Storm Ravaged

Chapter 28

There was a long moment of silence and then a rather annoyed sound from Danny's side of the room.

"How do you figure?" Of all the things Steve had said up to that point, his admission of blame was the first thing that actually made Danny twitch and then grin. It started with a disbelieving open-mouthed stare that morphed into a confused head shake as Danny's right hand waved just once in the air as if conducting an invisible orchestra.

Then he didn't give Steve a chance to expound or explain. "What am I, Steve? A cop if I recall. Always been one since the day I locked up little Mattie at the zoo. It's why Rachel called it quits but I stayed one. It's the reason she tries to bring up every so often to take Grace as far away from as humanly possible. Yet, I'm still a cop. I can't stop being what I am."

"As much as it sometimes hurts, my daughter knows that probably better than anyone. We'll get through this." His voice softened considerably and Danny maintained that lopsided grin as he aimed his finger towards his partner. Steve screwed up his face in confusion as the rant continued.

"Now, don't take this the wrong way. The one thing you aren't is a cop. Not in the truest sense of the word. Regardless, we all thought D Day meant Darien, you goof. We were all very involved with the threats and how you were targeted. There was no reason to think that D Day meant me! There is not one thing that you personally did or can take blame for because I let my own guard down."

That part was very true; the team had a role to maintain after finding out that McNamara was associated not only to the mobster, but also as a mole within the prosecution team. Amongst them, they had kept all things critical away from the press and retained the general integrity of Alistair Landon's own prosecution. The venue was already changed; it was done and a closed issue. All the charges ... and there would eventually be more shared at the right time thanks to Pete Channing's testimony ... would remain untouched and relevant to the case. But as Steve continued to listen and stare at his partner, his confusion turned to annoyance as he watched the much too somber eyes.

"Danny, we need to talk," Steve's request was ignored though as Danny's fingers scratched idly at the blanket to the bed. The room was brightening even more as the sky phased into a lighter, pre-dawn stage. There was a hint of red though and Steve recognized the early signs of a pending rain shower.

"We all did our jobs and I'm fine. Everything worked out and one is in custody who is most willingly going to cut a deal on his sentencing. It puts Darien directly in the limelight as the responsible party," Danny said with an adamant wave which effectively closed Steve's mouth because he wasn't yet finished.

"The one thing that you and I have; that we all share ... is trust and there's absolutely zero room for blame. If we blamed ourselves in this line of work, where would we be, Steven? There's no room for it." He kept shaking his head as if realizing something and threw what might have once been Steve's own words back at him.

"We never think about what we could have done. Second-guessing is a dangerous enemy and because of that SEAL brain of yours, you know it better than anyone."

"Are you done now?" Steve had been mostly silent through the rant as it gained strength with the increase of shadowed light that was coming in from the window. His head was churning though because he wasn't buying all of it; especially when it came to Grace. It was Steve's turn to snort in disgust when Danny shrugged noncommittally about his speech.

"That remains to be seen. Have I made a dent in that Neanderthal skull of yours?"

"That was professionally very nice. Quite eloquent. But I'm not sure I entirely believe you," Steve said blandly, but he meant his words wholeheartedly. He felt as if he had been schooled by one of his naval Master Sergeants.

"I mean ... I do ... the sentiment is nice and I guess, theoretically right on the mark. But no, I'm not buying all of it and frankly, I don't have to." The words fit but when it came to one little person, the attitude was completely un-Danny-like.

"Certain things are always going to be my responsibility," Steve shot back at him without blinking and then offered him a small token of agreement followed by a large caveat.

"On the surface for some of this, you're absolutely right because we all did our jobs with the information we had on hand. But we're friends and Danno ... you just totally changed the subject." He continued to stare challengingly at Danny until the man looked away.

"You were abducted by professionals. They intentionally kept you at a disadvantage. No food for almost more than a week; little water, drugs whenever they felt like it, and absolutely no communication whatsoever to keep you pliant or subdued and totally under their control." Steve was angry and he had to force himself to lower his voice. His first hand experience with Brian McNamara backed up what Kono and Chin had learned of the man's unethical professional boxing career. Kamekona's awed comments about the man's strength, cunning and ability to take a hit were all valid. He would have intentionally pulled his punches with his trapped partner but it still hurt and crippled in more than a physical way.

"McNamara wasn't only a criminal, he was a dirty fighter, a low-life, and a bully. He liked his opponents backed into a corner and he took great joy in it, Danno. He and Madison in particular left you no choices at all."

Steve couldn't stop now as a startling realization entered his own mind and he rubbed his temple near the bandages. He remembered Doctor Ramirez's words about the supposed amnesia and what it really had been. "Danny, for what they did and didn't do, you might as well have been kept in solitary confinement."

There was a distant rumble of thunder in the distance and Steve automatically glanced to the dark window. He shook his head sadly as he rubbed at the ache near his forehead even harder. "You did what you needed to do to keep your sanity and to get out of there alive."

"I didn't know where I was after a while or if it was day or night. And then, I almost forgot her." The whisper was barely audible from where Danny sat only a few short feet away. "I couldn't remember her face or her voice. I was afraid I'd lose all of it."

After that, the silence was deafening except for the first spatter of hard raindrops that hit the window. Steve didn't know if he had read it all wrong or even gone much too far until Danny's face turned completely away to stare out the window. He knew then that he had gotten it right when Danny's inhale was overly loud and his shoulders shook ever so slightly. What he repeated came out on a raspy rush of air. "I almost forgot everything."

"But you didn't; you protected all those good memories." Steve continued talking even though Danny now wasn't looking at him at all. His voice dropped and his tone became much softer. The sound of the rain seemed to suck Danny in as it broke his thoughts up into tiny pieces. He shivered involuntarily when the thunder sounded even closer, and Steve took advantage of it.

"I don't know how you do this job with a kid ... as a dad. You know how much I care for Grace and for you. Her face on that day was something I will never forget; she's a lot like you."

Steve had to stop to take a deep breath and beat down the emotion or else he'd never be able to continue. His last words hit home and Danny was now rending the blanket in a nervous twitch. What Steve said next came out in a fast rush and it was the only reason he got through it. "You guys are more than family and I'm going to take responsibility for you losing your Father's Day with your daughter because I can and because I want to. It's probably the only way I can do something for you and Grace to try to make it right."

Danny's shoulders seemed to quake even more and Steve took it as a sign of agreement as he heaved himself the few short feet to the second bed. Ignoring the headache and flare of pain in his lower back, Steve brought the IV fluids with him to sit on the edge of the mattress. Danny's eyes were closed as tears streamed down his face and he struggled to say that he was fine ... yet again.

"Yeah, you are." Steve agreed softly. "But let me at least take this one thing on for you and Grace." He pulled a completely unresisting Danny into a hug and then nothing else had to be said or shared at that point.


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