h50exchangemod (h50exchangemod) wrote in h50_exchange,
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Scar Tissue - Gen - PG

Author: alba17
Recipient: eumelia
Title: Scar Tissue
Pairings/Characters: Danny, Steve, Grace, Kono
Summary: Danny comes clean about why he doesn’t swim.
Rating: PG
Content: Hurt/comfort, pre-slash. Takes place before 2.19.
Warnings: [Click to read]prior death of an OC, PTSD, mild description of a flashback and panic attack
Word Count: 5242
Disclaimer: All Hawaii Five-0 characters herein are the property of CBS. No copyright infringement is intended. All characters engaging in sexual activity are 16 years or older.
Author's Notes: Huge thanks to V for her insightful and quick beta and to the mods for their patience. eumelia, I hope you enjoy this, even though it isn't your preferred rating.



Danny sat at his desk staring blankly at his computer screen. He’d barely made a dent in the number of forms he had to fill out, yet already the words and numbers were starting to blur. Since the governor had reassigned Lori, they were short-handed and everyone had to put in more time. He was about to go to the coffee machine for a jolt of caffeine when Steve showed up at his door.

“Hey, partner, how about we save the rest of this for tomorrow and head out to the beach. You can show me how your surfing’s going,” Steve said.

Danny inwardly cringed. When Steve had heard Kono had offered to give Danny surfing lessons, he turned into an excited little puppy. Maybe that was why Danny finally gave in to Kono’s wheedling. Well, that and a generous bribe of her mom’s irresistible soy sauce chicken, brought directly to Danny’s door. All he had to do was pretend he didn’t know how to surf and let Kono teach him. For the first lesson, they didn’t even have to go in the water.

Danny wasn’t about to let either Steve or Kono in on the fact that he’d learned how to surf as a teenager back in New Jersey, something he’d spent the rest of his life trying to forget.

“I’ve got that deposition tomorrow, remember?” Danny said, in a futile attempt to put off the inevitable. He knew Steve would pry it out of him eventually. “Gotta get these forms done today. You know, there wouldn’t be so many if you hadn’t commandeered that DEA truck and crashed it into the warehouse.”

“Danny, we’ve been over this. Would you rather I politely waited for the DEA to get their asses in gear?”

Danny scowled at him. “I just want you to follow procedure. Is that too much to ask?” He put a hand up. “Don’t answer.”

“Okay then, I’ll buy you a beer at Fumo’s to pay you back. You can tell me about the surfing then.”

Danny would rather eat nails than talk about surfing, but he could really use a beer and they hadn’t gotten together in a while. Besides, he knew Steve wasn’t about to let go of the topic any time soon. “Okay. Make it two. These DEA forms read like they were translated from Japanese or something.”

**

Fumo’s, when it wasn’t trying too hard, had a certain kitschy charm provided by an ocean view and a garish display of neon umbrellas and pink plastic Buddhas. Danny and Steve settled in on the patio with long, cool ones. Danny tried to relax, but he was waiting for the questions to start. Fortunately, Steve began talking about the case they’d just wrapped up instead. Danny gave him more shit about the DEA truck and then they joked about the DEA liaison, whom they both agreed was an idiot.

But eventually the conversation petered out. Steve leaned his elbows on the table and picked at the label on his bottle. “So, how’s the surfing going? You ready to go catch some waves with me?

There it was, finally. “Yeah, about that,” Danny said. “I’ve been really busy, you know, with the job and Grace, apartment hunting. Kono’s been busy too. We just haven’t been able to find the time.” It was true, but Danny had conveniently just happened to be busy whenever Kono broached the subject.

“Oh.” Steve’s face fell a bit. “Danny, come on, you’re in Hawaii now. You gotta learn how to surf.”

“I don’t gotta do anything, my friend. Just because everyone here thinks it’s the height of fun to let the ocean fling you about on a little piece of fiberglass doesn’t mean I have to partake. I get enough of an adrenaline fix from my job, thank you very much.”

Steve shook his head. “Seriously, Danny? You act like surfing isn’t a legitimate sport. In some ways, surfing is Hawaii. I think you’d love it if you gave it a chance. There’s really nothing like it.”

Danny flung his hands out in frustration. “Yeah. You people are all crazy. First of all, I never even wanted to move to this godforsaken place anyway, so I don’t care about whether ‘surfing is Hawaii,’ and second of all, ‘legitimate sport’ is a debatable term when badminton and ping-pong are now Olympic sports.”

Steve smirked and leaned back to take a swig of his beer. Then he took a good long look at Danny. “What’s with you and swimming, anyway? You never swim. To be honest, it’s kind of weird.”

The Navy SEAL fifty-yard stare did nothing for Danny’s composure. He absolutely did not want to talk about this with Steve. “Well, I didn’t just crawl out of the muck like some people who act like they have fins and gills. I’m just more highly evolved.”

“Uh-huh.” Steve snorted, but held Danny’s gaze with an intent stare that seemed designed to dig Danny’s thoughts directly out of his brain.

Danny signaled for the waitress so he could avert his eyes. He had a feeling Steve wasn’t going to let up on the issue and that made him extremely uncomfortable. He didn’t swim because of something that had happened a long time ago, in another life. He liked to think it didn’t matter any more, that he’d buried it for good. But somehow it kept coming back.

**

When Danny had Grace that weekend, he made an emergency stop at the office. He had planned a raft of activities, including a new children’s exhibit at the museum and a trip to Grace’s favorite pizza place, but first he needed to pick up a file he had to review before Monday.

“This’ll just take a minute, monkey, alright?” Danny said as they walked into Five-0. To his surprise, the lights were all on and Steve emerged from his office.

“Uncle Steve!” Grace ran up to him and Steve picked her up and swung her around.

“Gracie!” Steve’s smile was broad as he put her down on the floor. “You and Danno having a good weekend?”

“Yep. He made me chocolate chip pancakes this morning.” She beamed at Danny and Danny put his hand fondly on her shoulder.

“I was just going over the Lawrence file,” Steve said to Danny. “Remember that small-time counterfeiter we nabbed a couple of months ago? Seems he’s given up some bigger fish and Lawrence is part of it.”

“No kidding. We need to get on it now?” Danny threw a worried look at Grace. He didn’t want to give up his weekend with her. Again.

“Naw, just getting some background. It can wait until Monday.”

“Oh good,” Danny said with relief, drawing Grace in to him with an arm around her shoulder.

“So, listen. If you guys aren’t doing anything else, how about coming over to my place later?” Steve asked. “We can hang out on the beach, do some swimming, cook out on the grill.”

Danny hesitated, since they’d have to put off his plans to Sunday, but then he saw how Grace’s entire face lit up at Steve’s invitation. And Steve had a big grin on his face too. Danny couldn’t refuse in the face of such enthusiasm.

“Can we, can we, Danno?” Grace didn’t even need to pull the puppy eyes.

“Sure, sounds fun.” He and Steve grinned at each other over Grace’s head.

“Maybe Kono can come over too and give you another surfing lesson,” Steve added.

“Uh, wait a minute...” Danny started to protest, but was interrupted by Grace clapping with glee.

“That would be so awesome, Uncle Steve! Ask her, please?” Grace loved Kono.

Steve chuckled. “Definitely. Sounds like a plan.”

“I can’t wait to see Danno on a surfboard,” Grace said, giving Danny a mischievous grin.

Danny groaned.

**

Danny and Grace went home to get their beach things, and then headed over to Steve’s house. After letting themselves in, they found Steve in the kitchen, wearing only a pair of board shorts and wiping his hands on a kitchen towel. On the counter were a large green salad, bowls of chips, and trays with burger fixings. There was even a pan of brownies in the oven, if the glorious smell of chocolate was anything to go by.

“Hi, Uncle Steve!” Gracie gave Steve a quick hug. “I got a new swim suit. It’s purple and ruffley. Is Kono here?” She didn’t even wait to hear the answer before running out the French doors to the back yard.

“Steve, quick, put this CD on.” Danny handed him a CD.

Steve eyed the cover. “Bon Jovi’s greatest hits?”

“I got blasted with One Direction all the way over. I need some aural therapy.”

Steve sniggered. “Sure thing,” he said, popping open the CD player. When the music started, he stood there looking off in the distance as if moved by the sound of angels. “I can see why you like this.”

“Hey, hey, don’t make fun of my tastes, Mr. ‘Sexy Eyes.’ You’re no one to talk. I practically have to use ear plugs when you play your music in the car.”

Steve cracked up. “Just kidding. Bon Jovi is awesome.”

“Quite a spread you got here. Is it just for us?” Danny asked.

“Yep. When I have people over, I like to go all out. I know Grace likes those brownies. There’s a touch of coconut that,” he kissed his fingers, “makes them out of this world.”

Danny was impressed. “I didn’t know you baked.”

“Well, it’s my mom’s recipe.” Steve busied himself with cutting the brownies. “Found her old collection of recipes in a drawer in the kitchen and I remembered these.”

“When’s Kono coming? Is she coming?” Danny asked. A part of him hoped she wasn’t, so he could avoid the promised surfing lesson.

Before Steve could answer, the woman herself sauntered in. “Hey guys,” Kono said. “The door was open. I figured you were in here.”

“We’re here, all right,” Steve said.

“Grace is already out back,” Danny said.

Kono shucked her gauzy white beach dress, took her towel and headed out. “Great. You guys coming out soon?”

Danny hadn’t changed yet. He was still in shorts and a shirt and his heart ratcheted up a notch as the prospect of surfing loomed closer. “Yeah, I’ll get changed and be out soon.”

“I just want to finish up a few more things in here and I’ll be right out,” Steve added, puttering around the kitchen.

“Yep, see you out there,” Kono replied as she swung out the door.

In the bathroom, Danny's head swam with dizziness and he leaned on the cool, solid top of the vanity for support. Get it together, Williams. He was living on a freaking island, for god’s sake, surrounded by water. Ocean; big, swelling waves. This was the world he lived in now, a world in which his friends’ and colleagues’ favorite element was water; he had to deal with it, for Grace’s sake if not his own.

As it had so often since that night long ago, his father’s face flashed before his eyes, contorted with emotion and flushed red, Danny’s soul shriveling to a hardened nub under the glare of his disappointment. He willed away the image, hastened by a splash of cold water from the sink. He forced himself to breathe deeply and slowly, the mantra the psychologist gave him all those years ago rising unbidden in his mind. He couldn’t tell if it did any good, but at least it gave him something to focus on other than the sickening spike of memory that threatened to blast his composure to pieces.

Grace couldn’t see him like this. For that matter, neither could Steve nor Kono. As he shed his clothes, he thought about Grace’s face when she was first born, all wrinkled and slippery, Rachel’s worn but happy face as she took the little bundle of Grace in her arms. It was a good antidote. By the time he had on his swimsuit, his heart had slowed down and he was able to face the others without becoming a basketcase.

**

When Danny got out to the beach, the hot sand slipping between his toes, Steve clapped him on the back and handed him a beer. “Here’s my man.” He clinked his bottle with Danny’s, his smile glaringly white in the sun. Danny still felt jittery. The most he could give Steve in return was a polite smile.

Kono already had Grace on her surfboard, practicing some moves in the shallow water. Fortunately, the water didn’t get deep here until quite a ways out, so Danny wasn’t that worried. For the moment. Still, his eyes kept returning to Grace in the water. Kono seemed very assured, as always.

“How long was Kono a pro surfer?” Danny asked Steve.

“Several years.” Steve closely regarded Danny’s face. “Come on, Danny, don’t worry. Grace is perfectly safe.”

“And you know this how? A typhoon could come up any moment. There could be an earthquake in the middle of the Pacific and we’d never know until it was too late.” Danny was working himself up. He could hear his voice getting louder. “Kono can’t control the waves. This stuff is unpredictable. Freaky acts of nature happen here all the time.”

Steve put a hand on Danny’s upper arm. “Danny, Danny, take it easy. Nothing’s going to happen. Look at the sky. Look at the ocean. It’s peaceful, no clouds, nothing unusual.”

Just like that morning when he and Mike had set out down the shore, piling into Mike’s rusty old Mustang and cranking up the Springsteen for a weekend of brews, babes and waves. The sun had been bright in a clear blue sky. The coins had pinged easily down the chute as they sped through the Thruway tollbooth.

“What, are you a weather guy now? SEALs get training in that too? I’m keeping an eye out just in case.” Danny took a long, bitter swallow of beer. He turned a beach chair into a position where he wasn’t facing the water but could still keep tabs on Gracie. He sat down, ready to spring up in a moment if Gracie needed help.

Steve just shook his head in a fond manner. “You’re ridiculous, you know that? I’m gonna start the burgers. Should be ready by the time Grace and Kono finish.”

Steve suddenly sounded far away. “Sure. Burgers. That’s good.” Danny’s voice didn’t feel like his own. He was cognizant that Grace and Kono were still in the shallows and Steve was hovering nearby, but it was all at a remove. His pulse raced and sweat gathered under his arms. He felt keenly the sun beating down on his shoulders; the sound of the waves crashing on the sand filled his ears, crowding out all other sounds. The same sensations of that long ago weekend; the same heat sinking into his skin, the same cold beer sliding down his throat; another best friend within hand’s reach.

“Danny. Hey.” Steve’s voice pierced the veil of his consciousness. Through half-closed eyes, Danny could sense something blocking out the sun: Steve standing in front of him. Then there was a hand on Danny’s shoulder: Steve, always with the touching. Like Mike.

Images flooded his mind: Mike at baseball practice, winking at Danny before he drove in two runs to win the game; Mike grinning and slipping him an extra large piece of cherry pie across the counter of the Weehawken Diner; wrestling in the sand on the beach, Mike’s laugh warming Danny all over; and finally, Mike’s face contorted in panic, arms flailing as he slipped under the waves, eyes already grey as the sea.

Fuck. Not again.

Danny jumped up, jerking himself back into the present, practically knocking into Steve, who caught his elbows before Danny could pitch right into him. Danny tried to force his heart rate down, gulped at the air to catch his breath. Steve’s hands on his elbows anchored him in place.

“Danny, damn it, what is it?”

“Nothing, nothing, it’s all right.” Danny shook him off, looking around to get his bearings. There was the ocean, reaching out to the horizon; Grace laughing as Kono steadied her on the board. He rubbed his face with his hands and kicked sand with his feet. “Forget about it, will ya? Can’t ever leave anything alone.”

Steve put a hand on Danny’s neck, settling him like a nervous horse. “It’s not alright, don’t give me that bull.” His fingers kneaded Danny’s taut muscles and some of the tension eased, for which Danny was grateful. Sometimes Steve was a pain in the ass and Danny wanted to kill him if he didn’t manage to get himself killed first, but there was never a time when Danny didn’t want him by his side.

Despite that, Danny couldn’t tell Steve what was wrong, at least not yet. If he were honest with himself, he was ashamed. He never claimed to be perfect and Steve knew him better than most people, but to reveal this part of his history felt like ripping the scab off a wound. He couldn’t chance it. It was a crack in the protective shell Danny walked around in all day and letting Steve in endangered the entire edifice. Danny looked down at the sand, took a deep breath. “I’m fine. It’s this strong sun, gives me sunstroke.”

“Danny.” Steve’s voice was soft. Danny could feel Steve’s eyes on him but he kept his gaze fixed on the pale sand at his feet.

Steve’s hand slipped away and he sighed. It was another moment before Steve spoke. “Okay. Listen, come back to the house with me. I need help with the burgers.” Steve took his arm and led him back to the house in an almost tender fashion, as if he were an invalid. Danny didn’t protest, but he looked back at Grace and Kono. “They’re fine, Danny. Kono’s a certified lifeguard and, as you know, a trained police officer.”

Danny glowered. “Just wait until you have a daughter, my friend. Then you’ll see. You can’t be too careful.”

“Danno, I don’t think anyone can compete with you in the overprotective father department.”

Danny snorted dismissively.

Walking helped clear his head. By the time they were back inside gathering the food, Danny was feeling more like himself.

**

Steve threw some burgers on the grill, along with corn on the cob and slices of zucchini. “I know you don’t want to talk about it now.” He gestured at Danny with his spatula. “But I’m here for you, Danno. Whenever you decide you want to talk, I’m here.”

Of course Steve knew Danny was hiding something. It was obvious in the way he held Danny’s gaze just like he was trying to ferret information out of a suspect. Danny wasn’t exactly surprised but it was the last thing he wanted to talk about with Steve, him with his sneaky SEAL ways. He’d never talked about it with anyone except the psychologist, not after the police took his statement. And he only went to the psychologist three times, feeling like there was no point. It just made everything hurt more.

He and Mike had been only seventeen when it happened. His father had been angry, so angry, and Danny had been sad and ashamed. His mother had tried to talk to Danny, her face all patient understanding, but Danny didn’t want to, couldn’t face it. And Mike’s family... That had been the worst.

Something must have shown in his eyes because Steve put down the spatula and opened his arms. “Come ‘ere.”

Somehow he knew that letting Steve hug him might erode his painstakingly built barriers. The space where Mike had been in Danny’s psyche was still there, empty and aching, but now it was covered with a thick layer of scar tissue. Looking at Steve’s open arms and soft expression, he could feel the tight angry ball of feelings already begin to unravel.

So he stepped into Steve’s arms, let Steve pull him into a hug. At first, it was awkward, their arms stiff. Danny tried a bit of manly backslapping, unsure of how to proceed, but then Steve’s arms came to rest firmly around his shoulders. His touch was surprisingly gentle. Steve was shirtless from the beach and his bare skin was warm. Danny almost let go a sigh, found himself leaning into Steve’s broad, welcoming chest. They seemed to fit together naturally, Danny’s head just the right height to nestle into Steve’s shoulder. The tight ball loosened a bit more.

“I’m here for you, Danny,” Steve said softly into Danny’s hair. Danny could feel the rumble of his voice through his chest.

“I know.” Danny’s lips almost grazed Steve’s warm, bare skin.

Then the grill hissed and they both started, some of the awkwardness returning as Steve pulled away to attend to it. Danny felt oddly bereft. For a few minutes, they stood there together, quietly sipping their beer, not needing to say anything else for the moment. The familiar terror clawing Danny’s insides was less sharp.

He watched Steve’s face as he cooked, checking the underside of the meat and vegetables and carefully turning them. His features were at ease right now, but he knew Steve had his own demons, plenty of them, probably more than Danny. Which is why he felt like such a wimp that he couldn’t beat this thing on his own. He’d tried and failed, he might as well face that fact.

Steve threw him a grin. “How ya doing there? Ready for another round?”

Danny smiled back. “Sure.” He put a hand on Steve’s back, just for a moment, the touch grounding him.

“Okay, well, I’m gonna go grab a couple more. Make sure nothing burns.” Steve smirked.

“Hey, I know my way around a grill,” Danny replied.

**

In the few minutes Steve was gone, Danny pondered what had just happened. The comfort he’d felt in the shelter of Steve’s arms radiated to his core, unlocking a door that had been firmly shut long ago. No friend had ever asked him about it before, not really. His high school friends had had the maturity of ten-year-olds and couldn’t even look him in the eye. Later in life, people didn’t know what had happened, didn’t know there was a festering sore at the heart of Danny’s soul. Steve was giving him a chance to talk about it and maybe he should take it, maybe unburdening himself would help. He was sick and tired of this thing hanging around his neck like a hundred pound weight. Steve had seen a lot in life, had been through a lot of his own trauma and heartbreak. And he was Danny’s best friend. There was also Grace to consider. Could he really truly be there for her with this unhealed wound dragging him down?

When Steve returned with the beer, Danny gathered himself to tell the story. “You better sit down,” he told Steve, gesturing to a chair. “This might take a while.” He took a sip from the beer to fortify himself. “Mike was my best friend in high school.”

Steve was all ears. He scooted his chair closer to Danny, put a hand on his knee. “Go on.”

“He loved to surf. Bet you didn’t know you could surf in New Jersey. But you can. Some pretty good surfing too.”

“Yeah? Sounds like you know more about it than you let on.”

“Yeah. I do.” Danny took a deep breath. His stomach clenched at the thought of Mike, how young and vibrant he was. “Me and Mike used to surf a lot. Well, whenever we could. He was better than me.” The memories rolled in, vague at first, details emerging gradually. He hadn’t allowed himself to remember it fully in a long time.

He soldiered on. “It was the first weekend we could get away that summer. We’d been talking about it for ages.” Danny paused, remembering the welter of confusing emotions he felt around Mike. At the time, a weekend alone with Mike was a dream come true. He’d been almost too excited to sleep the night before they left. “We drove down the shore - Mike had this great old Mustang convertible, I think it was his dad’s from the seventies.”

“I’d like to drive that,” Steve said.

“Mike wouldn’t let anyone lay a finger on that baby. Anyway, we lucked out with the weather and the surf was perfect, at least in the morning.” Danny had been a beginner compared to Mike, but he was good enough to enjoy himself. “But by the afternoon, the wind was picking up and the waves were a lot bigger. I bagged it, but Mike wanted to try one last run.” Danny’s throat thickened at the memory. Why hadn’t he made Mike turn in?

“What happened?” Steve said, his voice gentle.

Danny heaved a big sigh. “I don’t know exactly. Afterward they said he hit his head on a rock under the water. One minute he was up on the board and the next he was in the water. I saw his head bob up once, then a huge wave crashed over him and he didn’t come up right away.” Danny had watched from the beach, expecting Mike to pop up any second. He wasn’t worried because Mike always acted like he knew exactly what he was doing. Big and strong, he’d seemed invulnerable. But as the seconds ticked by, Danny started to panic.

“I ran into the water and swam as hard as I could, but the waves kept pushing me back. Finally I saw him come back up, but I don’t know, something wasn’t right. He wasn’t swimming, his arms were flailing in the water and he was gasping for breath. When I tried to get to him, I started swallowing water and then a big wave took me under.”

“The next thing I knew, I was on the beach and someone was giving me mouth-to-mouth.” By that time, rain was pouring down in heavy pelts. Danny remembered feeling like he was still in the water, cold and sopping wet even though he was on solid ground. “I asked where Mike was and nobody said anything, but there was an ambulance and they were carrying away a stretcher with a blanket over it.”

Danny slumped heavily. “He died. I tried to help him, but I couldn’t get to him. I should have done something, I should’ve made him come in.” His throat was raw and sore and his breath came in shudders, remembering the black hole he’d fallen into after Mike died. He had a summer job lined up with a yard work company and he was grateful for the physical labor. He’d fallen exhausted into his bed at the end of the day, sometimes not even taking the time to eat dinner.

At the moment, his eyes were trained on Steve’s knees, unable to look up as he waited for the judgment he knew was coming.

Instead he got words of understanding. “Danny, listen to me. It wasn’t your fault. It was an accident,” Steve said forcefully. He pulled his chair close so their knees were up against each other and looked intently into Danny’s eyes. “You were a kid.”

“I know, but I’ve never been able to shake the feeling that it was my fault,” Danny said, low and intense. “That I could’ve saved him if only I’d been a stronger swimmer, if I’d seen the rock, if I’d somehow known it was a bad spot for surfing.” He’d heard the words in his head a million times, but saying them out loud to Steve made them sound less convincing.

Steve shook Danny’s leg with his hand. “No, Danny. You couldn’t have known, come on.”

Danny closed his eyes against his battling emotions. Cold, hard logic couldn’t budge the image of his father shouting in his face, the sad, accusatory eyes of Mike’s parents. “The rational part of me knows that. But ever since that day, I can’t go in the water. I can’t go near it.”

Steve took hold of his hand and squeezed. “Danno, you need to let go of this. Listen, I’ve had buddies die on me. It hurts like hell, but you can’t blame yourself. You remember the good times and you move on.”

Good times. He and Mike had plenty of them. By shoving everything about Mike into a dark hole of painful memory, he’d almost forgotten. In their own fumbling, awkward teenage way, they’d loved each other.

“Do you think Mike would want you to suffer like this for his sake?” Steve continued. “I don’t think so. He’d want you to enjoy life, to feel good about yourself. Think about the life you have now, in this beautiful place, a wonderful daughter, a job where you help people, and good friends besides. Focus on that.”

Danny looked down at his legs. He just wanted to lie down and go to sleep. Steve chucked him on the chin to make him look up. “You hear me? You had a traumatic experience. It sounds like you need some help. It’s nothing to be ashamed of.” Steve leaned back in his chair and took a swig of beer, looking off to the side before returning his attention to Danny. “You don’t need to suffer like this. I’ll help you get help.”

Danny swallowed over a dry, prickly throat. He remembered he had a bottle of beer in his hand and took a drink. He was tired, so tired, of thinking about this. Maybe Steve was right, it was time to let go. “Maybe.”

“What you mean, maybe? I’m not gonna take no for an answer. We’ll find someone you can talk to,” Steve continued. “You need help, Danny. If not for yourself, for Grace.”

Ouch. “You had to bring Grace into it, didn’t you?” Part of him knew Steve was right. Maybe he could try for Grace’s sake.

“But you should do it for yourself. And me.” Steve ventured a small grin. “Because I want to see your surfing moves, buddy. I bet you’d look mighty fine on a board. I want to show you my favorite surfing spots.”

Danny took a shaky breath. “I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to talk to somebody,” he said softly. He squeezed Steve’s hand. “Okay. I’ll give it a shot. But don’t expect me to get back out there anytime soon.”

Steve looked serious again. “Don’t worry. I know these things take time. I know a good psychologist who’s helped some of my SEAL buddies. I’ve even seen her a couple of times.”

“Seriously? I can’t see you on the couch.”

“Yeah, me, Danny. Aren’t you always saying I’m crazy?” They both laughed. “It’s not easy being human. And that’s all any of us are, people with flaws, who make mistakes and who hurt. All we can do is help each other over the rough parts and hold on for the ride until the good times come again. And they will. They always do.”

Danny looked off to the beach where Kono and Grace were laughing and heading back to the house to join them. “Yeah, I suppose you’re right. They always do.”

Tags: gen, pg, round 3
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