Aftermath: Danny
by Sängerin

From the moment the lights were restored, and he held Sam in his arms as she sobbed, there was only one place the day could end.

There were moments - many of them - when Danny was certain the day would end in a slow death from VX poisoning. He saw Paul Dunbarton at No. 10 growing pale and distracted, sweaty and disoriented. He saw the same thing happen to Harry and refused to see the connections. Then Tom quarantined Harry, and Danny was forced to admit it was real, and it was deadly.

Except it wasn't. They were all damn good actors. Danny was furious at Harry, grinning as though he'd won the lottery and popping the cork on a bottle of champagne. He was furious at the assessors, pouring in through the pods, chatting cheerfully to Ruth, who was the only one in a fit state to talk to anyone. And he was especially furious with the utter git in Edinburgh. To prevent himself from actually hitting out at Harry or the suits from GCHQ, Danny worked off some excess mental energy imagining what he'd do if he ever met that bloke in a back alley some dark night. And then that bloke - John Macleish; the bastard hadn't even really been in Edinburgh! - walked in through the pods, and all Danny could do was turn his head and concentrate on the woman still weeping in his arms.

This was a new side to Sam. She was all wide eyes and innocence when she wanted to be, but even Danny could see the ambition and drive that lay beneath. Puppy-dog eyes were only on the surface.

And only, he suspected, when she thought she was about to die.

But at that moment when Sam had looked up at him and said that she would only have gone on the barge because of him, something clicked. He looked at pretty, fluffy, Scottish Sam in an entirely different way. And from that moment, though they didnít realise it at the time, there was only one place that day would end. In bed.

Sex, for a spy, was a tricky thing. One more weapon in the arsenal; one more chink in the armour. And it wasn't something that you could leave at the office, either. Sex was sex, and it was hard to section it off to one corner of the brain.

Sometimes you had to sleep with someone on an op. Sometimes it was a last option, the one thing that would trigger the required trust for the op to continue. Sometimes you wanted to sleep with someone, but you couldnít. And in either case, and after the situations youíd never considered, you had to come home and face your real life. It was far easier not to have a real life.

It was one of the reasons that he and Helen had never gone anywhere: that and the fact that Helen worshipped the ground Tom walked on. Danny was used to that. Half the girls in Thames House would have been mad with jealousy had they known Helen got to pretend to be Tom's wife. In any case, Danny didnít want the entanglement. He didn't want to come off an op and have to face a girlfriend heíd technically cheated on. It was simpler this way. Pick a girl up, have some fun, and at the end, you go your separate ways. You find out a little about her, and what little she finds out about you is a legend, anyway. If there was one thing Ian Fleming had got right in his books, it was that. It was easier not to keep a romance going for long. Or perhaps to make sure that it wasn't a romance at all. Sex for a spy was a tricky thing. Sometimes it was better that sex was just sex.

Words by which Danny had always been proud to live.

 

They were all in shock. They demonstrated it in different ways, but they were all reacting to their soaring adrenaline levels, the rapid firing of neurons, and the major adjustments their brains had been making over the past twenty-four hours. It was an exercise. It was real. It was deadly, it was the end. It was an exercise.

Each time he let go of Sam he saw the disorientation in her eyes. The steel was gone and the puppy-dog look was real. So when they walked into the George, behind Ruth and Colin and Malcolm, behind Zoe and Harry and all the people from GCHQ who had played parts and observed, Danny still had an arm around Samís shoulder. He led her to a seat and fetched her a drink.

Tom came in behind them, even more silent than usual. He sat at a nearby table and nursed a beer. He barely spoke, even when Harry - annoyingly upbeat about the entire exercise - tried to speak to him. Danny felt obliged to cover, and engaged Harry in conversation about Crystal Palace and Arsenal. Harry didn't really follow football.

Danny wanted to talk about anything but the exercise. Ruth, Colin and Malcolm rejoined their little group, and they ended up talking about the weather. Colin mentioned the booze barge. He'd missed the one he'd planned to go on, but now there was general agreement that it was a good idea. If enough people could get the same day off at once... the conversation drifted into detailed planning. Beside him, Danny felt Sam shrinking further into herself.

Zoe had hidden herself in a dark corner of the pub. The firefighter was with her, and they left together. Zoe raised her hand briefly and waved in Danny's general direction as she slipped out the door. Sam raised her hand to wave back, and Danny saw a wan smile play on Sam's lips.

'And good luck to her,' murmured Sam. When Sam lowered her hand, she placed it on Danny's leg. He hid a splutter and then a grin in his pint.

And suddenly he realised that it had been obvious all along.

Sex was just sex and they were all in shock. And there really was only one place this day was going to end.

 

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