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Last to Help You Understand

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“Oh Danny, buddy,” Steve sighed. He covered his mouth with his hand and breathed through his fingers.

 

This was the reason he’d left. Seeing Danny like this. Messed up. Clinging to life.

 

Pressing his hands against his eyes, he wiped down his face. He couldn’t change the horror in front of him. Danny must have hit his head on the way down. A large bruise bloomed across his left cheek and eye. Otherwise, the damage was hidden by gauze and a light blanket across his chest.

 

How could it be so serious? He’d looked worse so many times and walked away, grouching about wanting to recover in the comfort of his own home.

 

“Come on, Danno, I really need to hear your voice,” Steve whispered, as he circled the bed. “Man, I’ve missed you.”

 

He wanted his best friend to jump up and yell surprise or something. Say they were punking him for leaving the way he did.

 

Steve watched for a few minutes, keeping his distance, afraid to touch Danny. Contact would make it all too real. He felt like a kid. If he denied reality, it would go away. Like a bad dream.

 

But he couldn’t run now. The worst happened again even though he was miles and miles away.

 

Maybe because he’d left?

 

Steve closed his eyes. Hot tears streamed down his cheeks. He didn’t brush them away.

 

Why was it always his fault, huh? Did he control everything?

 

It was Danny’s voice in his head. Steve even rolled his eyes, feeling very much like his partner had taken over his body for a few seconds. Sending him a message. Not from the grave, no don’t ever think like that.

 

But his partner had a point.

 

This was not his fault. There were other places to lay blame. The kid. The foster system. Society as a whole. Honestly, it all came down to chance.

 

Life’s terms.

 

He couldn’t shake the nagging feeling, though, that he never should have left. His chest tightened, and he could hear his ragged breath, all congested and snotty.

 

Danny seemed so peaceful. The bedding and pillows tucked carefully around him while he was so still. Like he was laid out for a viewing. And the crushing thought of losing his better half closed in on Steve. Suffocating him.

 

Grabbing Danny’s hand, he hoped for a lifeline.

 

“I need you, buddy. Please don’t leave me. I just want you to understand.”

 

/././

 

The doctor sat at his desk. Steve and Lou had been called out of Danny’s room to this little office at the end of the hall. They both knew it meant bad news.

 

“I think you should gather his family. I know many of them are on the mainland,” the doctor told them.

 

“Gather his family?” Steve interrupted, raising his voice, and added an unrestrained, “What the fuck, doc?”

 

Lou took a deep breath and stepped in, putting his arm across Steve to keep him in his chair. He cleared his throat and asked, “What Steve means to say is – are you sure?”

 

“No, nothing is certain. Danny lost a lot of blood and he was down for a long time. He could wake up today, tomorrow. But – his chances – they aren’t good. We’re doing all we can. Sometimes – well – sometimes it isn’t enough.”

 

“Blood? I can donate. We’re the same type. I can help,” Steve replied. He knew he was babbling but it made no difference. Hope could drive you insane.

 

The doctor looked down and collected himself. He was very much affected by Danny’s case. He knew the team and had seen them through several injuries over the years. Steve hated to be so pissed at the guy. When he spoke next, he didn’t shy away from eye contact. And Steve thought for a second that he saw the glint of tears in the man’s eyes.

 

“I’m afraid it doesn’t work like that, Steve. Not this time. Danny has received more than one transfusion. The stress of the event has simply been too much for his body,” the doctor said.

 

“But he looks so – “ Steve couldn’t think of the word. His brain froze. He dragged his hands across his face, trying to clear the logjam of his thoughts before he exploded.

 

Lou took over again and asked, “So, it’s up to Danny now?”

 

“In some ways. Or if you believe in –“

 

“Skip the religion. I want answers,” Steve growled, “Why can’t you do anything? This place is supposed to be state of the art. The best.”

 

“Steve.” Lou’s sharp tone, a warning. “We have a long, hard night ahead of us. Let’s conserve our energy, right? Sound good?”

 

Eyes narrowed and filled with obvious pain, Steve gave him a slight nod and replied, “Ok, you’re right. I apologize.”

 

“No problem.” The doc said. He pushed away from the desk and stood up. A sign for them to leave. “I’ll be on call tonight. Don’t hesitate to find me if you have questions. Danny’s in good hands. We’ll know more in the morning.”

 

Steve was never so thankful for Lou in his life. They stood and Steve offered his hand to the doctor. The words to apologize were on his tongue but he couldn’t speak. Lou took care of all the niceties and pushed Steve out the door.

 

“Go splash some water on your face. Get us some coffee. I’ll sit with Danny awhile,” Lou said.

 

“Okay,” Steve answered. He followed orders.

 

The bathroom was chilly. The sudden brightness made him shield his eyes, and it was a cue for the tears to flow again.

 

This all seemed to have escalated quickly. It was surreal and impossible. Danny was in a coma. He wasn’t dying. He would get through this. Like he always did.

 

Steve couldn’t escape the doctor’s words. Gather his family. Don’t wait.

 

Anger bubbled up. He pounded the sink.

 

Why didn’t God take him first?