Family Matters

by Jane Davitt

Steve's been expecting the knock on the door -- something tells him that tonight Danny won't just walk in, sure of a welcome. Danny's too ashamed of what his brother did, what he did to all of them. He's been expecting it for the last two hours, though and it bugs him that Danny's been alone all this time when he needed someone to talk to.

He opens the door and Danny's standing too far away, as if he'd knocked, then stepped back, about to run. Steve says Danny's name under his breath, impatient, fond, and drags him inside, his arm looped around Danny's shoulders. This close, he can feel the way that Danny's holding everything in, that his muscles are locked tight to stop the shaking.

And he smells of perfume. Classy, expensive. Rachel.

It makes perfect sense that Danny would go to her. She's still family and this is a family matter. He should be glad that Danny hasn't been alone, but though part of him is, there's more of him that's wondering what more he can do to make Danny see that there's nothing he wouldn't do to help, nothing. Danny like this -- God, the dazed look in his eyes alone is enough to make Steve hurt every time he sees it, and he can't take his eyes off Danny, so he's seeing it a lot right now.

"I couldn't shoot him," Danny says, standing in the middle of the family room as if he's forgotten what chairs and couches are for.

"He's gone?" Steve asks, though he knows the answer.

Danny nods, his head moving up and down, the motion repeated too many times before he realizes what he's doing and stops abruptly. "I couldn't shoot him," he repeats.

Steve comes closer, close enough to touch Danny's arm, bring him out of the nightmare. He doesn't know what happened, but he's fairly sure that it wasn't as clear-cut a choice as Danny's making out. Things never are. They're messy, always. It doesn't matter. What's done is done, and now they deal with the fallout, the same as always.

"I thought about it," Danny says in that dry wisp of a voice, cracked and husky. He's cried, Steve realizes, seeing the marks on Danny's cheek. Even water, clear, pure water, leaves traces behind when it dries, and tears are clogged thick with emotion, dirty water. Steve fights back a spurt of anger that Danny had to cry in front of Rachel, who's already left his dignity in the fucking dust, but he shakes it off. Divorces are messy, fucked-up affairs. No one emerges a winner, not really.

"I could've put a bullet in his arm, in his leg. I was close. I wouldn't have missed."

Steve shakes his head. "You're going to risk that? With your brother? I don't think so."

He pictures Danny's finger on the trigger, the panicked jerk at the last possible second, the bullet flying wild, and shudders.

"I think even if I'd shot him, he'd have kept going inside that plane, even if he had to crawl, and there was this fence, I couldn't reach --" Danny's hands rise to sketch out the fence, then fall again. "This is so screwed up."

"Yeah," Steve agrees. "It is."

Danny's eyes focus on him for the first time. "And you're in trouble, too. Those Feds --"

Steve shrugs. He's dealt with worse. The phone call from them when they realized they'd been duped had been bitterly angry and peppered with threats, but he'd admitted to nothing, allowed no satisfaction to show. It'd been easy, because he didn't feel any. Matthew Williams should be in a cell right now. It doesn't sit well with Steve that he isn't.

"He's your brother," Steve says. "Family matters. It's okay, Danny. I've got your back."

He doesn't know what it is that he said or did, but Danny breaks, stumbling into his arms like a hurt child seeking comfort, his tears hot and salt, soaking into Steve's shoulder. Danny's done this already tonight, Steve knows it, and he wonders what happened with Rachel when the hug ended and the tears stopped falling.

It's not really important. Steve knows what he's going to do and that's all that matters.

He tightens his arms and runs his hand over Danny's bright hair, breathing in what's under the perfume, the mix of scents that make up Danny, day in, day out. He waits for Danny to relax enough that it's not like hugging a robot, smiling when it happens and Danny's body yields, surrenders the tension, and begins to accept the reassurance he's offering. He's crooning nonsense that neither of them is listening to without noticing what he's doing, repetitive comfort, a lullaby of love and concern. It becomes Danny's name, over and over, until Danny lifts his head and meets Steve's eyes.

He could kiss him now. Could offer Danny the comfort of a body, a climax, a punching bag -- whatever Danny needs. And he'd lose any chance to make this happen between them the way that he wants it to because Danny would never forget how it began. He sees that realization dawn in Danny's eyes, the sure and certain knowledge of just how much more than a shoulder to cry on Steve's offering, and he sees enough to give him hope that maybe...

"Thanks," Danny says quietly. "For all of it. Thanks."

Steve breaks the hug, because he's so close to snatching that kiss and the hell with it all that he can feel his lips part, ready for Danny's tongue to slide between them.

"Yeah, well, no problem. You, uh, want a beer?"

"Sure," Danny says, still quiet, as if he's thinking about what just happened. "A beer sounds good."

Steve smiles the best he can, and gets them both a beer, nursing his in case he has to drive Danny home.

Danny went to Rachel first, and he understands that, he does -- but whatever happened between them, and he's never going to ask, Danny's ended up here.

Steve's a competitive kind of guy, but this is one time that he doesn't mind being last.

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