The first time it happened, there was a grenade involved. That's all Danny's got to say about The Incident. It's all anyone really needs to know about it.
On second thought, everyone (especially the governor) is better off not knowing about it, period.
This. This, of all things, is Steve's new most favorite technique in the world of policing, wherein 'policing' takes on the twisted definition Steve cooked up in his own crazy head.
Danny hisses, "This is not in the handbook. This is nowhere near the handbook. They may revise the handbook another hundred times, and this will never be featured in any way, except as part of the section on 'how not to do it'."
Steve ignores him, of course. "Your five seconds start now," he tells the suspect and makes a show of releasing the safety on his gun. "One."
"Look, I don't know nothin' about nothin'," the perp squeaks, squinting behind his glasses, which are starting to fog. "Nothin'. Ask anyone, really, I mean, anyone."
Steve takes a step forward, indicating with his head. "Two."
The perp shrinks back against the wall, though not an inch closer to the door Steve is indicating. "What are you doing? What's he doing? I can't go in there! I'm claustrophobic! I got rights and stuff! You can't make me!"
The guy is clearly addressing Danny now, like Danny's got any kind of idea how to stop Steve from doing anything.
"You're cops!" the perp wails, close to hyperventilating. "You can't-- Make him stop!"
"Three," Steve says and somehow manages to look even more menacing while wearing an expression that is as blank as before. Leaving aside the whole undue force and threat of violence thing, and the fact that they've got nada, zilch, nothing in the way of solid evidence on this guy, it's a neat trick Steve will have to teach Danny at some point.
"McGarrett," Danny tries, because the kid looks like he's barely out of high school, possibly still wet behind the ears, and also like he's going to piss himself any minute, which would make booking him just that much more fun. Plus, Danny's not convinced the kid is even connected to the double murder they're investigating.
"Four," Steve says and takes another step forward.
"Okay, okay, fine!" the perp yells.
Steve smirks and puts away his gun.
Danny shakes his head and sighs, releasing a breath that feels like it's coming from somewhere near the bottom of his heart. At least the grenades stayed home today. Small mercies and all that.
"You can't keep doing this," he tells Steve behind the closed doors of his office, after the perp has turned out to be just a scared kid after all. A kid who'd thought the cops were coming after him for that stack of unpaid speeding tickets he'd been trying to foist on his identical twin.
"It was necessary," Steve says, not even looking up from the file he's reading.
The way Steve dismisses Danny's objections so easily, the way he never bothers to listen in the first place, it drives Danny crazy. It drives him this close to the edge every time. The edge of what, Danny isn't sure, but it's no fun, no fun at all.
"In what universe?" Danny snaps. "Not the one you and I are living in. That kid-- He was just a kid. He didn't do anything wrong. Nothing serious, anyway, nothing that's worth raining the Wrath Of Steve McGarrett down on him like that."
He stops, takes a step forward and snatches the file from Steve's hands. Steve finally looks up. "Danny," he says, in that overly reasonable tone of his, the one that Danny would only ever try to use on Grace. "That 'kid' is eighteen years old and had a Glock in his night stand."
"Which we found after you did your thing," Danny says. "And that's not the point. That is so very much not the point. The point is: What did he have to do with our case? Nothing. Nada. An attempted minor fraud, that's all he's got under his belt. One of these days, McGarrett, you're going to get someone injured, or permanently damaged, or killed. Some innocent person, someone who doesn't deserve it. Not that we are in any way entitled to pass judgment on who deserves what. We're not. That is not how it works. I don't know what they taught you in SEAL school, if they taught you anything in the way of following procedure, if selective tunnel vision is a desired side effect of all those training sessions where you had to hold your breath for too long. Listen now, because this part, right here, this is important: The end does not, not ever, not on this island, not anywhere else, justify the means."
Steve's eyes narrow, but at least he looks more interested in the conversation. "That's an oversimplification," he says.
"It's really not," Danny disagrees through clenched teeth. He really wants to yell, but he knows from experience that Steve's ability to see reason is inversely proportional to the volume the point is presented in. "That thing you do? Is going to end in manslaughter, maybe even murder in the first, and I'd hate to have to stand witness at your trial. I'd really hate that. I would like to say nice things about you. I know many nice things to say about you, but I'll only be asked to testify about that time when you threw that suspect off a roof, or shoved someone into oncoming traffic, or whatever you could come up with."
"Danny," Steve says, seemingly uncomfortable and not a little surprised at Danny's line of reasoning. "Sometimes it's the only thing that works. It's either that, or let the bad guys walk free. Do you want--"
"I know," Danny cuts him off as calmly as he can muster. "I know. But that doesn't make it the right thing to do. There is a right way to go about this. You're part of something, a team, a system, and it only works if everyone sticks to the rules."
"You don't always stick to the rules," Steve points out, and yes, Danny is uncomfortably aware of that, thanks for the reminder.
"There are limits," Danny tells him.
"I know," Steve says. "I have my own. Who says yours are right and mine are wrong?"
Danny stares, honestly not knowing how to answer that.
"Look, Danny, I get it," Steve finally says into the monumentally uncomfortable silence. His statement is followed by more silence of the same variety.
"And?" Danny asks.
Steve sighs. It sounds almost put-upon. If anyone has the right to sound like that, today, here, it's certainly Danny.
"And I'll try to tone it down a little," Steve says. "Okay?"
Danny doesn't much like the 'try' in this context, but he doesn't see a choice other than to take what's offered. "Okay," he says.
Steve nods once in satisfaction, snatches the file back from Danny's fingers and opens it.
Danny takes this as a dismissal and leaves.
Seriously, if he didn't actually like the guy ninety percent of the time, possibly a lot, then he'd be out of here faster than Steve could say 'transfer request'.
Except, no. That's a lie. There's more to Five-0 than the, admittedly overwhelming, personality of Steve McGarrett.
Danny likes his team. He likes Kono's eagerness and Chin's no-nonsense attitude, and, yes, he likes Steve's endless capacity for persistence. Not to mention their shared sense of humor, which makes for interesting days at the office. He likes the fact that they kick ass in their respective fields of expertise, and how easily they all combine to a well-oiled crime-fighting machine. He especially likes how they're watching out for each other in a Musketeer kind of fashion.
Danny has never worked as part of such a tight-knit group of people before. He thinks that Steve probably has. He thinks Steve's influence made them this way, and that is something to be grateful for.
Now if Steve would just recognize the awesome thing that he helped build and stop breaking from the ranks every other day, that would be the cherry on top.
"Three," Steve says conversationally. "I'll ask again: When and where's the next shipment coming in?"
Steve has Tiny Tony cuffed, held by the neck of his shirt, half dangling him over the railing of an overpass, cars rushing by underneath them.
Tony's nickname is a deeply sarcastic one. And as if that isn't enough, he's not just your garden variety small-time criminal. He's a big fish in the proverbial pond that is organized crime, with very few sharks in the food chain above him. No doubt he's guilty of a shitload of very awful things.
Still. Dangling. From an overpass.
Danny is hovering close by, even if he keeps his mouth shut. Any protest he might want to voice could break Steve's concentration. Granted, the man has nerves of steel, but Danny isn't willing to push it and find out what the insides of their drug trafficking suspect look like flattened out on asphalt. He's especially reluctant to experience the repercussions of this kind of development.
And then (surprise, surprise) it turns out their suspect is a devoted fan of martial arts, also: concealed weapons. He does not dig cops, specifically: Steve and Danny.
Danny catches the knife in his thigh, before Steve gets to 'four', and right after Steve's head is bashed into the metal railing so hard Danny is afraid the impact might have been too much for Steve's thick skull to handle. A mean twist of the blade makes Danny go down in a white hot stab of pain that is shooting up his leg and making his vision go funny. Somehow, and Danny's fucked if he knows how, Tony found the time and the coordination to slip his legs through his bound arms, thus putting his cuffed hands in front of his body instead of his back.
Tony rips the knife out of Danny's leg, snarling, and visibly decides to go for a killing blow this time. Before that plan can be put into action, Steve is there, backlit by the sun, looming over Tony's shoulder like an avenging angel. He knocks the guy unconscious with the butt of his gun.
"Danny," Steve says, after kicking away the bloodied knife. He staggers over to Danny's side unsteadily, blood trickling down his neck and soaking the collars of both his t-shirt and shirt. "Are you all right?"
"No," Danny snaps, "I am a world of not all right, and I've had it up to here with you and your-- your--"
Steve sinks to his knees next to him, expression so close to panicked that Danny loses his train of thought. He struggles to sit up, but Steve pushes him down with a palm flat against his chest. He bends and takes a close look at the stab wound, blinking rapidly a few times, like he can't get his eyes to focus.
"It's not bleeding too badly," he says finally, slurring the words. He unbuttons and strips off his shirt, moving slowly and with an unsettling lack of coordination. He balls up the fabric and presses it against the wound.
Danny can't hold in the gasp. It's kind of embarrassing in the face of the toughest guy the Navy ever spit out to the shore, but since Danny's vision even grays out a little, he feels entitled.
"Sorry," Steve says, wincing.
Danny gets the feeling that it might be an apology for more than the jolt of excruciating agony Steve is causing him just now.
On the whole, there's something wrong with this picture. Danny needs a moment to figure out what it is, then he gets his cell phone out of his pocket and dials 911.
"Oh," Steve says and blinks a few times.
It's very likely that Steve is somewhat concussed. Possibly a lot, considering the amount of blood that is already soaking his t-shirt. Danny would really like to do something about that, return the favor of rudimentary medical care, except that a) he is so very confined to the horizontal that Steve might as well be sitting on him, and b) if he actually tried to get vertical, he would puke his guts out, probably all over his partner, and that kind of behavior is not considered polite under any circumstances.
Danny resigns himself to operating the phone. That is the one thing he can do at the moment which, in his current condition, Steve would probably fail spectacularly at.
Three ambulances are sent their way, plus a battalion of uniforms, or at least that's what Danny is promised. He should make that second call, the one that lets the other half of their team know what's going on, but his arm is getting kind of heavy, and then the phone slips from his fingers.
"Don't you dare pass out on me," he instructs Steve. "And especially don't die from brain trauma or something. I need to kill you with my bare hands later."
Danny lets his head fall back onto the concrete and looks at the sky, this stupid sky that is always so fucking blue, bluer than anywhere else he's been, anywhere, anywhere else, and could someone please remind him why he's on this godforsaken island in the first place, on this island that he hates, hates, hates like burning, like grains of sand sticking between his toes, like sunburn on his scalp, like torrential downpours of lukewarm rain, like swimming, like hiking, like the jungle, like, hell, like everything, like every damn Hawaii fixture, except maybe for Steve, he's kind of fond of Steve, Steve's his favorite Hawaii fixture, and, okay, yeah, so Danny might be getting a little loopy here.
"Sure," Steve says. "Whatever you want."
Danny can't remember what the question was. Steve's hands are shaking, that Danny knows. He can feel it, can feel the minute tremors travel up his body from where Steve is trying to keep the blood inside with not-so-steady pressure. It must be the head injury, Danny thinks and tries not to worry too much.
He was never good at not worrying, though.
The sound of sirens blaring in the distance is the most glorious, wonderful thing Danny has heard in a long time.
Steve receives more stitches than Danny does, which says nothing about the amount of suffering involved, and he gets to stay overnight so the doctors can ensure his continuing lucidity. Danny gets to stay just overnight, because he's been incredibly lucky. That's not the word Danny would have used to describe his encounter with a butcher knife, but apparently things could have gone down a lot worse for him and his thigh. He's grateful. He is very attached to that thigh.
Kono promised to pick them both up and ferry them over to Steve's house, Steve with his large bottle of painkillers and strict orders to rest, Danny with the same, plus a set of crutches. Constant company was also prescribed for at least another day. Since they are both equally shitty patients, the kind that drives caretakers into mental breakdowns, they've committed to driving each other up the wall instead. It's only fair. And of course they'll be staying at Steve's house; god forbid Steve should have to set foot in Danny's apartment for more than three minutes at a time. To be fair, Steve has a guest room with an actual bed in it and Danny has only his pull-out couch, so there's no real point in starting that argument.
Outside, it's another bright and sunny Hawaiian day, so Steve goes to find them a bench to wait for their ride. Danny hobbles along.
They haven't talked, not the way people are supposed to when there's a metaphorical elephant co-occupying their space. Admittedly, Danny is no expert on this sort of thing, but Rachel had taken it upon herself to educate him on the matter, back when they were trying to fix their marriage, so he thinks maybe he does know a thing or two about it.
Next to him Steve stretches his legs out and leans back on the bench, watching the people passing by, the couples and families picnicking on the lawn in the park in front of the hospital, the flower beds, the birds, the trees, the clouds in the sky. Danny has rarely seen Steve so still. Maybe it's the painkillers.
After a while, Steve takes a deep breath and says, "This is nice. Isn't this nice, Danny?" and turns to look at him like he's expecting an answer.
Which, okay, no. This is not nice. Danny had tried the stretching-out-on-the-bench thing, and his leg had hurt like a motherfucker.
He jabs his finger hard into Steve's arm.
"Ow! Why did you do that?" Steve asks and rubs the abused spot, the big baby SEAL.
"I have this thing," Danny says, and pokes Steve again for good measure, "this thing where I want you to share my pain."
"Danny," Steve says, putting on his serious face, "you gotta do something about that bad temper of yours."
Steve has made comments like this one before, half kidding and half not. The resulting discussion generally mounts into a variation of the speech Danny had given that first time when Steve asked with a curious tilt of his head, "You always get angry like that?"
It went something like, "Do I-- Do I always get angry like that, he asks. No, Steven, no, I don't. I don't usually get angry like that. Strangely, I only started getting angry like that after you waltzed into my life, with your guns and your explosives and your highly questionable interrogation techniques. I was zen before. I was so utterly and completely zen, my usual work day was practically meditation, only I didn't realize it back then. But now I've seen the light, because you, my friend, will be the death of me."
Steve had raised an eyebrow then and patted him on the shoulder, and off they'd been to greener pastures in a new bout of stunt driving, complete with firefights and the odd explosion or two.
Today, Danny keeps the speech short. "I may have a temper, but it's not a bad temper," he tells Steve. "No, let me clarify. I do not have a bad temper around other people."
Steve smirks. "You make me feel so special, Danno."
It's not funny. This entire thing, this sad routine they've got going, stopped being funny about four trips to the hospital ago.
"You know what," Danny says. "Wait here. Let Kono take you home. Rest. You'll be up and about, trying to get yourself killed again in no time. I'm taking a taxi."
He fights with the crutches for a moment, but then he's on his way.
Steve rises with him, follows him. "Danny? Come on, don't be that way. It happens. A suspect trying to make a break, tell me that never happened to you."
"See you, Steve," he says, because he can't have this conversation right now. He might be tempted to weaponize his crutches.
"Danny," Steve says, but he stops and lets Danny go.
It only takes a few steps for Danny to start feeling guilty. The thing is, Steve is right. It wasn't exactly Steve's fault this time. Not completely. Tony would have tried to make a break for it anyway, creative interrogation technique or not. And then maybe things would have turned out worse, maybe one of them would have wound up dead, maybe--
Okay, wait, stop. The benefit of the doubt is all well and good, Danny is all for giving the benefit of the doubt. But. If they had done this by the book for once, if they'd waited for backup instead of storming off like overeager rookies, then maybe someone would have caught the knife, maybe no one would have gotten blood stains on their clothing and new holes in their body, maybe--
There's no use in speculating on possible outcomes. They are many and varied and may or may not have come to pass in some parallel universe or other. There's a here and a now, and Danny had better deal with it as it is.
The ride in the taxi is silent, the driver picking up quickly on Danny's currently non-existing enthusiasm for communication. Danny sinks into the seat and does his thing, his introspection thing where he tries to track the disaster back to the source. Every major disaster has its source, and Danny always does his best to identify it in the aftermath. Learn from your mistakes, that's Danny's motto. One of his mottos. He's got a few.
Fact is, ever since he joined Five-0, Danny has been forced to do a lot of source-tracking. He found that, generally and on average, the source consists of about eighty percent Steve.
Later, at home, when Danny is lying stretched out on his lumpy sofa, counting the cracks in the ceiling, not sleeping, not sleeping at all, fuck you very much, he realizes that this madness can't go on. It will not go on. Something's going to give, and soon.
It's this feeling Danny has, like an itch he can't scratch, like the smell of the storm in the air just before the first lightning cracks.
Not yet, but soon.
Chin shows up at Danny's apartment in the morning. It's way too early, but he's bearing breakfast and coffee. That would make it okay, nice even, but then Chin offers help. Danny doesn't need any help, thank you very much. He's completely fine, even if he can't seem to get up from the bed on his own.
Quiet insistence is one of Chin's strong suits, so in the end Danny gets the assistance he didn't ask for. When he's finally sitting at the table, freshly showered and in clean clothes with a cup of coffee in hand, he can't help but appreciate the hell out of it.
He takes a sip of the wonderful, delicious coffee and asks, "Did Steve send you?"
Chin just smiles, and Danny knows that he was ordered not to tell.
"You're planning on checking on him too, right? Make sure his brain is still intact?"
"Kono's on it," Chin says, his smile morphing into a grin.
It's as good as a, 'We're glad you're okay,' with a helping of 'You're both idiots' on the side.
Danny thinks that, when they're not acting crazy, he loves his team kind of a lot.
Danny doesn't know why it still hits him by surprise. He knows Steve. He should anticipate these things.
But maybe that's the problem.
It's hard to combine the two Steves that seem to time-share a body: the one that has his heart in the right place and occasionally makes Danny want to hug him something fierce, and the one that takes irresponsible risks and frequently makes Danny want to punch him in the mouth.
The Steve who takes Danny on hikes, who sings along with Hannah Montana just to make Grace laugh, who has Danny's back no matter what, that can't possibly be the same guy as the Steve who deliberately drives a bus over a cliff.
Except that, apparently, he is. Steve just barely gets himself and the suspect out before the burning vehicle disappears over the edge. Then he rises, brushes the dust from his cargo pants and flashes his did-you-see-what-I-just-did-there grin at Danny.
This is the day that Danny has had enough. Something inside him snaps. Maybe it's his (naturally limited) patience, or his (already tested) calm, or his (precious, precious) sanity. Maybe it's all three at once.
It happens only later, after the i's are dotted and the t's are crossed, and the team has long since called it a night. Danny gets off his couch, out of his apartment, into his car, and makes the entire trip with clenched teeth.
There's a light on in Steve's kitchen.
Barging into a room unannounced has its advantages. As a cop, Danny knows this from experience. Barging in unannounced on Steve is no exception, but it's also not short on disadvantages.
The gun that was shoved in Danny's face the first three times is a good example for the second column. Catching a peek at Steve's investigative table of personal obsession goes into column number one, though, tagged with "useful information, save for future use" and cross-referenced with the bullet hole in the ceiling right above the sofa that Steve still hasn't seen the need to DIY away.
"Oh, hey, Danny," Steve says. He shuffles the stuff on the table – documents, pictures, notes – around a bit before giving up. He rises and asks in a truly awful attempt at casual, "What are you doing here?"
"Yes, you know what, this is great," Danny says. "This is perfect. You're making my point for me. I don't even have to say anything. That's a relief, let me tell you."
One hand resting on the unruly heap of papers, Steve frowns in confusion. "What?"
Danny takes a step further inside the room. Maybe he takes two. He's not paying attention. He does notice the way Steve straightens up, though.
"It's not the counting thing," Danny continues. "It's not just the counting thing. The counting thing isn't the source of the problem. I know that. I know you know that. It's only one symptom, but it's the most irritating, the most obvious and, well, the most recent one."
"Danny," Steve says. "I'd say you lost me, but I wasn't following. At all. Rephrase and repeat that, please?"
Danny sighs. "Look, I'll just come out and say it, since you respond to subtlety about as well as Grace responds to logical reasoning. I'll make it as plain as possible. So. Here it is: You should see someone. A professional. To talk to. About your issues. Because this?" He gestures at Steve, the table, the house at large, including the bullet hole and Steve's dad's scruffy furniture and the old pictures on the wall and the reading glasses on the side board. "This is not healthy. You, here, alone with that, and the--, and that, and-- Hell." Danny rubs a hand over his face. "I like you, okay? I like you. Kono likes you, and Chin, and Grace, even my ex-wife likes you. We care about you, a lot, and we don't want to have to bury you, okay? So don't make us."
Steve is standing there, face blank. He doesn't immediately insist he's fine, which is some form of progress, Danny supposes.
"And there's this whole other thing where you should consider the people around you and not get them killed either." Danny gestures in a way that is intended to communicate 'so there', then he moves in for the proverbial kill. "Say yes. Say, 'Yes, Danny, I'm going to go see a professional.' Say it. Promise. Your word as a Navy man and surfer dude and SEAL, give it to me."
"Uh--" Steve says.
"You have five seconds," Danny interrupts, before Steve can make a u-turn from shocked to pissed off, which will inadvertently have them leave common sense and reason in the dust.
Steve takes a detour to 'taken aback'.
"Or what?" he asks, obviously on reflex.
Danny shrugs. "Don't ask me. I have no clue. They call me impulsive for a reason. But I can guarantee, it's not going to be pleasant. It's not going to be pleasant for either of us, but it's especially not going to be pleasant for you."
"You can guarantee," Steve repeats, unimpressed.
Danny is even less impressed by the way Steve is not impressed. "One," he says.
Steve raises his hands and steps back from the table and all the evidence of his personal vendetta and general fucked-up-ness. "Danny, come on. What are you going to do? Punch me again?"
Great. Now Steve's mocking him. Danny throws up his hands. "I don't believe you! When was the last time I threw a punch at you? That was months ago! And only once! You're still hung up on that? Why are you still hung up on that? In the meantime you got me beaten up, you got me shot in important parts of my body – multiple times, I might add – and a hell of a lot of other things I'm not even getting into right now. Seriously, Steve, don't make me punch you again. Two."
"So you'll, what, transfer out?"
Steve almost sounds amused. He clearly thinks this is a ludicrous idea. Danny looks him straight in the eye and refuses to be intimidated by the full body experience that is Steve McGarrett's focus directed at his person, and his person alone.
"Three," he says calmly.
"You're not," Steve says with dwindling conviction, "thinking about leaving Five-0. You're not."
"Try me, Steve. Because, you know what I would really like? You might guess, it's not that difficult to anticipate, but let me spell it out for you: I would really like to see my daughter grow up. I want to witness my little girl turning into a beautiful woman. I want to be part of that. There's birthdays and school plays and boy trouble and graduation festivities in my future. I'll even take the surfing lessons. I'll take the surfing lessons gladly, and I will not miss any of it, you hear me? I will not let you be the death of me." He takes a breath. He really needs to take a breath here. "And you know what will be the cherry on top? The icing on this delicious cake? I will not have to watch you blow yourself up, or catch a bullet to the head, or drive off a cliff, all in the line of duty, for the greater good, to save kittens and puppies and achieve world peace," Danny finishes. He almost forgets to add, "Four."
Steve's half-amused expression is gone, replaced by something that looks remarkably similar to this old acquaintance of Danny's, The Aneurysm Face. Steve is staring like he's seeing Danny for the first time, like Danny is someone new and unexpected and terrifying.
Steve says, "Wait," at the same time that Danny says, "Five."
Inside, Danny is chanting 'yes, thank you, thank you'. He honestly has no idea what would have come after five.
"Wait," Steve repeats. He's frowning now. Danny would bet good money that it's because of this thing Steve has, where his brain processes information lightning fast, except when it doesn't.
"You worry about me?" Steve asks. "This is you worrying about me?"
There are times when Danny can't believe that Steve interprets body language, deduces personal motivations and anticipates human behavior on a daily basis. This is one of those times.
"Seriously, Steve. Seriously? Of course I worry about you!" he yells. "I can't fucking decide what I'm more worried about: getting killed, or you getting killed!"
"Oh," Steve says, like that's a surprise. He scratches his neck uncomfortably. "Look, Danny, we both know that's not necessary. I know what I'm doing."
Danny very nearly laughs. "See, no, that's a complete lie. Not only do you not know what you're doing, you're too bone-headed to accept a little guidance from your trustworthy colleagues who know their way around non-combat zones. If you don't want to take your cues from me, okay, fine, I'll try not to be offended, but then at least look to Chin for a few pointers. You know Chin. You trust Chin. Chin knows police procedure, and he knows how to play it safe."
"I hate to tell you this, but if you wanted safe, you picked the wrong profession," Steve tells him.
Danny does not take kindly to the patronizing tone. "I know that," he snaps. "You think I don't know that? It's one of the reasons my marriage fell apart. Yes, it's a dangerous job, but no, it doesn't have to be a string of daily suicide missions. There's calculated risk, which I am completely willing to take, make note of that, and then there's reckless stupidity, which I am not as fond of. You, my friend, continue to stretch the meaning of 'reckless', and you define 'stupidity' anew every day."
Now Steve is crossing his arms. The gesture never bodes well, especially in combination with those narrowed eyes of his. "You know it's not that easy. It's not just black or white. We can't draw a line between 'too dangerous' and 'safe enough' and then promise to never cross it. Whatever needs to be done, I do it, and it works. Five-0 gets results. Organized crime is actually afraid of law enforcement around here. That was us. We did that, Danny. Crime rates are down, and it's because of the way we operate." He leans forward and puts his forefinger on the papers, as if his point is written down somewhere in these notes on two murder investigations. "We have immunity and means, don't you think we should use them to get the drug dealers and the murderers and the human traffickers off the street? Don't you think we have an obligation to do the best we can as fast as we can?"
Danny leans in close. He's never been one to back down from a challenge, even if it means almost butting heads with his boss-slash-partner, literally and figuratively. "My daughter is living on this island. Of course I want us to put as big a dent as possible in organized crime! But, and I want you to read my lips here: Hawaii is not a warzone. We are not fighting for our survival. There's hardly ever a call for the kind of desperate measures you just love to cook up. I know you're good at thinking on your feet. Split second decisions look easy as breathing with you. That's great, that's a useful skill, but you don't have to apply it constantly around here. When there's time to think things through, we should take it. We should not chase after the bad guys half-cocked when we could have made a decent plan that would help keep everyone involved alive. And yes, that includes the scumbag-of-the-day." Danny rubs a hand across his face. "I swear, if it was just you out there, risking your own life, I'd think you have a death wish."
Steve freezes. Just completely freezes, maybe even stops breathing for a moment. "I don't have a death wish."
"You could have fooled me, but okay," Danny says. "That's super. Good for you."
Steve's face comes even closer. "Danny, I don't have a death wish."
He can feel Steve's breath on his skin. This would have been hugely distracting at any other given moment, but right now it's just another detail in this shitty situation that he registers and files away for later revision. Focus. He can't lose his focus. "Like I said, super. Now tell me you don't actually want to kill anyone else either, and we're in the green."
Steve flinches back, eyes wide with surprise and something else that comes close to shock. It's typical Steve. Not the expression, that is something entirely new. It's the pattern, this weird selective ability (or willingness) to process information. Because Danny has been saying this all along, but it took the right angle for the blow to land.
"You don't actually believe I want anyone to--" Steve starts, then fails to finish the sentence.
"What am I supposed to believe, Steven, huh? Think back. Think about sharks and four-story buildings and overpasses, think about severe food allergies and power drills and freaking hand grenades. It's dumb luck that so far everyone's come out the other side only a little worse for wear."
Steve stares for a moment, then he sinks down into the chair. He doesn't lose the wide-eyed look, but a layer of intensity is added. "I would never intend for anyone to get killed. I don't consider the loss of life a calculated risk. You have to know that."
"I do," Danny says. "I do know that."
He's not sure how to continue, if to continue at all. He abandons the unfamiliar looming position he suddenly found himself in and walks over to the fridge. He grabs two beers and sits down opposite Steve.
"But?" Steve prompts. He makes no move to accept the offered bottle.
Danny deliberately puts it down on the table between them. "Okay," he says. "Okay. I'm no expert, so don't take this the wrong way. If there's even a right way to take it. It's just what I--" He runs a hand through his hair. This conversation feels just about as similar to a root canal as he expected. "Okay, here's what I think. I think there's so much going on in your head, things you've never let yourself think about, things you never had a chance to process, that it's screwing with your judgment. It's like a minefield up there: someone touches the wrong topic, and boom, your ability to make rational decisions goes up in smoke. And I'm not talking 'sometimes' here. I'm talking 'a lot'. Even if it's not unexpected. I mean, the shitstorm that must be going on in your head." Danny counts down on his fingers. "Your mother dies in a car accident when you're just a kid, your dad more or less abandons you and your little sister afterwards, in a fit of rebellion you join the Navy and become a SEAL – I bet there's lots of PTSD-worthy fun to be had there – years later your estranged father is murdered while you're listening in over the phone, you come straight back home to find his killer, then it turns out your mother was a murder victim after all and that her death was ordered by the same guy who's responsible for your father's murder-- I will stop here, because this is already more than enough to screw with anyone's head."
Steve's fists are clenched on top of the table. "Thanks, Danny," he says. "Thanks so much for that."
Danny has to suppress the urge to reach out and-- What? Comfort? Reassure? He leaves his hands where they are, clasped around his beer bottle. "Sorry," he says and means it. "But, see, that's the point. This is a lot to deal with. Did you ever take a step back and acknowledge how much crap was flung your way during your thirty-odd years? All things considered, am I surprised that you have issues? Not really. Take this, here." He reaches out and lifts an unruly stack of papers from the table in demonstration. "You're completely obsessed with this investigation. I get it. I get that you want to find the bastard who is responsible for your parents' deaths. If it was me, I'd feel the same way. But the lone-gunman routine is not the way to go. You focus that hard on something, you risk losing the big picture. You go this alone, you get yourself killed. Which brings me right back to my first point: Could you try not to make us bury you, please? It would piss me off like you wouldn't believe, and I'm not the only one, not by a long shot."
Danny breathes in, and he breathes out, then opens his beer and takes a swig.
"Are you done?" Steve asks.
"I don't know," Danny says. "Am I?"
"Okay," Steve says and rests his elbows on the table, leaning forward. "First of all, in case you haven't noticed, I'm not investigating this," he nods towards the heap of papers under his elbows, "on my own anymore. The whole team is in on it. I came to you, and we're working on this together."
"Yes," Danny says. "Of course. I understand. What you're saying is, that if you miraculously found Wo Fat's address in that pile of evidence right now, of course your first course of action would be to make a phone call. You'd call in the team, and we'd have a nice and productive strategy meeting at headquarters to weigh our options and form a plan to catch the bastard and throw him in jail. I'm sure it would never even cross your mind to gather your extensive arsenal of weaponry, grab your favorite brand of face paint, and launch a one-man search-and-destroy operation. You'd never even consider doing that, right, Steve?"
Steve couldn't look any guiltier if he had already gone off and done exactly that.
"I thought so," Danny says.
"Danny, you don't understand--"
"Oh, I understand. I know you, Steve. I understand plenty. For example, I predicted you'd have your guilty face on right now, I'm that good. No, the real question is, do you understand? Do you understand what I'm saying here?"
Steve looks horribly torn between anger, indignation, anger, thoughtfulness, and, oh, anger. He switches faces so quickly, Danny can't keep track. Eventually, Steve reaches out for his beer, winds his fingers around the bottle, and settles for his resignation-face.
"Look, I know I'm not, uh--" he begins.
"Indestructible? Perfect? A very rational person?" Danny supplies.
Steve shoots him a dark look. "Could you let me finish?"
"Sure. Go ahead."
"Thanks," Steve says sarcastically. "What I wanted to say was, I'm not good at this whole," he gestures vaguely, "talking about feelings and opening up and all that."
"I couldn't help but notice that about you, yes."
"Danny? You talking my ear off is a little counterproductive when you're the one expecting answers, don't you think?"
Danny has to concede the point. The good sense to shut up at the right moment has never been one of his many qualities. But to prove a point, he just nods for Steve to continue.
"What you said before-- I--" Steve lets out a frustrated sound. His eyes dart around the room, maybe in search for inspiration. In the end, Steve makes a point of meeting Danny's gaze, head-on. "Message received, okay? I hear you, and I--"
Steve looks a little insecure and a lot lost, and that is just completely wrong. Steve is sure of himself, sometimes bordering on arrogant. He thinks he's always right, and he's hard to convince otherwise. Maybe that's what gets him in trouble, but it's also part of what makes him Steve.
Danny does reach out for him then and closes his fingers around Steve's wrist. "It's okay," he says. "It's fine."
The muscles under Danny's fingertips flex, but the hand stays where it is.
Steve is sizing him up silently. After a while, Danny starts to get nervous. Another twenty seconds of this stare on him, and he'll be developing a twitch.
"Why?" Steve finally asks.
"This," Steve says. The answer doesn't clarify anything, especially since he doesn't bother to underline it with a gesture.
Danny understands anyway. He doesn't know if that is cause for celebration or reason to mourn the loss of another shred of his sanity. "Why do you think?"
And now there's a little mischievous glint in Steve's eyes. "Could it be because you like me? You said so yourself, Danno, so I'm going to have to assume--"
"Shut up and drink your beer, McGarrett," Danny orders.
Surprisingly, there is no sarcastic response, only a beat of silence. Then Steve says, "I would, but you're holding my hand hostage."
Danny is not blushing. No, he's definitely not blushing. "Oops, sorry," he says. He lets go just as Steve turns his hand and squeezes Danny's wrist once in return, so quickly that Danny hardly realizes what's happening.
"No problem," Steve says and opens his beer.
Naturally, once they've run out of both words and beer, they gravitate towards the sofa. They end up slouched side by side with their shoulders touching. Danny knows he is entirely too comfortable in Steve's space, but Steve doesn't seem to mind.
After a long, long silence, Steve asks, "You really think I should see someone?"
"Yes. I do," Danny answers. "And while you're at it, could you do me a favor and get rid of that bullet hole up there, too?"
There's another long pause, then Steve says, "I'll think about it."
Danny reckons that if he falls asleep now, with his head tilting towards Steve's shoulder, maybe that won't be such a bad thing.
There's a coffee place near Dr. Henderson's office. Their latte is truly dreadful, but Danny is twenty minutes early, again, and there's not much else to do.
He has just disposed of the paper cup and taken up position against the side of the car when Steve comes out of the building.
"Everything go all right?" Danny asks.
"Yeah," Steve answers. "Let's go crack this case. I got an idea, and I promise you, you'll like it." He strides towards the driver's side of the car, slows down in front of the hood, stops. "You know what," he says, changing tracks, "you drive."
Danny blinks. "Okay," he says. "Sure. No problem."
It's just a small gesture, but this is Steve, the most gigantic control freak on the planet. Danny doesn't know what goes on in that doctor's office week after week, but it's clearly doing something.
There's an unfamiliar kind of silence hanging between them as they both climb into the car and buckle in. It's a rare enough occurrence to find Steve in the passenger seat beside him that it feels weird.
Danny is in the process of backing out of the parking space, when Steve finally says something. Of course it's an out-of-nowhere and not-entirely-welcome something. "You never told me what you and Grace did with all that make-up you ferried around on Friday."
"Oh, no," Danny says and wags a finger at him, before putting the car into gear. "That is not an acceptable topic of conversation. You do not get to mock me on this. First you get a daughter of your own, you take care of her and you love her and you do all kinds of stupid shit for her, like attending tea parties, or picking out dresses and matching footwear for Princess Barbie, or reading Winnie Pooh out loud with voice impressions, and then we can talk."
"Danny," Steve says in mock-serious warning. "Spill."
It has taken Danny a while to figure out how to differentiate between Steve's brands of mock-serious versus actually-serious, since Steve usually delivers his most stunningly hare-brained plans in his actually-serious voice. It would confuse anyone, but Danny has mastered the art by now.
"You have five seconds," Steve says. The words come out light, but his voice grows audibly tense on the last syllable.
Danny casts a quick glance over to the passenger seat. Steve looks like he is waiting for the other shoe to drop and dreading it, like he opened Pandora's box by accident and is afraid what might leap out.
There is only one answer Danny can give to that.
"Or what?" he asks, rolling his eyes in exasperation. "Pineapple pizza for me?"
They have to slow down and stop at a red light. This is a good thing, because Steve is entirely too quiet, and now Danny can check up on him properly, without the possibility of crashing into oncoming traffic.
There's nothing to worry about, though. Steve is smiling. Or rather, he has something on his face that might have been smile, if it weren't under an attack from manly stoicism intended to make all facial expressions flee the battle field. It almost worked, too, but the crinkles around Steve's eyes are traitors to the cause.
Danny lets out a breath he doesn't remember holding in.
They're okay. They're good. They're really good.
Danny can't help but smile back. Steve's inner stoic takes that as the cue to surrender the fight after all and let that brilliant smile of his shine, shine, shine.
Stupidly, very stupidly, Danny feels his spirits lift and his stomach flip and his palms start to sweat, and he knows, he just knows.
Before long, they're going to be even better.