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Disclaimer: See chapter one
Rating: PG-13 for subject matter
Pairing: Nico and Dani
Previous Chapters: Ch 1 - Stepping Into The Darkness ; Ch 2 - Lost But Not Alone ; Ch 3 - Things Fall Apart ; Ch 4 - The Center Cannot Hold
Enjoy!!

Fear of Flying

Ch 5 - Turning and Turning and Turning

By Lattelady

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”If our friendship depends on space and time, then when we finally overcome space and time, we've destroyed our own brotherhood. But overcome space, and all you have left is Here. Overcome time and all you have left is Now. And in the middle of Here and Now, don't you think that we might see each other once or twice? ” – From Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach
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After an hour of intense questioning, Dani was blurry eyed and exhausted from digging for information that kept slipping away from her, before her thoughts were fully formed. “I’m sorry it’s like trying to make sense out of a jigsaw puzzle made of fog.” She rubbed her temples with her fingers hoping to shake something else loose.

“It’s okay. You’re doing great. Memory loss is one of the reasons date rape drugs are so effective.” Nico wasn’t much further along than he’d been when they had started. He looked down at the careful notes on his iPad and tried to fill in some of the blanks from the night before.

…Danny Martello had been on the door when she’d arrived. It was apparent he’d recognized her, because he’d allowed her access ahead of the line.
…Dani had a vague recollection of seeing him again at the bar. But Martello was a club owner who worked hands-on, just because he’d been around that night didn’t mean he was involved. But it did put the man at the top of Nico’s list of people of interest and therefore the man Careles planned to speak with first.
…Santino couldn’t remember if she’d left her drink unattended but thought she might have turned away from it to check her messages when she realized Margo was late.

“I don’t understand how this happened,” she murmured. “I didn’t talk to anyone except the bartender and that was when he took my order. No one tried to pick me up or even tried to start a conversation.”

“We can only trust your memory up until you took the first swallow of your Pellegrino, after that…” Nico shrugged and fought the desire to keep pushing for answers.

“I understand that,” she glared at him. “But I also know me. I’m careful when I go out. Risks are far greater for a woman who goes to a club alone. I don’t take chances. The only reason I was there by myself was because I didn’t check my text messages until after I was inside the club.”

“I’m not accusing you of anything.” He took a moment to rein in his temper. The research he’d done the night before had caused him to burn with rage but that wasn’t what Dani needed right now. She needed him to be calm and in control. “Last night was a result of one of two things. You were either at the wrong place at the wrong time, or it was a personal attack. We need to figure out which it was.”

“Well yeah, it was personal. Someone put a date rape drug in my drink, I’d hardly call that an accident.” She shivered, filled with doubt. Was this the same man who’d taken such good care of her, who had listened with compassion and understanding when she had spoken of how her life had spun out of control after she’d tossed Ray out? She should have known better. He was an iceman who never let anything stand in the way of getting his job done.

“Of course it was personal to you but was it to him. Was he trying to get his hands on you, Dani Santino or was it opportunistic?” Nico was getting a very bad feeling about this.

“Does it matter?” She wanted the person caught but was terrified to go to the police. If it became public knowledge, it would give Ray leverage if he wanted to reopen the custody battle.

“Yes, it does, finding the motive, can lead to the perpetrator.”

“All right,” Dani sighed, knowing he was right. “Let me think a minute.” She took the last swallow of her, now cold, latte and closed her eyes, trying to distance herself from the issue. “A sexual predator who would use Solstice as his hunting ground would be targeting girls who are looking to score a celebrity for the night. Our guys hang out there and TK told me that some of the Yankees and Nicks do too.”

“It’s also a popular place with the younger Broadway crowd,” Nico added.

“If we’re looking for a sexual predator,” her voice shook and she took a deep breath. “He lacks confidence. His low self-esteem probably causes feelings of rejection, inadequacy, and anger toward women in general, more specifically women in his target group. It would explain why he felt it was necessary to use drugs to take control. Rape is about control and anger, not sex. But it doesn’t explain why he chose me. I don’t fit the pattern. Someone who would be hunting in a club like Solstice wouldn’t choose me.”

“That is assuming there is a pattern.” Nico wondered if she realized how attractive she was, if she understood the dichotomy of her confident personality that flashed of hidden passion and the innocent expression that often filled her eyes. It was a combination that almost any male would find exciting. He suspected it was what had attracted Matt Donnelly to her and he’d recognized the same gleam of challenge in J.D Aldridge’s eyes. But unlike Donnelly, Nico hadn’t been sure that Aldridge was harmless. Some men who were attracted to strong women wanted nothing more than to strike out and destroy. To that kind of man, Santino would be catnip of a different kind.

“What are you getting at?” She nudged him, aware of his intense gaze.

“There’s something I don’t understand.” He assessed her carefully. She was doing better but did she really need to hear what he was beginning to suspect? “Why didn’t he follow you into the ladies’ room, lock the door, and finish what he started?”

"Because I was extremely lucky," she whispered.

“Possibly.” Nico shrugged.

“But you don’t think that’s it?” Dani’s voice quavered. “You know something that you aren’t telling me?”

“I don’t know anything for sure but I can’t help wonder…”

“What! What do you suspect? Tell me, God damnit.” She gripped his arm and shook it.

“I’m concerned that last night was an extension of what happened to TK, that someone was going after a member of The Hawks.”

“Oh God….” Her eyes widened, unable to believe that anyone would find her that much of a threat but relieved, as well. It made what happened less frightening. “I’d like to believe that. It feels safer somehow…but it doesn’t make sense, maybe if Terrance were still playing…but he’s not.”

“I’m trying to cover all the possibilities.” Nico needed to get more answers before he frightened her any more than he already had. He wanted to get his hands on any video surveillance that had been taken last night. Most clubs of Solstice’s standing were careful with their security. Somewhere there had to be pictures of what had happened.

“So this speculation is simply you being your usual careful self?” Something icy clutched at her throat. Nico knew more than he was telling her. “I’m not buying it. What do you know?” She was sure she wasn’t going to like the answer. That made it all the more necessary.

“It’s only a supposition,” he sighed and met her gaze. “One question first. Was there anyone else in that club from the team?”

“Not that I saw but I was there for such a short time.”

“I didn’t see anyone, either, but my attention was only on our immediate surroundings.” Nico pursed his lips and frowned as he weighed his options. “I’ve been wondering, ever since Margaret identified the drug that was used on you, why Rohypnol? It’s illegal in the States. Most of it that is in the clubs nowadays is imported from Mexico where it is used as a sleep aid. The drug companies are well aware that it can be instrumental in date rape and have coated it, so that whatever liquid it is dissolved in turns blue. You were drinking mineral water. It took a lab test to tell that it had been tampered with. Someone went to a lot of trouble to procure something very special. If a man was that intent on rape it would be simpler, easier and more cost effective to use GHB--”

“Ohhh,” color drained from her face and her ears buzzed. Again she was caught in the trap of what could have happened. “You’re right…Gamma-Hydroxybutyerate …it’s…it’s…called Liquid X on the street…” It looped through her mind and would not settle. She couldn’t grasp it and gain control.

“That’s correct.” Once again he’d reduced her to shattered pieces and it was painful to watch her struggle. “It works much faster and plays hell with a person’s inhibitions. But Dani.” He cupped her shoulders. “He didn’t use it. All you did last night was call me. You were safe.”

“You’re sure? I didn’t…I wasn’t…” The picture she was getting was as enticing as it was embarrassing. Of course she’d called Nico for help, over the last months her feelings for the man had grown. Unlike Matt who had hit her with a blast of chemistry, the silent head of security had become her friend. During the weeks and months they’d worked together, she’d grown to care about him. Dani couldn’t remember when she first became aware that she desired him but it was more than that, deeper, stronger and forbidden because he was in love with another woman.

“Dani, where’d you go?” He tilted her face upward and gazed into her eyes, it was apparent her mind was far away.

“Just…” she shrugged unable to tell him. “Did I act inappropriately, last night?”

“No,” he whispered softly.

“Okay it’s that…I…I can’t remember.” She curled her fingers around his wrists to keep him from pulling away. Right now she needed his touch like she needed air. “How long does it take before I’m me again, before I’m strong and brave again, despite the doubts?” She reached out blindly for him and touched the scruff on his left check with fingers that shook. “You know these things, Nico. I’m not asking how or where you were forced to lean them…But. You. Know. How long does it take to get back to normal?”

“I can’t tell you.” He pulled her close and buried his nose in her hair, as he held her tightly. “I wish I could but it’s different for everybody.”

“I’m a professional. I know everyone handles trauma in his or her own way,” she mumbled against his neck. “I shouldn’t have asked. I’m sorry.” She tried to pull free but he wouldn’t let her go.

“Dani,” he whispered her name and ran his right hand lightly against her cheek. They were inches apart and he couldn’t take his eyes off her lips. “It will get better. I promise, I’ll do everything in my power to get you the answers you need.”

“I know and I didn’t mean to intruded on your private life.” She could see it in his eyes, painful secrets that were usually buried and kept neatly under control.

“You didn’t.” He smiled carefully and, as if by silent agreement, they both pulled back into their own space, close but no longer touching.

Nico’s phone vibrated on the coffee table. Like he’d done twice before, he checked it but this time, when he saw that it was Juliette Pittman calling he knew he couldn’t ignore it. “Dani, I need to take this call.” He nodded toward the phone. “Your clothes should be dry.”

“Uh…sure…the laundry room is off the kitchen?” She was up and moving even as she asked the question. She’d seen him go in there when the washer had buzzed shortly after they’d begun talking.

“Yes, I’m going to take this in my office.” Nico headed for tight spiral stairs on the far side of the couch and climbed them to the small alcove above. “Hello,” he answered his phone.

“Hi, yourself. You let your phone ring so long I was beginning to think you didn’t want to speak to me.” Juliette laughed into her phone.

“Just a second, Kiddo.” His thought process was split as he saw the woman below enter his bedroom. He called over the waist high wall, looking directly down at the entire room below. “Dani, you should change in the bathroom.”

“Oh…uh thanks. I didn’t realize.” Santino looked up at his serious face from the small loft within a larger one. It was the first time she was aware of the room that had a commanding view of the entire condo with the exception of the bathroom and closet. It was directly over that part of the master suite.

Once he heard the door close below he turned his attention to the nineteen year-old on the phone. “How are you doing?” He sat in his office chair and leaned back.

“Do you have a girl at that sexy bachelor pad of yours, Uncle Nico?” Juliette gasped and giggled, addressing him, as she hadn’t since she’d been fifteen. “You’ve finally decided to give up being alone.”

“I would hardly call my home sexy and even if it were, I’m too old for girls.” He was so happy to hear her chattering at him like she used to when she was a kid, that he was willing to play along for a bit.

“All right then, I’ll rephrase counselor. Are you with a woman?”

“I’m working, Juliette, so stop being so nosy.” He hoped that would keep her from asking more questions. She was one of only two people he cared enough about to want her to think well of him. The other person was changing her clothes in his bathroom.

“Uhhh you’re no fun, Uncle Nico.” Juliette knew she wasn’t going to get any more information out of the man she had always wished was her father instead of Marshall Pittman.

“Yeah, that’s me, dull, boring, old Nico Careles.” He could practically hear her rolling her eyes at him. “You didn’t answer my question. How are you doing?”

“Better, much better.” The young girl took a deep breath and grabbed her courage with both hands. She’d teased him not simply because she cared about him and didn’t want him alone, but because she’d needed time to think how to ask for the help she needed. “I called for a couple of reasons. First to thank you for making me see how screwed up my life had become and…uh…to apologize for all the trouble I’ve caused you. The apology is one of the twelve steps but when I say I’m sorry to you, I mean it from the bottom of my heart. It was selfish to ask for your help when Daddy had forbidden it. Please, forgive me?”

“You have made progress.” His smile. “But don’t worry about your father. My working relationship with him is my business. I’m happy to hear that you’re doing better. How much longer does your program last?”

“Mama is picking me up on Wednesday,” her voice shook slightly. “That’s something else I wanted to talk to you about. I’m afraid, Nico. Getting clean was hard but out there in the real world, I’m not sure I can stay that way, being a party girl was so much of who I was, I don’t know if going to meetings will be enough.”

“Have you talked to your parents about this?” He looked down and saw Dani come out of the bathroom.

“No, they’re hardly speaking to each other. I didn’t want to give them one more thing to fight about.”

“Juliette, you’re their daughter and they love you. You talk to your mom. I may know someone who can help. Let me see what I can do.”

“Thank you, Uncle Nico,” she sniffed, refusing to cry.

“You’re welcome, Kiddo.” Nico’s eyes fluttered closed. Juliette may not be his biological child but that didn’t stop him from loving her as if she were. Gabrielle had led him to believe she was his up until just recently. That piece of knowledge couldn’t wipe out almost two decades of caring. “Is there anything else I can do for you?”

“No, the rest I have to do on my own. Just take care of yourself.” She wanted to add that he should take care of the woman in his apartment because if gruff Nico Careles had let her into his home for any reason, he had to care about her as more than business.

“You too.” The smile that Juliette’s call had put on his face faded as he ended the call to her and punched in Xeno’s number.

On the main floor, Dani could hear the muffled cadence of Nico’s voice and was glad she couldn’t hear what was being discussed. She moved to the window and was surprised to see the storm had slackened enough for her to see Bleecker Street four stories below. On the corner, across the street was a large sign over the door of the restaurant Le Taj. No wonder she’d run into him when JD had taken her there, it was less than fifty yards from his building. It really was his Tuesday night place.
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“Dani, how about some crackers or dry toast?” Nico walked quietly up beside her.

“No…I’m not quite ready to test the boundaries of my stomach yet. I promise when I get home I’ll eat something.”

“You’re sure?” He pushed.

“Yeah, I’ve had enough public vomiting for one day.” Her nose wrinkled in displeasure. “You go ahead and eat the smell won’t bother me.”

“No, I’ve got to change clothes and get to work.” Nico headed toward the bedroom and turned at the door to finish talking to her. “I’m going to have Xeno take you home in your car. I’ll pick him up later tonight. I want him to go over the security system at your house and upgrade if needed. It’s one of his specialties.”

“There’s nothing wrong with the one I’ve got.” She glared.

“You live there alone with two children.” Nico didn’t brush her opinion aside and do what he thought best, as was his usual. Dani had been through too much in the last week. He knew it was important to give her a feeling of control over something in her life. “Please, humor me.”

“I..uh…you’re right. If this was a hit at the team, I need to take every precaution.” Her eyes filled with tears, and she turned away from him. “Thank you, Nico,” it came out rough and quiet.

“I want you and your family to be protected.” He came up behind her but didn’t touch her. “It has nothing to do with The Hawks.”

She caught a slight whiff of spicy lime that reminded her of late dark nights and safety. “I know,” she whispered and rested her forehead against the window. Thoreau’s quote slipped through her mind reminding her of Nico and how he made her feel. ‘That three-o’clock-in-the-morning courage Bonaparte thought was the rarest’. “Thank you.”

One moment he was standing inches away and the next she heard the bedroom door close.

Ten minutes later he came out cell phone in hand. “Xeno is waiting for us in the garage.”

“Okay.” Santino stood at the door to the hall and looked back around the condo, with longing. As much as she wanted to get home and hide, it had felt secure here.

“Dani?” Nico watched emotions flash across her face and reached for her hand.

“I’m all right, now.” She forced a smile and looked up to meet his eyes. This was almost the Nico Careles she was used to seeing. He was wearing a gray button-down with jeans and an impeccably cut dark charcoal sport coat that she’d bet was cashmere. Nico always dressed well, but the jacket looked out of place. She shook off the odd thought, as he picked up his sunglasses and stuck them in the inside pocket, grabbing his overcoat. “Yeah, I’m okay,” she muttered.

“No, you’re not.” He absent-mindedly brushed her hair away from her face. “But you will be.”

“Wait, I need to tell you something.” He was very close, tall, and straight, and she had to force herself to meet his eyes. “I’ve seen how you live. The things you keep around you. The things that are important to you and the extreme care you’ve taken in creating this place.” She leaned against the closed door, wanting to let him know his secrets were safe with her. “I won’t tell anyone what I’ve seen.”

Nico smiled softly and stepped out of her personal space, once again establishing that he was the Head of Security and she was the Team Therapist. “It wouldn’t matter Dr. Santino. No one would believe the Fortress of Solitude over the Bat Cave, anyway.”

He nodded for her to step aside and opened the door to the hall. Just like that, in the blink of an eye, Superman disappeared and in his place stood a dark, hard man who never let anything or anyone in.

To Ch 6 - Shadow Boxing

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Quotes

The moving finger writes: and having writ Moves on. nor all your piety nor wit Shall lure it back to cancal half a line, Nor all your tears wash out a word of it...The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

If I quiet the voices in my head, I would face the day with nothing to write. - Unknown

I must go down to the seas again the lonely sea and sky...J Masefield

Cinderella walked on broken glass,
Sleeping beauty let a whole lifetime pass.
Belle fell in love with a hideous beast,
Jasmine married a common thief.
Ariel walked on land for love and life,
Snow white barely escaped a knife.
It was all about blood, sweat, and tears.
Because love means facing your biggest fears


The heart has its reasons that reason knows nothing of...French Proverb

I have drempt in my life dreams that have stayed with me ever after. They've gone through me like wine through water and altered the colour of my mind ...E. Bronte

To love someone deeply gives you strength. Being loved by someone deeply gives you courage...Lao Tzu

It takes chaos to give birth to a dancing star ..F. Nietzsche

How many loved your moments of glad grace, and loved your beauty with love false or true? But one man loved the pilgrim Soul in you, and loved the sorrows of your changing face...Yeats

Let us go, you and I, when the evening is spread out against the sky...T. S. Eliot

In that book which is my memory, on the first page of the chapter, that is the day when I first met you, appears the words, "here begins a new life".
La Vita Nuova

Midnight courage of the heart...Jen Kirkwood

The three o-clock in the morning courage which Bonaparte thought was the rarest...Thoreau

Did you say it? I love you; I don't ever want to live without you; you changed my life. Did you say it?
Make a plan, set a goal, work toward it, but every now and then, look around, drink it in, 'cause this is it. It might all be gone tomorrow. - Meredith Grey

Shakespeare is easy, life is hard...Wheels

Don't try to be a great man, just be a man. Let history make up its own mind...Z.Cochron

I had a job to do and I was unafraid...Jack to John Creighton

For I dipt into the future, as far as the human eye could see. Saw the vision of the world, and the wonders that can be...RWW Hipwell

Without diviation from the norm, progress is impossible...F. Zappa

The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea, In a beautiful pea-green boat: They took some honey and plenty of money, Wrapped up in a five-pound note. The Owl looked up to the stars above, and sang to a small guitar...E Lear

Sweet and low, sweet and low, Wind of the western sea, Low, low, breathe and blow, Wind of the western sea! Over the rolling waters go, Come from the dying moon and blow, Blow him again to me;... Tennison

Charmed magic casements, opening on the foam
Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn... Keats

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