They said there'd be peace on Earth
Summary: It's the holiday season, and merry doesn't enter the conversation when Steve is called up to join a Naval Intelligence operation the week before Christmas. In a time of great conflict, there is peace – and vice versa.
The story title comes from the song "I Believe In Father Christmas," which is the inspiration for this piece. To all of our troops serving overseas and fighting in conflicts this holiday season, may peace on Earth be possible for you.
Also, I don't own them, I just write stories with them. No money-making is being had with said writing, sadly.
When Danny looked back on the evening over the next week, he remembered the conversation by the beach, and the little details that painted the picture in his mind. Those details had hooks in their claws, and they clung inside his brain tenaciously, refusing to let go and flee into the distance.
Steve sitting in the weather-worn beach chair, a Longboard bottle on its arm, sweat from the bottle slowly trickling down the brown glass and dropping onto the wood – pooling on the blistered paint and then running down the length of the arm.
The sun long gone, replaced by a waning crescent moon that cast cool light on the dappled sand, the waves breaking softly into shore under an eery sky.
Steve's voice, broken and cracked – like the soul from which it came. Danny could hear the note of despair in his partner – his friend – as he tried to put into words how everything had gone so wrong.
"I don't know what to believe anymore, Danno." Danny's fingers tightened around the neck of his own Longboard. "I thought I knew him. I thought … God, Danny, I never questioned – not in anything. You don't do that in the military, and he trained me. Do you know what that means?"
Danny had a guess.
"Yeah, a little."
"Do you know where I spent my first Christmas in the SEALs, Danny? On a training exercise in the sea off Japan. We were running a joint exercise with the Marines, and they shipped up to Camp Foster in Okinawa. Christmas Eve, we were supposed to be in the water from 10 p.m. until dawn on Christmas Day."
Steve paused, took a long sip of his longboard. Danny saw a few drops of condensation drop on his partner's face, but Steve didn't even flinch. After a minute of silence, his friend continued.
"Supposed to be – me and Lewis and Buxton. Damned idiot didn't even realize what he'd done at first. We were in the bay, holed up in some outcropping of rock that barely qualified as a cave. But it was the only cover we had, and the Marines were supposed to come ashore there after we reconned. We weren't supposed to be seen, all we had to do was make sure the waters were clear of the enemy. Light weapons only, and knife work."
Another pause, another sip of beer. Danny didn't dare speak, didn't dare break the rarified air in which this conversation took place.
"Joe had sent the three of us into that area to clear any traps the enemy may have set. And Lewis … he found the first one just as the thunderstorm that had been threatening all night broke open. Pulled his knife to clear the rope pull and the flash-bang attached to it. And the damned idiot didn't even think to look and see if there were any other threads, didn't even pull his glo-stick out to make sure the rainfall on the water hadn't made him miss something.
"He cut the thread, and the whole friggin' pond exploded … water, rocks, noise, God, you couldn't even tell whether up was the sky or the water between the lightning and the rain and the explosions. And then suddenly I was under the water, no footing, and no equipment. We'd left it on beach, because, hey, what the hell is supposed to happen when you're clearing Goddamn flash-bangs in peacetime?"
Steve turned, and Danny felt a chill run through him as the two locked eyes. Steve had consumed as many beers as his partner had – which was to say more than a few – but in those eyes Danny saw no haze of drunkenness, just a scary clarity of purpose.
"You think I don't screw up? That thousand-yard stare, right?" Steve shifted his gaze back to the ocean, so close now to their feet with the tide having rolled in. "Three rocks, each the size of a bowling ball, landed on my chest, pinned me to the ocean floor – three feet under the ocean, all the air knocked out of my chest. I didn't know up from down, all I knew was I needed to breathe. And then my lungs filled with water, and I choked and I -"
Danny reached out, letting his hand settle on Steve's forearm, but the ex-SEAL didn't react, didn't so much as flinch. All Steve did was lift his beer again, and finish the bottle with one long swallow.
"I blacked out, and the next thing I know, I'm on my side, my chest aching like a son of a bitch while I puked on the sand. I couldn't stop, my whole body just betrayed me. And Joe's hands were on my shoulders, making sure I didn't choke, making sure I heard him talking the whole time. I don't even remember what he said, but it kept me from panicking, it actually calmed me down. I knew I was safe. My chest had started to feel like someone had sat on it, so when he put the oxygen mask on my face, I didn't even fight it.
"I found out later that he'd been in the water within seconds of the trap being sprung, wanting – no, needing to make sure his trainees were accounted for. When he got out there, I was dead, Danny. I wasn't there. I don't remember him pulling me out of the water, or him doing CPR. I just remember puking and sucking in air while he never moved from behind me."
"He saved my life, Danny. I never had any reason not to trust him after that. Not until now." Steve leaned back in the chair then, still lost in whatever world his story had taken him to. "Twelve years, more missions than I can count, and I knew if I needed something, he was a phone call away. He had my back, even if it was just the theory and not the practice.
"Now it's all changed, Danny. I'm a cop now, not a SEAL. I don't trust him – and I don't know that he trusts me. It's not the same anymore."
Danny swallowed, hard, and thought for a moment before saying anything, wanting the right words and not the wrong ones to find a voice.
"Sometimes it can't be, Steven. And sometimes, that's OK, too."
"No." The one word was all Steve said for a long time. Then, after long minutes of silence, he finally spoke again. When he did, Danny closed his eyes against the words, wishing now more than maybe any other time in his life, that he could hit a rewind button and undo the moment.
"I brought ME to 5-O, Danny. I was a SEAL, I was Navy Intelligence. Now – now I don't know what I am, and that scares the shit out of me. I could get a phone call tomorrow, we both know that, and get pulled back into the field, and I don't know if I can trust myself, or anyone else out there."
Two days later, on a windy, wild Hawaiian afternoon, they walked through the doors of HQ, blank looks on their faces and an envelope in hand. Orders, ones that Steven read through once, then with veiled eyes, folded silently and stuck into a pocket. Wordlessly, Steven and Danny locked eyes again, and the words of two nights previous echoed in the silence.
"I don't know if I can trust myself or anyone else out there."
Author's note: This is a multi-chapter story that I will hopefully get posted and finished in the next week or so, given it revolves around the holiday and a holiday song. Thank you for your patience.