Sorry This chapter has taken so long. I had it mostly done, but was putting off revisions for a long time. I got distracted with my Avengers stories and life and such.
This chapter contains an instance of stronger language than I normally use. I tried writing it differently, and it just didn't work, so I'm sorry if anyone is offended, but I wouldn't do it if I didn't think it was necessary.
And finally, thanks to all my faithful readers. I hope some of you are still around.
Chapter Sixteen "Take It Out On Me"
"It's not worth it; it's not working
You wanted it to be picture perfect
It's not over; you don't have to throw it away
So scream if you wanna; shout if you need
Just let it go; take it out on me
Run if you need to; snap if it helps you
Get control; take it out on me"~Thousand Foot Krutch
Governor Denning was having problems of his own. He was being asked to answer for everything Steve had done in the last five months. It was not going well. There was talk of prosecution, of impeachment. He didn't exactly have time to concern himself with his former task force leader's condition, though it should have been his first order of business.
Not that Denning wasn't worried about what would happen to Steve. He was just more worried about his own neck. So he wasn't exactly thrilled when Kono barged into his office, ignoring the swarm of aides who told her he was busy.
Denning waved off his staff. "Something wrong?"
"What isn't?" Kono took a seat across the desk from him. She'd never talked to him like that before, but he could understand why.
"Then you know that I'm dealing with it."
"Are you? Because if you cover your own ass on this, where does that leave Steve? This was your operation; he was under your orders."
"I am well aware of my orders, Officer Kalakaua."
"Then you know what you have to do. After everything he's been through, Steve doesn't deserve this."
"In politics, very few people care."
"This isn't about freaking politics! It's about you owning up to what you did. You sent Steve out there. You told him what to do. If you do anything better than Jameson in your career, it should be this."
"So you think I should throw myself under the bus for someone who may or may not ever be stable again?"
"If you gave a single shit about Steve's stability, you'd do this for him." Kono stood up. "Five-0 is nothing without him. He's what's been keeping us going all this time, even though we didn't know it. We can survive without you but not without him."
Then she left. Denning watched her go. He listened to the soft click of his door closing, and he rested his chin on his hand. Everything she had said was right. He had been determined to be better than Jameson, to prove that not every politician was corrupt. Maybe he had failed there, but he could spare Steve. He knew exactly how.
The house didn't look that different from when he had left. Steve noticed the usual Danny clutter, but it was nothing like the messes he used to make. And there were telltale signs of a little girl living there, pink objects including a Nerf football and a dollhouse in the corner of the living room. Steve was glad Danny had lived in his house. It was just what he had wanted.
The kitchen was a disaster. Dirty dishes and junk food obscured what had once been the most immaculate room in the house. Steve would have plenty of time to clean up.
"You hungry?" Danny shuffled through the mess.
"Maybe we should just order pizza or something." Steve avoided touching any of the debris.
"Yeah, good idea." Danny moved out of the kitchen into the dining room.
Steve followed, noticing that the desk at the far end of the room was also more cluttered than he had left it. He was surprised at Danny using it that much, but since he was now the head of Five-0, it made sense.
Danny went over to the desk and picked up his phone. As he talked to the person on the other end, he began straightening up the desk, moving things around so that the looked more deliberately placed and less like the mess it was. He stopped when he picked up a stack of wrinkled, dirty papers. Steve recognized his own handwriting, even from so far away. Danny hung up the phone and looked up at Steve.
"You still have all of those?" Steve's voice came out scratchy, which he had come to expect.
Danny waved the stack absently. "It helped when I wanted to talk to you." He laid the letters on the table.
"You wanted to talk to me?"
"Why is that a question? Yeah, I wanted to talk to you. I wanted it to make sense."
"So, what, you just read through them over and over again until... what?"
"Until nothing. It didn't stop. You know, I used to sit on the beach out there—yeah, me—and I would talk. To you. You never said anything back, of course, but it was these—" Danny smacked his hand on the letters. "—that made me still able to hear your voice in my head. So that I'd never forget."
"Why would you want to remember?" Steve turned to the windows, squinting in the afternoon sun.
Danny laughed. His serious, you're a real piece of work laugh. "You need to stop doing that."
"Why would I want to remember? Why the hell would I ever let myself forget? Hey, look at me when I'm talking to you." Danny's voice rose to the point that Steve thought he might start shouting.
"It's hard, Danny." Steve still didn't look at him, and his own tone was louder than usual. "To look at you when I know what I've done to you."
"What the hell does 'I forgive you' mean in McGarrett language?" Danny was really shouting now. "Because in English, it means I fucking forgive you!"
Steve looked at him then but only for a second. There was so much he wanted to say that he didn't have the words for. He knew how much it meant that Danny had forgiven him. "I'm sorry, Danny." He barely heard his own voice.
"Will you stop saying that?" Danny began pacing. He ran his hands over his hair repeatedly. Then he stopped and faced Steve again. "Please look at me."
Steve turned his head. He meant it when he said it was hard to look at his friend. It was hard to listen to his voice.
Danny put his hands together, the motion Steve always thought looked like praying for some reason. "I know you're in a really, really bad place and have been for a long time. But the last thing you need to do is avoid me, okay? I know it's hard, but you have to talk to me. You have to say all those dark, impossible things you've been thinking over the past who knows how long. You have to get it out."
Steve smirked, but it felt wrong; it hurt. "Who's the psychiatrist now?" The ubiquitous knot in his throat made the words half mumbled.
"Hey, I mean it." Danny's voice was soft now, almost pleading.
Steve swallowed hard. "I know."
Ryan looked up at the beautiful woman in the doorway holding a sleeping newborn. He felt as if he were dreaming except for the inextricable knots in his stomach that had been there ever since he came home to find intruders in his apartment. He wasn't entirely sure how he got here. He was staying with a family he didn't know because of a friend he didn't really know either. They had no reason to help him. And what happened when they discovered how old he really was?
He couldn't do anything about it now. He'd stay for a while anyway. Steve wanted him there, and it was the least he could do. Maybe he could help, though he really had no idea how.
Chin led Ryan to the door and introduced him to Malia and Steven Daniel, who now needed a nickname so as not to be confused with his namesakes. They went inside, and Chin showed Ryan to his temporary room.
"It's not much." Chin flipped on the light switch. "But we never have any company, so it's nice and clean."
"You saw where I lived." Ryan laid his bag on the bed. "This is five stars in comparison." He looked at the white curtains and the wood floor, the book shelves and the green lamp beside the bed. He'd never lived anywhere this nice.
Chin seemed to sense something was bothering Ryan because he lingered in the doorway. "You okay?"
Ryan looked back, tearing his eyes away from the domestic splendor. "Uh, no. Just thinking."
There was a smile, and knowing look in Chin's eyes. "You and Steve are close."
Ryan gave his best impression of a nonchalant smirk. "I think we've had this conversation."
"He talked to you about what happened?"
"Yeah. Not a lot. We didn't ask questions much. It worked better that way."
"But you knew some things."
"Well, there was that one night. Two days ago. He found out where my mom was living. Found out some other stuff too. I guess it all came out then. For me anyway. Seems like he has a lot more going on than I thought."
"Welcome to the club." Chin smiled. "But you look like you have a lot on your mind too. Something you said this morning made me wonder. When Steve was talking about his friend. You said no one sees that coming."
"Well, did you?"
"No. None of us did. I was just wondering how you knew that."
Ryan shuffled his feet. "It was my dad."
Steve sat on the back porch watching the sun go down. He couldn't count the number of times he had done this. The image of the golden red sky burning out every night was something he took for granted. But now he realized that it had been months since he had just watched the sunset. It had been months since he had enjoyed something for the sake of it. Sitting alone with the last rays of the day's light soaking into his made him want to freeze time right there and never leave.
The back door opened and closed. Steve didn't turn around. He knew there was only one other person in the house anyway. He didn't mind being interrupted. Maybe a year ago, he would have considered it an invasion of privacy, but now he wanted to be around people. As much as it hurt, as much as he hated himself when he looked through their eyes, Steve didn't want to be alone.
Danny sat down in one of the other chairs and didn't say anything. Steve didn't expect him to. There was hardly anything to say after their conversation earlier. Steve had realized that they would have to pace themselves if they wanted to come out of this whole thing sane.
Of course, Steve wasn't ignoring the fact that he might be arrested very soon, so maybe they wouldn't have to deal with it after all. That was a horrible way of thinking about it, but he had to take it into consideration. He may have been following orders, but Steve had known what he was doing. There was a lot to work out with that. He knew other people were supposed to be taking care of things, but eventually he would have to answer for himself. There couldn't just not be consequences.
Danny spoke, interrupting Steve's thoughts. "We'll have to tell everyone soon."
Steve turned to look at him. "Everyone?"
"Yeah. You know, Grace, Rachel, Max, Kamekona... You know a lot of people."
"I didn't think about it."
"Really. Do you think I could have left if I had thought of everyone who knows me?"
"I don't know. Maybe you just thought it wouldn't matter to them."
Steve nodded. "Maybe."
"Max was upset that he couldn't do your autopsy."
Steve laughed. It wasn't just his light chuckle that might not even be a laugh. It was the real thing. He thought about Max expressing his disappointment. He could hear him saying it. "I'll have to tell him myself."
"Don't sneak up on him."
"How do you not sneak up on Max?"
"True. Okay, but scare him as little as possible, okay?"
"Okay. He really said that?"
"Said what? That he was upset? Yes. I told him I thought you would have wanted him to do it."
"No, it's really not, but to him it meant the world."
"I guess I would, now that you mention it. Want him to do my autopsy, I mean. Assuming the need ever came up."
"Let's not assume that, shall we?"