Author’s Note: Of course, by the time just about everyone reads this a completely different thing will have happened on Guiding Light, but heck, this was fun to write (and hopefully will be fun to read) … so enjoy!
Bear in mind, as this is a story, there is actual closure. I don’t expect anything to even resemble a scene like this for months. Oh well, half the fun in loving as soap couple is the journey along the way.
Disclaimers: Guiding Light and the characters of Danny and Michelle belong to CBS, Proctor and Gamble, Paul Rauch and of course, Paul Anthony Stewart and Joie Lenz — who breathe incredible life into them.
Rating: PG-13 for some language and kissing.
I Will By Jennifer Hallmark
Summary: Danny confronts Michelle about her “blindness” and her contact with the F.B.I.
Timeline: This takes place right after Friday, March 5th — the episode where Michelle tried to keep Danny away from the docks to avoid the F.B.I. entrapment.
Danny was quiet, not trusting himself to speak as he stared at Michelle. She looked nervous, twisting her hands — she always did that when she was nervous. She kept glancing away from him and he felt the bitterness swell up inside him again. He was a fool! A fool to have trusted her, even for a moment. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Check your emotions, check your emotions, he repeated to himself … don’t let her get to you. He heard her shift next to him, she was standing closer and he could feel the heat of her filling the air around him. He took a step away and opened his eyes, looking at his ‘wife.’
“We need to go somewhere else,” he looked around him, expecting Dietz or his mother to show up with accusations and threats. Michelle nodded anxiously. “We need to go someplace private,” he continued, “someplace, you know, where we won’t be overheard or be interrupted.” Again, he looked around and Michelle followed his gaze, her anxiety noticeably growing.
“Uhm, Aunt Meta and Abby are probably at my — at my old house, so that wouldn’t be a good place,” she paused and cast her eyes around, trying to think of a more appropriate location. “There’s — no,” she cut herself off, “Drew would be at her place, or,” her voice lowered, “Jesse would probably be there.”
Danny clenched his teeth and let out a quick exhalation of breath, and practically hissed the name, “Jesse.” Michelle looked away, flinching slightly, she bit her bottom lip and then hurriedly offered, “we could go to the park?”
“And anybody walking by could hear us,” Danny countered with.
“Okaay,” she replied, a touch of irritation shading the word, despite her guilt over the situation with the F.B.I. “Oh, my dad has a cabin?”
Danny turned and looked at her, “your dad?”
“Yeah, you never met –” Danny cut her off with a bitter acknowledgement. “I know, he’s the one you were too ashamed to tell about me, so he found out about our wedding after the fact.”
Michelle flushed slightly, but continued, “yeah, well, we can go to the cabin. It will be private. No one will disturb us.”
Danny was silent for a moment, gnawing at his lower lip, finally he nodded his head, “good.” He turned from her and headed to the front door, opening it, he stopped and without looking back at her and added, “you drive.”
“So,” Michelle began as she buckled herself into the driver’s seat.
“No,” Danny cut her off, “no, I can’t — you know, I just can’t do this yet.”
Michelle nodded and started the car up. They drove towards the highway, the silence between them thickening. “Do you want to listen to some music?” She finally asked.
“No,” was his quiet response. Again, she nodded. A few more minutes of strained silence filled the car and then out of the blue, Danny spoke, “how is your vision?”
“What?” Michelle took her eyes off the road and looked at him quickly, “oh, my — yeah,” she looked back to the highway, “much better.” She swallowed and bit her lower lip, “thank you.”
He was silent before responding softly, “I see.” Michelle glanced over at him again, but he was staring straight ahead, his face expressionless. They continued their drive in silence.
Danny walked up behind her on the porch as Michelle began immediately rummaging through the row of potted plants on the ledge. Danny looked around speculatively and offered a bland, “this is nice.”
Michelle stopped her search and turned to him with an anxious smile, “yeah.” When he didn’t respond, she went back to looking through the pots. “The key is in one of — got it!” She showed him the key, but he merely smiled tightly without humor. Opening the door, they both stepped inside and again Danny looked around.
“Nice place you’ve got here. Nice and cozy,” he commented and then looking at her with bitter intensity, he added softly, “I’m sure you and Jesse had,” his voice tightened, “swell times here.”
Michelle turned around and looked at him, throwing her jacket on the table, “no, actually, I never brought Jesse here.”
“Oh, right,” Danny responded, looking around again, his gaze lingering on the bed before glancing quickly away. “The lighthouse was,” he paused and a sarcastic note entered his voice, “your special place.”
Michelle closed her eyes briefly and muttered under her breath, “Not anymore,” remembering the last time she was at the lighthouse with Jesse … and Danny lying in bed. She opened her eyes and Danny was looking intently at her, obviously having heard her sotto voce words. She looked away and twisted her hands, playing with the wedding ring on her finger. When she no longer felt the heat of his gaze upon her, she cautiously glanced at him. He’d removed his jacket and was pulling a couple of chairs out from behind the table. Sitting down in the opposite one, he gestured for the seat nearest to her. “Sit,” he commanded.
She smoothed down her skirt of burnt sienna and gingerly sat across from him. As soon as she was seated, he began to speak. “Okay, I’m gonna ask you some questions and I want an answer — yes or no. And you will be honest with me, Michelle.”
Michelle smiled and put on her ‘sincere’ face, “okay.” Her voice didn’t tremble, but again, her hands were twisting.
Danny took a deep breath and then asked softly, his gaze centered somewhere over her shoulder, “Did you know that my mother suspects you are in league with the F.B.I.?”
Michelle’s mouth opened in a surprised, ‘o,’ and then shakily she began, “I, I –,”
“Yes or no, Michelle,” Danny interrupted.
She closed her mouth, her lips pursed and then she answered tightly, “No.”
“You didn’t?” Her husband asked with disbelief shading his tone.
She smiled a winter’s smile and answered more firmly, “No.”
Danny nodded. “Did you know that the information about the smuggling of the Cuban cigars was a test?”
Michelle glanced away from him, shocked surprise lighting her features, quietly she answered, “No.”
Just as quietly, Danny asked his next question, “Did you know that you failed?” Michelle looked down, her eyes locked upon her hands resting uneasily in her lap. She took a breath, feeling slightly sick and blinked back tears. With her head bent, she answered him softly, so softly he could barely hear her, “No.”
Danny was silent for a long moment and Michelle found herself unable to look up … look up at him. “Michelle,” he called out her name, an unbidden caress sliding along the word. She glanced up at him and he was at last looking at her, the soulful darkness of his eyes filling her gaze. And when he spoke, his voice ached as if he did not want to ask her this question, but he did, “Do you now?
With a tremor in her voice, she responded in the affirmative. His eyes closed as if in pain, and she looked down again. He took another deep breath, as if fearing her answer, and questioned, “Did you tell the F.B.I. about the cigars?”
She continued gazing down and was silent, not sure of how to answer, not sure how to appease him. Unable to stand the tension, she rose to her feet and began to pace. Immediately, Danny’s voice jumped out at her in the silence, “Sit down, Michelle.” It was a soft command, and she hesitated as an instinctive rebellion arose within her, but quelling the feeling, she sank back down onto the chair.
Danny repeated the question, “Did you tell the F.B.I. about the cigars?”
She was still silent and could feel his impatience building before her, so at last she answered, with a slight waver in her voice, “No.”
And his response was immediate … and incredulous, “No?”
She looked up at him and spoke more resolutely, “No.”
“You didn’t tell the F.B.I.?” he asked again.
Michelle looked him straight in the eye and enunciated each word, “No, I did not tell the F.B.I.”
Danny shook his head and with a heat of anger boiling through his calm exterior, he cried out, “I said I wanted honesty, Michelle! –“
“– I am being honest!,” she rose to her feet, yelling at him, before he even finished speaking.
Danny stood up, towering over her, “Sit down!”
“No!” she shouted right back at him and moved closer, crowding his personal space, “if you already know the answers you’re gonna want, then why are we here!?”
Danny bent down and glared at her, “Because, I want the truth!”
“I’m giving you the truth!” she repeated angrily, her face flushed and her eyes snapping brightly.
Danny pulled up and away, “Fine!” And then he straightened his shirt, “fine,” he repeated in a lower voice. He cleared his throat and sat down, and once more repeated, “fine,” but this time his voice was calm and he was in control.
“Okay, so you didn’t tell the F.B.I.?”
“For the last time,” she replied through clenched teeth, “no.”
He smiled tightly, “fine,” he muttered again and then asked a new question, “was there anything wrong with your vision?”
“No,” she responded immediately, not looking at him — but not out of guilt this time, now she wouldn’t meet his gaze out of anger.
“Okay, then why did you pretend there was?” he asked tightly.
She looked at him, her own tight smile playing about her lips, “I can’t answer that,” she said sweetly.
His eyes widened and a muscle in his jaw ticked, “why not?” he finally managed to blurt out.
With even more sugar in her voice, she responded calmly, “because it’s not a yes or no answer.”
Danny closed his eyes in frustration and exhaled loudly, “fine, then just explain it in how ever many words you need, Michelle!” his voice rose and he sat back in the chair, and repeated her name, in a quieter tone of voice “Michelle.”
Turning away from him, her smile died and she gingerly ran a finger along the edge of her chair.
“Michelle?” he repeated.
“To protect you,” she answered softly.
Disbelief once again colored Danny’s voice, “to protect me?”
“Yes,” she responded tightly.
He laughed without humor, “why would you want to do that? I mean, how would you know that I needed,” and his voice became a sneer, “protection,” and then anger formed his words again and the volume rose slightly, “if you didn’t tell the F.B.I.?”
She looked back at him and then said softly, a choking in her voice, “I didn’t tell them.” And her voice broke, catching on a sob, “I’m not lying to you.”
Danny stood up again, “then how did you know I needed protection, Michelle?”
“I told Drew,” she offered quietly.
“What?” he asked in confusion.
“I told Drew,” she said more loudly, “I told Drew and she told the F.B.I. for me.”
Danny laughed again, running a hand over his face, “I see. I see.” He spread his arms wide and laughed harshly again, “I see, Drew — Drew was your liaison, your little-go-between.” He smiled bitterly. “That’s good. Yeah, that’s good.”
“Danny,” Michelle cried, reaching out to him, but he stepped away, “I’m sorry,” she whispered forlornly.
He looked at her in shocked silence for a moment and then burst out, “sorry?! You’re sorry, Michelle? You lie to me. You betray me, you betray my family. Your family now and you’re sorry?”
“Danny, I protected you! I kept you away from the docks, I –“
“– left my family to the sharks?” He angrily cut her off with, “Why?” He looked down and asked himself, “why did you even bother to protect me?” Michelle stepped close to him, her voice bringing his face to meet hers, “Because I care about you!” she cried.
“You care about me?” He laughed harshly, and then his expression hardened, “you’re lying, Michelle. You’re lying to me! You don’t care about me. You don’t care about my family.”
“Danny,” she tried again, “I, I do care about you,” and then in a sudden rush, her voice changed and anger filled her tone, “but I don’t care about your family — your mother. I hate your mother! I hate her! She’s a hateful, murderous –“
“– Don’t!,” he yelled, “don’t say a word against my mother –” he warned, but she went on, heedless of his words.
“I hate her. I would pay to see that woman taken away in handcuffs, every hair out of place. She took away my life!” she sobbed.
“You will not say one word against my mother! You do not know her, you have never given her a chance. Just because she’s not the happy home-maker that your mother –“
Michelle’s gaze widened in shocked hurt and her tears dried in an instant, she glared at him, her eyes flashing, “don’t you dare! Don’t you ever compare my mother to that evil bitch you call a mother!”
“No! No! You do not know my mother, you never met her. Thank God, she died before you came into my life, I can’t begin to imagine what she would think of all of this, but I tell you this — I know this as well as I’ve ever known anything in my life — if my mother had been alive during all of this, she would have taken you in, she would have opened her heart and her arms to you. She would not have made you feel like less-than-nothing, she would not have threatened you or done anything to make you feel anything, anything other than welcome.” She caught her breath and said, her voice soft and filled with the vehemence of a prayer, “don’t you ever say my mother’s name in the same breath as the woman you call ‘mama … ever again.”
Danny turned away from her and was quiet for a long moment, finally he offered solemnly, “okay, I’m sorry. That was unfair. But, Michelle –“
“– no, no ‘Michelle,’ that was uncalled for. End of discussion,” she interrupted, heat still flavoring her voice.
He turned back to look at her, “I can’t imagine how you see my mother, I know she’s given you a hard time, but she is my mother and everything she does –,” he stopped as she turned away, shaking her head, “Michelle, listen to me.”
She swung about, facing him and glared.
“Michelle, everything she does, she does out of love for her children, for her family. She gave birth to me, she gave me life and taught me every tenet of honor and decency that I have.”
“Hah!,” Michelle cried out, “honor and decency? Are we talking about Mother Santos or Mother Theresa?”
“Fine, look, I’m not gonna change my mind about your mother, as far as I’m concerned she’s heartless bitch who has done nothing but try and destroy my spirit and my life from the moment we met. That’s not gonna change,” she paused and took a deep breath. “Look, Danny, this is not about your mother or my mother. This is about you and me. Us and everything that’s happened … to me. And for once, Danny, just once, I’d like you to try and look at this situation from my point of view.”
“Your point of view, Michelle? My God, you should be grateful. Were it not for me and this situation, as you so lovingly call it, you would be dead.” He shot at her.
“I know that! God, Danny, of course I know that, and I am grateful,” she cried out, the anger from a few moments ago fading away into the remorse and sorrow she’d been feeling all day. “But a person feels more than one emotion. And I feel more than gratitude. Ever since the Santos family — ” she broke off as Danny threw his hands up in the air and sat back down in his chair.
“Danny, will you try and listen to me,” she implored. “I’m your wife, damnit! For once, listen to me and hear what I’m saying, not what you think I should be saying, or what you want to hear.”
“Oh, and you know what I want to hear, wife?” he asked sarcastically.
“That I love you. That Jesse is a distant memory. That I will forever be grateful and loyal to the Santos name. That I will forget and give up every tie I had before you became my husband. Do I about have it right?”
“Yeah, that’s me in a nutshell,” he offered dryly.
“Danny, ever since the Santos family came into my life,” she tried again, “practically every moment has been filled with confusion or rage or fear — every emotion I can think of, I’ve been through.”
Danny looked at her, his expression unreadable as she paced back and forth, meeting his gaze and then looking away, speaking quickly and then slowing down, trying desperately to make him understand.
“Mick tried to rape me and then when he died, we were all freaking out and then you came along — practically stalking me, following my every move. I was afraid to breathe loudly, for fear you would jump out at me. And, God, now I’m so confused.” She stopped pacing and looked at him, “don’t you see how hard this is for me, Danny?”
She didn’t give him a chance to answer, but continued speaking, “a month ago, I wouldn’t have tried to protect you. I wouldn’t have cared, but things change, life changes,” she paused and continued her pacing, twisting her hands again, “feelings change.”
Danny looked away from her, his facial muscles tightening and he fought to keep his emotions in check as she spoke. She turned to him, “you know, I had my life all planned out. I’d finish college, Jesse and I would get married,” he couldn’t contain the flare of jealousy that lit his eyes and she faltered for a moment, “uh, have kids, follow in the suburban footsteps of my family, you know? That was it, that was my life and now everything is different, everything has changed.
“I’m married, yeah, but not to Jesse. I, Michelle Bauer, daughter of upstanding and moral citizen Ed Bauer, sister to the highly-regarded Dr. Rick Bauer, am married to a member of the Mafia. I am, literally, married to the mob. And you know, I didn’t really believe that it existed outside of movies.”
“My family is not Mafia,” Danny corrected tightly. “We –“
“– oh, semantics,” she cut him off with, “the point is, I’m now part of it. I’m a Mafia bride and you know, Danny, that scares me. You think I’m ashamed of you, and that’s why I didn’t tell my dad? How ’bout, I don’t know how he’s gonna react knowing that my mother-in-law is the head of the biggest crime family in Springfield.”
Danny stood up and walked over to the window, he leaned against the ledge, his head bent slightly as she continued, pouring out her heart, seemingly being more honest and open with him than she ever had before.
“You know, when you married me, yes, it was a great solution. You saved my life and I will always, always, be grateful for that, but Danny you didn’t just make me your wife, you made me your prisoner. So, I told myself, I’m a smart, resourceful, young woman — I can get myself out of this situation. And the F.B.I. seemed like the perfect solution — bring down Carmen, stop the Santos family from ever hurting anyone else again, get the marriage annulled, clear things up with Jesse and my life goes back on track. It seemed the perfect solution. But things change.”
“Yeah, you said that already, Michelle. So exactly how did things change?” His voice was quiet, and if there was a thread of hurt in the knowledge that she thought of herself as his prisoner, he kept it well-concealed. Michelle looked at him, and her eyes were red-rimmed with tears shed and those waiting still to fall.
“Danny, I, you know, I was supposed to love Jesse forever and hate you with my last breath. It was all black and white, but then you were no longer this creepy Mafia guy, instead you were sweet and wonderful and your vows on our wedding day were so beautiful.” Her voice took on a wistful note and Danny looked at her, surprise lighting his features at the soft tone of her voice, but lost in her memories, she didn’t notice his attention.
“And that day in my old bedroom — I’ve never felt that way before. I haven’t exactly been around, but I’m not virgin, still, I’ve never felt like that before.” Michelle paused and looked away, unable to meet his gaze. Her hand moved to her throat and unconsciously she began rubbing at it as she continued speaking, her voice low, “you barely touched me. And I’m so confused, because I’m not supposed to care about you and your touch, your words are supposed to fill me with revulsion, not . . .”
Again, she hesitated and Danny took a step towards her and his voice was barely above a whisper, “what?” Michelle turned to him, and her eyes were wide and searching. Her lips parted to speak, but she found herself unable to say a word. Danny closed his eyes and stepped back, turning around and once more his back was to her. And then out of the taut silence came a single word, “desire,” and an almost imperceptible shudder ran through his body. He took a deep breath and clenched his fists.
“Danny,” she murmured and he turned to look at her again. “Please, try and see it from my point of view. On one side, I’ve got to be this happy, in-love bride to friends and family who know me better than I know myself. And then I’ve got to deal with your mother and Dietz with their glares and their threats and accusations.”
She looked down, her head bowed for a moment and when she spoke next, he could hear the tears caught in her throat, “and then there’s you.”
She looked back up at him and her face was streaked. She shut her eyes and whirled away from the expression on his face — an intensity, a combination of desire and fear and love. Flinging herself onto the bed, she sat down and repeated, golden curls falling in her face as the tears fell faster and faster and her voice grew heavy with the weight of her sobs, “Danny, then there’s you, and I don’t understand! I don’t know what I’m feeling. I don’t know . . . ” her voice trailed off into a jagged wrench of crying and she lay down, her shoulders shaking with the force of her tears.
Danny stood still and silent, his frame rigid as he stared at her collapsed form. Her cries tore into him with the power of bullets ripping into his heart. He swallowed convulsively and tried to remind himself that she had betrayed him. She had lied to him, used him, would have willingly given him up to the F.B.I. She didn’t love him. She didn’t love him. She didn’t love him. Over and over again he repeated those words to himself.
She doesn’t love me. She doesn’t love me. She doesn’t love me.
And then his silent repetition slipped from his mouth, “she doesn’t love me. She doesn’t love me.” His voice broke and a harsh exhalation erupted from him, “you don’t love me, you don’t love me,” and still she cried, her slender frame shaking, golden curls falling in disarray against the burnt sienna of her blouse, the mottled red and green of the bed’s coverlet.
And he could take no more. With a muttered expletive, he strode to the bed and gathered her up in his arms. When his hands first fell around her, she cried out, she struggled against him, but he held her, his voice raining soft, hushed words of nonsense, his hands soothing her unruly hair, his kisses feathering against the crown of her head, her forehead and her struggling ceased. She buried her head against his chest, her arms wrapped tightly around his waist and still he held her and still he comforted her.
After a long moment, her crying lessened and her body no longer shook. “I’m sorry,” she mumbled, her voice muffled against his shirt. He shook his head wordlessly and continued stroking her hair. Finally, she pulled away and his hands fell away. Michelle looked up at him and laughed shakily. Her fingers came up and she wiped at the moisture on her face, smearing her mascara even more than it already was.
He reached out a gentle finger and gingerly smoothed at the marred, black liquid. “Mascara,” he explained softly. Their eyes held for a moment and then he untangled himself and rose from the bed. She gazed after him, a wanting she couldn’t explain filling her, an emptiness stretching across her soul.
Danny moved to the table and grabbed a box of tissues, then walked by and handed them to her. Murmuring her thanks, she took it from him as he once again moved away.
“Michelle,” he said, his voice shaking slightly. He cleared his throat and said her name once more, “Michelle, I want to believe you, but, but,” he paused and his voice was filled with anguish, “how can I?”
She nodded, “I know.”
“Michelle, I know, I know that you have used my feelings for you against me. And I can’t change the way I feel about you.” He looked away and muttered almost to himself, “‘though, God knows, I wish I could.” He looked back at her and she was looking at him, her eyes clear, but a mask of sorrow overlaying her face.
“I can’t, you know, I can’t hide my feelings, I wish I could, but there it is. Tell me, Michelle, how am I supposed to know whether this is all an act or not? The tears, your words, your feelings for me … how do I know any of it is real?”
She bowed her head and admitted quietly, “you don’t.” And then she looked up at him, “what are you gonna do now?”
“I’m not gonna turn you into my mother, if that’s what you’re wondering.” He laughed harshly and once again spoke to himself, “so much for my unwavering loyalty to the family.”
Ignoring his muttered words, she responded quietly to his first statement, “I know you wouldn’t do that,” and then guilt filled her tone, “you wouldn’t betray me.”
Danny was silent for a long moment, just staring at her and then he spoke … one word, a single word, but very nearly a definition of the man himself in its implication, “no.”
He paused then and looked down, “to tell you the truth, I don’t know what I’m gonna do. I want to trust you. You know, Michelle, I want to trust you so much. You’re my wife and I — but I can’t. I just can’t –” He broke off, not knowing what else to say.
Michelle arose from the bed and walked towards her husband. “Danny, look at me.” His head remained bowed and so she reached out a hand and laid it upon the side of his face. She repeated her words, “look at me,” and she waited and after a tense moment, his head came up and his eyes met hers.
“I know,” she paused and took a deep breath, “I know that you can’t trust me now.” Danny looked away from her and began to pull away, but she called out his name once more, “hey, Danny,” he looked back at her and a sheen of tears shone in his eyes, “but I will earn your trust. I don’t care how long it takes, but I will.
“I swear to you.”
He closed his eyes. “Danny, I swear I will,” and she reached up and put her other hand against his face. Leaning up, she kissed him softly. Danny stood still and unresponsive in her embrace. She pulled away slightly and then placed her lips against his again, her breath feathering his mouth, her fingers tracing circles on his flesh and then with a groan, he wrapped his arms around her. His mouth opened against hers, her fingers sliding into his thick hair as her body pressed against his.
He pulled away and his eyes were searching and pleading with her and she repeated, her voice a fervent whisper, “I will.”