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Hugs and Hot Chocolate

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It wasn’t something that was ever discussed. They both knew about it. But it was the silent thing that was never mentioned, the silent elephant in the room. Normally, no one really saw it or the signs of it, but sometimes, like today there were signs that everyone could see. 

It had been years since he had returned to the Island to attend his father’s funeral and had just ended up staying. He had done operations for the Navy during that time, but it wasn’t something that they knew about either. In fact, it was only really him and Danny who actually knew about it, and the doctor who had given him the diagnosis. 

It was the tough cases that brought it to the forefront and made his nights horrible. But normally on nights like this, when he was sharing his bed with Danny, and Gracie was sleeping just down the hall, he slept easier. The haunting thoughts didn’t leave completely, but it was easier for him, they didn’t make him scream as much. His ohana was his anchor, and reason to work on getting better. 

The storm that had rolled in was unexpected, otherwise, if he had known that it was coming, he would have stayed at his own home and rode out the nightmares, the PTSD and the storm on his own. He knew that Danny knew about the PTSD and to an extent just how bad it was. Afterall, the Jersey cop had talked him down a couple of times, but he hadn’t let him know about the nightmare that came whenever a storm rolled through. And he stayed right on the beach, it happened regularly enough that he had learnt how to cover it. 

But tonight's storm had been unexpected, it had all been calm when he and Danny had fallen asleep only a few hours earlier. But now, he was no longer in Hawaii, but in South Korea again as the convoy that was carrying Anton Hesse was attacked. Everything after that was just a slow motion replay of watching everyone he had ever lost die in front of him, again and again. He kept screaming for it to end by the time he got to the worst part of his nightmare, the point where he watches Danny die. 

The roars of thunder sound too much like explosions, the rain bouncing off the window sounds like the ting of bullets hitting metal. Overall, it's all too much. Honestly, he’s not overly surprised when he wakes up screaming, the only thing that is surprising is how Danny has his arms wrapped around him and poor Gracie, the last little girl that he ever wanted to see in his state, was standing at the bedroom door watching over both of them. He hadn’t realised that he had been screaming Danny’s name over and over again during his nightmare until he heard what Danny was whispering in his ear. 

"Don't be scared, I'm here. I’m not going anywhere, Steve.” Those two sentences had been repeated again and again all whilst he clung to Danny’s arm, the one that was wrapped around the front of his chest. It took a few minutes of hearing those words on repeat until he looked up at Grace and he realised just how guilty he felt for putting the look that she was currently showing on her face. 

“I’m good, Danno, I’m good.” He turned to look at Danny as he pulled back out of his grasp. He still felt shaky, but he also knew that he couldn’t let Grace think that he was anything other than okay. Afterall, she had been through enough. “I’m okay, Gracie, I promise.” He wasn’t okay, he knew that, but he wasn’t going to talk about it yet. But he would get there and he would get better. 

“Nothing that a cup of hot chocolate can’t solve. Do you want to go and get the milk out, Monkey?” Danny’s voice vibrated through Steve where they were still attached to one another. However he loved the fact that Danny was giving him the option to break before he had to pretend that it was all okay and that he was Uncle Steve once again. 

“Okay, but only if Uncle Steve wants some hot chocolate,” Grace was looking at him, a question of whether he was really okay being silently asked. He couldn’t honour her with a verbal answer but he could nod, because honestly the only thing he wanted right at that moment was to be able to keep Danny and Grace close to him as the storm continued to rage on both outside and inside his head. But hot chocolate was what he had always offered Grace when she was terrified and it seemed the perfect thing for them all at the moment in time.