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Different Crosses

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Steve wakes with a gasp that's too familiar, the sharp intake of breath cutting into his lungs. He stays still for a moment, cataloguing the sheets against his damp skin, the quiet sounds of the waves outside, faint light from the moon playing over the room.

He quietly shifts onto his back, blinks at the ceiling with more frustration than anxiety. The dreams are almost predictable now, and the events of the day had prepared him for this happening.

Danny rolls over, blinking at him, and, startled to see Danny's eyes in the dark, Steve nearly jerks away, breath catching in his throat.

"Hey." Danny's voice is a low rumble, barely a sound. "Another one?"

"Yeah." He looks to the ceiling again, carefully measuring his breath.

"I figured," Danny says, "what with today..."

"I'm fine," Steve replies.

"Yeah."

The disbelief eddies underneath the compassion, and Steve wants to argue with him because he can, because Danny will argue back, and it'll be a distraction.

Danny's hand slides towards him, tips of his fingers bumping against Steve's skin. "I wish you wouldn't..." He lets the sentence go before it's fully formed, and it drifts across the sheets.

"Danny--"

"Yeah."

Steve turns his head to meet Danny's eyes, just to see what he knows he'll find there; the warmth that had made Danny say, "You shouldn't be alone tonight," the caring that had made him not take no for an answer, and the intelligence that had made him figure out what Steve needed.

There is also love, in Danny's eyes, and it makes him swallow. "I'm sorry."

"I wish," Danny says again, after a pause, "you wouldn't try to do this alone."

Steve grits his teeth. "There's no one to deal with this but me."

"We were all there, in Korea."

Danny is angry, but he's holding it back, and that more than anything galls Steve. "Fuck you."

"Right back at ya. I saw. Not the same as living through it, but I saw you in the jungle today and you think I don't think about it? You think I don't get it? This thing--"

Steve sits up, opens his mouth to cut Danny off, but Danny points an angry finger at him. "No, I'm talking. This thing, I can't know what it feels like, fine. But you don't have to be alone when you're going through it, and fuck it, Steve, having flashbacks doesn't make you anything less."

He looks away at that, stares at the sheets that bunch around his knees, Danny's words echoing in his head.

Danny's voice is softer when he continues. "If you did this for any other reason, babe, I'd tell you to cope in your own way, but... not like this."

Steve sucks in some air, feeling it stab just under his breastbone, but he talks anyway. "I don't want you there."

"What?"

"I don't mean--" He clenches his teeth together to keep words from spilling out, grabs handfuls of sheet to have something to hold on to. He knows Danny is watching him, tries to consciously relax, but fails. Another to add to the tally. "I-- You're there. Because you're always the one, because we're partners, because--" He sucks in a breath that is unsteady, and loses the trust to keep going.

"Hey. Babe." Danny's hand comes over his, shockingly warm, prying loose his fingers with a soft squeeze. "I hate to tell you, but you're not making any sense here."

"Yeah." He frees his other hand by himself, flexing his fingers before running it through his hair, scrubbing over his face. "Yeah, sorry."

"Wanna try again?"

He shakes his head. It's the coward's way out, but he's failed enough as it is, once more won't make the difference.

Danny squeezes his hand again. "Talk," he says softly.

Steve presses his lips together, stubborn.

"You don't want me where?" Danny pries.

He blows out air, softly, trying it like a safety valve. "In the dreams."

"I'm there with you?"

He looks at the face of Danny's surprise, at the frown lines that are becoming permanent, the lines Steve wants to kiss in his more romantic moments. "No. Yes. You come for me, and it goes wrong."

"In the dreams, it goes wrong?"

He nods, pressing his palms into his eyes.

"I came for you today because that's what we do. That's what you do for me, for Kono, for Chin. It's what we do for each other. You can't reserve that role for yourself; you get into trouble too often."

Steve snorts at that. "Yeah."

Danny's hand slides up his arm, cautiously, and he wants to get angry at that, too. The compassion in the gesture is too much, it's too Danny to fuel his anger enough, and he covers Danny's hand with his own instead.

"Thanks."

Danny squeezes his arm. "Don't worry about it, babe."

He stretches out his legs, sags back down into the pillows, and Danny follows, shifts closer to wrap an arm around Steve's chest. He wants to reject that need, too, but it feels too good to give in, to let Danny be there for a bit.

There's a soft kiss pressed against his shoulder blade, and he can feel the scratch of Danny's stubble against his skin. Before he can stop himself, he says, "Talk to me."

"I'm good at that," Danny replies, satisfaction audible in his voice. "Okay, talk, he says. Right, so I joined the boy scouts when I was nine, and they had all these rules. Like, really stupid rules."

"Of course there are rules, Danny. It's the boy scouts."

"Yeah, and you probably took to it like a fish in water and collected all the merit badges. The moral of this story, Steven, is that we are not at all alike. For starters, I don't think it's appropriate to teach my daughter and her friends how to throw a knife--"

Steve muffles a smile. "What happened with the boy scouts, D?"

"Well..."

--
finis.