How far away this world becomes
In the harbor of each other's arms...
Steve walked into the house and looked around. It wasn't that he didn't remember it, but his memory of it now, like this, without his dad, still seemed off somehow. It was his house now, but he hadn't really changed much. He didn't know if that meant he had the same tastes as his dad, or if part of him was keeping it a shrine to the past. Or, maybe he just didn't see a reason to haul perfectly good furniture and accessories out for trash pick up and replace it all just for the sake of changing colors or styles. Maybe that sensible frugality was just an excuse. Or maybe he didn't need one. If he wanted to live in the past, it was his fucking house. Besides, Danny wasn't exactly obsessed with decorating, so it was unlikely that welcoming him into his home, his life, and his bed was going force some massive change in environment.
"Come on, buddy, let's get you upstairs for a rest," Danny said, walking in behind him. He wondered how long he'd just stood there.
"My head hurts," he mumbled, not really meaning to say it out loud.
"I bet it does, babe," Danny said softly, touching his hair lightly. He didn't mean to lean into that touch, but he did that instinctively, too. Danny's warm hand felt so good against his throbbing head. Being touched with that kind of love was healing him faster than a whole bottle of headache pills could. "The stairs probably look about ten miles long, don't they?"
"Fifteen," Steve quipped, glad the weak little joke made Danny smile. Danny had been through so much and had taken Matt's death so hard. Steve hated that he'd made him suffer more. One more reason to hate Wo Fat. By doing what he'd done to Steve, he'd hurt Danny by association.
"I can tell you from experience this couch is really comfortable," Danny said, and Steve realized he was still leaning into Danny's hand, and Danny's fingers were still delicately massaging his scalp. "Why don't you lie down here for a while? I'll get you a pillow and blanket, and something for your head."
"Okay," Steve agreed. He suddenly felt too lethargic, like his limbs were made out of lead. He sat on the couch and let Danny move around the house, gathering pillows, a blanket, some Advil, and a glass of water.
He put the pillows on one end of the couch and gave Steve the pills, which he took with a few gulps of the water. Water. Swallowing the harmless glass of water made him shiver, remember gagging on it, feeling himself choking on his own vomit. He set the glass down with a shaky hand. Danny didn't say anything, but he moved one of the pillows out of the way, picked up the other and sat on the couch. He put the pillow on his lap and motioned to Steve to lie down, and rest his head in Danny's lap. He looked at Danny a moment and it was all he could do not to break down. This was so much what he needed; he couldn't say anything. He stretched out on the couch, at least as much as his longer body could stretch out on it, and settled his head on the pillow in Danny's lap. Danny covered him with the light blanket and stroked his hair gently.
"Rest, babe. I'm right here."
Steve was tired to the point of exhaustion, and he wanted to sleep, but instead he felt emotions sweeping over him and before he knew it, he was crying into the pillow. It was the relief of being home, where he truly felt safe, the gentle touch of Danny's hand on his hair...
"It's okay, buddy. You're safe now, babe," Danny said, leaning down and kissing his cheek. "I've got you now. Anybody who wants to mess with you has to get through me." For some reason, that made Steve smile.
"Almost feel sorry for them," Steve managed, and Danny laughed.
"You know it, pal. I'll go all Jersey on their ass. Won't know what hit 'em." Danny's light tone felt almost as good as his hand, soothing the pain in Steve's soul. Danny's arm was gently, protectively across his chest. "Thinkin' about your dad?" he asked softly.
"Yeah," Steve admitted, though it was more of a whisper than a spoken word.
"A lot of memories here," Danny said. "Kind of hard to process it all when you feel lousy, isn't it, babe? It's okay. Just close your eyes and rest. It'll be easier when you feel stronger." Danny handed him a tissue, and he wiped his nose.
"Too bad I can't just wipe it on your shirt."
"You're not gonna let that go, are you? It was a crummy hospital gown that's now getting sterilized in the hospital laundry. I'm sure it's seen worse indignities than my snot."
"Thanks for that thought. I was wearing that thing."
"Looked cute in it, too."
"I looked ridiculous."
"Looked pretty hot from the back."
"Pervert," Steve replied, surprised, and yet not, that Danny had made him laugh.
"Want me to sing to you until you go to sleep?"
"I can't take anymore torture, Danny."
"Fuck you. I should roll you on the floor." Danny was laughing, though, and the sound relaxed Steve more than anything else could have.
"Maybe you should."
"Roll you on the floor?"
"No. Fuck me."
"Don't write a check with your mouth your ass can't cash," Danny teased, kissing Steve's cheek. "Your eyes are so droopy you're almost asleep. Take a nap, babe. We'll see what comes up later."
Steve let himself fantasize about what later might hold and relaxed there with Danny, reassured by his presence, grinning as he dozed because Danny actually was ignoring his teasing and singing to him. It was an old Bon Jovi ballad, something about a bed of roses, but Danny was putting some soft, slow, "unplugged" kind of vibe on it, his voice little above a whisper. It was a gentle, comforting sound that Steve wanted to hear, but found himself slipping off to sleep.
The next time Steve opened his eyes, the house was shrouded in shadows, and he tried to make sense of the noise he was hearing. He soon realized it was Danny, still sitting there with Steve's head in his lap, asleep with his head at some bizarre angle and his mouth hanging open. The combination of the position and his open mouth were providing a sound that mimicked the Mercury's bad muffler before Steve replaced it.
He eased himself up, ducking out from under Danny's arm, glad the movement didn't wake him. Steve still had a mild headache, but he felt a lot better than he did when they first got home. He got up and walked to the kitchen. He was going to reach for a glass of water, but got himself a beer instead. It was all liquid, but he hadn't been "beer boarded", so it seemed less unpleasant.
You're doing great, McGarrett. You get PTSD triggered by a glass of water.
He turned on the kitchen light and was startled by his own reflection in the dark window. His hair looked like it never dried - it was just kind of pasted to his head - he had a white bandage over the graze wound on his head, his lip was split, his complexion was pale and his eyes looked sunken and haunted. Too bad Halloween was over. He could have been a zombie without bothering with the costume.
He could still hear Danny snoring from the living room. He wanted to do something about the bizarre angle of his neck against the back of the couch, but as soon as he moved him, he'd be awake and in motion again. Thinking that his exhausted partner deserved a break, Steve rummaged through the refrigerator until he found a package of hot dogs and some condiments. Putting hot dogs on the grill shouldn't wear him out too much, and Danny shouldn't have to wait on him hand and foot. He happened to glance at the calendar while he was opening the package. Thanksgiving was a few days away.
"Turkey franks," Steve muttered, reading the label on the package. "Close enough."
Last Thanksgiving had been festive and warm and filled with camaraderie and family. Mary and Joanie were there, Aunt Deb...and, of course, Danny and Grace. Without them, it wouldn't be a holiday. Grace was spending Thanksgiving with Stan and Rachel at Stan's parents' house, so Steve made a mental note that they should at least get a little turkey and try to do something on the holiday. Danny would put on a brave face, but on the few holidays he didn't manage to spend at least part of with Grace, he was miserable. I hope she always comes home from college for the holidays or he's gonna be a mess through every one of them, Steve thought, wondering how Danny was going to fare making it through empty nest syndrome. Not well, probably. Not well at all.
It felt good to do something useful, even if it was just making a simple meal. He took a break to use the bathroom and evaluate himself more clearly in the bathroom mirror.
Ugh. Only Danny could love that face, he thought, splashing some water on it and then backing away from the sink, like he'd sprayed himself with acid. He thought it would be refreshing, but it was awful. He scrubbed at his face with a towel, determined to get every drop off himself. I live in fucking Hawaii. I can't be afraid of the water. A Navy SEAL with a water phobia. That ought to be good for a laugh.
He heard a snort and then a groan from the living room.
"Steve?" Danny called. He sounded worried.
"Be right there," Steve replied, leaving his water phobia behind to go see Danny. "I was gonna throw some hot dogs on the grill," he said, turning on a light in the living room as Danny squinted and rubbed his eyes like a discontented mole pulled into the sunshine.
"You feel up to that?"
"Yeah, I'm okay."
"Okay, if you're sure. I can do it if you want to rest."
"I'm sick of feeling like an invalid," he said, heading back to the kitchen to gather up the supplies to take out to the grill. Now that he was moving around, he felt more nauseous than hungry, but Danny had to be starving by now.
"Want me to make a salad or something?"
"Yeah, sure, okay. Sounds good."
"Your lettuce is brown," Danny said, looking in the fridge. "Your tomatoes don't look much better."
"Well, they were fresh a few days ago," Steve said, shrugging.
"I can run to the store."
"Do you really give a fuck?" Steve asked, and Danny smiled, closing the refrigerator.
"Not really. Why don't we just order a pizza?"
"My stomach feels kind of weird yet," he admitted, since nausea had become a pain and the mention of pizza made him want to throw up.
"How're you really feeling?" Danny asked, sliding his arms around Steve's waist. Steve enveloped him in a hug, holding on. He didn't give Danny an answer in words. It seemed too complicated. He felt a little better physically but still not so great, his head still felt fuzzy and fucked up, he was hungry and nauseous at the same time, and he was afraid of water.
Danny hugged back, but didn't say anything either. He just stood there as long as Steve wanted to hold onto him. Could Danny possibly know him well enough to figure that whole mess out without being told anything?
"It's all gonna be okay, babe," Danny said gently, rubbing his back lightly. Steve resisted letting that kindness and comfort make him emotional again. He felt like his thoughts were all jumbled up and his emotions were right there at the surface...it was probably the lingering effects of a cocktail of drugs that the doctor had confirmed could have either killed him or made him a vegetable if he'd been shot up with much more of them. Maybe it was okay that he was still this weak and sensitive.
"Glad you're here," he whispered in Danny's ear as he held him.
"Me, too." Danny let a few moments pass. "Not going anywhere, Steven," he said softly. "I'm just really fucking glad you're alive," he muttered, and Steve could hear the tremor in his voice.
"So am I." He pulled back and touched Danny's face. "But then I've been real glad to be alive ever since...things changed with us."
"It's pretty good, isn't it?" Danny agreed.
"Before I got ready to try to escape, right before I went after Wo Fat's partner...I was thinking about you. I didn't understand it because when I was dreaming...hallucinating...whatever, we weren't together. You were married to Rachel, and you were happy." It felt stupid to want reassurance from real Danny that he was happier with Steve than dream Danny had been with Rachel, but Steve found himself wanting that anyway.
"Whoa, you really got back at me in your dreams, didn't you? You put me in some cheesy Hawaiian shirt and put me back with Rachel? Were you pissed at me before this happened?" Danny joked, and Steve laughed. It felt good to be able to really laugh about something connected to the whole terrible ordeal.
"Everything was different. My dad was alive, Chin was a police captain - "
"Thanks a lot. You make him a captain and make me a cheese ball in a Hawaiian shirt back with my ex-wife."
"It's not like I planned the hallucinations," Steve said, still amused by Danny's reaction.
"So what was Kono doing?"
"Selling lip gloss."
"You know if you ever tell her that, she'll drop kick you across your own office, right?"
"She was a champion surfer...endorsing something." He paused. "You shot Hesse in the knee...well, actually, both knees...to make him talk."
"I did, huh? So I was bad-ass, but wearing a Hawaiian shirt?"
"With flowers. Big pink flowers."
"Now you're pushing it."
"No, seriously, it was a black shirt but there were big pink flowers in it."
"Did I have a flower in my hair and grass skirt, too, or just the shirt."
"Just the shirt. I mean, you had pants on, too, but the Hawaiian thing was the shirt."
"I was seriously on the job in a flowered shirt?"
"Hesse wasn't laughing."
"I suppose he wasn't," Danny responded, shaking his head. "When you feel up to it sometime, I want to hear this whole story. Preferably with a few beers and a bowl of popcorn."
"The thing is, in my dream, I wasn't planning to stay here. I was going back to the Navy. But when I said goodbye to you, even though we hadn't known each other long, it's the one part of the dream that screamed at me that it was wrong. And when I was planning how to escape, I kept seeing you...in bed..." Steve paused. He figured he was probably blushing a bit, and that was silly. They were grown men after all. Still, what he was about to say was so intimate, it was kind of hard to put into words. But that vision had bolstered him when he didn't think he could save himself. Danny should know what it was. "You were lying in bed, naked, and the sunshine was hitting you, and I was touching you, kissing you, and I could feel you under my hands and under my lips and I was so in love with you even though that didn't fit with the dream. That memory survived, Danny. It was the only one that did, and...it gave me strength I really didn't have by then. I didn't understand if it was a fantasy or a memory, but I had to know, and I had to get back to you to find out, because what I felt...it was all the things I feel for you now," he concluded, his voice hushed.
"I don't know how you did what you did, how you survived...there's no way you should still be here with me but I'm just glad you are," Danny said.
"Me, too." Steve pulled Danny close again and just held onto him. Then his stomach turned again. "I don't feel so good," he muttered, pulling back.
"Gonna be sick," he croaked, staggering toward the bathroom and barely making it to his knees in front of the toilet before he heaved. There was almost nothing there, just a trace of the bland hospital breakfast he'd forced down earlier.
"I'm here, buddy," Danny said, crouching next to him, pressing his hand against Steve's forehead. He grabbed a hand towel he could reach from that angle and wiped Steve's mouth as he leaned back against Danny, breathing hard. "You had an awful lot of crap pumped into your system, babe. Then we threw in an antibiotic. Your stomach's probably just a little overwhelmed with all of it."
"Yeah, me, too," he mumbled, wondering if he'd ever feel normal again. His mind felt unreliable, and his body was still rebelling against everything it had been through. He slid his arm around Danny and gave up on any pretense of not needing the embrace, of being strong enough to handle any of this himself. Danny just sat there in blessed silence and held him. Finally, when Danny did speak, it was in a soft tone his still-jumpy brain could handle.
"What if we head upstairs, get you into bed, and I'll make you something later that's easy on your stomach? I'm gonna call the doctor and let him know. Maybe he can give you a different antibiotic. Did you ever take this one before?"
"I don't remember for sure. I don't think so, Dr. Danny," Steve joked, and Danny chuckled at that.
"I'm gonna let that one pass this time," he replied, giving Steve a little squeeze. "Come on, let's make the big trip upstairs and get you comfortable. You ready?" he asked.
"Yeah, yeah, I think so," he said. Danny stood and gave him a pull to stand up, too. "Thanks."
"Don't thank me. It's just an elaborate plan to get you undressed."
"It is, huh?" Steve replied, snorting. "You don't need a plan for that. I'm easy."
"You are, huh?" Danny replied, laughing. "Wow, wish I'd'a known that before four years of waiting to get into your pants."
"But I'm so amazing that it was worth it, right?"
"I'll just start calling you 'Amazing Steve'," he replied as they made their way upstairs. As they made it to the upstairs bathroom, Danny added. "It would have been worth anything. Just so you know," he said, pulling Steve toward him for a kiss.
"Danny...I..." Steve didn't know how to say it. It sounded so ridiculous. I'm afraid of the shower. He looked at the bathtub, but he couldn't say it. It was too humiliating and too stupid. Danny followed his gaze, then looked back at Steve. He wouldn't have blamed him for laughing, even though he knew Danny would never laugh at him when it mattered.
"I'm not exactly fresh as a daisy myself. What if we get in together? I'll be between you and the spray the whole time, okay?"
"This is stupid," Steve said, his voice barely a whisper.
"Hey, it's not stupid that you don't want water sprayed in your face right now."
"I wouldn't blame you if you laughed at me."
"Yeah, okay, like you laughed at me when I threw up at the sight of some metal barrels, huh?"
"That was different."
"You were drugged off your ass. Aside from the torture they put you through. Your mind's still trying to sort all of it out. The doctor said it would take a couple days for all that to completely work out of your system. Just relax and let me help you, okay?"
"Okay," Steve agreed. He got undressed while Danny did the same. Danny adjusted the water and got in first so he was in front of it. Steve got in, not even thrilled with the feeling of water on his feet. Danny pulled the shower curtain closed.
"You want to get a little closer, just try the water on you, but not in your face? It's nice and warm."
"Yeah, okay." Steve let Danny guide him a little closer and the warm water did feel good. It wasn't cold, it wasn't in his face, and all he had to do was step away from it. Most important, Danny was with him and didn't think he was batshit crazy.
"Yeah, kind of good, actually," he admitted, and Danny smiled. "Lather up, buddy." He handed Steve the soap and let him take his time washing up while Danny stuck his head under the spray and washed his hair.
"You want to back up to it and we'll get your hair washed?"
"Okay," Steve agreed, but he didn't like having his head back under the water. Still, he trusted Danny to guide him through it, and he did. He kept a hand at Steve's hairline that channeled the water away from his face and used his other hand to work some shampoo into Steve's hair. Steve knew he should participate, but he just let Danny do his thing, and it wasn't the horrifying experience he expected. It felt good to get really clean; wash ups by medical personnel in a hospital are, by necessity, perfunctory at best. The last traces of his horrible ordeal in that basement were swirling down the drain with soap and shampoo and the gentle touch of someone who loved him and was glad to have him home, safe.
Steve was relieved he'd survived the shower without really feeling any undue stress over it. He gave Danny credit for that, and for the fact that he didn't look toward taking his own showers with any lingering dread now. Dried off and wearing clean shorts and a tank shirt, he sat on the side of the bed and watched Danny solicitously tending to the wound near his shoulder and then as he carefully put a fresh bandage on Steve's forehead. His stomach had settled a lot, and as Danny got him into bed and tucked in, he could barely keep his eyes open.
"I'm gonna give the doctor a call about the nausea and see if he wants to switch antibiotics," Danny said. Then he seemed to notice Steve's intent gaze. "He said to leave a message with his answering service if you had any side effects or anything changed."
"Thanks," Steve said quietly, realizing that one tiny word just didn't cover a fraction of what he wanted to say to Danny.
"Anytime, babe." He leaned down and gave Steve a quick kiss before heading for the bedroom door. "Just relax and doze off if you want. The rest'll do you good."
"You coming back?"
"Nah, I thought I'd take a run over to the office in my shorts," Danny joked, as he stood there with his hair still messy, wearing nothing but his boxers.
"I guess I asked for that."
"Ask for whatever you want. You might get lucky," Danny replied before heading downstairs. Steve's last conscious thought was chuckling at that little joke.
When Danny returned upstairs, Steve was sleeping peacefully. He'd taken a moment to gobble down half a sandwich and chug a little beer after calling the doctor's answering service and leaving a message. He'd planned to make Steve something if he was still awake and hungry, but his deep, even breathing answered that question. Danny turned out most of the lights except for a dim one on the dresser and crawled into bed with Steve. He knew she should sleep somewhere else to avoid disturbing Steve, but he really did want to be close to him, to reassure them both that the ordeal was over, and they were together.
Steve shifted and reached toward Danny, who gladly settled in his arms and let himself relax. Steve was mostly asleep, but he took Danny's hand and held it. He looked pained a moment, belched, no doubt the aftermath of his sour stomach relieving itself earlier, then his face became peaceful again.
"Need to get a ring," he mumbled, then, with Danny's hand still in his, dozed back off again.
Danny's eyes went wide at that, and he looked up at Steve who was sleeping again. He wasn't playing at it, or looking at Danny with one eye open. He'd belched, sort of proposed, if you could call it that, and then gone back to sleep. Part of Danny wanted to shake him awake and demand something more, some additional discussion of the subject, but his fingertip brushed near one of the blisters from the baton, a spot swollen enough to be felt through his undershirt, and it was like a horrible reminder of all Steve had been through.
So instead of pressing him for answers, he treasured the mumbled, half-assed, fragment of a proposal and the fact Steve was alive to mumble it, and let himself drift, wondering when he'd hear a conscious version of it, or when he'd get up the nerve to say it himself.