One Night Only by Samj Chapter 9

Republisher’s Note: Even among Manny fans there are some pro-Carmen people who feel that later stories and retcons were really unfair to the character. This is more what a Carmen who had NOT killed Miguel would be like. I think you’ll enjoy it.

One Night Only by Samj Chapter 9

Several hours later….

“No, no, no,” Danny repeated, his voice rising in desperation as he thrashed violently in his sleep. “NO!” he screamed hoarsely, sitting up in the bed and opening his eyes wide.

“Daniel, sweetheart, it’s okay,” Carmen assured him, trying to force him back against the pillows. He struggled against her for a moment, still caught up in his nightmare, then collapsed in exhaustion.

“I’m sorry,” he gasped between shallow breaths, “I…it just seemed so real.”

“I know, mijo, I know,” she soothed, pushing back the sweaty curls from his forehead with one hand and ringing the doctor’s call button with the other. “But you’re safe now, in the hospital, and you’re going to be just fine.”

He pulled her hand away from his face, annoyed by the babying. “What did the doctors say?” he asked seriously.

“That you’re extremely lucky,” she answered, a slight look of disappointment crossing her face at his rejection.”If the bullet had been just a few inches higher, you could’ve died,” her voice cracked with emotion, “instantly.” A silent tear streamed down her face, but she collected herself as best she could and finished, “Fortunately for you, the main concern was how much blood you lost before anyone found you.”

“So how long before I can get out of here?” Danny asked, stubbornly refusing to acknowledge the severity of the situation.

Carmen laughed in spite of herself, remembering that same impatient question from a seven- year-old Danny following an emergency appendectomy. “We’ll have to see what the doctor says about that,” was all she would commit to.

“Sure,” Danny agreed flatly, hating the idea of being stuck in the hospital.

“In the meantime, Daniel, I need to know exactly what happened,” Carmen told him. “This obviously wasn’t a hit – or you’d be dead. It was a warning, and we need to send a response before whoever it was gets more ambitious.”

“I’ll take care of it, Mama,” Danny informed her, trying to sit up more fully in the bed.

“Daniel, you’re in no position to “take care of” this,” Carmen argued. “You’re in the hospital, you just had surgery, you….” She waved her hand over him, indicating that his inability to sit up only strengthened her argument.

“Mama, Chicago is my territory, correct?” Danny asked evenly.

“Yes, Danny, of course, but….”

He interrupted before she could complete her sentence. “Then I decide what happens in Chicago, correct?”

“Yes, Danny, that was our agreement,” Carmen conceded.

“Good,” he said conversationally, “then it’s settled.”

“No, it isn’t settled, Danny. You’re my son, and I love you.” Her voice took on a steely edge as she vowed, “I’m going to find the person who’s responsible for this and make them pay for it.”

“Even if it’s Bernard who’s responsible?” Danny challenged, his eyes boring into hers.

Carmen returned his glare without flinching. “It isn’t,” she stated firmly.

“Do you know that for sure?” Danny pushed, his dislike for his mother’s husband driving him to make the accusation.

“Absolutely,” she answered without hesitation. “He knows how much I love my children, he would never hurt any of you.”

“Maybe his great love for you,'” his voice dripped with disgust, “would stop him from killing me, but you said yourself that this was only a warning.

Carmen sat back in the chair and crossed her arms over her chest, her posture the same as it had been during the numerous lessons on running on the family Danny had endured as a teenager. “Fine, let’s think this through for a minute,” she offered. “What exactly do you think Bernard was warning you against?”

My deal with Nino, Danny thought immediately, knowing that he couldn’t possibly confide in his mother or expect her to understand. And there certainly wasn’t any reason to expose himself to her wrath before he determined whether Bernard even knew – there certainly hadn’t been any evidence of such a week ago.

Carmen cleared her throat as a prompt for Danny to respond.

“Maybe he just wanted to show me who’s in charge,” Danny threw out almost flippantly. “Or to remind me of what happened to my father when he was in power.”

“Daniel,” Carmen sighed, “when will you stop blaming Bernard for your father’s death? I swear on my own life that Bernard didn’t kill your father.”

“I know you believe that,” Danny conceded, “but there’s no way you can know it…unless you know for a fact who killed Papa.”

Carmen’s eyes grew wide in shock and disbelief. “How can you even suggest…?” she sputtered.

Just then Danny’s surgeon walked briskly into the room and, without looking up from the chart in his hand, remarked, “I see you’re awake.”

“Is that a medical diagnosis?” Danny asked sarcastically.

“Uh-huh,” he agreed good-naturedly. “I’m Dr. Roberts, and I performed your surgery. You’re a very lucky guy.”

“Yeah, Mama was just saying the same thing,” Danny agreed absently, looking with concern at Carmen, who was fighting back tears at her son’s accusations. “Mama,” he said softly, holding out his hand for her to take. “Mama,” he repeated more emphatically when she remained where she was standing, having vacated the chair to give the surgeon room.

“Yes, Daniel?” she asked contritely, still visibly shaken by his harsh words.

“I’m sorry, Mama,” he apologized. “I didn’t mean what I said. I, uh, I’m just tired, you know, and, uh, I’m probably on some serious pain-killers right now, so…I’m just not thinking clearly. Will you forgive me?”

Carmen nodded slightly, relief flooding her features. “Of course, Danny. Of course.”

“I hate to interrupt such a beautiful moment,” Dr. Roberts broke in, “but I really do need to check out the patient here.” He turned from Danny to Carmen. “Mrs. Santos, would you mind waiting outside?”

Carmen hesitated for a second, but reluctantly agreed. “I’ll go get some coffee,” she decided, walking purposefully toward the door. “Dr. Roberts, I’ll expect a full report when I return.”

As soon as the door swung closed behind her, Carmen gestured to the shadowy figure waiting in the hall. “Dietz,” she barked, “we need to get to the bottom of this. NOW!”
~~~~~~~~~~
A few hours later….

Danny’s dreams were a jumbled mess of images – one minute he was holding Michelle in his arms, the next he was arguing with Nino; one minute Michelle’s laughter filled his ears, the next all he could hear was gunfire. Finally he managed to drag himself back into consciousness, surprised to find himself alone in a darkened hospital room.

“Michelle,” he muttered to himself. “I need to see her, I need to explain….”

Explain what? That you didn’t come back when you said you would because you had a mob meet?

He picked up the phone beside the bed and started to dial the number of the hotel suite where he’d left her. “I can’t do this over the phone,” he realized, returning the receiver to its cradle. “I need to see her. But how?”

Danny ran through his options – Carmen? That would bring certain…complications. Ray? That would completely embarrass Michelle, but unfortunately embarrassment was probably unavoidable at this point. He squirmed his way into a sitting position so that he could reach for the call button.

“Can I help you with something?” Teresa asked sweetly as she walked into Danny’s room.

Danny slumped back against the pillows and let out an exasperated sigh. “You can skip the concerned step-sister act Teresa,” he drawled. “Especially since your father’s probably the person who put me here,” he spat.

“Relax, Danny,” Teresa replied, flopping down in the chair beside the bed. “My father isn’t responsible for this.” She locked eyes with Danny and lowered her voice before adding, “And neither is Nino.”

Danny’s eyes widened in surprise. “What kind of game are you playing now Teresa?” he growled.

“We thought it would be less suspicious if I came to see you,” Teresa explained. “You know, considering that I’m family and everything.”

“We?” Danny prompted, struggling to understand what Teresa was saying.

“Nino and I have been together almost a year now,” Teresa confessed, and for the first time that Danny could remember, she actually blushed. “I love him, Danny.”

Danny met her declaration with sarcasm. “Well congratulations, Teresa, I hope the two of you are very happy together.” Under his breath he added, “you certainly deserve each other.”

“Yes, Danny, we do deserve each other,” Teresa nearly shouted, her anger flaring. “We understand each other. We want the same things.”

“Power,” Danny suggested with disdain. “But why come to me in the first place? Why not just go to your father?” he questioned, his brain still several steps behind the conversation.

“Come on, Danny, be realistic. I may be daddy’s little girl,’ but that’s meaningless for the business and you know it.”

“Yeah,” Danny chuckled, “I guess the mob hasn’t been terribly supportive of the women’s movement.”

“And besides,” Teresa pouted, “Daddy’s hated Nino ever since that fiasco with Jimmy Montoya.”

Danny suppressed a smile at Teresa’s description of the incident. “I don’t think anyone’sgoing to forget about that anytime soon,” he sympathized. “But you’ve still got a problem Teresa – you’re not going to be able to hide this deal from your father forever. What are you planning to do when he calls a meeting and you end up sitting across the table from him?”

Teresa pulled her hair into a ponytail and let it go again. “Oh Danny, you really do care,” she crooned. “Seriously, though, I can handle it. He’ll understand,” she affirmed. “And if he doesn’t,” she took a deep breath, “it won’t matter- he’ll have to respect me, respect both of us, whether he likes it or not.”

“Is that really gonna be enough,” he challenged, “your father’s respect without his love?”

“Yes,” she answered emphatically. “But what about you, Danny? Huh? You’re going to be in an even worse spot…with my father and your mother.”

Danny’s face showed no emotion as he warned, “That’s for me to worry about, Teresa, not you.”

“Okay, then we’re on the same page here,” Teresa declared, standing and giving Danny a quick kiss on the cheek. “I’ll be in touch soon.”

Danny watched her walk across the room, then offered sincerely, “I hope Nino’s okay.”

“I’ll take good care of him Danny,” Teresa promised with a wink, “don’t you worry.”
~~~~~~~~~~
Two hours later, in another part of the hospital….

Michelle tossed and turned on the tiny cot, but sleep wouldn’t come. Her mind tried desperately to reconcile what she knew about Danny from their “encounters” with what she’d learned about him from Father Ray.

Tossing the blanket aside, she sat up and pressed her fists into her eyes, trying to stop the images that were bombarding her. “This can’t be happening,” she repeated over and over, shaking her head. “A mobster,” she whispered, the word catching in her throat. “A mobster.”

That same refrain had been playing in her head throughout the day, no matter how many patients she had seen or how much paperwork she had filled out. And goodness knew she’d done everything in her power to bury herself in her work. Finally her supervisor had noticed her fatigue and had sent her to rest for a while.

But sleep wouldn’t come. Instead her memory dredged up everything she’d ever heard about the Santos family, both in Springfield and in Chicago, and everything she’d ever heard about the Sandoval family as well. Murder, extortion, smuggling…the list seemed endless. And Danny was a part of it. The heir to the throne according to most reports. She kept picturing the newspaper photo taken after his father’s funeral, and she just couldn’t comprehend how that sweet, innocent boy was now the head of a mob family.

Security. I’m in security. She laughed without humor as his false confession rang in her ears. Perhaps that was the most disturbing fact of all – he lied to me.

But what had she really expected? He hadn’t owed her any explanations, any details.

And yet there was something about him, something she couldn’t put her finger on, that had made her trust him anyway. That had been a mistake – a potentially deadly mistake in this case – and one which she wouldn’t make again. From now on her trust would have to be earned.

Right now, however, all she wanted was to escape this merry-go-round of disturbing facts and realities and to feel safe in sleep.

This isn’t something you can just escape from,’ her conscience admonished. You can’t run forever.

I’m not running, she countered defensively. I can’t…I can’t talk to him until I sort this out, until I know what all of this means for me.

You already told him you couldn’t see him again. This couldn’t possibly have changed your mind!

Of course not, Michelle answered immediately. But he was shot, you know, and the last thing he needs….

You’re making excuses and you know it.

“Fine,” Michelle said out loud, swinging her feet onto the floor and slipping them into her shoes. “I’ll go find out if he’s awake, and if he is I’ll talk to him.” She made her way carefully through the darkened room, shrugging on her coat as she walked. She prayed for the strength to let go of Danny, to overcome her compassion for his pain.
~~~~~~~~~~
Danny’s conversation with Teresa had left him more exhausted than he’d realized, and he’d fallen asleep immediately afterwards, only to be poked and prodded several times by overzealous nurses who all claimed to be “just doing their jobs.”

When Danny heard his door open yet again, he reluctantly opened one eye just long enough to observe a figure in a white lab coat walk through the door. “If you even think you’re gonna stick me with another needle,” he mumbled, hovering on the fringes of sleep, “I can assure you I’ll bring new meaning to the phrase this’ll hurt me more than it hurts you.'”

Michelle couldn’t suppress a giggle at his remark. “Who would’ve thought that you of all people would be scared of a little needle?” she asked playfully.

“Michelle,” he breathed, “is it really you?” His dreams were so vivid he couldn’t be quite sure that he was even awake.

“Yeah, it’s me,” she assured him, stopping to look at his chartand then placing it back in the holder at the foot of the bed. “It looks like you’re going to be just fine,” she informed him, flashing him her standard patient smile. Thank God, she thought to herself. “So how are they treating you? Other than the needles, of course.”

“Michelle, I have to explain….” he began, having no real idea how he was going to do that.

“No, you don’t,” she stopped him. “Ray already explained…about who you really are,” he flinched visibly at her chose of words, but she continued on, “and what you really do. It’s okay.”

“It is?” he asked in disbelief, now certain that he must be dreaming.

“Yeah, it is,” she affirmed, standing beside him instead of at the foot of the bed. “All that matters right now is that you rest and take care of yourself so that you’ll get better.”

“I didn’t want to lie to you, you know,” he offered lamely.

“I know,” she agreed, her voice trembling slightly. “And I understand why you did it. I mean,” she gave a short exhalation of breath, “if you had told me when we met that you were the head of a mob family, I definitely would’ve left you standing on the sidewalk.”

“It wasn’t just because I wanted to take you to bed,” he protested, reaching for her hand.

She couldn’t resist the physical contact. “Shh, Danny, I told you it’s okay.”

“I was so afraid you’d leave me when you found out about my family’s business,” he confided, lightly kissing her fingertips.

“Listen to me for a minute,” she said firmly, raising his chin so that he was looking up into her eyes. “I am not leaving you because of your family business. All right?”

“No?” he asked, needing further confirmation.

“No,” she confirmed.

For a moment Danny’s entire body relaxed, but when he saw the tears forming in her eyes a warning bell went off in his head. He proceeded with caution, suddenly wary. “Wait a minute, Michelle, what does that mean?”

She pulled her hand away and ran it through her tangled curls. “I wrote you a letter, before I left the hotel. It explains – well, it doesn’t really explain anything, but it does say that I can’t see you anymore.” Danny’s face fell. “So my leaving you has nothing to do with the family business. I promise.”

“Michelle, wait, no, you can’t…” he tripped over his own words in his haste to persuade her. He tried frantically to pull himself into a sitting position, but she stopped him and helped him to lay back down.

“Shh,” she soothed, “Danny you have to calm down, it’s very important that you stay calm.” I knew I shouldn’t have come, she thought. This is too much stress, and it’s the last thing he needs right now.

Would false hope have been better? her conscience challenged.

When he was finally calm she continued, “I have a confession to make. You were right, that morning we ran into each other here in the hallway.”

Danny shook his head in confusion, trying to remember exactly what he had said.

“You accused me’ of never having done that before – of never having had a ‘chance encounter’ like that.” She took a deep breath and admitted boldly, “You were right, you were my first one-night stand.”

Danny couldn’t find the connection: you were my first one-night stand, therefore I can’t ever see you again? “What does…?”

She plowed ahead, afraid of losing her momentum and her nerve. “I’d never done anything like that before. I wasn’t even sure that I could. But…from the minute I saw you, the minute you touched me, I just, I wanted you.” She paused, her face a bright scarlet, and then her words came out in an even bigger rush. “It was almost like I wasn’t even me anymore, but it didn’t matter because all I could feel was the electricity coursing through my body, all I could think was that I wanted to be with you.”

“It’s called chemistry, baby,” Danny explained, encouraged by the knowledge that she had felt the same things he had. “That electricity, that raw need, it’s…it’s something good, something to hold onto.” Watching Michelle shake her head in denial he asked, “Isn’t that part of the reason you left Bill? Because that chemistry just wasn’t there?”

Michelle’s mouth dropped open in surprise. How had he known that? She had purposely deleted that part from the story she told at the restaurant. “How…how d-?” she babbled.

“I read between the lines of your story last night,” he replied confidently, an almost cocky grin on his face. “And I saw you with Bill at the cantina, remember – there wasn’t anything special between you, I could tell.”

Michelle looked almost indignant at the assessment. Before she could protest verbally, however, he continued, “Besides, I thought your entire point was that you’d never felt this way before, which is why you’re so scared now.” His voice dropped to a whisper as he finished, “Baby, you don’t have to be scared of what’s between us.”

Michelle turned away, needing to break eye contact so that she could keep her thoughts clear.

“Don’t you understand? Being with you makes me feel out of control, reckless, wild, and that isn’t who I am.” She turned back to face him, a look of resolve on her face. “I can’t afford to lose myself in you. I just can’t.”

“Why not?” he countered. “Where’s it written that you have to be buttoned up and totally under control 24-7?”

“It doesn’t matter anyway,” she reasoned, speaking half to herself, “because you’re still a mobster.”

“Whoa, hey,” he objected, “you can’t…you just said not five minutes ago that it doesn’t matter what my family’s business is.”

“No, it doesn’t,” she agreed, “because I made up my mind even before I found out. But it is another, a different, obstacle between us.” She took a deep breath and forced the words out. “You’re in the mob, Danny. Your family kills people. You…” her voice broke and her courage crumbled. “You kill people,” she whispered, burying her face in her hands.

“Michelle, baby, look at me,” he implored tenderly. “Michelle,” he repeated, growing frustrated. She took her hands away from her face, but stared pointedly at her shoes. “Michelle, do you honestly think that I have people killed?”

“Yes,” she choked out, meeting his eyes with her red-rimmed ones.

For a second Danny looked as though he’d been punched in the stomach, but then the expressionless mask fell over his features. “Then I guess there’s nothing else to say,” he told her flatly, his voice completely devoid of emotion. “You’d better go.”

“I guess so,” she agreed, crossing the room and pausing with her hand on the knob. “Danny,” she said quietly, “I hope you feel better soon.”

“Yeah, thanks,” he replied automatically, closing his eyes in feigned indifference.

Bursting into tears the minute the door closed behind her, Michelle stumbled blindly down the hallway towards the elevators, cursing the cruel twist of fate that had taken Danny Santos away from her.

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