I fear the site is having a bit of a nutty today. This is my second attempt to get it to upload. Hopefully it works this time and sorry about the multiple email alerts.
Rage Against the Dying of the Light
Rachel knocked quietly on Danny's hospital room door. He'd been moved to a step down unit from the ICU that morning. Steve had told her the doctors had taken Danny off many of the medications they'd been using to help stabilize his condition. If he remained stable for the next twenty four hours, he'd be moved to a regular room, and then hopefully sent home not long after that.
When she didn't hear any response, she cautiously opened the door and poked her head inside.
Danny was sleeping. He was hooked to a cardiac monitor that blipped steadily next to his bed. He still had a blood pressure cuff wrapped around his right bicep and a pulse ox monitor on his right index finger, but they'd finally taken him off the oxygen. Only one IV bag hung to the side of his bed, running into a catheter on the underside of his right wrist. She knew they'd left the central line in place until they were sure he would no longer need it, but they'd capped all three catheters. They'd remove it before they moved him to a regular room.
Quietly Rachel stepped inside. Danny murmured something in his sleep. A look of pain briefly passed over his face as he shifted slightly, jostling his injured shoulder, but he didn't wake. He looked a thousand times better than he had even a couple days before. The color was coming back to his cheeks. Despite the havoc the antibiotics were wreaking on his appetite, the protein shakes he was forcing down every day were helping him to regain some much needed weight.
He still needed help moving around. The muscles in his arms and legs shook from the effort it took to make the short distance from the bed to a chair. And she knew his shoulder was still causing him pain, but Danny was determined to use just enough medication to dial it down to a manageable level.
She was about to turn around and leave when she realized he was looking at her, his blue eyes bleary with sleep.
"Hey Rach," Danny rasped. His eyes lingered briefly on her stomach.
"Danny," Rachel gave a small smile, self consciously rubbing her belly as she walked towards his bed. "How are you feeling?"
"I'm okay," Danny yawned. "Did you bring Grace?"
"She's with Kono, getting something to eat," Rachel smiled softly.
"Are you okay?" Danny asked. He turned his head on the pillow and stared at her perceptively.
"I'm fine, Danny," Rachel responded quietly. She glanced down. He'd always been so good at reading her. As good as she'd always been at reading him. But she wasn't ready to tell him that she wasn't fine. That her marriage was falling apart. Again. And that Danny's brush with death had scared her more than she'd thought possible.
She cleared her throat. "I'm just very glad you're doing so much better."
The door banged open and Grace pushed inside. Kono gave Danny a small wave from the doorway and then left the little family to themselves.
"Hi Daddy," Grace skipped to the right side of Danny's bed and carefully wriggled under his arm.
"Hey baby," Danny kissed her forehead. "Did you have a good day at school?"
Grace nodded. "I spelled all the words right on the spelling test."
"That's great, Monkey," Danny gently rubbed her arm.
"What did you do today?" Grace asked.
"I napped," Danny grinned. "I had naptime. All day."
"You're too old for naptime, silly," Grace giggled.
"Uh oh," Danny's eyes widened and he whispered dramatically, "Don't tell Uncle Steve. He'll try to drag me to the office and make me do his paperwork."
"You can't go to work, you're in the hospital," Grace shook her head in disbelief, her pigtails flying.
Danny laughed, catching one of Grace's pigtails and tugging it slightly.
Rachel held one hand to her mouth and smiled. With the other she cradled her expanding belly. She'd wanted this baby to be Danny's so badly. She'd hoped by saying it that it would make it true. But Danny wasn't the child's father, and Rachel could never lie to him about something as important as that.
Danny glanced over at her, a puzzled look on his face. She bit her lip and shook her head. She loved him. She knew that now. She didn't know what she felt for Stan anymore. But both men had deserved better than what she gave them and she wasn't going to boomerang back to Danny just because Stan had left her.
She needed time to figure everything out. She needed to stand on her own two feet and rely on herself for a change. She was grateful beyond words that Danny had survived, for Grace if not for her. Danny was an amazing father and Grace needed him in her life.
"You okay over there, Rachel?" Danny asked, his hand on Grace's back.
"Yes, Daniel," Rachel nodded. "I'm fine. Are you two going to be okay here for about an hour?"
"Yeah," Danny grinned as Grace bobbed her head up and down.
"I'll be back to get Grace in an hour then. Have fun you two," Rachel smiled and turned towards the door.
"Bye!" Danny and Grace waved at her as she walked into the hallway. She heard Grace burst into giggles as she closed the door behind her.
Reaching into her purse, she pulled out her cell phone, scrolling through the contact list until she found the name of her old boss back in New Jersey. If she was going to make it on her own, even seven months pregnant, the first thing she needed to do was find a job.
- H50 -
Danny came to with a start, his heart racing, the heart monitor squealing a protest at the sudden surge in electrical activity. Pain, hot and raw clawed at his shoulder. He heaved a ragged breath, but couldn't get enough air into his lungs.
"Easy, Danno," Steve's reassuring voice sounded in his ear; Steve's hand gently massaged the back of his neck, grounding him in the here and now.
Gradually the hammering in his chest began to ease. His heart rate slowed and the monitor exited alarm mode and returned to a normal rhythm of steady beeps. The fire in his shoulder reduced to a slow burn.
"Relax," Steve murmured, his hand still working the back of Danny's neck. "You're okay. Just relax."
The dream had been so real. Except it wasn't really a dream. It was more of a nightmare fueled by memory. Bobby had stalked the halls of HQ. There was one gunshot. Then another. Then another. Everywhere Danny turned he stumbled across a dead body. Lori. Kono. Chin. Blood poured from their gaping wounds, their faces frozen in masks of shock and fear. Then he'd heard one more gunshot, found one last body—Steve. Dead on his office floor. That was when he'd finally jerked awake.
Danny shuddered, concentrating on drawing one long breath after another until his nerves finally calmed. Until the nightmare version of the HQ bloodbath faded from his mind's eye and he could see Steve's solid form sitting next to his bed.
"You want to talk about it?" Steve asked softly, slowly withdrawing his hand from Danny's neck.
"No," Danny said roughly, turning his head on the pillow and fumbling for the switch on the bedside lamp.
Light flooded the room and Danny winced at its brightness. He collapsed against his pillows, his eyes squeezed shut, his lips pressed together in a thin line, his free hand clutched to his aching shoulder.
Finally he squinted over at Steve. "What are you still doing here?"
Steve shrugged. "Didn't have anyplace else to be." He rubbed his hands together and then leaned forward. Steepling his fingers, he looked down at the floor. "Don't worry. The dreams go away. Eventually."
Danny eased his good hand from his shoulder, letting it fall across his abdomen. Blue eyes soft, he turned his head and looked at Steve. "Have yours?"
"Mostly," Steve nodded, looking up and catching Danny's eye. "Right after you rescued me in North Korea…" Steve paused, sighing deeply and running a hand over his face. "I used to dream a lot of things. That Wo Fat turned into my father. That I was strung up in that room and I looked down and it was you chained to the wall instead of Jenna. Wo Fat pointed his gun at you…he fired…and you died…" Steve shook his head. "All kinds of crazy shit."
"Your mind is a scary place, my friend." Danny noted with a frown. "I can't believe you killed me in your dreams."
"I didn't kill you," Steve protested, glowering at his partner. "Wo Fat did."
"Close enough," Danny swept his good hand in a small arc towards Steve. "Do me a favor. Just leave me out of your crazy dreams from now on."
"You are insane," Steve growled in frustration. He scowled fiercely at his partner before closing his eyes and drawing in a deep breath. He let it out slowly and when he finally re-opened his eyes, he once again exuded a sense of calm. He crossed his arms and gazed steadfastly at Danny. "Why won't you tell me what you dreamed about?"
Danny flushed red. He dropped his hand to the mattress and stared intently at the catheter of his IV.
"You dreamed I died, didn't you?" Steve arched an eyebrow at Danny. "You killed me in your dreams."
"You killed me first," Danny stabbed a finger towards his partner.
"You know you were much less irritating when you were on your deathbed," Steve grumbled, slumping back in his chair in defeat.
"Wow," Danny's eyes widened in recrimination. "You take insensitive to whole new levels."
"Anyone ever tell you that you have the maturity of a five year old?" Steve groaned, propping his head in his hand.
"Rachel," Danny replied promptly. He grinned. "All the time."
Steve quietly studied his partner. "You still love her," he finally said.
"Yeah," Danny responded softly.
"What are you planning on doing about it?" Steve asked, crossing one leg over his knee.
"Do?" Danny sighed. "Nothing. Doesn't matter what I think or feel. I can't do a damn thing if she doesn't know what she wants. It's time for me to face reality. Holding on to Rachel is holding me back. I need to let her go."
"Well, I have to say…that's very zen of you, Danno," Steve arched an eyebrow in surprise.
"I almost died," Danny smiled wryly. "That tends to change a guy. Deepen his perspective. Enlighten him, even. Make him more at one with the universe."
"You…at one with the universe," Steve snorted in disbelief. "And what universe might that be? 'Cause I'd like to avoid it at all costs."
"Mockery, Steven?" Danny indignantly sliced his hand towards Steve. "Do you think I am not capable of enlightenment? Or personal growth? You wound me. Deeply."
The two men stared at each other for a long moment before they both burst into laughter.
"Ow," Danny piteously moaned, grasping his injured shoulder. "Have to stop. It hurts too much to laugh."
As their laughter died down, Steve glanced over at Danny and said softly, "It's the right choice, Danny."
Danny caught his eye and nodded. He yawned, blinking drowsily.
"Well, Dalai Lama, you think you can go back to sleep now?" Steve asked, a small smile playing across his lips.
"Yeah, I think so," Danny gave Steve a tired grin.
As Steve stretched out a hand to switch off the light, Danny reached over and tapped Steve's knee lightly with his finger.
"Thanks babe," Danny said softly. "For being here."
"I got your back, Danno," Steve responded quietly. "Always."
"Like I've got yours," Danny murmured.
The room fell into darkness. Danny drifted back to sleep, the sound of Steve's steady breathing an anchor that kept the nightmares at bay.
- H50 -
"All right. That's it. I quit," Chin threw Kono and Danny looks of disgust. "You two might have chosen the wrong profession. You'd fit right in to the cutthroat world of finance. You're brutal!"
"Then you would not have wanted to be at our house during family game night when I was a kid." Danny laughed. "They almost always ended in a brawl."
Dressed in sweats and a t-shirt, Danny was sitting in an armchair near the window. His left arm was bound tightly to his chest by a black sling, but he was finally free from all monitoring devices and IVs. He was scheduled to be released in the morning.
"Something tells me you always won," Kono chuckled. She sat cross legged on Danny's hospital bed.
"Well, no," Danny rubbed his chin with one finger and smiled. "My older sister was fierce. And she was a hair puller."
"Uh oh," Chin smirked. "Not the hair."
"Yeah," Danny grinned. "When it came down to a choice between losing my hair or the fight…well there was no choice really." Danny ran his free hand through his blonde locks. "The hair wins every time, babe."
Laughing, Kono grabbed for the dice and said, "Okay, Chin's out, but it's my turn. Prepare to go down."
A monopoly board sat on the bedside table, halfway between the chair and the bed. Half the board belonged to Danny, the other half to Kono.
Kono tossed the dice on the table. Both she and Danny leaned forward until the dice finally settled. Two sixes.
"Oh yeah," Danny crowed as Kono's face fell in dismay.
"Crap," Kono groaned, moving her piece forward twelve spaces until it finally landed on Park Place. With three hotels on it. All Danny's. A grin split his face.
"Pay up, babe," Danny held out his good hand and swished his fingers.
Kono tossed her money onto the center of the board and lay flat on Danny's bed. "I quit too…this game sucks."
"That's what the losers always say," Danny laughed.
Danny glanced up at the slight knock at the door.
"Come in," he called out as he pointed towards Kono with his free hand. "Hey, do you have your phone? I want you to take a picture of my victory here today. I want to memorialize it. Maybe put it in a nice frame at the office. I'll call it: Danny crushes the cousins." He grinned impudently at his teammates.
"Suddenly I can understand why all your game nights ended in brawls," Chin said dryly.
"Hey guys," Lori smiled hesitantly as she walked into Danny's room.
"Hey Lori," Danny smiled at her. "I just killed Chin and Kono at Monopoly. You want to play?"
"Uhhh," Lori glanced pleadingly at the two cousins for help.
"You know, I'm pretty sure the Children's wing needs their game back," Kono said quickly, getting up off the bed to gather the pieces of the Monopoly game and fit them back in the box.
"And we have to head out," Chin stood up. "We'll see you later, Danny."
Kono grabbed the board game, and leaned over to give Danny a quick kiss on the cheek. "Bye Danny."
"Bye guys," Danny gave them a slight wave.
Lori sat uneasily on the side of Danny's bed. She bit her lip as an uncomfortable silence fell over the room.
"You feel like taking a walk?" Danny glanced up at her. "I hear there's a nice courtyard—flowers, shrubs, very pretty they say."
"You're up for that?" Lori glanced at her teammate with concern.
"I'm good," Danny nodded. "Just might need to lean on you every once in a while. Still don't have a lot of energy back yet."
"Okay," Lori stood up, holding out a hand to help Danny out of the arm chair.
Slowly they made their way out of the room. They walked the hospital corridors in silence, Danny's good hand pressed lightly on Lori's arm. By the time they shuffled out into the bright sunlight of the courtyard, Danny was sweating slightly from the exertion.
"You okay?" Lori tightened her grip on Danny's arm.
"Yeah," Danny huffed, motioning towards a bench with his head. "Let's sit."
With a slight groan, Danny sat heavily on the wooden bench. As Lori settled next to him he glanced sideways at her.
"You haven't been by much since I got out of the ICU," he noted.
Lori nodded, squinting against the sun. "I'm sorry about that," she said, gazing across the small atrium. "They were right. It is pretty out here."
"I guess," Danny gave a careful shrug. "If you like flowers and that sort of thing." He paused. "I heard you not only spilled an entire cup of coffee, but you also drew your gun when you heard a car backfire outside the office the other day." He cast a sideways glance at her. "Nearly gave Larry the cleaning guy a heart attack."
"Steve told you," Lori reddened with embarrassment.
"Yeah," Danny nodded. "You want to talk about it?"
"Not really," Lori shifted uncomfortably.
"If it makes you feel any better, I'm not exactly over it either," Danny said quietly. "I overreact to loud noises, feel edgy and anxious. Docs finally put me on some anti-anxiety meds. They seem to be working. It's okay to ask for help, Lori." He nudged her gently. "I bet even perfect sister asks for help once in a while."
"You remember that?" Lori asked softly, looking down at her hands.
"I do," Danny replied.
"No one in my family was big on asking for help," Lori said hesitantly, twisting her fingers in her lap. "Not even perfect sister. Which is maybe why she killed herself five years ago."
"Jesus, Lori," Danny sighed, gently placing his good hand over Lori's. "I'm sorry."
"Thank you," Lori nodded slightly, her eyes glistening with tears. "I guess what I keep getting stuck on…what I can't get out of my mind…" she sighed, her body tensing as she looked rigidly at the ground, "Is if you had gone to that deli with Steve, or Chin or Kono, they would have managed to stop the situation before it escalated. They would have reacted sooner, quicker…but I was so stunned that I…"
Trembling, Lori covered her face with her hands. "I froze Danny. And I'm sorry. You nearly died because of me."
"Seriously..I'm not sure what you're remembering," Danny said, gazing across the quiet courtyard, "because what I remember is a messed up kid with a heavy trigger finger shooting me without warning. What I remember is you catching me. I remember you doing everything you could to stop the bleeding. And…I remember you talking to that kid, and making the connection with him that eventually got him to let me out of there."
Danny took a deep breath and glanced at Lori. "I honestly can't say what would have happened if I'd been with Steve or anyone else instead of you. Maybe Steve would have been able to disarm him. Maybe not. Maybe Bobby would've shot Steve too, or Alana, or anyone else who had the misfortune of walking into that deli that day."
Lori wiped her eyes with the back of her hand and looked back at Danny.
"Or… maybe things would have played out exactly the same. Only Steve isn't exactly known for his communication skills," Danny said wryly. "Maybe he would've sat in that deli and had to watch while I bled out. I don't know, Lori. Things are what they are. We can't go back and change them. And we make the best decisions we can in the split second we have to make them." He leaned over and whispered in her ear. "So stop beating yourself up, capiche?"
Lori let out a shaky breath and nodded. She looked up at Danny and gave him a small smile, "Thank you, Danny. You can be really sweet sometimes, you know that?"
"Oh God, no!" Danny shook his head in horror. "Don't you ever say anything like that about me again. Sweet? Little girls are sweet. Candy is sweet. Even flowers are sweet. I am not sweet! I am a Jersey boy. Not sweet. Get it? Yech!"
Lori leaned over and lightly kissed Danny on the cheek, whispering, "Your secret is safe with me."
"Thank God," Danny shuddered, slouching against the back of the bench and closing his eyes. A slight breeze kept the sun from getting uncomfortably warm. It felt good to be outside, to smell fresh air and the fragrance of flowers instead of the overwhelming smell of antiseptics that dominated his hospital room.
"You look tired, Danny," Lori said in concern. "Are you ready to go back in?"
"Uh uh," Danny slightly shook his head. "This is perfect. Let's just stay for a while longer."
"Okay," Lori replied, settling herself comfortably on the bench. "You let me know when you're ready."
Danny nodded, and the two teammates and friends sat together in comfortable silence, enjoying the moment for as long as it might last.
A/N: I want to thank all of you for your amazing support for this story. I'm so touched by all your lovely reviews. Thank you so very much for sharing your thoughts with me.
A special mahalo to JoaniexJony for her wonderful friendship, incredible support and awesome beta work.
And of course none of this would be possible without the incredibly rich characters developed by H50's creative team and the wonderful actors who portray them. Alas, they are not mine, just visiting my sandbox for a while. I do love playing with them!
I had a wonderful time writing this story and I'm sad to let it go, but I hope you all enjoyed the last chapter. If the site cooperates, I hope you'll take a second to leave a review—I'd love to hear what you think.