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Crescendo

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For almost six weeks Steve’s world was a living hell. The latest missions had been a disaster to say the least. Superiors were arguing about failure and responsibilities of those missions, still trying to make the best of a bad job and endangering the lives of their sailors. It had evocated a huge shitstorm and behind closed doors of everyone in charge, they tried to figure out how to discreetly brush everything under the carpet.

Steve’s men had been severely injured on their latest op somewhere deep into the Middle East. Tommy had suffered a hard blow to the head and still lay unconscious at the hospital. Mike nearly lost an eye due to an explosion that shouldn’t have even happened in the first place, because the information that the rebels were armed with mortars, had somehow been missing in every report. What a nice surprise.

They had to retreat after failing to gain the intel, running for days through a steppe with barely any cover and lined with landmines, a helo hot on their heels with armed rebels, who were far too numerous as well, if you still believed the reports. Someone fucked up spectacularly.

And SEAL team six had to pay for that bullshit.

Steve was battered in more ways than one. Sure, he spotted various injuries like the graze on his left leg or his cracked ribs. Sometimes he still heard a ringing that wasn’t really there. But he was bone-deep exhausted and his focus was so far off that he had been given leave of two whole weeks to see a guide and get himself centered again.

The list of guides recommended by the Navy Guild crumbled in Steve’s shaking hand as he left the vessel and set foot on Hawaiian ground again after almost nine months. He felt shaky and weak and all he wanted was some peace and rest, no strange guide fussing over him and coaxing him to even out.

Thankfully it was already dark. Steve just wouldn’t be able to handle the bright, cheery sun of Hawaii right now. A driver with the emblem of the Military Guide and Sentinel Base Center of Hawaii came over, offering to take Steve’s duffle bag. “Commander McGarrett? I’m David, the Navy Guild contacted me, so I could bring you over to the Center –“

“No, thanks, I’m walking.” Steve knew it was rude to let the poor guy standing there, when he only was doing his job. But he barely couldn’t stand his own team members anymore, let alone people he didn’t know.

The night air felt good on his skin, which was burning away with fever that no medicine could keep down long enough. He left the harbor and its loud noises, trying to keep to the quieter roads of Oahu. The duffle felt like a giant stone in his hand, as he searched his mobile for the right contact. The last promise he had made Cath gnawed at his conscience, but he was too far gone to really care. He needed her help.

“Tell me, Steve, those steaks done yet?”, Cath joked as she answered his call.

A weak grin spread across Steve’s face. It hurt like hell. “Hey, Cath. They’re not forgotten, promise. Uhm, but I need another favor, I fear.”

Cath was silent for a moment and Steve started to panic that she would decline him. “You sound on the verge of a heavy zone, Steve”, she finally said, voice soft. If he hadn’t known her files, which indeed stated that Catherine was a B-Class sentinel herself, he would have mistaken her more than once as a guide, at least on the phone. Her intuition and ability to pick up on moods of others was scary sometimes. It shouldn’t surprise him; she was a communication officer after all.

He let out a shaky breath. “I think I actually am. I just need a shove and I snap. I just, I need to see someone, just not those guides the navy has ready for me. They won’t do it.” Steve had never met any guide on that list, but he knew with certainty that his words were true. He felt so shitty for it, but ever since they came back from that disastrous mission, all he could think about were blue eyes and a voice calling him babe. The ache in his chest didn’t help either. “Name’s Danny Williams.”

She hesitated for a moment. “Does he have registered with the Navy Guild or the Base Center yet?”

“I don’t think so, Cath.”

“Steve, do you really think it is such a good idea to contact him then? He might not approve of your visit at all.” Cath sounded worried, but Steve couldn’t say anything to soothe her. He tried to calm his own nerves, because he didn’t dare thinking about what might happen, if Danny shut the door in his face. Or wasn’t at home at all.

“I know, Cath. But I have to try. If he refuses me, I’ll go to the Base Center, but he’s the best chance I have, believe me,” he promised her as much as himself. Nevertheless, he needed this guide so badly, it made his head spin. That was a dangerous way he was headed, but he was unable to pull himself to a stop.

“Alright, Steve,” she sighed. “I’ll text you his address. Be careful, you hear me?”

“I will do my best. Thanks, Cath.” He knew that she had meant him as well as his worrisome obsession with an unbonded guide that he kept hidden from the Navy Guild. Right now, the Navy Guild was the least of his concerns, though. They were hopefully too busy with the mess of several wounded sentinels than tracking his movements and noticing his non-appearance at the Base Center.

He hung up and a moment later the phone vibrated with a message containing coordinates. Steve flagged down a cab and drove to the address, straining every ounce of energy his body still had to spare to keep up his shields and stay focused on reality, so he got to his destination in one coherent piece. He almost forgot to pay the driver when he could finally flee the cramped insides of the cab, stepping in front of a slightly ratty apartment building. Soft yellow light shone through one window, interrupted by the flicker of a TV.

Steve felt his eyes close in on the flickering, so he hastily tore them away and took a shuddering breath. His hands felt clammy and sweat stood on his forehead. He was shivering despite the warm night and he felt so, so tired. He just wanted to close his eyes and sink slowly below the surface.

The bell shrilled unpleasantly in his ears as he waited impatiently for the door to open. Feet shuffled over the floor and a lock clicked open. Finally, the door opened slightly and the warm yellow light fell upon Steve’s feet. Steve nearly sobbed in relief of seeing Danny’s surprised eyes.

“Fuck, Steve, you look like shit”, he said, pulling the door wide open and hastily stowed away a gun he had been holding at his side. Steve didn’t question the weapon, he only tumbled over the doorstep, almost falling like a stone on Danny, who caught him in his arms. The skin-on-skin contact was too little, leaving Steve hungrier than even before, and he whined low in his throat. His vision suffered a complete fade-out, he just couldn’t focus on anything long enough and honestly, it didn’t matter. What mattered was the feeling of his guide beneath his palms and the warmth of his body beside his.

Danny said something, pushed him down somewhere, went away and Steve nearly lost it. He would smash everything in his way that dared to separate him from his guide. He would rip them apart, shatter everything to pieces, if he couldn’t touch Danny again now.

A deep growl escaped him and he tried to push himself into a standing position again, as he felt a hand at his neck. The touch instantly cleared away some of the heat and the red fog that crowded his senses. He could make out Danny’s voice again that must have been spoken to him the entire time, but just now he could make out the words again.

“… ok? You with me again? Good, Steve, that’s good. I’ll be with you in a sec, I just need to make it comfortable for us, alright? I’ll take my hand off your neck, because otherwise I can’t get rid of the shirt. Nod, if you got that, Steve.”

The words slowly registered with Steve. Danny was here, he was going nowhere and no one was going to take him away. He took a shaky breath. Danny’s hand was a relief, but it wasn’t enough. He had no idea, what was going on right now, only that he needed Danny back with him. So he nodded.

“OK. I’ll be fast, babe.” The hand was gone and Steve tried to be patient. But everything took so long and Danny skipped out of the room and back again and rummaged around and it just took ages. Steve tried to grab Danny as he moved around, but he weaseled out of his reach. That was wrong. His guide shouldn’t avoid him. He should be here, at Steve’s side, so he could bask in the sheer presence of Danny. He would do everything to make Danny sit down and be the center of his universe. Steve whined again, but deep and rich this time, almost bellowing. A call to attract the attention of a mate.

Suddenly the warmth was back and Danny was there, crawling behind Steve and pulling him against his upper body. Hands sneaked under Steve’s shirt and he shivered, a moan falling from his lips at the sudden ease of feverish heat. Slowly he came to his senses long enough that he registered what Danny wanted him to do and pulled the shirt over his head.

“That’s it, babe, now come on, lay down.” Danny’s soft voice washed over him and slowly the tension Steve hadn’t known was strangling him eased and he fell back against Danny’s bare chest. His body hair tickled a bit, but it was a bliss to feel every inch of that warm skin. Steve sighed in relief, propping his head on Danny’s shoulder and closed his eyes. A blanket was thrown over them and it felt strangely like a nest. Steve liked it; it was safe here. He didn’t have to function by command. He could let go of the tough SEAL for once and be a sentinel that just needed some alone time with his guide to be grounded again. He needed a break and Danny was just that. A safe haven, his own sanctuary. Peace.

Steve drifted in and out of sleep, Danny like a solid rock beside him. His heat receded and his foggy mind calmed down from its frantic height. He zoomed in his senses to Danny’s even breathing and his heartbeat. The steady rhythm was like a meditation and Steve slowly got lost in it, letting the stress and strain of the latest mission fade away in the background.

Fingers stroked through his hair and a warmth settled in Steve. It was nothing like the heat before, but a pleasant cozy feeling that soothed over his cracked shields like silk, filled the gaps, and nudged them gently, so they would straighten up once again and hummed with renewed energy. Steve’s hand started to unclench and wandered off on its own. It trailed lightly over every inch of exposed skin he could reach; first Danny’s navel and up over well-defined pecs. He traced every one of them with his fingers, marveling the firmness of the skin and the tautness of the muscles. A shiver went through Danny and his skin broke into goosebumps. Steve sighed as the warmth that had been repairing his shields, flooded freely through him for a moment. Something pulled strongly behind his navel and he turned his head to bury himself deeper into Danny’s neck. His hand traced the fine trail of hair from Danny’s flat stomach up to his broad chest. Stroking the soft hair, he got lost in the sensation and didn’t actually realize the low rumble until it vibrated through Danny’s chest with every breath.

Purring. His guide was purring. Steve smiled, honest and happy, for the first time in what felt like ages. He pressed himself closer to Danny, entwining their legs under the blanket and Danny’s hand dropped from Steve’s hair to his lower back, rubbing soothing circles into his skin.

Steve sighed and blindly reached up to tilt Danny’s head a bit, so he could properly nose behind Danny’s ear to scent at the gland there.

“Danno?”

At the sound of the small voice, Steve’s eyes snapped open and his hand fell away. Danny twisted beneath him, turning around as much as possible while sitting on his couch with Steve draped over his body. “Hey monkey, what’s wrong? Did you have a bad dream?”, Danny asked softly.

Reality ripped through Steve like an icy spear. He just had invaded Danny’s home, stolen his time, taken relief in his body without so much as asking or therefore uttering any word in advance or apology. He had taken what he had needed without thinking so much about Danny. If he had wanted to help Steve or if maybe having a military sentinel at his apartment might be inappropriate or difficult. Because his little daughter just slept a room further down the hall. Steve struggled into a sitting position, instantly missing the heat of Danny’s body. But he had pestered Danny long enough; it was time to go. He felt ok again, from there he could make it on his own.

“Who’s that?” A little girl with long brown hair and big brown eyes stood at the back of the couch. This had to be Grace.

“I’m sorry, I’ll go now. Thank you, Danny –“

“Ah, ah, ah.” Danny made a tsking sound and pulled him back down. It was a testimony of Steve’s still less than normal condition that he actually was able to. “Grace, this is Steve. He is a sentinel working for the navy. Do you remember what I told you about sentinels?”

Grace eyed him warily. “They’re like superheroes and can almost do anything. But sometimes they need a guide to back them up.”

A lump formed in Steve’s throat at the word superhero. He had never seen himself as a hero. He was just a man, who did the duty he had to fulfill, because he was one of the rare blessed ones and his country needed him.

“Yes, monkey, and Steve here just needed a back-up tonight, so he came over.”

Steve lay still under Grace’s scrutinizing stare, frozen in place and waiting for her next words like a conviction. “Did you have bad dreams as well, Sentinel Steve?”

Steve worked his lips, but no sound came out. Grace didn’t seem to notice, because she simply carried on: “I had one too, about the sharks we’ve had seen on a video at school today. They can smell you from very far away and they can eat you in one bite!”

“Come here, monkey”, said Danny and motioned her over to sit at his side. She instantly ran to him and snuggled under the blanket that Danny lifted for her and curled up at the other side of Danny. “There are no sharks here. And even if they could walk on land – probably on thin white legs with socks and sandals – we still have a sentinel with us.”

Grace giggled and peered around Danny’s muscled chest over at Steve. “You gonna fight them for us, Sentinel Steve?”

Steve had to work really hard to swallow that damn lump in his throat. “Of course, Grace. Don’t worry about those sharks anymore.” She smiled at that and a warmth blossomed in his chest at that sight as though the sun finally broke through dark clouds and kissed his face again. Her eyelids were heavy and soon Grace was sound asleep again, but Steve couldn’t shake that feeling. He looked up at Danny only to find him looking down at him with a strange expression on his face.

“Danny, I’m really sorry I just stormed in here. I should have asked or called or whatever. I’ll go, if you want me to.”

“It’s alright, babe. You heard her, I’m your back-up. Now shut up and go back to sleep, Super SEAL”, he said fondly.

Steve knew that he was never going to be able to repay Danny for anything he had done for him so far without asking for something in return. He felt bad that it felt so right to do exactly as being asked: he stayed and slept (probably the most recreative sleep he had had in the last years) with Danny warm and flush against his skin, Danny’s purring vibrating through him like a lullaby.

In the end, he stayed one full week of his leave; squabbling with Danny about almost everything, but with a fond smile in their eyes; chasing Grace in and out of the water under Danny’s watchful eyes; surfing with her and even pitching Danny to it much to her delight. It turned out that Grace had a short break from school and Danny wasn’t working to spent the days with her. And the evenings with Steve.

It was the most carefree time Steve had in years. But ever after their first evening Steve kept his distance. He wouldn’t want to impose himself further on Danny, already asking too much while staying with them. He yearned to touch that skin again, but he denied himself the luxury. Danny wasn’t his guide, would never be, so he shouldn’t dwell on it.

The thing was, Steve keeping his distance didn’t quell the sparks that seemed to flare up in Steve’s chest whenever Danny grinned at him or lifted a sarcastic eyebrow (“Meka is just a friend, you Neanderthal, no reason to get jealous”), nudged his shoulder to get his attention or simply leaned in too close.

Steve just couldn’t dare risk bringing the Navy Guild into this home. He had to leave rather sooner than later. The day he grabbed his duffle and turned around to Danny to say good-bye was by far the hardest day in his life. Grace came dashing from her room and threw her arms around his waist, startling him.

“Don’t go, Uncle Steve!”

His heart clenched at the endearment she had picked up after the first time they went surfing together and Steve had shown her how to ride her first big wave (it hadn’t been that big, but big enough for her and Danny as well, apparently).

“But he has to, monkey. Remember? He has to do sentinel-superhero-things,” Danny said softly from behind her.

She clutched him tighter. “You’re coming back and then we’ll ride the really big waves, yes?” she said into his navel.

Steve swallowed. “Sure, Gracie.” She nodded, then suddenly she dashed off, running to her room. Steve looked at Danny puzzled, but he simply shrugged.

“Kids,” was all he said, standing an awkward length’s away. Steve shifted on his feet.

“Well, thank you again, Danny. This really meant much for me.”

“Anytime. Just … just give me a call. Or knock.” He cracked a smile and ran his fingers through his hair. Then he was suddenly there, pulling Steve into a crashing hug that Steve returned with the same fierceness. He didn’t want to go. He didn’t want to spend his second week at the Base Center with some other guide. He didn’t want to let go of Danny ever. But he knew he had to. For both of their sakes. He was already risking too much as it was.

He pulled away reluctantly and Danny let him. The most dreadful thing was that Steve wished Danny would fight. Wouldn’t let him go so freely. Would pull him back in, because Steve would follow. This would be his doom.

“Bye, Danno.”

Danny scowled in mockery. “Don’t Danno me, I told you so.”

Steve grinned, but didn’t feel it in his heart. Then he grabbed his duffle again.

“Stay safe, you hear me?” Danny’s voice was rough and his eyes were too bright.

“You tell me this every time.”

“Can’t say it often enough.”

Steve took a step back before he did something ridiculous like touching Danny’s cheek or promising he would come back soon. His stomach twisted painfully. “Stay safe yourself, Danno,” he said again and this time Danny didn’t correct him.

“Bye, babe.”