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The Ex

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Danny had ordered another drink, but barely touched it. Instead he nervously passed the long cold glass from one hand to the other and checked the time on his phone.

Danny had been adamant when he'd gotten that text this afternoon that it had been no big deal. Just an old friend. But even then Steve could tell something was off. That Danny was being too quiet. Too still. Which is why, he told himself, he felt justified following Danny to the small hotel bar. Hidden inconspicuously at a nearby booth behind a row of ferns.

Travis wasn't what Steve expected from an old friend of Danny's. He was tall, almost lanky, with the kind of weathered, freckled skin you only get by spending the better part of 20 years outdoors, and messy sandy brown hair that contributed to a somewhat distracted look. He also had the greenest eyes Steve had ever seen, magnified behind a pair of large horn rimmed glasses.

He was underdressed for the hotel bar, even by Steve's standards, and looking around uneasily, sticking out from the rest of the semi-formal patrons like a sore thumb.

Danny was standing the instant he spotted him and before Steve knew what was going on they were both hugging each other tightly like they were family.

"He's just a guy I knew back in Jersey," Danny had told him that afternoon. "I haven't even seen him in years."

Travis took the chair directly beside Danny, moving into his personal space with a confident ease that Danny didn't even seem to notice.

Travis waited for his drink to arrive before falling into an intense whispered conversation with Danny. Steve frowned and tightened his hands around his own drink he'd been nursing, something was definitely going on. But he was too far away to hear what they were saying, and couldn't risk getting closer.

They were both tense after a while, and Travis kept stopping and looking around like he was looking for someone. Though when Steve did the same nobody looked out of the ordinary. Finally Travis passed something to Danny who seemed reluctant to take it at first but finally exasperated, Danny surrendered and pocketed it.

There was another hug when Travis left and Danny stayed standing, staring after him as he disappeared. Steve couldn’t read his expression, but he looked a little bit like he’d seen a ghost.

Steve ducked his head down and focused on his drink in case Danny decided to look around.

He was just thinking about how he'd give Danny a half hour head start and head out himself when a shadow fell over him. Steve glanced up to see Danny standing at his booth, eyebrows raised, looking unimpressed.

Steve opened his mouth, even though he still had no idea what he was actually going to say but Danny spoke first.

"I don't want to hear it." He tossed him the keys to the camaro. "You're driving, I'm too drunk."

Steve looked down at quarter drank beer he'd been nursing all night. Then he took the car keys. "Sure thing, Danno."

 

Steve had braced himself for a verbal assault when he'd started up the Camaro, but Danny was being uncharacteristically quiet for a change. He sat completely still, eyes unfocused staring out the windshield and steve was starting to wonder if maybe he really was drunk.

"I thought you were meeting an old acquaintance," he said.

Danny looked suddenly over at Steve like he'd forgotten he was there. "Seriously?" he asked. "You know you don't exactly have any moral high ground here."

Steve ignored him. "Danny if you're in the middle of something, we need to know about it."

"We?" asked Danny skeptically.

"Yes, we," Steve repeated. "Me and the team. We need to know if you're into something dangerous."

Danny looked unconvinced. "It's fine," he said. But that melancholy from earlier looked like it was starting to creep back into Danny, and Steve wondered if Danny really believed that.

"Look Danny," said Steve trying another tact. "Secrets, half truths, this isn't like us. Since when do we hide things from each other."

Danny glanced away. Steve realised he'd hit a nerve.

"Can you at least tell me what the meeting was about? Because it didn't look like two old friends catching up to me."

Danny sagged and he looked like he'd lost the energy to argue. "I just want to preface this by saying this is par for the course when it comes to Travis. So don't go getting excited or anything."

Steve gave Danny a curious glance.

"He's a photojournalist," said Danny. "He gets off the island the day after tomorrow, he just needs to check in with a source first. He asked me to watch this in the meantime." Danny reached into his pocket and pulled out a small memory SD card.

Steve was a quiet for a moment. "Danny if your friend is being followed--"

"Trust me, for Travis this is a Tuesday," said Danny. He had a dry smile which Steve didn't think looked at all amused. But he sounded more annoyed than worried.

Steve frowned. Not satisfied at all by that response.

"How do you know this guy anyways?"

"We're old friends, I told you," said Danny impatiently.

Steve wasn't deterred. "So what? You meet through work? Used to be neighbours?"

Danny gave the Camaro's windshield an unimpressed look. "We met a party."

"A party? That's it?"

"What'd you expect?" asked Danny. "We chatted about art history, seriously as far as origin stories go, it's probably one of the dullest."

"And now he gives you all his photos for safe keeping." Steve sounded skeptical.

"I'm a cop."

"Danny I've never once you heard you talk about art history," said Steve flatly.

"Yeah, well maybe you don't know me as well as you think you do," Danny suggested.

It almost seemed snappish and to Steve it felt about the same as a slap on the face. Steve glanced at Danny to see if he looked annoyed, but no he just looked tired.

"Look Steve, I know it's like your thing to butt into every aspect of my life, and I don’t really get it, but usually I’m OK with it anyways. But I'd really appreciate it if just this one time could take a step back and just let me deal with things myself."

There was a sincerity to the way Danny asked that Steve had never heard from him before. He started to slow down as he reached the street in front of Danny's house.

"Yeah, alright," said Steve.

Danny relaxed. "Thank you."

Steve watched Danny stumble into his house before reversing and driving back up the street. But instead of going right, back towards his house Steve made a left towards downtown Honolulu and Iolani Palace.

 

It didn't take long for Steve to find Travis in their database. Travis Oaks, 5'11", green eyes, born in Lawrenceville, New Jersey in 1974. He had some misdemeanors on his record. Traffic obstruction, resisting arrest, disturbing the peace, all charges Steve tended to associate with protest rallies. The most recent one was from 1998.

Steve pulled up the arrest record anyways, and was greeted with a photo of Travis--15 years younger than the man he'd seen earlier that night--mussed hair and green eyes turned grey in the black and white mugshot, glaring angrily at the camera. He read through the report and it was about what he expected. A protest without a permit, charged for blocking traffic and eventually sentenced to pay a fine. He frowned when he reached the end of the report, though.

"Suspect was released on bail into the custody of constable Daniel Williams."

Next he did a more general search. Travis had a degree in photojournalism from Syracuse university, and a decently sizable list of news organizations that had published his work. The most recent one listed was the LA Times where he had been staff until about a year ago. No sign of any work since.

Steve was surprised to find a handful of news articles about Travis specifically. When he was 24 he was kidnapped by extremists in Somalia and held for ransom with two other American journalists. At 31 he won a pulitzer documenting the effects of international interventionism in West Africa.

Steve pulled up an image of a kid who couldn't have been older than 12 years old, a long gun clutched in his hand, pointed directly at the viewer. The child looked defiant, like he didn't want to shoot the viewer, but scared enough that he just might if they didn't do what he wanted.

Taking the time to snap a photo instead of complying with whatever the kid wanted struck Steve as incredibly stupid.

He pulled up the rest of Travis' portfolio. He started with the older photos and saw the kind of thing he'd expected. College students protesting. A couple middle class kids being put in handcuffs, signs protesting the Iraq war left scattered on the curb. A girl with fiery red hair yelled at a police officer who looked like he had no idea what to do with her.

Steve moved on to the more recent ones. There was an eerie familiarity to the photos he started taking after he started working internationally, as Steve recognized places and people he'd seen himself in his own work as a SEAL. He never liked journalists in war zones. They were civilians who put themselves in unnecessary risk and often sensationalized and propagandized the story as far as he was concerned.

But while Steve and Travis apparently usually found themselves neck deep in similar political conflicts, Travis' photos showed a side of each conflict Steve had rarely seen. Steve wondered if it was his own proximity to these situations that made his stomach clench as he looked at photos of families standing beside their recently bombed home or kids with bloated stomachs eating rice in refugee camps. Or made him stare in awe at women in headscarves and long colourful skirts standing up to incoming soldiers because there was literally nobody else.

Steve dug into his interviews after that hoping for something that would help give him more insight. There wasn’t a lot, just a small handful after he'd won the pulitzer. They were all short and didn't say much. He talked a little about New Jersey and Syracuse and getting into photography because of his father. He had a few stories from his job, and why he did what he did. But nothing at all about his personal life, and absolutely nothing to link him back to a certain short, cranky, New Jersey police officer.

Certainly nothing that would even begin to explain said police officer's obvious affection for him.

 

*

 

Steve noticed his phone light up while he was towelling himself off on the beach after his morning swim. He saw the name Dennings flash across his screen.

“McGarrett,” said Steve into the phone.

He nearly dropped his phone when Dennings told him why he was calling. “Yes sir, we’re on it.”

 

“Steven, what the hell!”

The entire team looked over to see Danny fuming as he walked into HQ. Steve wasn’t surprised. Up on the computer table viewscreen was an enlarged photo was Travis Oaks.

“We caught a case,” said Steve making sure to keep his voice as neutral as possible. “Got the call from Dennings this morning. Travis Oaks is wanted on conspiracy to commit treason.”

Danny’s eyes widened in surprise, then narrowed. “There’s been a mistake,” he said.

“According to the report I received,” Steve explained being sure to stick to the facts he was given, "Travis Oaks is wanted for espionage for stealing classified information from the United States Government and passing it on to the Chinese Government. Our job is to find Travis Oaks, find the classified information he is carrying, likely contained a memory card or USB stick, and return it to the US government."

For a very long time Danny just stared at Steve. "This is a joke," he said.

Steve shook his head. "This is word for word what I received from Governor Dennings."

There was another long pause, interrupted this time by Chin clearing his throat.

"Anyone want to explain what's going on?" he asked.

Danny looked at Chin and Kono, both looked confused, and reached into his pocket, pulled out a small memory card and put it on the computer table.

"Our classified information," he explained.

Chin and Kono both stared.

"How--" Kono started to ask.

"Apparently Danny and Travis go way back," said Steve dryly.

"There's no way he's a spy," said Danny. "He'd never do that, it makes no sense."

"How can you be so sure?" asked Steve. "You told me last night he was just an acquaintance. A guy you met at a party."

Danny looked around the room. Chin and Kono were looking just as skeptical.

Danny pinched his nose, looking like he'd rather be done with this entire situation. Finally he put his hand down and took a breath. He looked back up at Steve. "Travis is my ex, OK?"

There was a long pause where nobody said anything where Steve's brain tried to process that sentence. But nothing seemed to go through. "Ex what?"

Danny looked incredulous at Steve. "My ex," he repeated. "Like how Rachel is my ex. Before we got divorced my big ex was Travis. We were together for 3 years."

"You're gay?" asked Kono.

She immediately looked like she wanted to take it back, but Steve was grateful she’d said it because if she hadn’t he probably would have. And right now he didn't trust himself to say anything.

"Bi," said Danny. "What I had with Rachel was real, so don't go thinking I'm a closet case or something."

There was another long pause and Danny was back to pinching the bridge of his nose again. "Thank you for making my coming out the awkward affair I always assumed it would be." He shook his head. The rest of the team at least had the decency to look sheepish. "Look, my point is I know Travis. He wouldn't do something like this."

"Danny," said Chin and now that it was out both him and Kono seemed to be taking the new information in stride. "I trust your judgment, but it's been more than 10 years since you and Travis were together. People change a lot in that much time."

"I know when he's lying to me," said Danny. Then, "Besides, if he was smuggling state secrets, why would he leave them with me?"

"Maybe he knew you'd trust him," said Kono. She'd said it kindly but Danny still looked stung by the suggestion. Steve thought she had a point. If people were coming after him, where better to leave them then with Danny.

Danny turned to Steve. "Come on, help me out here."

Steve hesitated. Honestly, he didn't really trust Travis either.

"What if it was Catherine," said Danny.

"That's different," said Steve.

"How?"

Steve frowned. He didn't have a good answer to that.

"We'll look into it," he said. It wasn't entirely a concession, Danny wasn't wrong that not everything looked like it was adding up. He picked the memory card off the table and tossed it to Chin. "Chin, Kono, see what's on there. Check it for any kind of secret coding or encryptions."

"Thank you," said Danny.

"Don't thank me yet," said Steve grabbing his keys. "We need to have a talk with Travis. Let's go."

 

The ride back to the hotel felt tense and awkward. Steve wanted to say something but every time he opened his mouth the words seem to stick in his throat. He was more angry at himself right now than Danny. He’d served with people who’d come out to him in confidence and Steve had taken it as a sign of respect and trust and guarded their secrets proudly under DADT. So why was it when it was Danny did he suddenly feel like someone just pulled the rug out from under him.

Beside him Danny was fiddling with his phone, glaring.

"Still no answer?"

"No," said Danny putting his phone away.

Steve nodded and made a turn. Danny knew his hotel room. It seemed like the logical place to go first.

"Look, I--" Danny started then stopped. "I wasn't trying to keep anything from you."

It wasn't really an apology, but Danny said it like it was.

Steve felt himself deflate. "So you like guys?"

Like a bandaid, Steve thought. Let's just rip it off and get it done.

Danny looked amused. "Yeah," he said. "Yeah, I like guys sometimes."

Steve nodded. "So Travis then?"

"Long weekend, my senior year at Seton," said Danny. "A couple buddies had heard about a party down in Lawrenceville, we figured why not. I saw Travis halfway across a room, tall lanky and holding up a couple drinks above the crowd to avoid spilling anything. I dunno, he just looked so awkward and lanky. And he had this big crooked smile. There was just something about him. So I went over and said ‘hi!’”

"You met at a party?" asked Steve.

"Yeah."

"And the art history thing?"

“Stella was working her way through her masters and wouldn't shut up about Mona Lisa's eyebrows. He mentioned minoring in art history, I guess I thought I'd try and impress him."

Danny shrugged, like the whole thing was no big deal.

"Then we just kept meeting. He was so passionate about everything, it drew me in," Danny turned to look out the window, "It took a few weeks to figure out what I was feeling. I'd never had a crush on a guy before."

Steve felt something odd clench in his stomach. "Sounds scary," he said.

"It wasn't so bad," said Danny. "I mean it was--but it was good too, you know? Even with how everything turned out in the end, I don't regret any of it."

"Did anyone else know?"

"My family," said Danny, then after thinking for a moment, "A lot of close friends at the time. I didn't tell anyone at the precinct, but my partner ended up finding out. I couldn't keep it from her."

"And no one had any issues?"

"No," said Danny. Then he considered, "Well Pa worried about my safety, being a cop and all. And yeah, maybe my folks were a little too happy the first time I brought Rachel over. But yeah, for the most part, once everyone got over their initial surprise they were pretty good. Helped that everyone really liked Travis."

Steve went quiet. Finally he asked, "If all this hadn't happened, would you have ever told us?"

"Honestly?" asked Danny. He thought about it for a moment then shook his head. "No." Then, "Hey look don't give me that aneurism face. Everyone always makes a bigger deal out of it then it is, then I have to go though these awkward conversations. Listen, I can count the number of guys I've actually been attracted to since Travis on one hand. It doesn't happen very often. So hey, if the stars ever perfectly aligned and I fell for a guy who was actually interested in having a relationship with me, yeah I'd let you guys all know then. Otherwise this just isn't the huge part of my life everyone always seems to think it is."

They reached the hotel and Steve stopped in the loading zone. Danny got out but Steve sat and fumed for a moment. Still not entirely satisfied with Danny's honesty, but still unable to say exactly why. He disagreed with Danny about this not being a big deal.

Finally he got out and followed Danny inside the hotel.

 

Steve knocked on the hotel door and it slid open easily. It didn't take long for them to figure out it had been broken into and propped back into place.

Steve and Danny both exchanged a concerned look and cautiously stepped inside.

The room had been ransacked. The mattress and all the cushions were flipped, the drawers were pulled out and the floor was strewn with all of Travis’ things.

“He’s not answering his phone,” said Danny. “I just tried calling again, it went straight to voicemail. It was ringing when I tried to call earlier.”

“He might not have gotten here yet,” said Steve, trying to sound optimistic. He walked surveying the room, careful not to disturb the scene. “I bet whoever it was was looking for that memory card."

“He was here,” Danny’s tone was dangerously subdued. Steve turned to where Danny was looking and saw a knocked over table and chair, a dent in the wall, and, he almost missed it, a small trail of blood in the carpet.

“Shit.”

 

Steve had left Danny at the crime scene to help process and contact people back in Jersey to see what they knew. Then he’d called Chin on his bluetooth on the way back to the Palace to start digging up whatever they could on Travis’ recent time here on the island.

When he got back to HQ Chin was at the computer table, the display above a mess of official documents, plane itineraries and security photos.

“What have you got for me?” asked Steve joining him.

“Not a lot,” Chin admitted. “We called the LA Times, apparently Travis quit over a year ago. He hasn't done any journalist work since. I pulled his credit card history, it's pretty impressive."

Chin tapped something on the computer table and passed it up to the overhead screen. "First class flights, 5 star restaurants, rented limousines," he read off a few random entries. "Not bad for a photojournalist."

"Where's he getting the money from?" asked Steve.

"Good question," said Chin. "It all starts about 9 months back, around the same time he started to be connected to CSC, China Shipping Corp., a major Chinese shipping line that operates between here, Shang-hai and California"

Steve glanced back at the credit card and saw all the charges were made in those three cities. Though the most by far were made in Honolulu.

"What's he doing with a shipping company?" asked Steve.

"We don't know," said Chin. "But he's been photographed multiple times with their CEO Da Chang." He tossed a few more files up on the main screen. Three separate images of an older man in a suit Steve assumed must be Chang. The man beside him in each photo wore a well fitted suit, no glasses, and had a confident stance. So completely different than he was last night with Danny that Steve almost didn't recognize Travis Oaks.

"We don't know much about him," said Chin. "I found these by using a facial recognition search, all of these photos are from social media. No names tagged or comments given. And posted by other CSC employees."

"I want you look into CSC and Da Chang, see if you find anything out of the ordinary," said Steve. "Any word on the memory card?"

"Kono's having a look, but it's heavily encrypted," said Chin. "We might have to bring in the lab."

Steve shook his head. "I want as few people to know what's on there as possible. If you and Kono can't crack it yourselves we'll give Cath a call."

Chin nodded. He leaned forward, staring down at the screens on his computer table. "You know I've been looking into this guy, seems like a real activist type. Not the kind of guy you'd expect to suddenly turn tail and start spying for the Chinese."

"You never can tell with some people," said Steve.

"I'd hate to be Danny right now."

Steve didn't disagree.

"3 years," said Chin, and he grinned, obviously amused. "That's taking it a bit further than experimenting a bit in college."

"Yeah," said Steve.

Steve had experimented in college. Well while he was on leave from Annapolis anyways. It had been at some house party in town and Steve had been drunk. They'd just made out for a while, hidden away in one of the rooms upstairs. Mostly what Steve remembered from it was waking up the next morning hungover with a rash on this side of his mouth from the stubble.

The computer table beeped again. And Chin looked down and frowned. "We found another photo of Travis," he said.

This one looked like it was taken from a local newspaper. The photo had both Travis and Da Chang again. It looked like they were at some kind of garden party, with lawn chairs and fancy decorations strewn around. And front and centre was Chang shaking the hand of Ted McGinley. The junior senator for Hawaii.

 

"So what'd you find?" asked Steve meeting Danny in the hotel lobby.

"Not much," said Danny leading him towards the back. "They're still processing, but haven't found as much as a hair yet. They also apparently grabbed all the electronics in the room along with Travis. There's no phone, no laptop, they even took all the camera equipment one of the lobby clerks said they saw him come in with."

Danny led him past the crime scene to a maintenance room in the back with a security guard and a television screen.

"We did get this though," said Danny directing him to the screen. The security guard hit play.

Steve watched a looped CCTV video of two men with bandanas over their face break down the door. Then it cut out to the door hanging off its hinges. Stayed there for a while. Then it cut out again to the door already having been propped back. There was a brief clip where you saw them just turn around the corner with a lanky man being dragged between them and then they were gone.

"Went out the back exit into a waiting car," said Danny. And sure enough the camera showed a brief image of a car beside a door driving off. He seemed subdued which Steve knew was likely the furthest from the truth.

"Go back to that last clip, I think I caught part of the license plate," said Steve.

The security guard did and got a photo just too blurry to read.

"Give us a screenshot of that," he said. "We'll send it to Chin see if he can enhance it."

 

 

Da Chang's office was spacious, taking up the entire top floor of the skyscraper his business was housed in. It had large clear windows instead of walls and white furniture everywhere. He greeted Steve and Danny like it had been his idea to have them here and not at all because Steve had threatened his secretary with a massive audit if she didn’t let them in.

He offered them both a seat on his pristine white couch and flagged a young woman to come down and pour everyone a cup of tea.

"Now how may I help you gentlemen?" he asked.

Steve took out his phone and pulled up a photo of Travis. His staff photo from the Las Angeles Times. "Do you know this man?"

Chang looked at the photo, face carefully blank. He looked back at Steve and Danny. "I thought I did, I turned out to be very wrong."

"Care to elaborate?" asked Steve.

"He showed up seemingly out of nowhere nearly a year ago," said Chang. "He said his name was Alan Clarke, though I've since learned that wasn't the case. He claimed to be an investor. He certainly had the capital to back it up."

Chang picked up tea cup and smelled it before taking a short sip. "He seemed awfully interested in our little enterprise. Though he never said why."

"Any idea where he got the money from?" asked Danny.

Chang shook his head. "We paid him back every dollar though. Our hands are clean. And then when we found out he wasn't who he said he was, we cut ties."

"How did you figure out Clarke wasn't who he said he was?" asked Steve.

"The same way I assume you gentlemen did," said Chang. "We found Mr Oak's LA Times profile."

"So that's it then?" asked Danny. "You find out this guy isn't who he says he is, you give him back his money and thanks, so long. Don't let the door hit you on the way out."

Chang looked amused at Danny's description. "Essentially yes."

"You know he's missing now," said Danny. And Steve watched closely for a reaction to the news but there was none. Chang either already knew or didn't care. Steve didn't think that there was a lot of love lost between them. "Any idea who might have gone after him?"

"I'm sorry, no" said Chang setting down his tea. "But he did seem like a man with a lot of secrets."

"I have one more question," said Steve. "I saw a photo of you with Senator McGinley taken recently. How you do know the senator?"

"We do a lot of business in American waters," said Chang easily. "Having good connections is useful. There's nothing illegal about that."

 

Steve was starting to feel ornery about the case when he made it back to HQ. Everything they found just seemed to lead to more questions, and Danny not being his usually chatty self to bounce ideas off of wasn't helping.

"What do you guys have?" he asked Chin and Kono when he walked in with Danny.

"Well we looked into that camera shot you sent us," said Kono. "Got a license plate number registered to a guy named Kyle Chen, currently serving 2 years for drug trafficking for the Triads."

"Any connection between the Triads and Chang?" asked Steve.

"Not that we could find," said Kono. "In fact it looks like he does a pretty good job of keeping his nose clean in general. There were few minor incidents here and there involving his shipping company but that’s it.”

Steve frowned. He couldn't shake the feeling that Chang had definitely been keeping something from them. He was too practiced in their interview.

"We did find this though," said Kono. She threw something up onto the main screen and Steve found himself staring at an image of a man who looked eerily similar Chang.

"Bo Chang, a minor official of the People's Republic of China," said Kono.”Da Chang’s brother.”

"He has connections to the Chinese government," said Steve.

"Useful if you're looking to pass on information," Chin commented.

Steve glanced at Danny, but he didn't say anything. Just frowned hard at the screen.

"What's the status on the memory card?" asked Steve.

“No good,” said Chin.

"Alright, one sec,” said Steve.

He slipped into his office and dialed Catherine.

 

 

Catherine agreed to help out and they arranged to have the card sent over to her. Then Steve set his phone down and sat for a moment. He still felt like he was lucky to have Catherine around, but ever since she'd gotten back from her last tour there was an odd feeling of their having been something that wasn't there now. Something that seemed to be felt on both sides.

He was just wondering what had changed when Danny burst into his office.

"Look we gotta talk about this case," he said. "Because I need to tell you, this isn't Travis. This isn't something he would do."

"Are you sure about that Danno?" asked Steve.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Nothing," said Steve carefully. "Just you know, it's like what Chin said. Ten years is a really long time."

"You didn't know him," said Danny. "This guy--he had chances to make serious money, get places faster. And he wouldn't do it if it meant compromising his values. It used to drive me nuts, he'd turn down a promotion or leave a job because they wanted him off whatever big issue he was working on. And suddenly we were both scrambling for money." Danny looked panged, like those memories were somehow still causing him stress. "But it's because he cared, y'know? He wanted to save the world and he wasn't gonna do that toadying up to big paper editors."

Steve frowned. "How can you know he's still that guy though? Photojournalism is not an easy job. You get burnt out, get cynical. You make a lot of international contacts, and someone offers you a payday at the right time. And it’s easy, just pass this USB stick or memory card on to the right person. Suddenly you’re in over your head. And I’ve got to be honest, Travis is kind of perfect for it. A little awkward, unassuming, no one’s gonna look twice at him.”

"If he was passing on secret government intel to the Chinese then why come to me? He knows I'm a cop. He knows I'd turn him in if I found out."

"Maybe he wasn't expecting you to find out," said Steve. "Maybe he knew he could manipulate you. Maybe that’s why he’d dropped the fancy clothes and nice hotels."

Danny glared, but didn't' say anything. For the first time since this started Steve could see just the smallest hint of doubt in his eyes.

Steve's phone went off. "McGarrett."

Steve listened as processing told him what they'd found in Travis' hotel room.

"What is it," asked Danny reasonably wary of the sudden focused look on Steve's face.

"We have a couple new leads," he said.

 

They found a set of fingerprints on the back of a leather chair. A kid in their system named Aaron Lee from a minor drug possession charge. Steve sent Chin and Kono after him. And took Danny for their other lead.

"It's a napkin," said Danny looking at the photo processing had sent to Steve's phone. It was crumpled up, apparently fished out of a trash can, with a number on it, underlined twice, and the words written, 'call me.'

It was a cell phone number. They'd searched it and found it in the phone book for an upscale catering company.

"A lead's a lead," said Steve pulling up to the downtown office. "If nothing else it will tell us where Travis was yesterday."

The office itself was nice, an old brick building divided into four separate offices. With Song and Dance Catering upstairs with a nice view of a nearby beach.

"How can I help you gentleman?"

Steve's first impression of Christopher Song was that he looked very well put together. Almost pretty.

"We just have a few questions," said Steve after he was done introducing himself and Danny. He showed Song his phone with Travis’ photo on it. "Do you know this man? We're working on a missing person's case and we found your phone number in his hotel room."

Song looked startled by the image. And Steve thought maybe slightly embarrassed. "Uh...not well," he said. "But I know him. His name's Alan. We chatted a bit at a function I was catering yesterday."

"Alan Clarke," Steve repeated Travis' alias and Song nodded.

"What can you tell us about the function?" asked Danny.

"We were hired to cater an event on Senator McGinley's yacht," said Song. "We do a lot of small formal events like that. It was like any other job."

Steve noted a second connection to McGinley.

"What time?" asked Steve.

"All day, we disembarked at 9 in the morning, didn't arrive back at the harbour until three."

"And Alan was on the yacht too?" asked Danny.

Song nodded. "He's often at events I cater for McGinley," he confirmed. "Although yesterday was the first time we've talked."

Steve nodded and fiddled a bit with his phone until he found a photo of Chang.

"What about this man?"

"Da Chang," Song frowned. "I've done work for him too. Yes he was there. Alan, Chang and MicGinley all seem to be good friends." He looked back at Steve and Danny. "Why are asking me about Chang? You don't think he's involved?"

"We're just trying to get a clear idea of what Alan was doing yesterday," said Steve simply. "You ever notice anything unusual at these events?"

Song looked confused, "Unusual how?"

"Anything shady," said Steve.

Song shook his head. "It was a fairly typical party. A lot of brown nosing and gossip. Eventually Da Chang and Alan disappeared with McGinley. But I saw Alan leave when the yacht once we’d docked again in the harbour."

Steve and Danny shared a brief look. "The three of them disappeared?"

"Those three always slip away," said Song. "Nothing unusual about it."

 

 

They finally tracked McGinley down to the docks where he was with a small group of reporters and entourage talking about something to do with the budget.

Steve pushed through easily with his badge and in front of the entire group introduced himself, "We'd just like to ask you a few questions."

McGinley looked startled, then he looked pissed. And then he slipped on that greasy politician's mask of his and with a smile that didn't meet his eyes invited them both onto the yacht so they could talk candidly.

 

"This has better be important, Officers, because there's going to be photos of me with a police badge in my face all over the news for weeks," said McGinley once they'd made it into a small private room on the yacht.

It wasn't the type of room Steve was used to seeing on private yachts. It had a long mahogany table and a fancy leather couch beside the window. It mostly reminded Steve of a conference room.

Steve ignored McGinley's blustering and found a photo of Travis on his phone. "Do you know this man?"

McGinley glared at the phone. "Travis Oaks," he said. "Not that he used that name when he was here."

"How'd you know him?" asked Danny pushing the interview along.

"A friend of a friend," said McGinley. "A sycophant if I ever knew one. I should have seen it from the beginning."

Steve glanced at Danny for a reaction, but his face was a mask.

"Which friend?" asked Danny even though they were both pretty sure they already knew the answer.

"Da Chang," said McGinley. "Though now I feel confident he was using Da Chang as a way to get to me. He showed up with a fake name and a lot of money and brown-nosed his way into our inner circle. At first we didn't think much of it, but looking back his interest in Da Chang's shipping company was odd. When we discovered who he really was--pure accident by the way, one of my interns came across his public profile online--we also wondered where he got the money. Honestly I think Mr Oaks is the man you want to talk to, not me."

"Well we'd like to," said Danny, "trouble is he's gone missing."

Unlike Chang, McGinley did have a reaction to this news. He looked angry. "What do you mean missing?"

"Hotel room got broken into sometime last night," said Danny. "Know anyone who'd want to grab him?"

McGinley was quiet just a beat too long. "No," he said. "But he does seem like a man with a lot of secrets."

Steve couldn't argue with that.

"I'm really sorry to cut this short, Officers, but I really do have a busy schedule. If you have more questions, let my secretary know."

Steve looked at Danny. They both had more questions but they couldn't stop him without bringing him in and charging him.

"Do you mind if we have a look around?" asked Steve.

"No, just don't leave a mess."

Steve glanced at Danny after he'd left.

"He's lying," said Steve.

"Yeah," Danny agreed, "but about what?"

Steve frowned. He'd assumed the treason charge had come from McGinley. But then why not tell them about it. It seemed like McGinley was being purposefully vague.

He followed Danny back out onto the deck to search, but didn't expect to find much. He searched anyways.

 

They didn't find any personal effects on board at all, even the bedrooms. Everything seemed clean and sterilized. It reminded Steve of a hotel room.

He walked back to the main deck and looked around. It seemed impossible to believe there'd been a function here yesterday. McGinley must have had cleaners go through the ship top to bottom.

A little ways down Danny was pacing the front deck. Steve watched as he moved with his usual swagger, but there was something reserved that he wasn't used to seeing. Worry, Steve realised.

There was a small ache in his chest and a familiar feeling he'd been having trouble putting words too. And then a stray thought he wondered just how long has he been in love with Danny.

When Danny looked at him he looked concerned. "You alright, Babe?" he asked walking over. "You look like you've seen a ghost."

Steve shook his head. They were on a case right now. He'd have time to work out personal feelings later. "I'm fine," he lied. "I want to take another look at the conference room, but I think we're probably done here."

Danny didn't quite look like he believed him. But he turned and walked back to the conference room without saying anything.

Steve watched him go for a moment before following. Because he needed to get his head on straight. Because there was no way he'd fallen for his partner. Was there?

 

Steve paced the room a bit while Danny sat, one leg crossed over the other on the leather couch.

"So Travis is on good terms with Chang and McGinley yesterday afternoon. He slips into here, and then something happens between here and when Travis texted you yesterday at 5pm," said Steve. He thought if he could just fill in those missing two hours it would answer a lot of questions.

Danny was half listening to him, half poking through the crevices on the couch. They'd both done it to the rest of the furniture, but neither had found anything yet.

Steve was very decidedly looking everywhere but at Danny.

"Maybe they disembark, McGinley goes back to his office and there's the intern waiting for him with what he found."

"Is that what you think happened?" asked Danny.

Steve shook his head. "I think that's what McGinley wants us to think. He wants us to think they figured Travis out, and then figured out when they discovered state secrets had been stolen Travis was the most likely suspect. But it doesn't work."

Danny gave Steve a curious look. "How do you figure?"

"Travis knew at 5pm that they were on to him. If they'd discovered someone had accessed security files before then the APB would have already been out on him. Which means McGinley wants us to think the discovery happened over night or this morning. So if Travis has been passing along information for the Chinese government why contact you now?"

"It might not mean anything," cautioned Steve when Danny looked hopeful.

Danny nodded. Then he frowned, his arm halfway down the back of the couch. "Hey I think I found something."

He pulled out a small beige card. "It's a New Jersey driver's license," said Danny.

"It must have fallen out of someone's pocket," said Steve.

Danny’s eyes widened looking at the card. "I know her.” He passed the card onto Steve.

Steve was surprised to find he did too. The name Helena Kersey didn't ring any bells. But he'd seen that face, 5-10 years younger in one of Travis' photos. The girl with the fiery red hair mouthing off to a cop.

"I mean I didn't know her well," said Danny. "She was a friend of Travis'. An environmental journalist. Real activist type. I heard she was found dead a few years ago, never knew the details though."

Steve looked back at the driver's license. Even in the government issued photo she looked passionate and full of life.

 

As it turned out Kersey was found dead on Oahu. Washed up on a beach on the north shore about a year before 5-0 formed. Strangled, time of death muddled by water damage, but the coroner figured it was 10-14 hours before she was found.

Steve looked up at the photo on the screen above the computer table. Freckled skin turned blue with marks around her neck.

"The murder weapon was a rope," said Danny dispassionately. "The type you find on any large enough boat. The water washed away any other DNA evidence. According to her editor she was in Hawaii working on a case, but nobody seemed to know any details."

Steve looked down at the old driver's license. Whatever it was she was looking into definitely seemed to involve McGinley.

Steve's phone chimed. He had a text from Kono.

"Got'm in lockup boss."

 

Steve's first impression of Aaron Lee was that he was just a kid. Despite the height and muscles, he still looked barely out of puberty. He definitely looked like he was in over his head sitting in the interrogation room's chair with his arms handcuffed at his side.

Steve walked in with Kono at his side and the kid was so scared he actually started to shake.

"Look, we've got evidence that places you at the scene, we know you're Facebook friends with the owner of the getaway car. We've already got enough to lock you away for a long time," he told Lee. Lee looked terrified. Perfect.

"Here's the thing though, if you cooperate, if you help us find Travis quickly, we can talk to the DA. Tell her how you're just a confused kid who bit off more than he could chew. Get her to cut you a deal."

Except the look of relief he expected on Lee's face didn't show. Instead the kid looked like he was about to cry.

"I...I don't know anything," he said. "Higher ups just told us to grab him and his stuff. We thought he'd snubbed him on drug money or something. Didn't realise what a big deal he was until they started yelling at us about a memory card. Who the hell cares about some stupid memory card. We grabbed all the electronics in the room like they'd ask."

Steve and Kono exchanged a look. "Aaron," said Kono. "Do you know where Travis is?"

Lee shook his head. "We were just hired to grab him. They took him somewhere else after that."

Steve sighed. This job never was simple. "Aaron, we can still make this work," said Steve. "Can you tell us who paid you guys to grab Travis?"

Lee looked up at them. "A local business owner, he's used us a few times before. His name is Da Chang."

Lee told them what he knew and Steve sent Kono back out with Chin to bring Chang in while they moved to Lee to protective custody. Kid was gonna need it.

Then Steve went back upstairs.

 

Danny was in his office, and Steve could see him through the glass talking animatedly to someone. Steve felt something tighten in his chest watching him and forced himself to turn away and focus on the computer table. He was going over Kersey's police report when Catherine walked in.

She held the memory card with a grin on her face. "Cracked it," she said. "Your problem was you need the device that used to encrypt a memory card to decrypt it. Unless you know a few tricks that is..."

"You're amazing, you know that?" asked Steve taking the card from her.

"I do, but I don't mind hearing it every once in a while," said Catherine.

Steve signaled Danny, still talking to someone on the phone and Danny held up a couple fingers. Just give me two minutes.

"He's looking into a lead," Steve explained.

Catherine nodded. She looked at Danny, then back at Steve. "So," she said with a forced casualness, her voice low so Danny wouldn't hear it, "am I right in assuming he's the reason I haven't heard much from you since I got back?"

Steve tensed and felt his face flush. "It's not--I mean, we're not--"

"It's alright," said Catherine. She looked amused which mostly just made Steve feel like he was back in high school again. "We agreed early on we were only wanted to be casual."

"Yeah, I mean it's not that," said Steve rubbing his head awkwardly. He looked back at Danny, faced away from them looking at something on his desk. Phone still cradled between his arm and shoulder. "I don't think he sees me that way."

Steve felt himself relax. He hadn’t realised how much of a relief it would feel to tell someone.

"Are you sure about that?"

Steve wasn't. But he wasn't ready to deal with the possibility he did.

"It's just not what I'm used to," Steve admitted.

Catherine nodded like she understood. "You know, Don't Ask Don't Tell ended a few years ago,” she pointed out. “Since when are you afraid of the unknown?”

Steve didn’t have a good answer to that.

"We got a break," said Danny bursting out of his office so suddenly both Steve and Catherine jumped. "I found out where Travis got the money and it wasn't the Chinese government."

"You're kidding," said Steve. "Where?"

"Just got off the phone with Helena's parents. They're loaded and apparently they loaned him the money."

"Why?"

"Travis said he had a lead on her death. Helena and Travis are old friends, they took his word on it."

"Well that confirms it then, Helena's death is definitely connected to this whole thing," said Steve. He turned to Catherine, "So what's on the card?"

Catherine put it into the computer table.

There were photos. Hundreds of them. Some grainy, obviously taken with a covert smartphone. Some, where Travis could get away with it, high quality photos obviously taken with a professional digital camera. It had to have taken months to amass them all.

And suddenly this whole case made a lot more sense.

 

Everything happened very quickly after that. First Steve got to work coordinating various HDP raids. It was important everything happened at once so no one had a chance to run or hide evidence.

Then when Chin and Kono came back with Chang in custody Steve grabbed Danny and went down to meet them.

"Look," he said, "I know you put out the order to kidnap Travis Oaks. I know you've been involved in shady dealings with Senator McGinley for quite some time now. Here's the thing, as bad as everything you've done is, McGinley is worse. Work with us and you might see the outside of a jail cell again before you die."

Chang crossed his legs and somehow managed look at ease with his hands cuffed to the side of a chair. "You're lying."

"We have the memory card," said Steve. "We've seen everything that's on it."

It was extremely satisfying watching Chang go pale.

"Where's Travis Oaks?" asked steve.

"Why should I help you?" asked Chang. "If what you say is true, then Travis ruined my life. As far as I'm concerned he deserves whatever happens to him."

Steve glanced at Danny who up until this moment had been completely silent.

He turned back to Chang. "You're gonna wish you'd talked to me." He turned to Danny. "Your show, Danno.”

And then he walked out.

Steve stood outside the interrogation room for about 20 minutes before Danny buzzed out.

"I know where Travis is."

Steve glanced back at Chang. He looked unhurt but his eyes had a haunted look. Steve decided it was better not to know.

 

It all happened at once. Chin took a team to the docs and seized all of Chang's assets there while Kono took another team to the downtown office. Danny took an HPD team to McGinley's local office. And Steve took SWAT to the abandoned warehouse where they were holding Travis.

They must not have been expecting to be found. Five minutes in and there was one guy dead and two in custody and then it was just Travis in the middle of an empty floor tied to a chair. His glasses were broken and he had a black eye with a nasty gash underneath.

"Hey, how are you doing?" Steve asked as he untied him. "I'm a friend of Danny's."

Despite everything Travis grinned. “Knew he’d come through,” he said. Then answer Steve’s question, "I've been worse.” But he stood up and took a step forward and Steve had to catch him before he fell.

Steve supported him to the ambulance out back where they cleaned out the gash under his eye and gave him a bottle of powerade to drink. And when Steve established that he was well enough to be questioned, he helped him to his truck.

Travis leaned back into the passenger seat of Steve's truck like he was in pain. "Thanks."

"Thank Danny," said Steve. "He's the one who insisted you were innocent."

Travis smiled. "Daniel's loyalty is a universal constant." He turned and looked at Steve, squinting a bit without his glasses. "I didn't catch your name."

"McGarrett--Steve," he amended. "I'm Danny's partner--his work partner I mean."

Travis laughed and Steve felt sheepish. Not something he was used to feeling.

"So I think we're starting to get an idea of a timeline," said Steve, pushing on, "but we still have a few holes. Do mind answering some questions?"

"Ask away."

"Helena Kersey," said Steve.

"Yeah, we were good friends," said Travis. "We went to Syracuse together. Stayed in touch, kept each other updated on stories we were working on. So when she was found dead in Hawaii, I had a pretty good idea who might be responsible."

"So you went to find her killer."

"Not quite," said Travis. "I'm not a cop, I don't know how to solve a murder. I know how to expose corruption though. And I figured if they killed her, she had to be on to something big. It would still be a kind of justice at least."

Steve nodded. “So you go to her parents, borrow some ridiculous sum of money and spend 9 months gathering evidence. And then what? Catch a flight to LA and hand it to your former editor?”

“Yeah, it took them awhile to get the money together, but they were good for it,” said Travis.

"We decrypted your memory card," said Steve. And he had to admit Travis wasn't wrong about his ability to expose people. They hadn't had a chance to sort through them properly yet, but he’d already seen photos of SCS boats dumping waste, covert photos of Chang handing McGinley wads of cash in private rooms. It was enough to charge them. Even if his team didn't end up finding the evidence they were hoping for.

"Yeah sorry about that," said Travis. "I didn't want anyone to know I was collecting evidence before I was done."

"Our chances of prosecuting are better if you testify," said Steve. "Chang had connections to the triads though. You might have to go into protection for a while."

"After months of sucking up to criminals and murderers, anything to take them all down.”

 

When Steve got to the palace, the team was already there looking pretty pleased with themselves, and Steve took a moment to appreciate how good a group he had.

Danny rushed over when he saw the state Travis was in. Steve let Travis go as he transferred his weight to Danny while Danny checked him over in a way that reminded him heavily of how he looked over Grace when he was worried.

"You idiot," he said and Steve was surprised to see he meant Travis. "You know I'm a cop right? You know this kind of thing is literally my job. And instead of doing the reasonable and calling me and letting us sort it all out in the first place you go and do this."

Travis looked completely unphased by the assault. "I'm fine, Daniel. Really."

Danny deflated. He turned to Steve. "Hey, do you guys need me for anything? Cause otherwise I'm gonna take Travis home and help him clean up."

"Where's McGinley?" asked Steve.

"Down in lockup," said Danny. "And he's pretty pissed. Maybe leave him down there a couple hours, let him work himself up more."

Steve laughed. "I'll do that."

Then Danny left with Travis and Steve pretended it didn't make something ache inside him.

He turned to Chin and Kono. "You guys can head out too if you want, it's getting late."

Chin and Kono looked at each other. "You sure, Boss?" asked Kono.

"Yeah, I've got this."

 

Steve followed Danny’s advice and let McGinley stew a while. Besides it gave him time to go over some of the documents seized by his team. Then he found a chair and a Microsoft tablet and walked in.

Danny was right, McGinley was fuming. His round moustached face was a deep shade of purple and he could see welts on his wrist where he’d been pulling at the handcuffs.

"Do you have any idea who you're dealing with?" he demanded.

Steve set the chair down in front of McGinley and sat down so the two of them were eye level. "Theodore Raymond McGinley," said Steve. "Junior Senator for the State of Hawaii. We've got a lot of interesting stuff on you today."

"All of which is circumstantial and I am ready to fight in a proper court of law," he said. "I never did approve of all the power your team was given. Flagrant human rights abuse is what it is."

Steve didn't answer, he had pulled out his tablet and was flipping through it. "Well I hope so because we've got a lot of charges to deal with. Bribery, corruption, conspiracy, obstruction of justice. Clever by the way with the memory card and making up that entire story about espionage. I was thinking about that, if we'd brought in Travis and handed it over, it wouldn't have mattered what Travis told us. But by then I'm sure you would have destroyed it. Too bad Chang got in your way and tried to deal with the problem himself."

"Conjecture, it's all you have," said McGinley.

"I'm going to be honest with you, Senator, I'm about as uninterested in all that stuff right now as you are."

McGinley looked confused.

Steve fiddled with his tablet a little more until he found what he was looking for. "Actually want I want to talk about is this."

He showed McGinley Travis' photo of Kersey mouthing off to a cop. When it didn't get a reaction he flipped to the next photo. Kersey only a few weeks before her body was found. She was smiling kneeling next to her golden lab, both posing for a photo. It was the photo the press had used when she'd been found murdered.

This one got a reaction out of him, but it was miniscule. McGinley was quick to put the mask back on.

"You know her?" asked Steve.

"I've never seen her before in my life."

"That's interesting," said Steve calmly taking the tablet back and facing it away from McGinley, "because that's not what we found. 4 years ago, Miss Kersey was investigating a rise in ocean pollution between Hawaii and Shanghai. Though only a small handful of people knew she was investigating you directly. She wanted to know why you kept voting against environmental sanctions for shipping companies."

McGinley snorted, "If I had a penny for every reporter that wanted a comment on my voting record."

"Most of those reporters never showed up dead."

"You think I'm responsible based on the fact she was looking into me," asked McGinley.

"No," said Steve. "I think you're responsible because we found her driver's license jammed into the back of a couch on your yacht."

McGinley's eyes widened just a fraction."You're lying," he said.

Steve shook his head. "I looked into it. Kersey disappeared June 10, 2010. Her body was found June 11, the next morning. The last communication we have from her was that morning. An email sent to a friend where she talked about speaking truth to power. She wanted a comment before she sent off her story to her editors."

Steve looked up at McGinley but he'd apparently wised up and stopped talking.

"I don't expect you to remember where you were a single night four years ago. But luckily being a public figure you don't always have to remember, a lot of it's written down for you." Steve glanced back down at his tablet. "Oddly enough though while you had events scheduled here in Honolulu June 9 and June 11th, June 10th is completely cleared."

"Coincidences," said McGinley, "it's not enough to convict."

"So here's what I think. I think Kersey knew, I think she figured out the relationship between you and Chang and who knows how many other dirty businessmen, and you knew if she went public that'd be the end of all your nice little paydays. Heck you might even see jail time. So you agree to an interview, take her out on your yacht and..." Steve didn't finish the sentence. He didn't have to.

McGinley was starting to look pale.

"I just have one question," said Steve. "Was it worth it? All the environmental damage, a woman dead. And for what? A nice yacht? A bit of extra cash in your pocket?"

McGinley snorted but didn't say anything.

Steve went back to his tablet. "You know it's interesting, I was upstairs trying to figure out how to approach this while I looked over your files. I googled the event you were at June 11th. You gave a speech at some public charity event for veterans."

Steve swiped his tablet and shared the photo with McGinley grinning, two arms on the podium. They were just barely visible under his rolled up sleeves, but still unmistakable.

"Senator do you mind telling me how you got those scratch marks on your arm?"

Steve had thought McGinley had looked furious when he arrived. Apparently he had no idea. McGinley was visibly shaking now, not at all used to being toyed around like this.

Steve didn't say anything. He just leaned forward, elbows on knees and waited.

"I am not responsible for that girl's death!" he said, voice surprisingly quiet considering. "She had every chance to walk away. I offered her money, favours, whatever she wanted and she kept mouthing off. Kept telling me there was nothing I could do to stop her. Well she was wrong. I did what I had to."

And there it was. Steve sagged as he felt a huge wave of relief come over him. He got up, glanced one more time at McGinley who was still handcuffed to his chair fuming and buzzed out. He asked the guards to take him to a cell and went home. It had been a long day and Steve was suddenly exhausted.

 

*

 

It was early the next morning. Steve had called the team and told everyone to take the day off and then grabbed a mug of coffee and moved to the lanai. It was a nice day and a nice view and it was a good place to be after a stressful case.

He was a few sips into the coffee when Danny appeared around the corner. Something uncomfortable squirmed in Steve's stomach at the sight of him. And, oh right. That.

"I knocked," said Danny taking the chair beside him.

"No you didn't," said Steve taking another sip of his coffee.

"Alright, no I didn't, but I brought coco puffs." he dropped the bag ceremoniously on the pushed together chair arms between them.

Steve grabbed the bag and took one. He could use the sugar. "Where's Travis?" he asked.

Danny shrugged. "I helped him get set up with a protection detail and sent him on his way."

Steve was surprised. "Already?"

"Yeah well how much time do you want to spend around your ex?"

Steve raised an eyebrow. "Still an ex?"

Danny shook his head. "Me and Travis already know we don't work. If I'm going to have a significant other who nearly gets themselves killed on a regular basis, I want it to be where I can see them. Not sitting at home worrying for months at a time." Danny grabbed a coco puff from the bag. "Besides," he said, "I'm kinda stuck on someone else lately."

Steve's stomach squirmed again and he schooled his face. "Oh yeah? Guy or girl?"

"Shut up," said Danny.

Steve smirked.

"You know I've been thinking about this whole bisexual thing," said Steve, and he hoped Danny bought his casual attitude but it seemed impossible he wouldn't notice how hard his heart was pounding. "And I think we should date."

Danny froze mid-bite.

"Steven, if you are fucking with me..." said Danny.

"I mean it's not big deal," Steve lied, he could feel his face start to heat up a bit. "If you're not interested in anything--"

But before Steve could finish Danny had pushed himself up so he was leaning over the chairs, and suddenly the two of them were staring at each other.

"You asshole," said Danny. And then he kissed him. And it was rough and Danny still tasted like coco puffs and it was amazing.

"God you know how long I've wanted to do that?" Danny spoke against the side of the mouth, like he wasn't quite willing to move away yet and Steve closed his eyes at the sensation of hot air.

"I thought you said you've only been attracted to a handful of guys," teased Steve.

"Yeah well, don't let it go to your head," said Danny. And then he kissed Steve again.