Title: No Good Deed Goes Unpunished
Word Count: 5,500
Warnings/Rating T for language and scenes of violence.
Spoilers: Through 2.06
Genre: Gen. H/C
Summary:He'll never admit it out loud, but Danny studies the situation with Steve McGarrett colored lens and it's a scary, ridiculous worldview. Involving stun grenades and explosions. But none of those things can help out his partner right now.

Thank you to mischief5for her patience and wonderful beta.

He doesn't notice the ache at first. It's not until Danny's rant jerks Steve out of replaying today's case over and over again, does he recognize the familiar gnaw of guilt.

"Have you been listening to a damn thing I've said, McGarrett? Hey, Steve!"

"You don't need to shout in my ear."

"I wouldn't have to shout if you would actually listen!"

Steve presses the accelerator harder. "If you'd stop yelling, I might pay attention."

"No, Steve, you wouldn't."

Danny's right. Steve doesn't want to hear how this isn't his fault. That he can't bend time or grow wings and fly, but that doesn't change anything. If only they had been three minutes earlier — a lousy hundred and eighty seconds — maybe, they could have stopped the bomb from going off.

He guns the engine, ignores Danny's tirade, focusing on the vibration of the motor through the steering wheel and seat. He uses it — this distraction to put between him and whatever else he doesn't want to think about.

Danny's like an old dog with a bone when they arrive at HQ, loud and unwilling to back down. "We can't save everyone, Steven. While we're here to protect and serve, nowhere does it say we have to die trying."

Steve can still smell the odor of burnt flesh and diesel fuel. He could have defused it. The bomb had been fertilizer based with a simple denotation mechanism.

If he enters his office, he'll be trapped, so he paces, expending energy that has nowhere to go.

Danny follows him, heedless to the fact that Steve would much rather do anything else than discuss things. The sound of Kono and Chin walking in provides just the right cover to avoid Danny's relentless pursuit at getting Steve to talk.

Kono doesn't breech Steve's no-fly zone, skirting the outer edge of it. Chin grabs Danny's shoulder to guide him away. Chin understands. Steve has seen the way he's carried his family's name around, held and harbored it from outside forces.

Going home to run until he can no longer feel his legs sounds appealing to Steve. He needs to add some time between this failure and the possibility of not preventing another one.

"I'm going out for a while," he says, turning to leave.

Three sets of eyes shadow him, their collective gaze heavy on the back of his shoulders. He continues walking as Sergeant Duke Lukela enters HQ with a guy trailing behind him.

"Commander McGarrett," Lukela says in greeting. "Sorry to hear about what happened at the warehouse today."

Steve nods and doesn't say anything. He likes Lukela. The guy's a veteran cop and has always been accommodating, smoothing things over between Five-0 and HPD when things have gotten hot.

"By the way," Lukela nods. "Thanks for helping out Poliamu with that jam over at the prison."

"It was the least I could do," Steve answers truthfully.

Lukela doesn't let Steve slide, but won't take him to task. Helping out the officer Steve took out in the bathroom during his prison escape won't fix that broken bridge, but maybe one day, it'll help repair it.

In the heat of battle, Steve will always fall back on his training, living and reacting in the moment. That'll never change. It can't.

But he didn't join the service or accept the position at Five-0 to hurt the good guys.

"Hey, McGarrett, this gentleman behind me," Lukela whispers. "He really wants to talk to someone on your team. No one else. Says he has some important information to divulge about a case."

"Which case?"

"He won't tell me."

Steve does a quick assessment out of the corner of his eye. The man is early fifties, dressed in a dark shirt and slacks. He has a large, square frame with short-cropped, black hair and a long, flat nose.

"I'm Commander Steve McGarrett, what's your name?"

"Only after I speak to you in private," the man grunts.

"Yeah? Want to tell me what this is about?" The man doesn't answer and Steve loses what little patience he has left. "You in trouble? I can't help you if you won't talk to me."

His questions attract the attention of the rest of the team, their footfalls echoing off the tiled floor. Mr. Silent's eyes ping-pong between Steve and the others approaching. Without warning, Mr. Silent wraps an arm around Lukela's throat and pulls him flush.

In the split second it takes Steve to draw his weapon, Mr. Silent has grabbed Lukela's gun and buries the barrel under the cop's chin. "No one moves!"

Chin, Kono, and Danny converge all at once, four guns never wavering.

"I said, no one moves! If any of you get any closer, I'll blow his head off."

"Okay, everyone calm down," Steve orders. "No one has to get hurt here."

"Shut up and drop your weapons. All of you!" When no one complies, Mr. Silent shoves the gun harder under Lukela's chin. "Do you really want to test me? Drop 'em now!"

"All right," Steve says, holding up his Sig in a non-threatening manner. "I'm lowering my weapon and so will the rest of my team." He doesn't take his eyes off his target, but he can tell the others are hesitating. "Now, guys. We don't want any trouble."

Steve can feel their reluctance in waves, but his team trusts him and they each place their guns on the floor. Steve makes a show of doing the same thing and lowers his Sig, knowing he doesn't need it to take this guy out when the time comes.

"Kick it away," Mr. Silent orders. When Steve sends his weapon sliding, the guy calms slightly at gaining control. "You want to know my name? It's Gardener. Mark Ronald Gardener. That ring a bell?"

It sounds familiar, but Steve won't admit he's not sure given Gardener's agitated state.

"Gardener, yeah," Danny answers, getting the guy's attention. "A Capo in the Pagano organization that moved in from Chicago a few years ago."

"Yeah, that's right," Gardener growls. He drags Lukela further back into HQ, placing more distance between him and the rest of the team. "That was until your stupid task force started busting our black market business."

The Pagano dossier is inches thick. Steve recognizes Gardener now. Fourth or third on the organization's totem pole. Obviously not anymore.

Gardener seethes in anger, squeezing Lukela's throat tighter, the sergeant grunting in pain.

"Hey! You came here to talk, so let's talk," Steve yells.

"You think I came here for a conversation?" Gardener chuckles, a malicious smile spreading across his face.

Steve reads Gardener's body language, realizes that this is going to end in blood. He can feel the collective tension of the situation about to explode. One misstep, one wrong word, and people are going to die.

His team is several meters behind him and by the time any of them could draw their back-ups. It'll be too late. "Let him go. Take me instead," Steve offers, holding up his hands.

"What the hell are you doing?" Danny shouts.

Gardener isn't sure how to react. As long as he doesn't do anything stupid, Steve knows he can take advantage of the man's indecision.

"Ask yourself who'll make a better hostage?" Steve asks, moving closer, offering himself up like a prize.

Lukela's complexion is beet red and Steve pauses inches away from the officer's sweat-streaked face.

Gardener's thinking about it, his breaths ragged and heavy. Steve switches from the carrot to the stick. "Or is it easier to hold some old beat cop hostage?"

Everything happens at once.

Gardener's eyes grow big. There's a blur of motion as he shoves Lukela to the side, knocking him down. Steve has a split second. He moves to disarm Gardener only to have a jolt of pain hit him in the chest.

All his muscles tense into one horrible cramp. Neck, shoulders, back. Steve loses his balance while hands yank him forward. Before he can register that he's been tazed, Steve is thrown into a wall, his forehead smacking the brick with a crack.

Then everything fuzzes into a maelstrom of noise.

Danny's stomach lurches from Steve's taunt and his blood boils when his partner is jerked into the interrogation room.

Everyone yells at the same time, and Danny practically runs into the steel enforced door as it's slammed into his face. With Kono covering him, Danny tries opening it. But even though the door gets locked from the outside, it won't budge. Gardener has jimmied the damn thing somehow.

Danny thinks about putting a few bullets in it just for spite, but whirls around when Chin calls him and Kono over.

They jog over to the screen showing the close circuit feed just in time to watch Gardener drag Steve by his shirt collar and shove him into a chair.

"How the hell did that asshole sneak a taser in here?" Danny growls.

"They make some as small as a Zippo these days," Kono says, her words seething.

"And you can slip one past the metal detectors in security," Chin adds, his body vibrating in anger.

Chin's right. Steve's dazed looking, listing sideways while Gardener uses McGarrett's own handcuffs to secure him to the chair. Then Gardener pushes Steve, chair and all, about a meter in front of the door so Steve's facing it. "If they send anyone in, they'll take you out in the process."

All the moving around must've jarred Steve back to consciousness because he gives his head a shake with a wince, giving the room a once over, and spots the chair jammed under the doorknob. Danny knows Steve, knows how his mind works. And Mr. Badass has come to the same conclusion as Danny.

With all four walls made of cement and only one way in and out, Gardener has the advantage.

"I've called SWAT, they're ten minutes out," Kono informs them, her eyes glued to the TV screens.

But she's thinking what they all are: they're dealing with a ticking time bomb.

He'll never admit it out loud, but Danny studies the situation with Steve McGarrett colored lens and it's a scary, ridiculous worldview. Involving stun grenades and explosions.

"SWAT has flash-bangs," Chin suggests.

"They would incapacitate Gardener in seconds," Kono adds.

"Yeah, but Gardener might still get a couple shots off and kill Steve," Danny retorts. "Plus how are they getting in? The door swings out, not in. Using a battering ram won't work. And that asshole will hear it if we try to remove the doorknob."

He hates himself for saying those things, because if their roles were reversed, Steve would find some crazy Quentin Tarantino way to get any of them out of this.

But that doesn't stop him from thinking outside the box because Gardener's got this crazed look in his eye. Pacing back and forth like a deranged lion, Steve's gun in his right hand, Lukela's in his waistband.

Speaking of, the sergeant hasn't stopped staring at closed circuit feed like he'll be able to solve this through sheer determination.

"Hey, you all right?" Danny asks.

"I just let some guy get the jump on me, steal my weapon, and allowed McGarrett to be taken hostage. No, Detective, I'm not okay."

"Hey. This isn't your fault. This stuff? It happens to us all the time. Happens to Steve, I should be more specific. He doesn't think like the rest of us."

"Doesn't change anything."

God. Steve's guilt is like a virus. "No, it doesn't, but all we can do is be ready to back his play and save his ass. Got it?"

Lukela nods, his sun-wrinkled features set in bold determination.

"Why aren't they comin' in, McGarrett?" Gardener snarls while he paces. "I know they've got be watching and listening to everything."

Steve tries not to think about his friends witnessing this in vivid color. He knows exactly what it's like to be in their shoes and his mind can't go there.When his father was tied down—Hesse playing Steve like a pawn.

"I've seen the news. You're a real menace. I wonder how many in HPD still think you offed the governor, huh? Or how many want a little payback for you making them look bad? I mean, you're not even a cop, are ya?"

He's not. Steve's well aware of that, for better or worse. Maybe he's pissed HPD off and maybe he isa menace. The trail of dead bodies is getting longer and longer since he arrived on the island.

Perhaps Joe had been right about Mokoto's death and those Steve cared most about were still in danger. His attention has been split for months between chasing down Wo Fat and his father's case. Otherwise, how could he have been blindsided by Kono? Even with seeing her in between cases, he still hadn't figured out she'd been undercover, despite it being plain as day.

He's a trained naval intelligence officer. A freaking SEAL. And he hadn't put two and two together until it'd been almost too late. As lead of Five-0, all those on his team are his responsibility. More than that. They're family and he'd almost lost one of them.

His head pounds, but Steve ignores the thrumming inside his skull. Concentrates on trying to get muscles that refuse to move back under his control.

He has to focus.

"Doesn't matter, you know. I'm dead either way," Gardener hisses. "Either I die in here or Pagano will have me shanked in prison."

There's a finality in Gardener's voice, one that Steve has heard way too many times before when things went horrible bad.

He's not going to allow another tragedy unfold while he's helpless to stop it.

Danny's sweating bullets, the urge to break down that stupid door overwhelming. But he's oddly transfixed to the television screens like those idiotic motorists who slow down to gawk at a three-car pileup. All fascinated and freaked out by the flashing lights and carnage, but unable to look away.

"I had this all planned...Move in. Move out. I'm never getting out of this, now." Gardener kicks the table clear across the room. "Fuckers. You guys couldn't leave well enough alone."

"So, what was your plan? Because from over here, it doesn't sound like you have one," Steve asks.

"God damn it, McGarrett! Don't antagonize the unhinged guy! What's the matter with you?" Danny yells at the screen.

"Brah," Kono says. "McGarrett just got tazed; probably the only thing that's working is his mouth."

"My plan was to kill a member of Five-0," Gardener yells. "Prove to Pagano that I can take care of things. I've been a Capo for seven years. Seven fucking years. And he demotes me to a foot soldier?"

"Maybe your boss finally realized you've been performing below your pay grade."

When Gardener clocks Steve, it sounds like celery snapping.

Steve shakes off the punch, stares Gardener right in the eye. "My partner's nine year old daughter can hit harder than you."

"Shut up!" Danny screams as Steve's head is almost knocked off his shoulders from a second blow.

Steve blinks several times, tests his lower jaw. "You must be a righty."

"For crying out loud! Stop it!" Danny yells helplessly.

Thank goodness, Gardener is paranoid because he spins around, aiming his gun at the door like it's going to be knocked down any second. "Is this part of the plan? Distract me while your guys storm in?"

Gardener backs away from the door. Puts himself behind Steve, wraps an arm across his chest, and presses the gun barrel to Steve's head. "Go ahead! Kill me, you assholes, but you'll be picking up his skull fragments for days."

"Do you really think SWAT will come through the front door? My money's on the roof," Steve antagonizes.

"He's really rattling Gardner's cage," Chin says with a hint of admiration.

The mobster stares wide-eyed at the ceiling, pointing his weapon at the tiles. Then Gardener gets this look, this dawning realization that he's being played. "You think you're real smart, doncha?"

"It's not hard considering the I.Q in the room," Steve answers, digging his fingers into the arm rests.

Danny thinks Steve expects to be pistol whipped, but Gardener spins the chair around until Steve's facing him and switches his weapon into his left hand. "You know what, McGarrett? I am a righty."

The asshole slams his fist into Steve's face, the crunch of bone on flesh a sickening sound in the speakers.

Then he sets his gun under Steve's chin and smashes him again.

After the third punch, Chin's whole body visibly trembles, his jaw clenched tight.

Danny steps toward Chin, but doesn't touch. Not yet. Because Danny feels the same rage simmering on the surface, a special kind of hate that scares the living piss out of him. An uncontrolled fury that, once it's uncorked, there's no stopping it.

But he keeps a lid on things.

He waits.

And waits.

Then, on the fifth or six punch, Chin screams and punches the screen, vowing violence and revenge and so many things that Danny has to block out his tirade. Because Chin Ho Kelly doesn't lose his shit like this. Ever.

But Danny intervenes. And Kono's there, and together, they have Chin's shoulders, pulling him away from the television screen before he busts his hand.

Lukela breaks their circle, anger and guilt written all over his features. "SWAT's here," he says breathless, his entire demeanor jacked up on adrenaline.

"Good." Danny wipes at the sweat of his face. "Good," he repeats.

The beating sounds like it's finally, mercifully stopped, and Danny can finally force himself to look at the closed circuit screen again.

Gardener's hair is a sweaty mess and he's breathing heavily from exerting himself.

Steve is...well, damn. He looks bad. Blood drips from cuts near his eyebrows and lips, and his face is going to be black and blue from the looks of the swelling. Steve's head lolls on top of his heaving chest and it takes a lot of effort for him to jut out his chin defiantly.

Captor and hostage stare at each other, Gardener shaking his sore fingers.

"Your hand hurt?" Steve coughs. "You know, we've got a baseball bat in the evidence locker if you think that'll help."

"What the hell is he doing?" Chin yells.

Danny knows, and god damn it, seriously, Steve? Of all the times to be playing armchair psychiatrist and doing a really, really atrocious job at it?

"He's using the only card he has," Danny sighs.

There's more to it. Loads more. Years of buried shit smacking head-on with recent events along with the inability to accept that sometimes things in the real word are just not black and white.

Steve waits for it. Watches Gardener's face screw up in rage, his right eye twitching. Steve expects another pop to the mouth, but is unprepared for the fist that plows into his gut.

All the air is knocked out of his lungs, and for a moment, Steve can't breathe, can't inhale. Dots morph into black bands around his vision, his body bent over to ease the pain. But his limbs have started working again and that's a good thing.

Gardener's mutters at him, but Steve can't make out the words above the sudden ringing in his ears. Gardener's shirt smells of sweat and stale cigarettes, the foul stench enough to clear away some of the approaching darkness.

Steve's still hunched over, testing his muscles, doing a damage check. He might have a cracked rib, and when he sits up, the room starts spinning.

Too many cheap shots to the head, but Steve can take it. He has to.

It's his endgame. To keep needling and needling away until Gardener totally loses it. Because as long as Gardener is focused on Steve, his mind isn't thinking about anything else. Like how to take out as many cops as possible.

"You know why it was so easy busting all your operations?" Steve provokes. "It's because you were stupid. Any rookie could have followed the trail of breadcrumbs you left. Makes me wonder if you got set up to be busted? I mean, no one's that dumb, right?"

Gardener's nostrils flare, his jugular pulsating along his throat. There's this moment when people don't think, they simply react. Allow emotion to dictate and overcome logic — a flood of impulses so overwhelming, it has no outlet.

Steve laughs. It hurts because his jaw throbs and his face—well, it hurts a lot, too. But he chuckles and rolls his swollen eyes the best he can, because that's got to really rile Gardner up. "What was I thinking? You are that stupid."

There's yelling. Gardener's. And maybe it's Steve's imagination, but he swears he hears Danny, Chin, and Kono's voices scream, too.

Steve doesn't see the fist as it slams into him, smashing his face and head. A couple blows landing on his chest.

That's not what Steve homes in on because he's trained to focus past the physical pain.

Gardener whales on him and Steve concentrates on how his wrists are restrained. On the ebb and pull of muscles against steel.

He ignores getting beat on and leaps to his feet while cuffed to the chair. He grips the armrests, and using his whole body, wheels the chair into Gardener, knocking the man off balance.

Steve then steamrolls into the guy, thrusting his shoulders into the man's pudgy middle until Gardner's back smacks against the wall.

Steve takes advantage of Gardener's surprised look and knees him in the groin. Hard.As Gardener slumps against the wall, Steve knees him in the solar plexus to ensure that he stays down.

Using the last of his adrenaline, Steve goes over to the door and kicks away the chair. It swings open and the room fills with members of his team.

"Hey, we got you, brah," Kono says, grabbing Steve as his feet waver.

Then one set of hands becomes three.

"Hello? Could we get a medic anytime soon?"

"I've got a key for the cuffs," Chin's voice chimes in.

Steve watches as Gardener's is put into custody, neutralizing the danger.

Only then does he allow his body to reconnect fully to his brain. "Is everyone okay?" he asks.

Chin has removed the handcuffs, slinging one of Steve's arms over his shoulder as Danny does the same with Steve's other arm. "We're all good, brah. Except for you."

"Okay. That's good," Steve says, his knees buckling.

Danny and Chin catch Steve and carry him through HQ, which has now become a three-ring circus of cops and SWAT members. There's this collective feel of admiration in the building and Danny wants to snap his fingers and yell that there is nothing to be admired. That Steve McGarrett's pummeling wasn't brave, nor was it honorable.

No, it was stupid, and self-sacrificing, and a perversion of the definition for mental health.

Steve tries to stand and walk under his own power, but mainly he flails about, fighting Chin and Danny while mumbling things only he can decipher.

Kono walks ahead, clearing a path. She keeps one hand on Steve's arm while guiding him toward a safe spot out that is out of the way. Suddenly Steve hits the brakes, grabs her wrist, and offers a slurred apology out of the blue.

Kono blinks, her mouth wide open, before Steve's legs give out again.

"Okay, come on, Ali, just a few more feet," Danny coaxes.

They help Steve onto the floor in the main room as the paramedics are given the go ahead to enter now that the scene has been secured.

"'m fine," Steve mumbles for the third or fourth time, swatting away Chin's hands.

"You are not fine, you hear me?" Danny growls squatting down next to Steve and grabbing his wrists. "Be still and behave. Or is your brain too battered to understand such simple commands?"

Steve has the audacity look confused, which is even more pathetic with the bruising and blood all over his face. "Why are you mad at me?"

"I am not mad at you!" Danny snaps, realizing that he's yelling.

Danny is saved from a lengthy explanation about the fine line between fear and anger when two paramedics finally come over and descend on their patient with their stupid questions.

What's today's date?

How many fingers am I holding up?

Then one of the medics proceeds to flash a penlight into Steve's battered and eyes, ordering him to track the beam of light.

"Do you know how many times you were hit in the head, Commander?" The medic asks.

"Don't know," Steve mumbles.

"I lost count after eight," Danny offers.

Tracking a penlight isn't exactly part of Steve's skill set right now, but following Danny's voice apparently is.

"I did what was necessary," Steve says, like he's reading Danny's mind.

One of the medics gives Danny a look, a 'let's not agitate the guy with a head injury' expression. So, Danny nods, and reaches over to give Steve's shoulder a squeeze. "I know you did, buddy," then he backs away so they can take his partner to the ER.

Steve spends the night in the hospital and is released the next day. It's Chin who picks him up and drops him off at home. Chin who sticks around to cook pasta and breadsticks while the both of them sit around watching football. Steve doesn't have much of an appetite. He has a massive headache and his jaw is too sore to really eat, so he nibbles on the bread and drinks tea.

Chin doesn't say much and that's fine; there's nothing much to be said. After the game, Chin tidies up despite Steve's protests.

"Are you really up to cleaning?" Chin challenges.

Truth be told, Steve feels like he's just crawled away from a horrible car accident and maybe that's not too far of a stretch. "No, I'm not. Thanks, man.

"Good, because I'm not good at sitting on my hands while a friend needs me."

Steve is deft at reading in between the lines and sits back while Chin cleans away the dishes and does other unnecessary household work.

When Chin grabs a laundry basket, Steve puts a stop to things. "I'm good, brah. Mahalo for everything."

"Mahalo," Chin answers and pauses in the doorway. "Hey, Steve. Your dad would have been proud at what you did this week. Don't ever forget it."

Kono drops by the next day. She's a little awkward around Steve at first, bringing in two bags of groceries from the farmer's market.

"You didn't have to shop for me," Steve objects.

"You're not allowed to drive for the next few days."

That's true. He gets dizzy at the most random times and he woke up this morning with a migraine.

He leans on the kitchen counter and watches her stock his shelves. When she's done, Kono stands there fidgeting, which is very unlike her.

"Is there something wrong?" he asks.

"Um, about what you said. You know, after the thing with Gardener?

"I don't really remember...everything's a little fuzzy."

"What I did with Fryer was my choice."

"I know that, but I should have realized what was going on. I mean, we hung out together off and on for weeks, and I didn't pick it up on it."

"Maybe it's because I'm good at my job," Kono says proudly, squaring her shoulders. "I did it to protect Five-O. You're not the only one who gets to do that."

Steve winces, but he gets it. It's his job to keep training her, but they stand together as a team. On equal footing. "Yeah, you're right. I'm sorry."

"I know I'm right," Kono says with a smile, her eyes softening as she pulls Steve into a quick hug. "You scared the hell out of me, boss. I know it won't be the last time, but could you wait a while before you do it again?"

"I'll try," Steve says, but he can't promise.

After four days of sitting at home, Steve drives to headquarters. His appointment with the neurologist to get cleared for fieldwork is not until next Monday and he's going nuts on his sofa. The least he can do is catch up on paperwork.

This time when he walks in, his aches are more noticeable. A twinge here or there. He's had much worse, so he calls it a good day, and makes a beeline for his office.

"You know I had motion sensors installed," Danny's voice calls out. "Seeing as we can't be too careful about who might be trying to sneak in."

"I work here, Danno. I don't have to sneak in."

"No, you don't. Let's just call it an extra set of precautions after dealing with car bombs and hostage situations in the last six months."

"Did you fill out an expense report?"

"Excuse me? Did I what?"

Steve just smiles as Danny goes off on another tangent, ignoring him as he enters his office. As he heads toward his chair, he notices a bulletin board set up next to his framed model of the Arizona. Steve stands totally entranced by the photographs and newspaper articles pinned there.

"What's this?"

"What do you think it is?" Danny asks, coming up behind him.

"I don't know."

"Come on, babe. Look at it, or is that concussion worse than you've let on?"

Steve recognizes the pictures of course. Children from kidnappings. Families who'd been smuggled in as sex slaves or forced labor and set freed. The loved ones of victims Five-0 had brought to trial. Articles about busted drug rings, serial killers, and one on a foiled terrorist plot.

"You see, I know you," Danny starts out. "You file away every miss, every loss in that heart of yours that you deny exists. You hold onto every failure until it becomes this oppressive weight that drags the rest of you down. You let the bad outshine the good, and that's wrong and stupid on so many levels."

"I don't do it allthe time."

"And that whole denial thing has to stop. And stop right now, Steven. Because we do a lot of good out there. Five-0 has saved a lot of people. And guess what? We need our fearless leader in one piece and not," Danny pauses, waving his hand at Steve's face. "Not busted up. Have you seen yourself in the mirror? You look terrible."


"Did what you had to do. Yadda yadda," Danny interrupts again. "But listen to me for once. Because I'm going to speak to you in terms you can comprehend. War is war; you know that. But life can be war sometimes. We're going to lose some battles, but we're gonna win a whole lot, too. Got it?"

"Yeah. I got it."

"Do you really? Because war is not eternal. We wage war so we can enjoy peace. And peace is a very good and wonderful thing. That's why people want it so badly."

Steve's eyes linger on the number of newspaper clippings and smiling faces, and it takes him a moment to recognize there's a lot more happy endings than he ever realized. "Thanks, man. I mean it."

"Don't just thank me. Chin and Kono helped me out." Danny stuffs his hands into his pockets and clears his throat. "Lukela might have even given us a few suggestions."

Steve is lost for words for a moment, his gaze fixated on the board. "We should name this. Something good."

"How about we let the words and pictures speak for themselves?"

Steve swallows, the deep ache buried under his muscles loosening a little. "Okay. But let's move this into HQ; it doesn't belong in my office."

"I know the perfect spot," Danny says, and helps Steve move the board where they can all see it.

Because at the end of some days, those really hopeless ones, they all need a reminder of the good—of why it's all worth it.


A/N:This was shameless cathartic writing.