Author's Note: Forgive me, those who are waiting for the next chapter of Counting the Cost! I cringe at the knowledge that I am posting this one-shot with such a critical story on the backburner. I cannot apologize enough. The muse is the muse, and it kicked back into gear after watching the premiere. The next chapter for Counting the Cost is in the works. I cannot say when it will be posted yet though, as my life is the definition of crazy (law school, internship, part-time job – not that you want to hear my excuses).
Anyway, I hope you enjoy this one-shot centered on Danny. There just are not enough good Danny-fics out there to satisfy me (hint, hint – get writin' people!). :)
I could go on and on…but I won't. :P
The Soul Threadbare
"What ravages of spirit
Conjured this tempestuous rage?
Created you a monster,
Broken by the rules of love…."
It was a Saturday, and they were supposed to go hiking.
It'd been three weeks since Steve's release from prison, and things were finally starting to settle down.
Except – things were not as they once were.
They were 5.0 again, but not quite Ohana.
They were battered, frayed – and some more than others.
Sure, Steve had taken a beating, both physically and mentally, while he was in prison. But being cleared of the Governor's murder quickly reinvigorated him.
He felt like a new man – thankful for every breath of fresh air.
He wouldn't have made it through without his friends – his family.
Especially Danny, who visited him in prison as often as was allowed, trying to keep his spirits up and letting Steve know he hadn't been abandoned.
He owed them everything, and now that the crisis was over, Steve was beginning to see the members of his Ohana through what felt like new eyes.
Kono was struggling with IA's investigation and coming to grips with being the only 5.0 member not yet reinstated. But she had Chin to get her through, so Steve didn't worry as much.
Danny was a whole other story.
It was painfully obvious to Steve that his partner was suffering through a personal hell; it was as plain as the growing cracks in Danny's personality.
Danny's confession – not only that he wasn't going to be a father, but that Rachel had broken things off in the hopes of trying to fix her marriage with Stan – had shocked Steve to the core.
He had been so happy – so hopeful. Now he carried the bitter air of a man burdened with grief.
Steve, for his part, had tried repeatedly to engage his partner, to get him to open up and talk - but it was no use.
Danny had grown increasingly restless over the past few weeks, even being rougher than usual with their suspects, and unusually short-tempered with the team.
He consistently came into work looking like he hadn't slept in days, and had definitely lost weight.
Steve was concerned, but Danny had been pushing him away.
Hence, the hike planned for today.
He'd had to practically beg Danny to come, and even concocted a story about how it was some anniversary of a hiking trip with his father, and how he didn't want to go alone. It wasn't true, but it had softened Danny enough to get him to reluctantly agree to the trip.
Steve had dutifully arrived at his partner's shabby apartment in the early afternoon, gear stowed in the back of his truck with military efficiency.
He let himself into the apartment with the key he'd insisted Danny have made for him, and followed the sounds of his partner's agitated voice to the doorway of the kitchen.
"Rachel, please. If you would just please, please pick up the phone…."
Steve poked his head around the corner, concerned by the trembling emotion evident in Danny's tone.
The shorter man was facing away from him, one hand braced against the wall. His head was bent, resting against the plaster, shoulders slumped in defeat.
"Rachel, I just want to talk about this. Look I know I screwed up, okay? But it wasn't my fault this time, there was an emergency and I – " he paused, sighing. "I couldn't be there. But I wanted to."
Steve bit his lip in empathy.
"Please – I know we can make this work. I love you. And I love that baby…"
The former SEAL shut his eyes and grimaced. 'Oh, Danno….'
"I don't care…I don't care about anything else. We can make it work. Just please – please, give me a call back."
Steve waited for the quiet beep that told him his partner had ended the message, then cleared his throat.
Danny whirled around, obviously startled and grasping for composure. "Hey."
Steve's eyebrows twitched at the nonchalant greeting. "Hey."
"Am I – yeah…are you?"
"Yeah, I just have to grab a few things."
Danny shouldered past him to get to the main room, but Steve grabbed his arm.
"So what, that's it?"
Danny blinked. "What? What's it?"
"You're just gonna let it go, act like nothing just happened? You know I was standing there, that I was eavesdropping – that doesn't bother you?"
The shorter man's face was like a mask, revealing nothing.
"Nope. Doesn't bother me. You ready to go now?"
"No. No, I'm not going anywhere."
He folded his arms across his chest, glimpsing a flicker of anger in his partner's eyes.
"Okay – what is this? What do you want? You want to go on a hike, let's go on the freakin' hike, okay? Why does everything have to be an issue with you?"
"Because it's eating away at you, Danny."
Exasperated, Danny flung up his hands. "This is unbelievable."
He stalked past Steve back into the kitchen; then stopped, looking around as if realizing he had no escape. He ran his hands through his blonde hair, then down his stubbled face.
When he spoke, his tone was forced, barely controlled, and his left hand sliced the air with each word. He would not make eye contact with Steve.
"Rachel refuses to talk to me."
Steve resisted the urge to shake his head in disbelief. "How long has this been going on?"
"Ever since she told me the baby wasn't…" He broke off, pursing his lips. "If she'd just listen to me, I could…" His fluttering hand came up to massage his forehead. "I could talk some sense into her."
"Maybe you need to let her go, man," Steve suggested softly.
He knew immediately from his partner's reaction that it was the wrong thing to say. But what else could he say? How else would the man get through this?
Danny froze, and his eyebrows shot up in an expression of incredulity, his irises flashing electric blue.
The air almost crackled with tension and Steve blew out a breath, taking a sudden interest in the wooden floorboards under his feet.
"Let her go?" Danny repeated tonelessly.
Steve's eyes flickered back up to his partner's hands, frozen in mid air.
Normally it would have been comical, but this was not normal banter. This was not the man, the friend, the brother, that Steve knew.
The man standing before him looked wild – consumed.
Everything about him, from his rigid posture to the lines around his eyes, screamed aggression, and it dawned on Steve that maybe he was going about this all wrong.
For the wretched man standing before him didn't want consoled. He didn't want advised or counseled.
No – this man was looking for a brawl. A physical release from the hell he'd been enduring – alone – for months.
Steve brought his own hands up in a defensive gesture. Because if Danny charged him, unhinged as he was, Steve was likely to hurt him, albeit unintentionally. It would do neither of them any good.
"Let her go?" The shorter man said again, cutting him off.
Steve's mouth clamped shut, and he just stared at his partner with wide, wary eyes.
Vaguely he remembered visiting Danny's apartment almost a year ago – back before they knew each other, back when custody issues were boiling between Danny and Rachel. There had been a hole in the wall – fist-sized. At the time, Steve had found it amusing.
He wasn't amused anymore.
Arms still raised, Danny half-turned, as if addressing an invisible crowd. "Let her go, he says!"
There was something almost feral in his movement, the usual sparkle in his eyes having been replaced with a dangerous glint.
Then Danny began to nod, slowly at first, but gaining momentum. A bark of bitter laughter escaped his lips as his arms came down to slap against his sides.
His eyes fell upon the cupboards on the wall just to his right.
And in one fluid movement, before either man knew what was happening, Danny's left hand had yanked open the cupboard door, and with his right had grabbed a coffee mug off of the first shelf.
He then reared back like a pitcher in a Yankees game, and released.
The mug hit the opposite wall, exploding into hundreds of pieces.
The sound of shattered ceramic must have loosened something deep inside of Danny, because suddenly he was grunting and growling with rage, using both hands to chuck and shatter every dish in his kitchen.
Steve could hardly believe the split-second change as his partner lost control in a way he'd never expected.
He'd flinched when the first mug hit the wall – though it was nowhere near where he was standing – and could only watch in shock as Danny proceeded to violently take apart the contents of his tiny kitchen.
The only problem was - Danny didn't have enough dishes; and when he ran out, he reared back and punched his fist right through the glass of a cupboard door.
"No, Danny – no!" Steve shouted, moving quickly to get behind his partner before he could do further damage to himself.
A red-faced Danny Williams literally howled in fury when he felt Steve's arms wrap around his torso, preventing any upper-body movement.
Instantly he began to squirm, buck, and kick viciously, as if fighting the devil himself.
"Le' go – le' go of me you sonovabitch!"
"No, Danny – stop –"
Steve grunted as the back of Danny's head collided with his cheek.
"Ouch – shit!"
His arms loosened ever slightly, but it was just enough for the fighting man to get free.
This time he went for a kitchen chair, bodily flinging it across the room where it bounced off of the wall with a resounding crack.
Steve stepped forward. "Alright – that's enough, Danny."
But the shorter man had wound himself up into an almost senseless rage.
Before Steve had finished speaking his partner's name, Danny was rushing him, palms slamming into the taller man's chest, propelling him backwards into the wall.
To say that the former SEAL was taken off guard was an understatement. His back slammed into the wall behind him, the air forced out of his lungs with a loud grunt.
Luckily his military training took over, and within seconds he had Danny immobilized, face planted roughly against the tile floor.
"Now damn it, that's enough!"
For a moment the only sound was the harsh breathing of both men. Steve saw his partner wince at the knee pressed into his back, but forced himself to remain in position until the shorter man cooled down.
It took a few minutes, but gradually Danny's wits returned to him. His breathing calmed, and his face was no longer red and pinched with rage.
"Alright. I'm okay now."
Steve shook his head irritably. "No. You're not okay. And you're gonna lay there until you realize that."
"You're hurting my shoulder," Danny muttered, grimacing.
"So help me Danny, if I let you up and you go tearing through this place again, I'm gonna knock you out."
"I swear I'm done, okay? I'm sorry. Will you let me up now, please?"
Reluctantly, Steve shifted backward and helped Danny to sit up.
"How's the shoulder?"
"It's fine," Danny answered curtly.
"Look, Danny…." Steve began, only to clamp his mouth shut as his partner got abruptly to his feet.
"Hey look – I'm sorry about all of this okay?" He briefly surveyed the damage he'd caused. "This…this is crazy, I know. And I'm truly sorry for losing it. That was…that was a mistake. But you can go, okay? I'm just gonna clean this up now."
Steve stood, wearing an expression of mixed confusion, anger, and concern.
"Seriously? You're just gonna act like this is no big deal?"
Danny swallowed, gaze shifting to his shoes. When he spoke, his voice trembled in a tone barely above a whisper. "Listen. I don't know if you realized it yet but uh – I'm kind of self-destructing here. And I'd really appreciate it if you'd just leave me alone. Okay? Because – there's nothing you can do for me."
He looked up then, hands gesturing toward his chest, throat convulsing as he pushed painful words past the lump in his esophagus. "Okay? There's nothing you can do. Because my life is a-a screwed up mess, see; and that's my problem. And I know you'd like to think that you can fix everything – but unless you can bring my family back together, you can't help me."
Steve's gaze never wavered.
"We're partners, Danny. Self-destructing or not, I'm not walking away. You taught me that."
Danny pushed the palms of his hands into his eyes and sighed. "Please…I appreciate your concern but - I can't handle this right now."
Steve stepped closer. "You're right that I can't bring your family back together. But I'm not gonna let you do this to yourself." He paused, voice lowering.
"You were there for me – dropped everything for me – when I was arrested. Now it's my turn."
Danny leaned back against the side of the fridge and slowly sagged to the floor. Steve followed, sitting next to him, his elbows resting across bended knees.
"She's punishing me," Danny said in a strained voice, barely above a whisper.
Steve frowned, confused by the abrupt shift in conversation. "What? Who?"
"Rachel," Danny muttered brokenly. "She's punishing me."
'The heartless bitch.'
"I thought you said she's just trying to do what's best for the kid?" Steve queried.
Danny swallowed. "No. I know that's what I said. But it's not the truth."
Steve's frown deepened. "Well, what is the truth?"
"Look, I really don't wanna talk about this; I just want to be left alone," Danny muttered with a sniff. "I mean is that too much to ask of you, you freakin' Neanderthal?"
The former SEAL had to resist the strong urge to throttle his friend.
"Are you kidding me, Danny? I just watched you destroy your entire kitchen and slam your fist through a pane of glass – so yeah, damn it, it is too much to ask. Okay?"
He took a deep breath to calm himself.
"Oh yeah…I think I'm bleeding," Danny replied nonchalantly, holding up a hand covered with thick blood.
"Jesus, Danny! Let me see," Steve demanded, grabbing the elbow of the injured arm.
Danny hissed as the larger man pressed different spots on his hand.
"Well – it doesn't feel like anything's broken, but you definitely need stitches."
The blonde man yanked his hand away. "No, I definitely don't."
"Relax, I can patch it myself if you want."
"Oh, and that's supposed to make me feel better?" Danny retorted.
But Steve was already on his feet and heading into the kitchen. He emerged seconds later with a dishtowel, which he quickly used to wrap around Danny's blood-covered hand.
"Thanks for the offer, but I think I'll be fine," Danny grunted.
Steve made a face. "Oh, will you quit being a wuss? Alright? I've stitched lots of people up before – including myself."
"Says the man who escaped from prison after being stabbed in the stomach with a screwdriver."
"Hey, it's either me or a three hour wait in the ER. You choose," Steve replied, getting to his feet.
"Alright, alright. I concede," Danny said, standing to follow Steve into the living room.
"Sit down; I'll get my stuff."
As the front door slammed shut, Danny eased himself down onto the couch, cradling his right hand to his chest. It was really starting to throb. Yet the physical pain took the edge off some of the emotional agony he'd been experiencing the past few weeks, and finding it oddly merciful, he leaned his head back and closed his eyes.
"Here. Take these," Steve's voice ordered a few minutes later, and Danny opened his eyes to see the former SEAL standing in front of him with two pills in his palm and a glass of water in his other hand.
Danny hadn't even heard him come back in.
"What is it?" He asked, accepting the pills and water.
"Just Ibuprofen – maximum strength."
Danny downed the pills and held out his arm. "Do your worst."
Steve worked silently at first, pouring peroxide onto a washcloth and ignoring his partner's muffled grunts of pain as he cleaned the cuts marring his hand.
"What did you mean when you said Rachel was punishing you?"
Danny exhaled loudly. He didn't speak for a while, making Steve wonder if he'd say anything at all.
"I think the baby's mine."
"I thought you said it was –"
"Let me finish," Danny retorted. "I think Rachel's pissed that I didn't show up at the airport the night the Governor was killed. I think she made up the story that she was conveniently further along than she thought to punish me for not being there for her."
Steve's jaw dropped. "Are you kidding me? She would do that?"
Danny shook his head, his expression one of misery. "I've known her for ten years, Steven. She wasn't lying the night she told me she was pregnant with my child."
"But that's – that's wrong," Steve sputtered angrily.
"She's doing what she thinks is best. She wants stability – predictability – and my job doesn't allow that. And I can't give up my job – I can't give her what she needs. I love her so much, but I keep letting her down."
"That's bullshit Danny –she's just selfish."
"Is she? I love her, Steve," Danny said quietly, helplessly. "Twice she's ripped my heart out of my chest – and I still love her. There's no cure for that."
Steve sat back on his haunches, having finished patching up his friend's hand.
"What can I do?"
Danny was quiet for a moment, quietly inspecting his newly bandaged hand. Then his forehead wrinkled, his face morphing into hapless expression.
"Will you help me clean up my kitchen?"
The former SEAL's lips twitched into a grin. "I suppose. What about our hike?"
"Ah, yes, the hike…been looking forward to it."
Steve snorted. "Yeah, right."
As he stood to put the gauze and other medical supplies back into his bag, Danny reached out to snag his shirt between his fingers.
"Hey. Thanks. I mean it."
Steve glanced away for a split-second, as if forming a reply; then turned to look the shorter man right in the eye.
"You're not alone, Danny. You're never alone."
Patting his friend on the shoulder, he stepped past him into the destroyed kitchen.
Danny had a bumpy road ahead, and Steve was going to be there every step of the way.
That's what friends – partners – do. There for each other – through thick and thin.
Danny taught him that.
Now it was time to return the favor.