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Just Can't

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Waking up to Danny’s worried face by the side of his bed wasn’t new by any stretch. In fact, if he ever woke up after being beaten, bloodied, broken, and otherwise battered to anything besides Danny sitting by his bedside, he’s pretty sure that could only mean one thing: Danny didn’t make it.

The thought is something he can’t think about for even a second.

Normally he wakes to Danny bitching at him. Cursing at him. Pissed off and ranting and blaming Steve for getting himself into these situations, going off half cocked, being a no brain having neanderthaal. And so on and so on.

Danny now is not pissed. Danny now is tired and overwrought, and the sight of him breaks Steve’s already broken and overly sensitive heart. He’s home, left the hospital AMA as soon as they said there were no broken bones or any other valid reason to stay, so he’d said my bed, now, and Danny had taken him home and tucked him in. The drugs were slowly working their way out of his system but he was still entirely beyond wrecked, wrecked to a point he’d never felt before.

“-- so I guess I’ve come to accept that,” Danny is saying, Steve’s hand clenched tightly in both of his, studying the lines in Steve’s hand, thumb rubbing up and down Steve’s wrist. “That in times like this, when it comes to you, I’m the wife. I guess that should bother me, I think it used to, but it’s just the damn truth and I’ve never been good at bullshitting myself.”

Steve squeezes his hand because his voice won’t work, meaning hey and stop it and I’m right here. Danny looks up and meets his eyes and smiles slightly. This half smile that’s not real and doesn’t meet his eyes, his eyes that say so clearly all the millions of things Danny doesn’t say outloud-- Which, is saying something, because there’s plenty Danny does say outloud.

“You know I always understood why Rachel would worry, I always got that, but what I didn’t get was the anger. Why she was so angry about it. It never made sense to me. It makes sense now. Being the guy that…” Danny breaks off, one hand motioning in the air as he continues to grip Steve’s hand with his right. “Do you know? Do you even know what it does to someone to always be the one on the other side? Do you know how many years you have aged me, sitting beside your hospital bed just waiting for you to wake up?”

“Danny,” Steve croaks, and tries to lick his lips, tries to clear his throat but chokes instead. Danny reaches over to the nightstand and hands him a glass of water and he grasps for the straw and just can not find it until he feels Danny’s fingers against his lips as he puts it to Steve’s mouth.

“This isn’t anger, Steve. I’m not angry, this wasn’t… you didn’t do this.” Danny laughs, putting the water back down. “There are times, so so so many times, when you did it, but not this time.”

“Stop,” Steve says, barely audible, barely above a whisper. He tries to clear his throat again but Danny just keeps bulldozing past him and it’s amazing Steve even thought for a second it would go any other way.

“But every time, every time, I wish it was me. Every time I’m sitting here waiting for you to wake up and come out of it and roll your eyes at me and piss me off and make me feel like, okay, okay you’re still here, you’re still you, things will be okay because he’s still annoying, he’s still Steve, he’s still a fucking jackass.”

Steve laughs and it turns into a coughing fit. He’s pretty sure he’s working on a cold or some sort of upper respiratory infection, and the memory of being water boarded envelopes him and brings him back there, back in that room being held down, water being poured down his throat, wet cloth over his face and can’t breathe, can’t breathe, can’t breathe. He squeezes his eyes shut and rubs his face overly hard with his free hand.

“That I wish it was me. Me, the one recovering, because it hurts. Do you know how bad it hurts,” Danny is saying, squeezing his hand hard enough to hurt it, and he’s been tortured and broken and beaten for the past he doesn’t even know how long but the pain in his hand reminds him he’s alive and here and with Danny so he’s thankful for it. “I literally think I have PTSD from sitting shiva next to your fucking bed.”

He swallows and squeezes Danny’s hand again, tugging slightly. He’s saying please and just come here, he’s saying stop, just stop. 

“And see, I just lost Matty,” Danny says, and his voice breaks and Steve’s heart breaks all over again at the same exact time. “I just lost him, Steve, and when I walked in that room and I saw you laying there I thought… this time. I thought you were gone, and I thought I can’t. I just can’t. I can’t….” Danny shakes his head and wild watery blue eyes catch Steve’s. “I can’t.”

“C’mere,” Steve manages, and gathers up every inch of strength he can find in himself and yanks on Danny’s hand as hard as he can manage, pulling him out of his chair and tumbling over into the bed next to him, arranging him to lay down next to him, smoothing his hand down over Danny’s chest as he settles in next to him. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t,” Danny says, closing his eyes and reaching up to grab Steve’s hand to still it. “You’re not supposed to be comforting me, you’re the one who was fucking tortured.” 

Steve lays his head on the pillow next to Danny’s and stares at the side of his face, watching the wet tracks drying where tears had been shed. “Never,” he says.

Danny blinks his eyes open and shifts his head to look at him. “Never?”

“Never you,” Steve grits out, fingers curling protectively in Danny’s impossibly soft cotton shirt, holding him there. “Danny, I wouldn’t ever want it to be--”

Danny smiles, this time much more real, and closes his eyes again. “Stop talking, you need to rest.”

“Stay,” Steve says, splaying his hand flat on Danny’s chest, patting. He would feel awkward, weak, clingy, if it were anyone else. If Danny hadn’t been gripping his hand so tightly not five minutes previously.   He just needs the contact. He needs to feel Danny’s feet with his toes. Danny’s legs with his knees. Feel his chest as he breathes under his hand, lungs expanding and contracting. He needs to be grounded, and of anyone else in the world he knows Danny gets that.

“SEAL Team 6 couldn’t drag me outta here, partner,” Danny says, heart slowing slightly, voice low and slow. Drifting next to him, hand coming to rest over Steve’s as his breathing slowly steadies out.

Steve falls back asleep with his forehead against the bony jut of Danny’s shoulder.