Mindy was jarred from her sleep by the knocking on her door. She sat up on the couch, wiping the drool from her chin with a grimace and grabbed her phone to glance at the time. The blurry numbers read 1:27 am and she frowned, wondering who the hell was pounding on her door so late at night. As she stood up, she began to wrack her brain, trying to remember where her gun was, when the sound of her ex's voice calling out on the other side of the door hit her ears.
"Mindyyyy! Open up! It's Dan. Doctor Dan... Castellano."
Mindy rolled her eyes and unlocked the door, swinging it open to reveal a very drunk Danny on her threshold. She was ready to reprimand him for his intrusion at the late hour, but stopped short when she saw the trail of blood dripping from his eyebrow and the welt of a bruise turning his cheek purple.
"Danny!" she exclaimed, grabbing his arm to drag him inside. She locked the door quickly and turned to tend to him, but he shrugged her off, tossing his jacket on the ground.
"Where's Leo?" he mumbled, putting his foot on the first stair leading to their son's bedroom. "I need to see my son."
Mindy tugged on his shoulder and spun him around to face her, anger now mixing with concern. "No, you don't. I'm not allowing you to see him until you sober up."
"Allow-allowing me? He's my son, Mindy. I can see him if I want to!" he bellowed.
"Oh really?" She crossed her arms over her chest, ready for a fight. "Did you like seeing your dad when he came home all hours of the night, drunk off his ass?"
The cutting words took the wind out of Danny's sails, just like she knew they would, and she sighed, grabbing his hand to lead him to the bathroom. "Come on, I need to patch up your face."
She sat him on the closed toilet seat lid and grabbed the first aid kit out of the cabinet. She tugged on the sleeve of his bloodied tshirt and instructed him to lift it over his head so she could throw it in the wash. When his torso was revealed, Mindy gasped, a nail ghosting over another bruise under his ribcage.
"Danny, what happened?"
Danny lifted his heavy, dark eyes up to meet her concerned gaze before they closed again in shame. "Some guys at a bar roughed me up. I could have taken them, but I'm a little too intoxicated." He tried to laugh, but his face contorted in pain at the movement.
Mindy shook her head, tossing the shirt on the ground before she grabbed antiseptic wipes from the kit. "Why did you get wasted at a bar? Does Sarah know where you are? I should text her and-" She stopped when she saw tears gathering in his eyes. "Dan..."
He looked up at her in defeat and swallowed his emotions. "I'm sorry," he groused. "I shouldn't have come here." He tried to stand up, but Mindy pushed him back down by his shoulders.
"Danny, stop." When he tried again, she forced him to sit back down by straddling his thighs and sitting on him. "I will let you leave as soon as I clean you up and you sober up a bit."
Danny stared into her serious eyes and eventually nodded, relaxing back against the tank. Mindy didn't move to get off him and instead leaned forward, using the wipe to clean the drying blood from his face. It only took her a few minutes to clean the small cut and apply ointment and a bandage, but when she was done, she didn't move. Danny's hands had been resting on her thighs, the heat from her skin calming him, and as time went on, neither of them speaking, he began to trace patterns into her dark skin with his fingers.
Mindy closed the first aid kit on the counter and ducked her head to catch Danny's downcast eyeline. "Are you ready to talk yet?" she asked gently and his head shook slightly. "What do you need right now, Danny?"
After only a moment of hesitation, Danny slid his hands up her thighs to her hips and then wrapped his arms around her waist. Mindy immediately circled her arms around his shoulders and pulled him into a tight hug, shivering when his nose brushed against the skin of her neck. Mindy had discovered years ago that when Danny was in a dark place, and he wouldn't talk to anyone, all she could do was hold him. He would eventually relax enough to open up to her and tell her what was troubling him and she would help him move past it. She figured this time would be no exception.
He felt like he was trembling in her arms, but his skin was hot to the touch when she ran a hand down his back. His breaths came out in slightly heavy pants against her collarbone and Mindy realized that he was starting to panic. She grabbed one of his hands from around her waist and brought it up between them, pressing his palm to her chest where he could feel her steady heartbeat. She turned her mouth to his ear, her nose buried in the curls of his salt and pepper hair, and she started to hum a familiar tune. By the time she reached the chorus, Danny had completely melted against her, his breathing even and his grip on her not as tight.
Mindy pressed two quick kisses to his temple and extricated herself from his lap. She grabbed his hand and bent down to get his shirt from the floor, telling him to wait for her on the couch while she found him something to wear. When she returned, Danny was sitting in the middle of the couch, an ice pack pressed to his cheek, and his head resting against the back of the couch. She walked into the kitchen and started up a pot of coffee. As it was brewing, she dropped the shirt in his lap and sat down beside him, tucking her legs up.
Danny muttered his gratitude and set the ice pack down so he could put the sweatshirt on. A smirk graced his lips and Mindy quickly realized what shirt she unknowingly handed him with a blush.
"I've been wondering where this has been," he told her as he pulled the Columbia sweatshirt over his head. There was a hole near the collar from obvious wear and Danny felt his stomach flip at the knowledge that she still sported the garment.
She bit her lip and shrugged. "Yeah, well, I've been wondering where my gold diamond earrings have been for the last few years. Seen those laying around anywhere?" She was bluffing, not really believing he would take her jewelry, but at his sheepish expression, Mindy gaped and slapped his shoulder. "Danny! You really have my earrings?!"
"I was gonna give em back!" he laughed.
The beeping of the coffee pot interrupted them and Mindy stood to pour them two cups full. She sat back down, closer than before, and they sipped at the coffee gingerly to avoid burning their mouths. A few moments of silence passed when Danny suddenly jerked his head up in confusion.
"Wait, is Ben here?"
Mindy raised her eyebrows, noting how long it took for him to realize she and Leo were alone. "No, he's not. We, uh, are going through some stuff, so he's at the house in Jersey."
He swallowed loudly and a shadow slipped over his eyes again, as if she just reminded him of something horrible. Mindy titled her head, a frown etched into her lips.
"Danny, what's going on with you and Sarah?"
Danny leaned back into the cushions again, his steaming mug held in his lap. "I think Sarah's gonna leave me."
Mindy remained quiet, waiting for him to elaborate further, but he didn't say anything else. Only when he turned his head to see her slightly surprised, yet sympathetic expression, did Danny finally speak again, his tone bitter and humorless.
"What, you're surprised?" he guffawed. "Please, this is me, we're talking about. This is just another relationship where I pushed and pushed until I'm the one who is left behind, I'm the one out in the cold, all alone." The tears gathered in his eyes again and his face flushed with anger. "And I tried, you know? I tried every time to change myself. Cause what else could the problem be? It had to be me, right?"
Mindy realized that he was no longer talking to her, just thinking outloud, so she sat beside him quietly, her heart breaking into pieces for the man she still loved.
"I can't even blame my dad for this shit anymore, ya know? Cause he eventually got his act together and reached out to me and to Richie. He owned up to his mistakes. He apologized for them. And what do I do? I just keep fucking everything up and blaming everyone else until no one wants to be around me anymore... No one wants me anymore." He sniffled, trying to take a deep breath. "That's why I came here tonight. Cause I knew that at least my own son might be happy to see me. That maybe for him, I'm enough."
She thought he was going to say more, but his breath hitched and instead, he just sat there, staring at the dark liquid in his cup, his cheeks tracked with tears. Mindy's own face was covered in tears, and she quickly reached up to wipe them away. Clearing her throat, she began to talk.
"For the record, Danny, when it came to us, it was never about wanting you," she confessed softly. She felt his gaze on her and she bravely looked into his eyes. "I always wanted you. You were my best friend, my home. But I was growing, I was changing, and we both know how much you 'love' change..." She cracked a smile which he thankfully returned. "I can't speak for the other people in your life that have given you the shit end of the stick, but I want to make sure you know that I will always want for you. And so will our son."
She realized a second too late that she used the present tense, and she knew he noticed, but he didn't say anything about it. He didn't say anything at all actually. She noticed another stray tear fall from his eye and she quickly grabbed his mug, setting both of their coffees on the table so she could move closer to him, her hands cupping his jaw.
"Danny, you're scaring me," she whispered, wiping his tears away with the pads of her thumbs. "Tell me what you're thinking."
His hands clutched at the material of her shirt around her stomach, tugging her a little closer as he spoke, his voice cracking with emotion. "Mindy, I never apologized for the way I treated you-"
She shook her head quickly, stopping him from continuing on with his contrition, and hugged him tightly. "I forgave you a long time ago. Okay?" When she felt him nod, she continued. "Just like you forgave me for leaving you, right?"
He chuckled against her breast and Mindy smiled, relaxing finally. After a few long minutes, Danny pulled away tugging at the sleeves of his sweatshirt. "God, did this thing shrink? I told you not to put it in the dryer, Min."
Mindy laughed, shaking her head. "No, but I think maybe you've gained some pounds since you last wore it."
He had began to gain weight during her pregnancy and it seemed he hadn't been able to lose it in the past few years. She would be lying if she said she didn't find his 'dad-bod' extremely hot. They laughed together for a moment before a comfortable silence settled over the pair, reminding them how easy it was between them compared to when they were with their spouses.
"Do you mind if I go see Leo?" he asked after a while. "I'm all sobered up now, officer." To prove his words, he brought his finger to his nose to show off his balance coordination.
Mindy snorted and shoved him playfully, nodding her approval for him to head upstairs. As he made his way to Leo's bedroom, Mindy cleaned up the coffee mugs and put them in the drainer to dry out before grabbing her phone. After about ten minutes of checking Twitter, Mindy realized Danny still hadn't returned from upstairs. She set her phone on the counter and took the steps one at a time, pushing open Leo's bedroom door when she reached the top. She peeked her head inside and saw Danny kneeling beside the toddler's big boy bed, his head resting over his folded hands. She could hear him whispering and knew he was praying over their sleeping son so she stepped up beside him, and mimicked his position, saying some prayers of her own.
When they finished, they looked at each other and smiled. Danny placed a kiss on Leo's forehead and stood up, reaching a hand down to help Mindy off the floor. He was about to drop her hand once she was on her feet, but she laced their fingers together and silently turned to lead him out of the room. She held his hand the entire way down the stairs, only dropping it once they reached the bottom.
"Here," he said, his voice cracking slightly. He pulled the shirt over his head, ignoring Mindy's protests as he handed it to her.
"Danny, it's yours. Besides, your shirt is all bloody-"
"It's yours, Min," he said with a grin, forcing it into her hands. "It obviously doesn't fit me anymore anyway."
Mindy bit her lip, holding the shirt to her chest as Danny grabbed his from the bathroom. "Well let me at least get you a clean one of Ben's."
"No, no." He grabbed her forearm before she could turn away. "I'm fine, Min. Really."
She watched him pull the shirt over his head, noticing his wince of pain from moving his bruised torso. "So, how you gonna explain this to Sarah?" she asked, gesturing to his battered appearance.
Danny shrugged, slipping his arms through the sleeves of his jacket. "Bar fights aren't that hard to explain. You didn't ask any questions."
Mindy's eyebrows shot up. "Wait, how did you get into a bar fight?"
Danny stared at her for only a moment and then his jaw clicked with anger. "John Mellencamp is the worst musician-"
"Oh my God, get out of my house, Danny."
When your tears fall down
On the cold, cold ground
And you've walked to the edge of this town
When you've burned all your bridges
And vanished in the mist
When the road is long
And your heart is sick
It's time to burn it down
It's time to turn it around
You've been a fool again
Don't run away again
'Cause I'm a fool for you