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Equilibrium

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Steve stares at the report he needs to finish, but his mind is occupied by the talk he had with Danny a few weeks ago. The news that Danny was worried about him to the point of not sleeping at night left Steve shaken to the core, and it didn’t change at all even after all these weeks. He knows that Danny worries about him constantly; he makes that much obvious with his actions and his rants but this kind of worry was on an entirely different level, and Steve’s not sure if anyone ever was scared for his wellbeing like that, his own family included.

After their heart to heart, Steve decided to watch Danny closer ashamed that he didn’t pick on his partner distress. What he found terrified him, every time he caught Danny looking at him, the skin around his eyes tight with worry, the resigned slouch of his shoulders and the sad twist of his lips caused Steve’s chest to tighten painfully.

Because apparently, their talk didn’t placate Danny like Steve hoped but made it a whole lot worse instead.

Steve touches his abdomen where he was shot three weeks ago and the wound, almost healed now, itches under his fingertips. He squeezes his eyes for a moment and takes a deep breath. Nothing absolutely nothing could prepare Steve for the terrified expression on Danny's face when he was shot there. That look haunted Steve in his sleep. The sheer terror in those blue eyes, trembling lips when Danny shouted his name with desperation, his pale exterior. He looked like he was about to shatter into thousand little pieces and Steve was the one responsible for it. It scared Steve that someone cared about him so intensely. He wanted to pull Danny close, say to him that he’ll be more careful next time, wipe the worry away from his face but he didn’t, and he watched day by day how that worry was eating Danny alive.

He glances down at his report and with a sigh finishes it because it’s Friday and He and Danny are the only ones left in here. He dismissed the rest of the team, Danny included, but his partner refused to go saying that someone needs to keep an eye on him to finish all the paperwork, which wasn’t the real reason at all but Steve didn’t argue with him.

Once the report is ready, Steve gets up and makes his way to Danny’s office. He slows down his pace when he catches Danny’s slumped form through the blinds. He sucks in a breath because it’s all kinds of wrong for his partner to be so still. Danny is a constant motion and loud mouthed attitude not the exhausted line of his shoulders and resigned arch of his back.

Looking at him like that breaks Steve’s heart, and he knows that since the kids are with Rachel for the weekend, Danny will be all alone and most likely won’t sleep at all.

So he braces himself and opens the door to Danny’s office with more force than he anticipated. The blinds flutter in the wind he caused with his entrance.

Danny looks up at him utterly unamused. He’s so pale that the dark circles under his eyes look like bruises and Steve has to swallow a sudden lump in his throat.

Danny blinks at him then glances at the door and sighs. “I swear to God, Steve you need to control your freakish strength a bit more because I like this door, and if you destroy it you’ll pay for the repairs.”

Steve smiles leaning on the doorjamb, “I’ll write it off as expenses.”

Danny rolls his eyes. “Of course you will.” He flicks his hand but it’s sluggish at best, not the usual flail he does it with. “So what can I do for you? If you say that I have to finish your paperwork, I swear I’ll smack you over the head with my laptop.”

Steve huffs out a laugh, the knot in his gut loosens up a bit. “Grace and Charlie are with Rachel for the weekend, right?” Steve asks and waits for the answer he already knows.

Danny doesn’t reply right away, and the silence is too heavy for Steve to bear, but then Danny looks up at him again and nods so he walks into his office, rounds the desk and sits on the edge of it right next to Danny’s elbow. “Want to come by and drink some beer? There’s a game going on TV later, too.”

Danny looks at him, quirking his head to the side. “Yeah, sure, why not.”

“Yeah?” Steve grins, and Danny gives him an exhausted smile.

“Yeah, I finished anyway.”

“Come on then.”

Steve all but jumps off the desk causing Danny to shake his head at him.

~~*~~

Once they exit the Iolani Palace they go straight for the Camaro and before Steve can say something Danny hands him the keys and without a word, he goes straight to the passenger seat.

Steve stands there, with the keys, suddenly feeling cold because Danny must be more tired than he thought if he willingly gave Steve his permission to drive his car. He eventually walks up to the Camaro, opens the door and gets in.

Danny has already the seatbelt on. His head lolls to the side, and he blinks at Steve when he’s inside. “Took you long enough. Did you have a sudden epiphany on the mystery of the Universe or something?” He smiles at him but it’s a shadow of his real one, and Steve realizes how much he needs Danny to give him a beaming smile that lights his whole face up.

The silence stretches and Danny looks at him expectantly.

“Kind of, yes,” Steve says not really looking at his partner.

Danny hums, and that’s pretty much it. He’s eerily silent the rest of the way to Steve’s house, and it worries Steve even more because his partner is apparently on the verge of being sick from all the worrying and Steve can’t have that.

~~*~~

When he finally pulls over Danny is out of the car before the engine is even off and promptly gives Steve a heart attack when he dangerously sways on his feet.

He jumps out of the car like it’s on fire to help him, but Danny’s already unlocking the door and coming inside to disarm the alarm.

Steve almost stumbles at the easy familiarity he does it with. It shouldn’t surprise Steve that much because he let himself into Danny’s house in a similar manner many times, but having Danny who’s tired beyond belief going into his home like it was his own, trusting and comfortable, moves something in Steve he can’t quite understand, yet.

He hears a loud bark and a thud and all but runs into the house only to stop in the threshold to the sight of Danny flat on his ass with Eddie all over him, licking at his face and barking happily.

Steve freezes, taking the scene in and when Danny laughs, tired but happy he’s not ready for the painful throb in his heart.

“I love you, too buddy,” Danny says kissing Eddie on the snout, his nose and between his eyes and Eddie gives as good as he gets, nuzzling into Danny’s neck.

Steve mind shuts down for a second, and he just looks, trying to commit that view to his memory. “You ok there, partner?” He finally asks, and Eddie looks up at him the same moment Danny does and maybe he shouldn’t compare Danny to a dog but they both have what Steve could only call a dopey smile on their faces, and he can’t help the grin that stretches his mouth in response to that.

“Come on, Eddie, go to your dad, I need to sit on something that isn’t floor, not that it’s not comfy, but the couch is much more preferable.” Danny ushers Eddie to him, giving his belly one last rub before he hefts himself up.

He goes to the couch on shaky legs, and Steve watches him like a hawk, ready to catch his friend if he keels over but he successfully makes it, and Steve let’s out a breath he didn’t know he was keeping in.

Eddie barks at him and his attention goes back to his dog, he kneels down to scratch him behind the ears.

“Missed me?”

Eddie licks him on the cheek in answer, his tail wagging a mile a minute. Steve smiles because it's impossible not to and he glances at Danny only to catch him looking at them with a fond smile streching his lips.

“Beer?” He asks, and Danny nods turning back to the TV, smile still firmly in place.

Steve stands up and goes into the kitchen, his emotions astray. He feels like he’s on a rollercoaster and it’s scary to feel so much and not be able to identify half of what it is. He’s terrified about the future, he wants to grow old with a family of his own, but he also knows that it’s wishful thinking on his part. The Doctor was clear enough about this, and he had a hunch that maybe Danny knew about that, too.

He opens the refrigerator and takes out two Longboards trying to steer his thoughts in other directions but to no avail. He’s worried about Danny being concerned about him as absurd as it sounded, it scares him that there’s someone who cares so much about him and it scares him even more that he cares about someone like that, too.

He leans his forehead on the cool metal for a second and when he shakes out of his reverie he goes back into the living room. He stops dead in his track when he looks up and finds Danny curled in the corner of the couch with his head on the armrest and arm thrown around Eddie who’s head is snuggled under Danny’s chin. Danny is smiling softly, worry lines smoothed out and Steve needs to lean on a wall to keep himself up.

Eddie blinks at Steve, and Danny hums nuzzling closer, tucking his nose into Eddie’s fur.

Steve doesn't know how long he stares, but eventually he comes closer, he puts the bottles on the coffee table as quietly as he can and takes out his phone.

He’s not sure about the need to take photos at all, but before he realizes he already has a bunch of them, probably more than strictly necessary. He doesn't have much time to think about it because his attention snaps back to Danny when he grunts in his sleep and Steve kneels beside him in an instant, ready to wake him up and put him to bed. He moves his hand up, and it hovers over Danny’s shoulder for a second.

There’s a wild strand of hair over Danny’s eyes, and it’s so unusual that Steve just moves his palm over and takes the hair out of his face, fingertips brushing his cheek. He startles when Danny nuzzles into his hand, letting out a soft, keening sound.

He blinks stupidly for a second or two until Eddie whines at him. He moves his hand to curl it around Danny’s nape, and then he flicks his ear with his thumb.

After a moment Danny stirs.

“Come on, buddy we’ll put you in bed.”

Danny looks at him blearily and nods weakly.

He’s warm and pliant under Steve’s hands when he pulls him up. He sways on his feet, and when Steve steadies him, Danny just tucks his nose in Steve’s collarbone and slumps there. The burst of fondness Steve feels at that almost sweeps him off his feet.

~~*~~

He moves his partner upstairs careful about the steps and leads him into the bedroom. He helps him remove his shirt and pants and steers him to the bed gently pushing him down. Danny doesn’t protest, and it’s a testament to how exhausted he must be to let himself be manhandled like that. He watches as Danny steals his side of the bed making himself comfortable there.

Like he belongs.

His epiphany is broken by Eddie who barrels into the room almost knocking Steve off.

The dog jumps on the bed, crawls under the sheets and lies down by Danny’s belly. Danny scoots closer circling his arm around him, nuzzling his face into the fur and sighing with content.

Steve feels something big and hot unfurl in his chest that makes him almost drowsy, he removes his clothes in a haze before he goes under the duvet. He doesn’t know what to make out of the swirl of emotions he feels or why he didn’t put Danny in the guest room or why he decided to lie right there next to him.

~~*~~

He falls asleep few hours later only to be woken up by the sun peeking through the window. He feels heavy, and when he glances down, he sees a mop of blonde hair and feels a stubble scratching his collarbone. Danny’s arm is thrown over Steve’s chest, their legs tangled and Steve blinks at his partner owlishly.

Danny grunts, nuzzling his nose into the hollow of Steve’s throat and Steve is surprised at the giggle that springs free from his throat. He feels a grin on his skin, and when he glances down, Danny’s looking at him like it was normal for them to wake up in the same bed on a lazy Saturday morning. Danny just smiles at Steve before he yawns and rolls over to lie on his back. He stretches like a big cat until his spine pops. He lets out a sound that Steve classifies as borderline indecent. He notes that the whole situation is weird, almost surreal but there’s a strange feeling of rightness to this, especially when Eddie runs into the room, jumps on the bed and greets Danny with kisses.

And Danny laughs, less exhausted now and it’s the best sound Steve heard in a long time.

“Ok, I’m going to take a shower and you two freaks of nature go for your daily swim or run or whatever tremendous exercise you’re doing in the morning. I’ll make some breakfast in the meantime.” Danny says getting up from the bed.

Steve nods, and when Danny disappears into the bathroom, he lets out a long sigh and throws an arm around his eyes. His chest is too tight as he tries to make sense of his feelings.

He’s not sure it’s possible.

Chapter Text

Steve listens to the Doctor halfheartedly too focused on Danny and what he should do to brighten his partner up, ease some of the worry weighing his shoulders.

Danny was ready to change for him, which quite frankly was the last thing Steve would ever want. Still, the extent of what Danny would go for him probably would never cease to amaze and terrify Steve in equal measures.

He knows that if their roles were reversed Steve would be precisely where Danny is now, and that’s rather scary on itself since he always tried to keep people at a distance. Close enough to be able to work with them but not close enough to get attached.

With Danny, it was hard not to. He couldn’t help getting closer to him, and he’s still not sure what he did to deserve such an amazing person in his life.

He knows that without Danny Williams he would be lost, treading blindly in a fog that became his life.

The Doctor clears his throat, staring at Steve with a raised brow.

Steve grunts and changes his position on the chair, trying to give an air of a person who didn’t space out for the last 10 minutes or so.

“Are you with me now, Commander?”

He failed miserably, apparently. “Yes, I’m sorry I got lost in thoughts for a second.”

The Doctor nods at him knowingly, “it’s understandable.”

Steve gives him a sharp nod desperately trying to will down his flight or fight instinct.

The man looks at his papers then at Steve. “As I was saying your blood work looks promising and there are no signs of the poisoning affecting the rest of the body as for now. We’ll keep the current dose of your medication since it looks like it helps.”

“I understand, is that all?” Steve asks glancing at the clock hanging up on the wall behind the Doctor’s back. It’s already past his appointment.

The man sighs. “Yes, I believe it is.”

Steve stands up and goes to the exit giving the man a nod before he steps out of the room. He comes out of the Office slightly less worried but worried none the less.

“So what’s the verdict?”

Steve almost stumbles at the familiar voice but years as Navy SEAL prevent him from that, it’s a close call though; he looks up, and sure enough, Danny is sitting in the waiting room, a newspaper in hand which Steve realizes Danny holds upside down, and a worried frown on his face.

Steve notes the tension in his partner shoulders and the minute tremble of his hands.

“I… what… what are you doing here?” He hisses, and Danny gives him an unimpressed look.

“What do you think?” He shakes his head, “you’ll tell me what the nice Doc told you—”

“Danny.”

“Don’t Danny me, Steven,” Danny says pointing a finger at him. “You’ll tell me, or I’ll go there,” he whispers, “and I’ll use everything I learned from you over the years and interrogate him if I have to because I...”

Steve opens his mouth, taking a step back only to knock into something behind him. He realizes a notch too late that this something is the Doctor who apparently wanted to see what the ruckus was all about.

“Is everything alright?”

Danny stands up extending his hand and smiling sweetly; he looks like Kono for one terrifying second and Steve knows that this particular smile in her repertoire meant trouble, it’s strange seeing that smile on Danny’s face.

“Hello, I’m Detective Danny Williams I’m Steve’s –“

 “Partner. Yes, I know.” The doctor shakes Danny’s hand.

Steve has a distinct impression that the man thinks about a different kind of partner from the way he said it.

Wouldn’t be the first time.

“So how is it?” Danny asks crossing his arms over the chest, but soon enough one hand is gesticulating wildly, not as much as usual but decidedly better than that Friday night a week ago.

“He’s better; his results look promising.”

Steve gawks at the Doctor, but before he can protest Danny looks at him sharply and any words he had on his tongue die in his throat.

“For now what about the long-term effects?” Danny asks, his jaw set.

The doctor shakes his head. “Unfortunately we can’t predict that it can be a few months or few years before any serious effects of radiation will appear.”

Danny looks briefly at Steve, “anything I can do?”

The doctor shakes his head again, and Steve feels like he swallowed a ton of rocks when he sees the desperation on Danny's face and then the disappointment twisting his mouth.

“It’ll be a rocky road; he’ll need all the support he can get.”

Danny smiles, “It’s been rocky with him from the start.” He grins at Steve’s offended face. “But I was in it for a long haul since the beginning; there’s no way he’s going to get rid of me so easily.”

Steve swallows staring at Danny in shock. He shouldn’t be surprised, not really because Danny never did anything by half but hearing it out loud was a different matter entirely.

“It’s good he has people like that around him, then.” The man pauses scrutinizing Danny. “He’s good for now, and there’s a good chance that it will be better still.”

Danny looks a little bit relieved at that. He turns his head to Steve, smiles broad and gorgeous and when he opens his arms, “come here you big goof.” Steve goes right into those waiting arms on autopilot. The moment Danny’s scent hit his nose he sags into the embrace, feeling so much better now.

They would probably stand like that for God knows how long if not for the Doctor clearing his throat.

Steve pulls out embarrassed, and the man looks amused. “Until next visit, Steve.”

“Yes, thanks, doc.” His voice is raspy with emotion and Doctor smiles at him softly before he disappears into his office.

“Come on Steve. We have a crime scene to go to.”

“My truck –”

“We can pick it up later now come on.”

~~*~~

They go for the Camaro, and Steve can’t quite take it anymore, “what the hell was that?”

Danny doesn’t look at him, his head is tilted down, and he’s fumbling for the keys.

“Danny, what were you thinking?” Steve’s angry but not as much as he should and when Danny finally meets his eyes, all that anger disappears in an instant. Danny’s eyes are bloodshot something he omitted earlier, the fear and resignation so evident it’s painful to watch, so Steve casts his eyes down.

“I needed to,” Danny says it’s so quiet, Steve barely hears that over the blood pulsing in his ears.

He nods and takes the offered keys.

The ride is silent, and he glances at Danny waiting for the bombshell to drop. Ever since that night in his house, Steve tried to make sense out of his emotions, but he wasn’t even remotely close to it. He’s glad that Junior was out of the Island then because Steve wasn’t ready for the questions that would most likely follow.

He feels like he’s trapped in a loop, he doesn’t know what to do with Danny, how to ease some of his worries. The stunt from earlier was kind of shocking, but on the other hand, Steve couldn’t blame Danny, not after seeing his partner dead tired from all that concern barely a week ago and the haunted look in his eyes he has now. So he turns a blind eye on Danny’s ambush in the waiting hall and tries to move on.

Danny eventually turns to look at him. “So…”

Steve gulps trying to focus on the road instead of his stomach which is twisted into knots. “Danny.” He grips the steering wheel tighter than necessary.

Danny sighs, “just talk to me, Steve.”

And Steve does. He tells Danny that he’s afraid, that he’s worried about Danny, about his wish to have a family and the implications of the radiation poisoning in future generations, he tells him everything, and Danny listens, frowning and gnawing at his lips. When he finishes, Danny is silent for a long moment.

“It frustrates me,” Danny says eventually. He sounds resigned and angry, his hands clenched into fists, knuckles white from the force behind it.

Steve waits for Danny to continue but he’s quiet, so he asks. “What?”

He knows the answer to that already, Danny’s actions speak volumes, so it’s hard not to, but he waits anyway.

Danny turns his face to the window; eyes closed shut. “That I can’t do anything to help you. I feel helpless, and the thought that one day you might not be here…” He laughs, hollow and wet. “It kills me.” Danny looks at him earnestly, “a few years back you took over my life, and I hated you with gusto… at first but then… then before I knew what the hell happened, I couldn’t imagine my life without you in it.”

Steve feels like he’s drowning, the air is cold and his heart too erratic. Danny always made him feel things, too much and too big and he should be ready for it, but every time he’s caught off guard.

Every damn time.

“And if I could do something… I don’t know… give you my blood if that would help…. If that helped you, I would donate my whole blood to replace the affected one. I would do it in a heartbeat.” Danny continues unperturbed, and it’s too much and too fast.

“Danny you already gave me your liver…” Steve chokes out not sure what to say in the face of such devotion.

Danny snorts, “and I would give the rest of my organs, too, so you better stay alive and out of harm way, ok?”

Steve looks at Danny and nods not trusting his voice anymore.

~~*~~

He’s running after their suspect, man responsible for killing four people, and he’s just a few feet behind him.

He just needs to push a little bit more. A few more feet and he’ll have him, but then Gregovic turns around, and Steve knows that he’s going to shoot at him, so Steve pulls his gun up to shoot first. He knows he’s too slow when he sees the barrel of a machine gun, but he thinks that he’ll be able to make it, anyway.

“Steve! Duck!” Danny shouts somewhere from the right, his voice tight with desperation but also a hint of authority that Steve didn’t really expect from his partner.

There’s a split of a second when he hesitates, he just needs to take a shot and be done with it, but his body reacts to the order hidden in Danny’s voice.

He jumps to the left to hide behind a low wall. His jump is a little bit off, and he hits his head, he feels dizzy for a moment, but it clears out when he hears the telltale sound of pulling the trigger. He watches in horror as a hail of bullets goes where he was just a mere second ago. Even if he shot at their suspect, he would be full of bullet holes by then.

The shots end as abruptly as they started, he waits a moment before he heaves himself up to glance over the wall. Gregovic is lying on his stomach, a single bullet hole in the side of his head.

Steve blinks and looks to the right following the bullet trajectory. He catches a glimpse of Danny on the edge of the rooftop of one store building few yards away; his gun still pointed at their perp.

Danny slowly lowers the gun and looks at him with wide eyes, his hair totally messed up.

Before Steve can comprehend what’s happening, Danny is jumping from the roof on the container below, and then at the ground, he doesn’t lose his momentum at all, just runs up to Steve like he had hellhounds hot on his heels.

“Steve!” Danny kneels beside him, checking him for injuries, hands hovering over his arms and face.

“I’m fine.”

Danny shakes his head, eyes wild and terrified when he reaches for Steve forehead where he bumped his head.

Steve catches his wrists. “Danny I’m fine.”

Danny sucks in a breath and bites his lower lip. “You always say that, forgive me if I don’t exactly trust you with that.” He tries to pull his hands away but Steve holds him tighter, he feels the erratic pulse under his fingertips.

“Danno, I’m fine,” Steve says letting him go.

Danny stares at him, naked fear giving way to something akin to wonder mixed with disbelief. “You listened.”

Steve nods, “I did.”

His partner sags on the pavement, tension leaving his shoulders. “Fuck you listened… thank God.” He says with relief, and Steve is glad that he did listen afterall.

“You’re still going to get checked,” Danny mumbles glancing at him from under his fringe.

Steve opens his mouth, but Danny covers his lips with his hand and points a finger between his eyes. “No, nope. You’re going to be looked over, and that’s final.”

Steve slumps on the wall and nods.

The rest of the team catches up to them, and Tani pats Danny on the shoulder, grinning from ear to ear, “that was one hell of a shot.” She says, and Steve agrees.

Danny shrugs, “I learned from the best.” He raises his brow at Steve.

“I always knew—” Steve starts, but Danny interrupts him.

“I meant Kono.”He says with a glint in his eye, and Steve snorts.

Lou grins shaking his head when he steps closer, “seriously though, you spent too much time with McGarrett. Climbing on a building is more of our fearless leader thing than yours.”

Danny laughs, “yes I must’ve finally catch his insanity.” He says that with fondness and Steve can’t help grinning.

Junior claps Danny on the back, “you would make a great SEAL, sir.”

Danny laughs harder, the fear on his face disappearing altogether, “oh hell, no!”

~~*~~

The case is closed, and they’re celebrating in some bar near the beach. Steve watches Danny, slumped on the chair but it’s relaxed rather than exhausted and Steve can’t stop looking at the lazy smile and the half-lidded glances Danny shots him from time to time.

“—eve.”

Jerry says something, and Danny laughs, the lines around his eyes crinkling and Steve itches to touch them, make sure that it's not worry in disguise. He feels something warm he can’t identify at the sight, but it’s nice, nothing like the concern he felt those few weeks ago when Danny could barely stand.

“—teve.”

He hears Charlie happy squeak and Grace delighted laugh, and Steve looks up to see them playing with Eddie on the beach.

“Steve!” He startles and looks at Alicia who stares at him with pursed lips.

“Yes?”

“You alright?”

Steve doesn’t like the way she quirks her head to the side observing him, with a frown and a calculating look. He sometimes forgets that she used to be a profiler and for a moment he wonders what she deduced from his behavior, he’s not sure if he wants to know.

He breaks the eye contact and glances at the kids. They’re throwing a frisbee for Eddie to catch; they look so happy, he smiles. “I’ve been thinking.”

Alicia moves away and gives him a scrutinizing look and Steve feels a chill running down his spine. He suddenly feels like a frog waiting to be dissected. He stands up, catching Danny watching him with confusion. “I’m going to the bathroom.”

He doesn’t flee, he really needs to use the toilet, but it’s a close thing. He has specialists poking and prodding at him he doesn’t need one of his own doing the same, can he even consider Alicia one of them when she’s on and off the team, constantly?

When he exits the stall, Danny is standing there arms over his chest, and head cocked to the side. He has that worried look on his face again, and Steve wants the easy smile back, he needs it.

“Take me home, Danno.”

Danny doesn’t move, he just looks at Steve, searching his face for something and when he finds it the worry slowly disappears giving way to a small smile. “Sure thing, babe.” He says softly.

Steve relaxes considerably at that.

When they’re out of the bathroom, Danny ushers him to the beach. “Ok, go. I’ll tell our team of misfits that we’re cutting early,” and he goes to their table, where the team looks like it’s having the time of their lives. Steve feels terrible to bail on them, but he’s tired. He watches from the distance as Danny gesticulates wildly and he smiles at the lively gestures. Steve missed that. When Danny walks back to him, Steve catches the curious glance Alicia shots him before she looks at Danny.

Steve frowns.

“Ok, kids we’re calling it a night,” Danny shouts before he even steps on the sand and Grace groans, Steve tears his eyes away from the team to look at her. She may fuss all she wants, but the tired smile gives her away. He can’t believe she’s a teenager now; kids grow entirely too fast. He hopes it won’t be the same with Charlie; they already lost four years of his life.

Steve searches for him and watches as Charlie stands up from the sand and walks up to him, he fists his small hand in Steve’s pants and yawns so Steve kneels down takes him into his arms and stands up, smiling when Charlie sleepily nuzzles into his neck.

He looks so much like Danny that it’s surprising they didn’t realize that he’s Danny’s son sooner.

He glances at Danny with wonder.

“What are you smiling about you, goof?” Danny asks, but he’s grinning, too. “Alright let’s go home.” He curls one arm around Steve and the other one around Grace just like that night with the unfortunate ball.

Steve remembers the relief he felt when he found them alive and unharmed and the warmth that spread through his whole body when they left the building just like they did now, side by side. It’s even better now with Charlie curled in his arms and Eddie running between their legs, barking and jumping before he shoots out in the direction of the parking lot right to the Camaro, making Danny laugh with mirth.

Steve hides his smile in the crown of Charlie’s hair.

~~*~~

He tucks Charlie in, who’s completely out of it, sleeping deeply as only kids can and kisses him on the forehead, right over his left eyebrow.

He hears careful footsteps and looks up at Danny. He has a thoughtful expression on his face, but he’s smiling, the small content one.

“I don’t think even an earthquake could wake him up,” Steve says, and Danny shakes with a silent chuckle.

Once Danny stops trembling he sits on the edge of the bed and threads his fingers through Charlie’s hair with such care that Steve has a problem to take his eyes away.

He watches as his friend leans down and kisses his son on the forehead right where Steve did a moment ago. His chest squeezes because he wants that, he wants a family to call his own.

“Come on, babe.”

Steve blinks and looks at Danny who’s smiling at him, eyes bright and warm in the dim light, and he stops thinking for a moment lost in the deep blue.

He stands up and follows Danny, watching his back still strung with worry but not as prominent as before. He realizes that he followed him to his bedroom when he faces Danny’s amused smile.

“I…” He takes a step back gesticulating helplessly at the door and ready to turn on his heel, but Danny just shakes his head.

“I’m going to drink some water and in the meantime make yourself comfortable, you big doofus.” He pats Steve on the arm before he shoves him in the direction of the bed. “I’ll be right back.”

Steve tries to work around the lump in his throat eyeing the bed like it was going to bite him.

He ponders whatever it’s a good idea to sleep in his partner’s bed but eventually sighs and crawls under the sheets after taking his clothes off.

It’s weird, but Steve tries not to think too hard about this instead he makes himself as comfortable as he can.

He’s on the verge of sleep but not quite there when he feels the dip of the mattress and rustling of the sheets. Danny huffs and turns before he finally stills, soft snore leaving his mouth.

There are still so many emotions wreaking havoc in Steve’s mind that he doesn’t understand but looking at Danny, knowing he has his back somehow puts his mind at ease.

He knows that he’ll figure it out eventually.

With Danny at his back, he’s asleep in no time.

Chapter Text

Steve thought that after the work, an actual heavy work put into this place, placing out a few decorations would be easy.

He was wrong.

So very, very wrong.

He stares at the wall, trying to figure out the best place to hang the painting he’s currently holding. He makes a list of pros and cons of all the spots. He almost sees it in his mind, the perfect place but it flees away when he hears the front door open and then heavy footsteps walking in. Steve knows who it is before Grover announces his presence.

“Your boy bailed on you again?” Lou says from the entrance and Steve raises a brow at him.

“Danny’s not my boy.”

Lou shakes his head in exasperation as he comes inside. “It’s funny how you still think that.” He says with a condescending grin like Steve’s a child that doesn’t know better. He stares at Steve’s jaw for few seconds but says nothing instead he looks around and whistles. “Well, it starts to look like an actual restaurant.”

Steve puts the picture away and sighs. “It is a restaurant.”

Grover shrugs, grinning from ear to ear, he looks around again before he sits on one of the stools, “I bet the whole Pearl Harbor personnel would visit this place so that they could see the infamous Commander McGarrett playing in the kitchen.”

Steve laughs, “if they pay they’re more than welcome to visit.”

“That’s something Danny would say.” Lou points out.

Steve shrugs, small smile tucking at the corner of his mouth because Lou is right and because Danny’s and Steve’s survival in the industry depends on the money they’ll earn, so there’s that not because Danny’s obsession with cash was rubbing off on him.

“So what are you doing here? Do we have a case?” Steve hopes not, since it’s Saturday and he promised Danny that he'd take care of his kids for the rest of the weekend once Rachel drops Charlie off in the evening. He really was looking up to spend some time with the kids.

Lou opens his mouth but then closes it turning to look at something. “What is that?”

Steve follows the line of his sight and shrugs, “Something Danny left before he went to Jersey.” He snickers when he catches Lou squinting at the jar full of the white powder. Apparently, Steve’s not the only one with one track mind when it comes to suspicious jars with even more suspicious substances.

The man raises his brow at Steve then looks back at the jar skeptically and honestly Steve can’t really blame him.

He thinks about this morning, the skin on his jaw itches and he stops his hand halfway through to touch the sore spot, he crosses his arms over his chest instead.

 

Danny is already inside their restaurant when Steve comes in. He’s surprised to see his partner, “shouldn’t you be at the airport?” He asks then his eye catches on something. He moves closer to inspect the things on the counter.

“I woke up entirely too early, so I figured I could get some work done before flying out.”

Steve nods noting the unpacked paintings and other decorations for their restaurant, but his eyes go back to the jars and containers on the counter, “what are those?” He picks up a container with what looks like red berries, but not quite, then he squints at the jar with brownish powder. He looks at it for a moment before he spots a jar with a white substance inside, it seems innocent enough, and Steve at first thinks it’s salt, but somehow he knows it’s not. He feels something ominous at the sight of it, and his mind unhelpfully conjures a lot of images that he logically knows are out of the question.

He glares at Danny when he snorts at him. “You look like the poor jar challenged you to a duel,” he tilts his head, “or perhaps offended your delicate sensibilities.” He says imitating Steve's voice and when Steve shots him a glare, Danny shakes his head with amusement, “there’s no need for the constipated face you know. It’s just powdered vitamin C not some dangerous drug or whatever you’re thinking.” He points at the container, “those are goji berries.” He takes the other jar into his hand and waves it before Steve’s nose, “and this is Chinese Skullcap.”

Steve gives the containers a skeptical look. “Why do you have these?” Danny wrinkles his nose at him, the sign of his annoyance and Steve feel nostalgic at this particular expression.

Danny looks to the side, biting his bottom lip; he’s silent before he finally glances at Steve. “I told you I’m worried about your sorry ass.” The blue eyes are drilling into him, and Steve blanches a bit at the scrutiny, but he holds his ground. It’s always like that with them, too stubborn for their own good. Even if it’s hard lately for the both of them, despite the worry and exhaustion and unnamed emotions spilling over, Steve’s blood sings under his skin. It itches in the face of that bullheaded stubbornness and for a second Steve is thrilled until he remembers that lately, the hard set of that stubbled jaw means concern and sleepless nights.

“Danny.” Steve knows where this is going, and now that he looks closer he notes the haunted look on Danny’s face, and he silently curses under his breath because his bruised ribs and concussion from the last case must’ve put that expression in there.

It’s like the progress they made a few weeks ago never happened to begin with and they’re at square one.

Danny steps closer from the opposite side of the counter and puts his hands there; he balls them into fists until he catches himself and relaxes. “I read that Goji berries are good to prevent cancer and give a boost to the immunological system the same goes for vitamin C and Chinese Skullcap.”

Prevent cancer Steve thinks dully then glances at Danny, at the silver strand of hair in his fringe and weariness around his eyes and he feels sudden anger flaring up. “Danny. Stop it.”

Danny startles and looks at him with wide eyes. There’s a myriad of emotions flying through his eyes, but it’s too fast for Steve to identify even one before there’s steal in this look, hard and cold. “No,” Danny says stubbornly, his shoulders taut.

Steve feels a cold shiver run down his spine at that look, and it angers him even more; he can’t look at Danny wasting away because of him. “Stop it! I didn’t ask for it! Just stop it!” He shouts, hands flying, “don’t waste your life on me, Danny!” He hits the counter with his fist, nose flaring and body vibrating with the emotions that spill all over his compartments.

Danny takes a step back, lips open and hurt flickering through his eyes and Steve thinks ‘shit, ’ but then the stubbornness is back on with full force, fierce and hot, so different to the one from seconds ago. Steve doesn’t have time to blink before Danny jumps over the counter, fast and agile, and punches him in the jaw with right hook.

He stumbles back, shocked and then he’s yanked forward until he’s face to face with his partner. He’s ready to punch him back, but the thought disappears as fast as it appeared when he catches Danny’s expression.

Danny’s face is red, eyes wet and tears of anger ready to spill out but what strikes Steve to the bone is the deep hurt twisting his mouth in a scowl and the pure agony spilling over. “Don’t you dare, Steve! Don’t you dare talk to me like that!”

Danny says, his voice high and trembling at the end. “I’m not wasting my life on you. You constipated Neanderthal. I care about you, and you should know by now that I would go for you to the end of the world. Do I have to knock into your thick skull how important you are to me, to my kids? Because I’ll if I have to, don’t think I won’t.”

“Danny…” Steve chokes out frozen in the spot, but Danny just glares at him.

“So don’t tell me to stop worrying about you because at this point it’s impossible. I’ll always worry about you. You may be the toughest guy I know.” He lets Steve’s shirt go and splays his hand on Steve’s chest; it feels burning hot, “but I know you and there’s no way I’ll let you go through this alone so just shut up and let me take care of you for once.”

He stares at Danny with wide eyes, suddenly feeling weak. He leans on the wall to keep himself up. “I’m sorry.”

Danny sighs glancing at the bruise Steve feels is already forming on his face. “Me, too. I shouldn’t…” He waves his hand near Steve’s cheek. “I… fuck.” His shoulders shake, and Danny tries to stop it curling his arms around himself and when it doesn’t help he treads his fingers through his hair making a mess out of them.

“I deserved that,” Steve says, he moves his jaw and feels the sting. He forgot the mean punch Danny can pack when he means it.

Danny grimaces. “You did but I still shouldn’t…”

He curls his hand around Danny’s arm not sure if it’s welcome, “Danno, it’s fine.”

Danny closes his eyes for a second and takes a deep breath as to steady himself. “I wrote the instructions.” He glances at the innocent containers that were responsible for all of this. “You’ll eat these as instructed, besides it’s right up your alley. You always liked the healthy stuff… promise me you’ll eat it.” He finishes looking back at Steve.

 “I will.” He nods and feels like sinking to his knees despite the wall keeping him up when Danny gives him a shy and thankful smile.

“I knew you would see reason, babe.”

 

He tells Grover what the purpose of these things Danny bought for him is, but he lets out the squabble he and Danny had over this; he has a feeling Lou already suspected it anyway so there’s no need to voice it out loud.

“I already said that, but you should listen to your boy. He cares about you. To be honest, it’s terrifying how much he does actually.” Lou says. “And because of your stupidity he’s miserable and since he’s miserable Grace is miserable, too, and that means my son is miserable which makes me miserable. So take your head out of your ass and don’t stress him so much. Seriously, man. You’re like a trouble magnet; waiting for back up is not so bad from time to time.”

Steve ignores the trouble magnet part. “So basically you’re worried about himself?”

Lou grins at him, “what can I say, the worry is bad for beauty.”

There's more to it Steve knows, but he still shakes his head, “you say the nicest things, really.” He says dryly.

Lou laughs, “that my friend is one of my charms. I live to please.”

But the man is right as reluctant Steve is to admit it. He promised himself that he'd be more careful and yet he got hurt on the case again. He still feels shaken from earlier, his head a mess of emotions he hoped to figure out, but Danny’s fierce devotion left him overwhelmed and impossible to think at all.

“So why are you here?”

“First I wanted to remind you that Grace is coming to our house to study with Will and that she’ll be staying for dinner. I’ll drive her back around 9 p.m.”

“I know, Danny already told me that so…”

Lou stands up, “and yes I came here because you didn’t pick your phone and there is a case, unfortunately.” He mumbles not thrilled at all.

Steve nods giving the painting one last glance before he follows Grover to the exit.

~~*~~

He was afraid that the case would take longer to solve but once they caught the proper lead, by pure luck but still, they wrapped it up pretty quickly.

He does the paperwork and is able to arrive at Danny’s place at 7 p.m.; he fixes something to eat while he waits for Rachel to drop Charlie off and for Grace to come back from Grover’s.

Once he eats, he lies down on the couch, stretched comfortably on the whole length of it, he scratches Eddie’s head who’s lying on the floor right next to the sofa. A baseball game is on, and he lazily tracks players on the field. He misses Danny, his running commentary and cursing under his nose when his team loses.

His partner should be in Jersey already, and as much as Steve doesn’t want to, he has to admit he feels antsy when Danny is so far away from him.

It’s not the first time either, just the thought that something can happen to him and Steve won’t be there to help drives him insane. He wonders when he became so dependent on Danny.

New York Yankees win and Steve turns to where Danny would sit and smile smugly at him, it was one of Steve’s favorite ones right down to the smugness, but he also liked the boyish glint in those blue eyes that came with the smile. Just thinking about that smile makes him grin and he can almost hear Danny call him ‘a big goof.’

He sits up and moves into Danny’s spot; he looks at the ceiling debating whatever he should just call him. Danny was probably in the hospital seeing his mom, and after a moment he figures that Danny will call him if he has time.

When one of Danny’s sisters called yesterday saying that Danny’s mother was in an accident and is in a Hospital undergoing an operation, Danny looked ready to pass out, and Steve worried about him through the whole night.

He should go with him, but in the end, he didn’t want to impose, and Danny asked him to take care of his kids, and Steve couldn’t turn that down.

Danny’s strong but Steve’s scared that between what’s happening to him and his mom being in Hospital, he’ll break.

He sighs heavily and digs the heels of his palms into his eyes, trying not think about the quarrel they had this morning. He doesn’t want Danny to suffer because of him, but on the other hand, he feels selfish because he can’t let him go, not for real and part of him was thrilled when Danny admitted that he’s not going to let Steve go.

It was all messed up.

He startles when he hears the doorbell and goes to open the door on shaky legs, but before he reaches it, his stride is normal again.

Rachel is hugging Charlie when he opens the door.

“Rachel.” Steve had mixed feelings seeing her; he couldn’t forgive her for playing with Danny’s feelings, using him like she did and hurt him in the process.

“Commander.” She nods curtly, her British accent still strong even after all these years living in the USA.

“Steevee.” Charlie squeals, face beaming and arms up and Steve takes him into his arms, heart melting because Danny's kids are adorable. “Hey there, buddy.”

Charlie kisses him on the cheek still smiling broadly, clearly happy to see him and then circles his thin arms around his neck. Steve smiles hiding his nose in Charlie’s hair.

“I can always take him and Grace for the rest of the weekend. I know that you're rather busy,” Rachel says, but Steve is shaking his head already.

“I promised I’ll stay with them.”

Charlie squirms in his arms, and looks up with huge and hopeful eyes, “will you read me later?”

Steve grins at him, “of course.” Charlie beams at him and then Steve puts him down, Eddie takes over in an instant.

He looks over at Rachel who’s silently watching him with a frown. He doesn’t know her well enough to know what she’s thinking, he pulls himself to his full height staring her down but if anything her gaze intensifies.

She tilts her head to the side, and he crosses his arms over his chest. “When we first met I didn’t take you for someone so sly, Commander.” She states plainly.

From all the things, he didn’t expect that. “What?”

She doesn’t look at him anymore. Instead, she stares at her son playing with Eddie. There’s something in her eyes, longing, sadness or maybe resignation but when she looks back at him, he sees the accusation clear as a day. “Danny hates Hawaii,”

Steve wants to protest because it’s not true anymore, Steve knows that, but Rachel continues.

“And yet he decided to stay here, and at first I couldn’t understand why he fought so hard to stay in this place.” She looks behind him again. “I finally understood that among all the other reasons, you were the one in the center of it because at some point Danny unconsciously started to put you first along with Grace and then Charlie.”

Steve draws his brows together, confused. “I don’t understand. What is it about?”

She sighs, closing her eyes and taking a deep breath. The wind moves her hair and she trembles, Steve would feel sorry for her, but he’s not, so he waits with patience for her to continue. “Just don’t hurt him.” She says with resignation.

Like you did? Steve wants to say but bites the tip of his tongue instead he goes with, “I would never do that to him. He’s important to me.” He looks at Charlie drinking juice on the couch with Eddie's head in his lap. “They all are.” He says firmly.

Her eyes darken for a second, accusation, Steve thinks it’s accusation evident in them but it’s replaced with something soft and unreadable after she looks at him. He’s not sure what she found on his face. “I know.”

She glances at Charlie and waves at him. “Goodnight, sweetheart. Be good for uncle Steve.”

Charlie smiles at her, nodding so fiercely Steve’s afraid for a second that he’ll break his neck. “I’ll! Goodnight mom.”

She smiles softly at her son and Steve feels a painful pang in his heart because despite everything she’s Charlie’s and Gracie’s mother.

“Goodnight Commander.”

He nods stiffly, “Goodnight.”

She turns on her heel, and Steve watches as she reaches her car, she stands there hand hovering near the door her shoulders bend like she’s thinking something over, Steve frowns when she turns her head at him.

“Commander, do all of us a favor and stop being an oblivious idiot. God knows there’s no help in Danny’s case.”

Before he has time to ask her what the hell she means she pulls off and drives away.

Confusion would be an understatement to what he feels right now.

It's maybe a few seconds when another car pulls over. “Uncle Steve!” He jerks his head and sees Gracie running up to him, Lou nods, and Steve does the same before his attention is back to Grace.

“What’s up, Gracie? You had a good time?”

She hugs him and kisses his cheek. “It was great.” She grins at him, and he can’t help grinning back. “Are we going to watch that movie you promised us last time?” She asks.

Steve laughs, closing the door, “sure thing.”

He turns to look at those kids; his heart swells with so many emotions at the sight and the only thing that would make it even better was if Danno was there, too.

Chapter Text

Steve watches from the bench he's sitting on as Grace tackles Charlie down and starts tickling him mercilessly, Eddie barks and joins in her ministrations, licking the boy on the face and nudging his nose all over his stomach. Soon enough their laughter fills the park, and he smiles feeling content watching them going on and about.

He thinks it's not possible to be happier at this moment, but when they stop playing and wave at him, grinning and so radiant, Steve's heart swells with affection. It's so easy being with them, and at this point, he can't exactly picture his future without these kids around. He's happy to spend so much time with them, although he would rather have Danny here, too. He was supposed to be back on Monday, but he called on Sunday to announce he would like to stay there for the whole week.

 

Steve hums and moves to the kitchen to prepare a snack, he's interrupted by a call, and once he sees the photo of sleeping Danny and Eddie on his couch, he smiles and then draws his brows together because he knows something is up.

He picks up. "Yes, Danno?"

"Steve, hi. How're the kids going? Giving you a headache, yet?"

"Nah, they're great. What's up buddy?" He tries not to sound worried, he hears a sigh on the other side of the line, and he can picture Danny threading his fingers through his hair right about now.

"Well, I… you see… I would like to stay with mom for the week and I know I was due to come back tomorrow but there were some complications,"

Steve feels the small panic unfurl in the pit of his stomach, "what complications? Danny—"

Danny chuckles and Steve calms down if Danny can laugh it must be ok now. "She's fine now, but I would like to stay with her a bit longer that's why I wanted to ask you a favor."

Steve prepares the fruits for the salad and moves to the fridge, "sure, what is it?"

"Could you take care of Grace and Charlie for me? I know it's an entire week and I can call Rachel but I really would rather for you to take care of them." There's still worry hiding in his voice, but it's much better ever since their argument in the restaurant. Apparently, they needed this to clear the air.

"You know it's not a problem for me; I love having them around." He hears a squeak and walks into  Danny's living room to check up on the kids; Charlie is on the floor with Eddie tickling his belly with his nose while Grace records the whole ordeal. He definitely wants them for the week, how could he not?

"What was that?"

"Charlie plays with Eddie," Steve says with fondness going back to the kitchen.

"Are they now." Danny sounds amused; he's smiling Steve's sure of it, the one that's soft and tender and full of love at the mention of his kids.

Steve laughs, pulling out the yogurt from the fridge. "I'll miss you, though."

"Yeah me, too but I promise that I'll be thinking about you the whole time." By the tone of Danny's voice, he knows his friend is grinning.

Steve smiles because he used a similar line a long time ago. "Promise me you'll call."

"Of course you goof, every day, so be prepared."

Steve smiles so much at that it hurts.

 

 Steve's phone buzzes as on cue, and he smiles when he sees a text from Danny.

‘What you're doing, babe?'

He looks up at the kids; it's strange having them around all the time and not for the first time Steve thinks that Danny is a really fantastic father because being a single parent with two kids is not easy and yet he makes it work. He thinks about his own father for a second and wonders how his life would go if John McGarrett was a little more like Danny. Caring and stubborn ready to give up everything to be with his kids, to protect them and love them, prepared to move Heaven and Earth and go through all nine circles of Hell for them. He shakes his head; it's a waste of time thinking of what if's, he's just glad that Danny is in his life.

And his devotion shines through his kids, and Steve knows that one day they'll be outstanding. With big hearts and kindness spilling over, drawing people in and changing the world for the better.

Steve smiles and takes a few pictures of the kids and Eddie and sends them to Danny, giddy for the response; he's glad none of his teammates is here since they would tease him without a care in the world.

The reply takes a few seconds, but once Steve gets it, his heart stutters over itself. ‘I wish I was there with you guys. Miss you.'

‘We miss you, too.' He types, fingers twitching when he clicks send.

Someone wolf whistles and when he looks up he sees a boy ogling Gracie from a distance. Grace ignores the idiot and instead scoops Charlie up and twirls him around.

Steve glares at the guy ready to stand up and rip him a new one; maybe he could run a background check on the boy, see if he could find anything to.... he stops his inner monologue because the boy must've sensed his death glare. He looks right at Steve, frowning and squinting puffing out his chest.

Steve looks at Grace then at the guy packing into his stare all the threats known to humankind. The boy glances between them and pales visibly catching up that she's off limits.

‘Good' he thinks.

The boy turns on his heel and is on his way out of the park, Steve staring at him the whole time, ready to drag him away if he decided to come back. Danny would laugh at Steve. He remembers a time when he rolled his eyes at Danny's overprotectiveness and look where he's now, glaring at boys who dare to look at Grace the wrong way.

"Taking care of two kids must be tough."

Steve glances to the side and raises a brow at the woman, who came up to him. She's pretty, beautiful even but Steve just shrugs and looks at the kids playing around.

"It's really not," He says after a moment when the woman doesn't go away, "they're the best." He finishes with a smile.

The woman laughs, she has a nice laugh, so he looks at her again. "Every father would say that I imagine." She says glancing at his left hand, "their mother is around here?"

Steve looks at Grace and Charlie and then back at the woman, "my partner is visiting his family."

She frowns at him and then he registers the exact words she said to him. "I'm not their father." When the words leave his mouth, he feels a pang in his heart and is not ready for the disappointment filling him at his own statement.

Never mind that when she asked about the mother, he mentioned Danny, the actual father of the kids.

This time the woman raises her brow clearly confused by his answer. "You're… not?"

He almost snorts at her obvious advances on him. Charlie takes this moment to run up to them,"Steve! Steve!"

"What's up buddy?" He crouches down to Charlie's level, Charlie smiles at him big and bright and it reminds Steve of Danny so much that he can picture this little boy being all grown up and looking just like his partner all the way to the slicked-back hair.

"Can we have shaved ice now?"

"Sure, get Eddie and Grace, and we can go."

"Yaaay." Charlie squeals loudly, running to his sister.

When he looks at the bench, the woman is not there, and he shrugs already thinking what flavor of ice he should take.

~~*~~

Friday starts with a photo attached to a text message that makes Steve laugh almost spitting his tea all over his desk. Jerry looks funnily at him then he glances at Lou looking for answers for Steve's behavior, Lou who shakes his head with resignation and shrugs his shoulders already taking a step back out of Steve's office.

"Must be his man, come on he'll be useless for another hour or so."

Steve frowns at them, "hey!"

They're out of his office before he can give them a piece of his mind, so he looks down at his phone and enlarges the picture. He's  met with what looks like entire Williams family packed into a small hospital room.

Danny's face is in the corner of the photo, he looks exasperated, to put it mildly. The photo is taken from above, and he wonders if Danny stood on a chair to engulf his whole family in the picture. He snorts at the thought and then wonders how so many people managed to squeeze into such a small room. He catches Danny's mom in the middle of the photo. She looks exhausted and a little worse for wear but so apparently happy to have them with her that he can't help himself and smiles, too.

There's a text, too.

‘There's too many of them, Steve. Oh my God I wanna home.'

Steve feels a familiar by now lurch somewhere in his chest area. He types, ‘then hurry up and go back to us.' He knows he must look more than silly grinning like an idiot, but he can't stop. He wants Danno back already more than anything.

They talk every day just as Danny promised him. They talk for an hour or two, and they text each other, but it's not enough. It's never enough.

His phone rings, and he looks at the caller ID feeling irritated when he sees it's Lynn and not Danny. He ignores the call, and for a second he feels guilty but it fades away quickly he doesn't feel like talking with her.

There's a new message when the call ends.

‘What're your plans for today?'

‘I was thinking about inviting the team for a grill.'

‘Great idea, babe. God only knows they need some nice recompense from your crazy leader mohjo shtick.'

‘Should I feel offended? Cause I feel offended.'

‘Nah, babe. You know me. Be good, don't go blowing stuff up. Love you.'

Steve shakes his head. He wishes it was Monday already so Danny would be back. ‘Love you, too.' He puts his phone down and promptly scowls at the piles of paperwork piling up his desk, reminding him of Jenga tower he played with the kids a few days ago, ready to scramble all over the floor if he as much as touched it.

He needs Danny back.

Tani comes in, and he watches in horror as she leaves a stack of papers on his desk. "Finished some reports that need the stamp of approval."

He nods weakly.

Steve needs Danny back desperately.

~~*~~

The team is very enthusiastic about the barbeque, and soon there are people everywhere, laughing and clinking their beer bottles. There's a blanket on the grass where Grace is snuggled to Will's side, talking with him and Samantha. Steve can't believe that the little girl he met not so long ago, eight years already he reminds himself, is on her way to adulthood it's weird, but in a way, Steve's happy he could witness that, be part of her life. Charlie is playing with Joanie because trust his sister to show up unannounced. Charlie is careful about Steve's baby niece; she's four and a little bit shy, but Charlie shares his toys with her and makes her laugh. He smiles at the sight.

"You look like a proud dad, you know," Mary says from his left, and he looks at her, frowning.

Mary rolls her eyes smiling patronizingly at him. "You look at Grace and Charlie like they're yours."

Steve looks at the steaks and flips them on the other side. "They're not, I'm not..." He says tightly, focusing on the steaks.

His sister shakes her head looking up at the sky; a long sigh leaves her mouth when she gives him a sidelong look before moving her eyes to the kids. "For all the intents and purposes Steve, whatever you might think, I think you are."

He sighs, "Mary… Danno's their father."

"So? He trusts you with his kids. You help Grace with her homework; you spent time with them. You're there for them when they need you. You're listed as their emergency contact in case Danny is not available. Seriously you're practically co-parenting his kids at this point. Honestly... did you see the picture Charlie drew earlier?"

Steve closes his eyes and pinches the bridge of his nose. He would be lying if he said that he didn't think about what she's saying, but every time the thought crosses his mind he shuts it down because he's not that desperate for a family that he would just… instead, he kind of is, and Danny's kids found their place in his heart and rooted there firmly. He loves them like they're his own and this week opened his eyes to that because now every time he closes his eyes and thinks about the future about having family Grace and Charlie are the ones that pop in his mind. He thinks about Danny, too because they're a package deal and he couldn't let Danny go long before he met Gracie and definitely not now after all these years knowing the man.

"It's not like that." He finally says, and Mary laughs then he remembers something. "Wait, what picture?"

"For the big and smart Navy SEAL, you're full of bullshit."

"Mary!" He hisses looking at the kids playing with Eddie now; they appear to be oblivious to Mary's foul mouth, so he opts to just glare at his sister.

She giggles sauntering her way to Lou and his wife. "The sooner you realize your own damn feelings the better. You're gonna open a restaurant together. A restaurant for Christ sake." She laughs at his face leaving him to his own devices. "The picture's in the living room, by the way." She shouts over her shoulder.

He looks down at the sizzling steaks and tries to find his footing it takes him about two seconds before he sprints inside the house. He finds it on the coffee table where Charlie was drawing before Mary showed up with Joanie by her side.

The picture's not finished, yet but it's enough for Steve's knees to give up on him. He sits heavily on the couch and takes the piece of paper into his hands to look closer at it.

There are Grace and Charlie in the middle of the picture with Steve, wearing cargoes, and Danny with his sleeves rolled up, on either side of them. They're standing on the beach, smiling and happy. A big Ohana word is written at the top of the picture. He sucks in a breath, and when he looks in the right lower corner of the picture there's scrabbled ‘for Steve,' and his heart melts. He squeezes his eyes shut in the onslaught of the feelings that rush at him.

Then it hits him, something he couldn't stop thinking about.

‘I didn't take you for someone so sly, Commander.'

Rachel's words that didn't make an ounce of sense back then.

He looks at the picture again, and it's only them there, Danny, he and the kids. There's no Rachel or Stan just them, and it makes sense now, her words pointing and accusing. He didn't understand that at the time, the meaning behind her words but now, now he gets it.

She thought that he stole her family from her and looking at the drawing he can't say he can blame her for feeling that even if he didn't mean to. He's not even sure how this happened in the first place.

"Oh, you found my picture."

He peers at Charlie and then at the picture he's holding. "I… ah yes."

Charlie pouts, "I wanted to finish it before giving it to you."

"To me?" It's silly because it's written in the corner but he still asks.

Charlie rolls his eyes and smiles fondly, "of course I wrote it here, see?" He points at the corner and then looks up at Steve, he worries his bottom lip, "you don't like it?"

"What? Of course, I like it; I love it."

Charlie smiles tentatively at him, "you do?"

"Yes, in fact, I'm going to hang it on my fridge right now."

"Really?"

"Yes, buddy. Want to help me?"

Charlie enthusiastic nod is the answer enough and Steve already thinks of buying a picture frame for the drawing and thinking of a spot where he would hang it.

~~*~~

Once the party's wrapped, he cleans up and then drives back to Danny's place. Grace kisses his cheek wishing him goodnight before she disappears into her bedroom with Eddie leaving him with Charlie curled to his side, breathing softly already on the verge of sleep.

He goes to the boy's room and tucks Charlie in who blinks at him blearily, "will you tell me a story?"

Steve smiles and nods, "what kind of story?"

Charlie beams at him, looking hopeful and plain adorable. "How you and Danno met."

Steve blinks and then looks to the side because all the talks about Steve co-parenting Danny's kids and the picture Charlie made for him, must be going into his head and he thinks he has a serious problem.

"Steve?"

He looks down at the boy looking at him expectantly with bright blue eyes, and he gives in.

As he talks about how Danny and he met, he comes to an epiphany that if not for his father's death he probably would never meet Danny, that he would be robbed of this. Of friendship of a man so loyal and loving it hurt, of the love of said man's children, of everything good and bad that happened. When he hears Charlie's soft breathing he leaves the room, his heart beating fast and furious. He doesn't know what to think. Of course, he would want his dad to be alive and well but Danny… his life without Danny would be bleak and awful, he's sure of it, and the worst part would be he wouldn't know that, going on with his life like he used to before all this happened.

He makes his way into the living room on autopilot, he feels his phone vibrating in his pocket, and he peers at it only to groan with frustration. Then it hits him; it's a moment of clarity when he looks down at Lynn's name and knows what he has to do. He ignored her for a week, weeks he corrects himself, and it's not fair to her. It's not fair to her he can't love her that he can't give her what she'll eventually want, maybe already wants. It's not fair he thought about her as his insurance for the future about his easy way out even if whenever he tried to picture a family with her, he couldn't. All he could see was Danny and his kids, and maybe that should clue him in. Perhaps he really was emotionally constipated as Danny liked to point it out.

"Finally, why aren't you picking my calls?" She asks, she sounds frustrated, and he doesn't blame her.

"I've been busy."

"You're lying. I know there weren't any cases this week."

He sighs feeling the headache coming up. "What do you want?" He sits slowly on the couch, resting his elbows on the knees.

"I hoped we could meet tonight?"

"Sorry, I'm taking care of Danny's kids for the week."

"Can't that boy, Junior was it? Look after them while we go to a restaurant and maybe to a—"

"No. I'm not leaving them."

"Then maybe I could come—"

The thought of Lynn here in Danny's house in near proximity to his kids makes Steve angry and defensive. "No." He cuts sharply. "Listen, Lynn, can we meet tomorrow? I have something to tell you."

She's silent for a long moment and when she finally says something he wants to smack himself over the head for being an insensitive jerk. "You're going to break up with me, aren't you?" She sounds resigned but also angry and disappointed. "It's because of Danny, isn't it? You don't want me to meet his kids; you didn't want me to meet him either. How long, Steve?"

"What? How long what?" He tries to hold the confusion out of his voice but he doesn't quite manage to do that, he sighs leaning on the backrest and rubbing his temple with a free hand.

She laughs bitterly, "it must be going for some time now." She continues like she didn't hear his question, maybe she didn't. "It must be way before that valentine day fiasco. The way you were around him, I should have known. It's not the way friends are around each other."

Steve suddenly doesn't know what's going on, "what do you mean?" He stands up so suddenly he almost knocks the coffee table over.

"Don't play stupid with me Steve! I can't believe I was so blind."

"Lynn—"

"I don't… Steve don't; it's over I don't want to see you. I thought we've had something good going on, but clearly, I was wrong, so wrong." She cries, and Steve knows he did something horrible. He should have handled it differently, but it slipped out of his hands too quickly. There's a tiny voice in the back of his head saying that he should call it off sooner but he didn't, and in effect, he hurt a good woman and over a phone to boot. If Danny was here, he would glare at Steve with that disapproving look he wears whenever Steve behaves like a constipated Neanderthal.

"I'm sorry." He says, and she laughs again, she sounds strangely detached, he wants to say more but she hangs up on him, and he slumps on the sofa all energy drained from him.

He wanted to talk with her face to face; she deserved that. She deserved better than Steve and the death sentence hanging above his head. She deserved better than a break up over the phone. He messed up he knows that but the worst thing is he doesn't even feel all that guilty and what that says about him? Still, he should go and see her, do it right, he owes her that.

His phone buzzes, and he looks sharply at it thinking that maybe it's Lynn, but it's Danny, and he picks up faster than he can think what he's doing.

"Danno." He breathes, "it's like 3 a.m. in Jersey what happened? Everything alright?"

"Woah, hello to you, too super SEAL." Danny drawls the words; he sounds sleepy and fatigued like he couldn't sleep and just tossed around trying to fall asleep but without success.

"Danny." Why're you up he wants to ask but Danny already knows what he's thinking.

"I couldn't sleep. Figured that maybe if you bore me enough, I'll be able to."

Steve smiles, tension leaving his shoulders, "Is that your way of telling me you wanted to hear my voice before sleep?"

"Maybe."

He grins like a lunatic, "should I sing you something?" He hears a rustling of the sheets and closes his eyes for a second imagining Danny rumpled form, sleepy and a little bit grouchy from the lack of sleep, moving on the bed trying to find the best position to rest comfortably.

Danny snorts, "I'll manage, thanks." There's a pause, "Steve, you ok, babe?"

Steve frowns opening his eyes, he blinks at the tv and looks around trying to disperse the image he had in his head, "yes."

Danny sighs, "what's wrong?"

"Nothing wrong."

"Steven."

"Daniel."

"Just talk to me." Danny groans, there's a creak and the sound of a body falling on the mattress. Danny must've been sitting before he landed on his back. There's probably an arm thrown over his eyes, too in a way he does sometimes when Steve is particularly bullheaded about something.

Steve takes a big inhale, trying to crawl as much as he can into Danny's spot on the couch, "I broke up with Lynn."

"I'm so sorry, babe." He sounds genuinely concerned, and Steve huffs.

"No, it had to be done. I… look I realized that I couldn't give her a future she deserves so I did what I should have done a long time ago. She deserves better."

"That's bullshit, Steve. If anyone deserves better, it's you."

He thinks about Danny, how he stayed by Steve's side despite everything. How he stayed when everyone else left, pushing his boundaries, to be there for Steve whenever he needed him. ‘I already have you' Steve wants to say, but he dismisses the thought as quickly as it pops into his mind.

"Danny I broke with her over a phone…"

"You… what? Steve, we're not teenagers it's…" He sighs, "you probably told her you wanted to meet her in that business like voice and she figured that out, didn't she?"

"What? How do you—"

"Because I know you and her reaction to that is pretty much predictable also..." there's more rustling, "I'm a damn.... good detective." He finishes over a yawn.

Steve draws his knees up, something he didn't do since he was a kid, "Still I should have handled it differently."

"You should but what's done it's done. Seriously, babe don't beat yourself about this." There's some punching like sound over the line, and Steve just knows that Danny tries to beat a pillow into submission. "To be honest, I didn't exactly see that coming."

"Well, neither did I until a few minutes ago."

"Few… wait you want to tell me you just randomly thought ‘ah I should break up with Lynn' and then called her to—"

"Yes, Danny. Being around your kids opened my eyes, and I knew I couldn't give her a family she'll want."

"Steve," Danny says softly, "I know that the family subject is hard and I know it's not the same, but you do realize you have us, right? Seriously my kids love you. At this point, you're pretty much theirs as much as they're yours. If not for you helping me out I don't know if I could pull this out, taking care of them and all."

"No, Danny you're the best dad I know, of course, you could pull it off, I didn't—"

"You were there for me every step of the way, Steve and you still are. You're ours 'til the end of the line; there's nothing, nothing you hear me that would make us leave you. Seriously Steve…"

There's a silence and Steve thinks for a moment that maybe Danny fell asleep, but it's not the case. "Danny?"

"It's nothing; I just realized that we're practically rising my kids together."

He gulps his heart squeezing painfully, "does that bother you?"

"What? No. You're great with them; it's hmmm…"

"Danny I—"

"Oh shut up." He says fondly.

Steve looks over the room again and bites his lip, he feels weird, almost afraid, the feelings are over the place again, and he thinks that he finally starts to see the bigger picture. He's not sure if he's ready for the conclusion or what it meant. "How's Melissa?" He asks steering the conversation into safer ground.

Danny is silent again, the only thing Steve can hear is his soft breathing, this time he's sure Danny fell asleep waiting for Steve's to say something. "Well... looks like we're both girlfriendless."

"What? Did you two break up? When? Why I'm hearing about it now?" So much for safer grounds.

"I guess she had enough that I spent my whole free time with you or the kids or both."

Steve chokes on the air, "she was jealous? Shit Danny, sorry I—"

"Steve, babe, don't. It was inevitable at this point and when she gave me the ultimatum I just…"

He didn't peg Melissa to be that kind of person, she loved Danny he could tell, and she went through a lot. And maybe that's it? She was young and been through things she shouldn't have, and he could understand why would she want to be someone's number one.

"Danny…"

"It's a given that I would choose you. I would always choose you." He sounds soft and so sure that it makes funny things to Steve's heart and head. He never felt like that before, and it's so confusing. "Anyway I think I'll be back a day earlier, Ma's fine and I miss you guys too much."

Steve doesn't really trust his voice, but the happiness is clear as a day in his voice. "You're coming back?"

"Yes, I should be back on Sunday morning."

"Yes?"

Danny yawns again making a soft noise in the back of his throat, "Yes, you enormous goofball, go to sleep already." There's so much affection in his voice that it leaves Steve's breathless.

"You're the one who couldn't sleep because you were deprived of hearing my voice."

"I deny such thing. Goodnight, Steven." He says with mirth and a roll of his eyes most likely.

"Night, Danno." He smiles stretching over the couch and laughing when he hangs up.

Danny's coming back.

Chapter Text

Talking with Lynn face to face was harder than he thought it would be but he owed her that. The talk was short and almost clinical and it left Steve feeling even more like shit. In the back of his mind, he knew he should have talked with her sooner, end things earlier before she got too attached but he was so caught up in his own life that he didn’t realize how it may affect someone’s else. Maybe Lynn agreed to be casual but deep down he knew she wanted something more and he wasn’t ready for that.

At least not with her, the traitorous little voice in the back of his head tells him. He still tries to figure that one out.

The drive home is long, longer than it had any right to be, he’s exhausted, talking about emotions never was easy and it always left him shaken off his axis but he will manage.

He slows down and with a start, he notices the Camaro parked by his house. He shakes his head at that, he parks the Silverado and steps out of it. He walks to the door, unhurriedly, listening to the noises Danny makes because he can’t be quiet on the best of days. By the sounds, he deduces that his partner must be in the kitchen and fails to hide his amusement at that. He opens the door and his nose is hit by the most tantalizing smell ever, he stumbles back half a step, closing his eyes for a second and just letting the smell to warm him over. He follows it just as Danny takes the lasagna out of the oven. He has that ridiculous apron with the haughty ‘kiss the cook’ written over his chest, his hair is mused and he hums some song Steve doesn’t recognize.

Steve wouldn’t exactly admit it but he liked looking at Danny moving around and about his kitchen. He wonders when he became such a sap.

He watches as Danny puts the steaming hot bowl of lasagna on the counter and turns to him with a raised brow. It’s been almost a week since Danny’s back and since then he can’t quite take his eyes off of him which warrants fond albeit a little annoyed eye roll on Danny’s part whenever he catches Steve’s looking.

“So…” Danny starts which makes Steve sigh in response and look to the ceiling, noting the web of tiny creaks, maybe it’s not the best tactics but he just doesn’t feel like talking about the whole fiasco that was his meeting with Lynn; one emotional talk was enough. Danny shakes his head, he looks to the lasagna and back to Steve, his stare calculating and arms tightly crossed over his chest, he eventually shakes his head shooting his hands up in desperate exasperation. “Right, of course, you don’t want to talk about it.” He bites his lip and Steve catches himself looking a tad too long.

“What’s the occasion?” Steve asks instead nodding to the dish cooling down on the counter.

Danny hums again before he smiles, his shoulders loosen up a bit and eyes crinkle in the dim light making him look like an overgrown, overexcited puppy, “we could eat ice cream but grandma Williams special lasagna is much better when it comes to boosting morale.”

Steve nods, “if it tastes as good as it smells I’m sold.”

Danny grins at him brilliantly and it’s all it takes for Steve to forget about the dreadful talk he had not so long ago. Maybe it’s a testament to Steve’s weak heart if one relaxed smile from his partner can do this to him. Only it wouldn’t be the first time when Danny’s mood influences his own.

They eat in silence, and the lasagna is so good that he takes a second and then a third while Danny grumbles about his lack of manners whatsoever.

Later they move to the couch and look for some game on the TV and eventually, they set on some basketball game. They’re not even ten minutes in when his phone rings and with a flash of regret to something that would turn out to be a calm and nice evening he answers it.

“McGarrett.”

He listens to the Governor while he observes Danny standing up with a barely audible groan, he turns off the TV as he goes and moves with resignation to the kitchen, Steve watches the easy sway of Danny’s hips until he vanishes from Steve’s sight altogether.

“We’re on our way,” Steve says as he hangs up, he stares at the screen for a second before he looks up at Danny who emerged back, with his gun and a badge. “We’ve got a case.”

Danny rolls his eyes already going for the door, “yeah figured that much. There goes our nice night in and after closing the clusterfuck of a case.” Danny says whirling his hands in the air in indignation, “would it kill the crime world to stop for a second and give us, upstanding citizens a night of calm and uninterrupted rest?”

Steve snorts, giving Danny a look before he opens the door to the Camaro and sitting down.

Danny sighs loudly, “yeah, figured.”

~~*~~

“So what do we got?” Steve asks as soon as they out of the car and Grover greets them.

Lou’s face is pinched in a way that Steve knows something about this case is not going to be easy, he squares his shoulders glancing at Danny who looks back, lips pressed tightly.

Danny clears his throat, “so?”

Lou shakes his head and nods for them to follow him, “better if I show you.”

They walk through the clearing, Danny’s presence as reassuring by his side as ever. He’s not sure what they’re going to see, what’s waiting for them. Looking at Lou’s stiff back, the tension of his moves he’s expecting anything from badly mutilated body to some ritual sacrifice. It’s neither and he has to stop to blink because looking at the victim in a metal box in the ground doesn’t really help him understand why Grover is so shaken for the lack of better word.

They came by much worse over the years so he doesn’t understand what got Lou so tight-lipped at least not until Danny sucks in a breath.

“Oh my God,” Danny exclaims, he moves his curled in a fist hand to his lips, squeezing his eyes shut before he moves his hand to run over his face and through his hair. He shakes minutely and looks to the side before he rests his hands on his hips. Steve stares at him trying to comprehend what got his partner this agitated so he looks at the victim again. Danny makes a helpless move with his hand.

“She was buried alive wasn’t she,” Danny says just as it dawns on Steve.

“Yeah. Lena Richards. Turned forty this year.” Grover pauses and Steve knows he’s not going to like what comes out of his mouth next, “single mother of one.” He says looking at Danny who all but crouches, pinching the bridge of his nose.

“Fuck.”

Steve crouches down, putting a careful hand over Danny’s shoulder. Danny stills for about a moment before he leans into the touch. “We’ll catch whoever did this.”

Danny nods weakly, eyeing the metal box trap with wide eyes. “You bet your ass we will.” He says. Steve decides to ignore the slight tremor of his partner’s voice when he says it.

“Where’s Tani and Junior?” Steve asks looking around for the rest of the team.

“They went to talk with her neighbors.”

Steve nods, “and her kid?”

“His grandma is with him.”

Danny stands up and Steve follows, still holding Danny’s shoulders. “Right, so what do we know?”

Lou glances down before he looks back at them, turning so he has the victim behind his back. The CSU guys are moving around taking samples and collecting evidence and it’s a second or two before Lou starts talking. “She was reported missing 48 hours ago.”

Steve squints at that, he takes a step back, hands flying, “and no one cared to tell us?”

Grover shrugs, “we’ve got our case, wasn’t much more place for another.” He says and crosses his arms over his chest. There’s something very wrong with his stance and Steve feels dread settling in the pit of his stomach. Lou looks down like he wants to put his thoughts together.

Danny’s the one who asks what’s wrong. “What is it?”

Grover sighs, loud and long, sagging on himself like a big deflated balloon. “HPD thought they got it since the kidnapper apparently called to give them heads up. The bastard was playing with them.”

Steve curses under his breath trying to calm down, but not exactly managing. He chances a glance at the victim, petite blond woman, her fingers bloody from scratching at the lid of the box and wonders what she was thinking in her last moments.

Noelani walks up to them, she doesn’t look better than Lou. She nods at them then she crouches next to the hole in the ground. Danny fidgets next to him.

“How long?” He rasps hoarsely and Steve makes a move to hold his arm but aborts it halfway through.

The question is met with silence, Noelani stares at the victim solemnly before she finally looks up and holds Danny’s gaze. “Looking at the size of the box I would say that the oxygen would last for about four hours but with the struggling, the estimate would be around 2 hours. She most likely lost consciousness after an hour and a half.”

Danny looks to the side, “fuck.” He digs the balls of his hands into his eyes, “fuck.” He swallows thickly before he looks at Steve with wide, wet eyes. The desperation and pure fear knock all air from Steve’s lungs.

Claustrophobia.

Just thinking about being buried alive in a small box must be like the worst nightmare for a person with claustrophobia. This time he strides to Danny and squeezes his bicep in reassurance, looking into his eyes. Danny looks like he’s about to start hyperventilating so he nudges him back to where they left the car, he exchanges a look with Lou. “I want all the data in HQ including the recording of the call.”

Grover nods “got it. Take care of your man.”

Steve would roll his eyes but he has much more important matters at hand. Danny doesn’t tremble anymore instead, the muscles under his palm are stiff in a way that reminds Steve of an animal ready to pounce at its prey.

“We’re going to catch this psychopath,” Danny says through gritted teeth and when he looks at Steve over the hood of the car, Steve’s ready to believe him.

~~*~~

When they walk into the HQ Tani and Junior are already there, it makes him frown and slow down. They’re talking in hushed tones, standing entirely too close to each other. Steve shakes his head fondly despite himself. He looks over the area in hope of spotting Jerry but he's nowhere in sight until Steve remembers that he had something to take care of on the mainland and is due to be back tomorrow. “What did you find out?”

Tani jerks her head and nods wearily in a way of greeting then shrugs, disappointment tugging at her mouth, Junior doesn’t look much better. “Nothing much. No one saw or heard anything suspicious.”

It’s not what he wanted to hear but it’s all they got apparently, maybe the recording from HPD will shed some light on the case.

He feels rather than sees the slight shove on his bicep when Danny strides past him and straight to the screen table, his moves jerky, back in an angry line and neck stiff. Steve wants to reach out and make him relax, take it easy. He knows it would be a wasted effort when Danny’s like this. Maybe after the case.

Maybe.

Danny looks at Tani, it’s like he catalogs every little detail, her stance, expression, a line of her shoulders. Junior fidgets nervously even if he’s not the one under the scrutiny. “But you’ve got something,” Danny says raising a brow at her, she blinks at him a few times.

“Uh yeah, as a matter of fact.” She glances at Steve and back at Danny, question evident in her eyes but Steve just shakes his head. She nods and continues like nothing was amiss. “Apparently it wasn’t the first victim.”

Danny stills, “what do you mean?”

Junior steps closer, with uncertainty, he shoots Steve a look full of concern and it’s nice to know Junior is worried about Danny this much. “There were seven known victims in the span of four years, including the recent one.”

Tani nods at Junior words and pulls the reports from the past crime scenes. “Always a male and a female with a more or less week span between one and the other. One pair a year.”

Danny puts his hands on the tech table and leans heavily on it. The air is full of electricity, a screen full of data and photos blinking up at them, no one moves until Danny looks back, his eyes piercing. “So that means we can anticipate one more victim.”

Something cold settles in Steve’s stomach, he’s not sure what the feeling is but it doesn’t bode well with him. He stares at the photos. They didn’t have a chance to rescue Lena, at least they’ll have one catching whoever did that to her.

The people in the pictures are terrified with clear telltale of suffocation. A terrible death, knowing you’re trapped underground, knowing that every breath so important for survival, for living brings you closer to death. He moves closer, he stops at the foot of the table, Danny’s in his line of sight.

“Every pair looks kind of alike.” Steve notes and Tani rearrange the photos.

“Yeah. Rosa and David.” She pulls the picture of young man and woman. They’re both tall, young and black haired with pale skin. “They’re found in Minneapolis.” She fidgets a bit before she pulls another pair. “A year later we have Ana and Mark. Both redheads of average height in their early thirties. They’re from Oklahoma.” Tani closes her eyes for a second and Junior step closer to her giving her a pat on her shoulder. She smiles at him and Junior’s whole face just lights up. Steve shakes his head, he still smiles a bit at that. Kids. Once this is over he’s going to tease them about the attraction that is so obvious between them that it’s hard to watch these days, and they still have the gall to deny everything. Unbelievable.

Tani swats over the screen and another pair shows up. “Summer and Luke. Mid-thirties found in Los Angeles.”

Well build, brown hair, dark skin. Steve doesn’t like where this is going.

“And finally our last vic. Lena.” It’s hard to look at her, partly because she looks so broken. So small with a wild mop of blond hair and slight tan. For all the intents and purposes it could be Lynn and it only adds to how shitty Steve feels about the situation with his ex. Still, he feels something like a panic claw at his throat when he stares at Lena’s body. He doesn’t let the thought fully form in his head. There was no way the kidnapper would go for it anyway. He needs to focus.

“So basically we have a serial killer on our hands.” He says through gritted teeth.

The door to the HQ open up and Lou walks in, “it seems so.” He doesn’t look at the screen, Steve can’t really blame him. “I have the recording. Apparently, it was a ransom call.”

“Something else?”

“Before the ransom, he told HPD that she’s somewhere at Makua Kea'au Forest Reserve.”

Junior rounds the table, he stands before the wall screen, “that’s a lot of ground to cover.”

“Yeah, but what HPD wasn’t counting on was that she was buried alive.” Lou massages his temple. “He called again after four hours and gave them coordinates.” He sighs heavily, “well, listen for yourself.”

He opens the audio file, the voice is digitally modified and it puts Steve’s teeth on edge. Both calls are short, only necessary information. The amount of money for ransom seem odd and he catalogs it for later. Their kidnapper though, he sounds gleeful and it makes him sick to his stomach.

“— Game over.” The voice says after giving out the coordinates.

“This son of a bitch!” Danny growls.

“Well, there’s more,” Lou says as he steps closer to the table, he takes his tablet and goes through something before he taps the screen and pulls out photos of a hotel room to the screen table. “The call was made from there.”

The majority of the pictures show photos glued to the wall with different blond women, There’s 5 of them. Lena’s piercing blue eyes instantly catches their attention. Her face is rounded by a red circle. There are more photos scattered over the commode below. He notes that all of them show all of the five women, including Lena Richards, doing everyday things. Shopping, walking in the park, sunbathing on the beach. That bastard got them under surveillance.

Lou flicks his wrist and another picture comes forward. It shows what Steve thinks is the back of the five photos from the lineup on the wall. On one of the photos is number 158. The next picture that Grover pulls out shows that the number is written on the back of Lena’s photograph.

“What are those numbers?” Tani asks.

Lou shrugs, “they don’t know.”

Steve nods, it’s still unsettling. “But a hotel room?”

“The first call was made from it, yes. HPD went in there immediately but it was already empty. The second call was made from a burner phone.”

Danny hangs his head low between his shoulder before he straightens up. “The footage from the Hotel?”

Grover glances to the side and makes complicated thing with his face, “yeah about that…”

“Lou.” Steve prompts although he has pretty good idea where this is going.

“You won’t believe but the camera doesn’t show anyone going in or out of the room.”

Steve frowns, he looks at the others and back at Lou, “I’m sorry, what?”

“Looks like our kidnapper looped the video feed of the room and surrounding area.”

"Name?" He tries but Grover just pursues his lips in a tight line.

“So we have nothing,” Steve says crossing his arms over his chest.

The silence is the answer enough.

~~*~~

“Danny…”

“I’m fine,” Danny says not really looking at Steve as they pull over the parking lot, his eyes locked on the window. Steve notes the stubborn set of his jaw and curses his partner bullheaded attitude. He wants to get a hold of him and shake until Danny will look at him. There are dark circles under his eyes indicating that he most likely didn’t sleep at all and maybe Steve should spend the night at Danny’s house, after all, making sure his partner got at least a bit of sleep.

“I didn’t even say anything, yet.”

Danny shrugs as he gets out of the car, “it’s all in the face.”

Steve takes the keys from the ignition, he frowns and glances at Danny’s back, he closes the door and strides up to him. “You didn’t even look at me.”

Danny looks at him then, a bit of amusement hiding in the corners of his eyes in his otherwise blank face. “I did.”

They go into the building and through the corridor, “no you didn’t.” He’s pretty sure he would notice Danny’s looking at him. He always notices when Danny looks at him these days.

“I did,” Danny says stubbornly and for a second Steve entertains the idea of strangling this insufferable idiot into submission.

“No, you didn’t.”

They walk into the examiner room where Noelani already waits for them. Danny glances at him, “I know how reflection works, so yes I did look at you.” He says pointedly.

“That’s sneaky.” But somehow that little tidbit of information spurs Steve’s imagination. How many times Danny looked at him without really looking at him?

Danny shrugs before the woman in the room turns to them.

“So what you wanted to tell us?”

Noelani sidesteps the exam table and walks to the computer. She pulls out some photos. “Lena Richards was tortured before she was put into that box.”

Danny steps back and Steve puts his hand on the small of his back to keep him in place. They stare at the photos of Lena’s wrists and ribs, bruises and tiny cuts here and there. Steve’s going to catch that bastard and put a bullet in his head.

“There’s also this.” She throws away a material covering the table.

Steve squints at the small piece of paper lying in the middle of examiner table. “Is that a receipt?”

“You would be correct in that assumptions but what’s important are the numbers on the back.” She turns the paper and moves it closer in their direction. “Three hundred ninety-one.”

“Do you know what these numbers mean?” He asks with some hope but he quickly deflates at the sight of her slumped shoulders.

“Unfortunately, I don’t.”

He tries not to sigh but it’s quite hard not to when all they have are dead ends. Danny fidgets, his muscles tensing under his palm and Steve rubs his hand up and down, Danny stills but the tension in his back vanishes.

“We still know where the receipt is from, and what date and time it was taken.”

Noelani nods.

Steve is already out of the door before she can say anything. “Send us the data.” He throws over his shoulder at the woman who looks less than impressed with his manners. Danny tells him as much.

They’re going to catch this bastard no matter what.