Nico and Dani faced off against one another in the kitchen, both daring the other to make the first move, as usual Dani cracked first.
"What are you doing Nico?" Dani asked arms crossed across her chest.
"Explain that?" Nico quipped. That's it make her do the explaining. Close yourself off. Be who you used to be. Who you still are to the outside world.
"Why are you pushing me out?" Dani said. He won't break me. I see what he's doing. He's reverting to the vague, illusive Nico. Well too bad, because that one is predictable.
"I am not 'pushing you out' as you say because you were never 'in'" Nico responds. That's it, be harsh.
Dani squints but otherwise doesn't react.
"And I'm supposed to buy into that idea standing in the middle of your kitchen?" Dani replies. Because this is as 'in' as it gets.
"It was necessary at the time. I trust you, but it doesn't mean I want you in my life all the time." Nico says. That's a long shot. Hope it doesn't show how much that one hurt to say. But she is more important. Her safety is more important than my feelings.
"Wow, you're a really bad liar. You should stick to the truth and your gray areas." Dani tells him. I can read him like a book.
"I don't lie, Dani. You know that." Nico looks Dani in the eye. I'm just stretching the truth, really really far. But I will use that one time when I don't want her around to my advantage right now. It is the one thing separating it from a lie.
"You may not outright lie but your eyes betray your thoughts when you are unhappy with what you have to say or do. Just as they were when you made that statement." Dani tells him stepping closer and pointing a finger at him.
"I don't know what you're talking about" Nico blinks back. What is she talking about? I show my emotions in my eyes? I really hope that is just with her because if not I really need to work on that…
"Of course not" Dani smirks. Now I know I've got him. He is right back at square one.
"What do you want Dani?" Nico asks, stepping into her personal space. She doesn't back down.
"You" Dani replies easily, looking up into his face.
Wow she is really short without her shoes! How could I not have noticed! Focus Careles, push her away.
"You can't have me; you can't be a part of my life" Nico lashes out, stepping back, since clearly intimidation isn't going to work. But honestly, when has it ever on Dani? I should have known better.
"Since when" Dani replies, leaning against the fridge as he leans against the counter, about a foot apart from one another. He really is going to be an jerk about this!
Nico looks at Dani's "I never give up on a fight" glare and just decides to tell her the truth. I owe her that much. This is getting ridiculous.
"Since it gets you hurt" Nico whispers.
"So that's what this is all about" Dani smiles slightly and uncrosses her arms sliding her hands into her pockets.
"What do you mean?" Nico says mirroring Dani's actions.
"You retracted after you saw my back. You think I should walk out that door because I'm injured and that somehow you think it is your fault." Dani says. When did I get to be able to talk to him so easily? So openly?
"But it is, had it not been from me you would never have been shot" Nico looks directly into Dani's eyes willing her to understand. It is my fault…
"Had it not been for you I'd be dead" Dani looks back at Nico undeterred. Why do you always see yourself as the bad guy?
"Dani…" Nico starts, turning away from her, placing his hands on the counter, back in Dani's direction. Why can't she understand? If it weren't for me she never would have been in that situation, she never would have come close to dying…
"Get a grip Nico, the world does not revolve around you" Dani snaps out. He just doesn't get it! Why are men so frustrating! Why is this particular man so frustrating!
"Dani…" Nico says again, hanging and shaking his head. Why can't she understand! Why does she refuse to understand! Why are women so emotional! Why do they get so attached!
"No Nico, just think about the fact that for one second bad things happen in the world of which you are no part, that bad things happen to those around you that are not your fault. No stop being such a self-centered ass and realize that you do not control the world or all those in it!" Dani throws out at Nico's back.
"Dani…" Nico says again.
But more bad things happen to those around me. This is why it is safer if people don't know me. Don't get close to me.
"I'm not done. I told you earlier Nico that I was in for the long haul. Through thick and thin I would be here, and that includes battling you when you are being pig-headed and stubborn. I love you and I'm not going anywhere, no matter what you say." Dani says coming up to the other side of the counter so that she can face him again, regardless of whether his head is down or not.
"Dani…" Nico lifts his head and lets her see his tortured gaze.
"Don't try and talk me out of it Nico. You know me better than anyone except probably Jeanette, so just accept the fact that this falls into the category of 'the good fight' and surrender." Dani pleads. Just give in Nico. Give into the idea of us.
"Dani…oh do I actually get to speak now?" Nico looks at her, trying to lighten the mood somewhat after her declaration.
"Very funny" Dani quips, looking at him expectantly.
"My world, and my life is dangerous, that is not the place for you. I want to protect you from the unspeakable horrors I have lived through and will continue to face. I want you as far away from that as possible." Nico says carefully. I love you but I want you far away from that and if the way to do that is to push you away then I'll do it.
"Well protecting me is going to be kind of hard from a distance …" Dani levels back. Good one Santino.
Nico inwardly smiles. As always a good point. Very nice Dani.
"You know full well what I mean" Nico says, putting a sigh into his voice. There that sounded good. Make her think she is annoying me.
"Do I?" Dani quips back. Make him work for it. Don't let him off easily.
"Yes. And Dani as much as I care for you and trust you, it doesn't mean we need to have a relationship to continue that level of friendship." Nico says back earnestly. Are we ever going to get through this conversation? It's killing me! Friendship? What am I? An idiot?
"I believe you are forgetting something Mr. Careles" Dani smiles through her words.
"And what is that?" Nico asks, somewhat hesitantly. Why is she smiling? What does she think she has?
"You love me" Dani says, giving Nico a full-blown smile.
Oh shit. She had to through that one in.
"I do, but it's not enough" Nico says through gritted teeth, warring with himself. It most certainly is enough you idiot! But then she won't be safe!
"Yes it is, 'love conquers all'" Dani says still smiling. I'm getting closer. He can't hold out much longer. I can see his control slipping.
"Not this time" Nico spits back. I'm not gonna make it.
"Especially this time" Dani says reaching out to touch Nico's face.
As her fingers make contact and what remained of Nico's resolve fell away. He leaned into her touch and he knew she'd won. She knew she'd won.
"But how can you want this? Want me?" Nico asked pressing his palm over her hand to the side of his face as he looked at her.
How can she know what havoc my presence will wreak in her life and want that?
"Because I love you" Dani said.
She made it sound so simple, so pure. She was so naïve.
"Still?" Nico asked. She still loves me, even after I tried to push her out the door?
"Yes, you idiot. What when the going get rough I'm supposed to run?" Dani laughed. Sometimes he can be really dense!
"Well yeah" Nico smiled a ghost of a smile realizing how ridiculous it sounded.
"Because that sounds so much like me" Dani smiled, pulling her hand away only to offer it to him and pull him around the island counter so they could be without it in-between them.
She saw the momentary panic on his face at her brief rejection only to be replaced by relief when she had pulled him over to her side. He really is insecure.
"Dani…" Nico whispered, holding both her hands, but looking at them rather than her face.
"Nico just get over it. I love you and I'm here to stay." Dani said.
Nico's head snapped up. Did she just say…
"Here here?" Nico asked, surprised.
"If you'll have me" Dani smiled back, clearly enjoying his shock.
"You want to move in with me?" Nico asked. That is…is…really out of the blue…
"For the moment just spend time here. But you'll need to decide that we can actually have that relationship first" Dani looked at Nico expectantly.
Can I do it? Can I risk it all for her? For us?
"Dani…" Nico started, looking at their hands again.
"Nico its black and white" Dani said, exasperated.
But did she understand what this entailed? What she was getting herself into?
"Dani…" Nico started again.
"Just make the choice, the choice I know you want to make" Dani said, squeezing his hands.
The choice I want is to hold you and love you and keep you safe. But I am not stupid enough to think I can have all three. So what do I choose?
"Dani…" Nico started a third time.
"Nico!" Dani shouted.
Nico's head snapped up "I love you" he said.
"I love you too" Dani said smiling.
Love does truly conquer all. Well at least what we have faced so far…
All is fair in love and war. And the war is yet to come…