The car went over the ledge, and there was nothing in the world he could do to prevent that. It flipped over when the front crashed against a protruding tree root, giving a metallic screech as if it was in lethal pain, before flipping over again, turning endlessly, unstoppable until it finally did stop. Just as abrupt as it had started tumbling over its own axis it came to a brutal, bone breaking halt.
He blinked in and out of consciousness, head feeling as if it had been cracked open, left side of his face bathed in a warm fluid that quickly turned into a gooey juice. When he had control back over his neck muscles, he succeeded to turn his head that suddenly felt double its normal size and was heavy, oh so heavy.
He stared into the blank, opaque eyes of the nameless woman in the passenger seat.
He tried to get away, get out, just AWAY, but he was stuck and couldn't move, the seatbelt not giving way as he desperately pulled at the buckle, the door too distorted to open.
Danny started up, blinking in confusion as he took in the dark surroundings of Steve's guest room. He was drenched in cold sweat, the thin blanket effectively entangled with his legs, and in the short moment before the brain gets coherent, he was sure his racing heart would beat its way forcefully out of his chest. He pressed both palms against the chest, trying to calm down, to prevent his heart from breaking through the ribcage.
His right side where his ribs had been fractured in the accident started to throb as the memory of that pain flared up again. Danny gritted his teeth. No need to make more noise than he certainly already had. Still, a moan escaped from is firmly compressed lips.
As if on a clue, the door opened and Steve entered, hair tousled from sleeping but eyes wide and awake. “Hey,” Steve stared at him, a worry in his dark eyes that made Danny feel awkward. “You ok? You need something?”
“Yeah. No. No . Just... just a nightmare. Nothing bad. Sorry for waking you. Please, go back to bed. Sorry, man.” Danny scratched through his likewise messy hair. He felt terrible, but there was no way he would confess that, because it only would keep Steve awake, and that was not going to happen. His best friend had already done more than his share for him.
“Just a nightmare?” From Steve’s skeptical look, Danny knew he had failed miserably in reassuring him. “You still see that therapist, though?”
Danny screwed up his face. The accident had happened almost six weeks ago, and to be allowed to return to the team Steve had one condition for Danny (next to recuperating physically, of course): seeking the help of a psychotherapist. The accident Danny and Leslie had been in had been too severe to simply shrug the ramifications away. Steve had made that crystal clear to Danny. About three weeks ago they had been driving through town to get to the hospital Leslie was still in, when a car had come at them a little bit too far in the middle of the road. Danny had paled and stiffened up next to Steve so much that he thought a bone might break if he hit a bump in the road. He had stopped the car at a red traffic light, and Danny had torn the door open to literally fall out of the car and down to his knees, throwing up the breakfast Steve had made him earlier.
“Yeah, of course. As you ordered .” Danny wasn’t angry at Steve about that; not anymore, at least. Admitting the accident affected him more than he wanted to show had been a tough act. It included a confession from Steve that he had sought professional help a long time after Freddie’s death because he hadn’t processed that either. Admitting to being human, Steve has explained, didn’t mean admitting to being weak, but to being strong.
And yes, the sessions had helped. Danny didn’t get a panic attack anymore in a car and even his omnipresent insomnia had disappeared. That was, until about a week ago. Since then, the nightmares had surfaced. Danny had mentioned them in the sessions, of course, wanting to help in any way to be cleared for the field again as fast as possible.
It was now the fourth night in a row that Danny had woken up screaming, drenched in sweat and stayed sleepless for the rest of the night.
“Well, then let’s expand your therapy and test a theory of mine. Get dressed! If you feel up to this, of course.” Steve knew how he could get Danny to comply. Good words and pleas? Would not work. A challenge, though? Always.
Steve’s theory was simple and based on observation. The nightmares had started when Leslie had been released from the hospital and Danny went back to desk duty. So, the time the two lovebirds spend together had been reduced to a minimum. And while Danny had been the last visitor every evening when Leslie had still been in hospital, he now could squeeze in only some minutes every day, especially since Leslie had a string of appointments to regain her strength.
“If I feel…? Mind you, I’m not the guy who’s going to jump from houses tomorrow or blow up something. Unlike others living in this household.” Despite his words, Danny was already pulling on a pair of sweatpants and a fresh shirt. “Where are we going?”
“You’ll see.” Steve grinned cryptically and breezed away to get dressed, too.
They drove in silence until they reached the first traffic light. Danny turned to Steve and pointedly lifted an eyebrow. “Are you going to fill me in now, or is that classified?”
The grin was still on Steve’s face albeit it was determined now. “You always complain about my missing detective skills, but I think I’ve improved over the years. Listen. I don’t think it’s coincidental that your nightmares started the moment you went back to desk duty.”
“Are you trying to break the news to me that I’m too sensible for my job?” Danny frowned, his voice filled with incredulity. “Because I have to inform you that I am not . Too sensible, I mean.”
“No,” Steve shook his head and accelerated, turning the corner when the traffic light switched to green.
Danny threw up his hands. “Then what is it?!” he snapped, losing patience.
“Relax.” Steve took one hand off the wheel and patted Danny’s knee. “We’re almost there.”
“Where are we…? Oh. ” Danny blinked in confusion when he realized where Steve had driven them to. “Why…?”
“Because, Danny, I think your returned insomnia and the nightmares are directly connected to her .” Steve nodded toward the small house he had stopped the car in front of. Danny was suddenly very silent, his posture almost rigid, his attention completely on Steve. Encouraged by this change in Danny’s behavior, Steve continued. “You two have seen each other almost 24/7 since the accident. Except for the last week, when you returned to work and Leslie was allowed to go home, back to that friend she’s staying at.”
Danny still stared at Steve, and Steve knew he was on the right way. “It’s not something you can control, not something you decide consciously. But I am pretty sure you get those nightmares because you can’t make sure Leslie is safe, as safe as she has been in the hospital, at least.”
“That’s pretty creepy, Steve.” Danny pinched the bridge of his nose. “You going all Freud on me. Besides, I do know that Leslie is sound and safe, thank you very much, even if we don’t stick together like chewing gum and shoe anymore. There’s that wonderful technical invention called a cell phone, you know?” As if needing to undermine his words, Danny pulled his phone out of one of the pockets of the sweatpants and waved the device in front of Steve’s face.
Steve shook his head. “Yeah, but talking on the phone is not the same as seeing each other.”
“And now you brought me here in the middle of the night when Les is already asleep for hours to do — what exactly, Steve? Ring at her door and wake her and the rest of the people in the house up to get a good-night kiss and ask her if she sleeps well?” Danny rolled his eyes.
Again, Steve shook his head. “No, of course not. But I thought, well, maybe… maybe it helps ease your mind when you see that everything is okay. That she’s asleep.” He gestured toward the dark house, shrugging.
“This is ridiculous, Steve.” Danny started, but then looked at the building and bit his lip. “Or maybe not so much.” He leaned back into his seat and stared at the window he knew Leslie’s bedroom was located behind. “Maybe you should switch professions, Steve. Because I think… I think it could work.” He exhaled deeply. “Can we stay another minute?”
“Sure.” Steve relaxed and smiled. “By the way — chewing gum and shoe?!”
Steve’s therapy helped for a few days, but eventually, the nightmares returned. Danny switched to visiting Leslie every evening, but still, Steve could almost set his watch after Danny’s steps on the stairs when he couldn’t bear staying in bed any longer after a bad dream. It disturbed his own sleep effectively, too, and Steve knew they couldn’t go on like this for much longer. They both needed their sleep.
It was about two weeks later that the whole team gathered in Steve’s (and Danny’s, yes, but he would never admit that out loud to prevent Danny from grinning too smugly) living room for one of their regular “movie nights”. They had started these Ohana nights about a year ago after Joe White’s death, to keep Steve from isolating himself too much.
We’re your friends, your family, and if you hurt, we hurt, too. Danny simply stated and pulled Steve onto the couch between him and Tani.
They held on to that ritual. One way or another, one of their Ohana always seemed to need the comfort of loved ones, and Steve realized how much he enjoyed these evenings together. Having Junior as housemate was nice, but it wasn’t the same since the younger man kept a respectful distance to his boss. Even the date nights he had with Brooke paled against the Ohana nights. He liked Brooke; he really did, but shied away from the word “love”. He wasn’t there yet, not after Lynn and Catherine. This time, he would do it by the books.
This night, another person would join the gathering, next to Brooke. Steve had made sure that the rest of the team was on board with it, and especially that no one said a word to Danny. It was Valentine's Day, and seeing Danny sulk after Leslie had turned him down for the evening was almost too much for Steve to keep his mouth shut. He knew, of course, why Leslie had turned Danny down.
It was evening, and Danny was still in the office to do the paperwork to the case they had just solved. A high-ranking Thai diplomat had been killed, and his wife had confessed the murder although she didn’t do it. The persistence with which Danny had tried to prove her innocence (and Five-0 had succeeded) had shown Steve how much the accident and the near-loss of Leslie still gnawed at Danny.
“I heard a car — is that Danny?” Tani pushed the curtains away at Quinn’s question and stared into the driveway.
“Yes! It’s him! Everyone to their places!” She scurried back to her own place on the armchair and tried to hide the big grin that spread over her face.
Steve, stopping in mid-track, made shooing gestures to the two women who had put some glasses on the coffee table. “Go, go!” He followed them into the kitchen just as a key was turned in the door and Danny stepped into the living room. Steve’s heart raced, but Danny didn’t seem to have seen him. Steve waited, and as if on a clue to Danny’s surprised question upon seeing the whole gang he stepped back into the living room, carrying two full bowls of popcorn. “Yeah, we decided to have Ohana night, despite it being Valentine's Day today.” He grinned at Danny and placed the bowls on the table, to make place for Brooke who followed him right on the heel with two other bowls.
Steve carefully watched Danny’s face which lit up with pleasure about seeing Brooke, and then, when he recognized who also emerged from the kitchen with a six-pack of Longboards in her hands, it was as if a supernova of happiness exploded over Danny’s face.
“L-Les?” He cocked his head and then wiggled a finger in front of Steve’s nose. “Sidebar.”
Steve winked at Leslie who placed herself on the couch, and followed Danny a few steps aside. Danny crossed his arms and raised both eyebrows. “I thought you and Brooke wanted to go out for dinner? That we’d make Ohana Night next week?” He glanced at the people gathered around the coffee table, chatting with each other, and back at Steve. “You didn’t have to do this, Steve. Really.”
“No, I didn't. But I wanted to. Hey, listen.” Steve put a hand on Danny’s shoulder and squeezed it gently. “I know you had a really rough time and still are having. And I won’t let you go through this alone. That’s what’s family for, right?” He made an all-encompassing gesture, including everyone in the living room. “Now, Sunshine, would you mind turning the lights off?” He gave Danny a slight push.
Danny made a step forward, then turned his head back to Steve. “Thanks.” He moved to the light switch. “By the way, which movie are we gonna watch?”
“Enemy Mine.” Leslie answered and patted the spot next to her. “Come on, guys! There’s enough space for you two between Brooke and me!”
“So,” Danny had an arm around Leslie’s shoulder and gently caressed the part of her skin that was exposed by a cut-out sleeve. “It was your idea to watch this absolutely monumental piece of cinematic art? Pray tell me: how did you convince this caveman here?” He wiggled his hip and bumped into Steve who was still plastered to his other side, although Brooke had called it a night some time ago and left.
Leslie laughed about the face Steve made. “Oh, that was easy.” She chuckled. “He said if I’d come, I could choose the movie. And this is one of my absolute favorites.” She gave Danny a high-five and laughed louder when Steve rolled his eyes.
“That makes two of us.” Danny grinned satisfied and sighed. The rest of the Ohana had left about half an hour ago, but Leslie had stayed, much to Danny’s pleasure.
“I, uhm… it’s late, and I should…” As if she had sensed Danny’s thoughts, Leslie sat up and cleared her throat. She didn’t look at Danny, though, but fixated on Steve. Danny frowned when Steve shot up, so fast that Danny almost lost his balance.
“Oh! Yeah, right! I suggest you stay here, Leslie.” He smiled at her and Danny couldn’t fight the feeling Steve and Leslie were communicating telepathically. “You can sleep in my room; I’ll take the couch. I’ve put new sheets on, so don’t worry. On the bed, that is. New sheets on the bed!”
Danny glanced from Steve to Leslie and back to Steve. “Okay, so. What is going on between the two of you?”
Steve stared at Danny with a shocked expression. “Between us?! Nothing!”
“I didn’t mean that way, I meant… what have you two been conspiring, huh?”
“Nothing.” Leslie returned Danny’s stern look with wide, innocent-appearing eyes. “But Steve is right, it would be better if I stay here, because I think I drank a beer or two too much.” She giggled.
Danny shook his head. “All right, all right.” He pointed a finger at Steve. “But you sleep in your bed. Leslie can have mine. I’ll take the couch. I’m the shortest here, and I have experience with sleeping on your couch. And with Eddie’s fur in my face.”
Steve had tried to put up some bickering, but in the end gave in. Danny still couldn’t fight the feeling of having been set up, but he wasn’t angry. Call it a theory , Steve had winked at him when he went upstairs to go to bed, and Danny had pulled the blanket over his head. He was starting to feel like a lab-rat, but then, he wasn’t mad. His friends had felt so at ease around Leslie and didn’t hold back with their normal joking as if Danny and Leslie had been a thing for an eternity already. She fit in, he had noticed, and that had given him a warm feeling pooling in the pit of his stomach.
Danny turned on his back and pushed the blanket down. He knew what Steve tried, and was grateful for it. Having Leslie in the same house, merely separated by a floor, felt good. Very good. It wasn’t a solution forever; Danny knew. But for this one night? He’d take it.
The sound of paws clicking on hardwood floor made him groan out loud. “No way, Eddie. Not tonight. Come on! Go back to your own bed…”
“Does that apply to me, too?” At the sound of Leslie’s voice, Danny startled up and almost fell off the couch. He pushed his unruly hair out of his face and stared up at her. She was wearing nothing but panties and one of his t-shirts, and shifted from one foot to the other, looking as insecure as he had never seen her before.
His worry kicked in. “Les? Hey, come, sit. Is something wrong?” He grabbed her hand and gently pulled her down next to him. Eddie settled for a place at Danny’s feet, head propped up on his forepaws and observed the humans.
“No. Yeah, well, actually something is wrong.” She put her head against his shoulder, but only for a moment before she straightened. “I can’t... I can’t sleep,” she finally confessed. Danny pursed his lips.
“It’s the shutters, right? I’ve been telling Steve for ages now that he needs new ones because the existing don’t block out the moonlight.”
“No, no, it’s… It’s because of the accident.” Leslie shrugged and leaned against Danny again. “I haven’t been sleeping properly since then despite all the money my boss gave to that therapist to help me process what happened.” She was working for the district attorney who had a very high opinion of her, and Danny had been glad she had gotten every help she needed.
“Hey.” Danny pulled her closer and blew a kiss on her forehead. “You’re alive. I’m alive. We got that asshole that caused the accident. It’s all good.”
“I know.” She shrugged. “I should know, but it still keeps me up at night. Maybe… maybe it would help if you came upstairs with me?” She asked, a hesitant tone in her voice.
Danny blinked. “You want me to…?”
She nodded. “Yeah, well, I’m not cleared yet for such action by my doctor, but if you could, maybe, be close, I mean, to me, and, uhm…”
Danny huffed out a smile. “Is that a part of yours and Steve’s plan, too?”
Leslie pinched his side. “Am I that easy to see through?! I think I really need to work on my poker face.” She smiled back at him. “Yes, it’s a part of Steve’s plan, but also very much the truth, Danny. I, I just… can’t explain it. I… I need you.” She almost said it as a question, the astonishment in her green eyes evident.
“Well, then.” Danny slowly disengaged himself from her, stood up and held his hand out to her. “That couch is doing my back no favors anyway.”
Steve yawned and stretched, then cast a fast look at the clock on the nightstand next to his bed. It was early for a Saturday morning when he was off work, but too late to go for a swim, so he contemplated turning around for another shut-eye. Eddie’s deep woof from downstairs made him decide otherwise. He got up and stumbled down the stairs, scratching his belly underneath his sleep shirt. Steve made a short stop in the kitchen to turn on the coffee maker before he opened the door to the lanai to let Eddie out and let him tend to his morning business.
On the way back to the kitchen he suddenly halted in mid-step. The couch was empty, but Danny was nowhere to be seen, and his clothes were still strewn across the loveseat. Steve pursed his lips, then grinned. He crept up the stairs again, careful to avoid the creaky steps and just as carefully opened the door to the guest room a tiny crack.
Danny and Leslie were peacefully sleeping in the bed, faces turned toward each other, so close that their foreheads touched. Steve smiled and was just about closing the door when something drew his attention back to Danny.
Danny was gazing back at him, a look of pure bliss in his blue eyes. He smiled at Steve and mouthed a silent word.