Our Devoured Minds Part 8/8
Rating: PG (Gen)
Disclaimer: I own nothing, I profit from nothing. Although if I had my way Steve would be bare-chested even more than he is, we would actually 'see' Danny trying to surf and Kono would be a secret Cylon. That is all. Wait… Chin would be as awesome as he is.
Summary: Everyone says it's the not knowing, right? Danny disappears and someone tries to kidnap Grace. Cue 5-0 and serious ass-kicking as Steve & Co try to keep Grace safe and find Danny.
Spoilers: Set in Season 1. No spoilers, but you kinda have to know the show, ok?
It was hot. Uncomfortably so.
The hood of the Camaro under his butt was reaching uneasy temperature levels and Steve inched to the left, hoping to spare his buttocks some low grade frying. He'd offered to go with Danny to the small memorial service for Candice, but Danny had refused. Quite vocally.
So, McGarrett was waiting in the parking lot of the cemetery, waiting for Danny to return, slowly baking to death, which was pretty apt considering where he was. Convenient too.
Squinting against the rising sun, early morning turning into mid morning, Steve sighed and folded his arms against his chest. If he'd known his last minute play to help Danny through this would be shot down with a, 'You stay the hell here, McGarrett,' he wouldn't have bothered to wear a suit.
The gravesite was just within eyesight, the small group of mourners clustered together. A pigeon bursting out of the tree overhead startled Steve, and he looked up, following its flight towards the east. When he looked back, the service was over and Danny was limping towards him, cane digging into the soft lawn with angry emphasis.
The cane had been a surprise.
Steve had memorized Danny's chart, and the discharge orders. Williams should not need a cane. His ACL injury was not flaring up so ….
Reluctant to poke his partner, Steve had said nothing and Danny had said nothing. And now, as McGarrett watched him limp towards the car, he tried to judge if the limp was 'real' or maybe just… psychosomatic.
Danny's true injuries were hidden by a dress shirt and dark suit – and of course the ubiquitous tie. His face was healing up nicely, bruises yellowing, and cuts either scabbed over or already pink lines. The high shirt collar hid most of the bruises on his neck, but the deep blue and red marks tipped the collar like an obscene tattoo.
The cane was worrying though.
Worrying that Danny felt he had to hide behind it, or rather that he needed something to hide behind.
Danny had grumbled that he'd already seen the police appointed psychiatrist, and that Grace was getting her own counseling, but maybe Steve should chaperone the next session and make sure Danny was actually going in. Seeing the psychiatrist from the parking lot as she entered the building, was not an option Steve felt Danny had.
"Take a picture, it'll last longer."
Danny didn't look up as he walked past, his curt words directed at the sky, ground, air in general. Steve raised an eyebrow, but unlocked the car and slide in behind the wheel. Danny took a little longer to edge into the car, his eyes hidden by his shades but the pain and stiffness still evident in his posture and small hisses.
Steve tried not to 'hover', and projected patience, like he had all the time in the world, 'cos he did. Finally Danny was in and an involuntary sigh escaped him. Steve waited a moment, wondering if he should ask, say something. But Danny was leaning against the window, one hand rubbing his knee, like it was aching, and the other knotted at his forehead, tense with suppressed emotion.
"You waiting for something? Or just feeling slow today?"
Sharp, touchy and hesitant. Nice complex little combination.
Steve smiled and started the car.
Steve had seen a few of the mourners arrive, after Danny. They'd either shot him dirty looks, because he was a cop. Or given him a sad little wave. Most had been women, probably friends and colleagues.
Giving up on the small talk, Steve took the turn back towards his place, checking the time as he did so. It took Danny a few minutes to realize which direction they were going and he groused, "I thought we were going to the office."
"Then you can take me home."
McGarrett gripped the wheel a little tighter, but smiled, "No. Team lunch – at my place. Rachel is bringing Grace over."
Despite the mix of good and bad news, Danny didn't move, posture unchanged, but he grunted. Danny hadn't argued about staying with Steve initially but now he was grumbling about going back to that tiny little apartment. Steve wasn't having any of that. Not where Danny could lie around, alone, and wallow in guilt and pain.
They all had the week off, officially. Unofficially, everyone but Danny was still working – working Danny's case.
John Doe, John Sergent, Vizzini, might be in the wind, but Five-0 had not given up.
Either way, middle of the week or not, they were having a barbeque at his place, Chin and Kono could spend some more time with Danny that wasn't inside a hospital and well, Danny could see Grace.
Danny's cries for Grace had woken Steve up the night before. Twice.
It would take time, everything did, and with counseling and healing, Danny would bounce back, maybe a little harder at first, but he'd come back to them. Right now, Danny was a riot of emotion and turmoil, unwilling and unable to find the humour in anything. It didn't help that every time he looked in a mirror he was reminded of his ordeal.
As Steve turned into his driveway, Kono and Chin's cars were already parked on the street. Kamekona had supplied the shrimp, but was unable to come.
In the silence inside the car once the engine was off, Steve paused and prayed that the rest of the day would go ok. Risking a glance at Danny, Steve checked for signs that his partner might need his next dose of painkillers. Danny had lowered his shades and was looking out of the window, at the ocean barely visible through the trees.
Drawn from his thoughts, Danny mumbled, "Hmmm?"
"Come on, I've got a fruit drink with your name on it."
"Rather have a beer."
Whatever awkwardness might have lingered disappeared the moment Danny stepped onto the outside deck and Kono enveloped him in a hug. Judging by Danny's expression, it was just right. Not hard enough to hurt, but warm enough to settle his hackles.
Leaving Danny to Kono, who was surprisingly good at fussy over grouchy invalid cops, Steve joined Chin at the grill. His dad had refused to install a gas grill, or hell, even an electric one, so Chin was still watching the coals, waiting for them to be ready to grill some meat.
"You want a beer?"
At Chin's nod, Steve took up his bartender slash host duties. The moment Kono saw the fruity monstrosity Steve was making for Danny, she wanted one too. Chin was happy with his beer, and Danny … Danny was slouched on one of the padded chairs, gaze fixed on the ocean. Again.
Chin's face was blank, but his concern obvious. Busy shaking the cocktail mixer, Steve shrugged, "Nope. Kinda, I don't know, withdrawn and touchy. But it's to be expected. Just got to give him time."
"And closure," Chin sighed.
To this Steve mused, "Maybe, and I know it'll make us all feel better making sure that bastard pays, but it doesn't change anything for Danny, I think."
Kono was sitting next to Danny, chopping away at vegetables and salad ingredients, her concentration more on Williams than the salad, judging by the odd slices. "Is it just shrimp?" Steve asked. Chin shook his head, small smile breaking out, "Nah, got some pork chops and steak for you. Well, for Danny. With extra pineapple."
Together they both hissed, "No pineapple."
Danny didn't hear them. Or pretended not to.
Grace and Rachel arrived just as Chin slapped on the first set of steaks, Grace's little girl shoes slapping a rapid staccato on the deck.
She hurled herself into his open arms and for the first time that day, his shades were off, and a smile on his face. Danny pulled her onto his lap and instantly she started to giggle, as he whispered nonsense into her ear. Steve shared a sad smile with Rachel who was standing in the doorway. She looked haggard, circles under her eyes. Steve offered her a beer and she took it with a nod of thanks.
"Thanks for coming."
"Well it was this or listen to Grace whine all afternoon. And frankly, I'd rather be here than at home."
Grace was sipping Danny's drink, her eyes wide at the size of the massive glass and floating cherries. "Hey, Stephen! Monkey wants an umbrella too."
Steve gently tucked a bright green umbrella behind Grace's ear and her smile lit up the sky. "Thanks, Uncle Steve."
For all that Grace was there and Danny's mood had lightened, lunch was a quiet affair. Talk revolved around interesting island news and funny HPD cases. Nothing about the events of the weekend, and certainly nothing about their current progress. Grace powered through a massive shrimp burger and half of Danny's salad, but Williams just picked at his food.
He'd even rolled his eyes when Steve had handed him his pills, but had nonetheless swallowed them down.
As Steve sat in his chair, belly full of slightly overdone steak, it'd felt good to sit with the team like this, and just be. But there was no shaking the little grey cloud hanging over them. It wasn't the same without Danny's laughter and mini-rants about whatever had irritated him that day, week or even year. Chin, Kono and Steve took up most of the conversation, Rachel and Grace chipping in, but Danny only answered direct questions and even then mostly with grunts.
Dessert was shave ice also courtesy of Kamekona, but only Kono and Grace had any.
At some point, Danny fell asleep and rather than disturb, Kono and Rachel coaxed Grace inside to wash up and play a game or something. Chin quietly beavered around the grill, taking in the trays and plates, and eventually left Steve on watch while Danny slept. The silence that fell was hushed, unnatural, the kind people made when they were trying too hard, hoping too much. Danny did not look relaxed as he slept, his hands twitched, brow occasionally creased with a frown. Steve idly checked his phone as he sipped his beer.
He should probably go in and help the others clean up, but he didn't want to leave Danny alone. A small giggle broke the silence and Steve could smell melting marshmallow, or maybe burnt marshmallow. Smores were in progress. Leaning back, Steve caught a glimpse of the disaster brewing in his kitchen and smiled.
The shift was subtle, a sudden intake of breath and Danny was awake, his eyes slowly moving, scanning the area, no doubt trying to figure out where he was.
Danny's eyes were half hooded, a sliver of blue visible amidst the darkness of the rings under his eyes, the bruises and shadows that haunted him. One lazy afternoon with friends and family was really going to make much of a difference, but Steve had hoped to at least shake some of the melancholy that dogged Danny.
"Hey." Steve claimed the seat next to Danny, the slats of the deck chair cool under his butt. Danny flicked his eyes at Steve in acknowledgement, but retained his studied stare of the ocean. McGarrett's half a dozen different opening statements dried up and for a moment, he just sat there, watching Danny. Williams did not seem inclined to broach the silence either, his half drunk fruity monstrosity sitting in a pool of condensation, the cherries gone, the umbrella rolling forgotten on the deck.
A couple of birds darted overhead, their dark silhouettes fleeting shadows in the thick golden sunshine. Gracie's laugh from inside the house was muted; dull, but a bright note nonetheless. The air still smelled of roasting, grilled meat, even if the meal was long gone. The pool at the base of the hugeglass grew until it reached 'too much' and a long trickle of water spilled over the arm of the arm, splashing like singular rain onto the deck.
Steve rubbed his mouth, tracing the outline of his teeth with his bottom lip. "How do you do it?"
Danny's voice was rough, and sounded like he hadn't spoken in a year. Sometimes it felt like he hadn't – at least the old Danny. This Danny, the one trying to pull back all the pieces didn't sound right even when he spoke.
A thousand possible answers danced at Steve's fingertips, a keen thrill of hope burning through him, that maybe, just maybe, he'd be able to help. Shrinks were great, but sometimes you needed someone who understood.
For half a second Steve considered his usual response, a launch into a back and forth, him taking affront at the implication that he didn't think. But Danny still wasn't looking at him, eyes fixed in the distance, and he was radiating tension, suddenly, like he was in danger, or Steve was a threat, or something…
Instead, McGarrett inhaled slowly and on the exhale said, "It's not easy switching your brain off after an Op. Especially one that went pear shaped, or worse, if someone died. Keep on thinking about what you could have done, should have done – regretting or second guessing what you did."
Danny's fist tightened, the red lines on his wrist darkening with the motion, even as his knuckles whitened. McGarrett considered repeating the standard answers, the usual response about therapy, time and more therapy. But Danny wasn't asking Steve for the standard response – he was asking how 'he' did it, how Steve handled situations like this. Swallowing, Steve continued, "Honestly, for me, it's a combination of things."
The instinct to look away, hide a little bit was massive, but Steve kept his gaze on Danny, hoping his friend would eventually reciprocate. "PTSD is complicated and crazy, and to this day sometimes the smallest thing, a touch, a smell can trigger memories I thought I had dealt with. Hell, living in this house is a nightmare sometimes."
At that Danny met his gaze, Danny's eyes hot and red with suppressed emotion. "Shit," was all he said, but Steve nodded, agreeing. "I wasn't here when my Dad died, but I still hear the gunshot, and Hesse's voice. Sometimes."
Danny stared at him, eyes wide, mouth a little open, staring like he was a mystery to be solved and the answer to all his problems. McGarrett sighed and said, "You focus on the here and now. Remind yourself over and over again that its gone. That there is nothing you can do to change it."
At this Danny's face crumpled, not with emotion but with disbelief and he snorted, "Oh, like you were, hell are, Mr Cool, Calm and Collected when it comes to Wo Fat."
Steve's pulse skipped a beat, like it always did when that name was spoken, and he shrugged, "But I keep it together when its not, right?"
Danny stared at him, studying his face, eyes boring into Steve's. "You're batshit insane 101% of the time, Stephen. Maybe I shouldn't be asking you anything about mental health."
"Then trust me on how to get through the day, Danno. Give yourself time and therapy but for now… today, just focus on the fact that Gracie is here, safe. That you are. Keep telling yourself that, over and over until you believe it and …"
"It never becomes true, Steve. Never. Not even if I leave the force and Five-0 and the goddamned island. I have made too many enemies to ever – EVER – stop watching my back, or worrying about some damn ex-con, whatever, coming after my family. EVER!"
Danny's voice shook with anger and fear and the sharp rise in volume had drawn the attention of the others inside. Steve waved Chin and Kono back, hoping to hell Danny didn't clam up now, and when he turned back to his friend, Danny was vibrating with anger, hands shaking. Leaning forward, those shaky hands covering his mouth, Danny mumbled, "I just want to grab Grace and run. I know it doesn't make sense, but it's all I can think about, keeping her safe and getting … away."
Nodding, Steve understood the feeling well – all too well. Shifting a little closer, hoping it wouldn't startle Danny, McGarrett injected as much sincerity into his voice as he could, "Danno, you're feeling like the walls are closing in and there's no possibility of any escape. Trust me on this though, if you run, when you run, you just take the walls with you. They catch up. At least if you are with people you trust, people who can watch your back, then… you can focus on the here and now and… let them help."
Shaking, taking in a shuddering breath, Danny nodded, "Did it help you? Does it?"
"Haven't snapped yet, have I?" Steve grinned, hoping it wasn't too soon to joke about it.
The eyebrow quirked in his direction was one replete with 'You sure about that?'. Dropping his head and clutching his hair with his hands, Danny stared at the deck, his voice almost lost, "I know I gotta give it time, Stephen, I do. But shit if every time I close my eyes, I'm not back in that damn chair and that bastard is breathing down my neck."
Knowing full well that the touch would startle him, wanting to snap Danny out of that 'moment', Steve reached out and gently grabbed his shoulder. It was unavoidable that he would touch a cut or two, so Steve kept it feather light. Sure enough, Danny's head snapped up, nostrils flaring, eyes wide and Steve said firmly, "When it happens, you gotta hold on to the now – to being out. And it will get better, with time, I promise. But its gonna to rough for a while too."
Danny rolled his eyes like he'd heard it all and knew it all. Probably did. But knowing was different from being and enduring. "So, no quick Seal fix, huh?"
Steve shrugged, "Well, nothing that's conducive to continuing mental health or shrink approved."
For a second Danny grinned but only a second. The fleeting moment of 'rightness' faded and Danny sighed. "I don't want to talk about it, Steve. Not to you, not to a shrink, not to anyone. How messed up is that? Half of the time I can't shut up and now…"
"Half of the time?" Steve poked Danny's shoulder and grinned. "Dude, this is the perfect opportunity to rant like the pro you are."
Danny huffed in agreement but it was tinged with depression. "Hey," Steve nudged Danny, trying to catch his eye as he looked away. "Just pretend I've done something stupid and before you know it, the shrink will be begging you to stop. Just like me."
Another bitten off huff, choked with emotion and Danny turned away, his hands shaking, lips trembling, trying to hide, taking deep breaths to calm down. "Shit, Steve, I…" The tears fell, first one, then two, and Danny swiped them away, embarrassed and angry. "Shit, shit… damn stupid."
Steve closed the distance between them, kept his arm low across the lower half of Danny's back and enveloped him in a warm, but gentle hug. Danny didn't return it, but collapsed onto his knees, hands pressed over his eyes, choking back the sobs. Uncaring of the burn in his thighs and ache in his knees, Steve stayed crouched in the protective embrace, while Danny fought to get control again. Williams' spine, long and bony dug into Steve's forearm, and his bicep was getting wet from the overflow of tears.
Abruptly, Danny shoved him away – not hard, but firm and Steve sank back onto the seat. Sniffing and wiping his nose and eyes, Danny coughed, "Shit, don't even know why in the hell I'm crying. Enough!"
Reaching out, Steve grasped the back of Danny's neck, fingers buried in his hair and said softly, "It hasn't even been a week, Danno, I…"
The long, clear notes of House of the Rising Sun broke the moment and Steve cursed, fumbling for his phone. "Sorry, sorry."
Danny coughed and laughed, "Nice, Stephen."
But when Steve saw the caller ID, he grinned and answered the call.
The bar on a dingy sideroad in the middle of Bangkok was pumping, loud music blaring from massive speakers, the press of people dense and turbulent. The backroom however was an island of silence in comparison – for two very different reasons.
Reason one – it was the location of a high stakes poker game. Texas Hold'em with more on the table than just cash.
Sergent, known by many names in many countries had been using the game as a source of cash and a potential job. Unfortunately for him, Reason Two was now pointing a gun at his head.
"Keep your hands on the table, Sergent. You blink and I'll shoot."
Sergent didn't bother to nod, but he didn't move either. The fool had overplayed his hand, revealing himself now, in the middle of the game. There was no way he'd be able to extract him from the bar, not with all the variables a crowd gave you.
Watching the Agent (of course he was an Agent of some agency) pull out his phone, Sergent waited for his chance.
"G. Yeah, ready to go. 5. Got it."
The Agent slowly stood and motioned for Sergent to do the same. Snapping at their host, the Agent barked, "Koa. Open up the hatch. You, on your knees."
Reluctantly, Sergent complied, dropping to his knees, raising his hands. He planned on turning the tables on this moron the second he tried to cuff him. A rush of night time air drew his eyes upward and Sergent saw a hatch opening in the roof. A figure dressed in black instantly dropped down a line and slid down into the room. Momentarily caught off guard, Sergent lost his moment when the blackclad individual pulled his arms back and slid plastic ties around his wrists.
A black bag was flipped over his head and then a belt tied around his waist. Within a minute, Sergent was whisked up into the air, heading for the chopper he could hear overhead. Relaxing for now, Sergent bided his time, and let the Agents manhandle him into the helicopter.
On the roof, the man in black pulled up his balaclava to yell at the Agent, "Good to go."
Nodding, the Agent shouted, "I'll meet you back at base."
With that the chopper and the black clad man flew off, leaving the Agent on the roof. Closing the hatch and waving at Koa, the Agent thumbed his phone and hit speed dial.
While it rang, he scanned the surroundings, checking for any witnesses. As the call picked up, Sam grinned, "Hey, Mac. Got good news. Bagged and tagged. On its way to LA."
On the other end, Hanna heard the small whoop and smiled. 'Sam, you beaut. I owe you big.'
"Nah," Sam shrugged, "No one messes with a SEAL's team. No one."
"I know, but still… you call if you need anything, Sam. Anything."
Hanna nodded, "Yeah, I know. Later Mac."
Pleased with a mission well done, Sam scrambled down the fire-escape and jogged through the busy streets, heading for the extraction point.
Danny stared at Steve, at his massive grin and animated expression. The whoop had brought everyone else out on deck, Grace hidden behind her mother. It was obviously good news, but Danny couldn't bring himself to care, even if hope was tickling the edges of his brain.
Steve ended the call and grabbed Danny's shoulder, eyes bright. "We got him Danno. We got the SOB! He's on his way to LA as we speak."
At first the news was nonsense, a pindrop in the ocean of raw emotion surging through him. But as Danny watched Steve's expression, actually heard his words, something raging and roaring inside him suddenly… died. Just stopped, dead still.
"The… the bastard who had me?"
Steve's grin was wide enough to spilt his face in half. "Yeah, that bastard. Got him. NCIS have him in custody."
Blinking Danny felt himself smile, copying Steve but his heart seemed to be two steps behind. Chin and Kono though were whooping and high-fiving. Grace was suddenly at his shoulder and it was automatic to pull her onto his lap, hug her close, tight and safe. Chin shoved a beer under his nose and shit, Danny took it, painkillers be damned.
There was a lot of talking, and Steve was explaining or bragging or damn, elucidating, and Danny let is all wash over him. Rachel was beaming, her eyes wet. Everyone was smiling. Even Grace, who looked a little confused.
Danny blinked and brought what he could of his attention to his daughter, using the newly found silence to listen. "Is the bad guy dead?"
"No, Monkey. But he's going to go to prison, for a long time, promise."
Grace seemed a little put out about that and Danny wondered if his little girl was turning into a blood thirsty savage thanks to Steve McGarrett. Instead though, she touched his face, hands feathers and love and soft wishes, "You promised you come."
Danny's heart cracked just a little bit more and he swallowed, "I know, Monkey. I know. Steve came though, right?"
A little nod, a little sigh, because yes, Uncle Steve came, but Uncle Steve wasn't Danno. So, Danny pulled his little girl closer and said quietly in her ear, "That's the great thing about family, kiddo. You can trust 'em to be there for you, even you can't. And they're what makes a place home, ok? And keep the walls from closing in."
Grace nodded, her head under his chin. Danny watched his friends, his family for a moment, as they talked and celebrated and said softly, more for himself than Grace, "They keep the darkness away."
Feeling Danny's gaze, Steve turned and tipped his bottle of beer in a salute. Danny smiled, wide and genuine and saluted him back.
The title for this fic was taken from Aking's Safe as Houses.
Thank you one and all for sticking with this fic as it dragged out. I promise myself every WIP never to post a WIP again, and yet, find myself hopelessly drawn to the inherent deadline. So thank you for your patience.
I snuck the NCIS LA crossover in because H-50 did it as well, and I thought it fit. And after watching the recent Danny-centric episode in season 2, I felt this was a good precursor to the nightmare that that situation was for Danny. Here's hoping for more Danny-episodes. Heck, here's for more h/c episodes in general!
As ever your feedback is appreciated and helps keeps the bunnies at bay. Ok, that's a lie, the bunnies LOVE feedback as well.
And thanks to sherry57 for her awesome beta-reading skills on the previous parts