope that I'd forget all about the drugs?"
"Well, then, I guess we're even. After Sam and I broke up, I… I didn't really see anyone else. Even before we decided to call it quits, I think I knew it wasn't going to work, and why. It wasn't until after the shooting, when she came and sat at my bedside day in, day out. When I got out of the hospital, she was here every day, fluffing my pillows, bringing me food, making sure I did my PT… But every day, I saw the guilt in her eyes. I told her I couldn't deal with it. It was hard enough having everyone's eyes on me at work, feeling like I had to constantly prove to Jack that I was all right, that I could do my job."
"That's why the pills," Danny said.
"Yeah. I told myself it was only for a little while, till I got back on my feet. After a while though, I couldn't function without them. It was all I could think about."
Danny lifted their clasped hands, turned them and kissed Martin's palm. "I know how that goes."
"So, where do we go from here?"
Danny turned to face Martin. Leaning forward, he pressed a gentle kiss to Martin's mouth. Though chaste, he lingered, conveying a message of love. Pulling back finally, he smiled. "One day at a time, but I want to take this slowly, Martin. Let's get you over this first, so that whatever decision you make, you're making it with a clear head. There's a Narcotics Anonymous group that meets in a Community Hall a few blocks away. Would you go with me?"
"I'm not sure if I'm ready to take that step -"
Danny gripped Martin's shoulders and gave them a small shake. "The longer you wait to take it, the harder it will be. Please, I won't walk away from you but I need you to do this, to try."
Martin stared at him for a long moment then nodded. "When's the meeting?"
"Damn you, Martin," Danny muttered. He stood in the doorway of the meeting room, uncertain what to do. He'd waited outside for the better part of a half hour, waiting for Martin to show. The meeting was about to start and there was no sign of Martin. Uncertainly, Danny sat in the back row and listened to a procession of familiar, heartbreaking stories of addiction and sadness. It all hit too close to home, not just of his own addiction to alcohol, but also the more recent struggle, of watching Martin slowly emerge from the darkness. At first it seemed his lover was more often than not taking one step forward and two back, but finally he was beginning to break free. Finally, Danny felt they could begin to plan a future together.
He didn't know how he knew Martin was there but he turned his head and there he stood in the doorway, looking nervous and a little scared. Danny smiled and took the newspaper off the seat beside him, saw an answering small smile from Martin. Then he was sitting beside him, his hand resting lightly on Danny's leg.
"Thank you," Danny whispered, "for trusting me."
Danny woke early the next morning. He lay awake, too relaxed and content to climb out of bed. Beside him, Martin shifted, turned within Danny's arms and, resting his head on Danny's chest, resumed his slumber.
Danny smiled and stroked a languid caress up and down his lover's back. It all seemed too good to be true. To think that the one thing he'd yearned might have passed him by, if not for the suffering Martin had gone through. He knew it wasn't going to always be smooth sailing. Martin's gradual recovery from his addiction was bound to be fraught with some stumbling but Danny would be there to support and guide him… and love him.
He turned his head and glanced at the alarm clock then gently shook Martin's shoulder before leaning in to thoroughly kiss his lover awake. "Time to get up, sleepyhead," he said when Martin finally opened his eyes.
Martin grinned at him then reached under the cover's to gently cup Danny's erection. "Got a better way to wake us both up," he whispered, ghosting his fingers along the length.
Danny groaned, undulating his hips, enjoying the delicious sensation for a moment then shifted away from the tantalizing touch. "We're late," he husked out.
Martin frowned at him for a moment then sat and flung his legs over the side of the bed. Standing, he held a hand out to Danny. "We can save time if we shower together," he suggested.
Danny didn't fail to notice the lascivious look in Martin's eyes. He stood anyway and followed him willingly into the bathroom. "Maybe I should just call Jack now and tell him we had car trouble."
Jack acknowledged the two of them with a curt nod of his head. "Nice of you two to join us," he remarked sardonically.
"Car trouble," Danny said. He gave Vivian a quick wink and sat down beside her. "Martin's car's in the shop so I gave him a ride in. What have we got?"
Jack studied him for an uncomfortable moment then turned back to the white board. "Kara Morrison, the seventeen year old. Got a message to say she's definitely living with Harper's cult. Not sure if she's there willingly or not." He held a file out to Danny. "You and Martin go check it out. Viv, contact her folks."
"Gotcha." Danny stood and headed for the door with Martin on his heels.
"And you two," Jack added. He waited until both men turned to look at him, a small smile playing about his lips. "Keep each other out of trouble."
Danny grinned and sketched a salute. "You got it. Though you know how hard it is to keep Martin out of trouble -"
Martin gave him a small shove. "Says who? If it wasn't for me, you'd never be out of trouble."
"Yeah, right." Giving Martin an answering push, he grabbed his lover's arm and dragged him out the door.