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In the Dark

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There are coloured spots dancing in Steve’s peripheral vision. He blinks a little, trying to clear them away, while simultaneously ignoring Danny’s latest rant and pretending to listen by nodding at what he hopes are appropriate intervals.

“... crazed chittering rhesus monkeys with more sense of responsibility than... are you even listening to me, McGarrett?”

“Yeah, yeah. I’m listening. Monkeys, got it.”

Danny blows out his cheeks in exasperation. “I’ve been talking for five minutes, and all you got out of that was ‘monkeys’? Why do I even bother wasting my breath?”

“I don’t know. It seems to make you happy, and it obviously serves some therapeutic purpose,” Steve reaches up to pinch the bridge of his nose, rubs at his eyes with his thumb and forefinger. He can already feel a twinge of pain building behind his eyes, and he wonders if he can manufacture an excuse to get out of the office early so he can go home, find his meds, and pass out on his bed until the worst is past.

“Thera– I cannot believe you. No, seriously, here I am trying to bring a modicum of standard police practices here, and you’re accusing me of what, having too many feelings? What the hell, McGarrett?”

Steve turns his back so Danny won’t see him wince at the rise in volume, then carefully goes to sit at his desk, moving slowly so he won’t set off a chain reaction in his head that he won’t be able to control.

“You do have a lot of ‘em, Danno.”

Danny snorts. “Excuse me for trying to maintain a standard of professionalism, then. I’ll just go back to filling out all our paperwork, shall I? Or do you think you could stoop to that level, just this once? I realize that it’s not as exciting as getting shot at through windows and dodging laser beams with your ultra cool ninja calisthenics, or whatever, but it’s still part of the job.”

“I’m working, here, Danno,” Steve tries not to snap, and thinks he fails miserably. “Would it kill you to be quiet for five minutes? I swear, it’s like you never stop talking.” The thing with Danny is, of course, that he does have a lot of feelings. Not that Steve doesn’t, but in spite of all his years as a cop, Danny still wears his heart on his sleeve, is wide open for the whole world to see, and that makes it all too damned easy to cut him to the quick. Steve can see the flash of hurt on his features before his expression becomes shuttered.


As though bent on proving a point, Danny lapses into complete silence and turns to his computer, tapping away at the keys. He’s a hunt-and-peck typist, which drives Steve a little nuts on a good day, and today every click of the keyboard feels like it's echoing right off the insides of his skull. There’s no way he can get out of the office now, and he’s resigned himself to an afternoon and maybe an evening’s worth of misery. He rummages in his desk drawer, finds a bottle of Tylenol, and dry-swallows four of them, tilting his desk lamp away as even the dim light threatens to blind him. Glancing up, he catches Danny staring at him.

“You okay?”

“Fine.” The last thing he wants right now is Danny’s scrutiny, accompanied by another lecture on whatever tortuous conclusions Danny will draw from what he’s seeing.


“I’m fine,” he insists, even as just raising his voice sends more pain stabbing into his head.

“All right, all right, you’re fine. Sorry I asked. Next time, I’ll be sure not to care,” Danny huffs, and makes a point of staring at his computer and typing deliberately loudly, Steve is sure of it.

“Good plan,” Steve mutters, and wonders if it would be too melodramatic to stab himself through the eye with his pen, if it would make the pain go away.

He’s beyond the help of his meds now, he thinks glumly, rubbing at his temple with two fingers and squinting at his screen. An email pops up with a cheerful ‘ping,’ and suddenly the whole screen shifts and blurs before his eyes, making his stomach lurch and bile burn in his throat. He swallows hard, but it’s a losing battle. He’s going to be sick, but he’ll be damned if it happens here, so he forces himself to breathe, to get up slowly and make his way out of the office without stumbling or holding himself up against a wall, which is a hell of a victory, all things considered. Once he’s clear of the office, though, he gives up all pretence at dignity and catches hold of the nearest wall, leaning heavily against it until he can make it into the men’s room where he shoves open a stall door and sinks to his knees just in time for his lunch to make a really unwelcome reappearance.

He retches violently for what feels like forever, each bout sending flares of agony stabbing through his skull, bracing himself against the metallic wall of the stall with one hand. No sooner does he manage to catch his breath then another wave of nausea assaults him, jacknifing him forward again, until he’s doing nothing but spitting bile into the toilet in front him.

“McGarrett? You fall in?”

He bites back a moan of frustration. The last thing he needs is Danny Williams’ particular brand of whirlwind energy right now. He opens his mouth to tell him that he’s fine, or some close approximation thereof, and only manages to dry-heave into the toilet again. Footsteps approach, clacking harshly on the tile, and he’s helpless to do anything except keep his eyes squeezed tightly shut against the light and pray that Danny will somehow, miraculously change his mind and leave him the hell alone. The footsteps stop just outside the stall.

“Hey,” Danny’s voice suddenly uncharacteristically quiet. “What’s going on with you? You sick, or you have something bad at lunch?”

“I’m fine,” he manages, even though it comes out sounding strangled.

“Yeah, okay, see, my definition of fine doesn’t involve puking out my stomach lining into the nearest toilet. Clearly, you’re not fine, so why don’t you just save us both the bother of getting through whatever macho bullshit inside your head is insisting you put a brave face on this, and you tell me what’s wrong?”

“Will it get you to shut up?” he tries to take a deep breath, maybe settle the churning in his stomach a little, but it doesn’t help.

“It might.” A hand settles on the small of his back, and it does feel damned nice, grounding. “You sick?”

“Headache. They get like this sometimes.” This time he manages a breath, lets himself sink slowly to the tiled floor, resting his head against the cool metal of the stall, knees drawn up to his chest.

“Hell of a headache. Is it a migraine?”

He cracks open an eye, surprised Danny even knows about this sort of thing, then immediately regrets it as the light from the fluorescent bulb overhead shines directly into his face. He flinches, and another bolt of pain lances through him. This time he can’t quite swallow the moan of pain that comes after.

“Yeah, looks like a migraine to me. Rachel gets them too. Don’t move, okay? I’ll be right back.”

Danny gives his knee a quick squeeze. Steve senses rather than sees him get up and walk away, and for an embarrassing second he wants nothing more than to reach out and plead with him not to leave him alone like this. Fuck. Pull it together, he tells himself, but he may as well instruct a fish to breathe in the desert. He stays right where he is, trying to keep his breathing even. A moment later the pain suddenly recedes to a more bearable level, and he realizes that Danny has switched out the lights in the washroom and is coming back, his footsteps the only indication of his approach. He drops to a crouch next to Steve.

“Okay, McGarrett. You got any meds for this?”

“At home.”

“Remind me to lecture you about that later. You sensitive to touch, too, or mostly the light?”

He doesn’t want to talk. Talking makes it hurt more, but Danny’s voice is quiet, insistent.

“Come on. I know how much this sucks, but I need a minimum of information if I’m going to help.”

“Just light, and smells, sometimes.”

“All right. I can work with that. Sit tight, I’ll be right back.”

Dying seems like a really good option right about now. If he could just manage to move enough to find a way to do it. He’s pretty sure that if he was dead, it wouldn’t hurt this much. He’s had bullet wounds that hurt less. In fact, all his bullet wounds have hurt less. He keeps his eyes closed, and it feels like only a couple of seconds have passed –or maybe twenty years, he’s not sure– when Danny comes back and holds a paper cup to his lips.

“Just rinse and spit. It’ll make you feel better. I’m putting a cold cloth on your neck, so try not to jump, okay?”

Steve has no idea where Danny found a compress, but he doesn’t care, because it feels wonderful. Danny nudges him until he takes a sip of water –tepid, for which he’s eternally grateful. He spits the mouthful into the toilet, and Danny carefully wipes his face with what feels like a damp napkin. Under any other circumstances he’d be completely humiliated to have his partner wiping what’s probably streaks of vomit from his face, but right now he’s too miserable to care. Danny flushes the toilet, and the sound alone almost sends him spiraling right back to where he started. Danny must notice, because he puts a hand on his shoulder.

“Sorry,” he says softly. “Okay, let’s get you up. On three. One, two!” Before Steve even has time to tense up at the thought of moving, Danny has hauled him to his feet and is propping him up against the stall. “Breathe, McGarret, come on. Deep breath.”

He’s not sure if he’s about to pass out or burst into tears, but he manages a breath, then another, and he stays upright, conscious, and mercifully doesn’t actually cry. Danny rubs his back.

“Good job. Think you can walk with me back to the car?”

“Yeah,” he nods tentatively.

Danny baby-steps him out to the car. The lights are still on in the rest of the precinct, and his knees buckle when he first steps out of the men’s room, Danny’s firm grip the only thing keeping him up.

“Easy, McGarrett,” he murmurs. “I got you.”

“Fuck,” is the only word he manages, and that gets a low chuckle out of his partner.

“I hear you. Come on, we’re almost there.”

He lets Danny fold him into the front seat of the car where he tries his best to curl on himself like... well, he’s not sure what. Maybe a snail, or a hermit crab, or something with a shell. Danny’s driving smoothly, carefully, but it doesn’t prevent Steve’s stomach from trying to climb out through his mouth, even the glow from the streetlights stabbing straight through his eyeballs. He’s going to throw up again, even though his stomach is empty, and just the thought makes his whole body throb in pain. He manages a hitching breath, and then Danny’s hand is on his leg, warm and reassuring.

“Just a couple more minutes, babe. You hanging in there, or do you need me to stop?”

“N-no. No I’m good. Keep going.” He is not going to throw up in Danny’s car, he has decided.

His thoughts drift, and he thinks maybe he loses track of the time, because the next thing he knows Danny is unbuckling his seat belt and coaxing him gently out of the car, talking to him like he’s a frightened kitten or something. He’s not sure what’s worse: the fact that he can’t form the words to tell Danny to shut up, or the fact that it’s actually kind of soothing.

“You need the bathroom?” Danny asks softly once they’re inside. “Or you want to try for the bed?”

He doesn’t feel quite as awful. “Bed.”

“You got it.”

Steve decides that his bed is the softest, most wonderful place in the known universe, the minute Danny eases him onto it, sliding a pillow under his head and switching off the bedside lamp, plunging the room into darkness. He tries to push away Danny’s hands when he figures out that his partner is undoing his shirt buttons, but his movements are uncoordinated and clumsy, and Danny just catches one of his wrists in his.

“I’m not letting you sleep in your clothes, McGarrett. I promise not to molest you in your sleep, jeez. Relax, okay?”

He can’t muster the energy to protest further, just lets Danny slide his shirt off, then his shoes and socks, followed by his cargo pants, and he has just enough presence of mind to be grateful that he didn’t go commando today. Danny smooths a hand briefly over his forehead, then disappears, leaving him feeling oddly bereft. Still, it’s better this way, he tells himself. He’ll just curl up into a ball and wait either to die or sleep it off, whichever comes first, and then after that maybe he’ll find a way to live down this new humiliation.

But after a couple of minutes the bed dips again, as though someone has just sat next to him, and Danny’s hands are there, cupping his face, fingers scraping against the stubble of his five o’clock shadow.

“Open up, McGarrett. I found your meds. Better late than never, right? Come on, under your tongue... that’s it.”

He can feel the tablet dissolving in his mouth, replacing the sour taste of vomit. The room is nice and cool, the way he likes it, and thankfully dark. He thinks Danny might have drawn the curtains when he wasn’t paying attention. He tries to turn his head to see where his partner is, and that turns out to be a huge mistake, pain shooting up his neck and into his head, behind his eyes, and he thinks he might actually have moaned or maybe whimpered, because Danny’s hand is back, rough and soothing.

“Steve, I need you to relax, okay? Don’t move, and let me do the work. I’m going to turn you onto your stomach, but it’s important you don’t tense up –that’ll just make it hurt more.”

He grunts what he hopes sounds like a plea to leave him the hell alone, but apparently that’s not what Danny hears, because the next thing he knows he’s being flipped quickly and efficiently onto his stomach. The whole room lurches sickeningly for a second, and he’s briefly convinced that he’s going to be violently sick all over his sheets, but soon enough everything goes still again.


But Danny just shushes him —something to which under normal circumstances he would seriously take exception— and smooths the palms of his hands over Steve's shoulder blades. “Shh, just trust me on this, okay?”

He's about to protest again, when Danny's hands skate up over his shoulders, past his neck, and then his fingers are digging gently into Steve's scalp, the tips pressing almost painfully into the skin, and Steve lets out a really undignified sound that's half pain, half relief. Danny keeps up the pressure, fingertips moving in tiny circles, thumbs digging in maybe a little harder than the other fingers, and, magically, the pain starts to fade. It doesn't disappear entirely, but it's no longer threatening to rip his head apart from the inside-out, and tears prick at his eyes from sheer relief and spill onto the pillow, and he's too goddamned overjoyed to even care if Danny saw them.

“Better?” Danny asks quietly, and he lets out a hum of agreement.

Danny removes his hands, eliciting a small moan of protest, quickly quashed as he begins the same process with Steve's neck and shoulders, digging his thumbs in at the pressure points, and Steve is pretty sure he's just going to melt and fuse with the mattress, not that he cares at this point. His eyes close seemingly of their own volition, and the last thing he's aware of is of Danny's hands, strong and sure and gentle, moving along his arm to take his hand and begin applying pressure between his thumb and forefinger, and then everything goes blessedly dark.

He's awoken by a thin shaft of sunlight streaming in through a gap in the curtains. He blinks and carefully raises his head, half-expecting to be hit with blinding pain again, and is pleasantly surprised to find that he's only feeling a little muzzy, a nasty taste in his mouth and a sensation similar to cotton wool having been stuffed into his ears. The foil packet containing his meds is on the bedside table, missing two tablets, although he doesn't remember taking the second one, along with a folded up washcloth and a glass of water that's still half-full. Still moving as slowly as he can manage, he eases himself to a sitting position, only to find that Danny's still here, slumped in a chair by his bed —a damned uncomfortable one too, by the looks of it— and sound asleep, his head propped up on his hand. For a few moments he debates letting him stay asleep, but decides against it. Danny will bitch for days about his back if he stays in that chair a minute longer.

“Hey,” he starts, clears his throat. “Hey, Danno.”

His partner comes awake with a jerk, arms and legs flailing for a moment until he gets his bearings and finds his balance again, and immediately his expression turns worried. “Hey, how you feeling?”

“Okay. Good.”

“Good, good,” Danny scrubs a hand over his face, trying to wake himself up. “You need more meds or anything?”

Steve shakes his head, relieved that that doesn't cause him pain either. “No, really, it's gone.”

“Great,” Danny grins, obviously delighted, and his enthusiasm must be contagious, because Steve finds himself smiling back. “You kind of had me worried there, McGarrett. You get those often?”

“Once is too often if you ask me, but no, not really. Maybe a couple times a year,” he can't bring himself to keep looking Danny in the eyes at that. It's ridiculous, really. “I really need a shower.”

“No argument from me, but I will tell you you're not going to work today.”

Steve quirks an eyebrow. “No?”

“No.” The answer is firm.

“And why not?”

Danny rolls his eyes and throws up his hands. “How did I know this was going to turn into a test of wills? First off, because I had to carry your gigantic ass home last night because you were too sick to stand up on your own. And second, because it's Saturday.”

“What?” he suddenly feels a little stupid.

“Saturday. Typically follows Friday. Also known as the first day of the weekend, which normal people take off.”

A sudden, horrible thought makes his stomach clench. It must show on his face, because Danny leans forward, looking alarmed.

“Steve, hey. What's the matter?”

He pulls himself together. “Did I screw up your time with Grace?”

“Grace? What? Oh, no. No, no, it's not my weekend. Rachel has her. Jesus, McGarrett, you just about gave me a stroke,” Danny slumps a bit in his chair. “Okay, enough dramatics. You're going to make me age prematurely, and I am totally blaming you for my first grey hairs —which, I might add, I've already spotted, thanks to your antics. Take your shower, and I'll see if there's anything in your kitchen with which I can make breakfast.”

“Danny, you don't have to—”

Danny forestalls him with a hand, palm out. “I don't want to hear it. Get your butt in the shower, and take another pill if you feel so much as a twinge, okay? I know how these things go, and the last thing either of us wants is a relapse.”

Steve grins. “Yes, sir.”

He slides gingerly out of bed, still half-expecting to have the pain come slamming back at any moment, and slips into the bathroom while Danny heads down the stairs, still muttering under his breath, no doubt a long diatribe about some new tribulation in his life, because there are so many these days. The hot water feels blissful on his skin, soaking into tender muscles and washing away the remnants of pain and sickness. He shaves meticulously, and relishes the sharp tang of toothpaste in his mouth, especially when the scent of mint doesn't manage to make him even so much as queasy.

By the time he's dressed and ready to face the day —he might be facing it from a chair on his porch with a beer in hand, but he'll damned well be facing it— the aroma of fresh coffee and sizzling bacon is wafting through the house, and he can hear Danny humming under his breath as he moves about preparing breakfast. Steve pauses at the top of the stairs, savouring the moment, then with a small smile he pads down the stairs to go join Danny in the kitchen.