?

Log in

No account? Create an account
 
 
20 April 2013 @ 10:39 am
The Writing on the Wall 2/3  
Author tkeylasunset
Title: The Writing on the Wall part 2/3
Written for: stevedannoslash Spring Fling 2013
Rating: R (Pre-slash Steve/Danny)
Words: ~16,000 (yes, it got out of control, as usual.)
Warnings/Spoilers: Deals with what could be considered domestic abuse. Please see the prompt for more information about the content. No spoilers.
Summary: In retrospect, Danny knew he should have paid attention to the writing on the wall. But he refused to see what was happening to his best friend until the proof was impossible to ignore.
Author's note: Thousand thanks to kaige68 for proofing and for handholding. Her patience and reliability are the reasons this story is seeing the light of day. Thanks also to mcdanno_isa for the amazing cheerleading!
Prompt: (posted anonymously): Abused Steve! Steve shows up to work one day sporting a massive black eye, or a busted lip. The team wouldn't think anything of it, maybe Steve getting hurt during night maneuvers, but something about Steve's demeanor raises Danny's suspicions. As Danny digs deeper into the matter discreetly, his horrified by what he finds out is happening to the man he is secretly in love with.

I tried to adhere to the prompt but my muses took a bit of a left turn. I hope this works for the person who left the excellent prompt.

Part 1
Part 3

Also posted on A03.

~o0o0o0o~

Danny was first in the office again the next morning. It didn’t take long for Chin and Kono to arrive with hot coffee and malasadas which Danny pretended he didn’t want to eat. They were laughing over his inability to resist the treats when Steve came into the break room, frowning at them.

“We have a case if you are finished giggling over Danny’s questionable eating habits,” Steve informed them.

They exchanged a look, wondering when he had arrived and where he had left his sense of humor. Rather than risk more angry scowls, they followed him out into the main office, gathering around the tech table. Danny was standing opposite of Steve, studying him as he explained about the kidnapping they had been assigned. Steve was talking about the victim, nodding at the screens. His hands were in his pockets, his shoulders unnaturally stiff. And over his tee shirt, he was wearing a long sleeve shirt with the cuffs fastened around his wrists, not rolled up as was his custom.

“Any questions?” Steve asked. Danny hoped there wasn’t going to be a quiz because he knew he’d fail it. Kono and Chin didn’t ask anything, Steve nodding. “Danny and I will go interview the parents. You two find out everything you can about them, to see if there is a motive for the abduction.”

“Got it,” Chin said with a nod, already pulling up the data. Danny followed Steve out and down to where the Camaro was parked, both of them standing next to the passenger door. Danny could only look up at Steve in confusion.

“What?” Danny said.

“You drive.”

“What?” Danny repeated, staring at Steve in disbelief. Surely he hadn’t heard correctly.

“It’s your car, as you are always pointing out,” Steve said with a stiff shrug.

“When has that ever mattered?” Danny asked.

“Just get in so we can go talk to the parents,” Steve said firmly.

“Take off your shirt,” Danny said, staring up at Steve, challenging him to refuse.

“What? We don’t have time for this. Get in the car.”

“Take off this shirt and I will,” Danny said, reaching toward the long sleeved shirt, the shirt tails shifting in the light breeze. As Danny lightly touched it, Steve took a long step back. “Take. It. Off.”

“Get in the car,” Steve ordered.

“No,” Danny said, crossing his arms over his chest and leaning against the door of the car. “Off.”

“If I do, will you get in the car?” Steve demanded.

“Yes.”

Danny watched closely as Steve slowly shrugged off the shirt. Danny could see he was trying to hide the pain his movements were causing him. When Steve had the shirt off, Danny reached for Steve’s right arm, examining the bruise which had gotten darker. Letting go, he reached for Steve’s left arm, looking it over and finding a small scrap but no other injury that could be causing Steve’s reactions.

“Satisfied?” Steve asked, anger simmering in his eyes.

“No. Something’s wrong and I want to know what it is.”

“You are imagining things,” Steve informed him. “I took off my shirt. Get in the car.”

Danny stared at him a few moments longer before rounding the car to get into the driver’s seat. “Where are we going?”

“Huh?” Steve asked, pausing in pulling his shirt back on before fastening his seatbelt.

“The address. What is the address?”

“Oh,” Steve said, reaching into his pocket, flinching at the movement. He pulled his phone out, queuing up the information. He gave Danny the address, looking out the passenger window as Danny left the parking lot.

The trip to the up-scale neighborhood was made in unusual, uncomfortable silence. Danny felt like he should say something but was afraid he might say everything. That would undoubtedly include words he’d instantly regret. If his ruined marriage with Rachel had taught him anything, it was that he needed to think twice before saying everything he was thinking. Self-editing was not natural to him but he was trying. Whatever was going on with Steve, bullying him for an answer wasn’t going to work. Danny recognized the set of his jaw. It was far too reminiscent of their first encounter, when Steve was still in ‘tin-soldier’ mode. Those hard edges had been softened by his team and Danny hated seeing their return. What was making Steve so stoic and aloof?

“This one,” Steve said when they got to the correct address.

Danny parked, following Steve up the exquisitely manicured walkway, Steve’s gate rigid with none of the fluidity that Danny had come to associate with Steve.

The maid showed them into the study, the parents of the victim joining them very soon afterward. They were understandably distraught, telling Steve and Danny they would do whatever was necessary to get back their daughter Mona. Steve asked the usual questions, receiving mostly the expected answers. Danny was fairly sure it was a straight up kidnapping for the ransom but kept his thoughts to himself.

Steve assured them that they would do everything possible to have the kidnapping come to a positive conclusion. He explained about tapping their phones and that it would be impossible for the kidnappers to detect it. They agreed to whatever measures were necessary to recover their darling Mona.

They were a couple of miles away from the house when Steve broke the silence. “What do you think?”

“I think you should tell me the truth,” Danny said before he could stop the words from leaving his mouth.

“I meant with the case,” Steve said evenly, working to keep a check on his temper. Danny could not miss the muscle jumping in his jaw, one that never bode well for the criminals that put it there. Danny never had before.

“I think it’s about the ransom, pure and simple. Awful, stupid, heartbreaking greed.”

“And what led you to this conclusion, Detective?” Steve snapped.

“Never mind,” Danny said after counting to 20 in his head. “Why do you think Mona was kidnapped?”

“I will wait for the evidence to inform us,” Steve said stiffly, turning to look out his window, carefully turning so his back was mostly to Danny.

Danny wanted to shout at him. Or smack him. Or…he wasn’t sure. But this situation was becoming more and more untenable. “If you have other interviews to conduct, I would prefer you take Chin.”

“As I’m in charge, still, I’ll decide who will come with me for all subsequent interviews,” Steve informed him, addressing the window.

“If you didn’t want my opinion on this case, what was the point of asking me?” Danny said in what he hoped was a reasonable tone. Why would Steve ask only to shoot him down? Who was this Steve-like person in the car with him? The one not driving like a lunatic?

Steve turned to stare at him, silent and brooding. Danny could feel a hole being burned in the side of his head from the intensity of Steve’s anger. What the hell was going on?

Danny decided that was something that needed to be answered and with no further delay. Finding a handy pull-off, he eased the Camaro into it and got out before Steve could question him as to his intent. Danny took a few steps toward the mostly deserted beach, feeling Steve’s menacing approach. He spun easily when Steve grabbed his elbow from behind.

“What the hell, Danny? We need to get back to the office to work on this kidnapping. And you decide to take a leisurely stroll?” Steve asked in a hard, angry voice, his face a blank mask. But Danny could see the emotions rolling in his ever-changing eyes.

“I want to know what is going on, Steve. No half truths. No evasions. You haven’t been yourself and you won’t tell me what’s causing it. We’re afraid you’re going to disappear into God knows what communist country where we’ll have to save your ass. Again. Any time you start keeping secrets is dangerous,” Danny said, firm in his posture, his voice holding more patience than he was feeling.

“I don’t know what you are talking about,” Steve countered. “We are in the middle of a case and you want to discuss your feelings?”

“I want to discuss your feelings, Steve. Or your attitude. Or your….” Danny waved at him, studying his friend, this man he thought he knew. Now he was no longer sure. “I don’t even know. You come in late. You leave early. You blow me off. Worse, you blow off Grace. How do you think we’re supposed to feel about all this? And you won’t tell me the truth.”

“You’re still mad about the rollerblading?” Steve asked. Danny knew he was trying to put Danny on the defensive, make this Danny’s fault. But that was not going to work, not this time.

“It’s not about the rollerblading. It’s… you. What are you up to, Steve? And why won’t you tell me?” Danny asked, hands in his pockets in an unconscious mirror to Steve’s posture.

“I’m not up to anything, Danny,” Steve said, suddenly fascinated by a bird that was flying overhead.

“Are you going to disappear on us again? Is that what this is about? Distance yourself so when you’re gone we’ll supposedly be prepared?”

“I’m not going anywhere. I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Steve said. But his voice held the lies. Danny could hear them, could practically see them as if they were outlined in neon.

“Please, Steve. Give me a little credit. I know you better than I know anyone except Grace. Better than I ever thought I knew Rachel. You are hiding something. Something that is hurting you. And by extension us. I don’t understand why you don’t trust me enough to tell me what it is,” Danny said. If there was a note of pleading in his voice, Danny was not going to regret it or take it back.

“Maybe you don’t know me as well as you think,” Steve said, turning his back to Danny.

“Steve,” Danny said, laying a gentle hand on Steve’s shoulder. He was not prepared when Steve flinched away with a tiny gasp. “What? What is it?” Danny asked, staring up at him.

“Nothing,” Steve said, trying for casual. “I don’t know what you want me to say.”

“I want the truth. I think I deserve that much,” Danny said sadly.

“I’m not hiding from you,” Steve said. Danny could hear the struggle he was having, saying words he knew were not true. It broke Danny’s heart a little bit more that Steve was continuing to shut him out, not trusting him with whatever it was that was so clearly eating him alive. “I have some stuff to work out,” Steve finally admitted, nearly mumbling the words.

“Stuff,” Danny repeated, ducking his head to catch Steve’s eyes. “Stuff. Like Wo Fat stuff? Going to North Korea stuff?”

“No. I’m not going back to North Korea. You can stop harping on me any time,” Steve said, his voice firmer.

“Can you blame me for being worried?”

“You didn’t have to come,” Steve said. “You didn’t have to risk your life to save mine.”

“Yes. Yes I did. You would be dead if we hadn’t come. What kind of friend doesn’t come, Steve? I thought you knew me better than that,” Danny said, suddenly feeling overwhelmed with the effort. This was too much of a struggle, to try and sort out what Steve was not saying. He thought they had moved past the opaque SEAL that hid everything from those around him. But they had regressed there and Danny had no idea why.

“Where are you going?” Steve asked, still standing on the beach as Danny turned for the car.

“Back to the office. That was your priority five minutes ago,” Danny said, opening the driver’s door.

“You are giving me a headache,” Steve said as he returned to the car.

“Welcome to the club,” Danny said, carefully pulling back onto the road.

They returned to headquarters in hard, uneasy silence, Danny staring steadfastly out the windshield. He felt Steve shift several times, making several aborted attempts to talk. But Danny ignored those as well. The onus was on Steve to fix this. He was the one who had broken it.

“You’re never going to guess what you missed,” Kono chirped when they were back in the office.

“What’s that?” Danny asked when Steve remained in brooding silence.

“A ransom call,” Chin said. Danny had to frown at their obvious delight at the news.

“And this is a cause for laughter why?” Danny asked.

“It was from Mona’s phone,” Kono said. “From the Hawaiian Hilton. Room 623. HPD went and picked her up. Her and her dumbass boyfriend.”

“Oh my God,” Danny said. “She staged her own kidnapping.”

“Yep,” Kono said. “They wanted the money. They are now under arrest.”

“Why didn’t you call and tell us?” Steve demanded, startling Kono and Chin who looked at him like they had no idea who he was.

“We were just about to,” Chin said reasonably, glancing quickly at Danny. “But HPD just arrested her. It took 10 minutes total.”

“All this in the time it took us to drive back from her parents’,” Danny said, shaking his head. “I wish all our cases were this easy.”

“If all our perps were that dumb, they would be,” Kono said, fist bumping Danny.

“Her parents been informed?” Steve asked, not quite as angry as he had been. But his entire body was vibrating, barely restrained tension in every taut line from his unnaturally straight shoulders to his knees that were flexing as though he was preparing to run away. But from what?

“Duke called them,” Kono said. “They made the arrest. So it’s their case now.”

“Yay. Less paperwork for us,” Danny said with a nod.

“You still need to write up our report,” Steve told him as though Danny didn’t know the procedure.

“I’ll take care of it,” Danny assured him, before returning to his chat with Kono and Chin. It quickly turned to what they should have for lunch, some friendly debate among the three of them as to whose turn it was to buy and whose turn it was to drive.

“Are you going to do the report?” Steve demanded, his arms crossed over his chest as he stared at Danny.

“I said I’d do it,” Danny responded, looking over his shoulder at Steve. “And I will. As soon as we have lunch.”

“What is this fascination you have with eating?” Steve asked with a frown. “Were you denied food as a child?”

Danny turned his entire body to stare back at Steve. He could feel Chin and Kono looking from Steve to Danny and back. Their concern was radiating off of them in waves. “Go,” Danny said quietly. “Bring me whatever.” They nodded and retreated. “Okay. They’re gone. What did you really want to say to me?”

“Your priority is the report. Not lunch,” Steve said sternly, disapproval in the lines around his mouth, lines Danny never saw before the past week.

“What’s the sudden rush? We aren’t the arresting officers. We spoke to the parents. And writing that is the most important thing for me to do at this moment?” Danny asked, puzzled and sad in equal measures.

“You need to do it while it’s still fresh,” Steve said. But it was clear that he was grasping at something to say.

“Then you do it,” Danny suggested. “Or do you have another mysterious lunch you need to disappear to from which you may or may not return?”

“What I do on my lunch hour is my own business,” Steve informed him, a tad too loudly.

“As I am all too aware,” Danny retorted. “But I’m not allowed to eat, or even discuss eating, until I write your report for you.”

“It’s our report.”

“Then you write it,” Danny said in a huff. “I’m not your fucking secretary.”

“No but you are my subordinate. And as such you are to do as you’re told,” Steve said.

“Do as I’m told,” Danny repeated, each word enunciated slowly and carefully. “Do as I’m told.”

“Stop repeating it,” Steve demanded.

“I’m not four, Steven. If I don’t ‘do as I’m told’ are you going to put me in time-out? Refuse to allow me outside for recess? Maybe take away my crayons?” Danny asked, staring defiantly up at Steve.

Steve stared back, his face red with his barely contained anger. Without another word, he turned and left the office, storming down the steps and out of the building. Danny watched from the window as Steve practically tore the door from his truck before driving off, gravel spitting up behind him.

Danny sighed and went into his office, to sit behind his desk and consider what had just happened. He couldn’t quite believe it. He certainly couldn’t make sense out of it.

He was still sitting there when Chin and Kono got back, coming directly into his office.

“What happened?” Chin asked, not bothering to hide his sympathy.

“This time we did fight,” Danny said, giving them an edited version. “He’s never treated me that way. Never. I don’t know what to think any more.”

“Danny,” Kono said sadly, shaking her head. “He’s hurting and he’s taking it out on you. Because you are safe.”

“But why is he hurting?” Danny asked. He was talking to himself as much as to the cousins. He told them briefly of the conversation on the beach, the information leaving them as confused as Danny. “I don’t understand any of this.”

“Call him,” Chin recommended. “You are too good of friends to let this go unresolved. You need to fight or fuck it out. Either one.”

“Chin Ho Kelly,” Danny said, staring at the other man. “What is this language you are using?”

“You know it’s true, brah,” Kono said. “You have both been dancing around it since day one. You are crazy in love with him. Why you won’t admit it is a question for the ages.”

“You two are the crazy ones,” Danny said. “If you think I feel anything but friendship for him.”

“Don’t lie to yourself, Danny,” Chin said. “Face facts. Man up.”

Danny looked from Chin’s sympathetic face to Kono’s sad one. She nodded her agreement in silent support.

“I… don’t feel like that about him,” Danny tried.

“Danny,” Kono said, an accusation in that one word.

“You know it’s true,” Chin said, echoing Kono’s earlier words. “Go tell him. Maybe that’s the kick in the pants he needs.”

“Or he’ll kick in my teeth,” Danny said.

“No. Not going to happen,” Kono said, taking Danny’s hand and pulling him physically out of his chair. “Come on.”

“Come where?” Danny asked, following her because she gave him no choice. For all she looked like a delicate island flower, she had a grip on his arm that was not to be denied.

“I’m going to ping his phone. You are going wherever it is,” Kono informed him, still holding tightly to his wrist.

“This is a monumentally bad idea,” Danny tried. But he could not help leaning over the table to see the results. Steve’s phone was at his house. Maybe that meant Steve was as well.

“Go,” Chin said.

“Okay,” Danny sighed, taking out his keys. “I trust that if the Governor calls for us, you’ll think up a credible lie.”

“Go,” Kono said, making shooing motions with her hands.

Danny drove to Steve’s, approximately one million thoughts in his head vying for attention. He was no closer to having them sorted when he pulled into Steve’s driveway behind an obnoxiously yellow Hummer H1 he did not recognize.

The front door was closed but that had never stopped Danny before and it wasn’t going to this time. If the owner of the Hummer had a problem with Danny just waltzing in, better they get it out in the open from the start.

The house felt wrong to Danny. It was always clean and tidy. But this time it seemed… sterile. Not a book out of place, no boots waiting by the door, the curtains drawn over the windows. The throw pillows on the couch looked like they had been measured for precise placement. It felt entirely unnatural, less lived in than the first time he’d entered.

“Steve?” Danny called. He didn’t hear anything and was starting toward the kitchen when movement on the stairway behind him caught his attention. He pulled his gun, pointing it directly at the man looming over him. He was at least a foot taller than Danny, short brown hair, hard brown eyes, even harder muscles barely hidden under his camouflage uniform. He was 235 pounds of solid muscle, his neck nearly as thick as Danny’s waist. “Who the fuck are you?” Danny demanded.

“I could ask you the same,” the tall man said, his voice deep and a tad threatening. “What are you doing coming in uninvited?”

“I’ve never needed an invitation before,” Danny informed him. “Tell me who you are before I shoot you then search your lifeless body for your ID.”

“I see. You’re his Danny,” the man said with a sneer. “I guess some people prefer the snack-size instead of a full meal.”

“What the fuck are you talking about?” Danny asked, still pointing his gun at the other man.

The man shrugged, hoisting the strap of his tote higher on his shoulder. “You’ll find McGarrett on the beach. Licking his wounds.” With that, the man left the house, the silence deafening.

“Steve?” Danny called as he left the house to go onto the beach. He could just make out Steve sitting in one of the chairs at the edge of the surf. He had his elbows on his knees, his head in his hands. “Steve?” Danny said again as he approached. Steve did not indicate that he had heard and Danny circled around in front of him. His breath caught in his throat when he saw the blood dripping out of Steve’s nose, his shirt practically covered with it. “Babe?” Danny said, kneeling in front of him. He pulled his handkerchief out, holding it for Steve to accept.

“I’m sorry,” Steve said, still staring at the sand between his bare feet.

“What happened?” Danny asked gently. “Who was that man in your house?”

“Is he still here?” Steve whispered.

“No. He was leaving as I came in. It seems he knows who I am,” Danny said. He finally got a look at Steve’s face, not surprised that he had a black eye forming to go with his bloodied nose. “Why did he hit you?”

Steve shook his head, pressing Danny’s handkerchief firmly to his nose to stem the blood.

“Steve,” Danny said, carefully reaching toward him. He knew to expect it when Steve flinched at the motion. “Who was that and why did he hit you?”

“It was my fault,” Steve said.

“No, Steve. You never deserve to have your eye blackened or your nose bloodied. He did that to you arm too, didn’t he?” Danny asked gently. He’d dealt with enough victims of trauma to know that talking calmly and soothingly was the first step to getting them to explain what had happened.

Steve didn’t answer but Danny knew. He knew now why Steve had been acting so strangely. And it sickened him.

“Steve. Babe. I have to ask you a question. And I need you to tell me the truth. Are you listening to me?” Danny asked quietly. “Are you listening?”

Steve finally nodded, managing to look Danny in the eye. He looked scared and embarrassed and…Danny couldn’t put a name to every emotion he saw chasing across Steve’s face.

“I need you to tell me if he sexually assaulted you,” Danny said as gently as the words could be said.

“No,” Steve said more firmly. “It was all consensual.”

“Did he touch you sexually after you got home today?” Danny asked.

Steve shook his head.

“Why are your shoulders so sore? Did he hurt you?” Danny asked.

“He…uhm…we would… you know…” Steve took a deep breath before whispering the word Danny was afraid he’d hear. That Steve was unconsciously rubbing his wrist on his knee answered the question before Steve said the word: “Restraints.”

“Did he string you up?” Danny asked.

“No no. The headboard,” Steve said, a shiver running through his body.

“Did you consent to that?” Danny had to ask.

“Yes. Mostly. Yes.”

“All right, babe. Here’s what’s going to happen. You are going to take a shower. Then we are going to see your doctor. After we finish there, we are going to Pearl and you are pressing charges.”

Steve’s eyes grew wide and a little wild at those words. “I can’t,” he whispered.

“Yes you can. He assaulted you. It’s a crime in any circumstance,” Danny reminded him.

“It will ruin his career,” Steve tried.

“He already did that, babe,” Danny said. “Do you think you’re the first person he’s done this to? The only way we can make sure you’re the last is to press charges. Otherwise he’ll continue to… act like this.”

“I can’t,” Steve said again.

“Yes you can. I’m going to be with you. We’re going to stop him from hurting anyone else.” Danny stood, looking down at Steve with warm, sympathetic eyes. “Come on. You need to shower so we can get you to the doctor.”

“I don’t need a doctor,” Steve said mostly down to his feet.

“I disagree. We can discuss it after you shower. No three minute Navy shower either. Come on,” Danny said, taking a step back and reeling in his inclination to touch Steve. He didn’t want him to bolt and although touching was as natural as breathing, Steve needed to lead the way on that front.

Steve finally nodded, slowly standing. Danny was immediately by his side when he swayed, looping Steve’s left arm over his shoulders. “Okay, big guy. Let’s get you inside.”

Danny maneuvered Steve into the house and up the stairs, making sure he stayed on his feet. After leaning Steve against the sink, he started the shower, the water as hot as he could turn it. He secured Steve’s promise not to take a Navy shower before going into the hallway to wait. While Danny was listening to the shower run, he called Steve’s doctor, getting an appointment in a little over an hour. That would be enough time to get Steve dressed and fed before wrestling him to the car and the drive downtown. He was circumspect with the receptionist about the nature of the visit, only that Steve may have sustained an injury that needed to be seen to. Danny thanked the God of paperwork that he had Steve’s medical power of attorney so he was able to make the appointment with no questions asked about the propriety of it.

Certain the shower was still running, Danny went downstairs and rummaged through the pantry until he found a couple of cans of soup. Chicken and rice wasn’t Steve’s favorite but Danny was pretty sure he’d eat it. He put the soup on low heat to simmer before going back upstairs. The shower was off but he didn’t hear any sounds from the bathroom.

“Steve?” he called, knocking lightly. When he got no response, he pushed open the door. Steve was kneeling on the floor, hugging the toilet, a damp towel draped low on his hips. Danny squatted by him, a firm hand on his back. There were fading bruises on his back and ribs, most of them finger-shaped. Danny thought the ones on his right arm also might have more than a little resemblance to fingers and a fist. “Okay. Okay,” Danny said as soothingly as he could. “This is to be expected. It’s just the adrenaline crash.”

Steve heaved a few more times before sitting back with a groan. “’m sorry.”

“You have no reason to be,” Danny assured him, wetting a fresh washcloth and swiping it over Steve’s sweaty face. “I’m heating some soup. And you have an appointment with your doctor in about an hour.”

“Don’t need to go,” Steve tried.

“It’s a moot point, babe. You done with the toilet?”

Steve nodded, slowly standing to brush his teeth.

“Do you need any help getting dressed?” Danny asked from a distance he thought Steve would consider safe.

Steve shook his head, grip tight on the towel as he left the bathroom to go to his bedroom. Danny pretended he didn’t notice that Steve kept his left hand on the wall as he went slowly down the hallway.

“Come downstairs when you’re dressed, okay?” Danny said, getting Steve’s nod.

Danny had two bowls of soup on the table when Steve came in slowly, wearing jeans and a shirt that buttoned up the front. His hair was going every which way. Danny could understand that. There was no way Steve could lift his arms enough to fix it. Not yet at any rate. He had also made an ice pack for Steve’s eye, handing it to him silently. “Come eat.”

Steve nodded again, sitting at the table and staring at the soup. He held the ice to his eye as he slowly began eating.

“I know it’s not my mother’s minestrone. I’ll make that for you tomorrow. Right now, Campbell’s is going to have to be good enough.” Danny kept a running commentary going, hoping the sound of his voice would help to anchor Steve and keep some of his thoughts in check.

Steve took several mouthfuls, struggling to swallow each one. After less than half the soup was eaten, he put down his spoon and shook his head.

“All right,” Danny said, taking the bowls to the kitchen. “Do want something else? Not that you have much good to eat in here.”

“No,” Steve said quietly.

“Okay,” Danny agreed, returning with a fresh bottle of water and pressing it into Steve’s unresisting hand. “I’ll go to the grocery store and get your favorites.”

“I can do it.”

“You won’t have the energy for anything more strenuous than a nap once we finish at Pearl,” Danny told him gently. “Are you ready to go?”

“I…no,” Steve said, staring blindly ahead, avoiding Danny’s worried gaze.

“Come on, babe. Your doctor’s appointment is in 30 minutes. Then we’re going to Pearl. After that we’re coming back here,” Danny said, not wanting there to be any surprises.

Steve shook his head, gripping the edge of the table with the hand not holding the ice.

“No what? No doctor?” Danny asked, sitting back by him.

“No,” Steve said.

“I know you hate admitting you aren’t Superman, babe. But you’ve been injured. Injuries that need to be tended to. And you are obligated to press charges. You are an officer of the law. That means you must report any crime you have firsthand knowledge of occurring. That you are the person to whom it occurred means it’s that much more imperative.”

“I’m the victim, you mean,” Steve said, his words quiet but hard.

“You’ve done nothing wrong. You are not the criminal,” Danny told him.

“He didn’t….” Steve stopped, looking up at Danny, his left eye pleading for understanding. His right eye was swollen completely shut behind the ice pack.

“Come on, Superman,” Danny said, nodding toward the door. Steve slowly and reluctantly stood, following Danny out to the Camaro. “Do you want to drive?”

“You trust me?”

“With my life. With Grace’s life,” Danny said, holding out the keys in proof.

“I’m really sorry I disappointed Grace,” Steve said, the most words he’d spoken since Danny arrived. Of course it would be Grace that brought it out in him.

“How about this? How about after we finish at Pearl, we stop and pick her up? Tonight’s my night. We can watch Brave and eat ice cream,” Danny bargained.

“She can’t see me,” Steve said, embarrassed.

“She’s seen us both looking way worse,” Danny reminded him. “She won’t have any reason to think this didn’t happen when we stopped some bad guys.”

“Can she sleep over?”

“Sure,” Danny agreed. “That’s why she has pjs here.”

“Will you?” Steve asked even softer.

“Yes, of course I will,” Danny agreed.

“You can drive,” Steve finally said, limping around to the passenger side. He managed to enter the car and pull on his seatbelt, staring sightlessly out the windshield.

Danny talked the entire way to the doctor’s office, telling Steve about what Grace had been doing. None of it was important. None of it was even particularly interesting. But if it helped keep Steve with him, he’d talk and talk and talk.

Steve stared up at the building that housed his doctor, a look of resignation on his face. “This is a waste of time,” he said, the first words he’d spoken the entire trip.

“Humor me,” Danny said, rounding the car to pull open Steve’s door. “It won’t take long. He’ll check you out, probably give you a prescription for pain meds, and it will be done.”

part 3===>