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“I just need an answer,” Rachel is saying to the nurse, her arms crossed defiantly over her chest, Stan holding her to his chest in support.  “Just tell me when I can have assurance that my child is okay, I need to … this is my child , you can’t just leave us here!”

Steve looks over at Danny when he lets out a groan, his hands covering his face, fingers grinding down into his eye sockets.  He reaches over and takes Danny’s hands down, because it actually looks painful.  “What do you need?  Coffee?  Chocolate?  Donuts?”

Danny’s eyes are still squeezed shut tightly. “I need her to shut up.”

Steve frowns and looks over at Rachel and Stan.  “Um,” he says.  Rachel hiccups loudly on a sob and he feels his stomach flip in pain.  It’s so difficult to sit here watching three parents waiting for the fate of their little boy to be revealed after a bone marrow transplant and Steve feels utterly helpless.  “Who, Rachel?”

“I need her to shut up, just stop crying, stop yelling, stop… stop.  Just stop,” Danny says, his voice raising slightly.  It dawns on Steve a bit belatedly that this is what Danny looks like, sounds like, when he’s about to absolutely lose it.  “She’s gotta stop man, she’s gotta shut up.”

Rachel begins to sob in earnest now, clinging to Stan and burying her head in his chest and Steve clamps his hand around the back of Danny’s neck. “Hey, listen why don’t we--”

“God, can you just at least keep it fucking quiet ,” Danny yells, standing suddenly, Steve’s hand falling off of him.  “Jesus woman, they can hear you in London.”

Rachel looks at him, confusion etched on her face.  “I beg your--”

“No,” Danny says, stepping forward and holding up his hands.  “No.  No no, don’t beg.  Don’t speak.   Just shut up. Stop it. Stop crying.  Just stop.  Huh?  Can you do that for me, do you think you can just shut your fucking mouth please?  I said please.”

Rachel’s mouth falls open and her cheeks redden and Steve steps forward and puts both his hands on Danny’s shoulders.  “Come on buddy, don’t, let’s take a break--”

“Excuse me,” Rachel yells, pointing her finger angrily at Danny, rushing up to him and jabbing him in the chest.  “My child is in there, alone.  My child is in there having his spine--”

“I know exactly what that boy is going through, I just went through it too,” Danny yells.  “He is not your child, Rachel, he is ours, he is mine , so do not, don’t, do not talk to me about…”  He cuts himself off, covering his face with both hands.  “I didn’t want to do this.  I wasn’t going to do this.  That wasn’t supposed to happen.”

“Fine, Daniel, our child, our child ,” Rachel spits out, backing up and taking Stan’s comfort easily when he offers it, “is in there fighting for his little life. He could die.”

“Do you think I don’t know that,” Danny yells back, jerking Steve forward as he steps out of his grasp.  Steve’s fingers close on the back of Danny’s sweatshirt and hang on.  He rests his other hand on the middle of his back.  “I got a son, Rachel, I got… and he’s in there, and you….”  He shakes his head and Steve’s heart breaks at how lost he sounds, how much his voice trembles.  “You’re crying out here, like you have… any god damn right to…”

“Come on, Danny, stop,” Steve says as Danny starts to lose steam, stepping up close and lowering his voice to speak into his ear.  “Don’t do this.”

“That’s my son, Rachel, and you got… you got three years with him,” Danny says, his voice cracking.  He sucks in a wet breath and he doesn’t have to be facing Steve for Steve to know there’s tears in his eyes.  “You gave me three weeks, Rach.  Three weeks.”

Steve steps in front of Danny and puts his hands on Danny’s neck.  “Come on, let’s take a walk.  We need some air.”

“Do you know,” Danny says, his eyes suddenly focusing in on Steve, “what you miss in three years?  Do you even have any idea?”

“I don’t,” Steve agrees, looking back at Rachel as she collapses into Stan’s arms.  He catches Stan’s eyes and nods.  “Tell me, buddy.  Why don’t we go get coffee and you can tell me.”

“Most people think it’s the crawling that’s the first big thing but it’s not, Steve, it’s tracking,” Danny says, walking backwards like he’s not even aware Steve’s steering him.  “They… they start tracking you with their eyes.  They, they hear your voice in the other room and by the time you get to them they’re so… Steve they’re so excited to see you, because…. Because they recognise you now.”

Steve nods and puts his hand on Danny’s elbow, turning him and walking him to the elevator.  “Yeah, course.”

“And there’s this thing they do before they actually start crawling,” Danny says, smiling softly even as tears still fall. “This thing, where they…. They do these little pushups and rock with their ass in the air.  I always called it the lawnmower with Gracie cause, she’d…. She’d get so frustrated that she couldn’t figure out how to lift her knees to actually move forward she reminded me of a lawnmower when you…” he mimics pulling the chord. “You know when you pull the chord but it just keeps dying, she would alllllmost get it and then just slump.”

Steve laughs.  “Lawnmower.  That’s cute.”

“And when they start pulling themselves up in their crib.  Poke their little heads up at you like a jack in the box.  Gracie would always bounce when she did it.  Like she was celebrating completing the task.  I got my head up.  Success!”  

Steve pushed the elevator button for the ground floor.  “I can so picture her face.”

“I actually uh,” Danny starts, looking down at his hands, twisting his fingers together in his sweatshirt.  “I actually wasn’t a fan of crawling.”

Steve gives Danny a goofy look and feels relieved when Danny smiles slightly, lets out a tiny huff of a laugh. “What are you talking about, isn’t that like, the biggest milestone?”

Danny shrugs and looks up at him. “Just didn't like it.  It’s like… the first step to them not needing you anymore,” Danny says, tears filling his eyes again.  “That first hint of independance, they grow up really fast Steve, really, really fast, and it’s the first step to them…..  Before that they need you for everything, everything man.”

They reach the first floor and Steve steers Danny towards the coffee vendor in the plaza where the tables and chairs are near the lobby.  “Gracie will always need her Danno.”

Danny nods, looking away.  “And Charlie?  Will he ever need me?  Me, Steve, not Stan.  Me.  Will he ever need me ?”

Steve looks at Danny and wants to say of course he will. Wants to say he already does.  Of course Charlie knows Danny’s his ‘real’ father, of course Charlie knows that Danny’s the one that ‘counts’.  Of course Charlie loves Danny.  “I don’t know.  I think he will.”

Danny kicks out a chair at the first table he comes to and crumbles into it, hunching over his knees and scrubbing his hands through his hair.  “I’m so tired,” he says, barely audible even as Steve squats in front of him, steadying himself with his hands on Danny’s knees.  “I’m tired.  I hurt.  My back aches like fuck.  I have a headache.  My heart hurts.  Everything hurts, Steve.”

Steve grabs Danny’s hands and squeezes them.  “What do you need?  I’ll do anything, Danny, just tell me.”

“Give Rachel a disease,” Danny says, snorting to himself.  “Nothing deathly or contagious, just make sure she suffers.  At least for a week.”

“Done,” Steve says, nodding.  “Next?”

“Just…”  Danny looks down but squeezes Steve’s hands tight enough to hurt.  “Just don’t leave.  Just be here, okay?  Because…  because you can’t heal my boy and that’s all I fucking want right now, so in the meantime, can you just not leave me?”

“Short of World War III happening outside our windows not a God damn thing can pry me away,” Steve says, deadly serious.  “And even then, they’d have to drag me.”

“Actually, a coffee does sound good,” Danny says then, smiling as he looks up.  “And… while you’re at it?”

“A donut or five?”

Danny nods.  “If they got chocolate covered glazed I’ll love you forever.”