Art Lessons
by Stellaluna

"Now, Sunday school," Danny says to Mac, and sets two bottles of beer down on the table, a little too hard so that foam spills over the top. "That was nothing but a bastard waste of time, if you ask me."

They're continuing the conversation they were having over the evidence boxes, sort of; or at least Danny has decided that they are. For most of the last hour that they've been sitting and drinking beer at a quiet little table in the very back of Sullivan's, they've actually been talking about their caseloads, and although it's been a perfectly pleasant conversation, it's also been making Danny feel increasingly itchy and impatient for at least twenty minutes or so. This is nice and all, and it's been good to hear that Mac seems to still value his opinion, but they can talk about work any old time. He doesn't want to hear what Mac thinks about the Crime Lab on Wheels truck the LAPD has started using (well, actually, he does, just because it's so entertaining to see Mac froth at the mouth like that); he wants to hear more of what they were talking about before.

And that ain't forensic detection methods and it ain't the Atkinson case. It's Mac's past, his personal history. The heretofore great unknown, the blank spot on the map. The mystery that Mac suddenly seemed willing -- at least a little bit -- to begin to fill in for Danny. All Danny got were a few small scraps of information, like Mac went to school, which: yeah, big deal, really. But the thing about Mac's parents is a big deal, and Danny is willing to bet that Mac doesn't tell hardly anybody about that. Stella, maybe or probably; certainly no one else in the lab. The fact that Mac told him anything at all is a huge step as far as Danny is concerned, and now, like any junkie or caffeine addict after getting a small taste of what they crave, he's greedy for more.

He's also feeling happy and a little bit (or a lot) smug about all of this, and a few minutes ago that gave him the confidence to say, just before he stood up to go buy them a second round of beer, "This is all well and good, Mac, but brace yourself. When I get back, I'm asking you some more of those personal questions. Now, don't look too scared," he goes on, when Mac blinks at him in surprise. "It ain't gonna be nothing really personal. Just shit like we been talking about. But keep it in mind, 'cause I'm buying this round, and you gotta earn your Guinness." With that, he had swaggered off to the bar without giving Mac a chance to say anything in return, but he was pretty sure that Mac looked more amused than annoyed. At least, he hoped so.

Now, back at the table, Danny's decided the best approach is the direct one, and so he jumps right into the middle of things with a remark that's sure to get his attention.

Mac looks up at him without saying anything; Danny recognizes the expression on his face. It's somewhere halfway between dismayed and put-upon, and generally means that Mac has just seen or heard something that has horrified him more than usual. If they were on the clock right now, that look would either mean that Danny was in serious trouble, or that someone else was. Since they're off the clock, and since he already has one bottle of Guinness in him, he takes it a lot less seriously than he would at any other time. "What?" he says, blinking at Mac.

"'Bastard waste of time'?" Mac asks.


"Sunday school."

"Yeah," Danny says. "What? You gonna tell me that you enjoyed Sunday school? I'm not gonna believe it for a second, not even from you, Mac."

Danny sits down then, by throwing a leg across his chair and straddling it, rather than bothering to pull the chair out. This is a slightly show-off move and he knows it, but he's in that kind of mood tonight. Which is okay, he figures, because it feels to him like the cheerful, expansive kind of show-off mood rather than the mean, furtive kind. The latter never ends well, and usually involves either extravagant vomiting or beat cops, or both, or at the very least waking up the next morning with a sour stomach and a mouth full of cotton, and Danny counting himself lucky if there's no one lying naked in bed next to him who's either horrendously inappropriate or a complete unknown.

Mac picks up his bottle after wiping the foam off the side with a napkin. "I never went to Sunday school," he says, and takes a drink of beer.

"You never went to Sunday school," Danny repeats.

Mac shakes his head. "No."

"You, the good little Catholic boy with your fancy schools and your Saint Francis whatever and, oh, my parents say I gotta go to this joint called the Latin School so's I'll get into a good college. You never went to Sunday school." Danny grins at him. "Are you shitting me? How'dja manage to get outta that one?"

"The church we went to when I was growing up didn't have Sunday school," Mac says. "I was expected to attend Mass along with my parents."

"So you had to sit through the prayers and the sermon and the Apostles' Creed and all'a the other crap even when you were a little tiny kid?" Danny asks. "Man, talk about suck."

"I also had to sit still and pay attention," Mac says. He looks at Danny, and this time there's little doubt about it: he's amused. "I'm guessing this is something you would have had trouble with."

"Ain't no 'would' about it, my friend; it's something I did have trouble with," Danny says. "Which is prob'ly why the church we went to packed all the kids off to Sunday school most'a the time. And, by the way, while it may have been better than sitting there and listening to the priest drone on about sin or whatever, it was still a bastard waste of time."

"Yes, you mentioned that," Mac says. "And you haven't said why."

"Because it was. Presumably the point of Sunday school is to like learn more about God and shit, right? We never did nothing but art projects. Like we'd color a bunch'a stupid pictures or angels or saints or whatever. Or we'd do some dumb thing with macaroni and glue. Once in a blue moon, maybe the teacher'd read us some story about doing unto others. And we got the whole Christmas story when that was seasonal, so I coulda recited that thing backwards and forwards by the time I was seven." Danny has to laugh a little, remembering how he got in trouble that year when he did start to recite it along with the teacher.

"And, you know," he goes on, "I was always getting yelled at anyhow for talking or not sitting still or, um, putting glue in people's hair. Or things like that. Never got a damn thing out of it except new ways to get in trouble. Oh, and how much glue is too much. And what you shouldn't do with a packet full of glitter. Plus, that room was always so goddamn hot. I swear they overheated the place on purpose, in hopes we'd all fall asleep and not bug the teacher."

"I think churches are almost always overheated in the winter," Mac says. "It seems to be a common thread." He takes another drink of beer and fidgets with the coaster for a few seconds, and then, looking a little nervous, says, "I didn't know you were raised Catholic, too."

Well, hot damn. Danny almost chokes on his mouthful of beer. Mac Taylor is actually asking him a question about his background, in a non-professional capacity. Or making a questioning statement, at any rate. Danny could almost fall out of his chair in shock and sheer glee at this, but he strives to remain calm. And seated.

He considers, for a minute, showing Mac the Saint medal he wears, but then decides against it. It's no wonder that Mac has never noticed it, even with his observational skills, because it's almost always inside Danny's shirt and therefore not visible, and Danny is sorta glad of this. For all the confidences they're exchanging, he's not sure he's ready to show that to Mac, not quite yet.

"Well, yeah," he says. "I guess it just never came up. And I was. Um, we weren't real devout, though. I went to public school. I mean, I also went to CCD classes on Wednesdays, but that was it. And after a while, we just sorta stopped going to church, for the most part." With all the shit that was going on in his family at any given time, this really isn't surprising, he thinks now when he looks back on it from his adult vantage point. At the time, it had just seemed like one more thing that was unstable in his life, one less thing he could count on. Sunday school had been boring and stupid, but at least it was predictable. He missed that predictability once it was gone.

"Well, it happens," Mac says. He doesn't sound too concerned, probably because he doesn't know all of the associated shit that came along with the Messer family's steadily diminishing presence at St. Anthony's. "Although I'm sure my parents would have frowned at it. Going to Mass was just the done thing for them. They sent me to all the right schools, and they always made sure we were in our pew on Sunday morning, nicely dressed and ready to..." He shapes some meaningless circle with his hands. "Ready to worship, I suppose. Or for my mother, be worshiped, I used to think sometimes."

This is easily the meanest, most bitter thing Danny has ever heard Mac say, and he's impressed, in a twisted sort of way.

"Yeah, I know how that goes, too," he says. He knows if he makes a big deal out of it, Mac will shut down totally, get embarrassed and probably never bring up that, or anything else personal, ever again. That's the last thing he wants to have happen, especially now.

Mac shrugs, looking embarrassed even so, and Danny says, "Hey, at least you never had to glue macaroni to a mimeograph of Mary and Joseph on a donkey."

That makes Mac smile. "Actually, I think we worked on something similar in art class."

"You mean they did that kinda shit in Catholic school, too? Man." Danny waves a hand at him. "No getting outta stupid crafts projects when you're a kid, I guess is the bottom line."

Mac smiles again at that, and Danny gives himself a mental thumbs-up. Potentially awkward moment averted. Better than that, maybe, is that he's starting to be able to gauge how to navigate these conversations with Mac. If he's really going to flatter himself, he might even saying that he's starting to know how to make Mac smile. And that...Danny considers. That's worth its weight in, well, just about anything.

He's just starting to think about asking Mac if he could go for a third round when he happens to glance at his watch. "Oh, holy shit," he says, nearly choking on a mouthful of beer. "How'd it get to be so late?"

Mac glances at his own watch, and raises a subtle, but surprised, eyebrow. "We must have been talking longer than I realized," he says.

"You and me got that appointment with Hammerback at 7:30," Danny says. "Christ knows what he'll do to us if we're not firing on all cylinders -- or late, God forbid." He gulps down the rest of his beer. "I'm sorry. I was gonna ask you if you wanted another round, but..."

"Danny," Mac says, and starts to pull on his jacket. "It's all right. Neither of us was watching the time. You'll be home in plenty of time to get some sleep and get to the M.E.'s office on time in the morning."

"Really?" Danny says. Mac in a benign mood is always good, but Danny isn't entirely sure it's not some sort of trap.

"Really. Even if I have to come out to your place and drag you out of bed, we'll be there on time." Mac says this with a straight face, but Danny stops for a second and stares at him. And then has to forcibly squash several ill-timed thoughts involving Mac and bed and dragging.

"Okay," he says. "Thanks."

"Next time," Mac says, as he stands up, "we'll just have to keep a closer eye on the clock."

"Next time?" Danny hopes Mac didn't notice how his voice cracked just then.

"Well," Mac says, "we ended up talking about you nearly the entire time. And I don't suppose you're done quizzing me with did you put it? 'Personal questions.'" They've walked outside during the last part of this conversation, and Mac stops on the sidewalk in front of Sullivan's, adjusting his collar and cuffs. Danny watches him do this. The lights from the bar behind them touch his hair and the side of his face, and for a second or two he looks surprisingly young. Danny thinks that he also looks a little bit happy. "Are you?" Mac asks, looking up, right into Danny's eyes.

"Not hardly, Mac," Danny says, and grins at him. "Not hardly."