Brass and Blue

Chapter 6

He only meant to stay long enough to enjoy one beer.

More than one beer typically equated to taking a cab home and leaving his car behind. It was a certain kind of vulnerability that he just couldn't subject himself to, especially for the sake of drinking amongst his coworkers. Riding in the back of a stranger's car seemed like undeserved retribution for staying behind to listen to Peter's implausible hook-up tales, or to one of Shauna and Gwen's loud debates over which pistol had better aim. One beer was good. One beer, he concluded long ago, was just social enough.

Tonight was different. Danny was close to finishing his second beer and was seriously considering a third as he sat next to Mindy at the bar, sequestered from the rest of the group. The cautionary urge to stop did cause him to deny the service of the hospitable barkeep after his first drink. Then Mindy ordered her second glass of red wine.

"I'm not ready to go home just yet," she confessed after dropping a couple of bills onto the surface. "And if you leave now, you'll essentially be leaving me alone. Is that what partners do, leave each other hanging? Wow, I didn't know that's how things worked here in the city."

He knew it wasn't a serious challenge, but her determination to keep his company amused him enough to order his second drink. Between sips they talked about the case (until Mindy banned all work-related chatter) and favorite pizza places (until the mention of Paulito's Pizzeria, a place Danny was not on good terms with at the present). The conversation was brought to a literally screeching halt when they arrived to the topic of movies.

"You've never seen Titanic?" Mindy cried with a look of utter disgust. "Danny, you're obviously lying!"

"How is that so hard to believe?" Danny defended with his hands at his sides, though he couldn't resist smiling at her indignant expression. "Why would I ever need to see Titanic? It's not like it's Forrest Gump."

"It's not Forrest Gump because it's already Titanic," Mindy insisted. "Danny, my great aunt Ramita, who has only ever lived in India, has seen only two American-made movies in her lifetime: Goodburger and Titanic."

"Wait, Goodburger?"

"It was a major mix-up, but she liked it!" The two laughed as they took another sip of their drinks. Mindy set hers on the coaster before her. "I would threaten to make you watch it this weekend, but God, over three hours long…that's a crazy commitment. I don't have the fortitude or the tears for it at the moment. But one day, mister. One day I'm sitting you down and you're gonna experience it in all its glory."

"Yeah, I don't know about that," he mumbled before draining the last of the beer. He set the mug down and leaned against the edge of the bar.

"Any weekend plans?" Mindy asked as she turned in her stool to face him. She propped her elbow on the bar top and rested her head in the palm of her hand, her fingers threaded through her loose hair.

He couldn't remember the last time someone was genuinely interested in what he was planning to do outside of work. Even worse, he couldn't recall the last time he had any enviable weekend plans to report. Aside from his time spent in the gym and the occasional date, the weekends were reserved for cleaning his apartment, cooking, and watching backlogged DVR recordings of National Geographic documentaries. It was a categorically sad list of events for most, but a source of joy for him. Since most didn't understand, questions regarding his weekend plans were usually answered with nothing more than a shrug and a "no plans as of yet." He maintained the same strategy with Mindy and wasn't at all shocked when that wasn't sufficient enough for her.

"You have to have some idea," Mindy insisted. Her eyelids were reduced to narrow, judgmental slits. "No dates? No visiting family in Staten? How about watching the big fight with your friends?"

"Eh…I don't really hang out with other people all that much."

"Not even, like, your really good friends?"

Danny grimaced. "I don't really do the whole 'friends' thing." His implementation of air quotes made it look as if Danny found the idea of friendship to be a made up concept.

"What does that mean, 'I don't do the friends thing?' What does that even mean?" The wine was beginning to adjust the volume of her voice in a way that made her sound much more outraged than she probably was. "Friends are essential, Danny. It's…friends. It's not a luxury like yoga pants or filtered water –"

"Hold on, you don't feel like filtered water is essential?"

"I lived my whole life up until my junior year of college with good ol' fashioned faucet tap, so it's fine."

Danny snorted as she continued. "You can't just wander through life friendless. Everyone needs at least one friend to have their back. Who do you complain to? Who to you share good news with?"


"I'm sorry, who?"

"My mother," Danny clarified. "Or my brother, Richie."

"Okaaay," Mindy stalled. "But your family and your friends aren't really the same. You can't be entirely open about everything with your family. Everyone has to have at least one friend that they don't hold back from."

Danny looked at his mug, watching the residual foam sink to the bottom. A third beer was beginning to look like less of a bad idea. "You know, me and Lang used to be friends."

"Lang?" Mindy asked a little too loudly. Danny quickly shushed, not wanted to be overheard by their colleagues. Mindy leaned a little forward and spoke in a lower voice. "Sorry. Did you say Lang? The unnaturally hot older guy who's always around that walking frat house, Peter?"

"Okay, unnaturally hot is a bit much," he cringed. "Anyway, he and I grew up on the island together. His mother loved me and my mother adored him. Don't tell anyone, but he was ultimately the one who convinced me to go to the Academy in the first place. "

Mindy shook her head in disbelief. "So what the hell happened? Now you guys can barely be in the same room with each other."

He sighed. Danny had never really talked about this with anyone except his brother. It was already beginning to feel somewhat taxing. "I don't know. We started out at different precincts and kind of lost touch. By the time I had transferred to Homicide, he had already been there for about a year. I thought we'd eventually go back to being buddies, but he had already turned into this arrogant big shot, you know? As soon as I started solving cases and proving how good I was, all I was to him was competition. Now it's like we never knew each other at all."

Mindy donned an expression of pity, the very expression that made him hesitant to tell the story in the first place. She placed a hand on his shoulder, which he assumed was her attempt to be comforting. "Aww, Danny. Do you miss him?"

"No!" he denied as he shrugged off her offending touch. "I don't miss him! That's nuts. No, I'm just saying that friends…friends usually end up being a major hassle with very little payoff in the end. I don't see anything wrong with –"

"Wandering the barren earth by yourself?"

"Okay, how optimistic are you that you think I'll live to see a barren earth?"

After a beat of silence – and the realization that their conversation had taken a ridiculous turn – they both chuckled.

"I don't care what you say. Everyone needs a friend," Mindy stated resolutely. "The best part about them is the tendency to blindly take your side on things. You could be entirely in the wrong, but a good friend just has your back! No questions asked. Like with you and Lang. As your friend, I can't like Lang."

"It's that simple?" Danny asked through a very stubborn smile. He found the idea of her insisting to be his friend very, very flattering. "You're now refusing to be friends with the 'unnaturally hot older guy?'"

"Eww, 'hot older guy'? More like E.T.'s even uglier cousin," she said without hesitation, her smile now much broader. "But seriously. Fuck Lang."

"Mindy, you're ridiculous. That's childish and unnecessary…but thank you."

"Anytime, buddy."

Danny turned to look at his mug once again. As he watched the foam dissipate into a tiny pool of liquid at the bottom, he tapped the side with the tip of his finger. Each tap sounded with a hollow chime. He should really go. He was one beer past his usual limit and had already divulged way more than he had intended.

"Let's have one more drink."

When he looked up, her soft smile and gently pleading eyes teamed up to kill the rejection poised at the tip of his tongue.

"Okay. One more." Danny raised a finger to grab the bartender's attention and wagged it in a single circle to indicate a request for one more round of drinks. He didn't appreciate his smug smile one bit, but quickly let it go when he felt Mindy's fleeting touch on his forearm. It may have been the beer, but there was a noticeable tingle where the pads of her fingers had landed.

"Okay, Danny. I know I said no more shop talk, but I heard you once solved a homicide with nothing to go on but a candy wrapper and an empty First Wives Club DVD case. Confirm or deny."

Mindy and Danny were two of the last squad members to leave the bar at the end of the night. He was already missing his car as he climbed into the backseat of their shared cab, but having Mindy chatter next to him was a welcomed distraction.

"So I'm having a trivia night at my apartment on Tuesday night," Mindy announced suddenly. "It's something I do once a month with my friends. Even my old partner Maggie will be there."

"Oh yeah?" Danny's head lulled to the side to face her. "That sounds like a fun thing for you."

"For us," Mindy corrected with a slick smile. "You're coming, obviously."

Danny's eyebrows raised and he let out a throaty laugh. "No, that's not obvious because I don't do trivia. I'm sure Prentice and Grandy will enjoy themselves, though. They love that stuff."

"I'm not inviting them."

"This isn't a department thing?"

"No, this is a friends thing. And you, my friend, are coming. I'll have beer and snacks and my winning personality."

"I'll…I'll think about it."

"It's so cute how you think you have a choice in the matter."

Danny opened his mouth to argue as the cab slowed down to halt in front of a familiar building that was not at all his complex. "Hey, you live here?"

"I do!" Mindy answered excitedly as she dug into her purse for cash. Danny stopped her and handed the driver a twenty dollar bill.

"I don't live far. I'm gonna walk the rest of the way. Thanks."

The driver shrugged and took the money with a tip of his cap. They ambled out of the back seat and Danny closed the door behind him. The driver wasted no time pulling away. Mindy turned to Danny with a confused smile. "You didn't have to walk me to the door."

"I'm being polite!" Danny replied defensively. "And I only live maybe four or five blocks from here. It's not a big deal."

"Fine! Geez!" Mindy held up her hands in mock surrender. "Heaven forbid I recognize you for a good deed!"

Danny let out an embarrassing laugh as he looked down at his shoes. "Sorry."

"It's okay."

He lifted his eyes to her face once again. The light evening wind blew a few wisps of her loose hair in her face. He waited for her to tuck it behind her ear. When she didn't, choosing instead to just smile at him, it both warmed and frustrated him. His fingers twitched as he tamped unusual urge to push it away from her wine-softened eyes. Friends don't do that, he reasoned silently.

"Well, thank you for inviting me out and indulging my desires to drink too much wine and seeing me home."

Danny half-smiled. "You're welcome on all accounts. Thanks for saying 'fuck Lang.' It's nice hearing it from someone other than myself every once in a while. "

Mindy nodded, then placed both of her hands on his upper arm. "You and I are going to be friends, Castellano. Deal with it." She leaned in and gave him a quick peck on his cheek. "Good night, grumpy."

"Good night, weirdo."

Danny hung back and watched her trudge up the steps and key into her building with only a hint of a wobble. She gave him a quick parting wave and disappeared behind the doors. When he realized that something in him wanted her to come back outside and hang out with him for just a little longer, he rolled his eyes and groaned. "Shit."

Turning on his heels, he headed towards the direction of his building and began his very slow, dazed trek. This, as far as he was concerned, was the worst possible outcome. It was easier to deal with the prospect of hating her. He had no idea how to begin to build immunity against her dazzling smile, or alleviate the lead-like feeling in the pit of his stomach whenever she took a moment to encourage him. This was sudden and unwelcome…and as much as he wanted to blame this new development on the three beers he'd consumed, it rang totally false even in his own head.

"You're not supposed to like her, idiot," he chastised himself while slowly approaching the street lamp outside of his building. "Jesus, and after she made a big deal about becoming friends? Nice one, Castellano."

Danny's berating was interrupted by the sharp vibration of his phone in his back pocket. It only ever rang late at night for work emergencies. He quickly pulled it out, praying that it was nothing that required him to be sober and at the station. He relaxed when the display flashed "Best Partner Ever."

"How the hell did she get a hold of my phone?" he asked himself with a small smile. He opened the message at once.

I need to know which beer is your favorite.

If you don't tell me, I'm just going to buy the most stereotypically American beer I can find and you'll have to suffer through the whole pack on Tuesday night. Because you ARE coming. G'night!

There was no stopping it. A barking laugh escaped from his lips and into the night air. Smiling, he shoved the phone back into his pocket and took the final steps needed to reach his building entrance. He would make the effort to fight against this wildly unrealistic, extremely inconvenient crush on his partner. For tonight and tonight only, he would allow himself to think of the excited squeak in her voice and how her hair glistened in the moonlight.

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