Disclaimer: I do not own Hawaii Five-0 or its characters.
A/N: It's not too late for a season 2 episode tag, right? This is actually my second for this particular episode. I guess I just have massive issues with it. But Danny helps me rationalize them ;) Hope you enjoy this!
Memento Mori (Remember That You Will Die)
In the end, it had all been worth it. Bending the rules, going over Denning's head, a few bruises. They had Vonakov. If he survived, he would pay for what he'd done – giving Amanda Chase a chance to heal and move on. Eventually anyway.
It had been worth it.
"I hope he's in pain. I hope he hurts as much as I do."
Amanda didn't look at Steve, or any of them. She just blankly stared over her shoulder at the curtain a nurse had just drawn around Vonakov's bed as she spoke. But Steve could see the tremors running through her body, heard the quiver in her voice. Still, she stood her ground, strong and determined.
"I hope he rots in hell," Amanda whispered darkly, balling her hands to fists. She turned her head, her eyes meeting Steve's again, just for a fraction of a second this time. Then she walked out of the room, past the team and into the hallway. A few feet away from them, she stopped, put a hand on the wall next to her for support and blew out a deep breath.
"I'll drive her home," Kono offered with a sigh. "Make sure she's okay."
"Thanks," Steve said, grateful but still forcing the smile.
"Take care, boss," she said, gently slapping his shoulder as she turned to go over to Amanda. "Get some rest."
Steve just huffed, feeling stiff and achy and tired, but rest would have to wait until Denning had a full report and all the answers he needed. And then some.
"I'll go and see if I can find Malia," Chin said, looking after Kono and Amanda as they walked down the hall and towards the elevators. "Maybe it's not too late to make her share those ukulele lessons with me."
"Good luck with that," Lori laughed with raised eyebrows.
"Unless you need me to–"
"Go," Steve cut Chin off, shaking his head. "I'll see you tomorrow."
Chin just nodded. "Kono's right," he called over his shoulder as he walked away from the group. "You should get some rest."
Steve rolled his eyes. He was fine. Fine enough, anyway.
"I saw that," Lori said, pointing a finger at him, still smiling. She looked at him for a moment and then sighed deeply, the smile fading quickly. "They're right, you should go home."
"I'm fine," Steve insisted, putting his hands on his hips. "Besides, Denning wants to–"
"Let me talk to Denning," Lori said, her voice quiet but firm, brooking little room for argument.
"You got hit by a car," she stated, crossing her arms in front of her chest and giving him a stern look. She still had the bloodstains on her clothes to prove it.
When Steve just stared back at her, not giving in, Lori sighed again. "Look, Vonakov is clearly not going anywhere," she said, waving a hand in the man's direction. "Russia is going to waive his immunity, we got Chin back. Case closed. Get some rest. You need it, you look like shit."
"Thanks," Steve said sarcastically, not entirely able to keep a small smile from crossing his lips.
"Not at all appropriate to meet with the Governor," Lori added, smiling herself now.
With a sigh, Steve nodded. "Thanks," he said again, meaning it this time.
Lori just nodded, laughing again and then she shook her head as she walked away. "Make sure he gets some rest," she said to Danny on her way towards the elevators.
Danny, who stood leaning against a wall a few feet down the hallway, just nodded, patting Lori softly on the back as she walked by, his eyes never leaving Steve.
"So, you ready to go home?" Danny asked after a moment, hands stuffed deeply into the pockets of his pants.
With a last look over to Vonakov, Steve slowly nodded. "Yeah."
"Good," Danny said and jerked his head in the direction of the elevators. "Then let's go. I'm driving." With that, he simply turned around and walked away. Steve looked after him for a moment, wondering why his partner was so uncharacteristically terse, but then decided that he was too tired and exhausted to care and just followed him.
"Everything okay?" Steve asked, frowning at the way his partner's fingers were digging into the steering wheel, turning his knuckles white.
"Fine," Danny answered, the tone of his voice a little sarcastic. "Everything's just fine."
Steve sighed, thinking that maybe he should just leave it at that. Something was bothering Danny, that much was obvious. But it was something that made him go quiet and Danny usually wasn't quiet. Ever. Sometimes it felt like he was able to express the entire spectrum of human emotion through an annoyed sounding, loud and obnoxious rant. And while those rants could occasionally borderline on being unbearable, they also offered an important insight. Steve always knew what Danny was thinking, always knew how he felt. About everything.
This quiet, silent Danny was something he didn't quite know how to deal with.
So, even though he didn't really feel up to Danny unloading his frustration on him right now, Steve still decided to give him another nudge, an opening. Because whatever was bothering him, it'd probably be best for both of them if Danny got it off his chest.
"You just seem a little tense," Steve said, carefully glancing over at his partner.
"I'm not tense," Danny said irritably. "I just– I'm just tired, okay?"
"Okay," Steve said, frowning again. He was tired, too. "It's just that you–"
"I said I was fine," Danny cut him off harshly. "Can you just . . . let it go?" he asked, his voice softening a little.
Steve nodded slowly. "Yeah, sure," he said, admitting defeat for now. Maybe they could talk later.
They lapsed into an uncomfortable silence, neither of them speaking again until they pulled up in front of Steve's house.
"Thanks," Steve said simply and reached for the door handle. He froze and winced when the move painfully reminded him of the cracked ribs.
"Hold on," Danny said and before Steve could tell him that he was fine, that Danny should just go home and get some rest himself, his partner was out of the car and slammed the door on his side shut. The loud 'thud' sent a dull, throbbing pain through Steve's skull, making him squeeze his eyes shut for a moment.
When he opened them again, Danny way standing in the open door, right next to him. With one hand on the frame, he bent down a little and cocked his head to the side. "Need a hand?"
Stubbornly, Steve shook his head. Pressing one arm against his injured side, he reached for the doorframe with the other hand and pulled himself up and out of the car. Danny was watching him closely, but he let him, stepping back a little to give him some more room.
"Thanks for the ride," Steve said, tying to straighten his back a little. He let out another small wince when he realized how the short car ride had left all his muscles feeling stiff and sore. "I'll see you tomorrow."
Danny huffed, snorting out a sarcastic laugh. "I'm not going anywhere," he said and started walking the short distance to the front door.
Perplexed, Steve stared at his partner's back for a minute. "I'm fine, Danny," he called after him when his brain caught up with the situation. "You don't need to stay."
Danny's only response was a dismissive wave of his hand. Then he disappeared inside the house.
Steve sopped on his way to the house and frowned. At least now he had expected more of a verbal response from Danny. He had expected him to turn around, march back to him and rant at him about getting hit by a car and cracking his thick head open on the asphalt; how the only reason he didn't have a concussion from the impact was that there was nothing to concuss inside his skull to begin with.
But all Danny was giving him was silence. More silence.
He was already upstairs, headed for the bathroom when he heard the front door click shut. Danny stopped in front of the bathroom cabinet and looked at his reflection in the mirrored doors for a brief moment, only to find himself looking just as exhausted and tired as he felt. He was getting too old for this.
He rubbed a hand over his tired eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose before he ran the hand through his hair. It would be gray by the time he was forty. If he even made it to forty, Danny thought grimly as his hand came to rest at the nape of his neck to massage the tight muscles there. With the way his partner was shaving years off his life-expectancy these days he'd be lucky to see another Christmas.
Lucky. Like Steve had been today.
Deciding that he was far too sober to go there just yet, Danny shook his head to clear the thought from his mind and turned the faucet on to splash some cold water into his face.
Feeling not the least bit refreshed for his efforts, he dried off and then opened the cabinet, quickly finding the small bottle of painkillers he had been looking for.
Coming back down the stairs into the living room, Danny found Steve already passed out on the couch. He hadn't even bothered to take his shoes off – probably because bending down to undo the laces hurt like a bitch with those cracked ribs. For a moment, Danny thought about taking them off for him, but then decided that he didn't feel like doing Steve any more favors right now. Let the idiot sleep with his goddamn boots on.
Heaving a sigh, he looked down at the pill bottle in his hand. Steve didn't look like he needed them after all. He considered taking one himself to get rid of his own headache. But the painkillers wouldn't mix well with the beer he intended to drink. So Danny set the pill bottle down on the coffee table and went to the kitchen. He grabbed a cold beer from the fridge, twisted the cap off and took a long swig. Before he closed the fridge again, he took out another bottle, knowing it wouldn't get a chance to get warm.
When he got back to the living room, Danny made sure the armchair was facing the TV – away from the couch where Steve was now snoring lightly – before he sank down into it, propping his legs up on the footrest and leaning his head back. He closed his eyes for a long minute, enjoying the silence – enjoying the sound of his partner breathing. Still breathing.
Exhaling a deep breath, Danny opened his eyes and took another long swig from the beer bottle. Some part of him didn't want to feel so damned relieved to know that Steve was fine. Going to be, anyway.
He felt like it was going take some time to get that picture out of his head. Seeing him lying there in the middle of the street, not moving, bright red blood pooling around his head, covering Lori's hands. How long would it take until he could watch his partner run off after a suspect again without having those images flashing thought his head? Without thinking it would happen again?
He was grateful he hadn't actually seen it happen.
Hearing it had been bad enough. The screeching of tires, the dull impact, something hitting the asphalt. It all had registered somewhere in his brain but he had failed to make the necessary connection, too focused on keeping his eyes on Vonakov's driver as he slowly got out of the car. Only when he had heard Lori's voice, high-pitched and panicked, screaming Steve's name the reality of the situation had slammed into him like a ton of bricks.
It'd would take some time to get her voice out of his head, too.
Danny closed his eyes, inhaled a deep breath and released it slowly before he took another sip from the bottle.
He remembered rounding the corner. Lori had kept calling Steve's name, sounding desperate and scared. So the first thing he'd done – before looking down, before wanting to see him, before wanting to accept the reality of how bad this was – was to yell at Kono to call a bus. She had already been on the phone.
His stomach had turned when he had seen all the blood. Telling himself that head wounds bleed a lot hadn't helped one bit to fight the growing sense of panic when he had realized that Steve wasn't moving.
The next thing he remembered was kneeling next to him, and then looking up. He couldn't recall why, maybe because he had finally heard the ambulance somewhere in the distance, maybe because he couldn't bear the sight of all that blood anymore. But his eyes had landed on the driver of the car. A guy in a suit. He had looked terrified, helpless, shocked by the damage he had caused.
And that had been the moment when the irony of the situation had struck Danny. This guy wasn't a criminal. He hadn't tried to hurt anyone. He'd just been in the wrong place at the wrong time. A freak accident. Danny remembered shaking his head in disbelieve, thinking this couldn't be it. Joe Normal. A random guy. Bad timing.
Just yesterday he had watched Steve throw himself off a rooftop, walking away with barely a scratch. A few weeks ago they had dragged his ass back all the way from North Korea after Wo Fat had tortured him. And he had been back at work just a few days later – still looking like shit but telling them he was fine with that stupid, lopsided smile. They got shot at more often than Danny cared to remember, they put themselves in the line of fire every chance they got and this, a stupid, random accident had Steve lying bleeding in the street, not opening his eyes, not moving at all, not telling him that he was fine.
It had been a brutal reminder that Steve larger-than-life Super-SEAL McGarrett was, after all, just human.
Message received, loud and clear.
And then his hand had twitched. He had scrunched up his face in a pained grimace and sucked in a deep breath. And Danny had snorted out a sarcastic laugh, overwhelmed with relief for just a brief moment, knowing, right there and then, that Steve was going to be fine. Just like he always was.
But that moment, that awfully long moment of thinking 'this is it', that somehow still stuck with Danny. He took another long pull from the bottle, then another, listened to Steve breathe and then sighed deeply. He doubted that Steve had gotten the message, too.
Because he had been lucky. Again. A few cracked ribs and a chipped tooth while the doctors were still not sure if Vonakov was going to make it. That was as lucky as anyone got. The roles could have easily been reversed.
Danny squeezed his eyes shut, gripping the beer bottle hard, making himself not think about the what ifs. There was no point in going there, thinking about what might have happened. Instead, he could focus on worrying about the next time or the time after that. Because one of these days, Steve's luck was bound to run out.
Even though he deserved to be the luckiest son of a bitch on the planet. Because the stupid idiot felt responsible for the whole entire world and everyone in it. Navy SEAL, sailor, soldier, who dedicated his life to keeping people safe, who thought it was his job, made it his mission, to save everyone. No matter the personal cost.
He was the kind of guy who would go after a perfect stranger jumping off the rooftop of a fourteen story building.
Steve disappearing behind the ledge in to the dark night. Like Superman, just without the cape. Another image he wouldn't be able to get out of his mind any time soon.
Danny turned a little in the armchair, looking over his shoulder to see his sleeping partner. It was an impulsive, unconscious action, provoked by the sudden urge to make sure, to know that Steve was really here and hadn't been swallowed whole by the nothingness beyond that rooftop.
It was stupid.
Still, Danny took a moment to study the bandaged cuts on the side of Steve's face, the pink bruises that were slowly turning darker. He noticed the way Steve held one arm wrapped protectively around himself and couldn't help but think again just how lucky Steve had been.
Then he shook his head and averted his gaze back to the TV's dark screen. Realizing he had finished the first beer, he set down the empty bottle on the coffee table and opened the second one he had brought from the kitchen. Absently, without really wanting to, Danny closed his eyes and listened to his partner breathe again.
In and out, steady, even. Here, home. Unlike Vonakov. Granted, the guy wouldn't see his own four walls in a long, long time – if ever again – but still. Right now, it was him being there in the hospital after undergoing emergency surgery, and Steve being here, in his own home, a few bruises short of being fine. It was like some divine act of cosmic justice.
Justice in the grander scheme of things, not justice according to the law.
Danny took another quick swig from the bottle. He'd been doing this job long enough to stop expecting those two to be the same.
In the grand scheme of things, Vonakov deserved to pay for what he'd done. Rape. Murder. No one in their right mind would have let this guy get away with both. Yet, according to the law Vonakov should have been untouchable, protected from facing the consequences of his crimes by some construct of political courtesy. Immunity.
Danny huffed out a sarcastic snort. A rule invented to allow people to bend or ignore all other rules. Whoever had come up with that concept in the first place must have been a notorious rule bender himself.
Someone like Steve. Maybe it had been someone who bent the rules to do good. To protect others, make sure justice was served. Someone who would chase a rapist and a murderer into traffic to give his victims the justice they deserved. Real justice. Not the man-made idea of justice compressed into the words of the law. But justice by the standard of what was right. And no matter what the law said, it hadn't been right to just let Vonakov go.
So they hadn't just let him go. Vonakov wasn't the only one protected by immunity. And while in reality one kind of immunity couldn't cancel out another, that's how Danny chose to see it. Null and void. Vonakov had been fair game. And given how pissed the Governor had been with the entire situation, so were they now.
To say that Denning had been upset with their interpretation of the investigation's motto – 'utmost care and discretion' – would be a colossal understatement. Danny had dodged the man at the hospital for good reason. And while things may have worked out in the end, there sure as hell were going to be some consequences to face, a price to pay for the team. Hopefully, Lori would be able to help cushion the blow a little.
Danny didn't exactly envy her and the position she had on the team. Trying to prove to Steve that she could be trusted and be a valuable member of the team while constantly keeping tabs on him for Denning. Talk about being caught between a rock and a hard place.
But Danny had never doubted her loyalty to Steve. Not after she had risked everything – her career, her life even – to help rescues him from North Korea. And Danny didn't care whether or not that loyalty was based on anything more than her infatuation with Steve. She had proven to them that the team could count on her.
And Danny was counting on her now, too. To smooth things over with the Governor. And to make sure there was still a team for Steve to lead in the morning.
Let her take one for the team. Danny suddenly felt a pang of guilt for sitting here, drinking beer while she was probably still defending the team in front of Denning. But there wasn't really anything he could do about it. He wasn't in charge of Five-0. Steve was, and if Danny was being honest, he'd much rather have Denning blow up in Lori's face than in Steve's. Because he would only take all the blame on himself, make sure he was the only one who'd face the consequences for bending the rules this time.
His team, his responsibility. They shared his victories, he owned their mistakes. That's how a team worked, at least in Steve's twisted head. Danny though, he considered himself more of a 'fuck the chain of command if appropriate' kind of guy. As far as he was concerned, there was no I in this team. But try getting that through McGarrett's thick skull.
"We screwed up this time, Danny, okay? My fault. We went too far."
Yeah, Danny had told him at the hospital that this had been nobody's fault, that they had done what needed to be done. But he had known right then that no matter what he said, it'd never change how Steve felt about his responsibility for the team. His team.
After all they had been through, it was kind of understandable. Steve had put the team together and then he'd had to watch it fall apart when Jameson had been murdered. But they had rebuilt, little by little. It had taken weeks, but eventually they'd gotten Kono back. Only to have Jenna almost rip everything apart again.
It had been like a punch in the face. With a baseball bat. They had trusted her, let her in. And she had simply turned around and brutally stabbed them in the back. And for what? Hope, Love? Thankfully, she hadn't hit any vital organs. Instead of twisting the knife, she'd pulled it out, slapped a band-aid on the wound and, surprisingly, that had been enough. Her phone call had led them to Steve. This time, the team had prevailed.
It was another lesson learned, though Danny doubted that they were stronger for it. Steve still blamed himself for putting her on Wo Fat's radar in the first place, for letting him use her, and for leaving her corpse back in that bunker. One left behind.
Danny just hoped that this case wouldn't leave them with another casualty. For Lori's sake as much as for Steve's.
With a sigh, he let his head drop back and finished off the second beer. He then set the bottle down next to the other one on the coffee table, thinking if maybe he should go to the kitchen and grab a third. Maybe he should just head home.
Steve suddenly shifted on the couch, probably set off by some freaky inner SEAL sensor when the bottle had hit the table with a louder-than-absolutely-necessary 'clonk'. But it didn't seem to be enough to really get through to his all but concussed brain. Steve just huffed out a slightly pained-sounding breath and then settled down again.
Yup, it was a terrible day to be just human for Steven Jerkface McGarrett, Danny thought as he looked over to his partner, just to make sure he wasn't dying from a brain bleed that had gone undetected at the hospital.
Protector, avenger, leader, superhuman ninja SEAL and whatever else Steve thought he was or had to be. At the end of the day, he was just like the rest of them. Human. Mortal and vulnerable. Just like anyone he could get hit by a car coming out of nowhere. Maybe those bumps and bruises were enough of a reminder that it didn't always take a psychopath in a well-tailored suit to kill you. If Steve didn't start to be more careful, take better care of himself instead of taking reckless risks then it wouldn't take a guy like Wo Fat to try and kill him again. A soccer mom with a minivan would probably get there first.
And in an odd way, Danny suddenly didn't feel like ruining Wo Fat's day for once. He was a danger Steve was aware of, him they could confront – preferably by putting a bullet through his head. But the mom in the minivan was an unpredictable variable, a danger no one but Steve himself could protect him from.
Sighing, Danny shook his head and levered himself out of the soft leather chair. Then he moved over to the couch and started unlacing his partner's boots.
"Oh, come on! Two minutes for boarding? That was a clean shoulder-to-shoulder hit. If anything, it's a charging call. Blind fucking idiot. Should give himself a penalty for stupid officiating." With a huff, Danny dropped back into the armchair and crossed his arms defiantly in front of his chest. This hockey game was a complete joke.
"The guy was facing the boards and he shoved him right into them. It's a good call."
"It's a bullshit call. The ref was halfway down the rink. The linesman was right there and he didn't call it," Danny argued and then looked over his shoulder at Steve. "How long have you been awake?"
"Couple minutes," Steve said and then slowly pushed himself up to sit, wincing in the process. "It was a good call."
Danny huffed again and shook his head. "You probably can't even see straight after getting you head bashed in, so excuse me if I, respectfully, disagree." He turned back to the TV. "That was a bad call and it wasn't the first in the game. Which you would know had you been awake for the first two periods. That's the seventh power play for the Islanders. The seventh. Devils had one in the entire game and that one should have been a penalty shot."
When Steve didn't say anything, Danny turned back around only to find the couch deserted. "Hey, where are you going?" he called after Steve who was already halfway across the room.
"Gotta hit the head."
Rolling his eyes, Danny focused on the game again and watched the Islanders score another goal on his team. "Unbelievable," he muttered and only barely resisted the urge to throw the remote at the TV.
He didn't look up when Steve came shuffling back into the room a few minutes later. "Here," Steve said and a bottle of beer suddenly appeared in Danny's line of sight. He frowned and looked up at his partner, seeing that he was holding a second in the other hand.
Danny grabbed the bottle and used it to point at Steve. "You're not drinking that."
"Yes, I am," Steve insisted stubbornly and made his way back to the couch.
"No, you're not." Danny glared at Steve as he slowly lowered himself back onto the couch, one arm tightly braced against the injured ribs, face scrunched up in pain. "There are two slices left in there," Danny said and pointed at the pizza box on the coffee table. "You can eat those and then have some ginger ale with your painkillers."
"I don't even have any ginger ale in the house."
"Fine, juice then. Or milk. Or water. Take your pick."
"I'd rather have a beer," Steve said and twisted the cap off the bottle.
"I'm sure you would."
"Cheers," the idiot said, raising his bottle, before he took a long swig.
"I don't get you," Danny muttered, turning his attention back on the game.
They sat in silence for a few minutes, listening to the non-stop commentary. Even the reporters were questioning the officiating now. At some point, Danny heard Steve reach for the pizza box and start eating the leftover, cold slices. Danny decided to take that as a small victory. At least he'd managed to get some food into his knuckle-headed partner.
Then the Islanders scored on the Devils again and Danny was about ready to throw in the towel. "That's it, I'm done," he exclaimed, throwing up his hands in frustration.
"I don't get why you're torturing yourself with this game anyway," Steve commented around a mouthful of pizza. "I mean, it's late and that's an Eastern Conference game."
Danny turned around to glare at him, raising his eyebrows in a 'what's your point?' kind of way.
"What?" Steve asked with a shrug. "There's just no way that's a live game so you probably know the final score anyway. And with the Devils being down by four, I don't think they'll be able to turn this one around with 4:23 left on the clock. So why watch it?"
"It's called being a supportive fan." Danny turned back to the TV again, intent on paying extra special attention during the last minutes – even though he actually knew the Devils would allow yet another goal, leading to a final score of 7-2 for the Islanders.
"It's called a waste of time," Steve muttered under his breath. Danny pretended he hadn't heard him. Instead, he watched as one of the Devils took a stick to the face.
"Are you kidding me," he yelled, hands going up in the air again. "How is that not a penalty? He cross-checked him right in face! Unbelievable." He settled back in the lounger and took a sip from his beer. "You know, you can thank me for making you watch this mess," he said to Steve without bothering to turn around again to face him. "This game is gonna go down in history as the most incompetently officiated NHL game ever. It'll be a classic by the end of the season. How's that for a reason to watch this 'til the final whistle?"
"As good as any reason," Steve grumbled from the couch. There was a brief pause before he spoke again. "But you really didn't have to stay. I'm fine."
"Yeah, yeah, I know," Danny said and waved his hand dismissively through the air where Steve could see it.
"But thanks," Steve added and then cleared his throat a little awkwardly. "Sorry if I gave you a scare today," he added.
Danny huffed out a snort. "You scare me every day, buddy. Why start apologizing now?" He kept his eyes glued to the TV but didn't even realize it when the puck hit the Devil's goal for the seventh time during the game.
"I'm serious," Steve insisted. "It was reckless of me to go after Vonakov like that. This could have ended a lot worse."
The admission took Danny by surprise. He was glad that Steve couldn't see his face as he closed his eyes and quietly released a relieved breath. At least the idiot realized how lucky he'd been today. Of course, that didn't necessarily mean that he'd be more careful the next time, but it was a start. Good enough for today. It was a small step at the beginning of a long road, but barring any further freakish accidents, Danny felt like he might just get the chance to make a sane human being out of Steve yet.
"I didn't want to worry you–"
"Oh, I don't worry about you, man," Danny interrupted, deciding they had hit their quota of schmaltziness for the day. "Worrying about you would imply that I care."
"I know you care."
"The only reason why I'd care is because I don't want to have to break in a new partner."
"Oh, don't worry, Danny," Steve said smugly from behind him. "You're not getting rid of me that easily."
Smiling, Danny just shook his head and decided to take that as a promise. His focus shifted back to the game just in time to see the Devils almost score a last minute goal. "Off the post!" he yelled at the TV. "You gotta be kidding me."