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Crescendo

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Steve felt exhausted. The last mission had been long and tiresome, with too much waiting and sitting around through the first two thirds of it and too much stress at the end. The urge to sleep for at least a week was strong and the cheerful mood of his buddies actually just got on his nerves.

They were heading straight to the base of Pearl Harbor and Steve looked forward to sleep in a somewhat decent bed and not crouching between some rocks with Brad’s hot breath fanning over his face.

“Come on, Smooth Dog! Why that face? There are some nice guides waiting for us!” Mike wiggled his brows while smacking him across the arm.

“You won’t leave us high and dry, will you?”, asked Tony and scratched his beard that he had grown over the duration of the mission and which was now thicker than any jungle Steve had ever the pleasure to march through.

“You go in there like that? You wanna scare them of, or something?”, Steve joked and hoped that would be enough to take the conversation away from him. The men roared with laughter and Tony muttered something about tough fighters and attractiveness under his breath.

Nevertheless, Mike wouldn’t let him off the hook so easily. “Come on, we hadn’t some guides around us for a while, it’ll help. You don’t have to go all scent-drunk on them, just have a nice talk, maybe a little touching bare arms here and there, having a calming whiff to your inner beast.”

“You’re no machine, Commander”, said Silent José and the men instantly calmed down a bit. José was a big man with few words, but when he did speak, the others listened.

Steve suppressed a deep sigh. He really wasn’t in the mood for some guides with soothing voices and tantalizing scents. He just wanted some quiet time alone, but it didn’t seem that he would get that within the next hour. These men weren’t SEALs for nothing and resisting them would only end in him being carried to the rec room as some kind of competition. Rising his hands in defeat, he said: “Fine, fine, I’m coming!”

When they finally arrived at the base, they actually were occupied for another couple of hours: unloading equipment, cleaning their gear including a full check on their weapons, reporting back to the base commander about their operation with a fixed follow-up meeting for the next day to go over every move of their team. Steve had to submit their intel and data about the mission and answer the base commander’s questions before he too was dismissed and could finally take a short hot shower.

He entered the already filled rec room and eyed the crowd. Apart from his team, another mingled with the guides there as well. Tony gave a loud cheer at the sight of him and José smiled secretly at him, but the others were too engrossed with the guides around them.

Setting up a meeting between unbonded guides and military sentinels was a sort of benefit the Navy paid their men. It was hard to find a guide, who was willing to go through military training and become a part of the whole system since shutting down their empathy levels was just against their nature. So the Navy (and the military in general) was forced to find another way to get their hands on guides that were compatible with their highly trained sentinels. They offered it as some sort of paid community service for the guides. Something along the lines of come and meet the men behind the uniform, get a private insight of a Navy SEAL, help them get grounded after their missions, they do so much for our country, this is a way to pay them back with respect. And maybe you’ll meet your mate down the line.

For Steve it was all just whitewashing. Most of the guides didn’t want to be dragged around the world, straight into warzones, to follow their sentinel on their missions and likely get killed, which was in fact a sad reality. But that didn’t seem to hinder those guides at being here, or maybe they hadn’t even thought about all the consequences. For them it was an exclusive pick-up location or a way to earn some extra money. It always was either way.

Steve scanned the crowd and tried to find someone that would not totally annoy him. He knew that when he would disappear again after five minutes, his team members would drag him back in by his feet. As always, the guides were too young, too provocative, too naïve. Already a redhead eyed him up and down with a lascivious smile on her lips. Hurriedly he dove into the crowd, making a beeline for the vending machine. Out of the corner of his eyes, he saw the redhead getting up and making her way over and Steve already steeled himself for a long and boring conversation. He wouldn’t mind sitting here with his soda and absorbing the soothing psychic energy that a crowd of guides this size emitted without idle chitchat. Waiting for his can of soda to finally pop out from the vending machine, his gaze fell upon a figure leaning by the window. The man was none of the military, so he must be a guide, but he looked so out of place that Steve had to blink to make sure he was seeing right. The man was definitely older than the rest of the guides, probably around his thirties. His stocky figure stood in stark contrast to the mostly slim and lean build of the others and his clothes were … well … at least he wasn’t showing too much skin. In fact, he looked more like a guy from the office than someone heading for a club like the others.

Steve didn’t even notice that he was staring, when the man turned around and smirked. “Like something you see?”

He was at a loss for words for a second. Neither had he anticipated such a banal pick-up line nor that toothy smirk. But what really took him by surprise were those intense blue eyes.

When the red spot in the corner of his eyes came closer, Steve finally snapped his mouth shut, grabbed his soda and took a step towards the man. “Well, maybe I just saw someone that looked like you could have a decent conversation with. Not like the rest of them.”

“Ouch, very polite, Army man”, exclaimed the man and pulled a face. The glint in his eyes though told a different story.

“Army man?” Steve scoffed. “I’m Navy.”

“Sorry, you look all the same to me. Danny Williams.” He didn’t hold out a hand to shake, but that was normal behavior for a guide, who met a sentinel for the first time. Personal boundaries. You wouldn’t hug strangers either.

“Lieutenant Commander Steve McGarrett”, he replied, an easy smile on his lips. He already felt a weight lifted of his shoulders and his mind strangely more at ease than it had been five minutes ago.

“Lieutenant Commander?” Williams quirked an eyebrow at that. “You’re big kahuna, aren’t you?”

Steve popped himself up against the windowsill next to Williams and opened his can. “Big kahuna?”, he grinned. “Did you get that out of a dictionary?”

“Oi, watch it!” Those blue eyes sparkled with humor and Steve couldn’t pull his gaze away. The blue was soothing like watching the ocean under the sun, calm and steady one moment and mischievous the other. Steve was sure that under the surface lurked danger, but danger was something he could handle.

“You alright?”, Williams asked, face gone serious.

Steve nodded. “Yeah, sorry, just … rough mission.”

Williams gave him a sideway glance. “You’re not gonna talk about it.” It wasn’t question. The guides visiting military bases were informed not to ask about missions or people or military activities whatsoever.

Steve shrugged. “You could tell me something about you instead.” Just keep looking at me with those eyes, he thought before he could quell it.

Williams gave him a funny look as though he knew exactly what was going on in Steve’s head, which was of course impossible, because Steve had been trained to build shields that needed a trained military guide to crack open.

“So it’s up to me now? Fine, I can live with that. Let’s see … I have three siblings – two sisters, one brother – I tell you, pain in the ass. You know what they did last Thanksgiving? Bridget wanted dairy free milk, because she was convinced that normal milk was bad for her skin, but she is still refusing to go to a doctor to let herself be tested for allergies. You know how hard it is to get dairy free milk right before a holiday? It was horror. And in the meantime Stella and Matt watched Grace – that’s my daughter – and instead of reading to her or drawing with her or something like that they decided to make cookies!”

Steve watched enrapt how Williams’ soul poured into his words. His whole being became alive, wild hand gestures and open expressions included. He tried to catch up on the mention of a daughter, but stowed the fact away for later. If there was a later, that was.

“The whole kitchen was a mess, Gracie was a mess, and who had to clean it all up? Me. Instead of helping they decided that a food fight with flour was an excellent idea and I can tell you, my Ma wasn’t happy about it!”

Williams rattled on about family and Thanksgiving, switching to stories about pranks he and his siblings used to play when they were younger. Steve didn’t listen very intently, instead he absorbed those blue pools of Williams’ eyes and tried to not get lost in them completely.

“Hey, stop that.” The soft voice startled Steve out of his trance. “Don’t zone, ok? I’m no one you should lose your mind over, yeah?”

He blinked and stared into Williams’ concerned face. “I’m not zoning. I’m listening”, Steve argued just for the cause of it.

Williams huffed. “Sure you are.”

“Yes!” Steve exclaimed slightly hurt. “You have a daughter named Grace. You don’t live with your siblings, but when you meet you pull each other’s legs to make up for the missed time. Your mother sounds like a lovely cook.” Steve hesitated for a moment before he asked the question that popped up in his mind. “Why are you here, when you have a daughter?”

Williams narrowed his eyes at him. “I’m not a good guide, because I have a daughter?”

“No, no! I mean, why are you here? You know that potentially you could find your sentinel, who would be military, which means uprooting you. You wouldn’t be able to see your daughter, when you have to follow your sentinel around the globe for months on length. You’re too old for that.” Nice, McGarrett, that really came out smooth and well-articulated.

Williams gaped. “Too – sorry, did you just say I was too old? Because that’s what I was hearing!” He invaded Steve’s personal space and poked a finger at his face. No guide ever had dared to do this and certainly not right after meeting him. “I tell you what, Super SEAL, the reason why I’m here is my daughter. I already have uprooted my whole life to be near her and I’m sure as hell won’t let anybody take her away from me again. Or me away from her, doesn’t matter. I know very well that I’m too old for anybody in here. That’s the reason I came, because no one would spare me a second glance and try to impose on me being their guide. I don’t need curry favor with some crazy military sentinels to make myself feel better. So, I’ll get paid for standing around with the likes of you, which in fact will help me pay alimonies for my little girl, so don’t you dare judging me or calling me old!”

Williams was barking like an angry pit-bull right into Steve’s face, but he didn’t feel any real bite behind it. “I’m not judging you. In fact, I’m glad you’ve been here. This conversation has been more interesting than anything those other guides could have to say.”

At that, Williams’ bite went out of him. He stuffed his hands in the pockets of his slack pants and eyed the people around him. Steve followed his gaze, unsure if he said something wrong. His eyes fell upon Tommy, who sat at a comfy couch with Mike and three guides – all young and beautiful, the redhead from earlier among them – and had his nose buried in the crook of the neck of one of them.

“I’m not a good guide. I can’t to this”, Williams gestured vaguely over to the couch.

“Don’t worry, you’re good enough for what matters. You calmed me down, put me back on the ground with my head back in the game”, Steve said quietly. Williams turned around and looked at him, his mouth open for a response, when a loud voice interrupted every conversation. “Visiting time ends in ten!”

Steve looked at his watch in surprise. This had been the shortest hour of his life.

Williams cleared his throat. “Well, seems like that’s it.”

Steve nodded, unable to say much more. He didn’t feel ready to let this man go just yet.

“How long do you stay here?” Williams’ question surprised Steve and he looked up to find a flash of uncertainty cross those blue eyes, but it vanished too quickly.

“Three days.”

“Three days?! The navy does know the terms vacation, break or holidays, though, yeah?”

Steve smirked. “Of course they do. We’re staying here to exchange and replace equipment and then we’re off to a training mission. After that, well, we’re shipped off again.”

Williams studied his face and Steve felt himself squirm under those blue eyes. He didn’t know, what the man was looking for, but it felt like a test and Steve had no idea how to pass it.

“Five more minutes. Please, guides, pack up!”

Williams seemed to come to a decision at that announcement, although Steve had no idea if the result was positive or not. Right now, he didn’t care, because Williams held out his hand to shake. Physical contact between unbonded sentinels and guides wasn’t a given, so Steve felt oddly honored at the gesture. He gripped his hand and felt a strange pull behind his navel.

“It was nice meeting you, Commander.”

“Likewise, Mr. Williams.”

Williams let go of his hand and took a step backwards to the exit still eyeing him. “It’s Danny.”

A smile split Steve’s face in half. “Steve”, he said, without thinking. Giving a civilian guide their first name normally was an unspoken offer of a military sentinel to take things beyond talking and casual touching.

Williams – Danny – raised his eyebrows at that, but didn’t comment on it. “Make sure you bring your sorry ass back in one piece.” He turned around and joined the crowd at the door, but still looked over his shoulder to catch Steve’s smirk.

“I’ll try.”

“Then try hard, Steven!” With one last sloppy wave of his hand, Danny turned around and vanished in the crowd. The grin wouldn’t leave Steve’s face just yet and he ducked his head to hide it from his buddies. He was surprised to find an opened can of untouched soda in his hand.

Chapter Text

Sitting somewhere in the middle of the Crimean Mountains, Steve played the upcoming mission through in his head. Each step, each turn, each action was filled away in his mind and had been practiced a million times in training runs. Every possibly important information was known, as well as the risk involved and none of it was shockingly new for Steve. But still he felt like a wire was strung too tight and about to snap inside him. That wasn’t ideal to start with. Being that uptight held a certain risk to zone at the slightest disruption and that would jeopardize the mission and his men. Steve couldn’t risk that.

He stared up at the blue afternoon sky and tried to ease his mind into focus. He didn’t need a guide to lead him through meditations, although it would have been nice to have one this time. Their mission was due to start in a few moments, so the luxury of meeting with a local guide was utterly ridiculous.

A slight headache crept behind his eyes. It set all his senses into alarm mode, because headaches normally were a sign for an oncoming zone or at least the very likely possibility thereof.

Fuck, he probably needed a guide after all. Just to tone the headache down. He needed a clear mind for this mission; his men depended on him and his sanity. He thought about calling the service hotline of the Navy Guild to be put up with a guide to go through a simple grounding exercise over the phone at least. But somehow that thought alone made the headache even stronger.

Suddenly, an idea formed itself and Steve wasn’t able to get rid of it, no matter how hard he tried to tell himself that he definitely shouldn't go after it. But he couldn’t really bring himself to care. The mission was threatened with him slightly unstable like that. So, with a suddenly fast pounding heart he pulled the satphone out of the pocket of his vest and dialed a number he knew by heart. After a few rings, an amused female voice answered: “Commander. How do I owe this pleasure?”

“Cath, I need a favor.” Steve rubbed with his free hand over his face. He didn’t feel good about this one, but he couldn’t shake his mind off the idea anymore. Or off a certain calloused hand-shake.

She was silent for a moment. “Where are you?”

“On a mission. I’m sorry for calling you like this, but I need … I need a guide, Cath. I’m not feeling right and I need someone to shake me out of it.”

“Alright, no worry, I’ll get you one on the phone. The grads of this year are really great –“

“No, Cath, no grad. I … could you look up someone, who visited the base at Pearl a few weeks back?”, he interrupted her, already feeling worse for asking that kind of favor from her.

Cath hesitated. “You know that is actually no information you should have access to? Privacy protection and all that?”

“Yes, I know, and I wouldn’t be asking, but I know that it’ll work, ok? He grounded me before quite efficiently. Name’s Danny – Daniel Williams. And, Cath. Please keep this call down. I don’t want the Navy Guild catch a whiff on that one and pull him in just because, you know …”

“You owe me dinner”, Cath sighed and Steve could hear her working the keyboard already. He smirked relieved.

“You’ll get the best steaks on this planet.”

“At least. I’ll put you through. Good luck, Commander.” Her voice was cut off, before Steve could answer that, and was replaced by tooting. It rang several times and Steve already thought that no one would answer, when a sleepy voice cracked through the receiver, thousands of miles away.

“That better be important, Meka, because I’m gonna miss my beauty sleep.”

Steve’s heart tumbled at the sound of Danny’s voice.

“Hello? If this is some fucking joke –“

“No! No. It’s … it’s Steve.” Steve gripped the short hair at the back of his head tightly, as he waited anxiously for Danny to break the heavy silence that had followed his words.

Finally, the phone cracked again. “Steve? SEAL Commander Steve?”

“Yeah.”

“What happened? You alright?” Danny suddenly sounded wide-awake and alarmed, ready to do God knew what, although he wouldn’t be able to actually help Steve if he were in serious trouble. It made Steve’s chest clench in guilt.

“Shit, sorry, forgot about the time shift. I woke you up. I’m fine, sorry for the disturbance”, Steve stammered. Just hearing Danny’s voice for a minute had already eased some of the pressure on his eyeballs.

“You are not, don’t try to kid me”, Danny said matter-of-factly. Something rustled and Steve imagined Danny turning on the light of his nightstand and sitting upright in his bed. Some nice warm bed with no biting winds that made your eyes water.

“What time is it?”, Steve asked softly. The tight clutch around his ribcage lessened a bit.

“Uhm, three in the morning.”

“Oh shit. Sorry, Danny.”

“Yeah, too late for that now”, he chuckled. The warm sound sent a shiver through Steve’s gut and made his headache disappear. “So, what’s up? Where in the world did you get that number from?”

“I’m on a mission. Sorry, can’t tell you much about it, but I … I got a headache and think it could grow into a zone with the next trigger, so I asked a friend of mine to look up your number. It won’t show, promise. I’m really sorry, I just called like that, but I uhm, I need … could you just tell me something?” This sounded so stupid, even to himself. The request was so ridiculous and childish in Steve’s ears, like he was five years old and afraid of the boogeyman.

Danny was silent again and Steve cursed himself. Of course Danny wasn’t amused about being woken up in the middle of the night (and whoever this Meka was – maybe even another sentinel Danny was seeing, for he knew right to nothing about Danny at all – he probably had called unwantedly a couple of times in the middle of the night as well) and might be downright pissed that Steve had sort of hacked a navy system to get his number.

But when Danny did speak again, his voice was soft and warm. “What do you want to hear? I’m afraid I’m a bad storyteller. Ask Grace, she always corrects me when I read to her.”

His words took such a load off Steve’s mind that he almost choked on his next words: “Then tell me about Grace.”

Steve sat there, head hanging between his shoulders and his free hand absently brushing over his short hair, so no one would see his smile that spread across his face secretly, as Danny started telling about Grace. This moment was his sanctuary and no outsider should be part of it, not even one of his buddies. He listened to Danny’s doubts about Grace taking surfing lessons (dangerous currents and sharks and Grace in a bikini, oh no, thank you), which led to her love of dolphins and that they were going to the zoo next weekend to see and feed them. He tried to save some money to buy them a night at the Kahala Hotel, because they had dolphins you could swim with and he wanted Grace to have a memorable first birthday on Hawaii. Danny talked about Grace growing up in Jersey, how his marriage flopped and smacked him in the face and how he ended in that pineapple-infested hell-hole in the end. Because pineapple on pizza? So wrong! Everything was wrong on Hawaii: too much sunshine, too many beaches, too ridiculously cliché with all the surfers and rainbows and palm trees.

Danny just went on with Steve listening silently or maybe humming in agreement and it felt so beautifully normal that it made Steve’s chest ache once more. His headache was completely gone, his mind settled and relaxed, his pulse again on a steady rhythm.

“Hey, you still there?” asked Danny, voice a bit hoarse. Steve decided that he liked that sound. It reminded him of lazy Sunday mornings. Oh, dangerous territory, McGarrett.

“Yeah. Thank you, Danny.”

He heard a hearty yawn over the line. “Sorry, I feel like I’ve gone through a really relaxing meditation myself.” Danny laughed and Steve decided that he liked that sound even better. “You’ll be good, babe?”

“Ba- did you just call me babe?”, Steve laughed lighthearted.

“It’s a Jersey thing!”

Steve practically saw the toothy grin Danny must have on his face. He shook his head, still smiling. “I’m sorry, but I have to go now. Thank you, Danny, I mean it.”

Danny hummed. “Just don’t get blown up, ok?” His voice was soft, almost inaudible over the cracking connection. Steve wondered, if he was actually falling asleep again.

“See you around, Danny.”

The line went dead and Steve felt oddly alone. He blinked into the bright sun, trying to bring his focus back to the here and now. Mike appeared on the hill carrying his full equipment already.

“We’re ready to go in ten, Commander.”

Steve nodded, the upcoming mission razor sharp at the front of his mind again. He stowed away the warm feeling that the call with Danny had left inside him for later, when there was time to indulge in it properly. Right now, he had to take his men in and out of that op.

Steve rose, stashing the satphone back into his pocket. He knew it was completely nonsense, but he liked to think that Danny was somehow watching out for him.

Chapter Text

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.”

Chapter Text

Catherine was working on some data analysis from a satellite for a mission they had been preparing for for quite some time now, as she got notice of the incoming call. Her commanding officer answered the call and Catherine was bound to dismiss the sudden tension in his shoulders and his even more clipped than usual answers.

“Lieutenant, get our military hospital ward ready for an injured and zoned Navy SEAL sentinel”, he barked at her.

She nodded and quickly asked before he could storm off: “Which sense? And what kind of injuries?”

“Sight and hearing, probably touch as well. He got hit by a collapsing building, probably concussion.”

She cursed under her breath as she dialed the ward. Zones on more than one sense alone were difficult, but dealing with something like a concussion on top of that was a nightmare. She had set up the ward in seconds and then jogged down to the landing zone to see if they needed anything. The landing zone was already buzzing with people, which were pulling a barrow out of the dark Sea Stallion that still chopped its blades through the air. Catherine couldn’t make out much, just a lifeless, filth-smeared and blood-stained figure, covered with an oxygen mask and hooked on several IVs the paramedics held high in the air. They ran past her, the doctors already shouting for an OR. She just got a glimpse of a bloodied, pale face, but the acidly smell of agony hit her like a freight train right in her gut. She slapped a hand over her nose and mouth before she could think about it. Her feet felt numb and glued to the spot, because underneath all that nauseating stench lay something very familiar.

She knew that sentinel. That was Steve, fighting for his life.

Catherine forced herself out of her sudden shock and ran after the hospital staff, just to be held back by one of them.

“Sorry Lieutenant, but you can’t go in.”

“How is he?”, she asked desperately rather than demanding and maybe that was, what actually got her an answer in return.

“Stable, but his injuries are severe. A rib punctuated his lung, it collapsed, but we were able to stabilize it with a pleural drainage. He got a concussion and his back is deeply cut from the debris. He suffered a gunshot wound to his stomach as well as a dislocated left shoulder. What really worries us are his zones. We have to perform surgery because of his lung, the bullet wound and his shoulder with a heavy sedate and if he can’t get out of those zones quickly after the surgery, we need to take in the possibility of a coma for an unpredictable amount of time.”

“He may never wake up again? Caught in his zone?”, Catherine asked with a shaky voice. Being caught in a zone was the worst possible situation a sentinel could ever experience. Cut off from the outside world with no anchor to ground yourself onto, you were going insane in your own head. Although this could drag on for years, the results were the same; sooner or later the sentinel would die.

“He has a guide?”, the medic asked. “If so, get them here fast. Or get any guide. The sooner they get the sentinel out of his zones, the better.” He left her, hurrying after the others in the direction of the OR.

Catherine didn’t waste any time either and rushed off in the other direction. Guide, she needed to find Steve a guide. She almost missed her workstation in her haste and hurriedly pulled up Steve’s file with just a few clicks on her keyboard. Having access to almost any information with the navy never came in handier.

She scrolled through the content of the file. Guide … were was that damned list of Steve’s guides … Description … Physical abilities … Background/Heritage … Damn, it had to be somewhere! She scrolled back, her eyes flying over the words. There!

Sentinel-Type: A-class.
Bond status: unbonded.
Registered guide: Lieutenant Freddie Hart (deceased in battle 2010/09).
Registered temporary guide: Lieutenant Matt Bricks (2010/10 – 2011/06), Warrant Officer Dean Chester (2011/08 – 2011/12), Petty Officer Susan Nguyen (2012/06 – 2012/07), Petty Officer John José Perez (2013/09).

Catherine stared at the dates. September 2013. That was over half a year ago. Steve hadn’t had a guide, not even a temporary one for more than nineteen months? How could he still function? How could he still be such an excellent SEAL?

That couldn’t be. No one could live without some guiding for such a long time, even more so when your first guide had died in battle. Not even Steve was that tough. She read the names again. They said her nothing; she couldn’t remember meeting one of them, so they probably had been assigned to Steve by request of the navy. She wanted to smack herself on the head desperately as she suddenly realized that Steve did have a guide. Of some sorts. She twisted her mind over the name Steve had asked her to look up the last times he had called. Fuck, why couldn’t she remember, it hadn’t been that a difficult name. Will … William something. William Deeds? Dean … Dean William? Daniel Williams!

She hacked the name into the program and dialed the number displayed on her monitor. Her finger hovered over the call button, as she suddenly remembered Steve’s plea to keep Danny out of any official search, afraid to raise red flags within the Navy Guild. Shit. She eyed her monitor again and the official search request she had made in the database. Shit shit shit. Now, there would be questions, no doubt. But this was about Steve, who might die if he didn’t get a guide. Steve, who might never wake up again. Praying that later both Steve and this Danny may understand, why she had to do, what she did right now, she hit the call button on the phone. Impatiently she drubbed her fingers on the table as she waited for the call to connect.

Pick up, she thought with all her willpower. Pick up, come on!

Finally, it clicked and a voice answered. “Detective Williams.”

Catherine was shortly taken aback by the Detective, but she pushed her surprise aside. Later, Steve first. “Detective Williams, my name is Lieutenant Sentinel Catherine Rollins of the US Navy. I may have a very unusual request, but I wouldn’t call if it weren’t urgent. I presume you are acquainted with Lieutenant Commander Steve McGarrett?”

“Yes, I am. What happened?” He sounded suddenly highly alerted and she hated that she had to call with such bad news, confirming his obvious worry.

“Detective, Commander McGarrett … Steve had been severely injured on a mission. He’s in surgery right now. But the problem is that he zoned before he passed out. He’s still caught and the medics fear that he will stay comatose even after the sedatives wear off.”

Williams cursed.

“I know this is a big request, but since you’re the only guide I know of, who Steve had been working with lately –“

“What can I do?”, he interrupted her. A huge weight dropped off Catherine’s tense shoulders.

“Would it be possible for you to take a few days off and come to see Steve personally? We would fly you in, our base is somewhere in the Pacific right now. Sorry, I can’t be more specific.”

“That’s OK, Lieutenant Rollins.” She could hear a faint smile in his voice. Although he wasn’t her guide and they were speaking to each other for the first time (and not in person, just over the phone), she felt calmness soothing over her agitated senses. Williams was a strong guide. Hopefully strong enough to pull Steve out of his prison.

“I need to make some arrangements, but I could be ready tomorrow morning?”, he said after a short pause.

Catherine glanced at her watch and did a quick calculation. “We could pick you up in six hours, would that be possible? I know it’s the middle of the night at Hawaii at that time, but it would buy Steve some precious hours.”

“Yeah, I’ll give my best. Captain’s not gonna take that easy”, he sighed, but sounded determined all the same.

She felt a smile sneak on her lips. “If he’s being a bit too difficult, please call this number.” She rattled off the digits of her commanding officer’s direct access. He hopefully wouldn’t mind.

 

The hours after Catherine’s conversation with Williams dragged like sticky tar. Steve had been out of surgery after two hours, still peppered with various IVs and connected to a lot of peeping machines. Catherine was just allowed to pay him a visit behind a glass door and a window, since the presence of another sentinel could cause him even more distress and push him further into the zone. He looked pale and ragged in the white sheets, his dark hair a stark contrast.

Her shift for today was actually over, but she wouldn’t leave her workstation once she had been shooed away from Steve’s sick bed by some nurses, too riled up to consider sleeping. She waited anxiously for Williams to arrive and therefore a place near those phones was better than her sleeping quarters.

It was nearly four in the morning, when one of the phones finally rang. Her commanding officer barked into the receiver and gave Catherine a sharp nod. She jumped from her seat and hurried over to the landing area, which was still relatively busy, but she still spotted him almost right away. Williams wore a rumpled shirt with a tie, most likely the same attire he had worn all day at work. He looked tired and glanced skeptical at his surroundings. From his voice alone, Catherine had somehow imagined a tall man with a dark beard and some silver in his hair. Being confronted with a man being in his thirties and shorter than herself, but with a shoulder-to-waist-ratio like a pit bull was a little surprise. She tried to picture Steve with him, but somehow it wouldn’t fit.

“Detective Williams?”

“Please, Danny’s just fine”, he said as she came over, voice rough from napping in a helicopter. His accent was rich, though, and she tried to place him. Definitely not Hawaiian.

“Lieutenant Catherine Rollins. Thank you for coming over, we really appreciate it.”

He simply nodded. “What happened?”, he asked as they made their way through the base to the hospital ward.

Right to the point. She sighed inwardly. “A mission went south. I can’t tell you much, but the building, where Steve and his team were supposed to draw out a camp of gun dealers working for several terrorist organizations, was under heavy attack. They had special anti-sentinel weaponry and three of our men dropped into a zone. Steve was the furthest into the building, so when it collapsed it buried him alive until our men were able to fight off the rebels and call in for back-up.”

“What happened to the guides?”

Catherine quickly glanced at him sideways. “There were none.”

Williams halted so abruptly as if he had run into a glass wall. “There were no – what do you mean, there were no guides? You sent your sentinels on such dangerous missions without a single guide?! You risk their lives as well as their mental healthiness deliberately?” The small duffle in his hand swung wildly as he underlined each question with a wide gesture. He slowly stalked forward again, eyes narrowed at her as if she was responsible for Steve’s current condition. “I don’t know where to start with actually. You can’t sent in a group of unbondend, unguided sentinels into a warzone and then hope for the best!”

“Detective Williams, Danny,” said Catherine in her hopefully best soothing voice. “It is not our place to discuss this subject. We just need you to help Lieutenant Commander Sentinel Steve McGarrett to come back from unconsciousness and out of these zones.”

Williams took a deep breath and visibly willed the words down that lay undoubtedly at the tip of his tongue. She understood fewer and fewer why Steve had requested the assistance of this guide twice or more. He didn’t seem to have any treat in him that was sought after in guides: calmness, composure and balance. Williams seemed to have more in common with a bulldozer than an anchor. A very loud and mouthy bulldozer. She almost regretted calling him in. She didn’t know either how he was able to soothe her over the phone earlier, but maybe that was because of Catherine’s own inner picture of a calm and centered guide.

“Alright,” Williams said, pinching the bridge of his nose in annoyance. “Zones. As in plural. I won’t comment. Which senses?”

Catherine swallowed her sharp reply. “We’re not hundred per cent sure, but we guess hearing, sight and touch. The medics already tried standard stimuli, but he wouldn’t respond.”

They walked the rest of the way in silence that felt like a heavy weight. She finally stopped at the door of Steve’s room, looking through the window next to the glass door. Steve lay there exactly like he had when she had visited earlier. Her stomach turned in knots at the thought that he may never wake up again.

A hand on her shoulder startled her out of that dangerous train of thoughts. Williams looked at her with soft eyes and suddenly she felt reassured and a lot calmer. There was the guide again, who had soothed her over the phone without knowing her.

“He’ll be fine. He’s a fighter and a SEAL, he won’t be stopped by a zone, Lieutenant.”

Catherine nodded at that. Something like hope was rising inside her at his words and she quickly waved over a nurse. Time to get Steve out of these zones. After a short briefing, Williams – Danny – was ushered inside. The rest of them had to keep out, although a team of medics, nurses and doctors as well as several commanding officers and Tony and José from Steve’s SEAL team, who were the only ones without serious injuries, gathered one by one in front of the door and the window.

Catherine gave Tony and José a tiny nod and they came over to stand at her side.

“Who’s that?” Tony asked, jerking his chin in the general direction of Steve and Danny.

“A guide Steve had seen a couple of times. Unofficially. He’s his only regular so far,” she said quietly. Inside, Danny had dropped the duffle in a corner and slowly made his way over to Steve, talking without grand gestures this time. It was too hushed to make out the words, but it looked intimate.

“Unofficially? This means, not even his temp, then? Huh, I’ll be surprised if that’s gonna work,” huffed Tony and crossed his arms. A white bandage covered the thick muscles of his upper arm. Tony wasn’t a sentinel himself and sometimes the whole guide-concept got lost on him.

“It’s the only one Steve seems familiar with. We just have to hope for the best.”

Tony grunted and watched on. Danny was now sitting on the bed, beside Steve, one of his hands in his own. He still told Steve something as he slowly took off the oxygen mask of Steve’s face. A nurse drew in a sharp breath and hissed: “What the hell is he doing? That’s not standard protocol!”

A doctor patted her on the back. “Everything’s alright so far, Evelyn, his vitals are stable. Maybe unorthodox methods are exactly what is needed here.”

After that, Danny just seemed to sit there and talk to Steve. What he was saying must be far from standard protocol as well, because it didn’t look like he was guiding Steve through meditation exercises, but did actually tell him some story. His arm that didn’t hold Steve’s hand was gesturing again, although he toned it done, but obviously he couldn’t help it. Now and then even a smile crossed his face.

Catherine was fascinated. That was the most uncommon attempt at pulling a sentinel out of several zones she had ever witnessed. Tony seemed to agree, but not in a positive way, if she interpreted his impatient grunting right.

She didn’t know how long they stood there and watched Danny talk, but suddenly something must have changed, because Danny stopped mid-sentence and leaned forward, touching Steve’s face with his free hand. Everyone in front of the window shuffled closer to the glass.

For several minutes nothing seemed to happen besides Danny leaning over Steve’s face and talking in a now clearly guiding voice. And suddenly Steve leapt forward so fast, Catherine didn’t know for a moment what happened. Steve clutched white fists into Danny’s shirt to pull him close and buried his face at the side of Danny’s neck. He froze there and didn’t move any further, just inhaling the scent of the guide beside him.

“Holy shit,” muttered Tony. Catherine had almost forgotten he was there. “That was unexpected. What the heck is he doing?”

“What do you mean?” she asked irritated over the excited chatter of the doctors and nurses.

Tony barked out a laugh. “He’s sniffing this poor guy’s neck like some druggie. If I wouldn’t know it better, I’d say he’s getting scent-drunk.”

Catherine eyed the pair skeptical. Reactivating a sense that hadn’t zoned was common practice. She wouldn’t call it scent-drunk, when Steve only slowly got his other senses back under control by first anchoring himself with an intact one. But when Steve clawed at the clothing covering Danny’s neck and Danny had to get rid of his tie and open his shirt further without Steve so much as desist from inhaling his scent, she knew that Tony was right.

The nurses and doctors got agitated, because they wanted to check in on their patient, but so far Danny hadn’t given the signal that it was safe to enter, on which they had agreed on earlier.

Catherine had expected that Danny would coax Steve into lying down again after he had successfully anchored himself on his sense of smell, but they sat on the bed for almost another quarter of an hour. Normally only bonded guides would allow their partners to scent them this long; everything else was actually considered as harassment. Slowly Steve’s iron tight grip on Danny’s shirt eased and finally he lifted his head from the crook of Danny’s neck to look at him instead. Catherine could make out the moment when Danny told Steve to dial his senses down again and relief flooded through her veins. Steve was back.

Still Danny didn’t give the clear, but grabbed Steve’s face with both hands and said something that looked suspiciously like an insult. Steve held tightly onto Danny’s strong forearms, but Catherine couldn’t see his face as his body was facing solely Danny. Then Danny cracked a smile, warm and fond, and Steve seemed to huff and slowly sank back into his cushions. Danny gave the OK-signal and the doctors and nurses filtered in, but in between all that chaos Steve’s gaze always searched Danny’s, who stood just out of the way for all the medical staff, as if to make sure Danny hadn’t suddenly vanished.

“Well, McGarrett sure as hell will get rubbed that lovely encounter in. A lot,” smirked Tony.

Catherine scowled at him. “He just woke up from a surgery and a triple zone. You think that’s funny?”

“Oh, Lieutenant, he actually meant that it took a collapsing building for Commander McGarrett to finally realize that he needed to see that guide again. He’s been insufferable for months and now we know the reason,” said José with his calm voice and Catherine blinked back into the room to see Danny nudging Steve in the shoulder and Steve just lay there grinning.

Well, maybe they did fit after all. Which wasn't good, ifSteve still wanted to keep Danny somehow out of the reach of the Navy Guild. After that display of compatibility, they sure as hell would be after him. Maybe she could do something to slow down the inevitable. But she needed to warn Steve nevertheless as soon as he had recovered enough.

Chapter Text

Steve had dreaded this day like he had nothing in a very long time.

His recovery from the incident with the collapsing building had been slow, even more so because he had to recover from that triple zone as well with a lot of meditations and grounding exercises. But Steve hadn’t bat an eye at that, which he knew was more than atypical for him, because Danny was there.

Danny, with his flying arms and excessive rants about everything military related (especially sleeping hours, food and the very bad coffee they served here). Danny, with his unwavering solidarity whenever Steve made a step back rather than forward in his recovery, goading his willpower and ambition again and not shying away from Steve’s frustration. Danny, with his blue eyes and his laugh lines around them. Danny, with his loud Jersey way of crawling under Steve’s skin and settling there like he owned the place. Danny, with his warm skin Steve couldn’t touch the way he wanted, because they were neither bonded nor nearly in private enough to fully indulge in the sensation. Danny, with his carefully structured hair that Steve itched to run his finger through, because it looked so soft at the base of his skull. Danny, with his scent of dark teakwood and hints of salt and gasoline that had burned a hole in Steve’s heart with such force that he now was hopelessly addicted to.

But it wouldn’t be appropriate to bury his nose again at the crook of Danny’s neck without a real lifesaving need. Not under a thousand prying eyes of the Navy Guild. They had eventually shown up, which was no surprise. Danny had been able to pull an A-Class Navy SEAL Sentinel out of a triple zone without so much as sweating. Normally this would have evolved at least a couple of days with two or more guides taking turns, burning so called scent-bombs to activate the still intact sense of smell again. But Danny had just been sitting by Steve’s side for a couple of hours, talking by all means, and Steve had come back just like that.

Steve had tried to brush it off, told the Navy Guild Officer something about the fortunate circumstance that Danny’s scent had triggered the memory of his childhood in Hawaii, happy days with his father and sister loitering in the garage and fixing the Marquise. He wasn’t sure, if they had bought it. They actually wanted to do some test and Danny had looked more than apprehensive about that announcement. But somehow a wonder had happened and they backed down.

Steve was still suspicious about it, but he wouldn’t question it as long as Danny was still with him on the carrier. This had to be some test to see if Steve had told them the truth. That they weren’t compatible at all. So Steve toned his interactions with Danny down, in public as well as in the privacy of the meditation room.

But it was so fucking hard. Nothing ever before did prove itself such a challenge as the temptation of Danny was.

Steve had tried to be subtle about it. He took deep breaths, when Danny leaned in close for some reason, trying to memorize that scent and taking comfort in that faint resemblance of that one time he got drunk on it. Of course he felt bad about it, mostly because it felt like he would take advantage of Danny and his guide nature like some pervert. To some part he also felt like a drug addict that greedily waited for his next shot. That was disturbing, because Steve had to doubt his own ability as a SEAL as well as his own sanity if he acted like a loose dog in the presence of one man.

He couldn’t bring himself to care enough, though, and that scared him. Steve naturally wasn’t scared by much, so that was something to go by. In those couple of days, where Danny had become a constant presence in Steve’s life, he got so used to having him around that he hardly could recall the times, when Danny hadn’t been and how he had functioned then.

Well, he would soon enough know it again. His doctor had deemed him recovered for training again this morning and his commanding officer had been quick to assign him to the next training mission that would start in a week. Somewhere off the ocean, no specifics given. But it was clear as day that the day Steve would jump into a helicopter to be thrown off somewhere over dark waters, was the same day Danny would mount a flight of his own that would bring him back to Oahu. Far away from Steve. He should be thankful for it. Of course his commanding officer had bugged him about that guide, if he didn’t think he would at least be acceptable for Steve to accompany him on his missions until another match was found. Steve declined him politely with all the reasons he could come up with. It tore at his heart that he had to deny his guide.

Danny on the other side looked forward to seeing his daughter again. She had been with her mother and step-father on vacation in England, visiting her grandparents from her mother’s side for the last couple of weeks. Otherwise Danny wouldn’t have been able to come to Steve’s rescue. It had stung the moment Steve discovered the fact, that he wasn’t Danny’s upmost priority. But that was selfish, since his brain brought forward every logical and reasonable argument that spoke in favor of Danny’s behavior. It was another perfect reason why they were clearly not compatible and the Navy Guild should lose their interest in Danny again. Only it sounded much easier than it actually was.

Steve tried to make the most of Danny’s remaining days with him. He indulged in far more meditations than he ever had before going on a mission, even if it was just a training mission. He tried to get Danny the best coffee there was on the base; he even talked someone into buying some cinnamon buns for Danny, because he wouldn’t stop talking about food, especially Italian food, pastries and the abomination that obviously was Hawaiian pizza. Steve argued back about that, because honestly, there was nothing better than the combination of ham and pineapple on a fine dough with tomato sauce. He argued with Danny about almost everything, just because he could. He knew that others stationed with them on the carrier were either really irritated (especially Navy Guild Officer Susan Delano, who couldn’t scribble “constant arguing” and “disrespectful guide-behavior” quick enough in her report, which Steve had spied on from some distance) or silently amused about their rants, but Steve couldn’t care less. Arguing with Danny came naturally to him, like breathing, and it was just as important. Danny talked with his soul on his tongue and if he talked like that with Steve, Steve could cherish the illusion that they were connected, bound soul to soul.

Steve could only do so much and try to lock all memories with Danny somewhere deep down, so he could relive them when he was somewhere far away, surrounded by bombs and terror. But he couldn’t stop the time. Too soon, Danny had packed his small duffle bag. He had run out of clean shirts after a couple of days, because he had packed in a hurry to get here and therefore had grabbed at least five sweatpants instead of his shirts. Danny had bitched about it and Steve had just grinned. Now, Danny stood in the hallway leading to the aircrafts before him in a borrowed navy shirt that clung to his broad shoulders like a second skin. The SEAL’s motto stretched over Danny’s broad chest and seemed to mock Steve.

The only easy day was yesterday. Yeah, indeed.

“Hey,” Danny said softly and touched his shoulder briefly. “You can’t do that, Steve, you need to stay focused, ok? No zones, we talked about that.” He grinned slightly, trying to be cheerful, but Steve looked in his blue eyes and saw a storm raging behind them.

People bustled about, but they could also have been on another planet.

“Yeah, no zoning, right, Danno,” Steve said around the lump in his throat. Danny stood there, staring at Steve with unreadable eyes, his duffle clutched tightly in his fist as if Danny as a guide needed something to ground himself. He had an odd sense of déjà-vu, seeing Danny standing before him with a farewell hanging thick in the air between them.

Steve couldn’t bear it any longer. This was the last time he would see Danny in God knew how long. Maybe the last time ever. This actually should be the last time, if he wanted to keep Danny entirely safe out of this. But also the last time he could touch that skin and smell that addicting combination of dark teakwood with its subtle hints of salt and gasoline. His only chance to know if Danny’s hair really was as soft as it looked.

He moved before he could think too long about it and wrapped his arms around those strong shoulders. Something, probably the duffle, hit the floor and Danny’s arms clutched tightly at the back of his BDU. Steve buried his nose in Danny’s neck, forgetting that they stood in the middle of the hallway to the hangar and that everyone could see them. They weren’t important. Danny, warm and secure in his arms, hugging him back just as tightly, was. Nothing else mattered.

One of his hands wandered up and buried itself in that dark blonde hair at the base of Danny’s neck. Steve sighed at the sensation, caressing the hair absentmindedly. Danny turned his head, leaning into the touch, and it felt only natural for Steve to do the same, lifting and turning his head until his lips met Danny’s straight on.

The sun exploded behind Steve’s closed eyes. Danny’s slight stubble burned, but his lips were so soft. Steve’s brain almost knocked itself out with the stimulus satiation of Danny’s scent mixed with his taste and the feel of his lips under Steve’s. It was as if a hunger Steve had tried to stifle without knowing what he would miss finally got satisfied, but at the same time, it wasn’t nearly enough. Without thinking, Steve licked over Danny’s lips, who promptly opened up for him and tentatively pushed his tongue against Steve’s.

He shuddered as a soft moan escaped Danny, almost shy and so, so careful, like Steve was about to brake under too much onslaught. Oh, he did anyway. The moan vibrated through his body, traveled all the way down directly to his dick. He kissed Danny almost feverishly now, nipping at his bottom lip only to deepen the kiss once more.

Steve was startled when suddenly Danny took a step back, breaking the kiss. He looked at him, irritated and upset. Why did his guide push him away? It was alright to kiss, maybe going deeper as well, they were more than a compatible match.

Danny’s eyes were nearly black, his striking blue irises only visible as a thin circle. Heat instantly pooled in Steve’s stomach and he was about to close the gap again and press himself against his guide.

“-mder? Lieutenant Commander!”

Steve slowly turned his head and stared at the guy before him. “Lieutenant Commander, I’m sorry, but we need to take Mr. Williams back to Hawaii now. The plane’s ready for take-off.”

Steve blinked himself back into reality. Suddenly the buzzing of the hallway came crashing down on him. Some people gave him strange looks, but he had only eyes for Danny, who stood just a step away, but it felt like miles. Shit.

“Yeah, sure,” he said, his voice rough. This was it. Time to break away.

Danny stared back with hard eyes and seemed to hesitate for only a moment. Then he came back right into Steve’s space, grabbing him by the neck and pushing their foreheads together. His eyes were blue again.

“Make sure you bring your sorry ass back in one piece,” he rasped. It was exactly the same request he had put upon Steve, when they had met for the first time, ages ago in another base.

Steve swallowed, gripping Danny’s arm tightly. “I will.”

“Mr. Williams, we really have to go now”, urged the Petty Officer at their side. Danny nodded, let go of Steve and walked a few steps back. His eyes never left Steve, who stood there frozen. Danny picked up his duffle and turned around to follow the young Petty Officer, who seemed relieved that there wasn’t any further delay. Steve stared at Danny’s back, the Navy SEAL’s emblem staring back at him, stretched over Danny’s broad back. Just before Danny vanished in the crowd, he turned around one last time, cracked a small smile and everything in Steve shattered. His heart was too small to hold all the pain that seared through him at the sight of Danny leaving; leaving him behind.

He suddenly felt very detached from everyone and everything.

The only easy day was yesterday.

Chapter Text

Steve sat in the quiet room and held his pounding head in his hands. The pain drilled into his skull and made his eyes water and bulge in their sockets with every pulse of pain. It got worse with every passing day – hour – and nothing seemed to help. It wasn’t as if he hadn’t tried, though. But he just couldn’t focus on breathing exercises or simple grounding meditations. He felt restless, unbalanced and riled up for seemingly no reason.

A couple of days ago he had snapped at Tommy for whistling while cleaning his rifle and it almost had escalated into a full-on fight, if the others hadn’t interfered. Tommy had been fuming, barley contained by Silent José and Mike, snarling at Steve to either finally go and fuck this guide into bonding submission, if that was Steve’s problem, or go and fuck himself. Steve had nearly ripped Tommy’s throat open for that comment. His vision had blackened and the only reasonable action on his mind had been to smash in Tommy's skull. He had been so out of it that whoever had been holding him back (Steve couldn’t even recall that) nearly couldn’t keep Steve in check.

But then suddenly everything had gone numb and Steve had awoken in a soft bed in a room with untypically soft colors and a red mark on his shoulder, where the tranquilizer dart had hit him.

A room of the Navy Guild. Fuck. Well done, McGarrett.

He had lost his bearings and it was entirely his fault. He had attacked one of his own team members in almost feral behavior, just because Tommy had mentioned “this guide”. He hadn’t even said a name or anything and Steve just went fubar. And now the Guild had him under supervision. That couldn’t end well. His superiors would be informed. Question would be asked, answers demanded. Actions expected. Such as forcing a guide on Steve to get him back under control. Or even better, pushing him into a bond.

Bile burned in his throat at the mere thought and he had to focus hard on his breathing, so he didn't drown in the sensation.

He knew the blowup would come, but the longer it took, the worse his headache got. He barely couldn’t think beyond guide, agony, please, Danny, guide, Danny, please, Danny, DANNY any more. Steve felt his resistance wavering. It would be so easy to just give in. One word and he would be put out of his misery. But at what cost? He had endangered Danny enough times already, barely got him out the last time. He wouldn't risk that now, so he could feel physically better. He was a goddamn SEAL, he was trained to live with pain!

So, here Steve was, sitting on a bed of the Navy Guild for the third day in a row, trying to force his headache down by sheer willpower alone and to stand the nurses, who occasionally filtered in with medicine and food. No one had entered the room besides and it was unnerving Steve. It was already dark outside, when the sharp, overdue knock on the door came. His shields quivered with the effort it took Steve to tone the onslaught on his ears down. The door swung open without hesitation and Steve clutched his supper – a bowl of unflavored oatmeal – tighter, as two people entered, Steve had dreaded to see for too long now.

His commanding officer Commander Banks looked uncomfortable enough to raise the hairs at Steve’s neck, as he eyed the room and then Steve with quick glances. He was accompanied by Navy Guild Officer Susan Delano, who wore her usual calculating frown. Steve wanted to vomit his supper on the floor. Instead, he pulled himself together and rose on trembling legs to spring to attention and salute properly. The presence of Commander Banks let an uneasy feeling of alarm coil in Steve’s stomach, especially because it had taken him too long to pay Steve a visit, which Steve had expected ever since his improper behavior towards one of his own men.

“Lieutenant Commander Sentinel Steve McGarrett,” his Commander addressed him and the feeling of uneasiness morphed into dread.

“Sir.”

“Navy Guild Officer Delano as well as your deputy have reported to me about your current condition, which is worrying at least. As a leader of a SEAL-team, you are expected to always be in your upmost condition and to undertake everything possible to stay in or gain back that condition. Especially since you are a sentinel, Lieutenant Commander.” Commander Banks wasn't known as a man, who beat around the bush. “Officer Delano also told me that you are refusing to take a guide despite your current situation. I will not tolerate that, Commander. You have rank with high responsibility and as your commanding officer I’m not asking, but ordering you to act accordingly and put an end to your worsening condition.” He looked at Steve expectantly with his hard blue eyes.

This was it. Steve had put off the inevitable long enough. Time to face the consequences. He squared his shoulders and answered with as much determination as he could muster: "Sir, yes, sir!"

Commander Banks nodded and then turned around to Officer Delano and gave her a sharp jerk of his head. She opened the door again and let a woman in civilian clothes in. A visitor’s pass was pinned to her blouse that bore a sigil, which Steve knew all too well: a rectangle crossed by a line. An unbonded guide. Relief flooded through Steve that it wasn't Danny giving him a small encouraging smile, because it meant, they hadn't found him and he was safe. At the same time, everything in him repelled the woman in front of him.

And then the woman’s scent crashed into him. He was totally unprepared for the ferocity with which it ripped through his shields to punch him right in the gut. He doubled over, groaning in agony as he threw up his oatmeal for real. He didn’t care that his superior was witnessing this. The stench was unbearable. He fell to the ground, coiled up in pain as he tried to block out the sheer falsity that suffocated the whole room.

There was shuffling and bellowing, but it was muffled by the roar of blood in Steve’s ears. Black spots danced before his eyes and tried to crawl through his eyeballs into his brain, blackening everything out. Steve fought the zone with every ounce of energy he still had left. After what felt like an eternity, the pressure on his eyes lessened and breathing was easier again. The source of the stench had vanished, but a trace of it still hang in the air. Steve blinked his bleary eyes open and looked up into a doctor’s face.

“Well, so much for that,” he heard Commander Banks mumble.

“It was worth a shot, Commander,” Officer Delano replied quietly.

The doctor helped Steve onto his bed, feeling his pulse and checking his eyes. Steve felt battered and aching as though he just ran headfirst through a brick wall. “Sentinel McGarrett needs to rest now,” the doctor said to Commander Banks and Officer Delano while quickly giving Steve a shot of some medicine.

“Alright, Doctor, we’ll resume tomorrow then.”

“Give him two days. He’s too exhausted to deal with another guide so soon.”

Steve’s head felt woozy. Whatever it was the doctor had given him, it already worked. His eyelids were heavy and he slumped down unceremoniously on the bed, shivering and childishly wishing for a certain warm hand on his skin.

“Well, he’ll better take a liking to the next one,” Steve heard Commander Banks say, although muffled as though cotton was stuffed in his ears. He wanted to scream. Another wrong guide would trip him over the edge and Steve didn't know if he would ever have the energy to crawl out of a zone without Danny again. But maybe Commander Banks said Steve should take lightning to Nixon, whatever that meant. He wasn’t sure. His whole world was swimming and finally the numbness took him under, giving him a rest from all the chaos and agony.

+++

Steve woke from a ringing in his ears, which drilled into his already pounding head. He tried to focus his meager energy on his shields to get some relief. As soon as the ringing subdued a bit, the stale air of the room bit into his nostrils and he heaved on his already empty stomach, spiting stomach acid on the floor. He was sweating from the effort it had taken to just move over the edge of the bed, but as soon as he lay still again, he shivered.

Although he had no idea how long he was already lying here in this room, he knew for sure that he wasn’t holding up much longer. He was running out of both time and energy. Soon the zones would eat him alive. Unless he would find and bond with a guide. Which was not going to happen, because the only one in his mind was Danny and he simply couldn’t force a bond on him. And for sure he didn’t want Danny to have to take pity on him.

He had no sense of time, because keeping his shields up and trying to breathe without vomiting took up all his focus. At some point a nurse came in and checked on him, asking him something, but Steve didn’t bother with an answer. Soon enough, she was out of the room again, leaving her actually neutral scent behind, but today even that made Steve cringe.

Slowly, a fever started to burn inside him and everything around him became too shrill, too loud, too much. Uncontrollable fits shook his body, as his head was about to burst open. There was a voice screaming and only after tasting the blood on his tongue Steve understood that it was him. Danny, where was Danny? He needed ... needed his touch ... his voice ... his smell ... oh Danny, why? Why did he ever let him go? Something wet ran down his cheeks and mingled with the bloodied taste on his tongue, mixing salt to iron. Danny! He needed his mate! A sob struggled past his throat that tore at Steve's heart. He was so cold, so empty. Just a shell, nothing more, filled to the rim with pain that wouldn't ease. Never ease, only increase, swallowing him up, and Steve screamed, screamed until his lungs tore and blood seeped out of his mouth and his eyes and his ears. Screamed for help that would never come and his heart clenched around nothing, stinging in his chest and cramping in a pointless attempt to keep up some sort of rhythm.

Suddenly something shifted.

He wasn't alone anymore. The air felt warm, clean and fresh as though a blanket had fluttered down and engulfed Steve wholly in a blissful bubble. Steve heard his own sickening wet wheezing.

Something gentle nudged at Steve’s mind and after a heartbeat, he let it happen.

Steve?! Oh, please be alright!

Steve’s clenched eyes shot open. That was Danny’s voice in his head. It was faint and unsteady like a badly tuned radio station, but it was there. Was this a zone-dream?

A warm hand closed around his own clammy one that had gripped his head in an iron tight attempt to stop it from splitting itself open. Instantly a cozy warmth spread through him, taking away the panic and the aching of his heart and chest, lifting the weight of the whole universe off Steve. Slowly he blinked with blurry eyes and lifted his head.

Blue. Blue distressed looking eyes. A mop of wild blond hair. Steve froze. This couldn't be real.

Fuck, it’s not working! No! No, no, no, babe, please, not now! Not when I’m finally here! Come on, Steven, say something!

Steve didn’t know what did it in the end, the ranting or the nicknames. Maybe both. It didn’t really matter, because this was Danny floating over him. Danny! He moved faster than he was able to in months, leaping forward so suddenly that he knocked a yelping Danny off, crashing them both to the floor in his desperate attempt to coil around his mate, to hold him in his arms again and never let go again. He ended up curled around Danny’s body with his nose buried in the crook of his neck, taking deep calming breaths. Danny was here, warm and solid under his hands. How was he here? Didn't matter. He licked at skin while trailing blood-smeared kisses from Danny's neck to his hairline. All that mattered that his mate was here, with him, safe in his arms -

Steve sat up abruptly and stared down at his guide. Danny! No! No, he wasn't supposed where Steve was, because that would mean they had found him and dragged him here –

Steve?, echoed the sound of Danny’s voice again in Steve’s head.

No, Danny, you can’t be here. They make you be my guide and you’ll have to join me in the navy! You have to go! Grace needs you; she needs her father in one piece!

Danny’s mouth dropped open and Steve couldn't help the sudden heat that flared in his belly at the sight. Danny lying under him with the disheveled hair looked forbidden gorgeous like that.

You hear me? You can respond back?!

Before Steve could respond to that, he heard a hissing noise and looked up, seeing Commander Banks pulling his hand back as though the air itself had bitten him. He looked frustrated and annoyed at Steve crouching over Danny. “Lower your goddamn shields, McGarrett! No one is going to harm your precious guide!” It sounded muffled and distant and Steve had no idea how often Commander Banks already had addressed him with his request or since when he was actually here in this room.

Steve had no idea, what Commander Banks actually was talking about. He was in no state to draw up and maintain shields, his energy only slowly coming back thanks to Danny. It had been in fact Danny, who had saved him from the onslaught of his own senses. Besides, Steve had never heard of any psychic shields strong enough to keep out something physically. Then it dawned on him and it took all his military training to maintain a straight face in front of his superior and probably half of the Navy Guild.

That’s you, Danny, isn’t it? Those strong shields, the fucking telepathy are your psychic powers, aren’t they?

He had heard about very rare guides, who were able to communicate with their bonded mate telepathically. Never in his life had he ever met one. He was even pretty sure, Commander Banks had neither. Or anybody in the navy. And here was Danny, who displayed not only one but two skills so rare and yet so precious and useful he was sure someone would actually kill for just to get their hands on the guide possessing them. If anyone - even Commander Banks - knew, what Danny was capable of, there was no way he would ever have a life again. He had to get Danny out of here.

Well, never had one responding back to me. Danny had actually the cockiness to smirk up at Steve and wiggle with his eyebrows, as though he had no clue, what he just admitted. As though it wasn't something absolutely astonishing. Now come on, get off me, you Neanderthal, before your boss gets too impatient.

Steve felt the air shift around them as the comfortable bubble Danny had put up, shrank until it fitted like a second skin on them both. He helped Danny up, standing wobbly on his own unsteady legs. He tried to safe himself some dignity by slowly lowering himself back on the bed, but he couldn't fool Danny, who stood close by and watched with a concerned frown between his eyebrows. Steve really wished they would be granted some alone time, but Commander Banks strode forward as soon as Steve eyed him with what he hoped was at least respectful annoyance.

“Lieutenant Commander Sentinel McGarrett,” said Commander Banks, interrupted by the opening door of the room and two Navy Guild Officers, who carried a stack of clothes and something else that Steve couldn’t make out exactly, and stepped up to Officer Delano. Steve had the feeling that he wouldn’t like the next words from his superior. “We are here to formally witness the assumption of your bond with the registered Navy Guide Daniel Williams. Please don’t refuse it,” Commander Banks added in a soft tone Steve never heard from him before. “The paperwork has already been dealt with. Mr. Williams here is now officially part of the US Navy.”

“Detective.”

“I’m sorry?”

“It’s still Detective Williams.”

Steve had to suppress his grin. Only Danny would argue with someone like his commanding officer in such a severe situation. Although Danny’s title came a bit by surprise for himself, Commander Banks was clearly not amused about the correction. He sighed deeply and let the topic drop. “It took us some time to find Detective Williams, since Lieutenant Rollins was quite successful in covering up your frequent contacts with him, but it wouldn’t do anything to deny your compatibility any longer, Commander. As a Navy SEAL, this is all you should ask for, since it makes the exercise of your duties easier and grants you a wider variety of possible scenarios and missions.”

Steve ground his teeth. Not only had he failed in keeping Danny safe. His biggest fear had become reality and Danny now was an official registered guide with the US Navy, meaning they could demand and expect Danny to put his abilities into service. At any time, for any situation. Now, he made it even worse for him by being his bonded partner, meaning Danny had to accompany Steve to the really dangerous missions Commander Banks had so skillfully paraphrased. They hadn't even asked beforehand. They just made the decision excluding them.

"Can I have a word with my guide, Commander Banks?", Steve asked. He just needed to talk with Danny alone, telling him that he didn't want this to happen, not like this anyway.

Commander Banks regarded him with a long look. “I'm afraid, Commander, we are on a tight schedule here. You two can talk after the ceremony. Commander McGarrett, do I have your word that you will succeed as ordered?"

Steve quickly looked at Danny, who himself gave Commander Banks a hard look. This was happening too fast and he had absolutely no idea, how he could convince Commander Banks that he was doing a major mistake here. Besides, he still felt somehow thrown out of the loop by the obvious urge to officially bond them that Commander Banks displayed.

Let’s do it, babe. We can discuss this later, when Mr. Steel-Eyes isn’t trying to murder me with his glare. Steve could feel the resentment rolling off in waves from Danny and he wanted to argue, but Danny nudged him already in the direction of Officer Delano and her entourage, who held out some fresh clothes for them.

This isn’t fair for you. You didn’t even get a say in it!

Danny gave him a quick glance. Well, I’m certainly not fond of the circumstances, but I guess getting bonded to you is something I don’t really mind. I mean, you are a crazy person, running around thinking you are superman, when in fact you have been this close to a zone more than once, and still you refused to call me as back-up. I mean, well, I thought, that we ... we are good together ... that there was something after you ... well, never mind ...

The rambling snapped off mid-sentence and a sudden rush of nervousness and anticipation paired with the odd sensation of the memory of being kissed by himself hit Steve and he turned around to Danny. That hadn’t been his emotions. Danny had been projecting unconsciously his uncertainty onto Steve. He had been hurt that Steve hadn't called for him as soon as he was getting worse and worse, as though Steve didn't want him back. As though Steve wouldn't want to bond with Danny. That was so ridiculous, he almost laughed out loud. As if there was a universe where he would not be so fucking proud that someone like Danny was his mate! Oh how he wished they were alone, somewhere private and safe, not on an actual carrier with his superior and a hawk-like Navy Guild Officer watching their every move.

Fuck, Danny, yes! Yes, I want that bond with you! More than you think! But I wish it wasn’t here, on this carrier, meaning you are part of the navy as well and far away from your home and family!

The heat, the want, the affection that hit him after those words nearly made him stagger. Danny tried to keep a straight face, but a blush crept over his cheeks and well behind his hairline and Steve just wanted to kiss him senseless. Instead, they both grabbed the clothes they were given by the confused looking Navy Guild Officers and Danny vanished into the bathroom while Steve locked himself in the toilet. He took his time to wash at least his face thoroughly. Sweat and blood still clung to his skin and he felt pretty disgusting. It was a small wonder Danny hadn't outright smacked him away as he had launched onto him. Steve still felt shaky, but the thought that Danny was here, with him, getting bonded set something hot and heavy in his stomach. He quickly wrestled the sentinel-friendly uniform into submission and onto his body, so he could flee the small room, already missing Danny’s closeness. When he emerged, he was greeted with the probably saddest arrangement for a bonding ceremony he had ever seen. Even his bonding ceremony with Freddie years ago had been livelier. Mostly because it hadn’t taken place in a clinical looking room of the Navy Guild, but in an assembly hall. There had been their families and friends to celebrate with them after the official and somewhat stiff military act. This was just Commander Banks, looking impatient next to Navy Guild Officer Delano, who looked as though she had bitten into a lemon. The other two Navy Guild Officers (Steve felt steady enough to dial his sight up to read the nametags of Wong and Herrera) thankfully kept themselves in the background. There was absolutely no festive set-up, no smiling faces, no candles, no flowers. God, Steve had hated the flowers the first time, they had been too bright and made him feel awkward. But now he would love to have some green, in fact anything, to give this whole ceremony something alive and vibrant, so he wouldn’t feel like they would perform open heart surgery on him. Without the narcotics.

As soon as Danny came out of the bathroom as well, Officer Delano cleared her throat and stepped up. Steve ignored her, because despite everything that had happened, Steve couldn't ignore how dashing Danny looked in his uniform.

Eyes up front, babe, Danny smirked.

Steve turned obediently back to a sour looking Officer Delano. He still had no idea, what had bitten her, but it had probably something to do with them not following the Sentinel-Guide-rules she represented.

“We have gathered today to witness the rightful union of two extraordinary parties: Sentinel Steven John McGarrett, born on June 16 1977 in Honolulu, Hawaii, assigned Lieutenant Commander of the US Navy and leader of SEAL Team 6; and Guide Daniel Edward Williams, born on April 26 1977 in Newark, New Jersey, former Detective of the Newark Police Department and assigned Supportive Member of the US Navy,” Officer Delano rattled off, as though she was afraid that Danny might slip from her grip again. She turned to Steve. “Do you, Sentinel Steven McGarrett, take this guide, Daniel Williams, as your officially bonded partner, willing to turn to him in distress and to let him guide you and your senses throughout your life?”

“I – yes.” Steve tried to cover up his confusion. Wasn’t he supposed to speak a vow to Danny personally? At least that was the way he thought bonding ceremonies were held. The ceremony was a symbolized act of imprinting with all his senses on Danny and the vows were supposed to be the second part for hearing. He kind of understood that the seeing each other on their bonding day after spending at least a night apart wasn’t in the books for them due to the lack of time. But he at least expected this to be something solid and respectful, not a rushed affair under the pledge of secrecy.

“Do you, Guide Daniel Williams, take this sentinel, Steven McGarrett, as your officially bonded partner, willing to assist him at any times and in any situation, guiding him and his senses with the upmost care and ensuring his wellbeing throughout your life?”

“I do.” Danny’s voice was stable, but Steve could feel the pissed-off-feeling coming in waves from Danny. Not at him, but at Delano.

She clapped her hands and smiled forcefully. “Beautiful. Now, Officer Herrera, the patches please!”

Steve was more and more irritated by the whole ceremony. How the fuck should they imprint on each other like this? They should actually be touching each other at this point and not – oh, for the love of. Officer Herrera presented Steve with the patches that would go on Danny’s uniform: the embroidered golden rectangle with a five-pointed star inside; the symbol for a guide bonded to a sentinel with five enhanced senses; and the black-and-white patch that read US Navy, Supporting Member as well as the patch for SEAL Team 6. He wanted to vomit. Seeing what he had done to Danny in plain sight … that just wasn’t right. Danny was warm under his fingers as he put his life’s fate onto Danny’s uniform and he wanted to hug him and tell him again and again that he was so sorry this had happened to him.

Danny’s own hands on him were gentle as they put on the single new patch to his uniform: the golden five-pointed star overlapping a rectangle; a bonded sentinel. He dared to quickly look up into Danny’s eyes and couldn’t find it in himself to look away again. Danny’s eyes were warm and smiling and he felt like he didn’t deserve any of this. But Danny was still there, pushing his love over their newly formed bond and Steve couldn’t resist the urge. Even if this ceremony was a clinical affair, he wanted Danny to know that he felt the same love and respect to his guide. He pulled him close and cradled his head in his hands – and hissed as something heavily scented hit his nostrils and burned in his eyes.

“What the fuck are you doing?”, yelled Danny while Steve still tried to dial his senses down.

“Burning scented herbs as it’s tradition during a bonding ceremony”, came the reply, probably from one of the new Guild Officers.

“That’s not herbs, that’s a fucking incense stick!”

“Mr. Williams –“, barked Commander Banks.

“It’s ok, I’m fine, just got me by surprise,” interfered Steve, before they would tear each other to pieces. Danny snorted.

“OK, let’s just finish this already,” murmured Commander Banks and Steve wanted desperately to shake some sense into him. “What’s next?”

“The cup of saltwater.” Officer Delano stepped forward again, holding a simple cup, while one of her assistant officers hurried away with the smoldering incense stick, leaving a trail of overly sweet vanilla. “Please, Mr. Williams, would you start?”

Danny grumbled, but took the cup from her. He grimaced as he drank a sip of the saltwater, before giving it to Steve, who couldn’t help the shiver that ran down his spine at the touch. He still couldn’t take his eyes off Danny’s. This was the most important part of the whole ceremony, the cleansing drink of saltwater before the final bond mark was given. Steve had both feared and anticipated that moment. It would be the last step that bound Danny ultimately to him. Irrevocably.

He swallowed the nauseating water and slowly reached for Danny’s hand. Danny looked back at him with such openness, filling their psychic connection with everything Steve never dared to receive from anyone, the least from a guide. It was like a big bubble of every warm and good feeling Steve knew of and some he didn’t.

“Congratulations, Lieutenant Commander McGarrett, for your successful bonding with Mr. Williams. Would you please follow me into my office? We have an urgent mission for your team.” Commander Banks clapped him on his back and turned around to go.

Steve stared at his back, still holding Danny’s hand like an utter fool. A mission briefing? Now?! “Sir?” The drink of the saltwater was only a part of the last ceremonial step of fulfilling a bond. Only the bonding bite would seal it ultimately.

“I can’t say I didn’t yearn for you to finally find a compatible guide again, McGarrett. You are my best man and with you bonded and grounded, you are able to push the limits of what’s possible. I think I speak for the whole Navy when I say, we are glad this bond had happened today.” Commander Banks held the door open for him. “It might turn out as the career jump you needed to become Commander and one day maybe even Captain. Let’s go!”, he grinned as though he just did Steve a huge favor.

Steve stood stock-still, while he tried to hide the trembling of his hands. “What about the bite, sir?” It took all his willpower not to spit the words at Commander Banks.

“You can make up for it. I’m sure there will be an opportunity soon,” interfered Officer Delano and Steve snapped his head around to stare at her as well. How did she even dare to speak in that matter? “You should go now with Commander Banks, Sentinel McGarrett.” She smiled politely and Steve wanted to rip her head off. How dared they to hold him off his guide? To stand between him and Danny in such a way –

“Go, babe.” Danny’s hands were gentle, when they pushed at Steve, as well as his voice. Steve looked down at his guide and felt his heart break at the determined expression in Danny’s eyes. He would stay at Steve’s side no matter what. All Steve would do was leading him to terror, grief and death.

“Lieutenant Commander!”

In a matter of seconds, it suddenly hit him.

“Yes, I’m coming.” You trust me, Danno?

Course I do. Stupid question, you goof.

Then trust me to get you out of this.

Danny furrowed his brows as Steve pulled away. What does that mean, Steven? Hey, what do you think you’re doing? If this is some bullshit, I won’t have any of it –

Just trust me, Danno. You are my guide now, I won’t let anything happen to you. With these last words, he pulled up a barricade between him and Danny. It almost hurt him physically to shut his guide out, even more when Danny shot him a pained look. But he had to make this right, if he wanted to pull this off properly. Danny would understand in the end.

Chapter Text

Danny had been patient. He had been fucking patient and well-behaved, but his will to stay that way had dwindled rapidly in the last half an hour. He paced the room again, trying to reach Steve over their still wavering telepathic connection and still only deafening silence greeted him.

Thankfully this Guild Officer and her assistants had left almost instantly after their so-called bonding ceremony was over and Commander Steely-Eyes was out of the room. Danny didn’t think he could have borne with them any longer.

He had tried to focus on packing Steve’s meager belongings, but soon his thoughts had strayed to the mission that loomed over his head. He had known that this would happen, it was all the navy saw in him: a tool to help one of their precious sentinels be even better at their damn jobs than they already were. But he at least had the audacity to believe they would give them some weeks to settle in their bond. Hell, he would have been even grateful for a couple of days. But they hadn’t allowed them the luxury of even a couple of hours.

Danny sighed, rubbing his eyes. He had known what he was getting into, but he had hoped that he could give Grace at least another call before leaving for a mission. It had torn his heart to pieces, deciding between his one and only daughter, who he loved more than anything, and Steve, who had clicked with him like a missing puzzle piece and had put Danny on ease for the first time ever since his guide-abilities came online. The day the Navy Guild had knocked on his door had been looming over his head ever since he had opened his mouth and spoke to McGarrett during that first meeting at the base.

Or rather, the day the Navy Guild had waltzed into Danny’s office and made a scene in front of the entire HPD. Meka had been great and supportive, but in the end he had to watch how Danny was pulled away with the matter of a dying military sentinel on his shoulders and the dagger-like glares of his captain in his back.

What a fucking disaster.

Danny flopped down on the bed and tried to stir his thoughts in a different direction. They came back like a boomerang. If he had never met Steve, life would be easier. But if he truly hadn’t, then he would still have no clue that the constant buzzing in his head and the slightly nauseous feeling every time any sentinel would walk by, touch him or speak to him were not normal. He would still believe the thousands of voices and emotions in his head were the burden of every guide. He would still be convinced that this was his life, the total maximum of his abilities, the end of the rope. But with Steve, there suddenly had been silence or better, peace in his head, as though he had walked around listening to a badly tuned radio station and suddenly he found his favorite station via digital audio broadcasting. Instinctual, Danny had known that Steve only existed for him and vice versa. Deep down, he had felt that pull even over thousands of miles and only with a sat phone connecting them. Steve was his mate and he would do anything for him. Just like Grace, only on a different level.

He sighed again. Why couldn’t life be stress-free and put the two people he loved the most together in the same spot? Easy answer: it was Danny’s life. There was no clam and easy in his life.

It felt like hours later, when the door opened again. Danny peeled an eye open to watch Steve enter the room. His face was like a mask and instantly a big ugly fear settled in Danny’s stomach. He shot upright.

“What is it? Where are we heading?”

Steve looked at him and slowly a grin spread across his face. “Home.”

“Home? What do you mean, home?” Danny stalked over to him to give him a good shake, so Steve would stop being so mysterious and just spill it.

“Home. Back to Hawaii.”

“Why? I thought we were assigned on some classified superman-saves-the-world-mission? Would you please open that mouth of yours and shower me with words?!”, Danny snapped irritated. He couldn’t deal with bullshit like that right now. No way he was able getting his hopes up just to see them crushed again.

“I … I pulled the reservist card,” Steve said, suddenly looking hesitant as though he might have done something not as clever as the thought it was. Danny furrowed his brows, but Steve hastily stumbled on: “I am more than ten years in active service now, Danny. That gives me the opportunity to get transferred into the reservation, if I wish so. Normally, as a bonded sentinel, it would take special circumstances to get that application through. But I know some people and the fact that you have a daughter, who is now legally my daughter as well through our bond, and who is now possibly not able to grow up with her father being around since we could very well not return from one of these missions … so I, yeah … Signing off completely isn’t possible at the moment, that isn’t something the Navy agrees to easily.”

Danny stared at Steve without saying a word. He couldn’t, in fact, because he thought that he just had misheard.

“Danny?” Steve looked suddenly unsure.

Danny’s mouth dropped open and it took him some willpower to release words into the air. “You put us into the reserves?”

“Yes.”

“And they accepted that, just like that?”

Steve’s eyes got determined. A short flash of a furious looking Commander Banks and some other uniformed people Danny didn’t know passed over their bond. “Yes.”

“But this is your whole life, babe,” Danny burst, because he suddenly couldn’t keep it to himself any longer. His arms described a wide arc through the room to make Steve see his point. “This – the Navy, being a SEAL – is everything you’ve worked for. Hard. This is your career and you’re throwing this over board, because … because …”

“Because of you, Danno.”

“But you don’t need to sacrifice –“

“Listen, Danny,” Steve said and stepped closer, cupping Danny’s head in his big, warm hands, “I didn’t sacrifice anything out of a whim. Yes, I do love being a SEAL, that’s something I’m proud of, because I’m good at it. But it isn’t the end of my life. You are my mate now, Danny, and if you are willing to sacrifice your possibilities of being with Grace for me, then I’m more than willing to do anything in my power to get you back to her. What is a job compared to family, Danny. Ohana is what matters, not some stupid career. I want to share my life with you and I would be a shitty mate, if I willingly make you suffer. I can’t promise we won’t be called in at some point, but –”

Danny moved without thinking. The kiss was more a messy press of lips against lips, but Steve instantly melted against him, pulling him close. They stumbled backwards under Danny’s force until Steve’s back hit the door. The impact made their teeth clink together and Danny pulled away enough to breathe out: “You are unbelievable, Steve.” The love he was feeling for this man, his mate, was overpowering him, it was just too much to keep inside himself. He felt it crashing through the wall Steve had drawn and manifested between them earlier like Niagara Falls tearing through a flimsy levee of mud and sticks. Steve growled.

Danny was suddenly grabbed just under his ass and picked up like he weighted nothing, spun around and pressed into the door himself. Steve was like a furnace, burning through the material of Danny’s new uniform, clawing at the clothes while his mouth was a hot and heavy mess on Danny’s lips. He tried to give back as good as he got, but truth be told he was already drowning in the sensation of his mate’s full attention focused on him. Danny felt Steve in every fiber of his being, as though he crawled under his skin and set everything on fire with the need to claim and settle their bond for good. And Danny wanted nothing more than to be claimed by his sentinel. He needed Steve. Needed him like the air to breath and the water to live. A high keening noise broke from his throat that he would have been embarrassed about otherwise, but not now. Not with his mate pushing against him. Not with Steve this close.

Steve’s mouth left his and Danny felt raw and open – vulnerable – and he was about to protest, as Steve’s tongue suddenly was licking that spot just below his ear and Danny went boneless. He shivered and pulled Steve closer, bending his neck to offer his mate a better access. Steve made a pleased noise as he buried his nose in the crook of Danny’s neck and Danny couldn’t help it – he purred. That was apparently for Steve some signal that shortcut his brain, because Danny felt more than he heard the answering growl vibrating through Steve’s chest and then he sucked at Danny’s skin. Hard.

Danny gasped, bucking even more into Steve, his back describing an arch away from the door he was pressed into. It was far from a real bond bite, but nevertheless oh so good. He felt his energy thrumming in his veins, his blood boiling as he withered beneath Steve, a helpless, purring mess. He would actually feel embarrassed at this wanton display of need, but Steve’s presence filled his very being.

A knock vibrated through the door at his back and a voice filtered through the blissful fog in his brain.

No! Commander Steely-Eyes and that evil lady from the Guild could go to hell. To hell with everybody. This time they wouldn’t interrupt him and his mate. Not if the world was burning down.

Danny slammed a barricade up against the door that would withstand a rocket launcher or more, if needed. Not a single sound filtered into the room, not a smell from the world behind it. Right here, in this room, everything that mattered was Steve.

Growling, Steve tried to lick his way down Danny’s neck, but that impractical uniform was still in his way. Danny shoved against Steve’s chest, trying to get him off a bit, so he could wiggle his hands down Steve’s front to get to those stupid buttons.

“Off,” he panted. “Take that off!

Steve seemed to agree with Danny’s demand as he took a step back, but then his hands were under Danny’s ass, his nose still buried below Danny’s chin, as he walked them away from the door and into the room, towards the bed. Danny was too busy holding onto Steve and not blacking out from the sensation of his dick, hard and pulsing, pressing into Steve’s stomach, rubbing against his clothes with every step Steve took, driving him insane.

A low whine worked its way up his throat. He couldn’t … he needed …

Steve’s tongue was warm and reassuring as it pressed against his glands, sucking gently and Danny lost every power to hold onto Steve. He slipped down, bouncing off the bed in a boneless heap, Steve chasing him, coming after him, pressing him firmly down. Lips were on his, messy, uncoordinated, biting and pushing.

Danny let him. Pushed back just as desperately. Clawed at the clothes still separating them. He needed to feel him. Needed to touch, needed to connect.

His mate.

His other half.

The energy he had used since his childhood to draw up shields that would protect him from the onslaught of the world slowly diminished. The shields he had never lowered once. Never. Doing so meant madness, insanity. Death. System overload.

The shields wavered.

Air kissed his overheated skin as the clothes were peeled off his body. He kicked them off, eyes glued to Steve, who looked wild and devasted and overwhelmingly beautiful.

But so far away.

Danny reached out, cradled Steve’s face in his hands and pulled him back down. The kiss was slower this time, less teeth and more tongue. Steve’s hands roamed his body and Danny touched every bit of skin he could reach in return.

He pushed against those shields. They trembled, as Steve grabbed Danny’s thighs.

Danny wound them around Steve’s waist, pulling him closer, needing him closer.

They stared at each other, panting into each other’s mouths. Danny grabbed Steve’s hair, pressing his forehead into his, mouth going slack with a raw, guttural moan as Steve pushed inside.

“Eyes … your eyes,” Steve panted, pushing Danny’s head gently back again. “Wanna see …”

The quivering shields expanded with a surge, crashing like the tide over Steve, wrapping themselves around him, his mind, his entire being.

Heat, boiling up and up with every move, every push and shove, every erratic thrust and every groan. Hands on his thighs, his ass, his hair. Teeth on his skin. Hot and wet, biting, pushing. Melting, mending, sealing. One where there were two, finally whole.

As the heat exploded behind Danny’s eyes he didn’t even feel or hear his own cry. But he felt Steve, echoing through his body and mind, doubling the sensation and mirroring it endlessly, bouncing off the edges. Blurrily, he saw Steve, eyes wide and black, with blood on his lips, staring down at him, moving, pushing that heat through Danny again and again. He surged up, licking at Steve’s neck and tasting sweat and salt and Steve, until his teeth closed around his strong muscles and he bit down, while Steve howled, his body pressing into Danny in an arch.

White noise.

Blinding light.

A blast of energy stronger than anything he had ever felt. Warm, welcoming, gently thrumming.

And then nothing.

 

Danny?

Danny felt himself drift out of a very blissful haze. He moved slightly, pressing himself back against the warmth that engulfed him from all sides.

It smelled like the ocean. A bit coppery, too.

Danny?

Hm?

Steve lazily trailed a hand down his back. Why are we floating?

Danny cracked an eye open. Steve had wound himself around him like a big octopus, but Danny managed to glimpse around them. Sunlight filtered through the thick blinds in soft, subdued tones. A sock lazily danced by as though they were underwater.

Danny blinked. He gently pushed Steve’s arm from his chest and twisted his torso to take in the room. Nothing was disturbed. Their clothes were strewn left and right. The bed was a mess of disheveled blankets – and stood six inches underneath them.

In between – nothing but air.

Danny gripped Steve’s upper arm instinctively, but they floated safely without sagging unexpectedly. They even spun in a slow, languid circle as if they were in zero gravity. As he stared down at the floor, he caught another sock softly bouncing off the bedside table. The sleeve of a jacket wavered like algae in the gentle swaying of the ocean.

Steve nuzzled closer, totally unimpressed as if he was floating around every other day. His calm slowly transferred to Danny, who relaxed with every second in which nothing happened. He let his head fall back again. If he hadn’t known it better, he would say it felt like a pillow underneath him, not thin air.

Huh.

Never happened before?

No, definitely not. I would remember that.

Good. Steve practically purred in his contentment.

Good?!, echoed Danny, but Steve’s fingers crept over his chin, then his cheek. Steve’s head came up and Danny felt like seeing a panther unfold, lazily stretching up with a soft smile on his lips. Then he leaned over and kissed Danny, firm and gentle.

Sh, don’t ruin it, Danno.

There was so much Danny wanted to say, but it was hard to concentrate, when Steve’s lips were on his. He opened his mouth, though, but Steve’s tongue was pushing inside, prodding against his, and he forgot all words. He sighed, cradling Steve’s face in his hands, kissing him, soft and thoroughly, savoring every nip and brush and gasp.

The heat was there, it would always be, but it simmered low and warm in Danny’s belly. Happy. He was simply happy being here with his mate.

“Are we really going back?” he whispered in the air between them. He still couldn’t believe it.

“Yeah.” Steve bit his jaw playfully. “A bit more paperwork to sign, though.”

“Anything, as long as I can take you back with me.”

A satisfied growl rumbled low in Steve’s chest. He nosed up Danny’s jaw, licking at the shell of his ear. A shiver ran down Danny’s spine and he pressed his knees against Steve’s waist.

How did you even manage that, babe?

Told you.

No, you didn’t, sighed Danny. You told me a fantastic fable about pulling the reservist card, but we both know it wasn’t that easy. You know how they drooled over me? Fucking disgusting, by the way.

Steve’s content growl deepened and his tongue pressed against the bite mark on Danny’s neck. A hot jolt of energy flashed through Danny, catapulting them a good few feet higher into the air. The shield around them flickered like air above hot asphalt, humming softly.

See what I mean? They wouldn’t let you off the hook so easily. Not when they finally got their hands on me.

Steve bit down on the mark and Danny threw his head back with a gasp, granting Steve even better access to it. The lines between them began to blur and Danny felt light as a feather, his heartbeat echoed by Steve’s, strong and unwavering. But there was something important … something he had to know …

“Ste-Steve … “

Needed to know if this was real or if this was just a moment. If they would take Steve from him just like they had with Gracie … no, not like that, different, but all the same. He couldn’t be … couldn’t bare it … torn apart between places … between people he loved … If this was some joke, some test …

Warm hands grabbed his face, holding it secure between Steve’s calloused palms.

“Danno.” Steve’s voice was rough. “We’re not gonna be separated, I promise. Never again.”

Danny gripped Steve’s forearms, breathing heavily. Steve’s hair looked mussed, but he couldn’t recall putting his hands there. A dark mark crusted with blood sat low in the crook of his collarbone. Danny stared at it. His mark. He traced it with two fingers, lightly over the sensitive skin.

Steve shivered and pressed his forehead down on Danny’s, squeezing his eyes shut.

A flicker behind Danny’s eyes, then pictures flitted through his mind that weren’t his memories.

A room full of people, talking, saluting. Commander Steely-Eyes, showing some maps and charts. Training Program for Civil Guides stood on one sheet. Commander Steely-Eyes gesturing, explaining, switching to angry. Banging his fist on a desk. Pointing a finger. At him, arguing back.

The door opened, a woman entered. Rollins, that was Rollins! She smiled, but it felt … off. Your request, Commander. No, he hadn’t requested anything, but he flicked the file open anyway she pushed into his hands. Verification for years of service, Newark Police Department and Honolulu Police Department. Suddenly it was easy. So easy. He grabbed Rollins’ hand, squeezing it gratefully. The thought of grilled steaks flickered through his mind.

Custody for a child was a reason for consideration. Added with fulfilled years of service was a certainty. Minimum fifteen active years. For a bonded pair it didn’t matter, whether he, his partner or both had served them. What mattered was that they did. And who they had to take care of. Gracie. Gracie was theirs, now. Shared custody. A sentinel’s family. A child he had with his guide.

He looked up and saw in Commander Steely-Eyes the same realization dawn. He was out. Danny was safe, with Grace.

You would need a job, without that we can’t sign those. Until then you still are –

Grabbing the telephone receiver from the desk, asking to be put through. The Governor of Hawaii was a bit surprised, but not less pleased. Of course she still remembered. She looked forward to meeting him and his guide, to working with them. Proud that her plans of the task force took form after all.

The pictures and sounds slowly faded.

Danny blinked up at Steve, who still held him between his warm palms, going cross-eyed, because Steve’s forehead rested against his.

“Babe? We’re really going back to Hawaii?”

“Yeah, Danno,” whispered Steve in the air between them.

“Back to Gracie?” Danny’s voice cracked. “Working for the fucking Governor of Hawaii?”

Sorry I didn’t ask you. Steve’s lips ghosted over Danny’s. But I didn’t have much time -

Danny grabbed Steve’s face and pushed him back enough to look at this stupid idiot. “Sorry? Steve, you just gave up your life, for me, for my daughter. You made everything possible so we could get back to Hawaii – together. And on top of that you tell me you got my badge back?”

Steve looked clearly bewildered. “It’s not really the same badge, Danny –“

Danny lunged upwards, kissing Steve harshly on the mouth. The momentum kicked Steve over. He tumbled backwards, still floating as if they were underwater, and Danny crashed down on him. “You are the most stupid, reckless, beautiful man I’ve ever met.”

A smile spread over Steve’s whole face, warming their bond to the very core. He looked young and untroubled and Danny couldn’t believe it that this sentinel was his mate. He had fallen for this man, head over heels, no matter what, not knowing what he got himself into. In the end, it didn’t matter. They were two sides of the same coin. Two in a million or more.

“I love you, too, Danno.”