Author's Note(1): So here's the thing. I've been in hibernation since before January, taking a much-needed break from all things school and social. Then I decided to check out this TV show I'd heard about, 'Supernatural'. And I got totally, completely, utterly, hopelessly addicted to that show. I watched all 7 seasons in the span of 2 weeks, and have watched them multiple times since. Then one day I was like, "oh, yeah, I used to like this other show called Hawaii 5.0." And I remembered I had a couple stories on the back burner, and another one-shot - THIS one-shot - that had yet to be finished. Long story short - I'm wayy behind. But! I am coming back, slowly but surely. The problem now is that the semester starts back up again tomorrow, and I don't know when I'll have time to breathe, let alone write. But we'll see. I am still, very much, dedicated to this fandom. I just have to get Dean Winchester out of my system. :P :P :)
Author's Note(2): This is my 25th story. A milestone for me. It's also special to me because this is the first story I let come out raw. Usually I hold back a bit, and censor myself. But I let this one flow freely, and am very proud of how it turned out. Incidentally, this story comes out in anticipation of episode 2.15, which looks to be quite a gut-wrenching, according to the previews.
Warning(s): This fic has heavier swearing than any of my others. Also - spoilers for episodes 2.10 and 2.11 - nothing past that (as I haven't been able to watch any of the more recent episodes with any kind of focus).
Disclaimer: The usual blah, blah. I don't own the characters or the show.
Something, he didn't know what, woke Steve from one of the first peaceful sleeps he'd had since returning from North Korea.
A week later, and his wounds had healed, though he still suffered from stiffness in his shoulders and the occasional ache or twinge in the muscles of his abdomen.
It was the lack of sleep that had been getting to him, though.
He knew he looked like crap – what with the dark rims under his eyes and the slight drop in weight. His team still worried about him, especially Danny.
But he'd been down this road before, countless times, and he knew the answer was just to keep going through the motions of life until something clicked back into place, as it always seemed to do.
Finding the kids today had been the catalyst he needed. Never mind Joe. Joe, whose behavior of late – his single-minded fascination with 'Shelbourne' – perplexed and unnerved Steve to no end. But his military training had taught Steve to compartmentalize, to create walls in his mind, to take his thoughts captive and hide away those that didn't serve the purpose at hand.
The current purpose at hand was sleep. Steve knew he desperately needed it. He also knew that if he started thinking about Joe, his thoughts would run circles around his mind until he ended up doing something stupid, like breaking into the Governor's mansion. Steve had already been there, done that, and gotten the t-shirt. And especially after their recent romp through communist country, he was determined not to put his friends through that again.
So Steve compartmentalized, and shoved away the negative, anxiety-producing thoughts.
Today had been a good day – a successfully completed mission. Steve felt good about it. So he brought that to the forefront of his mind, and focused on the good his team had done.
He had gone to bed early, sunk into the soft sheets of his bed with a smile on his face, with a peace in his heart. He inwardly marveled at the caress of soft cotton sheets against bare skin, and his drift into darkness had been swift.
He knew he'd been deeply asleep from the simple fact that he didn't wake up at the first muffled scream. The sound cut through his dreamless, foggy haze like a dull knife slicing through butter – almost indistinguishable – and it took him several moments to catch his bearings.
Reaching for his clock, he had to blink several times to bring the numbers into focus.
He sighed, eyes closing again on their own accord, the insistent tug of deep sleep too strong to ignore.
Eyes popping open, heart rate skyrocketing at the abject terror in the scream, Steve was grabbing his gun off the nightstand, stumbling almost blindly for the stairs in an instant.
He'd almost forgotten that his partner had been, and still was, sleeping on his couch.
A loud *THUMP* and muffled cursing had him moving even faster, almost tripping down the stairs.
What he saw made his heart clench. Danny lay wedged between the couch and coffee table, a tangle of limbs thrashing in the blankets.
"…no…no, no, no, no…you sonuvabitch – you SONOVABITCH! GRACE!"
The anguished scream felt like fire on his skin, and Steve wasted no more time. He set the gun down on the bottom step, hurried over and yanked the coffee table away from his partner's flailing limbs.
He knew better than to touch him in this state. He'd likely end up with a broken nose. So Steve did the only thing he could do – he crouched as close as he dared, leaning his head even closer with a hand outstretched to block any punches or kicks aimed his way, and tried to call his partner back from whatever hell he was in.
The blonde man just mumbled incoherently, then sobbed out his daughters name.
"…God…Grace, please…oh God…"
It was all Steve could do not to gather his friend in his arms, broken nose be damned.
"Danny, you need to wake up, man. Come on."
It was the unnatural, low, keening whine that rose from his partner's form, the limbs momentarily stilled, that raised the hairs on the back of Steve's neck and stirred him to action.
In one swift movement, he had his friend's arms pinned to his chest, then Danny's legs pinned under one of his own, bearing his body weight down on the smaller man to keep him still.
Leaning in toward the blonde man's tear and sweat-covered face, Steve shouted his name.
Once, and Danny's head turned, brow furrowing, body squirming to get free.
Twice, and the man's breath hitched, unfocused eyes popping open to stare at something Steve couldn't see.
Thrice, and Danny finally, finally stilled, lungs heaving with exertion, eyes glassy, but clear.
Steve could have wept with relief.
"Jesus…you with me?"
"Y-yeah. Let me up."
Danny all but bolted out from under Steve as soon as the taller man lifted his weight. He scrambled against the shackling blankets until his back was against the front of couch, pulled his knees up to his chest, and covered his face with trembling hands.
"Hell of a nightmare," Steve commented, concerned by the visible tremors wracking the smaller man's frame.
Danny didn't answer.
"You want something to drink?" An almost imperceptible nod was all the reaction he got. Figuring his friend needed a moment to compose himself, not to mention something to soothe a throat undoubtedly sore from the screaming, Steve left for the kitchen.
The noisy *snick-POP* of a pop can being opened made Danny flinch.
He lifted his head to see McGarrett kneeling in front of him, holding out an opened can of 7-Up.
"Thanks, man," he muttered, taking a few sips of the fizzy liquid.
"Don't mention it," Steve replied, studying his friend with worried eyes. "How're you feeling?"
Danny snorted. "Shitty. Embarrassed." He shook his head. "Sorry I woke you."
"Hey, I know a thing or two about nightmares, and you've got nothing to be embarrassed about."
The shorter man nodded knowingly. With all Steve had been through, he could probably write the book on trauma-induced night terrors.
"You want to talk about it?"
Danny glanced up at that, wondering, with a twinge of hurt, if Steve was making fun of him. After all, he wasn't exactly the 'talking' type.
Oh, he was a good listener, Danny would give him that. The guy could pick up on, and hold on to, the tiniest details in any conversation. He just wasn't good at the communication part, the comforting part.
This was the guy who hadn't been able to understand why Danny got teary-eyed at movies that depicted sacrifice, friendship, and fatherhood.
This was the guy who teased Danny for his sensitivity.
Danny wasn't sure the man wanted to communicate below the surface level. It obviously made Steve uncomfortable to do so, and he didn't want to make him feel obligated. Truthfully, he had stopped trying to talk to Steve about the deeper things of life not long after the man had brushed him off, telling him he needed to speak to someone professionally about what happened with Rachel and the baby. That had hurt. And Danny found himself with no outlet to work through his pain.
And damn if Danny didn't hate himself for feeling hurt, for being so affected by all the shit that kept mucking up their lives.
And damn if he didn't feel about ten centimeters tall for wanting – needing – to be comforted, even if it was by his slightly deranged, emotionally-stunted partner. And damn if it didn't make him feel like less of a man for having a freaking nightmare in the house of a former Navy SEAL and ending up in sobbing mess on his floor.
But Steve sat on his haunches on the floor in front of him, staring with that concerned look on his face, and he wasn't making fun. He was serious.
And for some reason, that just made Danny feel worse.
"No. S'okay," he said finally, surprised out how rough his voice sounded. "I'm just gonna sit up for awhile and try and go back to sleep."
Steve shifted uncomfortably, but made no move to leave.
"I don't believe you."
Danny's eyebrows shot to his hairline. "You don't believe me? Hey, if you're worried about me turning on the TV again, you can forget it. I'm exhausted, man."
"No," Steve said quietly, crossing his arms. "I mean I don't believe you're okay."
His emotions worn down to the wick, Danny responded without thought. "Oh, that's rich coming from you, the guy who less than three weeks ago was being tortured in a god-forsaken bunker in the middle of North-freakin'-Korea, and then traipses around like nothing ever happened!"
Something ugly unveiled itself in Steve's shuttered expression, ever so briefly, before abruptly disappearing when the former-SEAL wiped a hand down his face.
"Okay," was all he said before getting to his feet.
Danny watched as the man paced over to the window to stare out into the night.
"Steve, I'm sorry. That wasn't…I just…" Danny rested his forehead on his palm and let out a shuddering sigh. "I shouldn't have said that, okay? Forget I said it."
"It's okay, Danny," Steve said after a moment, completely sincere. "Really."
Danny groaned. "No – please, please do not find some way to place more guilt upon yourself because of what I said – okay? Just – accept my apology. Please."
Wordlessly Steve walked over and plopped in front of the couch next to Danny, resting an elbow on a bended knee.
"You think I'm not dealing with what happened over there," Steve quietly surmised.
"I know you're not –" Danny broke in.
Steve waited until he was sure the other man wasn't going to interrupt before speaking.
"Danny, I've been in the military my whole life. I can't tell you how many men I've seen go off the rails from PTSD or other mental disorders because they refuse to get help and deal with their issues."
He turned his wrist inward, his hand touching his chest. "I have a taskforce to run. I am responsible not only for the safety of this Island but the safety of the people on my team. I'm trying to track down the guy who murdered my parents. If I let this shit get the best of me, Wo Fat wins, hands down. I cannot afford to not deal with it."
The blonde man just stared at him, rendered speechless with surprise.
Steve continued: "What happened in North Korea? Yeah, it affected me. But it didn't cripple me. I'm not walking around like nothing happened. I'm using my training to help me deal with it. And that, my friend, is the difference between me and you."
At that, the other man's face scrunched up in confusion. "Excuse me?"
"You're the one who's not dealing with shit, Danny."
"Whoa, whoa, whoa!" Danny protested indignantly. "What the hell are you talking about? One nightmare and you're going all Sigmund Freud on me? What is this?"
"It's not one nightmare Danny, come on! You're the poster-boy for emotional turmoil here, and you won't talk to me about any of it!"
Danny's mouth opened and closed in sputtering shock at the 'poster-boy' reference, and he could feel his face turning red from mounting anger.
"You're a real piece of work, you know that? I mean, who the hell do you think you are? Because if I remember correctly, a certain someone kept brushing me off when I did try to talk to him about it. What was it, what was it…"
Danny snapped his fingers, the noise reverberating in the silence of the room. "Oh, yes – I remember! I believe you told me I just had to 'get back on the horse'," he said, face twisting in fury, angry fingers dancing as they formed quotations in the air. "That I should 'talk to someone professionally' –"
"No, no! And what else was it? Oh yeah – wasn't it you who reamed me out for 'disrespecting an entire culture's belief system', hmm? And then turned around and mocked me when I said that I believe people make stuff up to make themselves feel better? Yeah, I'm pretty sure that was you!"
Steve's frown deepened. "Danny, that's not…."
Limbs flailing, voice rising, Danny continued on. "And how ironic is it, tell me, that Mr. Stoic, Mr. Control-Issues, Mr. Thousand-Yard-Stare, never opens up about any of his own issues, but expects his mere-mortal of a partner to bare his fragile soul? Huh? I mean this is Steve SuperSEAL McGarrett we're talking about, who never gets teary-eyed at sad movies, who never loses control. So how fucking ironic is that?"
After his rant, Danny completely deflated, falling back against the couch with a weary sigh.
Steve, for his part, remained motionless, staring at an old worn spot on the floor.
When he finally turned to Danny, there was genuine sorrow in his eyes.
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry I said those things…for the way I said them. I'm sorry I gave you the impression that I didn't care. You're right; it's hypocritical of me to want you to open up after all these months."
"I don't want a friggin' apology," Danny muttered. "God, I just…it's just…"
"Just what, man?" Steve prodded.
"I just feel so fucking…useless," Danny said, deliberately looking away. "If it wasn't for Joe and those other SEALS, we wouldn't have gotten you back," he said. "I mean you're like a one-man-army freak show and sometimes I wonder…."
"What?" Steve demanded softly.
"What I'm good for." he finished lamely. "I feel like my life's held together with duct tape and shoestring, you know? And then I look at you…and you seem just bounce back from everything life throws at you. And I'm supposed to be the backup but…man," Danny's continued, his voice breaking, "I just feel like I'm drowning sometimes."
Steve was horrified by his partner's admission. By all that had finally aired between them. At first, he didn't know how to respond, how to rectify it all, or even if he could. But then it came to him, and he spoke, his tone gentle but resolute.
"Tell me about the nightmare."
Danny exhaled, a half-sob, defeated.
"Grace was on the bus. W-we didn't get there in time. Sh-she was suffocating – "
Steve reached out a hand to grip Danny's shoulder, grounding him in the present reality.
"It's okay, man," he said. He'd heard enough.
But Danny was getting lost in the dream again, the horror – a father's worst fears.
"I-I couldn't g-get to her," he whispered, breathing harshly as it all came rushing back.
"Okay, take a deep breath. It wasn't real, Danno – you hear me?"
"Y-yeah, I know that," the shorter man answered shakily. "God, it was horrible."
It amazed Steve that the same case that brought such peace to his own troubled spirit, brought nothing but borrowed terror to his partner's.
"You know, I know a thing or two about nightmares," Steve said, sitting back next to Danny and repeating what he'd mentioned earlier.
"Yeah, I think you mentioned that," Danny mumbled. Steve just smiled, amused.
"I know a few techniques. They don't really get rid of them, but they can help prevent them by recognizing and dealing with the triggers."
"Triggers?" Danny looked up at him skeptically.
"Like today. We saved a busload of kids, and that hit home for you because of Grace. It was a trigger."
"What's your trigger?" Danny asked, and by the tone of his voice Steve knew it was a test. A test to see if Steve had really been listening, absorbing, understanding what Danny had shouted at him earlier.
Steve went quiet for a moment, reluctant.
But Danny needed to be reminded that Steve bled, for his own sanity's sake.
So he took a deep breath, and began to speak.
"Sometimes I freeze up if I get a call on my cell from an unknown number. Sometimes I freeze up even if it's from you, or Chin, or Kono, if it's unexpected, if we're not on a case." It had happened many times, those little dark moments adding up and chasing him into his dreams.
Danny winced in sympathy, his gaze dropping to his hands.
"That car bomb that killed Laura Hills?" Steve shook his. "That screwed me up for weeks, man."
"Tell me about North Korea," Danny said; a half-whispered plea in the dark.
The former Jersey cop watched as this strong military man, his friend, shuddered with the memories.
"All I could think," Steve said after a few long moments. "Was that I had failed. I was gonna die without ever finding out who killed my parents and why."
He paused, his adam's apple bobbing with the effort it took to pull the words from deep inside him. Danny barely breathed as he listened, feeling the almost sacredness of the moment, knowing that it was a serious thing to be entrusted with his friend's most vulnerable thoughts.
"I could handle the torture," Steve continued. "It hurt, but – pain is all in the mind. It can be controlled. It was my own stupidity, knowing I'd walked into a trap – again, knowing I had failed. That's what haunts me. I couldn't sleep for a long time. But tonight was different."
Danny quirked his eyebrows, questioning.
"Today we won," Steve said. "We saved those kids. Today I was reminded that our team – our Ohana – is unstoppable. Wo Fat can beat us down, but we just keep getting back up."
He looked at Danny, eyes shining in the dark. "You need to remember that. You're not useless, Danny. Joe and the SEALs wouldn't have been able to get me out of North Korea if you hadn't realized something was wrong and went to them for help. It was a team effort, but you were the one calling the shots, and I know that."
Danny ducked his head, uncomfortable with the rare, unabashed praise.
He cursed the emotions clogging his throat, and the voice that came out sounding low and thick, a whisper of full tangled insecurities. "Thanks, babe."
"Don't thank me. It's true. You risked a lot to come for me." Steve shook his head then, and let out a short huff of a laugh, a look of amazement gracing his features.
"I still can't believe you came after me."
"Yeah, well. The rules pretty much go out the window when your partner's MIA," Danny replied seriously.
There was a moment's pause, broken only by the faint ticking of a clock on the wall, both men lost in their own tired thoughts.
"Have I thanked you yet?" Steve asked suddenly.
Danny startled, his eyebrows furrowing in mild annoyance. "I'm your partner. You don't need to thank me. Saving your sorry ass is part of the job description."
"Sure. But it goes both ways, partner."
The 'let me help you, Danno,' went unspoken.
Danny swallowed thickly. "I know." He paused, rubbing his palms together slowly, gathering the courage needed to let down his guard, to accept the help that, deep down, he wanted so badly.
"So – uh…you think you can teach me those techniques?"
Steve's lips immediately quirked into a smile.