Loved - Past Tense
Danny could smell the pancakes as he walked downstairs.
"Danno, Uncle Steve and I are making pancakes!" Grace's squeal brought an instant smile to Danny's face.
"I can see that monkey," Danny wiped a hand over his waking face and couldn't help the smile that appeared on his face at the site of Steve flipping pancakes, partly covered in flour.
"I think all that flour is meant to be in the bowl Steven, not on you."
Steve turned around with a grin.
"That's cute Danny, really."
Danny let out a laugh as he sat down at the table facing the two master chefs in his kitchen. He watched the two of them manoeuvre their way around like they had perfected this two-man cooking crew. Grace was mixing the ingredients right beside Steve who was on the stove flipping away. Occasionally the two would share a funny joke or story and bellow out laughing. Danny could sit there and watch this for hours. It was nice to see Steve smile, to see Steve laugh again, and not a forced laughed but a sincere, honest, hurt-your-belly kind of laugh.
You're going to get through this Steve, Grace and I will make sure of that.
That was the promise he had made Steve last night, and he meant every word. He was thankful for last night, he knew that was a conversation that had needed to happen, a conversation that was long overdue, and he was so glad that Steve hadn't shut him out, hadn't pulled away and tried to deal with it on his own. Last night was good, last night was the first step to hopefully moving past everything that had happened the last few weeks.
Danny's thoughts were interrupted as Steve placed a plate, with about 20 pancakes stacked on top, in the middle of the table. Grace was right behind him with the butter, syrup, plates, and utensils.
"Wow, are we feeding the entire neighbourhood this morning?" Danny joked as he pulled Grace in for a hug.
"I'm just kidding monkey, this looks fantastic, and I'm starving so let's dig in!"
Once everyone had some pancakes on their plate Grace started telling Danny how she got up really early with Uncle Steve, something she sounded very proud of.
"I was up at 6am Danno, Uncle Steve told me I should go back to sleep but I wasn't tired so we watched cartoons!" Grace's smile was too big for her face at the moment.
"Cartoons huh? Uncle Steve didn't make you watch any of his ninja movies?" Danny joked.
"Uncle Steve saves those for you Danno," Grace and Steve both laughed.
"Oh does he now? Well that's very kind of you Steven."
"It's for your own good Danny; you need to be more cultured."
Danny practically spat out the pancake in his mouth.
"I need to be – ha that's good Steven, really," Danny shook his head and laughed as he took a sip of his orange juice.
Just then the doorbell rang and when Danny stood up to get it Steve stopped him.
"I'll get it, enjoy breakfast with Gracie."
Danny smiled appreciatively as he sat back down.
Steve made his way over to the front door and opened it, fully expecting to see Kono or Chin.
"Matt..." Steve stood there starring at Danny's brother, thankful that he had been the one to answer the door instead of Danny.
Matt smiled nervously.
"When'd you get out?"
Matt shifted uneasily.
"Uh, few days ago. Is Danny here?"
"Yeah, look Matt, I'm not really sure this is a good time, I don't know if Danny's ready to see you yet." Ok so that was a lie, Steve knew that Danny was definitely not ready.
Just then Danny came in from the kitchen.
"Steve, Grace wants to know if you want straw..." Danny froze as he laid eyes on his little brother.
Steve could see the slight shake in Matt's hands; he was nervous. Matt may have the height advantage over Danny but Danny could put the fear of god into anybody, especially when his anger was directed towards them.
Danny's expression turned from shock to anger.
"What are you doing here?"
"Hey to you too big brother," Matt joked as he walked towards Danny.
Danny stepped back.
"When'd you get out?"
Matt swallowed the lump in his throat.
"A few days ago, Steve spoke to the May-"
"I know," Danny cut him off.
Matt nodded, of course Danny knew.
"I was released on the conditions that I go to rehab, put in 200 hours of community service, and attend meetings for at risk youth and explain to them the consequences of their actions."
Danny laughed mockingly and Steve spoke up before Danny could say something he was going to regret.
"That's great Matt, really."
"Yeah, I really hope I can get through to them. Apparently half the kids in these programs are barely teens; I don't want them to do the things that I've done."
Danny shook his head in disgust as he was right back in that warehouse again. With everything that had been going on with Yeun and Doris he had been so busy trying to heal Steve's demons that he actually allowed himself to almost forgot that he had his own, and one of them was currently standing in front of him.
"Make sure you tell them how you traded Steve's life for money, I'm sure they'll get a real kick out of that."
"What?" Danny looked at Steve angrily. "Just because you forgave him doesn't mean that I have to."
Steve saw the intensity in Danny's eyes and kept his mouth shut. He knew what Matt had put Danny through and he also knew that he would feel the same way if the roles were reversed.
Matt looked down at the ground.
"It's okay Steve, I deserve it. You're his best friend and I almost got you killed, I'd hate me too."
Danny rolled his eyes.
"I can't thank you enough Steve, what you did for me, I didn't deserve it."
"You damn right you didn't deserve it," Danny mumbled loudly enough for everyone to hear.
"You're welcome Matt, jus don't make me regret it okay, get the help that you need so you can get better."
Matt smiled at Steve appreciatively.
"I will, I promise."
Danny shook his head.
"Why are you even here?"
"I uh...I'm leaving town, I'm heading back to Jersey," Matt said looking at Danny hoping to see some disappointment in him leaving, but Danny had the complete opposite reaction.
"Good, the farther away you are from here the better," Danny looked away from Matt and to the ground.
"Danny...I'll never be able to tell you how sorry I am for I put you through...for what I put Steve through. That's something I'm gonna have to live with for the rest of my life."
Steve could see Danny's closed fists at his side and knew it was taking everything in him not to lay Matt on the ground.
"Save it Matt, I don't want to hear it."
"Danny, c'mon man, I just came here to say goodbye okay, I don't wanna fight."
"You shouldn't have come."
"I'm leaving town Danny, probably for good, of course I had to come. I had to come say bye to my big brother."
"Don't call me that," Danny's voice was cold.
"What? Don't call you my big brother? We're family Danny."
Danny looked up with conviction in his eyes.
"We are NOT family, YOU are not my family."
"...You don't mean that. Look I know what I did was terrible but – " before Matt could even finish he was pinned up against the wall with an irate Danny breathing down on him.
Steve instinctively stepped towards the two.
"Danny..." but Steve knew better, he knew Danny needed to get this off his chest.
"Terrible? You son of a bitch you nearly cost me my best friend, someone who I actually do consider a brother. I had to watch him die, and that's something I'm going to have to live with for the rest of my life, so don't you dare stand here and act like you just crashed my favourite car. Terrible doesn't even begin to cover what you did, the only reason that you're not laid out flat on your ass right now is because my daughter is in that other room. I will NEVER forgive you for what you did, ever!" Danny slammed Matt's back into the wall to make sure he got his point got across.
The little voice from the corner of the room caught everyone's attention as Danny instinctively let go of Matt. This wasn't something Grace was supposed to see.
"Gracie, go back into the kitchen baby."
But Grace stayed right where she was; she was definitely her mother.
"Uncle Matt, what are you doing here?"
Danny closed his eyes as her broken voice fuelled Danny's anger even more.
"Gracie, baby, I'm going back to New Jersey, I just wanted to come and say goodbye."
Grace seemed a little confused.
"But I thought you were in jail?"
Matt didn't seem to know how to answer that and Danny wasn't capable of speaking at the moment so Steve spoke up.
"He was Gracie, but remember how we were saying that Uncle Matt was sick?"
"They released him so he can get the help he needs so that he can get better."
"Oh," after thinking about what Steve had said to her, Grace walked up to Danny. "Is it okay if I say bye to Uncle Matt?"
As much as Danny wanted Grace as far away from Matt as possible he knew this was something she needed, she needed closure.
"Of course monkey."
She then looked at Steve.
"Uncle Steve, is it okay?"
Steve looked down at Grace, the shock of her even asking him was soon replaced with the warmth of knowing how much that little girl cared about him.
"Of course Gracie."
Grace walked up to Matt as Matt knelt down.
"Hey Munchkin, I'm sorry I have to leave so suddenly, I'm going to miss you."
Grace stood there staring at Matt for a few seconds.
"I don't like what you did to Uncle Steve, but Uncle Steve said that you're sick and that I should forgive you."
Matt looked up to Steve and smiled in gratitude.
"That's really nice of your Uncle Steve, do you forgive me munchkin?"
Grace looked up at Steve almost looking for permission.
Steve smiled and nodded his head at Grace at which point she hugged Matt.
"Yeah, I forgive you Uncle Matt."
Matt's smile spread from ear to ear.
"Thank you Gracie, have I ever told you that you're my favourite niece?"
"Uncle Mattttttt, I'm your only niece."
Matt laughed and ruffled her hair, "Technicalities munchkin." He then stood up and looked at Danny and Steve.
"Alright well, I guess I'll be going then."
"Have a safe flight Matt, and good luck with everything," Steve said as he put his hand out.
Matt was quick to take the handshake as it took all of Danny's restraint not to pry those two hands apart.
"Thank you so much Steve, seriously, for everything."
"You're welcome," Steve smiled.
"Danny..." Matt looked up at his brother hoping for anything from Danny, and thought he was going to get something as he saw Danny walk towards him, but then Danny kept walking towards the door.
"You should go Matt," Danny was looking outside as he held the door open.
Matt stood there looking at Danny for a few seconds before he started moving towards the door. He knew that this was possibly the last time he was ever going to see his brother.
"I love you Danny, I am so sorry. I hope that one day you can forgive me."
Danny just looked at the ground as Matt turned around and walked out the door.
"Gracie, why don't you start cleaning up in the kitchen and I'll come help you," Steve told Grace knowing that Danny didn't want her to see him like this.
"Okay Uncle Steve."
Once Grace left the room Steve walked up to Danny who was still standing in the doorway.
Danny looked up at Steve and Steve noticed that the anger that was present in his partner's eyes had been replaced with exhaustion and hurt.
Danny took a deep breath.
"You're a terrible liar."
"Takes one to know one."
Steve smirked and then the two of them went quiet, still standing by the door.
"I'm sorry Danny."
Danny looked up at Steve incredulously.
"What do you have to be sorry for?"
"That Matt got dragged into my whole mess with Wo Fat."
Danny furrowed his eyebrows.
"Are you kidding me? No one MADE him do anything. Matt's a grown man and he makes his own decisions. Wo Fat didn't blackmail him or trick him into anything, he offered him something in exchange for you and Matt made the choice to go through with it on his own accord. That's not on you, that's on him. You have nothing to apologize for."
Steve nodded his head, Danny had a point.
"I'm still sorry that you have to go through this, I know how much you love Matty."
"Loved," Danny corrected.
"Danny..." Steve started but was cut off by Danny who clearly was not in a mood to talk.
"I'm going to go help Grace clean up."
Steve sighed as Danny brushed past him. He knew deep down Danny still loved his younger brother and he hoped that one day Danny would realize that. Steve knew better than anyone what this kind of anger could do to a person and he didn't want to see Danny spiral. Danny needed to heal just as much as Steve did – god they were a mess.