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Friday morning

Steve doesn’t really go back to sleep, after. He gets Junior to bed and stays with him a while; then he cleans up the bathroom, showers, and ends up downstairs on the couch. Maybe he dozes now and then. But mostly he just sits, and stares, until eventually the sky begins to lighten.

Not much after this, the doorbell rings.

Jerry’s eyes are red, his hair unwashed; he startles a bit when Steve opens the door for him, though surely it shouldn’t have been a surprise.

Steve clears his throat, tries to sound vaguely human. “Jer? You okay?” Jerry shakes his head.  “You hurt?” It’s instinct, to make sure, though Steve knows this isn’t the case even before Jerry gets out a sticky, half-sobbed no.

Steve takes him by the elbow and leads him inside. Gets him on the couch and puts a blanket around his shoulders, while Jerry pitches forward and buries his face in his hands. Then Steve gives him a minute alone, in case he wants one. Heads into the kitchen and makes two cups of tea, then brings them back to the living room and settles at Jerry’s side.

“There’s whiskey in that,” he murmurs, as he hands it over. Jerry barks a laugh and accepts his tea, and they drink in silence.

Only when the mugs are empty do they set them down. The liquor has left Steve’s belly warm but a bit sick, too; he really should eat something. Instead he reaches over and touches Jerry’s knee. 

“Do you wanna talk about it?”

“No,” Jerry replies. Then, almost immediately, adds, “it’s weird. At first I thought I was okay.”

“Yeah?”

“And then this morning, I woke up and I just wasn’t.”

“It goes that way sometimes,” Steve promises, gently. “Some things are big enough, they take time to sink in.” He snorts. “Maybe I shouldn’t’ve given us off. I don’t think it’s helping, bein’ alone.”

“Mm.”

“Hey. I’m glad you came over, okay?”

Somehow that seems to be what Jerry was waiting for, because tears start then; he covers his face but doesn’t turn away, and Steve leans over and hugs him with both arms. “It’s okay,” he whispers, scruffing the back of Jerry’s neck with one hand. “It’s okay, buddy, I’m here. Let it out. I’m here.”

Jerry cries for a long while. Then Steve takes him outside to put his feet in the water, and he cries all over again. Rages, and pleads, and sobs aloud. Steve hooks their arms together and holds him steady until eventually he wears himself out.

Then he takes him back inside, puts him to bed on the couch.

Jerry wakes to nightmares a couple of times. Eventually Steve goes over there and lets Jerry sleep with his legs in Steve’s lap, and that seems to help. The next time he wakes, it’s to the sound of a ringtone.

Jerry blinks awake, and fumbles to answer; once he has, he curses and laughs into the phone. “Fucking, Jesus, Adam. I— I’m at Steve’s. I’m so fucking sorry, man. I panicked. Okay. I’m so sorry. Okay. He’s just gonna come over,” Jerry adds, and laughs again, humorlessly, as he ends the call. “That’s okay, right?”

“Of course,” Steve soothes, patting Jerry on the ankle as he settles back down. “Sleep some more, Jer. I’ll wake you up when he gets here.”

“Thanks.” It’s no more than a whisper; already Jerry’s closing his eyes.

Steve keeps awake; keeps the watch.

*

Thursday night (Friday morning?)

Steve’s drifting, but not really sleeping. So he takes note, in an absent sort of way, when the door to the hallway bathroom slams open, then slams shut again.

He gets his eyes open. Sits up and listens, and now that he’s focusing he can hear the other noises, too. With a soft sigh, he heads over.

Junior’s shivering almost convulsively, huddled in front of the toilet with one arm around his waist and the other hand on the bowl. He’s missed at least once. There’s vomit down the side of the porcelain, dripping thickly onto the floor.

“Sorry, c’mmander,” Junior grunts, as Steve passes him a dampened washcloth.

“It’s okay.”

“I smell like puke.”

“Yeah.”

“You don’t have to stay.”

“Wipe your mouth,” Steve orders, keeping his voice even. Junior does so. Then a violent shudder runs the length of his back, and a fresh bout overtakes him.

Steve thinks about leaving. Thinks about staying but not touching. But then he thinks about Danny rubbing Eric’s back yesterday, and about all the times Danny’s had to rub his back too, and about how waking up in the middle of the night to get sick is one of the worst feelings ever— 

So Steve crouches, and rubs Junior’s back till it passes.

“I dreamed about it,” Junior whispers, once he can get words out again.

“How could you not?”

“I didn’t realize there’d be anything I was— was that not ready for.”

“Nobody could have been ready for that. Huh? Nobody. Not even me and you.”

With a still-unsteady hand, Junior unspools some toilet paper. Blows his nose a couple of times. Steve’s knees have gone stiff, so he lowers himself to sit a short span away.

“Tani cried all night last night,” Junior muses. “I thought I would tonight. I thought it’d be my turn. But I haven’t cried. I don’t know why.”

“I guess you’re angrier than you are sad?”

“I don’t know,” Junior breathes, bowing his head a bit. “I’m not angry, either. I’m just— I don’t know.”

“Junior. Hey.”

Junior raises his head.

“Take a shower. Okay? I’m gonna sit right here. I’m right here with you.”

“I,” Junior gets out, then swallows loudly. “I should’ve stayed with Tani.”

“She can come over tomorrow.”

“I think— I knew I’d— be a mess? Like, had to happen sometime? And I didn’t want her to see it, but, she shouldn’t be alone—”

“We’ll have her come over tomorrow,” Steve says, firmly, because Junior either didn’t hear him or didn’t process his words the first time. But he does now, and nods a little. “Okay. Hey. You think you’re gonna get sick again? Okay. Then take a shower, please.”

Another nod. Their eyes meet and hold for a moment, before Junior looks away. “And you said— you could stay—?”

“I’ll be right here, brother,” Steve promises, settling his back against the door. “I’ll stay right here.”

*

Thursday morning

Danny enters Steve’s house like he lives there himself; like he’s lived there for ages. Really, though, that’s nothing unusual. This could be any other morning of their lives— at least, until Steve actually lifts his head, and gets a look at his partner.

Danny’s wearing the same clothes as yesterday; his knuckles are swollen and bandaged. He chucks his keys at Steve with way too much force, then falls down heavy in the armchair. “Appointment’s at eleven,” he grunts.

They’ve got a while before they have to leave, then. “You want breakfast?”

Danny’s silent a while, which Steve takes as a no; until he nods. So Steve goes into the kitchen and makes eggs and toast, which his partner devours without a word.

“You sleep?” Steve asks, when Danny’s done eating.

Danny shakes his head.

“You wanna talk?”

The only answer he gets to that is Danny hauling to his feet and standing there until Steve does the same.

They take the long way to the Palace. Park by a different entrance than usual, down closer to the counselors’ offices; Steve almost waits in the car, until Danny does that stand-there-and-look-impatient thing again. So Steve gets out, trails him inside.

The guy at the desk out front finds Danny’s name in the appointment book; he glances up, at both of them, and then back down. “This isn’t meant to be a group session,” he notes, blandly.

“I know.” It’s the first Danny’s spoken in a while now.

“I know the schedule’s tight at the moment”— he’s speaking more to Steve, now— “but we could fit you in sometime tomorrow—”

“No, I—” Danny’s forcing a smile now. “I really need him to be here. You can’t tell me the doc won’t understand that.”

The doc, apparently, does. And a few minutes later Steve is side-by-side with Danny on a couch, listening to his partner recount exactly how he’s ended up in front of a grief counselor.

From the look of that appointment book, Steve assumes the counselor has heard the story already. It seems like more than half of those who saw the scene have booked appointments over the next few days: their team, Duke’s people, CSI…

Still she lets Danny tell it in full.

Then she smiles, patiently, and looks up from her notebook; she’s warmer, gentler, than the shrink they were made to see together. Not there to whip you into shape, but to let you fall apart a little.

“I know this may sound like too simple a question,” she muses, softly. “But I also know this sort of thing affects everyone differently. So, Danny, how are you feeling?”

“How am I feeling?”

“Well, what else did you think we were gonna talk about?”

She’s still smiling, and Danny gives a sharp little laugh as she wins him over. “Angry,” he grits out. “And. Angry.”

“Angry, and?”

“I want to say sad.” His teeth are clenched now, and he speaks through them. “But I’m not, though. That’s too gentle. You’re sad when your dog dies. You’re sad after a breakup. I— I’m not sad. Sad’s not good enough.”

“It’s not extreme enough?”

“Yeah. No. Not even that. Sad is—” Danny sighs, and it hitches. “That’s a word for shit you can understand. You follow me? Saying something is sad, it— it’s within what you can grasp. Look. I, uh. I got kids, I got two kids. And I just have this image stuck in my mind of them— of Grace and Charlie— and they’re the ones that were, like, switched? And I know, I know the kids— they weren’t my kids. But they were somebody’s, y’know? They were somebody’s babies. I don’t get how you could do this to somebody’s babies. I don’t. I don’t get it.”

A tear streaks down Danny’s face; Steve thinks about getting him a tissue, but it’s wiped away before he can put his plan into action. He lays his hand on Danny’s knee, instead.

“I don’t get it,” Danny mewls. “I don’t get it.”

And then a lot more tears are coming; but moving to get the tissue box now would mean taking his hand away, and Danny has grabbed it and is clinging furiously. Second time in under twenty-four hours. So Steve stays put, as Danny cries his eyes out, sobs again and again that he just doesn’t understand.

“Thanks for coming with me,” Danny croaks, once they’re back in the car. His eyes are dry, now, though he still sounds like he needs to blow his nose.

“Danno, of course.”

“I haven’t asked how you are.”

“That’s okay. Hey.” Danny looks up, and they smile at each other for the first time in a while. “Take care of yourself. Take care of Eric. Worry about me when that’s done, okay?”

“Okay.” The smile flickers, and fades. “I’m gonna go home and— I dunno— get myself back together, y’know? Then Eric’s appointment’s at three.”

“Good.”

“Hey. I’ll come over tomorrow, okay?”

Steve nods. Smiles again. They drive the rest of the way in silence, only grunting goodbyes when Steve parks in the driveway and Danny switches seats. Then Danny pulls away.

Steve sits on the porch; stays there a long time before he gets himself inside.

*

Wednesday night

Nobody argued when Steve told them they had off until Monday; just shuffled out the door, until only he and Danny are left in the bullpen. They end up on the couch in Steve’s office, untouched beers in hand.

“Eric okay?” Steve asks, then sighs when Danny shakes his head.

“He’s a mess. I got him to make an appointment with one of the grief counselors.”

“No shame in that, bro.”

“No, there’s not.” Danny’s mouth twists a little, then he adds, “I made one, too.”

“Good.”

There’s a pause, then Danny prompts, “you gonna?”

“Nah. No, I— I’ve been to therapy. I know what they’re gonna say. I know what to do.”

“You don’t think it’s worth talking out?”

“I don’t really wanna revisit it.”

Danny nods. There’s quiet again, during which Steve has exactly one sip of his beer.

“I shoulda told them not to send Eric,” Danny mumbles, eventually.

“It doesn’t work like that.”

“Bullshit, it doesn’t. Your word’s gospel and my word might as well be yours. If I’d’ve said, don’t send Russo, they would not have sent Russo.”

“He would have been mad at you.”

“Do I give a shit? Do you think I give a shit?” Danny’s pale face is suddenly crimson, and when he glowers down at his bottle Steve knows he’s thinking of breaking it.

He doesn’t.

“I gotta be alone,” Dany grunts, and sets the bottle down.

“You sure?”

“Yeah. I gotta— I dunno. I don’t fucking know.”

“When you’re done being alone, you should come crash at my place.”

Danny laughs; it sounds like he might start crying again. “Don’t think I wasn’t gonna,” he gets out; then he’s gone.

*

Wednesday afternoon

Steve finds them just a few steps from the door: Eric bent over a puddle of puke, Danny rubbing between his shoulders. As he approaches, Eric spits, sniffs, and forces himself upright. “Sorry, Uncle D,” he mutters, then, seeing Steve, “McGarrett. Sorry.”

“It happens,” Steve manages.

“Yeah. Right. Tell me honestly you ever tossed cookies at a crime scene.” Then he smirks, totally without humor, and it’s maybe the darkest expression Steve’s ever seen on the kid’s face. “Yeah. ‘s what I thought.”

Danny’s still got one hand on his nephew’s shoulder. “This’s a bad one, E.”

“Yeah.” He glances down and sighs, and Steve knows that he’s thinking about all the people who are going to walk by his half-digested lunch in the coming minutes and hours. “Fuck. Either of you got gum?”

Danny hands him a whole pack. Eric pop a stick in his mouth, hesitates just one moment longer; then goes back inside.

Danny side-steps the puke, and together they head to the car.

“That was bad, right?” Danny asks, once they’re sitting. “I’m not— I’m not overreacting?”

Steve tries to swallow. Can’t quite manage.

“It was bad,” he rasps.

Danny nods. Keeps nodding, head dipping lower and lower every time, until chin hits chest. Then he sobs. Steve reaches over and takes his hand; he squeezes back, so hard it hurts, and gets control of himself just long enough for a single sentence:

“Drive away, please.”

Still holding Danny’s hand, Steve does.

*

Wednesday afternoon (earlier)

Steve’s third thought— after the perp is dead and the house is clear— is somebody is going to lose their shit in the next twenty seconds.

Somebody is going to panic without even finding their way outside first.

It won’t be him. It won’t be Danny, and he doubts it’ll be Junior, either. But it will be somebody.

His money’s on Jerry. Sorry, Jerry. The guy shouldn’t be on field work of this intensity, anyway. It’ll be Jerry; maybe Tani, though he doesn’t really think so—

He does not expect the person who loses their shit to be Adam fucking Noshimuri.

But it is.

There’s a scream, and Steve turns, and it’s Adam. Adam, who received his own father’s body, part by part, in cardboard boxes; Adam, who shouldn’t be this affected by anything, anymore. He’s just screaming, just tonelessly wailing, and Jerry, at his side, is maybe sobbing a little but he isn’t making a sound as he tries to get Adam by the arm.

“Take him,” Steve barks, speaking for the first time. “Jerry— take him!” Because Jerry’s trying, but he’s not trying hard enough; only suddenly Adam bolts, and Jerry follows him, and then there’s silence.

Silence, and bodies.

A dozen, maybe. It’s hard to count, because they’re—

Scrambled.

Cut up and put back together wrong.

Arms where there should be legs.

Legs where there should be arms.

Four arms on a torso with no legs or head.

A grown man’s legs and arms, sewn onto a child’s hips and shoulders.

He glances around at the team he’s got left.

Tani’s hands are over her mouth, eyes wet above them; Junior looks nothing so much as exhausted. And Danny—

He can’t look at Danny for more than a half a second.

He might not keep it together, if he has to feel Danny’s feelings on top of his own.

And falling apart is not an option; not yet.

*

Friday night

Adam got there late morning; Tani, perhaps early afternoon. They’d knocked around the house a while, a five-body problem, before settling together in the living room: Junior and Tani squished in Steve’s armchair, Steve and Adam on the ends of the couch with Jerry in-between.

It's not until evening, not until Danny and Eric arrive, that Steve’s brain reboots. Not until then that he starts to register, to process; but once it all gets rolling it goes fast.

He’s standing before he even plans to. Doubling-timing it, out through the back doors, down onto the beach, sitting down hard in his customary chair. Danny, just seconds behind, perches lightly on his own.

“You okay?”

Steve shakes his head.

“Yeah. Okay. Your turn, huh?”

Steve hides his face in his hands.

“Babe,” Danny murmurs. “Listen to me, huh? React. Go ahead. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to scream, it’s okay to throw up; Jesus, I wouldn’t blame you if you put a hole in the drywall. It’s okay to stop being human-shaped for a minute. There’s nothing more human than that.”

There’s no drywall on the beach, Steve thinks, a little dizzily. He can’t punch because there’s nothing to punch; and he can’t puke because there’s nothing in his stomach; and he can’t cry because there’s no air in his lungs—

Fuck.

There is honestly, honestly no air in his lungs.

There’s a soft crunch of sand as Steve sags fully to the ground; then again as Danny kneels beside him. “Okay, babe,” he whispers, “okay, Stevie, don’t worry ‘bout it.”

Steve paws at his throat, praying Danny will understand.

“I know,” Danny murmurs, catching Steve’s hand. Squeezing his fingers. “It’ll pass, okay—”

“Danny, I can’t—”

“It’s okay. I’ve gotcha, okay—”

Steve buries his face in Danny’s chest, and clings, because maybe if he burrows far enough into that Danny-darkness, he can actually escape the images, the bodies that are there even when he closes his eyes— maybe he can block his ears from the echoes of Adam screaming—

It works. Goddamn, it works; against all odds he finds a spot, tucked up like a child, that stops it all from reaching him. He’s made himself so small that his face is more to Danny’s belly than his chest. Bent down so low that Danny’s arms are more around his head than they are his shoulders.

But it works.

And for the first time in days, there’s just— nothing.

*

Fright night (later)

Out on the sand, Danny holds him and rocks him and speaks to him softly, until at last Steve starts breathing again. Then he holds him a little longer, before he finally lets go.

The sharp, forceful quaking has stopped; there’s still a tremor in his hands and knees but that might just be a blood sugar thing. He’s honestly not sure the last time he ate. He gets something out to that effect, eventually; so Danny goes inside and comes back with a pot of yogurt and a carton of strawberries.

Steve eats the yogurt, and they share the berries. Afterwards they sit, quietly, until Steve’s hands still and his belly gets used to having food inside it again.

Then they sit a little longer. The sun has set; the darkness feels cool, like a fever breaking, and Steve can’t help but marvel that he’s made it out the other side.

Eventually they head back in. Tani stands, without preamble, and hugs Steve warmly; then Junior hugs him too. Eric vacates his spot on the couch. Steve accepts it with a smile, and sits a little closer to Jerry than he has to. Adam reaches over Jerry to squeeze Steve’s hand.

Danny grumbles as he plops down at Steve’s feet, but it seems (mostly) just for show. At least, if he’s actually annoyed about being on the couch, it still doesn’t stop him from reaching over and resting his hand on the top of Steve’s foot. Jerry slings an arm around Steve’s shoulders. Junior’s gone to the kitchen, and he comes back with a glass of water that Steve accepts with a nod and drinks from, gratefully.

He’s not all right. If he’s going to be honest with himself, then really he hasn’t even started working through this— and he wasn’t even finished working through a lot of other shit, before it.

He’s not all right. He hasn’t slept. He hasn’t even cried, though sooner or later he’ll need to. There’s an ache in his chest, deep and familiar, that he knows from experience can only be excised through tears.

(Maybe it’ll happen tonight, when he crawls into bed. Maybe it’ll happen the next time he’s alone with Danny; or maybe it will happen a week from now, for no apparent reason, while he’s standing in the kitchen wondering what to make for dinner.

Maybe it will happen on all three of those occasions.)

But for now it feels good enough that he’s even human. For now it feels good enough that he’s been able to catch his breath, and eat a little dinner, and make it back inside where he’s safe and with friends.

Danny’s thumb is on the knob of his ankle. His thumb is on the nape of Danny’s neck, and that blond head bobs ever-so-slightly when he rubs at the bristly hair there.

Then Danny puts his head on Steve’s knee.

So Steve puts his head on Jerry’s shoulder, and closes his eyes.