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Nightmare On Danny Street

Sometimes Danny knows where he is. Sometimes he doesn’t.

Sharks stare at him with dead eyes as he tries to keep his head above water. His arms are made of jello, and they’re melting. The sharks swim in patient circles. Just when Danny thinks he’s going to drown unremembered in a shark cage in the middle of the ocean, the bars disappear. The sharks converge and tear him to pieces with their flashing, razored teeth. Danny screams and dies as the ocean turns red.

The demons have the faces of every victim he’s ever seen alive or dead, and they’re coming for him. The sadness he feels wells up out of him in a lake of didn’t-do-enough. He couldn’t save them. The demon martyrs are his escort into the next world. Tears run down his face as he sobs out all the shame and grief.

"Mom! You look great!" He’s standing in the kitchen with a cup of coffee and Mom’s younger than usual by almost two decades. She's rocking that big curly hair he always loved.

"Danny! Sweetie, how've you been?" Her smile is magic balm. She takes his face in her palms and studies him, gives him a kiss. He wraps his arms around her and holds tight. "You look like shit. Is it that boy again?"

"Mom, if you call him my little friend, swear to God I am going to hold my breath until I turn blue."

She rolls her eyes. "Whatever. You can't just let him barrel right over you all the time. You've always been such a pushover for love. Anybody would think I didn't breast-feed."

"I am not – "

"Honey, cover your ears."

It’s cold. Steve's not here, and he might not get here. He's seen the quirky mouth and stretch of decorated muscle that is Steve almost every day for a year. He works with a man dragged, live and kicking, out of his teenage fantasies. The world hates Danny Williams. It’s one more indignity, wrapped up in Hello Sailor paper with stars-and-bars ribbons he's not allowed to untie.

Or, it could be the universe's way of providing a little eye candy to make up for all the rest. Either way, he's done good. He got this far without giving those ribbons one little tug. Danny did his job. He didn't look at job listings in New Jersey, didn't watch as Grace and her new family walked into their mansion together, and he didn't undress Steve McGarrett in his mind. Maybe he should've.

Steve jams through the smoking wreck of a steel door with the biggest crowbar Danny's ever seen. He’s on fire, white flames that throw light in every direction. The flames are in his hair, on his hands. He’s got wings, enormous feathered white and silver wings that dip as he steps through the ex-door. He looks terrified.

The avenging angel is afraid, and that’s wrong.

Danny’s adrenaline spikes. In the angel light, that's not a face he knows. He's still so scared and angry he wants to kill something with his bare hands. And he's been seeing things, but he's pretty sure he pissed himself when he got tasered, or possibly when the sharks ate him, and it's, it's all Steve's damn fault.

Explosions have a smell, how did he not know that? Burning shit, yeah, but a first wave of ozone and now a snootful of vaporized metal that’s coating his teeth. He tries to talk, and he can’t. And isn't that just the fucking end. Danny’s been at risk ever since working with this overgrown clown. He doesn’t know how long he's been lying on the suspiciously damp cement, knowing the thugs left him and the whole building to blow.

Even when he's been shot, he's never been afraid like this.

"Danny. Danno," Steve keeps saying as his hands move over Danny's body, and if he wasn't so fucked up, he'd be enjoying this more. "Where does it hurt?"

The wings enfold them both. It’s comforting. He’s never telling Steve that he’s an angel. He’d never hear the end of it. The fire on Steve’s skin warms him up; you’d think it would help with the smell. Danny can not only see fear now, Steve reeks of it. It makes him feel better. He wasn’t the only one. Steve slings one of Danny’s useless arms over his neck and picks him up off the floor like a rag doll.

"The ambulance is coming," Steve says as they stagger to the one piece of furniture in the room. It's a desk. Danny hadn't even been sure it was there. "Kono is subduing a couple of the perps. Chin got the rest in custody on the docks."

"Good.” Except he can’t make the d sound. Kono would put some mojo on those assholes.
“No boom, baby!” Steve announces righteously. “They didn’t do their homework with the PETN. Guess nobody ever said criminals were too smart. I think it actually biodegraded in this environment; they used this place for a long time, it looks like. There are some bacteria that speed the process, and there’s a garbage pit out back --”

. . . aaaand when did Steve start talking? After a year of full-on socialization, he still guards his words like prisoners. Warm hands wander aimlessly over Danny.

“. . . and I, naturally, brought my own explosives.”

There’s something sweet about the grinning self-congratulation that makes Danny’s lips turn up at the edges. He's slumped against Steve’s shoulder when his teeth start chattering and his body shivers uncontrollably.
“Danny, fuck -- you’re fucking freezing!” That’s when Steve winds gorilla arms around him and does his level best to crack his chest. Steve’s rocking him back and forth like a child, tucked close into the V of Danny’s legs. The high-pitched stink of fear fades into something smoother. Danny’s not feeling any pain, and when Steve's lips mash into his, it's nothing but good. Steve's chipped eyetooth cuts his lip, there's blood in his mouth, but he's okay with that, too. It's been a long time.

And anyway, right after he kisses the everliving shit out of Steve, he's going to kill him, damned if he isn't, for using Danny as bait, putting him neck deep in this mess. Then his mindless fear starts to break apart. He wasn't sure when Rachel stopped loving him like this. He only knows when they stopped having sex. But that was then, and this is Steve.

A sigh of relief huffs out of him finally, Jesus Christ, finally as Steve squeezes again. "Ribs," he croaks, but Steve is beyond that now, he's all about mouthing Danny's face -- scraping at stubble with his teeth, kissing his eyelids, gnawing his cheekbones, holding him still with hands full of hair. "I’m here, calm the fuck down," is in Danny’s throat, but it goes nowhere. Steve’s back at his mouth, sucking on him like he can’t get enough.

Danny’s hands are working better now. His arms lift and settle around Steve's shoulders. He has feeling in his fingers. There’s the feel of the fine hairs on the back of Steve McGarrett's neck, both their lips softening as Danny gentles the twang of tension. Steve smells good, like sex. He’s throwing heat that Danny wraps around like a catcher’s mitt. Steve lifts Danny's face with two fingers and slides their mouths together.

All hell breaks loose.

Fire trucks and cruisers are shrieking. The whole damn HPD must be coming up the road. His partner doesn’t notice. Danny doesn't know whether to be thrilled or disappointed, but he'd sure as hell like to get out of his ruined slacks and into the shower. If he gets there with Steve, the sooner the better.

"Babe," he mumbles. "Steven."

The man comes out of a trance, and for a heartbeat he looks lost. Against a faded background of honking and wailing, Steve's eyes snap into focus. Steve McGarrett backs away in some kind of Brazilian move, holding his forearms up, and says blankly, "No. That's not – no, just, no." He looks at his hands like they’re somebody else’s.

This is the man who pulled a surprise severed head out of a box. He didn't even blink. He's six feet of laser-focused death and destruction, and he likes it. Unchecked, he could single-handedly ruin more of these islands than any volcano. He does these things without flinching. Now Danny watches as abject horror creeps onto Steve's face.

"I'll get you somebody," Steve whispers, and vaults out of the ragged hole that used to be a door.

They kept him at the hospital the rest of the day and overnight. They couldn't figure out what the drugs were, but wanted to make sure that everything was out of his system. He didn't even have the energy to object or care. Early on, Kono stopped by with clean clothes. In a tired way, he was grateful, even though it wrote across the sky in mile high letters that Steve wasn’t coming. Steve was the one who had Danny’s apartment keys.

"Sorry, Danny. I'm so sorry it took so long for us to get you out."

The bizarre red and yellow plastic-y things she brought, flowers, whatever, smelled green and good and helped cover the stench of antiseptic. Now that the drugs were mostly gone, he seemed weirdly sensitive to smells and bright light. He hoped it wouldn't last. That would get old soon in Honolulu. “It doesn’t matter.” He didn’t want to hear or think about the rescue. “You did get me out, and that’s why I’m alive now.”

“You were there for two days.” Her chin does that thing that Grace’s does when she doesn’t want to cry but is going to anyway.

Please, please, don’t cry. "It was nothing," he insisted. "I'm fine. I was in a room, 'kay? I was glad to get away from the paperwork." He fake-smiled encouragingly. "They'll check me, I breeze outta here tomorrow morning just in time for work." He opened his hands and spread them out on the bedsheets. "Capische?"

Kono’s hands actually creaked open from fist to flat as she pretended to deal. He was sure he heard it. "Hey, you probably don't know Chin's down the hall. They're splinting his finger. At least it wasn't his trigger finger." She grinned and slid her palm across his, then squeezed his hand and got serious. "Steve – I thought Steve was gonna go crazy." At his raised eyebrow, she shrugged. "More crazy. There's no . . . pi'i ke kai. Chicken skin kine. Danny, I've never seen him like that."

He didn't bother to ask for a translation. "Yeah," he said. "Me, neither."

He didn't go to in to work the next day. He even thought about calling Rachel and begging to change weekends, but Grace was the only thing that would make him feel less like shit on a stick.

It was all his own damned fault. It wasn't like he hadn't known better.

Homophobia was the national sport of cops everywhere. It could only be more pervasive and overt in the armed forces. That was why they made laws about it. He just thought . . . well, for three minutes in a drug-induced haze, he thought Steve was different. He'd put up with, hell, he encouraged the camaraderie, the banter, the looks, the touches. It didn't mean anything – not when he was thinking with the big brain. He knew from long experience that a little flirting with your partner smoothed the way for everybody.

If he called Steve 'babe' once in a while, he made sure to throw it around.

When he realized that his angry rants were more amusing than not, he amped up the procedurals to jackhammer so Steve got the point, and went freewheeling on the others just to catch Steve hiding a smile. Good fucking luck with that from now on. He froze in place reaching for a stick of butter. Steve could, and very well might, bust his ass out of the 5-0. He never . . . aw, shit.

‘Kill the messenger’ was a catchphrase for a reason.

Fuck whether they were going to be buddies any more, he could be flat on his fine Jersey behind on the sidewalk. Coughing and retching as the bile rose in his throat, he was tossing his coffee so fast he barely had time to grab the counter and pull his head over the sink. Besides having the only people he cared about who were not Grace, he needed his job. He was scum in HPD for opening their can of worms. They wouldn't piss on him if he was on fire. Without 5-0, he'd be working security at Wal-Mart.

Now he’s become Steve McGarrett's personal can of worms. Oh, fuck. He gritted his teeth against another lurch of his stomach.

Well, goddamn it, fuck Steve fucking McGarrett and his not-so-straight white hat and the noble unicorn he rode in on, too. Hey, Danny wasn’t going to push it if he didn’t have to. He didn’t want to start anything, because the finish would be fucking epic, nobody left standing, and he didn’t really, truly want that. And also because he . . . well, he’s been . . . yeah. Ever since Steve took his punch and let it be even up, that’s the way it’s been. From day one.

If Steve tried to can him, Danny would stir up a shitstorm that made Hurricane Iniki look like a breath of fresh air. Mr. Immunity And Means might not care about a gay sexual harassment lawsuit, but the local news would, and the Governor sure as hell would. Danny had plausible deniability -- he’d been drugged, paralyzed, for chrissake -- and he had a wife and daughter, sort of. Steve didn’t have shit.

All Steve had was that look of betrayal and horror, and the memory makes Danny cringe even now. Danny is thirty-five years old, and he’s been bi for as long as he can remember. He’s never been a bad person because of it, and nobody will ever look at him like that again. Especially not that hypocritical bastard McGarrett.

And if Danny dreams every night from now on about Steve’s half-hard cock nuzzling at Danny’s through a layer of cargo pants and Danny’s filthy slacks, about the way it would have felt, the way it should have felt . . . about long fingers under his jaw, and whisker burn on his face, well, that’s just his own goddamn business.

He takes Grace to the movies and sleeps through most of Justin Bieber never saying never, but he hears all about it over blueberry mochi creams. Then he sit in the shade and watches her while she gets her surfing lesson. She tries to haul him out by the hand. At least somebody wants him.

“Danno, come on! This is fun!”

“Honey, you go have fun with Kalia now, okay? Danno had a tough week, and needs a little down time.” He strokes her hair, tugging on a piece of it. “We’ll have pizza for dinner, okay?” That’s a rarity in the Rachel/StepStan household, and a sure winner.

“Okay,” she says. “But you’re all right, aren’t you?”

Her worried eyes melt him. “Yes, I’m okay. Really.”

Danny Tells Steve To STFU

By the time Danny struts into the office on Monday, Steve’s been there for hours. He knows it shows, looked at himself in the mirror at 0400, but he couldn’t sleep. Hasn’t had five hours in the last three nights. Two miles in black water didn’t so much as lessen the churning in his gut. He’d spent the whole weekend being sixteen, and it was bad the first time.
His mom was dead. The funeral was a month ago. He didn’t remember much of it.

He was splayed on the couch with Kapono on that dull May Saturday, study break. The physics final was going to be a bitch, and they both knew it. They were watching something stupid on tv when he started crying. He couldn’t stop so he just tried to pretend he wasn’t, tears silently running down his cheeks, hoping Kapono wouldn’t notice, hoping it would all just stop. Everything. He wanted everything to stop.

“Hey, Steve, do you wanna -- are you okay?” Pause. “Duh. What a dumbass I am. Come on, man.” Kapono reached out, grabbing Steve’s shirt.

“No, I, it’s nothing, I --” and he started to sob as his friend’s long, skinny arms cornered him.

“It’s all right, it’s okay. Just. It’s okay.”

Kapono’s bony shoulders and pointy knees made a safe place, a place where he wasn’t lost. He hadn’t had a real hug since before Mom died -- just those awful stifling “poor little boy” hugs from too-perfumed people he hardly knew -- and he hadn’t been kissed since he was ten, when his dad told him he was too old for that. Somehow, while Kapono was petting his hair, it just seemed natural to lean up to his best friend’s face. Kapono kissed back, holding him tight, making sure he wasn’t alone.

That’s how Steve’s dad found them. He’d been out on the boat, pretending to spear fish with his buddies, and he’d had a few. Steve could see his face getting redder as he and Kapono twisted apart and stood up, Jack McGarrett yelling, “Get out! Get out of my house!”

Kapono, right next to him, was tensed for a brawl. “If he throws a punch, brah,” he muttered. Steve wondered if Kapono had seen something like this before.

“It’s okay. It’s my dad.” He hoped it would be okay. But his friend stayed until Steve held two fingers down and thumbed toward the door. Kapono made a brief slashing motion and faded back.

“I don’t ever want to see you again! Stay away from my son!” The door slammed, and Jack turned his anger on Steve. “You! You disgust me.” His voice fell to a snarl. “Thank God your mother isn’t here to see this. This is sick. For her, I’d have you out of this house before you could turn around.”

Horrified, Steve just stared. He’d never seen this man before. It wasn’t the man he idolized. It was a monster in his father’s jacket. “Dad!” he cried.

“Shut up,” snapped Jack, raking him with a derisive glance. “If I ever catch you doing anything like that again, you’re going straight to military school. They’ll fix you right up. And don’t expect to come back.”

“No, Dad, don’t. Please. I promise!” He would have promised anything, things there weren’t any words for, not that his dad would’ve let him say them. Instead, within a week, Steve was on a plane to Tulsa. He never asked why his little sister got sent away, too. He'd always been afraid his dad would say Steve poisoned her in some mysterious way. At Aunt Jennie’s and Uncle Roger’s, he was a straight A student and a football hero and did volunteer work at the Lutheran church down the street. It didn’t work.
He'd have torn down the world for another chance to do it over. To never have kissed Kapono in the living room, to not be like this, to not be the disappointment that he saw in his dad’s eyes. It wasn’t even a possibility. He went back home for Christmas twice, earned the money over the sweltering Oklahoma summers, but his dad spent the two weeks working. When his dad barely came home to sleep, Steve realized that Jack McGarrett didn’t want to see him.

In the end, he sent himself to military school. Out of respect for the memory of his mom, and because his dad was dead to him, in so many ways . . . he never went back. Now he fears no evil, for he is the baddest motherfucker. Steve hasn't changed. He’s still tough and focused.

“Detective Williams, you’re late.”

“Detective Williams? Detective Williams?” He looks around the room, either faking startlement or genuinely feeling it. There’s not much that Danny fakes. “What the fuck -- you calling me Williams, McGarrett? One kiss and you forget my name?”

That was so not what Steve wanted to hear, any time, ever.

In the periphery of his vision he sees Kono’s shit-eating grin fade as she realizes that whatever she thought was happening . . . isn’t. She backs away from the door and disappears down the hall. He needs to do damage control now, not tomorrow or next week, and he can’t fucking believe that was the first thing out of Danny’s mouth.

“What are you talking about?”

“The kiss that has your face like that, you unbelievable asshole. You could be spouting champagne from your nose on the buffet table with that face. And if you ever, and I mean ever, look at me again like I’m stuck to your shoe for anything you think about my personal sexual inclinations, I’m gonna fuck your shit up in the finest New Jersey fashion.”

“I wasn’t! I didn’t -- what does that even mean?” His brain is full of the Bad Old Days, and he’s just trying to make it past this.

“Do not even think you can pull that ‘late’ crap on me. Normal people start their eight hours of work at nine am. I’ll have you know I’m claiming overtime for forty-eight hours lounging on a cement slab, crazy out of my head on bath salts.” Danny aims a finger gun at Steve. “Also, you got me fucking kidnapped and didn’t even send balloons. Nice.” He pulls the trigger.

“You were drugged. You were hallucinating.”
Danny suddenly looks as burned out and exhausted as Steve feels. “You just keep telling yourself that, Steven.” He strides out to the hallway, balled fists swinging.

Okay, Danny’s staying. His head falls onto his arms and he takes deep breaths until his headache eases a little.

 

Banzai Steve

Danny staggers into the men’s and uses the wall as a prop. His knees slowly give out until he’s ruining another pair of slacks on the no doubt bacteria-infested floor. He shakes his head slowly, so as not to distress all the things rattling around inside. So much for not pushing it.

It was that face. It was ridiculous. There was no way he couldn’t challenge that face. Strangely enough, a hangdog and embarrassed Steve would have hurt him more. He’d have felt sorry for Steve that way, sorry for anybody so shamed by his desires that he avoided his best friend for having them, too. This, on the other hand, just pissed him right the fuck off.

Seriously, McGarrett thought he could intimidate Danny into . . . what? Keeping his mouth shut? Never mind that keeping his mouth shut was Danny’s original idea; how did either of them think that was gonna work? When was the last time Steve saw somebody intimidate Danny? Not third world despots, not murdering SEAL bastards, and certainly not Steve.

For that matter, since when does Steve McGarrett back away from anything? Well, yes, okay, any time that anything that involves human interaction and feelings. Which in this case is either a plus or a minus, he doesn’t know yet.

But -- to lie. Steve is a lying liar who lies. Danny’s mother circa 1990 was not really in that room, but he’s got a cut lip from where Steve McGarrett kissed him - that, my friend, he thinks triumphantly, is what we in the detection field call “evidence”. He has a pretty good idea why Steve might lie to other people. He’s lived on secrets all these years. The gentlemen of the armed services have traditional ways of getting rid of officers they don’t like or trust.

But where the hell does he get off lying to Danny?

As it turns out, Steve isn’t just a homophobic lying liar crossing a river, he’s also a man who jumps out of a fifth floor window into a swimming pool that has no depth markers in it. Steve couldn’t possibly have known it was deep enough for him to survive the fall. Danny is talking the gun out of the diplomat’s daughter’s hand and doesn’t even know it happened until her cheating boyfriend is hauled back in by the scruff of the neck . . . by a dripping Steve.

Wednesday, Steve does a half-gainer through a skylight in an abandoned shoe factory and Danny’s pretty sure he never actually saw with his own eyes the giant rusted-out dumpster full of moldering shoe boxes below it. It could have been full of cement block. The resulting hail of bullets doesn’t reassure Danny, either. It’s like Steve doesn’t care, and nothing Danny can say, even though he says plenty, seems to faze him.

On Friday Danny’s going house to house looking for arms dealers with a man carrying an illegally converted Tec-9 along with his giant knife and, holy shit, a garotte, which is insane enough all by itself; can’t 5-0 afford real weapons anymore? And there’s more. This man, he discovers, hasn’t slept in at least 48 hours. This man has the gall to say, “It’s fine, Danny. There’s nothing to worry about! We’re trained for exactly these kinds of maneuvers.”

“We, who’s we? You might be seeing double, but I, for one, see only one ordinary man -- not the Terminator, as you seem to think -- who is almost dead on his feet. Are you trying to get us killed? Seriously, are you --” and Danny stops. An appalling thought has just dawned on him, and even he can’t say it. He can’t ask Steve if he’s trying to get himself killed. “This is done. We are done. This operation is over. We are going back right the fuck NOW, you crazy bastard, if I have to shoot you and call an ambulance to put an end to it.”

The strangest part is, Steve doesn’t say anything. He shuts his mouth, follows Danny back to the car, and falls asleep in the passenger seat while Danny’s driving him home.

Danny’s pretty beat himself, and he’s not letting this nutbar out of his sight. Besides, Steve’s guest bedroom has a pretty decent bed. He thinks about letting Steve sleep it off in the car, but in the end he’s not that vindictive. He prods and pulls Steve and all his beautiful lax muscle -- they’re always so cute when they’re asleep -- awake and into the house, where he lets him drop on the couch and drags his own ass off for some shuteye.

He gets up later and orders Chinese. He pays for it with cash out of Steve’s wallet. The babysitter gets dinner, that’s how it works. He doesn’t think about how he’s sticking his hand into Steve’s pants pocket while the guy’s sleeping like the dead, so close and yet so far, and he sure as hell doesn’t look at the goosebumps that raise the hair on his arm. After he eats, he goes straight back to bed.

In the morning, he makes coffee. He wants to pull the still non-sentient Steve right off the couch to land on his face on the floor, maybe thump some sense into him, but it’s Steve who’s courting a quick and bloodstained death, not Danny. Still, Danny needs to get something out of this. Anything. His palms hurt with the need to run his fingers through Steve’s hair, touch his face. Or maybe it’s his own fingernails digging in. He picks up the hanging placket of Steve’s unbuttoned nylon shirt and rubs it between his fingers while he memorizes Steve’s overabundant eyelashes. It’s as close as he’ll get.

Then he leaves a steaming cup of coffee on the table by the couch. It only takes twenty seconds to get those bleary, red-rimmed eyes open, and some of that time, Danny’s pretty sure Steve was faking it.

“Get in the shower, Sleeping Beauty. We have some things to talk about.” Without waiting for an answer, he takes his mug out on the lanai and stares at the water. This new obedient Steve is kind of creepy, but maybe the guy’s just too wiped to hit on all cylinders.

“Look,” he says when they’re both seated at the kitchen table and he’s had four cups of coffee. That’s a lot of caffeine, considering no one at Steve’s house ever had to worry about running out of hot water. He’s squeaky clean and dressed in less than eight minutes, even though he avoids looking at Danny. “I know you won’t listen to me any place else. I’ve tried.” He’s too tired to yell, anyway. He’s just bone tired. “So you’re going to listen to me here, at your own kitchen table, all civilized like regular people.”

Steve’s staring deeply into his coffee cup. “Danny, I’m . . . sorry . . .”

And what that must have cost, Danny can’t imagine. “No. Listen to me.” And he’s so softly, deadly serious that Steve stills, as if he’s not breathing. “I don’t know what you’re trying to prove. I thought things were going okay. I did. That’s why I decided to stay at the 5-0 with you and Kono and Chin. And it was good for a while. But it’s not good right now.” Even with Steve’s head down, Danny thinks he sees him flinch, and wonders what the hell is going on. “Hey, your coffee does not speak. Look at me, this is serious.”

Steve finally focuses on him, face pale, eyes fixed, and there’s a shadow of surprise in there. Then he shifts to staring right through Danny and seeing . . . who knows what. He says nothing.

“You’re still the same gonzo bastard you were when I got here. I thought you were calming down a little. Once in a while you’d even Miranda a suspect. But this week you’ve been absolutely bananas, swinging from tree to tree. One fine sunny Hawaiian day, you’re going to kill Kono and Chin with your superhero shit. One of your own is going to die. But not me, do you understand?”

No response. Same thousand yard stare.

“I need you to know that it won’t be me who dies the next time you take off half-assed with no warning and no plan. I’m going to stay alive for my daughter, and if I have to -- I don’t want to -- I will go. I will leave 5-0. I’ll flip burgers, I’ll work hotel security, I don’t care. You have to stop this macho SEAL baloney.” He sighs deeply and pleads, “At least back it down a notch.”

Steve blows out what looks like about two days worth of breath. “Yeah. Danny, don’t go. I will. I promise.” And damned if he doesn’t look like he means it.

End of the Week Pick-Me-Up

Danny meets Amos Devlin in a tourist trap beach bar in the middle of a Saturday evening after a brutal week: two explosions, one kidnapping, a serious amount of drugs pumped through his system, one pissed off call from the Governor, one congratulatory beer with the Governor, one knock-down drag-out screaming match with Steve, one heart-to-heart with Steve and no visit with Grace this weekend.

Danny isn't looking for anything but a quiet couple of boilermakers amongst a crowd of non-islander people, because, if he hears the word "haole" to his face just one more time, no matter the warmth of the smile that accompanies the jibe, he will not be responsible for his actions. Which will probably result in yet another pissed off call from the Governor's office and a deepening of the stubbornly disappointed lines that bracket Steve's nose and mouth.

Danny does not want to be thinking about Steve McGarrett's mouth at all this weekend. Not for another solitary second. Which is the only reason he lets himself fall into easy conversation with the well-dressed man on his left when he asks about the difference between the microbrews available.

Amos Devlin is easy to talk with, a smile lurking in his eyes all the time he's looking at Danny. As it turns out, Amos grew up in Boston, and they reminisce about the many and varied joys of the northeast. Danny hasn't met anybody who had anything to say about the Jersey Devils in nearly a year. It's been a long, dry year for just about everything he used to care about that wasn’t his kid or his job. His job had gone from stressful and difficult to downright grueling, and he had no idea what his former police shrink would think about his new version of word association. Almost every noun he knew could easily fall within six degrees of "mass destruction."

Amos is even easier to look at; maybe old enough to be Danny's father but neither Hawaiian nor Naval or anything but relaxed, well-heeled and handsome. He's as easy as drinking a glass of cool water after three days of Chin's paint-stripper coffee. And how the hell did an Islander not know how to make decent coffee, anyway? Shouldn't it be genetic?

“Boilermakers? Who drinks those any more?” Devlin teases as he watches Danny carefully line up the shot next to his fresh glass of beer. Danny likes the flash of torchlight on the amber depths of his beer and he thinks he might possibly have had a couple too many.

Danny waves an admonitory finger in the air. “Unh unh! My uncle, Virgil, told me that a good boilermaker was the way to make a bad week go away. Well, he was actually talking about depth charges, but I chipped my tooth on the shot glass once and switched to these instead. They work just as well and my dentist doesn’t get that look on his face when he has to rebuild my front tooth.”

Devlin laughs and says, “Who the heck is named Virgil any more?”

“I don’t know, Amos, how do people get names like that?”

“My father was a Biblical scholar at Harvard Divinity School.”

“My uncle Virgil’s dad had a thing for classical poets. Can you imagine it? An Irish steamfitter who reads Greek classics on his lunch break and names his kid Virgil. My uncle knew how to bare-knuckle brawl by the time he was in second grade, which is an achievement, even in Jersey.”

Devlin’s laughter is generous and delighted. His blue eyes are warm and they skim Danny’s face and arms and linger in the hollow of his throat a second or two longer than a beer buddy’s would. For all that the guy has silver-white hair, his face is unlined and his knit shirt hugs some lean muscle. His teeth are even and perfect and for the first time in years, Danny is thinking about straying off the reservation.

Well, the second time in two weeks, if he’s being honest, but that last time hadn’t involved much thought and had barely involved Danny at all. Certainly Steve hadn’t left him any room for decision-making.

If he’s really being honest, he was probably thinking about it when he got here this evening. When he’d sat down at the bar facing the water beside a man with broad shoulders and an easy smile. When he’d been offered a name and a wide warm palm to shake, Danny hadn’t even hesitated before introducing himself as Daniel.

For tonight, just one freakin’ night, he is sick of being Danny Williams, detective, divorce’, non-custodial parent and one quarter of the most destructive force for good he’s ever seen in his law enforcement career. For the space of a few drinks and a couple of laughs, he wants to be someone else. He wants to see who he could have been reflected in some good-natured stranger’s eyes.

He just wants some no-strings-attached fun. A couple of days off. A decent bed. A calendar month where nothing he owned exploded, burned, or skidded into the ocean. A nice meal without pineapple, cabbage, or macaroni. A quiet conversation where there was no reference to accelerants.

Hell, as long as he’s wishing, he wants no strings, no bombs, no snipers and no high-speed chases. Oh yeah, no grenades in his fucking car, no stack of bills that force him to carefully dice his meager salary into crumbs to throw to all of the ravening wolves at the end of each month and maybe a couple of orgasms with someone else in the same bed for a change. He snorts into his beer and thinks he might as well ask for a pony, too.

“Daniel,” Devlin says softly, one long finger tracing the wet rim of Danny’s last shot of whiskey, now empty on the bar. He licks the sheen of whiskey from the pad of his finger and looks like he’s considering the flavor carefully. Then he looks up, right into Danny’s eyes and asks, “Do you want to get out of here?”

Danny does. He really does.

 

Devlin leads him to a house a couple of blocks back from the beach. Somehow, the way Devlin had referred to it, Danny was expecting a condo or some sort of efficiency place, not the jaw-dropping opulence his bar pick-up leads him to.

There is marble; there are jade figurines and silk panels hanging beneath glass. He can see the dark emptiness that is the ocean beyond a naturally-shaped pool just outside the glass walls of the living room. Behind him, Devlin is making clinking noises with ice and glasses. Danny stares out toward what must be the darker mass of Diamond Head and wonders what the hell he is doing there.

A warm hand on his shoulder makes him jump. He half turns and Devlin smiles gently. “You OK?”

Danny takes the glass of what will likely turn out to be insanely top shelf whiskey and clears his throat. “Nice house,” he tries and sips his drink. He was right – it is like inhaling sunshine on an Irish hillside in the spring – the whiskey is really good.

Devlin grins, the crow’s feet gathering around his eyes belying the mischievous light in them. “It’s an over-decorated monument to over-indulgence and you know it.”

Danny grins in response, nerves forgotten. “Well, yeah. I just wasn’t sure you knew it.”

“Daniel, there are three and a half bathrooms in this place; I live alone. In fact, I am here no more than ten days a month, if that. This place is ludicrous.”

“So, why…?”

Devlin shrugs and sips at his drink. “I’m in real estate and I do a lot of business here. People expect a certain level of luxury.”

Danny thinks of his crappy efficiency apartment. “Yeah, well, this place could give a guy an edifice complex.”

Devlin laughs, then places his and Danny’s drinks on a side table. He reaches for Danny and pulls him close with a hand on his shoulder and one arm slipping around his waist.

“Don’t worry about the house,” he says, tipping his head toward Danny’s. “I really just want you to concentrate on the bedroom,” is breathed against his mouth. Devlin takes a step back, grabs Danny’s hand and tows him toward a bedroom the size of his current apartment. That doesn’t bother Danny, though, because the bed is fantastic. As are Devlin’s hands, mouth and cock. In fact, the whole evening has gone a fair way to erasing the shitfulness that was the whole previous week.

Besides, that was the most comfortable bed he’s slept on since he stopped being married.

Be Aware

 

Danny’s acting strangely. He’s distracted.

That’s probably okay, because Steve might be behaving oddly, too. He used to think his attraction to Danny could be, well, just a phase. He’d get over it. He’d have to, sooner or later, and Cath turning up now and then would help that along. Until then, it could be ignored as much as humanly possible. Now that it’s hit the surface with all the charm and subtlety of a dead body, he’s battered by awareness. There’s a galaxy of swirling emotion that surrounds Danny at all times when he’s not asleep. That Steve knows that says something right there.

That galaxy always drew him in like he’s been living in the cold of deep space. Now it draws him on to other things, too, like the golden gleam of the badge on Danny’s belt. It’s a symbol of what Danny believes, that there’s evil in the world and he’s here to protect the helpless. If he has to, he’ll protect the bad guys when they’re helpless, and he’s gone up against Steve to do it. Steve would notice that badge all by itself, but that’s not enough, no -- it’s clipped on a belt between the thrust of Danny’s hipbone and the hidden knowledge of his zipper.

The bland and boring khakis don’t keep Steve from mentally tracing the curve of Danny’s ass. He would swear he’d never even noticed it before.

Danny’s hands have tiny, ultrafine golden hairs on them that lead up into a broader patch along his forearms. Sometimes, if Danny’s hot enough, he’ll roll up his sleeves. At least Steve hasn’t lowered himself to turning off the air conditioning. It’s like a peep show, and Steve doesn’t want to be hanging around for an eyeful, but sometimes he can’t help it. He’ll stand too close, not quite crowding Danny while they’re watching Chin make magic. Like some kind of pervert, he hopes that Danny will lean over and put his hands on the table, his thick fingers blunt and masculine against the glowing blue.

On a really good day, Danny will brush against him a little without thinking, the way he used to. They both used to touch each other all the time. It was innocent then, but now it seems dirty somehow. Steve made it into something unacceptable.

Not touching Danny is killing him already.

 

Friday On My Mind

 

Steve did mean it. He tries. Steve stops doing the gratuitously insane maneuvers that Danny had known were going to wind up with one of them dead and dials it back down to merely crazy-ass, for which Danny has a certain grudging tolerance, built up over time.

And Danny starts to think they might get their groove back to the place where they can ignore the way they keep leaning into each other’s space, reaching out like plants going for the last sliver of sunlight available. The smiles come a little easier now.

The shared sideways looks when someone is being a pain in their collective asses (always excepting the Governor) have never quite left. The bitching comes back full-force and is as comforting as warm milk, even if sometimes there’s more real anger behind it now. If Danny can’t have all that he wants from Steve, at least he can have this - his friend.

Later, he will remind himself that his life is never that simple.

A week after his hot fuck with the rich guy -- which he’s still replaying in his mind even though the feel of cock is long gone from his body, and he feels vaguely guilty when Steve’s in sight -- his phone rings. He blinks at the realization that it’s the rich guy. Wow. He must’ve had as much fun as Danny did. That’s interesting, considering how little they have in common, and the fact that Mr. Boston could pick up anyone, anywhere, any time.

“Hi, Amos, how are you?” He’s curious now.

“Very well, thank you, and yourself?”

“Couldn’t be better.” He lets his voice ooze a world of satisfaction. “What’s on your mind?” He doesn’t miss an odd look from Chin, and wishes he’d closed his office door. If a man calls back after a bangin’ hookup, it’s bound to be a booty call. Not that Danny would object so much, but in the middle of what this guy knows is his work day?

“I’m so glad.” Amos’ voice is more warm and friendly than insinuating. “I understand that this is late notice, but I was wondering if you would consider attending an event with me tomorrow afternoon.”

“Event?”

“The Pacific Whale Foundation is having their annual cruise for patrons, and while it’s a pleasant activity, it wouldn’t be nearly as much fun without you along. Sunset cruise, dinner and music, but we’d have to take off by 3:30 in order to board the boat by five. Is it a possibility?”

First Danny’s brain gets stuck on ‘patron.’ Patron of the arts. Patron saint. Of whales. “For the people who really float their boats.” And then, “Take off?” The one syllable words have got to stop. He sounds like an idiot.

“Yes, they’re headquartered on Maui; the cruise will be leaving from Ma’alaea Bay. It’s a short flight.”

For some reason, a handsome man asking for his company tickles him. Take that, Steve McGarrett. It’s a brave new world, and so far, a quiet week for scumbags. Danny deserves this. He wasn’t kidding about the comp time. “That sounds really nice. Do the whales have a dress code?”

Amos laughs. “I’ll be carrying a blazer. It can be cool out on the water. Pick you up at three?”

Not here, Danny thinks. Well, he needed to see a man about a gun, anyway. “Sure, you can pick me up in front of the Honolulu PD on Beretania Street.”

Devlin is surprised. Danny thinks there’s not a lot that surprises him. “Are you all right? Did something happen?”

“Yeah, but it was a long time ago. I’m a cop.”

“Well then,” Amos chuckles, “The whales and I will be well protected. See you there.”

When Danny tells Steve he wants tomorrow afternoon off, Steve says, “Sure. Whatever you need,” without even looking up from the tabletop.

Fuck him. If that were true, Danny wouldn’t be going anywhere with Amos Devlin or anyone else. But the next day, after Danny’s had a quick shave and changed into the whale-watch version of dress casual, Steve is standing in the doorway, blocking his path. Danny pulls on the blandest face as he’s got. It’s so unfamiliar it feels like a too-tight shirt. “May I help you?”

“Yeah, you can help me.”

Steve reaches out to grab his shoulders and then drops ‘em like Danny’s poison. He looks kind of frayed around the edges, and for a microsecond Danny’s sympathetic. Then he remembers Steve started this thing. Plus, he’s looming. Danny does not like to be loomed at, in doorways or anywhere else. “Back off, my friend.”

Steve takes one long step away so fast Danny can see the vibrations where he used to be. “You’re not, tell me it’s not... You told Kono you’re going to HPD. Tell me this is not a job interview. You said you weren’t leaving.”

Danny would have laughed, but Steve’s gone from frayed to worse, like he can’t even find a face for this. “Settle down, for -- what about ‘I’m not leaving’ did you not understand? This is my job, and I do it well. I like my job, when my life is not being foolishly endangered by my partner. I have no interview. But I do have to go now.”

There’s relief, and then there’s the way the air pressure around Steve’s body just disappears in a whoosh, leaving his shoulders rounded for a second. ‘Yeah, yeah, okay. But where . . .”

Danny’s already gone.

Wallbanger

It’s been a pretty freaky month. Steve’s gone from whacked out of his mind thinking Danny was dead to flashbacks of being a scared kid who loved his best friend and got sent away. It wasn’t the whole story. Still, he can’t shake the idea that it was an easy way for his dad to get rid of two problems at once. From there, he dead-ended at the gnawing fear that his partner -- the one he had some important, unwanted realizations about -- would leave 5-0.

The military was like home. If you got in trouble, they called it a dishonorable discharge, and you went away. That’s been a known entity since he was a kid. Now he’s got a whole new way of seeing the world. Steve doesn’t have to go away. Other people can simply leave him.

That was the first four days.

The next five he spent proving himself to Danny all over again -- in ways so extreme he unnerved even himself. He had the experience and the training, and he knew where the line was. That week, he was walking it. It’s been another week or two -- they’re running into each other, the days and weeks -- and he still has no idea when he’ll start sleeping nights. He’s thrilled when Danny asks him if he wants a beer.

“Yeah, I could sure use one about now.” Maybe he can finally start to relax. He’s been on extra-good behavior. He’s got an aching jaw from clenched hypervigilance, not to mention the lats he strained in yesterday’s jet ski takedown.

They’re well into the first bottle and a discussion of the Steelers’ possible draft picks . . . well into Steve not thinking about the dim yellow backlight in the stubble on Danny’s jaw, or the stretch of shirt across his shoulders when he leans on the bar. Danny drains his beer and says, "Hey, I gotta go. I've got a thing."

"A thing? Like what - a ballet recital?"

"Like a thing that doesn't involve work."

Oh. He’d been thinking this didn’t involve work.

Danny slaps a five on the bar and gets up. He smacks Steve’s shoulder in a friendly way and says, "See you tomorrow."

Steve takes a long swallow to drown his disappointment. He draws a couple plus and minus signs in the puddle of condensation on the polished wood before he realizes that he drove Danny there. He figures his partner is standing outside in the parking lot right now, cursing a blue streak in that heavy Jersey accent he gets when he's really peeved.

Steve hands the bartender a bill as she slips by and heads outside, already grinning a little at what Danny must be saying.

What he sees is Danny climbing into the passenger seat of a Mercedes convertible. What he sees is Danny leaning over to kiss the driver on the cheek in a very familiar way. The male driver, who hooks his finger around the knot in Danny's tie and draws it down until the silk strips come apart. The same guy who tugs one end from around Danny's neck and tosses it behind the seat while Danny laughs. The guy who rubs Danny's cheek with a thumb in a caress that is clearly not "just buddies" before putting the car in gear and driving out of the parking lot with Steve’s partner.

Steve can feel his face going slowly pale, and his body listing just as slowly to one side, before he catches himself against the doorway. His entire nervous system is screaming at him to do something, but he can’t sort out the impulses to divine what. His body is flooded with a kind of confusion he’s never experienced. In the military, you never want to drop to the ground with sheer relief as you’re howling a battle cry, but that’s what his brain is telling him right and left.

On the one hand, Steve’s home free and easy, no harm no foul. Because Danny’s doing it, too. Maybe he was surprised by the kiss, sure, but since it so very obviously doesn’t bother him to be up close and personal with...

-- and here’s where the going gets tough, because he wants to vaporize Mercedes Man from the face of the earth. He wants to know for dead certain that all that’s left of him, whoever the fuck he is, is a faint mist of drifting arterial spray.

Rage wins.

The street blinks out and back in, then shimmers like a mirage. It feels like he’s burning at four million degrees, like he’s the Human Torch. He wants to tear up the street. He wants oil fires and black rain, a coat of tarcrete over everything.

He likes it. It’s better than the nauseating creep of cold. It’s been a bitter cold couple weeks in Honolulu. In Afghanistan he at least had a planned goal and a way to achieve it, even if he died trying. Here, the only goal was to keep Danny, and he had no fucking idea how. This was endless days when he wondered if tomorrow Danny would be gone; days when he understood it was all his fault. His fault for the kiss. His fault for being the way he was.

That’s done.

Now there’s just burning, blinding rage.

In a tiny place in his forebrain, he thinks maybe he should go back into the bar and drink -- either to get a little sanity back, or at least incapacitate himself so he can’t do anything stupid. Instead, he gets into his truck and drives. That’s dangerous, but the only thing he can comprehend right now is crawling back into the dark, familiar cave he thinks of as his father’s house.

When he gets there after approximately three hours of driving, sweat running down the back of his neck, his body’s in one piece but his head is splitting. No more of this exposed, out in the open shit. No more sky, no more trees, no more fucking road full of unexpected hazards. All he can think about is inside. He wants to get in so bad that he floats the thought of kicking the door down while he bangs out the security code, fumbles his keys.

He doesn’t. He makes it inside, and there he is in his father’s house and goddamn it if it isn’t his father’s fault. The man didn’t make him gay but he sure as hell made him crazy, somebody that Danny can’t want, and Steve’s had enough. He doesn’t like the fucking color of the walls in this place anyway, and it’s so perfectly satisfying, the crunch. He likes the feel of skin splitting across his knuckles, the crack and shatter of ancient plaster and lath.

After he starts feeling the pain in his hands he spins capoiera kicks, armada and queixada and Meia Lua de compasso. By this time he’s determined to subdue the wall completely, so he hauls out the hooley. He used it to get into Danny’s prison; it’s only fair that it should help tear down his. After another hour he’s spread out on his back on top of a pile of rubble, shirtless, skin thick with white dust. His chest heaves as he stares at the ceiling and thinks maybe this was a bad idea, but who the hell cares? There isn’t anybody to . . . well, there isn’t anybody.

Steve climbs up the stairs, stocking feet, showering bits of plaster as he goes. Flexing his battered fingers, he uses his not-much-cleaner shirt to wipe himself down and falls on top of the bed without bothering to shower. It doesn’t really matter that much. It won’t be the first time he’s turned in filthy. The last ten years, he’s spent a lot of nights in any low-lying spot, whatever depression he could find that would keep him out of sight. He’s not afraid of a little dirt. This is almost the same, except here he’s got a bed on the outside and the hole is on the inside.

 

Dog. Not a bounty hunter.

 

Danny’s staring at Steve’s hands, lips paused in movement like he forgot whatever he was going to say.

“What?” inquires Steve casually.

Now that it’s light, or at least lighter, and the shooting’s over, he supposes he should have been waiting for this. Danny pounded on his door at 3:30 because Danny does not enter without knocking any more, squinted, and demanded, “Is your hair full of white stuff? Because you’re not answering your freakin’ phone. Get a grip on yourself, McGarrett, and get your ass out here. The Russians are meeting the MacLarens at a friendly get-together up by Palolo.”

“You’re kidding.” He closed the door in Danny’s face and went for a clean shirt. No way in hell was Danny coming in here. He was just damned glad that the sight of the man in a work situation didn’t bring on an immediate, irresistible urge to pull down the ceiling. At least he had some control left. That would’ve been the capper, to lose his ability to work, too. The living room was trashed already, and he had no idea how to put up drywall.

Now they’re securing the area, the early-morning forest around them strangely settled into silence. HPD’s taking away the whole raft of them, drug dealers, spectators, never mind that watching dogs kill each other isn’t illegal in Hawaii. There were enough violations among the crowd that they were all getting dragged in. Good. He saw glimpses of dogfights in the past, but he’d avoided them if he could. Even now, the dog handlers are moving the wounded dogs to the vetmobile for surgery. It wasn’t pretty.

“Your hands, damn it.” Danny’s sweeping the left, Steve’s got the right. It’s good for not looking someone in the eye. “Don’t tell me this was the same baking malfunction you claim got you covered in dandruff -- and by the way, I know what flour looks like. I’ve seen it before. Maybe the hands, they got accidentally stuck in the garbage disposal, huh?”

Steve shrugs. If Danny’s going to make up Steve’s excuses, he’s totally on board with that. “Who’d you drive off with last night? I went out after you, but you didn’t need my ride.”

“A friend.” Danny’s not looking at him, either.

Nobody left around the perimeter. Kono and Chin should be securing the pole building. “Very friendly. Saw you kiss him.”

“Must have been your imagination.”

Okay, maybe he deserves that. But it still hurts. He wonders if that was what Danny was so pissed about in the first place, besides, of course, not going to see him in the hospital. That was bad, but there was just no way.

“How can people do that, Danny? I don’t get it.” The idea of dogs tearing into each other sickened him.

“Dinero. There’s a lot of cash around here somewhere, and I’m betting Kono and Chin will find it when they find the drugs. This is very big in Jersey. You got drugs, you got dogs.” Steve’s a little shocked to see Danny spit on the ground. “Good thing they cleared all those assholes out. Makes me wanna shoot somebody.”

“Hey. Listen.” They both stilled. Off in the trees, there was a small noise, almost like a baby crying. “You don’t suppose there’s a kid in there?”

“Let’s go.”

They advance, weapons ready. “Five-0! Drop your weapon and come out with your hands up!” Nobody takes him up on it. Carefully, slowly, the two men step into the thicket. Post-gunfire, birds are now making a racket and there’s the tease of wind at the leaves. That’s all there is.

“You hearing things now?”

“I know there’s something in here.” And there it is. He motions at the miserably small heap of bloodied animal twenty feet away. “That can’t be a fighting dog.”

“No,” says Danny grimly. “It’s bait.”

Startled, Steve glances back at him as he takes his first steps.

“They take the puppies, or dogs who won’t fight, and throw ‘em in the pit in between the big boys. Makes the dogs go nuts. That poor thing needs to be put out of its misery. It must’ve crawled out when they opened the gate. No!” Sharper now, as Steve holsters his Beretta, “Do not approach that dog, Steven! We need the dog handlers, or at least a blanket to wrap it with. I am not kidding, animals go crazy when they’re in pain!”

“Yeah. I get it.” Some things are the same all over.

He takes slow, small, steady steps. When he gets closer, he gets down on all fours. Now he can see its eyes on him, so he knows it’s still alive and aware. One foreleg has a compound fracture. It must be in agony. “Hi, little dog. It’s okay, we’re here to help you. Nobody’s ever going to hurt you any more.” Low tones. Soothing.

“Don’t ‘yeah’ me! My last partner almost lost his hand. Do you know how many pounds of pressure -- I’m not talking just to hear my own voice here!”

Danny’s worried, that rings out loud and clear. It’s . . . nice. But the dog’s rolling its eyes frantically, trying to keep watch on him and Danny both. “It’s okay,” he says quietly. “Calm down, you’re scaring the puppies.”

“Right.” Danny moves left so the dog’s in his line of fire. He doesn’t lower his gun, but he doesn’t yell any more, either.

“You’re a good little dog, aren’t you? Yes, sweetheart, that’s right. It’s gonna be okay.” The crouch lets Steve hold out his hand. With what must be the last of its strength, the pit bull licks his fingers, and its head drops to the ground.

Danny watches incredulously as Steve strips his vest and shirt off and gingerly moves the dog onto both of them. He tries not to jostle it, and the dog seems like it’s trying not to make any noise. It’s a miracle it has any blood left, given several sluggishly bleeding wounds. One of its ears is mostly gone and there’s a rip across its ribs that exposes bone. “Come on, baby, let’s get you fixed up.”

It’s a good thing the vetmobile is carrying plenty of painkillers. Good, too, that the animal needed at least a couple nights at the vet hospital. Steve’s living room is heaped with trash and scattered with lath nails.

“Are you serious? You’re intending to take that dog? No, you are not driving. Get into the passenger seat right now. You are not getting into my driver’s seat all sweaty and half-dressed.” Danny is Not Looking at him. He wishes Danny would look at him.

“I could go ask for my shirt back.” That blood-caked mess was still under the pup, as far as he knew. Danny ignores him.

“What kind of life did it have with those people? You cannot even know how screwed up that animal is! You’re going to take it into your home?”

Steve examines his bruised knuckles. “I think we’ll get along just fine.”

A Kept Man

During brunch, Devlin proposes what Danny has come to think of as “The Arrangement.” They are having breakfast by the pool. Devlin prefers not to cook in the morning; even using the coffee maker is a necessary evil in his book. So his staff tends to leave cut fruit and baked goods for him on weekend mornings. They’re shoulder to shoulder, reading separate pieces of the newspaper and refilling each other’s coffee in a lazy, peaceful way that Danny has missed. Some simple things are just better with a partner, and he knows that he is a domestic creature at heart.

“Daniel,” Devlin begins, not looking up from the international news pages, “why don’t you move in?”

He is wearing a pair of reading glasses that have slipped most of the way down his nose and they look unreasonably adorable on him. They should make him look old. But there is something about him that draws Danny like a fire on a cool night. He is direct and uncomplicated in his pleasures and opinions. He’s completely comfortable with his desires, and what he seems to desire is Danny Williams. Which is always attractive, Danny thinks.

But back up. “It’s a little soon for that, isn’t it?”

“I’m here no more than a third of the month, anyway. If you stay here, you won’t have to pay rent and can use the money for Grace.”

Ouch. No wonder Devlin’s so damned good (yes, Danny had done a little research after the second date) at what he does. He knows how to lay out the deal so that it is in his opponent’s best interest. Except that it doesn’t feel like he’s making Danny an opponent. Instead it’s more like... wait a minute.

“Are you offering to make me a kept man, Amos Devlin?”

Danny can’t help but grin. The idea is so patently ludicrous. But Devlin is looking straight into his eyes, as earnest as the day is long, and Danny knows what that means; he sees it all the time in interrogations. The next thing that comes out of Devlin’s mouth will be a lie.

“Yes.”

OK, he did not see that coming. Sometimes he forgets what it’s like to deal with people who are not thieves or drug dealers or crime lords.

Devlin keeps talking, a small smile on his face. “The deal is simple: stay as long as you like, leave when you want. I’d like to spend time with you when I’m here on the island; the rest of the time, I don’t need to know.”

“That’s it?” Danny can hear his voice rising in disbelief. Since when did he become Sleeping Beauty? Or Snow White?
Devlin just nods. “That’s it.”

“Is this how you handle all your business? ‘Cause I gotta tell you, it’s a little more casual than I always figured you rich tycoon types went for.”

Devlin’s smile deepens and becomes something a lot more predatory. He takes off his reading glasses and folds them before putting them on the table beside him. Danny watches as he carefully folds the paper in quarters before placing it on top of the glasses. Then his hand is snaking out and yanking away the newspaper still dangling from Danny’s hand. With a roll and a shove, Danny is suddenly beneath him and Devlin is leaning over him, blotting out the late morning sunlight.

“Say yes,” he suggests, tilting his hips just enough to rub their cocks together. “And I’ll show you just how casual I can be.”

“I’m not that kind of girl,” Danny gasps. He has no intention of moving in with a guy he just met two months ago, no matter how insanely sexy the guy can be.

“You’re not any kind of girl, thank Christ,” Devlin murmurs in his ear before nipping at the lobe in a move that always has Danny arching straight up into him.

There is some more nibbling, a fair amount of writhing and a lot of suntan oil gets rubbed in here and there. Before they’re done, the sun is a lot higher, the coffee is stone cold and Danny has agreed to become Amos Devlin’s kept man.

 

Expect The Unexpected

Everything ought to be fine. Danny’s getting laid regularly, sleeping in a decent bed at night. It takes the edge off everyday disasters like the price of sunscreen, the ubiquity of pineapple, and when he loses his Grace weekend to a trip to California.

What he didn’t know was that it wouldn’t take the edge off everything.

He’s still aware of Steve’s every move in the office and watches him whenever he can, when Kono and Chin are busy. He catches himself looking at the sunlight on the back of Steve’s neck, glinting off the tiny hairs there. He still wants to stand too close, close enough to smell Steve’s vague aftershave, hoping for the faint, elusive scent of skin just beneath it. He has to go anywhere else when Steve’s shirtless -- he should have known that wouldn’t stop.

The day they’re around the corner from a meth house when it goes up, Steve runs into the burning building and lifts half a kitchen off a little boy while Danny improvises a backboard and pulls the kid out from under. Danny gets a huge full-body hug and that goofy 5,000 watt smile until Steve remembers who they are now. He backs off and the smile fades to ordinary.

It’s not like Danny doesn’t know what love is. True love’s that thing that makes one person more important than almost everything else combined. It’s what makes the world go ‘round, makes life worthwhile, and grinds you to a pulp when it doesn’t work out. He just never quite finished connecting the dots to Steven J. McGarrett.

Steve Deals With It

It takes a while to get used to how much he wants Danny, once he’s fully aware. It makes him sublimely uncomfortable, having to watch his every move. He can’t pass off the staring, the hand-reaching-out, or his deep need to engage Danny over every little thing as, “Hey, we’re buddies.” Then, once he understands the depth and breadth of the problem, he has to push it all back down. It’s like trying to crush an explosion of packing peanuts into a quart jar -- an operation best done slowly and carefully, lest he break the jar.

It’s a project, something he does while he takes Jelly for a run in the jogging stroller he got so she can come with him while her leg is healing.

The first day, when he when he was about to close the door in the puppy’s face so he could run, she looked at him big-eyed and pathetic, like he was abandoning her. He vacillated for a minute, then picked her up and took her along. If only he was looking for a girlfriend. Women downright swarm any time he stops. Wounded dogs, it turns out, are the one true babe magnet.

Besides, it’s good for her to get out and see the big world, something she never did where she used to live. She has to get used to people and places. She loves to put her casted leg over the edge to hang her head out of the stroller, and the stares they get are priceless.

Besides Jelly’s generally adorable dogness, it’s one of the few things that makes him laugh.

He spends lots of time on this project while repainting the upstairs, since no matter how bad the color is, he’s not pulling down these walls. He hacked up grunge and dust from the crumbled horsehair plaster for days. He paints his room yellow, because he never wants to live in something that looks like a barracks again. The second bedroom he paints green, because it reminds him of the outdoors. He gives them both a bright blue sky.

He still hasn’t put up wallboard downstairs. It’s a huge job. He tells himself he’ll hire somebody this time. A week ago he noticed the living room furniture was ugly, as well as still speckled with plaster dust despite his efforts, and it was in the way for putting up the wallboard anyhow. It went out on the lawn for Goodwill.

He doesn’t care that the downstairs is a gaping hole.

Jelly doesn’t seem to know the things ordinary dogs must know, like the fact that paint is not a good thing to stick your nose into. Seriously, it’s got to smell bad. He wipes it off with a wet rag before she can start licking it and poison herself, then tries to distract her with food. It doesn’t ruin his life that she doesn’t care about the food; she only wants to be around him, preferably between and under his feet.

It’s not like Steve doesn’t know he’s a little nuts about the puppy. But she’s so damned cute, and the big brown eyes do it to him every time. The very first time he went to leave for work she followed him to the door, hobbling on her three good legs, then collapsed into a puddle of fuzzy grief when he had gently pushed her back with his foot. The sheer joy trembling through her body when he had relented and picked her up, tucking her under his arm as he went out to the truck, had vibrated against his thigh all the way to the office.

“Oh, look! Isn’t she sweet!” In the office, Kono was right on the same page with Steve, as usual.

“Oh, you think you’re bringing that dog to work now?”

Steve could always depend on Danny. “She needs somebody around. She’s only a half-grown puppy. She can’t be in a strange house all alone all day.” It wasn’t like she could chew the furniture. Not unless she managed to climb the stairs with a front leg that couldn’t bend.

“It’s not a kid, it’s a dog! It’s a dog that will piddle on the floor, even aside from the likelihood of being psycho and dangerous!”

“Aw, is that man being mean to you? And you with a broken leg. Poor baby,” Kono cooed, and knelt down, held out her hand. “What’s your name?”

“Jelly,” Steve replied, since the dog wasn’t telling. She was too busy casing Kono, trying to decide if getting any closer was a good idea. Apparently it was, and after licking Kono’s hand, she rolled down to have her belly rubbed. Kono enthusiastically complied, but Danny was not won over.

“What kind of asinine name is that?”

Steve waves at her, wriggling in ecstasy under Kono’s obviously dog-experienced hand. “It was that or Ms. Wiggly.”

“Well, okay,” Danny agrees grudgingly. “I concede the wisdom.”

Chin rolls his eyes and gets down with Kono for some puppy action. “I think you’re outvoted, brah.”

Of course, it took about fifteen minutes before the pup was in trouble. The puddle on the floor barely registered on the scale of ick that the team had dribbled on the floors and was easily dealt with. The fact that Jelly’s next bright idea was to settle down, stare adoringly up at Danny and -- while he was ass-deep in the Brandt casework -- quietly gnaw off his shoelace? That was harder to ignore. Fortunately, after one astonished look, the pup sat watching Danny’s rant attentively, although her little rounded rump kept sliding out from under her on the polished floors.

Even Danny couldn’t maintain irritation in the face of that, and scooped her up to tickle her belly.

Soon a collapsible metal enclosure, a dog bed and a number of brightly colored dog toys had taken up residence in a corner of Steve’s office. He managed to throw the most annoying squeaky toy away while nobody was looking. While it wasn’t very professional, it seemed to make all of them happy.

Steve pays a nice woman in a first floor office to take her out a couple times a day, if the team is in the field. It doesn’t take long before Jelly’s the first floor mascot, and hangs out there at will. Steve gets her at the end of the day, or if they’re not back by five, Georgia takes her home. She’s got a dog too, and they like each other’s company. Steve picks Jelly up later. It’s all worth it to have her warm, trusting weight at the end of the bed every night.

After a while, things get battened down, back under control in Steve’s head. He keeps telling himself it’s good. Things are good. Just like they used to be, almost. Maybe now he’ll be able to spend some time with Danny.

After they took down a distribution system for rare animal parts, he said, “Hey, Danny, let’s go out for a beer.”

“Thanks, buddy, gotta take a rain check.”

Steve SEALed up. He said, “Okay, see you Monday.” Sooner or later, he’d be available for an hour or two, right? Danny was a man who cared deeply. If Danny wanted the guy, loved him, it was still the honeymoon. Steve had to let it go until Danny was ready to be friends again.

He asked Danny if Grace might want to go the Honolulu Theatre For Youth, Pippi In The South Seas. The promo in the Entertainment section said it was about a brave little girl on an island. It sounded so much like Grace, with her own new island. Steve wanted her to see that here could be okay. He bets she’s seen a lot of trouble in the last couple years. He didn’t tell Danny that part.

Danny said, “You know, that’s a great idea. I am all over that. But it’s going to have to wait until my next Gracie weekend.” That mythical weekend never came.

Steve stopped asking, but that didn’t change the way things were. He can’t wash the hurt away with soap, he can’t sleep it off, he can’t take Alka-Seltzer like it’s a cold gone to his chest. He has to put that in the quart jar, too. Tearing apart the house and getting a dog helped empty it a lot, but there’s still every day to deal with.

Good thing he has Jelly. He rubs her soft ears between his fingertips and scratches behind them the way she likes so much. “Come on, little girl, let’s go home.”

Danny and Grace

“Danno! Danno!”

“Hey, look, it’s a monkey! You wanna eat some bananas today, monkey?” He pumps one arm at shoulder height and lets her reach up to grab on, swing from it. She’s so tall now she has to lift her knees way up to swing, but they still love this one. Danny remembers when he had to get on his own knees for her. He drags her in and hugs her tight, then brushes back her hair. “Grace, sweetie, how about you go get your swim stuff? We’ve got a cool place to go today. Bring everything!” he calls after her retreating back.

“Awesome!” She’s already down the hall.

“If I had that much energy,” he says to Rachel.

She laughs. “I know, right?”

“Listen, Rache,” he says, and he knows he’s into it now. All her antennae are swiveling his direction. He hasn’t called her Rache since long before the divorce, except . . . when Matt was here. “I got a new place.”

“That’s good.” She smiles, graciously not making any comments about the last one. She, of all people, knows how much it cost Danny, in every way, to move here and start over.

“I want you to have the new landline, just in case, and the address. I have, uh, a roommate.” He accidentally crumples the paper in his fist.

“I’m pleased for you! Very pleased, truly.” She sounds chipper, even though she looks thoughtful. She’s always known he’s bi, Danny thinks with a pang, just as a clear, clean wave of understanding washes over her face. “Of course! This will make things so much less fraught, you’ll see. Bring him over for dinner, please, next week? Grace will be glad, not that I’m not glad, too --” and she’s babbling, bizarre behavior for his always-composed, take names and kick asses ex-girl, holding out her hand for the slip of paper Danny’s suddenly loath to part with. He hands it to her anyway.

“Wait -- Papu Circle? We looked at homes on this street. Danny?” she asks uncertainly. “Who are you moving in with?” The eyebrows go way, way up. “It’s not Commander McGarrett.” She looks at it uncomprehendingly for a moment.

OK, is there anyone on this island that doesn’t think he’s with Steve? Besides Steve? He forces himself to not sound snappish when he answers what is, after all, a civil question.

“Nobody you’d know. He’s from Boston. Amos Devlin.”

“I do know him. He’s a friend of Stan’s.” She’s totally gobsmacked. Under other circumstances, it would be funnier. “He seems like a very nice man.”

Grace comes barreling up, putting off the inevitable interrogation. That’s fortunate, and maybe on purpose, because Grace is extremely quick on the uptake. She could -- maybe not get specifics, like that he doesn’t have a good answer right now for, “Where did you two meet?” -- but she might see that he’s suddenly pinned to the marble and squirming. She’s broken up their fights before.

Grace is dragging the biggest beach bag he’s ever seen as fast as she can, but Danny’s not fooled. He knows damned well she was listening from someplace. It’s her life; she’d be stupid not to. As much as they tried to keep the messiest parts of the divorce away from her, she saw the warning shots fired. And deep down he knows that it was probably better for her to have that heads-up. As for right now, there’s a mezzanine above the ground floor, and voices echo like hell in there. She’s her Danno’s daughter, and could probably tell him a fine few things, none of which he wants to know.

Danny’s NewHome

It takes Danny a while to notice that every shirt or pair of slacks that gets destroyed in the 5-0’s pursuit of Justice and good bar stories is being silently replaced by Amos’ nearly invisible staff. Danny met them all once, when Amos introduced them. The woman who seems to be the primary housekeeper, Matha (‘Like Martha, no ‘R’’, she said), had smiled, asked for a list of his preferred foods and toiletries and has never been seen again.

He’s not sure how he feels about someone else essentially picking his clothes for him, although he has to admit that they have nice taste. Someone does his laundry; the fact that no item of clothing seems to stay in the hamper for more than 12 hours was a little disturbing at first. He is absolutely prepared to be delighted that someone else is ironing shirts and slacks, though.

All in all, it’s nice. When Amos is gone, back to the mainland, the house is too big and too quiet, though. Danny tends to stay mostly in his bedroom or in the small, homely looking den upstairs that houses a 96” plasma tv and wall units full of paperback thrillers and courtroom dramas. They are dog-eared; Amos buys them in various airports and they lead a hard life in his pocket or briefcase. His lover’s terrible taste in literature is a flaw Danny can totally appreciate, otherwise the atmosphere around here would just be too damned rarefied for a middle class kid from Jersey.

When Amos is there, Danny moves back into the main suite. Even when they’re just sleeping in that huge bed together, it’s fun. Amos tends to be cheerful, seeing humor in most situations, including Danny’s insistence in doing his own breakfast dishes. And when they’re not just sleeping in that bed? His mind gets blown nearly as regularly as his dick.

There’s only one thing that dulls the sparkling perfection of his shiny new Life With Sex in this excessively shiny house. Well, several things. The house itself, for instance; that’s more on the order of boring as shit. At least at the cramped apartment there were neighbors around, Meka’s wife, people he could say hi to and show pictures of his daughter. Hell, there were kids for Grace to play with. Danny is a gregarious guy, and work doesn’t cover that completely. It never did, but especially not now.

Amos is a blank slate, or maybe just a blank check. They don’t talk about anything important. Danny feels like he can’t talk about his work, although God knows he’s got enough stories. He doesn’t want to talk about Grace, even if Amos had any interest in his daughter, which he doesn’t. That’s private. They talk about movies, now that Danny has pay-per-view. A skim of the sports page and the local news provides the rest of their conversational fodder. Every time they see each other, it’s like putting out on the first date.

With a pang, Danny realizes he’s lonely.

He can’t very well ask Steve to spend more time with him. It’d be like dating on the sly, plus it would be weird. Then again, he’s not married. Amos told him outright he’s free to do whatever he wants. And Steve -- what would Steve think of it? He’s not privy to what Steve thinks of most things these days, and he doesn’t quite know how to deal with that. Worse yet, being cut off from Steve eliminated Kono and Chin, too. If the two of them aren’t good together, then team happy hour isn’t happening.

He remembers hanging out with Steve, and it’s more fun than all the time he spends with Amos. Maybe Danny should make a friendly overture. They might not be able to scrape their friendship back like it used to be, but Danny can’t live like this.

Back when they were friends, they used to have a good time. Even the Marquis vs. Mountain incident seems sweet and innocent and fun, now. Steve liked him, was completely oblivious to his own mind-bogglingly mixed signals, and Danny was safe and more or less happy.

There was that time Steve dragged him down to Ka’ena Point. He showed up at Danny’s apartment while Danny was wondering what the hell to do with the rest of his Saturday. No Grace, so he’d already cleaned his place from top to bottom -- spotless in an hour, with a toothbrush. The laundry was dried, folded and piled up on the bed, which hadn’t been a couch pretty much since the day he’d moved in. Lunch had been a ham sandwich without mayo, because he’d used the last and was too listless to go to the store, and three or four cups of coffee.

It took that much caffeine to keep him from going back to bed out of sheer boredom. Not that he didn’t need the extra sleep.

A banging fist on his metal screen door scrambled his brains wide awake. Please, not the freaking Mormons again. He ambled all twelve feet from the kitchen over to the door. “Well! Lt. Commander McGarrett,” he drawled, leaning on the inside of the door frame just inches from Steve leaning on the outside, “to what do I owe this visit on my day off?”

“Oh, you’re just lucky, I guess.” It was one of Steve’s most charming smiles, which meant he wanted something. “Are you going to let me in?”

“You can see I’m terribly busy.” Danny rubbed his unshaven jaw thoughtfully. “There’s so much to do around the house when my boss works my fingers to the bone. A hundred hours a week I work. I sprained my thumb last week, and that was just on your paperwork alone.” Like Steve wasn’t the best thing he’d seen all day.

“Brought you something.”

Sure enough, there was a big paper bag in Steve’s hand. “That had better be cheeseburger manapua.” Besides coco puffs, that was one of the few things he’d developed a taste for.

It was too heavy to be snacks. Danny squinted at it, and then at Steve, suspiciously. “Please tell me this is not car parts.”

“Naw. Open it.”

It was a pair of boots. “Hey, hey! What is this? Why do you bring me these strange and mysterious items?”

“You need them. The places we go, these could save your life.”

“Do I get a vote? How about we don’t go those places any more, huh? How about we just not do that?” Steve smiled fondly at his indignation, and he knew that option was never available anyway, so he said, “You went shoe shopping for me?” Of all the Steve Things he’d seen, that one was right up there with the Rambo makeup.

Steve shrugged. “Even I know how to use the internet. I figured with your foot size and conformation, this would be the best boot for you. Oh, and work paid. My team will be properly supplied.”

Danny’s brows quirked. “My foot size?”

“Nine and a half, high arch, high volume foot, narrow heel.”

Bam. “How do you know so much about my feet? Do you have some kind of foot fetish?” And he so, so did not need that picture, the one framed by the spread of Danny’s raised knees, Steve on his elbows smiling up, up past Danny’s tight-furred balls and red cock, blowing a kiss as he leaned down and picked up Danny’s foot in his long, careful hands.

Moving a little to the right, Danny shifted the empty paper bag in front of his crotch.

“Wouldn’t you like to know?” Steve tilted his head and winked. “I figured we could see if they’re good. So let’s go.”

“Go where?” It was a hundred to one against them going where he just was.

“On a hike, where else?”

His cock was still whispering things to his brain that had to do with him and Steve and naked and touching. “It’s hot out. It’s the middle of the afternoon. I need my relaxation on my day off.”

Steve rolled his eyes in a pretty good imitation of Danny. “Come on, give it a rest. I know you run. You work out. You didn’t get that body at Long’s Drug. It’s only a couple miles, and it’s flat.”

“You owe me dinner for this.”

“Don’t worry, I got it.”

“No MREs!”

“I got it, okay? And I got this.”

He waved a tube of 100 sunscreen like it was a lure. It might as well have been. There was never any doubt, from the minute Steve showed up at the door. With a pair of boots. He wished now he’d never wiped that little kid look off Steve the day he walked into his house with the car parts. While he was putting his new boots on, he ran the back of a finger down the tie hanging over the back of the chair, the one that Gracie gave him for Father’s Day. There was nobody to give Steve anything.

The dirt trail out to the point, as promised, was mostly flat, but it was uneven and had RockFoot Surprise to trip up the unwary – say, if one was actually looking at the waves crashing, or sneaking a glance at one’s partner’s face. Steve was kind of subdued, even for Steve.

“How can you hike with that giant thing on your back? How is that fun?”

“It’s good to keep in practice.”

If that was the good part, it wasn’t cheering Steve up any.

“Now, I have nothing against physical activity, as you have already guessed, but this,” he grumbled. “Why didn’t you warn me how hot it is out here? I mean, hotter than everywhere else on this entire godforsaken island! It’s like being under the broiler! Not to mention the wind! Why didn’t you tell me to bring some water?”

“Ka’ena means ‘the heat’,” Steve said absently, as he pulled a bottle of ice water out of his giant pack. The ice cubes were still in the water.

“Holy crap! What else do you have in that thing?” He slugged some water back and pondered. “When you said – tell me, my friend, what are you practicing for? We are leaving this place as soon as we get to the end of the trail, right? Tell me we are not on a Boy Scout camp-out. There could be . . .” sleeplessness and/or endless humiliation caused by Steve snoozing right next to him and his hard-on. Rock hard rocks under his ass. A crick in his neck that would never come out. “Snakes! Enormous furry arachnids, giant poisonous centipedes!”

Now he had Steve’s attention. “Don’t worry. There are no native snakes in Hawaii.” Smug was better than the kind of sad look he’d been wearing.

“That is not true! Well, not native, but I know perfectly well that there are venomous snakes brought in every day and twice on Sundays!”

He loved to hear Steve laugh. It was a good sound. “Yes, but they do try to capture the brown tree snakes on the tarmac. Besides, the mountain air is too thin for them and they can’t make it this far. Guam is very flat, you know.”

“You’re a big bullshitter, is what I know. Possibly the biggest.” He stared pointedly at the long legs eating up the ground alongside him. Steve hadn’t slowed his pace for the no doubt eighty pound pack or the length of Danny’s legs, and Danny didn’t know whether to be glad or complain loudly and at length. “That says nothing of the centipedes, plus I’ve seen spiders around here that could eat your face. Christ on a stick!”

“What?” There was anticipation, and Danny knew this was what Steve had been waiting for.

“You said there was a path! That is not a path! That is the non-path, the anti-path! There is no way in hell, boots or no boots, that I am plummeting to my final resting place on a day hike with you! It’s bad enough when I’m getting paid to uphold what’s good, right and true!” What little was left of the path, if there ever was one, dropped precipitously about forty feet to a rock-lined cove where the waves were hitting hard enough to demolish a car.

“We’ve found the natural source of anti-pathto?” Steve sounded like he was about to swallow his tongue.

“Laugh it up, my friend. Unless you have the miniaturized machinery in that pack to provide me with a gondola, or possibly can lend me wings to fly, I go not a step further!” Seriously, there was no way in hell. Steve was snorting like a pig now, anyway, so he might as well keep going. “Why do you do these things to me? Why do you bring me to this barren wilderness to die a sad and hopeless death before dinner? You promised me dinner! Why,” he raised his arms to the sky, “why me?” For added extra effect, he used his best Crosshairs Glare Of Certain Death.

“I knew you’d like that.” Steve snuffled a couple more times and dusted off his pants. Danny envied those hands. “Come on, the wimp way is over here, ya loser.”

Sure enough, the usable path was hidden behind scrub, and it wasn’t too long before they made it around the tip of the point. The second bottle of ice water helped a lot. The view south from the point went for miles down a line of roaring ocean and razor-tipped mountains tinted gold by the late afternoon sun, and he couldn’t keep his eyes off it as they kept on walking. Really, he’d had worse days, and when Steve finally stopped after maybe another quarter mile, pulled a cooler out of his pack, and handed out deli boxes of food, he said, “My life is now complete.”

“Wait.” Out came the beer.

“Well! Okay, then! I see the usefulness of ginormous backpacks, as long as you’re the one carrying them.” They both dug into some pretty decent pasta salad, French bread to die for, and fruit tarts for dessert. The cranking wind had died down some, and they had a sheltered spot, so they weren’t being sandblasted. After food and during more beer, they’re sitting so close their hands are touching as they prop themselves up on the sand.

Danny didn’t say If you brought me here to hold hands in the sunset, we coulda skipped the hike because Steve started talking. His voice was low and dry.

“Ka’ena Point is a sacred place to Native Hawaiians.” He waved to the north. “That’s the jumping-off point of souls traveling to the next world.” There’s a pause that Danny doesn’t break. Steve leaned forward, crossing his arms, hugging himself like he was cold. “After Mom died, I went to her grave. There wasn’t anything. I couldn’t feel her there. But sometimes I felt like she was, I don’t know, nearby.”

His eyes didn’t waver from the booming water. “I used to come here. I’d cut school and take the bus, or get a ride from somebody. I guess I thought,” he faltered and swallowed, “thought that I might see her. Or that she might see me. Once I fell asleep on the sand, and I dreamed that she came to say goodbye. She said she loved me and was sorry she had to go.”

Danny was so not expecting that. “Steven.” He shifted his butt so he could face Steve, put a hand on his rock-hard shoulder. “It was today, wasn’t it?”

“Nineteen years ago.” The grief splintering those glassy eyes told Danny that it might as well have been today. “Yeah.”

“Fuck, man. I’m so sorry.”

Steve staggered to his feet. “No big deal, it was a long time ago.” Yeah. Sure. “I just have to, I want to . . .” He grabbed the last plastic box and opened it, fumbled with something orange and white. Danny could smell perfume on the air from three feet away. “I wanted to bring this out here. Her favorite.”

Danny slammed down Jesus, you coulda told a guy, but who knew, maybe Steve needed somebody to bitchface at him for three hours. He followed Steve back up the trail and out onto a ragged rock promontory in the lash of the pounding spray and hoped that Steve really was as good as he thought he was, because otherwise, if Danny got washed over, he wasn’t coming out.

Despite the huge breakers, the onshore wind carried the lei out to where it floated for a second or two before it was swallowed up by the water.

On the beach again, they were both quiet. Finally Danny said, “Sorry I was a dick about coming today,” and Steve said, “That’s okay, you came,” and that was that. It wasn’t good enough. What Danny really wanted, and it made him want to slap his own face, was to hold Steve and protect him from bad things and be there for him. It wasn’t wrong, but it was a pointless daydream, because he’d always be the distraction or the entertainment. Look at the funny man waving his arms.

God, he hated that he even thought that. His only consolation was that one of the waving hands usually had a gun in it. Danny was walking down this path with Steve, and the Sig Pro tended to make Danny look a lot less funny. If he wanted more, he’d have to walk with somebody else, because Steve was Steve.

When the last light was gone, Steve pulled out a couple SureFires so Danny didn’t break a leg on the trail in the dark. Halfway back, Steve stopped and turned his off, motioning Danny to do the same. “Look up.”

The Milky Way was blazing across the night sky. Danny had never seen anything like it. As they watched, lying right there on the path in the dirt with rocks poking them in the back, stars hailed down through the atmosphere. He felt like he could touch them. He reached up, disoriented. Too much beer, not enough water? He felt like he couldn’t keep his balance, even though he was flat on the ground, and his hand groped for Steve’s arm.

Danny felt a stab of disappointment when Steve pulled away, but it was only enough to catch Danny’s fingers, push his own in between. They watched the sky for a long time in peaceful silence. Nobody said anything about holding hands.

He wishes he had that back.

Grace Meets The Dog

It’s been tough at work, seeing Danny and knowing he’s with somebody else, but at least he’s there. Steve knows he hasn’t got much without that; he might as well find a good home for Jelly and go back to active duty. His job here was done a long time ago. He stayed for Danny.

“Listen,” says Danny after they zip-tie the last of the group who’d been manufacturing rare poisons for their friends in Uruguay. “I was wondering --” and Steve’s already saying yes in his head, no matter what it is that Danny wants. “Would you do me a favor? I have Grace this weekend, and someone, naming no names,” he mimes strangulation in Kono’s direction, “told her about your dog.”

“She’s a nice dog,” Steve replies neutrally, yes, yes, waiting for the real question. He doesn’t want to put any words in Danny’s mouth.

“The thing is,” and Danny’s ducking his head, acting like he’s walking on eggshells, which is not the Danny he knows, “I was wondering if I could come over with her and spend some time, uh, I mean, with the dog.”

Steve’s about to say Sure, why not, when he remembers why not. He’s got ultra-minimalist downstairs decor, and he’s not about to discuss it. “Why don’t we meet up at Kailua Beach Park around seven tomorrow? We can swim, too.”

The shirts always get that much tighter when Danny puffs up. “Seven A.M.? I do not think so. I fully intend to be in my comfortable bed, dreaming of my mom’s lasagna at seven in the morning!” It’s reason enough to tease him at every opportunity.

“There aren’t many places to have dogs off-leash. At Kailua, people will put up with them if it’s not too busy. That means early, on Saturday. Oh, and did you know the price of rental dogs has gone up in the new economy?” Kono and Chin both snicker as they muscle away the poisoners.

“Fine. I’ll buy you a shave ice.”

Steve pulls into the parking lot at 6:45, amazed to see Danny and Grace already there. Grace runs up to him and holds up her arms like a little kid. "Steve, I have to tell you something."

"What?" He pulls her up on his hip like a sack of potatoes and turns her upside down. She laughs, swinging her arms. Danny's on his way over, much more slowly, with the biggest cup of coffee Steve's ever seen. It must be a quart.

"I don't like dogs," she stage whispers, still upside down.

"What?" Now he's blinking and swinging her back upright to look into her face.

"I wanted to see you. I missed you. But now you have a dog, so that made it okay."

It never occurred to him that she would even notice he wasn't there. His heart melts into a goopy puddle. "Aw, honey, I missed you, too. But Jelly's a nice dog. She doesn't bark much and she's not very big. She can't run around a lot right now, she got hurt."

"Oh." Back on her feet, she's all worried for this poor dog that she doesn't even like. "Not too scary, then."

"Nope. Not scary at all. She's more likely to be afraid of you."

"Yeah, right. That vicious, ravening, shoelace-eating animal! I can see the drool dripping from her fangs from here."

"Danno, only vampires have fangs," Grace announces with authority.

"You hold that thought, sweetheart. When the monster dog comes out snarling, you'll be sorry."

"What happened to you?" Steve's baffled. "Scared by Underdog as a kid?"

"I just want her to be careful."

Jelly snuffles out of her crate onto the pavement and stops when she sees the short one she doesn’t know. Steve's not sure she's ever been this close to a child before. She goes down on her belly as best she can and wags her tail hopefully.

“What’s that huge thing on her leg?” Grace is appalled.

“It’s her cast protector, so she won’t get it wet on the beach.” At least he knows Jelly doesn’t like the water. One day she tried to get a drink from the ocean. Steve heard her yip from the lanai, and he was pretty sure she pouted at him.

Danny orders, "Go slow, sweetheart, until she gets used to you."

"That's the first sensible thing you've said so far."

In three seconds Grace is down on the ground having her face bathed. "Ew, ew! Do not let that filthy dog lick your face, it's disgusting!" Grace, smart girl, ignores him completely.

"Will you please give it a rest? Shaking hands transfers more germs than that." Steve doesn't know that's true, but he heard it somewhere. "Getting licked by a dog isn't going to kill her."

"Who are you, Dr. Science? You can't know that! When was the last time you tested that fur-covered fiend’s mouth?" Which is pretty rich, coming from the guy who mock-wrestles the fur-covered fiend most mornings and then rewards her with nibbles of his malasada or whatever unhealthy food is on his desk.

“She looks pretty fiendish to me.”

They brangle all the way across the sand, Steve with the cooler and umbrellas, Danny with towels and chairs, and Grace carrying Jelly across her chest. They both look delighted. Steve thinks Danny must have been saving it up all these weeks, he's so obnoxious. Then, when Steve’s setting up chairs, Danny says, “You brought umbrellas.”

“Grace shouldn’t have too much sun.” Danny doesn’t have to know that he went out and bought them special for the occasion.

“That was thoughtful.”

Steve sees the Danny he remembers in those sharp blue eyes, for the first time in a while. The morning of sun, sand, and splashing is a bright spot that glows against the unremitting olive drab of the last couple months. Danny actually joined them for a while, leaving a pitiful Jelly leashed to the dug-in umbrella. His cutoff shorts slide down dangerously on his hips, the prominent hipbones an eye-catching reminder of how much Steve wants to touch him. He should have thought this through.

Grace was over the moon to have her Danno join them. Steve’s just glad his trunks have plenty of room, and right now he’s waist deep. Soon enough, Danny leaves the sun and sand to them, and they don’t quit until he and Grace are both starving.

“Come on, up and at ‘em, I know you’ve been snoozing behind the Oakleys.” When Danny takes them off, squinting, Steve says, “There’s no way I could not give you sh -- um, the business for having a nap with my tired-out dog. And Grace has pictures.”

“Sure she does. You’ll both get fed when they’re all deleted, and not until.”

It doesn’t matter. It’s a given that Steve will never let him forget it. For a while, that aching empty space inside him evaporates completely.

Bad Day On Big Rock

Danny was already having a bad day. Seriously, any day where he is back in their offices and still dripping on the carpet is Not A Good Day by any stretch of the imagination. He is relieving his feelings on the subject to the equally soaking Steven J. McGarrett, dumbass, with Chin and Kono, the backup dumbasses, when he hears a polite cough. He looks up to see Devlin standing there.

It takes him a moment to recognize him because Devlin is so out of context that his appearance is jarring. He doesn’t look a thing like the man who blew him in the shallow end of the pool at sunset just two nights ago. A little of his confusion might also be put down to the fact that Devlin is looking weirdly hesitant, a look that doesn’t sit well on his features at all.

Danny steps forward, neatly cutting off Steve before he can get his mouth open. This is not how he wanted to do this, but it was bound to happen sometime. He just wishes it weren’t happening while he had a towel around his neck and sea-water squelching in his shoes.

“Amos? What’s up, babe?”

He doesn’t miss Chin mouthing the word “babe?” toward Kono but he can be magnanimous. After all, it’s Chin’s spare towel he’s using.

Devlin steps closer, looking only at Danny.

“Daniel, I tried to call you but you weren’t picking up.”

Danny glares at Steve, who scratches the back of his own neck and looks vaguely apologetic. After all, it had been his fault that they and their two suspects had wound up in Pearl Harbor. And it’s his fault that Danny’s third phone of the year is currently residing in the ooze at the bottom of the bay.

But Devlin keeps talking, unaware of the massive retaliation Danny is planning to implement as soon as he is dry and ooze-free.

“Your parents called a little while ago. Your grandmother passed away this morning.”

Oh, damn. Double-damn.

“I didn’t know how else to get in touch with you. So I checked your desk and found your business cards. And came here.”

Digging around in his confusion, he dredges up some normal. “Chin Kelly, Kono Kalakaua, Steve McGarrett, this is Amos Devlin.”

Devlin looks apologetic and embarrassed like he’s the one who crossed some line. It’s not Amos' fault that Danny never actually told him he works for 5-0. That his expensive piece of ass deals in more firepower than Amos could imagine. He told him he was a cop. That was close enough. That Danny moonlights as a hooker, just for him. Only maybe now, Danny sees that maybe he has been moonlighting as a cop.

“Here.” Devlin holds out an envelope.

Everything freezes. If Amos Devlin is handing him a wad of ready cash in that envelope, Danny may have to kill someone. His first choice is himself, but a close second is Steve McGarrett, whose eyes ought to be shooting laser beams, the way he’s glaring.

(Oh shit. His Nonna’s dead. He’d thought she would live forever. She always said that she intended to.)

In the envelope is a first class boarding pass for a flight to Newark, leaving from Honolulu Airport in two hours. He stares at Devlin, mouth working, but nothing comes out. He doesn’t know what expression is on his face, but Devlin is suddenly stepping forward.

“I’ll take you to the airport.”
Danny mumbles something about going back to pack a bag.

“I did that. There’s one down in the car. I put in your dark suit and an overcoat. The forecast is for heavy rain in New Jersey the next few days.”

Chin steps up and puts a hand on his shoulder and just says, “I’m sorry, brah.”

Kono gives him a hug and murmurs something he doesn’t understand in Hawaiian, but the tone is consoling so he tries to smile at her. Steve -- well, looks like Jersey isn’t the only place to be expecting storms in the near future. Danny wishes he had the time to feel sick; the two halves of his life have just collided and he wonders who will be processing the accident scene. He isn’t even sure who the victims are yet. Maybe someone will have them all bagged and tagged when he gets back from burying his grandmother.

He doesn’t have time; it’s going to have to wait until he gets back. So he says, “Thanks, guys,” and starts for the door. Chin hands him a fresh towel, Kono promises to have a replacement cell phone expressed to his parents’ house and Steve . . . well, if he’d ever really thought about what would happen when Steve found out, he would have known it wasn’t going to be pretty.

But hell, his grandmother is dead.

So he walks out with Devlin a warm, silent presence beside him, goes downstairs and climbs into the waiting car.

At the airport, Devlin comes in as far as security with him. Danny can’t figure out what to say; his bag is a steadying weight in his hand. Danny changed in the car but he still feels chilled and damp. Devlin’s eyes are blue and kind and Danny would apologize for bringing the real world in between them but there are warm fingers gently touching his face.

“Call if you need anything,” Devlin says then slips a black Amex card into Danny’s shirt pocket.

There are maybe a thousand of those in existence. Danny could probably buy a Lear jet with it. It should make him feel like the star of a cut-rate remake of “Pretty Woman”. But he’s too dazed to say anything except,

“Thanks, Amos. For everything.”

Devlin lets him go easily, with a nod and a sympathetic look. Steve never said a word, never touched him, but, as Danny steps through Security, he feels like he’s carrying McGarrett on his back.

The Investigation

Nobody speaks as Danny leaves the room with Amos. Steve’s hand is clenched next to his leg, where the thigh holster belongs. It feels like he’s been reaching for his gun ever since the moment he saw Danny kiss a man, and that man wasn’t him. Now that man has invaded his space. Amos Devlin isn’t just some nameless outline. Steve will never again be able to pretend he doesn’t exist. Steve deserves payback for that.

From the day he met Danny, the world felt more real. It wasn’t just a collection of sights and sounds that he needed to quantify, qualify and overcome before he could kill or be killed. The world is something he feels on the inside. Life has meaning beyond good guys and bad guys and the burning obsession to rid the world of the bad ones. Danny cared about other things, and made sure Steve cared about them, too. With Danny, Steve felt more real.

For three months he’s been ziplocked into a plastic bag, with never quite enough air. He could see everything . . . look, but don’t touch. It was like the rest of high school after he went away, leaving Hawaii and everything he ever knew behind. Tulsa was a barren wasteland. He had no idea how to talk to those other kids. The only thing he could do was keep his head down and play football. It was what would get him through his two miserable years there. He had no place else to go.

Back ‘home’ in Hawaii, Danny had been his open door. The door was still there, but it was a lot less open.

Steve was a civilian now. Being one among the many instead of one of the few didn’t make life better or easier. Apparently, it still didn’t make who, or maybe what, Steve is . . . okay. If Danny’s with some guy, never hated Steve for getting way too friendly, then why not him?

He’d been better off in the Navy. When he took a flying leap through enemy fire, bounced horizontally down a rock-strewn slope in the middle of nofuckingwhere, and spent the night dragging his useless legs to Baghram Air Base, they gave him the good drugs and put him in a body cast.

Steve’s had to walk on this fractured limb every day, and now he knows who Danny was kissing in the Mercedes.

Steve indulges himself for as long as he can, but he’s got things to do. Fury is just another weakness. He has to suck it up, and he does, the same way he did his dad’s murder, his mom’s death, the way he sliced Nick’s throat, the horrors of Afghanistan. He has plenty of experience. But goddamn it, he’s going to find out who this prick with Danny is. He’s got a job to do.

He knows he shouldn’t have Chin hack the security feed from the airport. He knows that he is seriously crossing boundaries. But he sees Devlin touch Danny, slipping something in his pocket, he sees the miserable slump to Danny’s shoulders when he turns away from him to head through the Security line, and he has to do something.

“Research, people. Tell me who he is.”

Ten minutes later, Kono reads from the screen in a perfect monotone. "Amos Andrew Devlin, 57, real estate mogul and entrepreneur. Old Boston money, Mayflower family. Never married, discreetly gay, no children. No record. SEC filings all in order. Big man with various philanthropic organizations, including Shriner's Children's Hospitals, various literacy campaigns and the Pacific Whale Foundation."

Looking over her shoulder, Chin comments, “He doesn't even have a parking ticket. Harvard undergrad, Harvard Business, funds various protégés. Dabbles a little in politics; looks like a friend of the governor's. He’s escorted her to a couple of $10,000 a plate soirees, anyway."

“Son of a bitch,” Steve growls.

"He seems like a nice guy," Kono says, looking at Steve with confusion. "He was really sweet about Danny's granny, I thought." She just stares at Chin when he elbows her.

Steve's team busts their asses every day to keep down the terrorist population, to get some justice, to save lives. This prick is rolling in enough green that he could buy the world, and he's playing politics and saving the fucking whales.

Steve's never resented whales until now.

"You like whales," Kono says.

"They've always spoken well of you," Chin says, an infinitely more knowing look on his face than Steve wants to deal with just now.

For one hot second, Steve hates his entire team. Especially the member that just waltzed off to New Jersey on some rich man's silver-plated dime.

"This is not right, people. Nobody with that kind of money is pure as the driven snow. Find me something." And he never knew how much he hated rich people. He'd never even given a passing thought to the rich. He's been busy with real life.

Make that a platinum-plated dime. He stares at the report of Devlin's net worth and hopes like hell that he deals cocaine and sells small brown-skinned children for whale sex.

Chin and Kono both seemed to have guessed. Kono had even pointed out that Danny’s wardrobe was improving on a weekly basis. Of course, that was because he had to replace select items on a weekly basis, but that was his own fault. If he insisted on wearing stuff better suited to an office than the places they usually worked (the jungle, the beach, the marina, a sewer, coffee plantation up the highway, the jungle again), then he should expect some wardrobe attrition.

There were other clues his detectives would have been paying attention to. The Tag Heuer watch on Danny’s wrist, the healthy golden cast of his skin compared to the previous whiter-shade-of-pale. His hair was shorter and he was no longer gelling it into submission every morning. His gibes at the entire State of Hawaii were largely symbolic now; the real belly-deep bitterness was missing. These were facts, indicators that gauged which way the wind blew in Danny’s world.

And the fact that it blew in the direction of a man, one demonstrably old enough to be Danny’s father? That one still had Steve stumped.

He shakes his head, gulps coffee that’s far too hot, and hopes it will wash away the bad taste in his mouth. When he turns around, Chin is right there. That same knowing look is on his face and Steve sighs. “Something you want to say?”

“Why are we investigating Devlin?” he asks, too quietly for Kono to hear as she makes one call after another.

He blinks, startled by the question. Isn’t it obvious? Chin isn’t usually this dense.

“Look, we don’t know who he is or why he’s hanging around Danny. Relationships like that are a security risk and I want to be sure nothing is going to leap out and bite us later.”

Now Chin is staring at him, brow furrowed and head cocked to one side. “A security risk? Steve, have you investigated any of Kono’s boyfriends like this? The women I’ve gone out with?”

This is not good territory to venture into. He might have done a few random, light skims into various backgrounds. Once or twice. But not on Danny. He’s never had to on Danny before because, as far as he knew, Danny wasn’t dating.

“No.”

“So why Devlin? Why is a ‘relationship like that’ a security risk?”

It piles up behind his teeth and Steve finds his hands flexing into fists. He misses his old colleagues in Naval Intelligence. They would understand exactly what he meant; they wouldn’t be questioning his motivations and demanding answers that he isn’t willing to give.

“Blackmail is always a possibility with situations like this.”

Now Chin outright stares at him. He opens his mouth, then stops and takes a breath before he begins speaking. When he does, his words are a little slower than usual, as if he is choosing them very carefully. There is a horrifyingly understanding light in his eyes and Steve really wishes something would explode now.

“Danny dating a guy doesn’t make him a security risk, Steve. We don’t care that he’s bi.” Right? his tone prompts Steve to agree. Steve’s not ready to let this go. Any of it.

“Then why didn’t he tell us before this? Why keep it hidden?”

“I don’t know.” But something in Chin’s tone suggests that he does. “Maybe he just wanted something private, something that didn’t involve the team. It’s been pretty intense the last few months.”

“How is that ohana?” Steve demands.

Chin shrugs. “We kind of forget that Danny really is a haole.” Chin’s voice is gentle and rueful. Then he goes for the kill. “And there’s the fact that he probably knew you’d react just like this.”

“Like what?” Steve demands.

“Like you just found out that Danny is cheating on you.”

Having made his point, Chin taps a fist to Steve’s chest to drive the stake home, then turns and goes back to his desk.

Later, much later, from his own lanai in the dark, dark is better, he picks up his phone. The dark, the beer and the alone, they dilute the anger and sadness, make it easier to swallow. He drunk-dials. He’d call Chin, who seems to know all about it, but Steve can’t bear that. He can’t ask another man, especially one who’s laughing at him already. And there’s no way in hell he could do this face to face.

He’s had enough to be stupid. There’s no other way this could happen.

“Boss, howzit?”

Thank God she’s not out partying or on the beach or with somebody. He needs her to be at home alone. There’s her dishwasher in the background, a tv on low. He opens his mouth, but nothing comes out. The words are strangling him and he can’t breathe. He paces down to the water. Air sloshes in his lungs and demands its freedom.

“Boss?”

The concern in her voice makes his gut clench. She thinks he’s a pansy-ass freak, too. But he’s not. He’s tough enough to do this. “Why were you smiling?”

“What?” There’s the concern again, but this time it’s more loony bin than gentle comfort.

Steve has to regroup, and it takes him a minute. “You were smiling, when Danny came back into the office. The first day, Monday after the hospital. You looked so happy. Why?”

“Is this -- is this Steve on the phone, or is this Lt. Commander McGarrett, Hawaii 5-0?” Her voice hardens perceptibly. “Because I have no interest in working at a gift shop. And you’ve been on edge lately, even for you.”

Shit. She can tell he’s drunk. “I’m your hoaaloha, Kono. Your kaikunane. Always. No matter where I’m standing, we’ll always be ohana. I thought you knew that.” It makes him sad that she didn’t.

“That’s not the way you’ve been treating Danny.”

“Danny’s different.”

“Yeah, I know.”

She’s got a wry twist that belongs on top of a martini. Of course she knows, that’s why he called. He can’t tell what she thinks about the knowing or the call, but what else is new? “Tell me why. Tell me why you were smiling.”

“Fine. I was happy for you, okay? I was really happy when I thought you were finally Danny’s kumu.”

He wouldn’t have known to ask if he didn’t already know the answer, but hearing it out loud was still a smack upside the head. “Lover? Why? Why did you even think that?” His voice cracked, came out all thin and weird, because that was the real question.

“If you’re my big brother, you probably already noticed I got eyes. There’s a reason why people think you’re married. And besides, you kissed him.”

His heart stops. Every second of that Monday morning exchange is tattooed on his eyelids. “You were happy before he said that to me.” Danny. Outed him to Kono, to his team. Why would he do that? Why wouldn’t he just take it to Steve first, get up in his face and start swinging, like with everything else? He digs his thumb into his temple, trying to stop the band saw inside his head. His voice is even thinner now, and sounds far away to his ears. “He told you? Danny told you?”

“Drunks, for the love of --” He can hear her shaking her head. Then, “Oh, Steve, no! That wasn’t -- he didn’t. Half the HPD saw you kissing him when they arrived on the scene. My cousin Haku told me. She thought it was sweet.”

And Kono says it encouragingly, like that’s a good thing. There’s a thump of pain up his spine before he realizes he’s on his ass on the ground. He doesn’t have enough energy to hold himself upright and flops onto the dirt, gutted like a snapper. “Yeah,” he says. “Yeah.” He doesn’t have the energy to say goodbye, either, so he just presses End.

If only it was that easy.

One of his people thinks he’s a joke, one feels sorry for him, and his partner. His. Partner. Left him to be another man’s boy toy, and he’s not even sure why. If Danny wanted that, wouldn’t he come and get it when . . . after? Or maybe he just doesn’t like Steve. He chokes on that.

One little slip, one time, napalmed his entire world, left his beloved paradise sere and brown. He thought he could make the world he wanted, but that thing inside him ruined it all.

Everybody knows. Everybody knows. The syllables echo inside him until they don’t make any sense anymore, and when his phone buzzes on the ground next to him, he ignores it. He spends the rest of the night staring up at the sky. The stars are still moving in understandable, predictable patterns. At dawn, he gets up and goes to bed.

All week he scans people’s faces for what it is that they know. People in the Palace offices, the Governor, her minions. Cops that he comes into contact with over cases or on the street. Cops live on gossip. Sometimes they survive because of it. He’s looking for the curled lip, the veiled disgust he knows comes with the Big Gay Territory. He’s in the courthouse this morning.

“Commander McGarrett, are you okay?” Sgt. Gary Than, it says on his name badge.

“Do I know you?” Steve tries to sound ordinary. Normal, for certain precise values of normal.

“Nah, but everybody knows you.” The man smiles. “You just looked like you were . . .” -- he chooses his words carefully, Steve thinks -- “hurting.”

“I’m fine, thanks.” He walks away quickly, back straight and hands clasped behind him.

He nearly bashes into Nate Suzuki going into Starbucks on Thursday morning. Suzuki was one of the first EMTs on the scene, stabilizing Danny with a ringers IV and some warm blankets. If anybody saw them together, he did.

“Howzit,” says Nate cheerfully. Steve’s searing look widens the man’s eyes. Nate leans back a little. “You go first. You obviously need the caffeine more than I do.”

“Hey, sorry, man. I was just,” and Steve catches himself making a random Danny gesture. “Let me get you one.” Nate accepts and they chat for a few minutes about random departmental stuff and the hell that is paperwork as their drinks are made.

It’s Friday before it hits him that everybody knew it all three months ago.

 

Jack McGarrett Strikes Again

Monday, when Steve rolls in with Jelly, he’s early. He couldn’t sleep right knowing that Danny was going to be back. He misses Danny, bad, and wishes he could tell him. He wishes things were different.

Chin’s already there. “Morning.”

“What’s up, you?”

“Oh, Kono called me at ass thirty to see if I wanted to ride a few before work. I said nah, gettin’ makule, need sleep, but then I was wide awake. So I came down and got caught up on a few things.” He leans over to scratch the overjoyed Jelly behind the ears. “However, I will be leaving early,” he warns. “So don’t go nuts today.”

Steve laughs. “I never do. So what else is new?”

“I heard a couple cops applied for insurance changes for their domestic partnerships. What with the civil unions and all.”

Chin’s face is as serene as usual, but he’s needled Steve before. Steve doesn’t get why. Chin usually doesn’t hit people when they’re down. His bitterness gets the best of him. “Yeah? If my father knew there were gay cops on the force, he’d be rolling in his grave. If it was during his time, he’d have quit on the spot.”

Chin stares, lets out a breath. “No.”

“Fuck, yeah. He hated that shit. Hated it.” He smiles at Chin’s stricken face, but it’s more like baring his teeth. “You were his partner, but you didn’t know him. Not like that.”

“Oh, God.” Chin looks like he’s been rabbit punched. "Your dad, Steve, he just wanted so many things for you. I think it got tangled up in his head."

Wherever this conversation’s going, it’s no place good. “Sure. Whatever.” It’s as close to fuck you as he wants to get with Chin right now. “You want a cup of coffee? I’m going down the street.”

He’s already halfway to the door when Chin says, “Wait. You have to know.” It’s quiet and firm. Steve stops, but he doesn’t turn around.

“Your dad stood up for this cop, Jennings, years ago. He got outed and the guys were hazing him. Your dad said anybody who messed with Jennings was messing with him, and nobody wanted to go up against your dad.”

Steve stands silently, waiting at parade rest. He’s so on edge he can feel his arches lifting from the floor even though his calf muscles are still. His brain can’t stop listening, but his body’s trying to leave without him. “So?” It’s a snarl.

“I asked him why, one night when we’d both had a few. He said, ‘I fucked up with my kid. I fucked up bad.’ He didn't know how to make it right between you, but he figured he could at least stop making the same damned mistake.”

There’s nothing Steve can say to that. He walks out the door. If he doesn’t get back to his house soon, the quart jar will break. There will be tiny pieces of him all over the office. When he hears little dog nails skittering on the polished floor, he picks up Jelly and takes her home.

It isn’t too long after he finds a safe spot on the floor, his back against a bare stud and his knees up to keep Jelly on his lap, that somebody’s pounding. At first he thinks it’s inside his head, with all the rest of the white noise, and ignores it. After that he ignores it on purpose. Then there’s shouting.

“I can see you through the blinds, damn it! I know your security code!”

That doesn’t make any difference, since he didn’t set it. Danny’s smart enough just to try the door first. It’s not locked. He stops in the doorway, waiting for his eyes to adjust. Steve watches as he looks around, takes in the empty expanse of the room, the naked walls. Steve’s glad the blinds are mostly closed. He can feel the grit in his eyes and knows they’re red.

“You look like shit, babe.” But the ribbing is low and gentle. Danny’s unusually quiet, the way he is with a victim or people left behind at the scene of an accident. He sits down, his sturdy shoulder to Steve’s, pets Jelly. That sense of constant churn that Danny exudes during the day is gone. Now he is calm, centered, like an anchor right beside Steve. “Chin couldn’t wait any longer for his coffee. So, Steven, what's on your mind?"

Somehow, without his saying a word, Steve knows that Danny isn't going to go away until Steve tells him everything. Until he explains. There is no point to arguing or trying to escape. He just doesn’t have the energy.

"I always looked up to my dad. Put him on a pedestal. You know."

“Yeah."

"He's, like, a legend in the force. His word, you could take it to the bank. I always knew that." His voice sounds like he’s been eating drain cleaner. His throat feels like it. He doesn't even know what he's going to say next, but the words keep spilling from him anyway, dripping out from those wounds that never quite healed. "Except when I, one day, he caught me. With my best friend. And we weren't, I only kissed him, except I loved him. I just needed. Something.”

Danny pries off the white hand that’s cutting off circulation to Steve’s knee and holds it, letting Steve grip way too tight.

Steve coughs, and it rocks him like a sob. Jelly whines a little and he rubs her head. He’s shivering, even next to Danny’s heat. “He said, Dad said,” and his voice evaporated, came back with a gasp, "he was glad Mom was dead." He's pretty sure he's going to die, too, right here on the floor, while he's trying not to start bawling like a baby. While sitting next to his best friend, the man he thinks he might be in love with, the man whose hand he's got in a vise grip. "So she didn't have to see it."

He hears Danny suck wind and he starts talking again, anything to keep from hearing what Danny will say about his father, because it won't be anything he hasn't thought or said or shouted at the walls himself, but it's his dad.

"So I never, you know, I had to get away from that. I did, I did get away, for so long.” This conversation is a firefight. He has to make every shot count, because he’s running out of ammunition. “Dad kicked me out. I thought he hated me for twenty years and Dad never sent me the memo. That, when he, he didn’t hate me any more. And then he was dead. And then there was you." He’s out of bullets.

"And how do I figure in, Steve? What is it you need me to know here?"

In a single burst of clarity, which he has sorely missed the last few weeks, he realizes something. In a firefight, Danny has always been there to back him up. This is no different. Danny still has his back. Danny is right here, sitting on the floor of his crazy partner's living room, holding his hand as Steve stutters and stammers out some bullshit . . . and he's not going anywhere.

"I need you to help me with something."

"I'll, I will, but Steve, ease up." Danny's hand flexes under his. "You know I'm here for you, come hell or high water and broken bones, but." And he rubs his other palm gently over the bone and tendon on the back of Steve's hand, making it easier to relax. "I'll help you. Tell me."

He can’t.

"Just talk. You don't need to get the words right."

Steve laughs, and the sound isn't much like what he expected out of his own mouth. Betrayed again. "First of all, please, please dump that fucking rich guy. I seriously need you to do that."

"That depends on what I get in return, babe." His voice is soothing; he's working the gentle again, and if Steve didn’t need it so bad, he’d be mortified. "Are you gonna make me a better offer?"

"Yeah. Yeah, I hope so. I hope you think it is.”

"Well, free room and board is a nice perk. You got something else for me?"

Steve looks around the beautiful disaster that has become his house. His house. "Well . . . sort of."

“I’m not casing your place, you idiot.” He’s not rising to his usual decibels, either. “What I want to know is, do you love me?”

Of all that’s come out of his mouth this morning, this is the cleanest and simplest. It’s a relief to say something that doesn’t tear away chunks of him on its way out. “Yeah.”

“Good answer.” And Danny's voice is still quiet but now Steve can hear the smile and he knows it’s okay. Something in him lets go, and his feet slide down to the floor. Jelly wiggles out of his arm, shakes her head until her one remaining ear flaps, and sits down on the floor to watch.

“What the hell did you do to this place? Hunting for termites?”

"Look at it this way, Danno,” he rasps. “You can move in with your own decorating ideas. It's a fixer-upper."

"You're a fixer-upper, McGarrett."

“Yeah.” Steve looks at the floor, then away, suddenly ashamed. He’s damp and clammy and sick. There’s a reason you keep stuff inside so nobody else can see it. The visual of the pinned-out worm ought to be funny, but it’s not. His guts are all over the floor. They said you were supposed to feel better -- to be better. That’s why they send you to shrinks. His whole body aches like the flu.

“There’s no structural damage.” Danny bumps his shoulder. “I know stuff that’ll work. Wallboard. Spackle. Maybe wood glue. This place just needs some TLC.” Danny gets up slow, a little stiff. Must’ve had a long-ass plane ride yesterday.

“You okay? Your, your family, I mean.” Steve finally remembers to ask. Danny reaches down with both hands, and Steve grabs them. He stands, but a bit wobbly, trying to force everything back into working order. His ass is numb. They’re holding hands. He’s holding Danny’s hands, and he thinks they both mean it.

“Yeah,” Danny says. “Yeah, you know how it is.” For a second Danny freezes, but Steve just nods. “Hey,” says Danny, and pulls him into his arms, not a bro hug but a real one, one that’s warm and sturdy, holding Steve up. Danny’s hug is suddenly infinitely important.

“Jesus.” Danny’s poking the solidified strata of his back. “You need, I don’t know what. You’re like a cement wall.”

A couple minutes plastered against Danny’s body while he digs away painfully at Steve’s back, Christ, his hands could be torture devices, and Steve can feel every inch of Danny -- heavy, muscular arms around him, the in-and-out press of Danny’s chest as he breathes deeply and concentrates. Warm, moist air from Danny’s mouth shushes softly past his ear, raising tiny hairs on its way.

Steve doesn’t know what to do with his hands, but they kind of creep over by themselves to lay flat across Danny’s working shoulder blades. He just lets his hands feel the bones move and reminds himself that it’s okay.

“Let’s get you a shower.”

“Okay.” He used all the words already. There aren’t any left. Steve’s grateful that Danny doesn’t let go, but walks up the stairs with him, side by side, Steve leaning on the width of his shoulders. He doesn’t feel like a cement wall. He might as well be a worn out bendy toy.

Danny turns on the shower and while Steve’s pulling off his shirt he says, “If you don’t need anything else.”

Steve, elbows still in the air, tugs the collar below his eyes again. Danny looks like he thinks he’s in the wrong place, like he just figured out he’s somewhere he doesn’t belong. Like he should go. That’s when Steve realizes Danny never said anything. Steve’s been in love with him so long he doesn’t even want to think about it, but Danny never said. Danny said he’d move in, but he moved in with that other guy. They’ve never kissed.

“Danny?”

“Yeah?” Danny’s already turned to go. He looks over his shoulder.

Steve pulls the shirt back down. He knows he looks like Jelly when she doesn’t get a snack, but he can’t stop. “Is this -- this you, me thing --” and his throat closes. Danny looks embarrassed. There’s pink creeping up his cheeks. Oh, God. He’s getting the kiss of death.

“Listen, Mr. Inarticulate, you had a tough day, all right? So hop in the shower.” He makes a shooing gesture.

“Danny!” It comes out more needy and less demanding than Steve hoped, but there’s nothing he can do about that now. It got Danny to stop in the doorway. “Do you . . . fuck, fuck! Never mind.” He can’t. He climbs into the shower still dressed, snaps the curtain closed and lets the too-hot water beat on his head. He might as well hand Danny a hundred bucks for the hour because now he’s Reserves, TRICARE won’t pay for therapists out of his tier.

His hands are lifted off his face where he’s been rubbing it.

“Hey, hey. How’d you graduate from high school without knowing how to take a shower? No wonder you smell the way you do.” Danny’s there in front of him, looking soft-eyed like downstairs, only different -- he’s smiling ruefully. Aside from his sock feet, he’s also fully dressed. “Here’s how you do it, watch carefully, and by the way, to answer your non-question, yes, me and you. Yes, okay?”

And, “I do not know where you get these ideas, I honestly do not.” Danny’s got his beautiful, perfect hands on Steve’s face now, holding him tenderly like Steve always knew he would, and they’re kissing while the hot water beats on his back. Steve’s clinging like opihi; lost his legs again in the sweetness of Danny’s mouth. Soft lips with a stroke of powdered sugar; coffee on the sweep of Steve’s tongue. Then Danny’s working at Steve’s tee while Steve hangs on his shoulders and presses his lips into Danny’s sticky hair, against his ear, anything he can reach. “First you start with the shirt.”

At least Danny’s hands are shaking, too. Danny's right there with him, backing him up, like always. Now, Danny is backing him against the wall of the shower. That's new. He likes that. He likes it a lot. He thinks that it's his new favorite thing except for maybe the way that Danny's hands are sliding up his belly, thumbs following the cut of his abs.

It's hard to get a tie off when it's wet, but Steve, despite being distracted by Danny's curious hands, puts all of his Special Forces skills to work on it. When it still doesn't come free, he starts unbuttoning the shirt underneath it. Screw the tie, it's not that important. The water is splashing down on both of them and he’s drinking it in whenever his lips touch Danny's skin. He is drinking Danny in. Across his collar bone, where one day long ago it was broken and mended. Up the length of his neck, all the way back down, God, he’s been so thirsty.

Danny’s wet, and he’s naked, and this is just how bad he wanted Danny in the ocean. It all blends in with that beautiful, golden day at the beach.

"Quit it, I'm trying to -- you have absolutely no self control, you’re an animal, okay? And I like it, but I need this stupid t-shirt off now, now, now!"

Isn't now his cue to open Danny's pants, unzip, drag them down? To very carefully pull the boxers, elastic held away from everything important, while he's rubbing his face in the rough wet hairs that lead down that trail? That thought’s cut off with his own yelp -- Danny fought the soaking wet fabric of his t-shirt up over Steve's head, and the neck caught him under his chin. He bit his own tongue.

"Sorry, sorry, wait! Can't you just wait for me, for -- no, no, do not wait for me, be my guest, fuck!"

Steve doesn't mind if he does. Because the words are classic Danny, but the tone . . . that’s what he's been waiting for the whole time they’ve known each other, without ever guessing.

Half kneeling, Steve puts his mouth around the head of Danny's already hard cock and figures this has got to be easy, it's just a mouth and something to put in it. He's got that part down, no teeth, he knows that from girls. He's not quite at the right angle, though, if there even is one. After taking the fast track down he’s back up choking, eyes watering.

“You okay?” Danny’s wide hand is lifting his face. He loves that hand so much.

“I’m fine.” Being a Navy SEAL counts for nothing in this. Only practice will make perfect. It’s looking like he’ll get that chance. He's holding hard onto Danny's hips when he gives up for the moment and skids his lips along the shaft, feeling soft skin over throbbing pulse, then licks.

There’s not much taste in the shower, just the incredible textures, but he thinks he might like it. The protection of Danny's body keeps the spray off as he tries to memorize every tiny ridge and bump. He’s gone down on women, but the cock against his cheek feels more intimate than he’s ever been with anybody. He can’t stop petting the hair on Danny’s thighs, partly because it feels good against his palms and also because those hard thighs are holding Steve upright.

Danny takes an iron grip on his shoulders, and Steve wonders if they’re both shaky now. He can feel tremors down the hard, still-pale ridges of Danny’s belly. Steve smiles against Danny's cock. He really, really wants to make Danny come right now, but one of them is going to end up on his ass, and he says so. "Aren't you proud of me for being safety conscious?"

"I'll show you proud," growls Danny, and drags him upright. Damn, he has some strength in those arms. "Come on, all giants have to stand up in the shower, it's the only way you fit.”

With some finagling, the stretched-out t-shirt finally comes free. Somehow Danny gets his tie off and he's going to be really pissed about the Hermes belt that's on the bottom of the tub in two inches of water with all the other clothes. Steve’s not sorry. Danny got it from Asshole.

"I'll get you a new belt, okay," he pants as Danny struggles with Steve's button and zipper. He only wants Danny to wear clothes that Steve buys for him. Better yet, he should always wear Steve’s clothes. Shirts too long and too tight in the shoulders, pants rolled up at the bottoms. Oh, oh, jesus, the tips of Danny’s fingers are nudging the crack of his bare ass and everything’s so overwhelmingly wet and slippery.

"Fuck the belt," Danny moans into his neck, nipping and sucking and riding his cock in the groove between Steve’s braced thighs, pushing in and bumping up under his balls. Steve's own cock is dragging against the wet hairs he was rubbing his face into before, and the sensation wraps all around him. He can feel it in his fingers, the backs of his knees. His hands are loving the heft of Danny's ass. He helps out with the friction by pulling Danny in and up, closer, harder.

He buries his face against Danny's hair and the hiss of his own breath between his teeth is almost louder than the shower beating down.

"Jesus Christ, come on, Steve, Steve, fuck." Danny arches back with a groan, and yes. Danny finally, finally sounds as shattered as Steve is.

Danny's come is all over him, mixing with the water, greasing the slide, and Steve just hauls him up and goes for it, his tongue in Danny's mouth, his cock making like Danny's the world's biggest pleasure toy. Danny holds on tight and says things he can hardly hear over the roar, hot and demanding, fuck me and do it and finally, at last, I love you.

That breaks him down, finishes him, and he’s pretty sure that hitch in his chest was his heart cracking wide open when he came. But he likes it, he thinks dazedly, rubbing his come into Danny's chest hair.

They end up in the bottom of the tub in six inches of water on a pile of clothes with the shower still pounding down, and Steve would be happy to stay there until he could never get the wrinkles out. Too bad Jack never changed the water heater and there is now less-than-lukewarm water.

He leans up to turn off the shower and unclog the drain, then slides back down, pulling Danny half on top of him.

Danny snuffles cheerfully into the well of Steve's throat and lets out a breathy laugh. "Water heater before furniture. You may be able to shower in five minutes, but I think I could break you of that."

If he’s not already broken, it ain’t gonna happen this way. "You'll always be my favorite renovation consultant." Steve pushes Danny's sopping hair out of his face, squeegees the water out with the heel of his hand.

"Hey, while you were on your Oedipal Home Renovation jag, did you happen to save your bedroom for last? Specifically, what I am asking here is - do you still have a bed?"

"You have some kind of bed fixation?"

"Like a fine cigar, I enjoy a bed now and then. What, you built yourself a foxhole upstairs?”

Steve shrugs, which is a little harder to do now that he has most of his partner leaning on that arm. "I got, you know, a sleeping bag on the floor." At Danny's incredulous look, he says, "It's a big, fluffy one."

Danny narrows in on him, and Steve can practically hear him counting to ten in his own head. He cracks up before Danny gets there. “You’re so easy.” Danny’s the least easy man in every possible way. He knows he's giddy. He even knows it's more than being fuck-stupid and the endorphin rush. It’s not like Steve’s sorry. He feels fantastic, but he thinks what he's teetering on is the edge of hysterics. Flip a coin for what kind.

Good thing Danny’s here, because that pretty much guarantees laughter and not tears. "You ready?" He tugs vaguely at the shower curtain.

“Just show me to your nest of twigs, Gorilla-Man, I'll make do."

They dry each other off. Danny’s so . . . careful. Steve wants to laugh at him, wants to kiss him, and he does both, soft and easy. It’s okay now. It’s insane to have it be okay. The whole world shifted one step to the left, and he hasn’t got his land legs yet.

Fortunately the world changed, but Danny didn’t. That helps. His friend comes to a full stop at the sight of the yellow and blue bedroom. "You said I was your new decorator, right?"

Steve makes the expected rude noise, but frankly, as long as he's got Naked Danny Decor, he’s good.

"No, really. What did you do? Wait, don’t tell me, let me guess. The Norwegian Navy snuck in in the dead of night and they redid your bedroom in their colors as a warning. You never liked the fjords anyway, did you?"

“Sweden, Danny,” Steve says, nuzzling the back of Danny’s neck. “Blue and yellow are the colors of the Swedish flag.”

“They don’t have fjords in Sweden, Steven. Now, explain to me why the Swedish Navy broke in and trashed the place.”

Steve doesn’t blink. "I sunk their battleship."

Danny's snorgling is a thing of beauty. "No wonder they're pissed, when they only had one."

"Well, it went down on their only nuclear sub."

"I'll go down on you, you oversized sex machine. Damn, look at you."

“Promises, promises." Steve’s well aware that he's half hard again, and that there are no guarantees. They’re already naked, which makes this his big chance. He’s been thinking about it for a long time. What it might feel like, if it’s good. He blurts out, “Fuck me, okay?” And then for some stupid reason he has to qualify that, like Danny wouldn’t get it. “Now, I mean.”

The Williams Experience

“Now, huh. Right now, immediately, this instant.” Danny pulls back enough, smiling, to give Steve a smoochy kiss, then looks at him curiously. “You’re serious. Like what, I wouldn’t want to? Riiiight. Let’s face it, there’s nobody out there who doesn’t want your ass. Random aliens from Mars want to nail your ass.”

Steve’s wearing a hand grenade face. Total focus, crazy eyes. “It’s just something I want.”

“You always gotta to jump off a cliff.” Danny’s look is full of affection and a little amusement. “Well, step right up, babe, I’m your man. Because I am not from Mars, I’m a red-blooded American man who knows a great ass when he sees it. Besides, this is probably the safest way you’ll ever look like that.” While he’s pushing Steve backwards to the bed, open-handed light slaps at his chest, one knee between Steve’s, he says, “And what happens if you don't like it, huh?"

"Try, try again?"

Danny can feel his eyeballs rolling. His dick’s bobbing along with the tune Steve's playing. It's not like he doesn't want to, after all. And there's nothing that says he shouldn't bang the man on their -- well, it's either their first date or first anniversary. Still. “I was with someone for five months before I ever tried anal and even then, it was more weird than fun. We’ve been through an awful lot of weird lately. Some of it just this morning.”

The too-bright eyes dim for a moment. "Danny, listen. If you don't want to . . . "

"Space aliens, Steven." Danny isn't hesitating, exactly. "But just to let you know, getting your ass tapped is not the same as jumping out of an airplane." He's just sizing up his options, forming a plan, investigating the terrain . . . freaking out slightly. “It’s a little more personal.”

"I'm not a virgin. I've had sex." Now Steve’s staring him down, a note of challenge in his voice.

“I know that face. If I told you that no one ever survived the Williams Anal Experience, you would insist on it right here, right now. Especially if you thought you might die from it.” Danny takes a breath. “So I guess you should know that I must never have had sex. Cause this is a big deal to me.”

A snort. "So you went with that artificial insemination thing for Grace, yeah." Steve looks kind of pensive. Thoughtful. Then the corners of his mouth turn up a little, lips slightly parted like there are words somewhere, he just doesn’t know which ones. He tilts his head like a bird and eyes Danny, puzzled. It’s like he never, ever thought it would make any difference to Danny whose ass he was fucking. Could be he’s getting the big picture at last, because the smile widens, settles over his whole ridiculous face.

"Is that your stupid-in-love face? Because I have to tell you, it’s not pretty." Lies. All lies. It is so beautiful, and so different from Amos and his easygoing, ever-present surface charm that Danny can hardly breathe.

Steve’s expression morphs into indignation times embarrassment and sheer affection. He looks like a dyspeptic goldfish and Danny thinks his own face must look the same. God knows he’s both stupid and in love. "Pretend I'm a fragile flower and putting my dick in you could be a life-altering experience, okay? How does that suit you? Since, you know what? Everything I’ve ever done with you was a life-altering experience."

"I've already had it in my mouth," Steve reminds him with a wicked grin. “How much different could it be?"

"Let's start from here and see whether we find out." Danny topples them both onto the bed and doesn't hesitate to land right on Steve’s bony safety mat. Serves him right for throwing Danny that curve. At least he tries to avoid any digging in with any elbows or knees. Danny is no lightweight, so the oof! noise that Steve makes is deeply satisfying.

"You're in my power now," he announces. "I'll do my best to ravish you. Try not to hyperventilate." That starts the wrestling match. There’s nothing Steve likes better than a competition. If it involves rubbing up against bare naked flesh, that’s just chocolate sauce. The friction has Danny fully hard in 2.5 seconds, and after the shower, that’s pretty impressive. Steve probably didn’t get any in the last couple months, so it’s not the same.

Danny? He’s got so much going on inside his heart he thinks that’s why all the blood is going to his cock. There’s no room for it inside his chest -- or for that matter, in his brain. The friction doesn’t mean nearly as much as the goofball underneath him who just flipped him on top. The bedheaded man who’s looking at him with deep, deep eyes, holding his hand, kissing his palm.

“I, uh . . . like your hands,” says Steve softly. “Hold me down, Danny. I thought about it. Hold me down and fuck me.”

For a second Danny can’t speak. His better nature dissipates like mist in the sun and he’s mindlessly kissing Steve all the way down his chest, licking a hard nipple on the way by and twisting the other one with gentle fingers. He follows the rise and dip of clenching muscle to the music of Steve’s harsh breathing, letting Steve’s finely honed abs push him in the right direction. He sticks his tongue in the irresistible vulnerability of Steve’s belly button. Soft skin over hard belly shudders in his wake. Crisp hair catches at his stubble.

“You’re amazing, sweetheart.”

Forced laughter covers up whatever Steve really wants to say. He can ask to be fucked, but don’t call him sweetheart. For that, Danny’s going to do it all the time. He wants to, anyway. For all the bitterness Steve’s carried all these years, he has a generous heart made of pure cane sugar. Steve has never hesitated to rescue strays of all kinds -- battered Chinese girls, injured dogs, or lonely, angry haoles.

Danny’s head to head with the most beautiful penis he’s ever seen. Yeah, it sounds stupid even to him, but honestly, is there nothing about Steve that’s any less than perfect? On the outside, anyway. He knows it's a nightmare in that brain. Oh, but the outside is mouthwatering. Heavy balls are getting tighter, a few bright drops catching light on the darkened tip. Steve's deep breathing keeps pulling his abdomen taut, making his dick bob and nod.

Danny wishes like hell he'd shaved smooth today, just so he could rub that thing all over his cheeks, wet his lips with it. "I bet you'd like to jerk off on my face some time," he says without thinking, and Steve almost bashes him with a knee.

"Don't say things like that," Steve gasps.

"What," Danny says teasingly, "you don't think I'd look good in pearls?"

"I think I'm going to fucking come on your face right now if you don't shut up!"

"Not really giving me any impetus to stop, babe." He drops his voice and leans his cheek against Steve's trembling calf. "I think it's pretty hot that I could make you come just from telling you what I want."

"Please, Danny."

Steve is as stoic as they come, and he sounds pretty uncomfortable. Suddenly Danny wants to stop teasing. It was a long, hard road Steve climbed to get here. “I've got you, Steven, I promise." He licks his own palm, gets it nice and wet, then reaches down and gently rubs it across the head of Steve's cock, like palming a gearshift. "Get on your knees, okay?"

For once Steve is something less than agile, his natural animal grace abandoned to need. It’s awkward; he gives Steve a hand. The man’s outright shaking, whether in anticipation or plain overload, Danny doesn't know. To have Steve McGarrett, his self-possessed partner, literally putting himself in Danny's hands, letting himself shake apart, is one of the hottest and best gifts Danny has ever gotten. He is going to do his damnedest to be worthy of it.

Once he's settled on all fours, Danny draws the line from his balls up to his tailbone with one finger and tries to inhale. His lungs don’t seem to be working the way they should.

Steve takes a deep breath, with a hitch. "When did you develop this sadistic streak?"

"These things take time. I need to get you relaxed. You got some lube?"

"Not relaxing."

He’s looking at Danny over the breadth of his own back, eyes hot over that insane fucking tattoo that Danny’s seen the whole of for the first time today. He used to think tattoos were dumb -- well, after he put that damned thing on his hand when he was fourteen. That was pretty dumb. But this -- this is intense, thick black curls of raw sex on display right there on Steve’s skin, and it makes his toes cramp. Some time real soon he’s going to give that piece its due.

"Lube," he chokes, then watches Steve reach for the drawer, the sinews in his arms and back stretching and defining, shadows flowing across his skin as he moves. The man is a landscape. And the bottle isn't new. Holy shit. The vision of Steve alone in bed, forearms rippling as he clutches his cock, hips lifting off the bed, superimposes onto the Steve in front of him like its own tattoo. Steve slipping things into himself . . . a finger . . . a toy.

"You got any toys in there?" There’s an embarrassment of high pitch in his voice. His cock is rubbing stripes of wet against the curve of Steve’s ass.

"Why? What I got not good enough for you?"

"Babe, you are not a toy. You are the whole goddamned toy store." Danny tries to center himself, to keep his goal in mind, and that’s getting Steve off. Not that it’s completely altruistic. Danny will find out what he uses the lube for. He desperately wants to watch. Hold that thought, Danny promises himself. He cups Steve's ass and parts the cheeks so he can see what he’s doing, then lowers his mouth.

There's a yell, but Danny holds fast, as if it’s a hardship to wrap his fingers around those hips, and doesn't let Steve twist away, licking and sucking at the tender crease. The noises turn to moans as he works his way in, Steve thrusting back like he can't help it. When Steve actually works to spread his legs, to open himself up wider, Danny knows he’s got him. Steve has started to make soft noises, a kind of hum on each outbreath.

"That's it, babe. That's the way." Steve probably can’t hear him, only feel the vibrations against his hole. Danny tongues him until his jaw aches, until Steve can’t hold himself up any longer and starts to slide slowly down beneath Danny’s wet, searching mouth. Danny can barely remember what ought to happen next. He’s so hard he wants to break down and rut against that beautiful ass, slide his cock along Steve’s cleft and ride until he can’t hold back any longer, then keep on pushing into his own slick while he strokes Steve into oblivion.

Instead, he pulls an unresisting Steve onto his side. “Knee up, yeah, that’s it.” Steve can’t do it by himself, he's so out of it. No, not out of it . . . into it. So into it, he's flying from Danny's touch alone. When his fingers lightly tweak one of Steve's nipples, he doesn't jump, he writhes. Steve’s always been physical, but Danny never guessed at anything like this. He’s never seen anything like this. There’s a drop of sweat running down Steve’s hairline. He’s looking at Danny, eyes a little wild, mouth open, chest heaving.

A full body shiver ripples through him and into Danny. They both make a noise. "Yeah. Yeah, baby, you got it, you're beautiful, you are so fucking hot." Danny's hard and aching; Steve must be going crazy. He squirts lube against Steve's hole with one hand, handling his balls gently with the other. Steve sucks air through his teeth at the shock of cold.

"Sorry, need more hands. Are you ready?" Stupid question. "It'll be okay, I promise." He presses two fingers in; Steve's pretty soft, but clenches at the invasion. "Relax, sweetheart, let me in."

Danny can't resist pressing Steve's leg up far enough up to get his mouth on his ass, biting and sucking down to the tight balls. It feels like Steve's grabbing at his fingers, Danny's hitting the right spot, and he's got to be almost ready for --

“Now,” says Steve. “Do it now.” He’s pushing his ass onto Danny’s fingers and Steve’s going to come without him if he doesn’t do something. That’s no longer an option. He needs Steve to come on his cock. Plenty of lube on the condom he found, and he's breaching the circle, using his fingers to soothe the muscle. Christ, oh, beauty, it's so hot and smooth and oh, yeah.

"You all right?" They’re both panting.

"Good. Feels good."

"Just you wait, Sailor Boy. It gets better."

He settles down on one elbow behind Steve, holding his big, hot, heavy partner close, biting along the damp curls at his nape. "God, you smell good. I could eat you with a spoon, babe." Slow and steady, he starts to thrust.

Steve's body opens to him like it has always known this act. It's overwhelming, Christ, he thought he knew how to do this, knew what it felt like, and Steve's got him in pieces, his heart's so full of love and Steve that he doesn't know what to do except push and push. Steve’s head tips back and his eyes are closed. One long arm reaches over to grip Danny's hip. Steve latches on and holds tight, shoving his hips back.

"Come on, Danny, Danny, bring me, make me, do it!"

Suddenly, Danny understands something so clearly, hearing those words, it's like a breeze blowing away the fog of lust he wallows in. He brings his mouth forward to touch the curl of Steve's ear and he starts to whisper words louder than a shout. He knows what Steve needs to hear. Even as his hand closes over Steve's stiff, hot cock, he knows what will send him into orbit. "You're mine, now. No one else has ever done this to you, no one else ever will. You got that, sweetheart? No one ever gets to see you like this, only me. I'll take care of you, whatever you need, whatever you want. Me. Mine."

Danny drags his panting mouth across rough stubble as Steve turns his head. He’s jerking uncontrollably, lips wet and pressed tight, writhing between Danny's cock and his hand, a low whine building in his throat. "Danny," Steve whispers, eyes wide. He tries for a kiss, almost makes it to Danny’s mouth, and comes, a hot splatter across the sheets.

Stroking Steve through the last spasm, Danny makes one last thrust and empties everything he is into Steve. Steve's huge hand is locked onto his hip, a fixed mark while he spins and whirls. "Love you." He's hoarse, can hardly talk. "Love you so much."

Steve, who is not usually good with words, says the perfect thing. "Yours."

They drowse together got a little while, just listening to each other's breath and the light clip of Danny's lips when he presses a kiss against Steve's cheek or ear. Eventually, Danny takes on what seems to be the monumental task of cleaning them both up. He whispers Steve through pulling out and manages to hold onto the condom through the incredibly awkward gymnastics of getting up without dribbling.

Steve flops over into the pillows like he’s too used up to remain on his side without Danny there. He looks thoroughly debauched, and Danny has to take a moment to gape at what he has wrought. There are damp streaks down Steve's thighs. Danny pets his hair back and peers into his face. "You okay? Not hurting?"

"Mmmmph.” He lifts his head enough to eye Danny with a hitherto unseen twinkle. There’s a smile hovering around his full lips, and he’s flushed up his neck. "I," he announces in a hoarse voice, "am fucking sticky." Then he starts snickering into the pillow.

Danny wants video. Commander Steven J. McGarrett, USN, is a happy man.

"You're a goof, is what you are." Yes, sex makes Steve flaky. This is comedy gold. No one else will ever get to see the show, but that's okay with Danny. Wrestling a loose-limbed, giggling Steve into the shower is three parts hysterical and one part work. But the way Steve can't seem to stop touching, stroking and kissing any of Danny’s nearby body parts makes up for hauling his ass around.

In the shower, under the flow of warm water, Steve stops giggling and becomes, for lack of a better word, tender. He washes Danny's hair with gentle strokes against his scalp. He massages along Danny's cheekbone, petting the stubble. There is a half-scared, half-wondering look on his face when Danny kisses at his fingertips. Danny has to call a halt to this before the two of them dissolve into a puddle of goo on the floor of the shower.

"C'mon Romeo, turn around, let's get you clean. I work hard for my money, you know, I need a little shuteye."

"Hey, we both got the day off work."

"You think you're not work, my friend? You are the most high-maintenance man I've ever seen." He pushes at Steve's shoulder, backing him under the spray. Shower gel smoothing over Steve's skin in foamy handfuls nearly distracts him.

“Look who’s talking.”

The wash job is almost enough to distract Steve while Danny's soapy fingers are stroking down the crack of his ass and probing gently. He startles like a horse for a moment, then relaxes back against Danny at the calm, “Shh, just checking."

"No blood, no foul?"

"Of course you played rugby, didn't you? Maniac."

"Football," Steve reminds him in a chiding tone. "I played football."

"Yeah, yeah. You were the tight end."

Steve snorfles against his temple. "Quarterback, and you know it. So - am I gonna live, Dr. Williams?"

"You will live a long and happy life if you don't get your partner shot any time soon." Danny grins; he could really get used to a playful Steve on an endorphin high that didn't involve explosives or miles of ocean swimming. He steps under the spray and lets his mouth fill with water before spitting it out and soaping his face.

Steve gets back into the game and soaps the rest of him. Neither of them are getting hard again before sunrise, but it feels so good, all that slick skin over hard muscles gone slack. When the water starts to run cool, they finally stumble out of the shower. Danny reaches for a towel, but Steve has a longer reach and nabs it before his hand can close on it. Danny's barely got his mouth open to complain when Steve starts toweling him off.

It isn't that Steve is drying him that makes his mouth go slack; it's the expression of complete absorption on his face that does it. Other lovers have made Danny feel attractive, but no one has ever looked at him as if he were the only thing they have ever wanted and finally gotten.

Steve is touching him carefully and it takes him a few moments to realize that he is not moving his hands over Danny as if he were fragile. No, he's touching Danny as if he were sacred. Now it's hard to breathe again. Steve McGarrett is enough to give anyone emotional whiplash. All that repressed longing, a few self-destructive rages, demanding Danny's love and attention, then he's goofy with sex and playful and now back to wide-eyed with wonder.

How the hell is Danny supposed to keep up with the guy? He’s shuffling through the deck of a year’s emotions in one day. Or, Danny thinks, maybe half of a lifetime’s.

“Tomorrow I’m stirring Valium into your yogurt. It’ll take the edge off.”

“Huh?” Steve is kneeling (kneeling, for God's sake) at his feet, conscientiously drying off Danny's shins, when Danny decides unilaterally that they both need to get some sleep before something irrevocably stupid happens here.

"Ok, McGarrett, on your feet." He yanks on Steve's arms until he lurches to his feet. Taking the towel, he briskly rubs Steve down until he is mostly dry, then scrubs at his head to get most of the water out of it.

"mmfl" Steve says from under the towel.

"I'm sorry, what was that?" Danny peers under the damp terry cloth and meets one of Steve's dark eyes.

"Jelly. I forgot to feed her. I can’t believe she’s not up here already, looking for dinner."

"The romance is dead," Danny declares tragically. “Then again, I can’t believe she wasn’t up here pretending to limp around, looking for attention.” Naturally, Danny himself never gave in to that kind of pressure. “She probably knew what was good for her and decided to keep the dog hair out of the lube.” Ever since the cast came off, well, half-grown dogs were amazingly mobile on the average day. “Fine, go feed your Hell Hound and I'll get the sheets back on the bed. Meet you back there in three."

"What, you wanna synchronize watches?" Steve smirks, then goes, padding downstairs naked. It's a nice receding view and Danny reminds himself about his plans for that tattoo in the small of Steve's back even as it disappears down the hall.

There is a happy yap from the kitchen as Danny inspects the sheets and decides that they are non-sticky enough to wait until morning. He rights the bottle of lube and puts the cap back on more firmly before setting it on the bedside table. By the time he has found the last of the pillows, Steve is back and wrapping warm arms around him from behind.

"Mmmmm," he purrs into Danny's ear, nuzzling behind it. His hand comes up to shape itself to Danny's chest, covering his heart. He opens his mouth to say something but all he manages is to yawn, blowing a gust of hot, damp breath right into Danny's ear.

"All right, you. Bed, now."

Steve obediently drops face first onto the mattress. His voice is muffled by the sheets when he says, "I don't know about this dictatorial side of you, Danny. I thought you'd lighten up once you got some."

"Lighten up? I'll show you lightening up," Danny snarks and swats Steve soundly on that perfectly formed ass he has so lately plundered. Steve's body arches and he shoots up to stare over his shoulder at Danny, face as red as his butt.

"Hmmm," Danny says consideringly. "Something to think about there, Commander McGarrett?"

Steve's eyes slide away, but his blush deepens and his mouth purses, there is no other word for it, adorably. He slowly relaxes back onto the bed but looks back at Danny shyly over his shoulder.

"Something for another time, babe," Danny promises. "But - whatever you want to try, I'm game. As long as there's no blood."

“Mmmm," Steve mutters, then reaches out a long arm and drags Danny down and into bed beside him. Just as Danny is reaching for the light switch, he hears a purposeful skittering noise from the foot of the bed.
There is a small huff, then a thump and Jelly is clambering onto the covers. Danny draws breath to harangue, but the little beast sticks her tongue out and smiles at him, little tail thumping happily against the mattress.

She tries to turn around three times on Steve's feet, becomes hopelessly entangled in the sheet, and flops over onto his shin. Steve's sleepy and adoring grin is shared equally between them and Danny gives up the fight. He turns out the light, snuggles closer to Steve, lays a light kiss on his shoulder and falls asleep.

At breakfast, which is cereal at the kitchen table that Steve did not toss out with the rest of the furniture, it’s a little uncomfortable. Danny thinks it’s not just because Steve’s ass is sore. Sure enough, while Steve’s rinsing out the bowls, he asks the kitchen curtains in some kind of angry undertone, “So, for real?”

“Again with the emotional wave action. Is it always like this for you?” What a shit way to live. “Valium, I swear to God. Yes, real. Look at me, babe.” He turns Steve’s I Don’t Care Face with real concern and peers into it. “Do you honestly think I would play you?”

“No.” It’s as worthless as a firm, absolute denial can be, and Steve’s insane lashes hide the eyes Danny wants to see. He’s looking into the sink, watching the water swirl down.
Whatever train Steve’s on, it’s better derailed now. “Good. You want to help me get my stuff from Amos’ place?” It’s the only thing he can think of that might get the guy with the program.

“You’re not even going to tell him goodbye?”

Jesus, where did that particular bitterness come from? “What do you care? Suddenly you’re worried about the man I left behind? I know damn well you hate his guts, it’s not a secret.” It’s not a secret because Chin made it absolutely clear to him yesterday. “And if you think you’re off the hook for having my boyfriend investigated, you’re out of your mind.” Danny’s genuinely curious now. “He’s not in town. I’ll call him later.”

That wakes Steve up. He’s looking Danny square in the eye and he almost spits it in his face. “Your boyfriend has a full time lover in California, damn it!”

Okaaaay. “Which goes a long, long way toward explaining why he’s not my boyfriend any more, and why I’m here with you, Mr. Suspicious.” Danny’s voice gets lower, gentler, without his meaning it to. “Don’t you get it?” He grabs the front of Steve’s t-shirt and twists it around his knuckles. The man couldn’t give a shit about his clothes anyway, and it makes Danny look vaguely threatening instead of like a dumbass ball of mush. “Do you not understand? You won’t ever be getting that call! If you and me call it quits, people are going to hear it happening on the Mainland. The locals will think it’s the End Times.”

“Right.” The break of relief on his face before he looks away is almost painful to see. “You know you’d turn up missing. I have a paper clip, and I’m not afraid to use it. Kono would help me hide the body.”

“Good. Now go start the truck. We’ll need to throw a few things in the back later, if I survive another work day with you.” Jelly rides shotgun with her head out the window and her tongue waving in the breeze.

 

Later. Much, Much Later.

It’s easier than Steve ever would have imagined to have Danny there. Sometimes he can’t help but wonder what his life would have been like if he hadn’t been so fucked up, but more often he’s just grateful for what he’s got. He had a good career in the Navy; now he’s got a good life. Some people don’t get either one. He sees them day in and out, and it keeps him on track.

It took a while to find a contractor Danny was satisfied with to redo the downstairs. Needless to say, the job didn’t involve any of Kamekona’s cousins. It took some fast negotiating and a seriously long, slow afternoon of persuasion to keep the blue and yellow bedroom. That doesn’t mean Danny doesn’t ride him about it every day, but it doesn’t really matter as long as Danny’s riding him.

When Grace started talking about a tree house -- nobody had any idea where that came from -- Danny was the first to say no.

“This is like the dog thing, isn’t it? You’re afraid. Once upon a time, a tornado carried away your tree house and you ended up in Hawaii. Even though you clicked your heels three times, all you got was this shave ice t-shirt. Now you’re terrified of tree houses for life, poor baby.”

“Maiming, Steven. Broken bones. She could fall out of a tree house, she could get struck by lightning. A typhoon could carry her away. Tsunamis have been here. Your house is on the ocean! Have you ever seen a lightning rod on a tree house? I have not. It’s bad enough that she goes surfing! One dangerous hobby at a time is more than enough. I ought to know.” He lifts his beer, points it at Steve.

Still, when Steve brings home the wooden sailboat with the stove-in keel -- “Come on, every girl needs her own pirate ship.” -- he can tell Danny’s charmed, if only by the way he caves in the end. Grumbling all the way, Danny helps him sand it down, paint it with black enamel, and build a platform for it in the enormous African tulip tree on the side of the yard. Grace will be able to look out over the water with her spyglass through the branches.

If Grace noticed the tulip tree sprouting extra branches with the cutout fabric leaves and flowers Steve used to camouflage it, she never said anything.

Everything’s done. The party tables are ready, food’s waiting in the fridge, and Danny’s fixing the sparkly pink skull and crossbones flag on the prow when Steve reaches around him from behind and kisses the back of his neck. He loves that Danny’s muscles ripple when Steve nibbles his nape.

“Not in my daughter’s tree house, you don’t! Get away from me.” Somehow Danny manages to twist around so they’re holding each other while he’s pretending to shove Steve away. It’s a neat trick. He’s got the sweet smile that’s been showing up more and more. “What kind of pervert are you?”

“The kind you like. A kiss or two won’t leave any psychic scars.” He presses his lips to Danny’s temple to prove his point.

“Sure. I know you and kissing,” says Danny darkly. “First it’s kissing, then it’s canoodling, then we’re up against the wall, leaving stains on the paint job.” Danny’s turned out to be unexpectedly protective of the new decor. It’s a good thing Steve’s persuasive. “And by the way, now that I think about it, this thing is coming down before Grace turns twelve. You stink. Get in the shower now, or you’ll be late for the party.”

“Sure you don’t want to come with me?”

“You. Scrub brush. Goo Gone.” Danny pushes him toward the rope ladder and he climbs down obediently, heads for the soap.

Hard to believe Danny suggested having Grace’s family birthday party here, inviting Rachel, Stan and Rachel’s mother, who came to spend a few weeks with them. Danny's doctor must have left him with extra pain pills from the Bayard case, that's how cheerful and expansive he is today. He watches Danny greet them. Grace rocketed out of the car and leapt on him, so Danny could’ve avoided contact, but there’s even a one-armed hug for his ex-mother-in-law.

Steve steps up for handshakes and a genuine hug for Rachel.

He’s always liked Rachel. Well, after he actually met her. He gets why a woman would have a tough time married to a cop . . . especially an overachiever like Danny, who’ll follow Steve into any kind of shit. Sometimes Steve gets worried, too, but it’s different. They’re in it together. Steve never has to sit at home waiting and wondering.

Danny’s less abrasive toward her now; it’s easier for him to see Rachel's good points the farther they get from their marriage. He can see how much she loves Grace, how invested she is in Grace becoming a good person, how smart and capable she is. That's all Danny wants for his kid. Maybe now that they don't want anything from one another for themselves, they can actually give each other what they need for their daughter.

Kono and Chin show up separately on the heels of Grace’s Other People, bearing presents wrapped in obscene amounts of pink. They hardly get a word in edgewise before Grace is shrieking, “What’s that?” She’s out of Danny’s arms, heading for the rope ladder at top speed, Jelly close behind. Grace is less subdued than she used to be, with more giggles and shrieks, and even though Mary was never that way -- or maybe because of it -- Steve knows that’s how she ought to be.

“Tree house! Tree house!” She’s up the rope ladder before Danny can grab her. Looks like there’s a future ahead of her in ROTC. She’s still shrieking, but when she realizes there’s no party up there -- the bunch of them can’t fit in the shell of a 16-footer -- she’s back down for food. Like father, like daughter. She’s nearly as delighted with the rest of her haul, some of which Steve has no idea what they are.

Food happens, and drinks and conversation. It’s like nothing that he remembers from his own family. Part of him just wants to watch, soak it all in. It’s moisture for the dry places. He laughs and has a beer, talks to Rachel’s mom about her flight and how she likes Hawaii, kids Kono about running a check on her new boyfriend (yes, he did, but she’ll never be able to find out). He talks bike trouble with Chin, has no idea what kind of bullshit he and Stan exchange, and the party’s over.

“Happy birthday, sweetheart,” he says into her hair. He’s down on one knee getting the world’s biggest hug goodbye. They have to leave early; her “friends only” birthday bash starts tomorrow at seven a.m.

“Thank you, Steve.” Her pretty face is serious now. “Thanks for the tree house, that’s really great. But mostly thanks for, you know . . . being with my dad. I used to feel bad. He tried to make me think he was, but he wasn’t ever really happy here until you.” Her smile is angelic. Grace kisses him on the cheek, ruffles Jelly’s fur, and is off to find her Danno before he can get any words past the lump in his throat.

For some reason his vision is blurred, so he lets Danny take care of the sendoffs while he coughs a little, waving smiling goodbyes from the tables where he’s stacking dishes.

"What's the matter with you?" asks Danny. He's still in his jovial phase. Steve wants some of that shit, whatever it is.

“Nothing." No way is Danny going to catch him misty-eyed over this party, his daughter, or anything else.

"You big creampuff," Danny says. He gives Steve a little grin and claps him on the shoulder, then turns to talk to Kono.

Sometimes Steve wishes his partner were just a little less observant. But if that’s his cross to bear, he'll get revenge in his own time, no doubt about it. Although he might be inclined to mercy, since Danny isn't openly mocking him for his brief slide into mawkishness. Kono, on the other hand . . .

“It's okay. They grow up so fast." Kono's right there.

He looks into her eyes, surprised. She shrugs. "Kids. They're my soft spot, too."

"You should have a couple. You'd be a good mom," he says before he thinks.

"I'm going to. Some day, when I find the right baby daddy." She elbows him in the ribs, and it hurts. "Until then, I just borrow my cousins'. And Danny's."

"I'm afraid to ask what the qualifications are."

"I'm not sure right now," she says thoughtfully. "My tastes have changed over time."

He's surprised to see her glance stray to the doorway, and when he follows it, Chin is there squeezing Danny's shoulder. Danny’s looking at her, but she’s not looking at Danny, and the newest boyfriend might not make it any farther that the others. Come to think of it, Chin was the one who suggested investigating Kono's new man. He thinks there might come a day when he has valuable information for Chin -- return the favor. Of course, Chin might be faster on the uptake than Steve was.

They’d be good together. Chin told him a long time ago they weren’t blood relatives, and Steve can’t figure out what the problem is. Kono’d probably thought the same about him. "Maybe you should consider going for an older guy, you know, someone a little more settled, stable. A guy who's looking to build a family." Steve pulls her in and smacks a kiss on her forehead. He knows he's right when Chin gives him what from anybody else would be a dirty look. Steve can feel it from across the room.

"Any man would be thrilled to land a woman like you."

"Enough with the fish metaphors, boss. I gotta go. Thanks for the party."

Still, there’s a little extra sway in her slender hips as she heads for the door. It’s always good to keep up employee morale. He smiles after her.

"I saw what you did there," says Danny. "You were both looking right at him, and you with that stupid innocent face. Now you're Cupid? They say it happens to all newlyweds. Can't stand to see anybody running around unshackled."

"Now we're married?" He can feel the pink creeping up his neck.

"Well, we've got the house, the dog, the kid and the in-laws. What would you call it?"

"Smoking hot sex with benefits?"

"Steven, come on. Are you suggesting to me that Stan's a benefit?"

"Hell, yes. The kid's gonna need braces in a couple of years. I don't make that kind of money, do you?"

"You might have a point.” Danny pretends to think, scratching his head. “I guess I could find another sugar daddy . . ."

“You asshole.” Jesus, Danny just can’t give it a rest. “See if you get any of that smokin' hot sex tonight."

Danny snorts. “Everybody’s gone now. I can just throw you over my shoulder and have my way with you.”

“I’d love to see you try.”

“Oh, hell, yeah.”

“Ugh!” Suddenly there’s a shoulder in his gut and damned if the man doesn’t toss him ass up. “You been practicing?” he gasps.

“I was always this good.” He sounds a little breathless anyway. “Now quit wiggling, or we’ll both be on our asses at the bottom of the stairs.”

After Danny dumps him onto the bed, instead of ripping his clothes off -- Danny’s done that, although Steve thinks it was because nobody else would let him -- they end up snuggling. Buttons are used, nobody gets caught in a zipper, shoes are shucked onto the floor with none left on feet. “So this is married sex, huh?”

“Shut up, you. I’m . . . appreciating.” It’s hushed, not his usual, like it’s too important and maybe too tenuous to shout about. Danny follows the line of Steve’s left eyebrow with a fingertip. “I never thought we’d get here.”

“Not something on my radar, either.” He’s whispering, too. “But it turned out good, didn’t it?”

Danny kisses his smile. “Yeah. Yeah, it sure did.”

As Jelly makes herself comfortable between their feet, Steve finally gets The Wizard Of Oz. There really is no place like home.