Dani walked down the nondescript hall towards the room at the end, where she'd been directed. It was suspiciously like her AA meetings in that there'd been no signs at all for the meeting. She opened the door and peered in for a moment before stepping through and letting the door swing shut behind her. The conference room was large with a table pushed off to the side and a circle of chairs in the center, reinforcing the AA analogy.
The thing she noted off the bat was being the only woman. There were nine men, but no women, which made her…not nervous, but a little defensive, maybe. She'd worked in a male-dominated environment too long to be nervous.
A tallish man with glasses and a buzz cut walked over to her, smiling broadly and holding out a hand. "It's Dani Reese, isn't it?"
Shaking his hand, she nodded and agreed, "That's me."
"I'm Daniel Jackson," the man told her, still smiling. "Welcome to the group."
Dani folded her arms over her chest as she countered, "Yeah, well, I'm not sure this is the right place for me. Crews insisted that I come to the Association, he went to one of the group meetings and just would not shut up about it. So I got sent to the women's group, who sent me to the women's sidekick group, who sent me here. Which, by the way, is the first non-sexist decision since I got here. What's with the segregation?"
Daniel's mouth opened and closed a few times before he replied, "You know, I'm not entirely sure. I think it's mostly because men feel more comfortable talking to other men and vice versa for women."
Rolling her eyes, Dani added, "Yeah well, having a support group because of your name is kind of…"
"Eccentric? Unusual? Maybe a bit odd?" Daniel suggested.
Dani replied succinctly, "Dumb."
Pushing his glasses into place, Daniel said, "Do you frequently get your partner out of trouble that he really should've been able to avoid in the first place if he'd only thought through the situation?"
She had to nod reluctantly at that. "Well, yeah."
"Are you frequently overlooked due to your partner's…unusual personality?"
Dani snorted, but confirmed, "Yeah."
"Has your life become infinitely more complicated since joining up with him?"
"Do you come from a…well, a broken home situation?"
Glaring, Dani snapped, "None of your damn business!"
He held up his hands, placating, and said, "All of us answered yes to those questions because there's something about the name, Danny, that seems to embody all those qualities. Come on, I'll introduce you to the others and you can see for yourself."
Daniel reached towards her, maybe in a comforting gesture, and she pinned him with a `touch me and draw back a stump' glare. It worked because he pulled his hand back and simply motioned towards the center of the room before heading over there. She still thought it was a crock, but followed him over to where the group had gathered, some sitting now.
"Everyone, if you could all take your seats, it's about time to get started," Daniel announced. Once everyone had, he introduced, "This is Dani Reese, a potential new member."
"Oh yeah, now that's a bird I can live with," someone murmured.
Dani picked out the voice from a young, blond man sitting across the circle from her and glared at him.
Daniel sighed and said, "Why don't we go around the circle. Blue, since you're your usual, vocal self, why don't you start?"
"Love to, love to," the blond man replied, grinning as he straightened. He winked at Dani and said, "Danny Blue's the name and conning is the game. You see me or my mates comin' and it's a sorry day for you indeed if we decide you're, shall we say, the less desirable sort? We'll fleece ya so sweet and fast, y'won't know what hit ya."
Lips pursed, Dani eyed him a second and then pulled out her badge, flipping it open so he could see the shield. The other men started laughing, the one nearest Blue actually shoving him with a broad grin and crowing, "Serves you right."
His mouth opened and then closed before he finally complained, "Oh, come on now! Daniel, I thought we weren't allowed to pull rank in `ere."
Daniel was grinning as much as the others as he said to her, "Danny's right. In here, being a cop or a convict or conman doesn't matter. Are you all right with that? Whatever gets said in here, you can't repeat or use towards a conviction."
Even though this Danny Blue character wasn't even close to being in the same class as Crews, Dani had learned not to take people at face value a long time ago. She nodded and put her badge back, relaxing a little in her chair. "Yeah, I'm good."
The man beside Blue, the one who'd shoved him, went next. He had flyaway brown hair and was in his early forties, still trim, but not quite in his prime anymore. Blue eyes were sharp, though, as he nodded at her and said, "Danny Tripp. Good to meet you."
It only took a second before she placed the name and nodded in return. "Great show, man. Studio 60 rocks. I watch it when I can."
Flashing her a wry grin, he replied, "Good thing you're not our demographic, with that kind of endorsement."
She grinned back, not offended in the least.
To Tripp's left was a slender Hispanic man with dark hair and eyes in a suit that screamed `Federal Agent.' He smiled at her and said, "Danny Taylor, FBI."
Next to him was Dan Rydel, who of course didn't need an introduction since she'd been watching him on television for almost ten years. Before he could do more than open his mouth, she said, "Your show, I never miss. Sports Night is why DVRs were invented."
Rydel turned a smirk on Tripp, who glared back at him.
Daniel was next to Rydel, then it was Dani, and on her other side was a man in his early or mid thirties with light brown, spiky hair and glasses. He offered a crooked grin and a small wave as he said, "Danny Messer, NYPD crime lab."
On the other side of Messer was a very round man who reminded Dani of a teddy bear. He was in his mid-thirties with a strange little cowboy hat on his head. He gave a sunny smile and said in an English accent not quite the same as Blue's, "PC Danny Butterman, nice to meet you. So, living in Los Angeles, how many movies have you seen? I bet you go all the time, don't you? Do you see a lot of movie stars? Must be nice. All that sun. Do you surf?"
"Maybe you can ask Dani about all that later," Daniel interrupted.
Butterman nodded, settling back in his chair with an affable smile.
An Asian man in his mid-thirties sat beside Butterman, black hair hanging loose around his shoulders and dark eyes unreadable despite his friendly smile. "Danny Woo, also NYPD, but not a lab rat. I'm a real detective."
Messer flipped him off, causing Woo to laugh.
Last was a tall, broad-shouldered man around the same age as Messer, Woo, and Taylor, though he dressed a hell of a lot more expensively. The quality seemed around the same as what Crews could afford which meant he was really rich. His crooked grin wasn't nearly as innocent seeming as Messer's as he said, "Danny McCoy. I work at the Montecito in Vegas."
Blue made a rude noise and corrected, "Runs the Montecito, not that he lets me play there or anything."
McCoy rolled his eyes and retorted, "You're lucky I don't let certain people know that you're even still alive."
Daniel held up a hand, interrupting, "Before we get into that, yet again, why don't we tell Dani just why there's a support group for us."
"No one appreciates us," Taylor said.
There were nods around the circle and Rydel added, "They'd be lost without us."
Blue spoke up with, "No one really listens to us. The blighters usually think we're spazzes when they're the spazzes."
McCoy grinned at that and snarked, "Except in your case. You really are a spaz."
"Oh, sod off, I am not!" Blue exclaimed.
Daniel looked like he was trying not to grin as he said to Dani, "You get the point everyone's trying to make though. Generally, we're the emotional and/or moral compass of the team and on one really notices until we aren't there."
Butterman winced and added, "Or in hospital."
Taylor and Messer looked at each other and then pointed out together, "Or dead."
Dani blinked in surprise at that and looked at Daniel, repeated, "Dead?"
"Long story," Daniel replied, flushing. He cleared his throat and continued, "Given what Gabrielle told me about your situation, I really think this would be a good group for you."
Eyebrows lifting she asked, "You spoke to Gabrielle?"
"Daniel talks to everyone," Rydel told her.
Laughter echoed around the circle and Tripp added, "That's another thing we have in common. We generally tend to be in charge even when our partners don't realize it."
"It's good to let them think that," Woo said, giving her a wink.
Unlike with Blue, the wink didn't offend Dani.
Taylor shook his head and complained, "At least you don't have to keep an eye on two. Madre de Dios, I don't know who's going to give me an ulcer first, Jack or Martin."
Dani frowned curiously. FBI agents generally either worked on a team, or had a partner. She'd never heard of someone with two partners. "Two what? Partners?"
For some reason, the question seemed to throw Taylor, who looked at Daniel. The group leader shrugged and observed, "It's a support group. If she can't handle that, she doesn't belong here."
Dani's frown increased and she demanded, "Handle what?"
"Lovers," Taylor stated. "I have two male lovers, who are also on my team at work and one of them's my boss."
Lips pursed, Dani glanced around the group again, this time for things she hadn't been looking for the other times. Her gaydar was pretty damn good, but none of them pinged. Well, except maybe Daniel since he keeps saying partner, she thought.
Daniel nodded. "Jack's my lover, though we don't see a lot of each other these days. We've been together for almost seven years now." Woo held up a hand with a wedding band. "Happily married with a little girl."
Messer looked sheepishly at her as he admitted, "In love with my boss, though we ain't livin' together."
Blue smirked at her and boasted, "Best of both worlds, baby."
"Yeah, I'll be sure and tell that to Mickey," McCoy informed him, snide.
The smirk disappeared fast and Blue snapped, "You better bloody not or I'll tell him you've got that lovely little safe in your private office and what's in it."
"Stop!" Daniel interrupted. "We talked about this, you two. Just stop it."
Both their heads lowered, though Dani could see they weren't too happy with the admonishment. She wouldn't be surprised if they wound up "working through" their issues later with their fists.
Tripp spoke up with, "I'm technically married to this wonderful woman Jordan, also my boss, and we have a little girl."
Dani was almost afraid to ask, but… "Technically?"
"Matt and I have been writing partners and best friends for ten years. If he ever gets the hell over Harriet and jumps in my bed, I wouldn't be married much longer after that," Tripp admitted.
Butterman sighed with a dreamy expression on his face as he said, "Angel's perfect."
Blue countered, "Perfect pain in the arse, you mean. The man's insane."
For the first time, Butterman showed some fire. He glared at Blue and retorted, "You didn't have to jump out the window. No one does that but Angel."
"Angel?" Dani prompted in an aside to Daniel as the two continued to bicker.
Daniel explained, "Butterman's partner, Nicholas Angel. He's apparently super-cop. London crime rose something like two hundred percent when he was reassigned. That's where he and Danny met."
"Right," Dani muttered.
Butterman ended the argument, such as it was, with, "Shut it, or I'll tell Angel where you and yer mates're squatting. It's the Excelsior this month, isn't it?"
Blue howled, "Jackson! He can't do that again!"
Daniel pinched the bridge of his nose.
Feeling bad for him, Dani looked at McCoy and Rydel in turn, eyebrows lifting again as she questioned, "And you two?"
McCoy rubbed a hand over the back of his neck before saying, "It's really complicated and we don't have that much time left."
Rydel just grinned at her.
"No way!" she exclaimed, instantly getting what he didn't say. "You and Casey?"
"Way," he confirmed. "Going on four years now. Not that we can say so to anyone outside our immediate circle. The bosses would have a fit and Isaac retired a few years ago so there's no one there to cover for us."
Dani looked around the circle at the utterly mismatched group and started laughing, unable to help herself. If none of the other reasons and explanations had convinced her, the messed up relationships of most of the group did the trick. Half were in love with their bosses and almost none of them could be open about their relationships.
It took a few minutes to get control again and she wiped tears from her eyes as she explained, "This is definitely my group. I'm pretty much jerking my boss around because he's a nice guy and I can. Couldn't manage a long-term relationship for a million bucks and really? And I think my partner, who's completely nuts by the way, is the best man I know."
This time, when Daniel reached out, she let him rub her shoulder as he said, "Welcome to the group, Dani."