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The After

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“What did I say, what did I tell you, huh? Look at me. Look at me.”

Steve wants to step forward, wants to take the gun from Danny’s hand, grab him and hold him to him and never let go because Danny is going to break. He’s going to break from this and it’s going to break Steve.

Right now though, he holds himself perfectly still.

“Look at me. That’s it.”

Right now he holds still as he watches Danny point the gun in Reyes’ face and shoot. Once. Just once, right between the eyes.

Danny stands over the body long enough that Steve almost starts forward to pull him away but then Danny drops the gun on the ground, turns, grabs the drum with his brother in it, and goes to the stairs.

Steve reaches out to help him lift it but Danny freezes and doesn’t turn to look at him. “I got it,” he says, soft and hard at the same time, and it leaves no room at all for argument. “Find the money, I’ve got this. Him. I’ve got it.”

Steve thinks for a moment that Danny will break then. The way Danny’s breathing stops for a moment and then shudders out. Almost a sob but not, a half moan, the beginning of a sound that breaks off before it even starts and tears out Steve’s insides. “Danny.”

“Just go find the money,” and up the stairs he goes, shoes kicking up dirt, muscles bunching and straining beneath his shirt as he hauls the drum up with him. Slow, because it’s heavy, and slower still because it’s Matt. Steve knows that weight.

Steve carries the first half up and finds Danny standing by the truck, slumped on the tailgate just breathing. The drum sits in the bed of the truck, and it must’ve just been sheer force of fucking Danny’s will that he was able to lift that thing up there by himself. Danny sits with his back to it, breathing in, and out, and in, like he’s doing a three count. He’s seen Danny do this sometimes, this breathing technique. He only does it when he’s about to absolutely explode.

Steve tries to catch his eyes as he hauls the bags into the back of the truck as well but Danny won’t look at him. “There’s two more,” Steve says, pointing back behind them at the building. “I’ll just…”

He goes and he grabs the other two bags out of the room to the side in the basement, and then he stops over Reyes’ body and every cell in his being wants to beat him to a bloody fucking pulp. It’s not worth it because he won’t feel it, but he wants to so badly he can taste it. Instead he picks the gun up off of the ground, stuffs it into the back of his jeans, and heads back up to the top.

Danny is sitting in the drivers seat and Steve stands there watching him for a moment. “Hey, I’m not sure you should--”

“Keys,” Danny says, and puts his hand out, still not looking at him.

“Danny, listen, I really don’t think you’re in the right--”

“Give me the fucking keys, Steven,” Danny grits out, and snaps his fingers, eyes flashing angrily as he finally does look up at Steve. Steve tells himself the hatred there is for Reyes, and he knows it is, but it still hurts. “Or I’ll hotwire this bitch and leave you here.”

Steve tosses him the keys and goes to sit in the passenger seat, leaning his head back against the headrest as Danny’s fingers clench on the wheel and he starts it up and backs it out and onto the dirt road.

He watches Danny’s profile, a thousand meaningless, stupid questions in his head. Questions that have no answers that mean anything, questions that you ask just because there’s too much silence and you just want to fix. You just want to make everything better so you ask if they’re okay when you know the answer is no, you say everything will be okay when you know full well it won’t.

They get about ten miles down the road before Danny slams on the breaks, staring out of the window. “Stop.”

Steve licks his lips because his mouth has been dry since they rolled out the drum with Matt in it to begin with. “Stop what?”

Danny is all white knuckles and shaky voice, teeth clenched together. It physically hurts Steve to see Danny look like this. “Looking at me like you’re going to cry,” Danny grits out.

Steve closes his eyes and finds it’s true. His eyes are wet, his throat is a wreck, and there’s not a whole lot he knows to do to stop it. “Sorry.”

“You didn’t know him,” Danny says quietly, accusingly somehow. A condemnation. It feels like a smack, but if that’s what Danny needs right now Steve can take it. “You don’t get to mourn. To you he was just this asshole that stole money, but to me he was my baby brother.”

“I never thought he was an asshole,” Steve says quietly.

“My kid brother that, yeah, he fucked up, okay? But he was. He was Matty, and.”

“I know,” Steve says, opening his eyes to watch Danny. The road is desolate, out in the middle of nowhere. No cars passed them on their way into town, and no cars are in site now.

“And he was such a good uncle to Gracie, and.” Danny’s adam’s apple bobs as he swallows thickly, and he shakes his head. “And he was my best friend my whole life, and he used to annoy the fuck out of me as kids because he just wouldn’t leave me the fuck alone, but even then he was my best friend.”

“I’m so sorry, Danny,” Steve says.

It’s not even possible for Danny to grip the wheel any tighter than he already is but somehow he’s trying to. “And I’m just so mad. I’m so mad, Steve. I’m so fucking mad at him,” he says, and now he no longer sounds angry at all, he sounds horrified. “He’s dead, he’s in fucking pieces in that drum and I’ve been mad at him for the past four years and I don’t know how to not be mad anymore but he’s fucking dead, Steve, dead.”

Steve feels a tear slip out despite himself but he ignores it, instead reaching over to grab Danny’s hand off the wheel. “I know. It’s okay.”

“It’s not okay,” Danny says, squeezing Steve’s hand hard enough to hurt but Steve would let him break every single one of his fingers before he ever pulled away. “It’s not. It’ll never.”

“I know.”

“He was supposed to come out,” Danny says, looking at Steve finally, like he’s pleading with him. Like he’s saying ‘make it okay, Steve, make it all better,’ and that’s maybe the most heartbreaking of all because Steve would give anything to be able to fix it but all he can do is cover Danny’s hand in his with his other and hold tight. “He was supposed to come out and make some stupid asinine comment like he thought this was some big fucking joke and I was supposed to sock him in the jaw and we’d go home and Ma would feed him until he gained 40 pounds and Dad would beat him to an inch of his life at least three times, but…” His jaw works open wordlessly a few times, and that’s when the first tear falls. “He was supposed to come out.”

“I know,” Steve says, and he feels like a broken record, saying the same thing over and over and over, but there’s nothing else to say. There’s no right combination of words that will ever make this easier, or better, or okay. There’s nothing, so he just says I know over and over so Danny knows he’s there.

“Oh God,” Danny says, taking his hand out of Steve’s and covering his eyes with it, scrubbing hard. “I can’t… Steve I can’t do this.”

“I wish you didn’t have to, buddy,” Steve says, blinking past his own tears as he watches several of Danny’s own fall down Danny’s face. He reaches up and takes Danny’s hand, pulls it down and grips it hard between them again because he can’t stand to not be doing something. Anything. “But hey. You can. You can do this. I’m so sorry you have to, and I’d do it for you if there was any way possible, but you can. And I’m right here, I’m not going anywhere.”

Danny swallows. “I think I’m gonna be sick,” he gets out and then he bolts from the car and barely gets two steps before he’s wretching. Dry heaves on a dirt road. Steve hasn’t seen him eat anything in fourteen hours.

Steve gets out and crouches behind him, hand on his back because he just feels like Danny needs to know he’s there. He needs Danny to know he’s there. “Listen you need to just breathe, okay?”

“Matty’s gone, Steve,” he says, broken, confused, wrecked, looking into Steve’s eyes and it takes everything in Steve to not fall the fuck to pieces just because Danny has to go through this. “He’s gone.”

Steve lowers to his knees beside Danny and grabs his face in his hands, meets his eyes. Lets his eyes say all the things he can’t quite make himself say outloud. Says he’s so sorry, he wishes he could make it all go away, he wishes he could take the pain away, he wishes he could trade places with Matt just so Danny could have his brother back.

“Please stop,” Danny croaks out, closing his eyes. “You have to stop looking at me like that Steve.”

“What do you want,” Steve asks, not letting go. “What can I do? I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to say. I don’t…”

“Nothing,” Danny says, voice cracking, breath starting to shutter in and out. He lists forward almost like he’s falling until Steve wraps his arms around Danny’s shoulders, pulls him to him and hangs on tight. “There’s not a damn thing.”

“I got you,” Steve says into his hair as Danny shatters to pieces, sobs wracking his body. “Hey, I got you,” he says, and Danny’s fingers claw marks into Steve’s biceps as he grips him and holds him tight back. “I know.”