About the time Hans Gruber fell from the top of Nakatomi Plaza, sleep left Steve. The first sensation to return was the pain in his mouth that circled up through his eyes and ears and on to pound in his head. The second much more pleasant sensation was that of Danny still laying snug up against him, sound asleep in their tight confines. Steve could only see his profile but that was enough to make him want to smile. The pain prevented it.
He carefully reached over to the end table where Danny had left his pills. He picked up the smaller container, reasoning that the antibiotics would be in the larger one. Even squinting against his headache, he couldn’t read what was written on the label. How hard was this? If it was the pain reliever, it should be written so that someone, you know, in pain could read what it said.
“Don’t shatter the plastic trying to get to the pills,” Danny said, squirming to lay on his back.
“I wasn’,” Steve said, still squinting at the label. “I can’ read dis.”
“Okay,” Danny said, reaching up for it and reading the instructions aloud. “’Take with food every 4 to 6 hours as needed for pain.’”
“Food,” Steve sighed. The prospect of eating made his stomach roil. But the idea of not containing his pain was even more nauseating.
“I know your mouth hurts, Babe, but you have to eat. You aren’t supposed to take these on an empty stomach. Do you want oatmeal or yogurt or pudding? No, nothing cold. Oatmeal is probably your best bet even though I know you don’t really like it that much. I’ll make you cooked oatmeal so you don’t have to eat Grace’s artificially colored and flavored variety. That will help and then you can…”
Steve put one finger over Danny’s lips. Under usual circumstances he could listen to Danny ramble for days. But with a blinding headache and a mouth that was threatening to mutiny, he just wanted to be able to take the damn pills. “Oadmeal.”
“Right. Sorry,” Danny said, easing off the couch. “No, no,” he said when Steve tried to stand. “You stay.”
“Nod a dog,” Steve protested because that was what was expected.
“As I am well aware. But I am capable of making you oadmeal right by myself.”
Steve nodded, picking up the remote and turning on Die Hard 3. He didn’t really like #2. Even though none of the Die Hard movies were realistic, the second one seemed especially…stupid. Danny didn’t like it either so he wouldn’t mind skipping it. And #3 had Samuel L. Jackson, which was total win.
“Here,” Danny said, startling Steve. He looked up at Danny to find him holding a cup of tea. “It’s warm, not hot.”
Steve nodded, accepting the cup. It was on the right side of lukewarm and smelled wonderful. He thought it might be orange blossom tea but wasn’t sure. It didn’t matter because it was delicious, with a splash of honey. He knew Danny had put the honey in it to provide him some energy capital. He wasn’t sure the honey would help but the thought, as much as the tea, warmed him inside.
A small part of him felt guilty about imposing on Danny. But the larger part insisted that it wasn’t an imposition to accept help from your best friend. Steve knew he couldn’t have had his wisdom teeth extracted without Danny’s assistance. Just the thought of the procedure he’d undergone made him shiver. Ugh was all he could think.
Standing carefully to check that his balance wasn’t being undermined by the pain, he wandered into the kitchen and leaned against one of the kitchen cabinets.
“I told you to stay put,” Danny said as he stirred the contents of a pot on the stove.
“Nod a dog.”
“I never thought you were, except your Smooth Dog history, which I’m sure was entirely ironic on the part of those who named you that,” Danny said, turning to give Steve a sweeping look. The touch of his eyes was nearly tangible, which made Steve shiver in delight. “What was that? Do you have a fever?”
Steve shook his head but that didn’t stop Danny from putting his hand on Steve’s forehead. Steve had known Danny would check for a fever and thought he ought to protest, for form’s sake if nothing else. But he liked when Danny touched him, for whatever reason he chose. This time, however, Danny’s hand was already warm from making the oatmeal. He wouldn’t be able to determine whether or not Steve had a fever.
“You feel warm,” Danny said with a frown and his fists on his hips.
“Your hand’s hod,” Steve said.
“Oh. I guess it is. All right,” Danny said, reaching up in the cabinet for the thermometer he kept there in case he needed it for Grace. “Here.”
“Nuh-uh,” Steve said, keeping his lips tightly closed. He honestly couldn’t abide the idea of having it in his mouth. “Hurds.”
“Babe,” Danny said with an exasperated sigh.
Steve carefully shook his head. It wasn’t going to happen.
“All right,” Danny conceded. “Do you feel feverish?”
“Nuh-uh,” Steve said, sipping the tea and trying to decide if the warm liquid was making his mouth hurt more or less.
“Would you tell me if you did feel hot?” Danny asked returning his focus to the pot on the stove.
“You are such a liar. And you aren’t very good at it,” Danny said.
“No I’m nod. And yes I am.”
“What?” Danny said, looking over his shoulder.
“I’m nod a liar. And if I did, I’d be a good one,” Steve protested, wishing those words didn’t hurt quite so much.
“Not a liar,” Danny said. “That in itself is a lie.”
“Sdop,” Steve said, showing Danny his empty cup. “More?”
“Of course. Go watch your movie and I’ll bring it out.”
“Righ,” Steve said, returning to the living room to wait for Danny. He lay back on the couch mostly because it was easier. And he liked to tell himself that it lessened his headache. He doubted that was true. Maybe concentrating on the movie would diminish the pain. It was unfortunate that it started so loudly. That wasn’t helpful at all.
“What?” Danny asked as he entered with the refilled cup.
Steve was half off the couch, trying to get the remote. He figured he looked ridiculous, his left hand on the floor as he stretched out his right but still couldn’t reach the remote. “Doo loud,” he said, pointing at the TV.
“All right,” Danny said, turning the sound down a little. “Is that better?”
“Bedder,” Steve agreed. He returned to laying on the couch, accepting the tea. “Dang you.”
“You’re welcome,” Danny said. “I’ll be right back with the oadmeal.”
“Hurry,” Steve said because he knew it would make Danny laugh.
It wasn’t very long before Danny returned with Steve’s bowl of oatmeal and a plate with a sandwich. Steve scooted up so he was sitting more than lounging, taking the bowl and several extra napkins. “In case you drool.”
“I don’ drool,” Steve protested, accepting the napkins even so.
“I have been witness to it,” Danny assured him. Steve just shrugged, looking down at the oatmeal as he moved the spoon listlessly around the bowl. “Babe. Don’t play with it. Eat it.”
Steve nodded resolutely, taking an experimental spoonful. The taste was off. He assumed it was because of the residual medicinal interventions Dr. Songe had used. He took another tiny bite, putting the spoon back in the bowl.
“You need to eat,” Danny said, watching him. Steve thought he sounded disappointed. But that hardly made sense. No doubt he was worried.
“It dasdes unny,” Steve said, sorry he was whining. But he didn’t like the flavor or the texture, and the pain in his mouth seemed to be ramping up. He couldn’t eat the oatmeal which meant he couldn’t take the pills.
“It tastes funny?” Danny asked in confirmation.
“Is there something else you would eat?” Danny asked in coaxing. Steve thought about protesting his tone. It was one he usually reserved for Grace on the rare occasions she was being contrary. But he knew Danny was worried, not annoyed.
“I don’ know,” Steve said, feeling exasperated. The pain was making it hard to think. “Wha if I don’ ead?”
“Well,” Danny said, considering it. “Let’s Google that and see.”
Steve leaned closer as Danny took out his phone, enjoying the warmth seeping from Danny’s body.
“All right,” Danny said, angling the phone so Steve could see. “Long term it could cause constipation and diarrhea.”
“Bof?” Steve asked, trying to better see the screen. Danny brought it closer, studying the tiny words.
“Oh. Yeah, that’s or, not and. It looks like you’re safe to take it now. Then maybe you’ll feel like eating.”
That sounded like an excellent compromise and he nodded, holding his hand out for a pill. Danny gave him two.
“Do?” Steve asked.
“The label says you can have two to start. Then just one after that,” Danny said, showing him the message.
Steve nodded. He thought that made sense. Try and contain the pain so it didn’t become unmanageable. But he thought they had already lost that battle. He washed down the two pills with his tea, finding it soothing to his throat even if it did hurt to swallow. “Ead,” he said to Danny before stretching back out on the couch.
“I am,” Danny assured him. He rearranged the light blanket so it covered more of Steve. “Decided to skip the second movie, I see.”
“It’s sdupid,” Steve said to Danny’s nods.
“And the others are cinematic masterpieces,” Danny laughed.
“Uh huh,” Steve agreed, handing Danny his nearly empty cup. He watched with heavy lidded eyes as Danny put it on the end table before eating from his sandwich. “Wha’ you eadin’?”
“Ham and cheese. I need to go to the grocery store. Your provisions are pathetic,” Danny scolded in amusement.
Steve shrugged, scrunching further down into the couch. “Didn’ feel li’ shoppin’.”
“I know, Babe,” Danny said, a hand on Steve’s arm. “Because you wouldn’t admit you were in pain and needed help.”
Steve grunted, deciding to ignore Danny’s words. Of course he should have told Danny what was going on on Friday as soon as the pain had started. It would have probably been easier altogether if he’d gone to the dentist right away. But the idea was really and truly.... Well, what was done was done. Now he wouldn’t have to worry about any more impacted wisdom teeth.
It was easy to ignore Danny’s words as he continued his one-sided conversation because there were so many of them. Ignoring Danny was much, much harder. And Steve found he didn’t want to ignore Danny’s presence. It was grounding and reassuring. Danny was a constant in his life. He was one of the few people Steve knew he could depend on, no matter the circumstances. No lies, no subterfuge. With Danny what you saw was always what you got.
In his state of half-sleep, Steve could admit to himself that there had been so many uncertainties in his life that having Danny as a friend was a stabilizing influence. Steve knew he could be impulsive at times, his actions preceding his thinking. Danny was a counterweight that helped him keep his balance.
What Steve really wanted was for Danny to be more than the best friend and best partner he could have ever hoped to find. He wanted Danny to be…his. Was that a possibility? Steve wasn’t sure, and didn’t know if he was willing to sacrifice what he had in order to achieve what he wanted.
Maybe the pain was still short-circuiting his brain. His thoughts seemed to chase after each other in a dizzying whirlwind. If the pain pills hadn’t already started to lay their claim, he’d ask Danny to help him sort it all out. He’d try again to make sense of it all when he woke up.
When he did wake up, the house had the quiet of twilight, the sun a warm glow barely illuminating the living room. The TV had been turned off and Steve was alone. On the coffee table right where he’d be sure to see it was a note. Gone to the grocery store. Be back soon. –D
There was no time on the note so Steve didn’t know when soon would be. He could text Danny but it wasn’t particularly important.
As he lay on the couch, contemplating Danny and twilight and the ceiling that he discovered badly needed a fresh coat of paint, he realized that the discomfort in his mouth had receded to a dull ache, not the sharp, stabbing, all encompassing pain that had refused to be ignored. It was a relief not to wonder if he could have his mouth amputated to rid himself of the agony it had been causing.
Deciding it was safe to leave the nest Danny had built around him with blankets and extra pillows, Steve carefully made his way to the bathroom. He chanced a look in the mirror before deciding that was a bad idea. He didn’t need to see his chipmunk cheeks or the raccoon circles around his eyes. Were there other animal comparisons he could use? He decided that was something else he would leave to Danny and wandered into the kitchen. The tea kettle was still on the stove so he turned on the burner underneath. His cup had a fresh teabag in it, the honey sitting next to it. Danny knew he would wake up thirsty and outside of being there to make the tea for him, made sure he’d be able to have some with a minimum of trouble.
That made Steve smile, which made his mouth twinge in pain. He really did smile when he heard the front door open, returning to the living room to watch Danny enter with two arms full of bags.
“Hey,” Steve said, advancing closer to take a couple of the bags.
“Hey yourself,” Danny said, flipping on a light in order to study Steve. “You look better.”
“I feel bedder,” Steve agreed, leading him into the kitchen. The kettle was whistling so Steve poured the hot water into the cup after setting down the bags.
“How long have you been up?” Danny asked as he began to put away the groceries.
“Couple minudes is all,” Steve said.
“I hope you can sleep tonight,” Danny said, putting an ice cube in Steve’s cup.
“I will. Pills made me.”
“There is that,” Danny agreed. He leaned against one of the cabinets, watching Steve silently.
“Wha’?” Steve asked when he felt Danny’s eyes on him. The way Danny’s folded arms pulled his shirt ever-so-slightly apart was almost more than Steve could bear to look at.
“You talk in your sleep,” Danny said, a secret half-smile on his face.
“Nuh-huh,” Steve said, stirring the honey into his tea with great concentration.
“Yep,” Danny said. “You had an entire conversation with me. It was extremely… enlightening.”
Steve continued to study his tea. He knew by Danny’s tone that he was amused by whatever Steve had said. That was an excellent sign. But Steve still hesitated to ask Danny for a recount, a request he knew Danny was waiting on. “Oday,” Steve finally said, looking away from his tea to meet Danny’s gaze. “Dell me.”
“You sure?” Danny teased, taking a sideways step so his right side was pressed up close to Steve’s left.
“Huh?” Steve said. Having Danny so close was making it hard to concentrate on what Danny was saying. He only wanted to think about Danny.
“You were trying to determine what would happen if you told me how you really felt about me,” Danny said, smiling sideways up at Steve.
“Oh,” Steve said, the color creeping up his cheeks not caused by the warm tea he was trying to hide behind. “Wha’d you say?”
“Your version of me said I am a sure thing,” Danny informed him, lightness in his voice that illuminated Steve’s soul.
“Is my you righ’?” Steve asked. But he was pretty sure he already knew the answer. It was in Danny’s eyes and his curving mouth and his hand on Steve’s arm.
“What do you think, Dopey?”
“Now I’m a dwarf?” Steve asked, trying to hide his laughter.
“No, you are now and always have been my goof,” Danny said.
“Your goof,” Steve repeated, as much of a smile as he could manage taking over his face.
“Mine,” Danny said with a definitive nod.
“Wha’s daad mean?” Steve asked as though he didn’t know.
“That once you can talk and smile and laugh, you’ll be able to kiss and be kissed,” Danny said, smiling up at him.
“You,” Steve said with a sigh.
“Is that a question?”
“Nuh-huh. I wanna kiss you,” Steve confirmed, wishing he could do it right that second.
“So you said when you were asleep,” Danny teased.
“Bu’ you knew.”
“I hoped. I wanted. But I didn’t want to scare you,” Danny said, much more seriously this time.
“Nod afraid,” Steve assured him. “Nod of you.”
“There is nothing you are afraid of, except the dentist,” Danny said, the amused tone back in his voice.
“Nod drue,” Steve said, reaching out and pulling Danny as close to him as he could manage. He rested his chin carefully on Danny’s head, content and frustrated in equal measures. “I dold you we fid.”
“Yes we do fid,” Danny agreed, holding Steve tight. “But right now I need to fid the rest of the groceries into the fridge.”
“How romandic,” Steve said, letting him go but keeping his eyes on him as he moved away.
“Buying you pudding is romantic,” Danny protested with a laugh.
“Puddin’?” Steve asked, approaching the refrigerator to peer inside. “Buddersdodch.”
“Yes, I got you butterscotch pudding. What made you think I wouldn’t?” Danny asked as he handed Steve a cup of it.
“I didn’ know you knew,” Steve said, opening it to dive in with a spoon. He’d dive in bodily if he thought he had any chance of fitting.
“Babe,” Danny said with a shake of his head.
“Oday,” Steve said. “Dang you.”
“You’re welcome,” Danny said. Steve could feel him watching as he ate the pudding much too quickly. He tried to be delicate about it but it was so good and he was so hungry, he realized, that one cup was not going to be nearly enough. “I see your appetite is back,” Danny said as he handed Steve a second cup.
“Uh huh,” Steve agreed, happy to accept the second cup.
“Did you take your pills?” Danny asked as he puttered around the kitchen.
“Nuh-huh. No dime,” Steve said, licking his spoon.
“All right,” Danny said, going to the living room to collect the two bottles. “Here.”
Steve accepted the two pills with no complaints, washing them down with the warm tea. He was trying to decide if he wanted a third cup of pudding but knew that was too much artificial flavoring and refined sugar for one go.
“I’ll make you chicken soup tomorrow,” Danny said. “Is there anything else you want right now?”
“You,” Steve said, making Danny laugh.
“You have me,” Danny assured him. “Or will as soon as there’s something interesting you can do with me.”
Steve nodded. Nothing else seemed necessary.
“Do want something else to eat? I got some bananas that are pretty ripe.”
Steve decided that bananas held no appeal to him. The pudding and the tea helped fill up the cavern that his stomach had become. And he thought he should go upstairs while he still could. Even taking one pill would knock him on his ass pretty thoroughly and Danny would not be able to get him up the steps.
“Babe?” Danny said, touching his chest to make sure he had his attention.
“Huh?” Steve asked, looking down at him.
“Did you want a banana?”
“Didn’ I dell you no?” Steve asked, thinking he had said it out loud. He was further gone than he thought.
“No, Babe. You may have thought it but you didn’t say it,” Danny told him.
“I bedder go up do bed,” Steve told him although he was pretty sure Danny already knew.
“I think that’s a very good idea,” Danny agreed, leading him out of the kitchen and up the stairs. “You can’t brush your teeth.”
“I know,” Steve said as he sat on the edge of his bed. “Will you sday?”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Danny said, pulling down the covers so Steve could crawl into bed. But first he had to take off his jeans and that seemed like so much trouble. He lay back on top of the bed, giving up the fight to keep his eyes open any longer. “You can’t sleep like that.”
“Uh huh,” Steve protested, trying to swat Danny’s words out of the air.
“Here,” Danny said.
Steve felt Danny’s fingers dip into the waistband of his jeans and had to stop him from continuing. “Daad’s nod a good idea,” Steve said reluctantly. He took a deep breath, trying to will away his reaction to having Danny unbutton his jeans.
“Oh,” Danny laughed, sitting down next to him. “I guess I should say I’m sorry.”
“No,” Steve said, looking up at him. “Id’s whad I wan’.”
“But what we can’t have tonight.”
“Our diming suds.”
“Sucks?” Danny teased.
“Sdop,” Steve protested, his left arm over his eyes. He wanted Danny to stay but knew he had to sleep on the couch. Nothing good would come of Danny being with him.
“Take off your jeans, Babe. And I’ll go down,” Danny said. “Downstairs,” he amended quickly.
“Yeah,” Steve agreed, carefully standing. He thought the pill was working awfully fast but maybe the first two weren’t completely out of his system. That could explain why his floor seemed to be at a disconcerting angle. “Da room’s dilding.”
“The room’s tilting?” Danny asked, standing to provide a steadying hand.
“All right. Sit back down and I’ll get your jeans off,” Danny said, kneeling in front of him when he was sitting back on the edge of the bed. “You didn’t take a pain pill while I was gone, right?”
“Nuh-huh,” Steve said, staring up at the swaying ceiling. “Room’s sdill dilding.”
“Get in bed the right way,” Danny said, helping him get his legs up on the bed.
Laying with his head on his pillow seemed to help a little but there was still way too much motion going on around him. “Dissy,” Steve complained, squinting up at Danny.
“I figured that out,” Danny said, studying his phone. “It’s not listed as one of the known side effects. I’m going to call Dr. Songe.”
“No,” Steve said. “It’s oday.”
“I don’t believe you,” Danny said, sitting on the edge of the bed. “Are you nauseous?”
“Nuh-huh,” Steve said honestly. The tea and pudding were happily coexisting in his stomach. It was only the ceiling that seemed to be tilted. Closing his eyes helped so he didn’t bother to open them. “Id’s bedder now.”
“You are such a liar,” Danny said with affectionate exasperation.
“Sdop,” Steve said. “Wif my eyes shud, id’s oday.”
“All right,” Danny said. Steve could feel the bed shift, reluctant to let Danny leave but knowing it was for the best. He was surprised when the other side of the bed dipped, Danny weighing it down. “I’m not sleeping here. I’m just going to make sure you’re okay before I go downstairs.”
“Oday,” Steve agreed. “Fang you.”
“Go to sleep,” Danny said. Steve smiled when he felt a light kiss pressed to his forehead.