All day long he had felt nervous flutterings in his stomach, but now that the moment was finally here... Danny felt completely calm. It was as though a veil of serenity had draped itself over him and nothing bad could touch him.
Marshal had shown up earlier than usual tonight so there would still be some time before dinner. They were sitting out on the back patio with a bowl of dark purple grapes between them. Olivia would have one of the maids call them in when it was time to eat.
"That sunset is amazing," Marshal said, popping a grape in his mouth. "You have a truly great view here of the mountains and the pond. It looks like something out of a painting. Picturesque."
"Yeah," Danny said. "Artie helped me pick out the land. He was really choosy too. I think there were several realtors that he just completely managed to destroy." Danny had been mildly horrified of the monster he had unleashed, but the results were magnificent enough that he'd swallowed any complaints.
"Well, he helped you make a good choice." Danny didn't know whether to be amused or disgusted by Marshal's habit of talking while eating. On one hand it was gross, but on the other it was Marshal doing it.
Being able to ignore even the disgusting parts of Marshal told Danny that it must have been some kind of love. He wanted to see how far they could take it.
"Would you like to be able to see the view every day or even whenever you want?" he asked.
Marshal gave him a raised brow look. "What do you mean?" he asked.
Danny jerked his chin up and looked directly into Marshal's eyes. He fought off his every instinct. "I'm asking if you would please move in with me?"
There was a long moment where Marshal didn't do anything and Danny started to feel nervous, then Marshal flashed him the brightest grin he'd ever gotten. "Yes!" He blinked at his own vehemence, but never lost his grin. "I would be glad to move in with you," he said more normally.
Danny felt his cheeks getting hot and finally had to glance down and away from Marshal's eyes. He was just glad he'd held out that long. He'd proved how much Marshal meant to him. "Good. I can have some movers over to your place whenever you're ready."
"Whoa, wait." Marshal held up his hand. "Like actual 'movers' movers?"
Danny nodded. "Of course."
"So I'm not going to have to drive my raggedy boxes over myself in the backseat of my car? Other people will come and do it all for me?" Marshal sounded delighted. "That's wonderful."
He was so goofy in his giddiness that Danny couldn't resist chuckling. Marshal had managed to bring laughter and joy back into his life. He hadn't felt this generally pleased with the world since before his parents had died.
"I'm glad you're so appreciative of the idea of movers doing all the work for you," Danny said.
"I don't think I'll have them pack my things for me," Marshal said musingly. "There might be classified documents stashed around my apartment. I'll just have them be the ones to to do all the heavy lifting while I sip lemonade and read a fashion magazine."
"You sound like you've planned this all out," Danny said. "Should I warn them in advance?"
Marshal snorted. "Don't do that. You'll suck all the fun out of my first opportunity to pretend that I'm Richie Rich." He picked up a grape in each hand and made like they were kissing or something; Danny wasn't sure what he was enacting and didn't want to ask. "I should borrow a dog and spray paint a dollar sign on his side."
Danny rolled his eyes. "And who am I supposed to be in your little psychodrama?"
"You're my Gloria Glad." Marshal smiled, pleased with himself.
"Yeah, no." Danny snorted amusedly. "I'll be Richie Rich and you can be Gloria who I've generously moved out of the orphanage and into my mansion."
"Ooh, are you going to come up with outfits for us so we can cosplay?" Marshal teased.
"I think I have a red sweater somewhere." Danny tried to sound smooth, though all the flirting was making him blush all the way down the front of his chest. Even the tips of his ears throbbed with heat.
He felt giddy and his lips quirked up at the corners all on their own.
*. *. *
With Danny all flushed and flirty in front of him, Marshal had to fight back the impulse to lean forward and taste those laughing lips.
His mind was caught on the idea that he was going to be living with Danny. It was sudden, but he hadn't hesitated to say yes.
The thought that he was going to be able to see Danny every day made him want to sing stupid songs and dance around like someone trapped in a musical. It felt like things were moving forward and in a good direction.
He followed Danny inside with a deep chuckle as they went into the game room to play with Legos.
Some people might have thought their dates were too tame, but Marshal was happy. It was amazing to know that Danny had invited him into his world. There was a quiet contentment growing inside him.
He hadn't been so happy since he was a kid staying with his grandparents. Before the outside world became something real and terrifying. Because there are just some things he wouldn't be allowed to have.
"Are you not happy?" Danny asked. "If I pressured you too much, you can just tell me and I won't be upset."
Marshal looked at him in surprise and saw the way he was nervously sticking bricks together, pretending that his hands weren't shaking.
Marshal felt such a wave of tenderness that he reached out and caught Danny's hand in his own, squeezing gently. "I'm happy being here with you," he said firmly. "There's nowhere else in the world I would rather be. The idea of living with you-seeing you every single day-it's something I want more than anything."
Danny shot him a glance from beneath his lashes, just a quick flash of blue eyes. His cheeks went pink and a smile tugged at the corners of his lips. "Okay," he said.
Marshal scooped a handful of Lego bricks out of the nearest bin and began snapping them together. It was soothing to create something with his own hands.
"Joanna and I got a new case at work," he said. "Another disappearance. It made me worry about you."
"About me? Why?"
"Because the thought of losing you somehow makes me afraid." Marshal raked a hand through his hair. "I don't know what I would do if you disappeared someday with no warning and no clue about where you went."
He glanced at Danny with a depreciating smile. "I've fallen in love with you, you know."
For a second he was actually afraid that he had made Danny cry. Then there were arms wrapped around him and he was pulled into a gloriously tight hug. He could feel the sharp point of Danny's chin dig into the top of his shoulder and more than anything he never wanted to let go.
He forced himself to drop his arms when Danny pulled away. Being all clingy would win him nothing and possibly lose him everything.
"You give good hugs," Marshal said.
Danny smiled and lowered his eyes to his lap. "I try."
There was just something so remarkable about Danny. Remarkable and stronger than anyone would expect.
"It will be nice being able to see you all the time," Marshal said. He could tell by the tilt of Danny's lips that Marshal's words had made him happy.
"Why don't you break out the schematic and I'll help you put this thing together," Marshal said. "You know, if you want my help."
Danny smiled at him. "Of course you can help. And maybe the next city can be one that we build together."
"I would like that," Marshal said.
Life was good. He didn't think that anything could take this feeling away.
*. *. *
For such a large mansion, the security was ridiculously slack. There wasn't even a large fence for him to jump, just a vast expanse of neatly cut grass leading up to the house.
He was almost disappointed.
There was roving security, but they walked in clumps of two and three and their voices were loud enough to warn him through safely. Even the camera placements were ridiculously obvious.
It made him wonder who wanted to see dear Daniel Worth dead. It had to be someone in his personal security, maybe even the head. There was no way he should have been able to get onto the property, much less walk right up to the house in the middle of the night. Someone should have tried to stop him, but it didn't happen.
There was something delightful about being able to drift around inside the house, peering into rooms and touching things with his gloved fingers. He could do anything he wanted and there was no one around to stop him.
He could do anything he wanted, and the fact that he didn't do anything on this visit… that was his power. His control.
And to peek in on Daniel Worth and see him curled up on the king-sized bed with FBI Agent Marshal Newman… it made his palms itch. He could practically feel the blade slipping through tender flesh. There was the ghostly feeling of hot blood splashing against his face.
He stood there for a long moment, holding his own breath so that the only sound he could hear was the two men on the bed breathing in sync. Marshal took deeper breaths while Daniel made an occasional murmuring-hum deep in his throat. They were peaceful together, their hands tangled together on top of the coverlet in the slight space between them.
He watched them for a long moment, then he turned away and walked down the hallway back the way he had come.
Soon, he thought. I'll come back for you soon.
*. *. *
Having professional movers pack up his apartment and haul everything across town was the kind of luxury Marshal had never thought about. He'd always handled things himself, so he'd never quite realized how easy it could all be.
Men showed up, his things disappeared into boxes, and that was it. He met the moving truck at Danny's house and watched as his possessions were unloaded onto the lawn into organized groups of boxes before being carried inside.
"Come on, I want to show you something," Danny said, taking Marshal's hand.
Marshal let himself be tugged up the stairs to a bedroom down the hall from Danny's own. It looked as though the decorator had just finished setting it up and now it was just waiting for the personal touches of its new occupant.
"What's this?" he asked.
"This is your room," Danny said, sitting on the edge of the bed.
"What? Wait. I thought we were going to…" Marshal pressed his lips together and looked at Danny. He didn't want to bring pressure on Danny, but he'd really thought they were going to be living together, not just sharing space in this monstrous house.
Danny smiled and shook his head. "I should have said something earlier, I'm sorry." He patted the bed with his hand. "This is your room, but you don't have to stay in here."
"What do you mean?" Marshal asked.
Danny shrugged. "Everyone needs their own space, and this is yours. This way you have somewhere to go in case you ever want to get away from me."
Marshal smiled and took Danny's hand in his own. "I can't see a time when I wouldn't want to keep you close."
"I can't believe you just said that," Danny said with a chuckling huff. "You're like a greeting card."
"I'm you're greeting card," Marshal said with a nod. He dropped his eyelids sleepily and put on his most over the top ingratiating smile. "You can read me any time you like, baby."
Danny blinked at him twice, his lips tugging down at the corners enough that Marshal was starting to get worried, then he burst into loud, delighted laughter. His mouth spread wide and a little open, showing off his white teeth when he tipped his head back. His eyes squeezed tight closed and his shoulders shook with delight. He was suddenly vividly alive.
Marshal stared at him. He had never heard that laugh before or seen that open expression. He wanted to wrap Danny's happiness around himself and soak it in through his skin, his whole body. He wanted to always feel like this when he looked at Danny.
"I'm going to have to make you laugh more," he said when Danny had quieted, but was still smiling.
"What?" Danny asked. The red tinge across his cheeks and on the tips of his ears meant he'd heard perfectly fine.
"Nothing," Marshal said. "I was just basking in your presence, that's all."
Danny blushed and Marshal tried to hide his delight.
"You're ridiculous," Danny said. He hopped to his feet and pulled Marshal's hand. "Come on, let's go spread your things around the house. I want you to feel completely comfortable."
Marshal thought about the largeness of the house and the expensive furnishings, and huffed through his nose. But Danny was looking at him expectantly and there wasn't a single trace of irony or meanness anywhere. Danny really was that impossibly straightforward.
"Yeah, let's spread my stuff around," Marshal said, "then we can eat."
"You're always hungry," Danny teased.
"I told you, I'm in love with your cook." Marshal squeezed Danny's hand. "If you ever dump me, I'm going to ask her to run away with me."
Danny slanted him an amused glance, the corners of his lips curling up. "I don't know who you think you are, but Olivia loves me dearly. She'd be more likely to run away with me than with you."
Marshal clasped his free hand to his chest with a gasp. "Then I would have two broken hearts. I would have to buy a small cottage in the country and fill it with cats to keep from wasting away with the loneliness."
"I don't even know where you get any of this," Danny said, rolling his eyes. He released Marshal's hands when they reached the boxes neatly stacked in the hallway. He didn't hesitate to rip the tape off a large box.
Marshal started opening another box, but he was mostly gazing at Danny, watching his every move.
I would spend the rest of my life acting silly and making you laugh, Marshal thought. Then he chuckled to himself. I am so far gone on him. Danny.
People had fallen in love with him before and there had been several times when he'd thought he'd felt the same, but what he felt for Danny… Marshal had never been in love before.
But he was in love now.