Tag 2x22 – Waking to a nightmare
The lone figure in the bed moves, but stills after just a few seconds. Two very sleepy eyes open and Steve looks around in confusion. He raises his head, but drops it back onto the pillow with a groan. Raising the head caused a deep pain to awake in his back. Come to think of it, his whole body aches. His head is throbbing; breathing causes a little twinge in his ribs, and with every miniscule movement, his lower back sends daggers of pain all the way down to his toes.
Turning his head to look at his alarm clock is a challenge when his abused neck muscles scream in protest about another unwelcome movement. He stops trying to take a look at the time when the pain in his neck causes his eyes to water. That is not really helping his blurry vision. Maybe I should just go back to sleep. After coming to that brilliant conclusion, it only takes a minute to accomplish just that.
Next time he is awakened by the call of nature that demands immediate attention. Steve slowly rolls onto his left side and swings his legs over the side of the bed. Well, swinging might be not really what he's doing. It's more like a slow crawl to the edge of the bed. It's accompanied by one or two hisses of pain when his back wildly protests the change of position.
Steve very carefully sits up and closes his eyes against the onslaught of vertigo and nausea. He hangs his head and regrets that movement uttering a pitiful groan. Don't do that again. After that, he holds his head *very* still and tries to catch his breath. He doesn’t understand what’s going on right now; why he's feeling like crap. Well, maybe because you were in a plane crash? Just a thought of course. That little voice in his head sounds a lot like Danny; which makes him groan again.
After a minute just sitting on the edge of his bed, and after his leg started to bounce because he really needs to go now, he gingerly stands up. A deep ache in his lower back turns into a stabbing pain with every movement. Breathing hurts between his shoulder blades and his ribs are also not happy that his chest expands every few seconds.
But his head and neck really take the cake. The pain in his neck is ungodly and every little turn of his head results in an involuntary groan he can't keep in. He slowly shuffles to his adjoining bathroom and feels like an eighty-year old invalid and not like a thirty-five year old ninja, like Danny likes to call him.
He keeps standing under the spray until the water runs cold. Steve steps out of the tub and almost lands flat on his back when he slips on a puddle of water. He grabs the sink and barely manages to stay on his feet, but can't keep in the scream that this sudden movement causes in his neck. Fuck. There is obviously something wrong. Damn.
Steve grits his teeth and finishes up in the bathroom. After completing his morning routine and getting dressed, he is left lightheaded and panting from the incredible pain in his neck and head. There is no way he will be able to put his boots on. After painfully making his way downstairs it's clear that he needs help.
He is barely able to move his head sideways and even the slightest nod sends such fierce pain through his spine, that he wonders how his head is even still stuck on his shoulders.
Steve gingerly sits down in the recliner and leans back into the chair, sighing in relief when his head rests on the headrest and gets some support. He presses Danny's speed dial and waits for the connection.
"Hey, buddy. Have you finally decided to get up?" Danny's cheerful voice can be heard from the phone.
"Danny, can you please come pick me up?" Steve asks his friend. He's sitting with his eyes closed and trying not to let on just how much pain he is in.
"Steve, you don't sound so good. Are you okay?"
Of course Danny would pick up on his voice right away. "Not really. Can you just come and get me?"
"I'll be there in ten. Just sit tight, I'll be right there," Danny promises, already leaving HQ.
"Hey, calm down, I'm not dying here." Steve is aware he sounds a little like he actually is, and if he's honest he almost feels like it too.
"If YOU ask to get picked up, you either have lost a limb or are delirious with fever. So which is it?" Danny's in the car and speeding out of the parking lot. He is very tempted to use lights and sirens.
"Neither. Guess I have whiplash or something. Can't really move my neck," Steve admits in a low voice.
"What? Fuck. Steve, listen to me. Do not move. You hear me? I'm not kidding. Shit, we should have taken you to the ER last night."
Steve can hear that Danny switched the siren on and shakes his head, only to cry out from the pain of the movement and his own stupidity. "Danny, don't crash the car. I'm fine."
*~* *~* *~* Hawaii Five-0 *~* *~* *~*
The sight that greets Danny when he enters Steve's house is not encouraging. His friend is sitting in the recliner with his eyes closed and Danny can see that he's in a great deal of pain. When he gets closer he sees that the left side of Steve’s head is discolored; the lacerations on his forehead and above his eye are clean but look red and painful.
"Steve?" Danny softly speaks to his friend, so as not to startle him in case he didn’t hear him enter.
"Hmm," Steve acknowledges Danny but doesn't open his eyes or move.
"How are you doing?" Danny crouches down to his friend's level and lays his hand on Steve's shoulder.
"This is ridiculous, I was fine last night, so I don't know what's happening today. I can't move my neck, Danny." Steve looks up at his friend in frustration and frets about what he probably thinks is a betrayal by his body.
"Hey, it's okay. Your muscles probably just seized up on you. But we should play this safe, Steve. I'm going to call an ambulance…"
"NO… argh, fuck!" Steve's sudden movement at the mention of the word 'ambulance' sends him into a red haze of pain that turns gray and then black after just a few seconds.
"Steve! Shit." Danny stops Steve's head from lolling to the side when he blacks out. He puts one hand on his partner's forehead and keeps the head immobilized as he fumbles his phone out with the other.
It only takes him a moment to call for an ambulance and by the time he has his phone back in his pocket, Steve starts to come around.
"Ugh. Danny?" Steve looks up at him with pain-filled eyes.
"Don't move, Steve. EMTs are on their way, hang in there, okay? Listen, do you have any odd sensation in your shoulders or arms?"
"Odd? You mean besides the stabbing pain in my neck and head? There’s a tingling in my right arm, and in my legs. Didn't feel it until now," Steve gets a bit scared by the new sensation. Up until now he thought he just pulled a muscle or something, but it's looking more like a serious injury by the minute.
"That doesn't necessarily mean anything, Steve. Just stay still and you'll be fine." Danny's assurance sounds fake even to his own ears.
"Danny, I feel sick," Steve meekly says when a new wave of nausea hits.
"Breathe through it, Steve. You can't throw up now. Come on, SuperSEAL you can keep it in." Danny looks down in worry. If Steve gets sick now, it could have devastating consequences for him since his neck is not secured with a brace. Danny breathes a sigh of relief when he hears the ambulance's siren. Less than a minute later, the EMTs enter the house.
They take over the scene and it only takes them a few seconds to put a c-collar around Steve's neck. After learning that he was in a plane crash yesterday and experienced severe pain in his lower back this morning, they have him strapped onto a backboard in under five minutes flat.
Even with the restraints, throwing up was not a pleasant process and leaves him completely spent.
"Danny?" Steve calls out to his friend, searching the room as far as he can with his head held completely still.
"Hey, I'm here," Danny steps into his line of vision. He side-steps the vomit on the floor and nods to the two EMTs as he grabs one handle of the backboard to help lift his friend up from the floor and onto the gurney.
"On three," Tom the EMT on the other side of Steve's head counts and they lift Steve up and and they have Steve secured on the gurney in no time.
It takes them only minutes to get Steve into the ambulance, and for Danny to secure the house. For a second Danny thinks about following the ambulance with his car, but one look at his friend's panicked face tells him his answer. He jumps into the back of the ambulance and they are on their way.
Steve tries to find Danny, but the only thing he can lay eyes on is the roof of the bus he's lying in. It unnerves him not being able to move on his own and the jostling of the drive is hurting way more than he thought possible. He can't keep himself from groaning and that does the trick, because suddenly Danny's face is in his line of vision.
"Steve, it's okay, hang in there, we’ll be there soon," Danny says as he lays his hand on his partner's shoulder trying to calm him. He turns his head to the one EMT sitting next to him, asking, "Can't you give him something for the pain?"
"No, they have to evaluate him first in the ER, I can't give him anything in case he needs surgery," the EMT tells Danny.
"What? I don't need surgery," Steve calls out, not happy about that turn of events.
"Hey, hey, calm down, Steve. No one said you do. Try to relax, you'll only hurt yourself." Danny looks down at the very agitated Steve, who is struggling against the restraints. "Steven, stop that, hold still." Danny grabs Steve's hand that is secured to his chest and gives it a squeeze while keeping up his calming speech. It works after a moment and Steve settles back down.
Five minutes later they stop in front of the ER and before Danny can do anything about it, his friend is whisked away into one of the trauma rooms. Danny is left behind and the only thing for him to do is to inform the cousins of the new development.
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Steve tries to lay still, he really does, but his back hurts from lying in this position for way too long. His head is not only still completely immobilized by the brace but he is also held into place by the holding mechanism in the MRI. The pain in his neck has lessened some and the odd tingling in his arm and leg is completely gone.
He is not as worried about a serious neck injury as he was when he arrived an hour ago. The ER doctor said it's most likely 'just' whiplash. Yeah, right, just. The pain he was experiencing earlier… there was nothing 'just' about it.
The young doctor has already diagnosed a mild concussion which probably caused the earlier nausea. Well, that and the pain and exhaustion. It's not like yesterday or the last forty-eight hours, for that matter, were a walk in the park. And that was in addition to the emotional rollercoaster of catching Wo Fat. He hasn't even started to think about the meaning of that.
The sled he's lying on comes to an abrupt stop and the movement causes him to groan again. But he's thankful when he is moved out of the MRI scanner. Steve is still strapped onto the back board until they rule out the certainty of any spinal injury. He hates lying flat on his back like this, not being able to see what's happening around him. It's a very vulnerable position and he wished Danny could have stayed with him.
"Commander?" His doctor's face comes into view. "We're going to transfer you from the back board to a gurney now. Don't try to help, okay? Let us do all the work." While he's speaking he opens all the fasteners on the straps that were holding Steve in that uncomfortable position on the board.
Three more people appear next to Steve and have him on the gurney a moment later.
It's a total relief to not be lying on the hard backboard any longer. The gurney almost feels like heaven. Of course, the neck brace is still in place and his back also still hurts, but he’ll take small comforts.
Dr. Douglas appears next to him and raises the headrest into a slightly elevated position and puts a small pillow under Steve's head, which does wonders for him. He's much more comfortable this way.
"Does that feel a little better?" His doctor asks as he puts a special roll under Steve's knees that takes much of the pressure off his lower back.
"A lot, thank you. I take it there is no spinal injury, then?" Steve is pretty sure he would not be in this position if his spine was injured like that.
"No, you're very lucky. Your lower back is pretty badly bruised and there is a little swelling that is pressing on the nerves. It won’t cause any loss of function but will cause quite a lot of pain for the next couple of weeks. But that is nothing too much to worry about. However, your neck is a different matter." Dr. Douglas looks like he's hesitating coming up with the right words for his patient to understand.
"What's with my neck?" Steve knows it can't be too serious or he would still be flat on his back.
"Well, first there is a severe case of whiplash. You pulled some ligaments and muscles. That is very painful but in itself, not dangerous. But you did a little bit more than that. In easy terms your vertebrae are slightly out of joint. Don't worry, your spinal cord is not involved, but the nerves are a little pinched; that is why you're in such extreme pain. One of our neurosurgeons will put you back together in a few minutes. He'll use a technique that will line everything back as it belongs but he will need to knock you out for a few minutes while he sets your neck. After that, you will need to wear a neck brace for a couple of weeks, and then take some physical therapy. I think you should be back to normal in about four to six weeks."
"No. You can probably leave in a few hours. Depends on how you handle the sedation. Do you have any questions?" Dr. Douglas looks at his patient.
"Good. The orderly will take you back to the ER, where you'll meet with the neurosurgeon. I'll inform your friend that you’re on your way back down. He's still waiting in the ER for you."
"Commander, when you wake up you will have a different neck brace on. That one will be perfectly fitted for you and will completely immobilize your neck but should be more comfortable than this standard one. If you're ready we can proceed." Dr. Iko looks questioningly at Steve.
"Okay. Let’s do it." Steve looks at the assistant who injects something into the IV the EMTs had put in at the scene. It only takes a few seconds to take effect before he is under.
When Steve opens his eyes, it is twenty minutes later and he feels very different. The intense pain that had taken up residence in his neck is gone. In its place is a light throbbing in his head and a mild pulling pain in his neck. Not too bad, all things considered.
"Commander? Welcome back. Everything worked like a charm. You're still feeling the effects of the muscle relaxant and we also gave you a pain reliever. How do you feel?" Dr. Iko checks the position of the neck brace and seems satisfied with it.
"A bit fuzzy, but not bad. Doesn't hurt that much," Steve tells the doctor who seems happy with the outcome of whatever he did to Steve's neck.
"Good. That's very good. You’ll need to stay here another hour or so, until we're sure there are no ill effects from the anesthesia. After that, you’ll be free to go. I would like to see you next week, or right away if you experience severe pain or any other odd sensation."
*~* *~* *~* Hawaii Five-0 *~* *~* *~*
Fifty-five minutes later Steve is sitting on the exam bed with Danny kneeling in front of him, putting socks on Steve's still bare feet.
"Don't think I’ll do this every day now so you might as well forget it," Danny grumbles as he puts the second sock on Steve's foot.
Steve would smile down at his friend if he could move his head in that direction, or any direction for that matter. But the doctor wasn’t kidding, that special brace doesn't allow any movement at all. He can’t move his neck even an inch.
"Thank you, Danny." Steve tells the air in front of him, since his friend is still down on his knees trying to get his now sock-clad feet into the boots.
"Yeah, yeah. Chin brought the car, so I can take you home," Danny tells him as he finally has the first boot on the foot.
"I'm not going home. Doc said I'm good to go to work. There will be tons of paperwork…"
Suddenly Danny is standing in front of his face. "Hold it right there. Did I hear you correctly?” he squawks. “You want to go to work to do paperwork? You must be really desperate to get back to HQ if you come up with that reason," Danny grins at his friend.
"I need to fill out all the forms for Interpol, and then we need to go to the crash site, and I need to meet with the Governor, he called last night, and we need to meet with the DA, and…"
"Slow down, Steve. First of all you need to come back. You know, settle back in. Tell us, Chin, Kono and me, about what happened. And then WE can start on the paperwork and everything else we have to deal with. But most importantly of all, you have to remember that you, my friend, were in a plane crash. Yesterday. And you didn't get away as unscathed as it seemed." Danny looks his friend in the eye. "I'm sorry I didn't take you to the ER yesterday. We should have insisted on it. Wo Fat got checked out at Halawa but no one bothered to look you over. I'm sorry about that."
"I was fine."
"No, you were on an adrenaline rush that kept you going for days. You were not fine, my friend. But you will be, and to make sure that you follow doctor's orders, I'm going to move in with you for a couple of weeks. And in those weeks you can tell me again why you went off alone on your hunt."
"I wasn't alone. I had Interpol with me. I did everything by the book. Danny, I told you yesterday. I had to protect you. I know," Steve holds up his hand to stop Danny from speaking, "I know you all would have gone with me. I know that. And you have no idea how very much I appreciate that fact. Really, I do. But as your team leader, and even more so as your friend, it's my job to keep you safe. And as head of Five-0, it's my job to keep it running. How could that have happened if we'd all gone after Shelburne? You all had my back by keeping Five-0 running. So that I have something to come back to. You know? Danny I knew I could count on all of you, and that is the only reason I could leave. Thank you for that." Steve hopes that Danny will understand how much his friendship really means to him.
"Okay,” Danny finally agrees. “I guess I can live with that. But don't think that will get you out of me moving in," Danny grins at Steve, not telling him that he had practically lived at his place since Steve has been gone.
"Fine. I'll need someone to help me put my shoes on anyway."
"Yeah, right, dream on." Danny smiles at his best friend, glad to have him back. He'd missed him.
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