Sometimes Steve envies Danny.
Danny, with his open-door policy on his heart and the way he loves loud and bold, through complaints and jokes. Like he’s perfectly okay with letting everyone within earshot know how much he worries and what he’ll personally do to Steve if he tries to leap buildings in a single bound one more time.
Steve likes to think of Danny’s heart as a warm, comfortable place, with well-lived in rooms, pictures on the wall highlighting the best of times and the love of a close family. And maybe that’s why it’s so easy for him to wear his heart on his sleeve.
Steve hasn’t found that balance yet. The sweet spot between too much and not enough. There have been years of not enough for Steve. When he starts he just can’t stop himself from caring too much.
Steve’s heart is an old house, bullet holes in the sheetrock, cracks around the frames, grime smudging the corners. His heart is much like the house he lives in now – which hasn’t been a home since he was young – there are rooms frozen in time. The good memories are filed away in secret cabinets to be taken out and remembered at certain times, but always returned to their safe spots.
He hoards the memories that remind him he was loved once, before his mother died, just like he hoards Danny’s affection, his jokes, his presence in his life. Precious things like that need to be kept safe in Steve’s heart. Once they’re in, Steve slams the door behind them, locks it. Blocks the path with his fierce loyalty, his stubbornness and his dogged belief that now that he's been trained, now that he might be good enough, he can protect them.
Steve wants to try to be more open, the lock on his heart’s door isn’t rusted yet. It’s just that he wants to make Danny understand how important, how absolutely vital he is to Steve’s existence now, only he wants to do it in some seemingly normal way that doesn’t include barricading Danny in his house and writing “mine” all over his body with mouth and fingers.
So, Steve comes up with little outings for Danny and him, but never calls them “dates.” There are so many things on this island that Steve wants to show him, wants to experience again for the first time since his youth because revisiting those places with Danny – only with him – makes the ache squeezing his heart a little lighter.
In those places, Steve manages to freely open his doors, allows Danny VIP access to the hidden recesses of Steve McGarrett’s past, because he trusts him implicitly. And Danny seems to enjoy it, the smirks and jokes and the little tidbits about traditional Williams family recreational habits.
It’s that affirmation that grounds Steve. Danny accepts him, all of him, with his broken inner workings and for all that Danny complains about Steve’s methods, he hasn’t walked away yet.
Yet is still a terrifying possibility and Steve grapples with the creeping desperation of it every time Danny mentions that “this shit doesn’t happen in Jersey.”
Steve continually tries to convince Danny of Hawaii’s worth, of his worth, and maybe he’s smothering the guy, he doesn’t know, Steve sucks at this loving thing.
Two weeks after their trip to see the petroglyphs ended in absolute disaster – and Steve still hates that all the planning and cajoling it took to get Danny in casual wear and out amongst nature didn’t end how he hoped – Steve wants to try again. Having Danny all to himself, in the open wilderness with Danny’s hair blowing out of its well-sprayed state and the sun beaming off his grin, was intoxicating.
Steve’s already nervous because this new trip means something so much more than the mountainous trails above the Ka‘a‘awa Valley. He’d only been there once with her before she died, and he’ll never forget it till the day he joins her. This is private, something he’d only share with Danny and Steve hates how treacherous his heart is, doing this annoying THUD in his chest hoping Danny will say yes.
Danny looks up from his coffee, feet kicked up on his office desk, brows furrowed in cautious curiosity. “Are you trying to get me to go hiking again? Cause I gotta tell ya, man, that worked out spectacularly bad the last time.”
Steve tries to cover the twinge of disappointment. It’s not like he put the dead body up there on the ledge-face. “Oh c’mon, Danny. What are the odds of that happening again? It was a fluke. Besides, I thought you were having fun…up until, y'know…”
“Up until we found a dead body and you nearly fell off a mountainside face first?”
Steve huffs a self-deprecating laugh and rubs idly at the back of his neck. “Yeah, up until that exact moment.”
Danny leans back and his chair and considers him. “Yeah, well, okay up until that point, yes, I was enjoying myself."
Steve feels his face lightening up, grinning so hard his cheeks ache, heart beating like a bongo drum. “Okay then,” he says, rubbing his hands together and feeling just a tad giddy.
Danny smirks at this. “I didn’t say yes yet, partner. Where are you intent on dragging me?”
“Just…some place…” Steve wants to hold back on telling Danny, just surprise him on Saturday and pray that his partner didn’t think he was a sentimental sap, but whatever.
“Look,” he fumbles, throwing his hands out in supplication. “Can’t you just trust me?”
Danny tilts his head back, calculating half-lidded eyes seeming to look right through Steve. “As a partner, sure. On the subject of you picking our weekend outings, no.”
Steve’s mind trips over the “no” portion of the statement but his heart tackles the “our weekend outings” part. He honestly doesn’t know whether to be happy or insulted.
Feigning hurt usually helps. “Wow, Danny. That’s really nice. Thanks a lot for your vote of confidence,” he mutters, crossing his arms over his chest.
“Just going on past experiences, babe,” Danny smiles.
Steve’s getting antsy. Part of him knows Danny is screwing with him, and it’s thrilling and frightening to know another man has this much pull over him, but part of him just wants to get an answer too.
“Okay, you know what? Fine,” Steve, says, sighing. “It’s a place I went to with my mom right before she died. My dad and I, we had hiking up in the Ka’a’awa Valley. Me and my mom, we had this place.”
And just like that, the grin on Danny’s face evaporates and he agrees without another word.
When they arrive at the gates, the sun is dipping low on the horizon, orange, reds and purples setting the sky ablaze and making the gleaming white monuments glow like beacons on a sea of green. He’d arranged for special access after hours, because when you have immunity and means and the governor on speed dial, you use it.
Danny is suspiciously silent as they enter the grounds, the night guard nodding to Steve as they pass, the only sounds are the echoes of their footsteps on concrete. Marble markers stand like sentries as they move through the grounds, the whole air of reverence pressing on Steve and he finds his voice coming out in hushed tones.
He tells Danny of the history of Punchbowl and the cemetery, the monuments to World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and points out a few notable names along the way. Danny walks along beside him, his shoulder touching Steve’s every now and then and Steve finds himself moving closer so it happens more often.
Near a section of markers, Steve stops and looks down. This section is for the USS Arizona, and after a moment he sees his grandfather’s name etched into white, weathered stone.
“My mother brought me here when I was fourteen,” Steve starts, shocked that his voice is so rough, as though he hadn’t spoken in a year. “I thought it was lame at the time, my school had brought us here for field trips before.”
Danny speaks for the first time since they arrived, his tone unassuming. “Grace said she’s been with her class too. Said graveyards were creepy.”
Steve’s smiles wearily. “Yeah. My mom said she had something to show me, brought me to the site designated for those lost on the Arizona. They didn’t have name plates up yet, just a general section. She brought along one of my grandfather’s journals, read some portions of it.”
Steve glances at Danny. “Was kinda nice to hear his thoughts about being on the Arizona, his buddies, about the war… sorta like he was right here, chatting with me, y’know?”
Steve’s heart clenches like a vice when Danny answers him softly. “Yeah. I know.”
Steve clears his throat, blinks rapidly – because the wind is blowing, there’s probably dust, and he might have something in his eye – and searches through the markers again.
“That guy, Petty Officer Luke Monroe? He was my grandfather’s best buddy, according to my mom.” Steve feels a laugh bubble up from his chest and it nearly chokes him. “According to his journals, he and my grandfather nearly set fire to the mess hall trying to brew up a batch of jungle juice.”
Danny snorts. “Well that explains a lot. Being a trouble magnet is a family trait.”
And God, it feels good to share a laugh with this man beside him, to share his past with him, because Steve’s pretty sure this man is his present. Possibly his future. Before he can think about it, he steals his arm over Danny’s shoulders and pulls him flush against himself, tucked up into his side. Danny’s arm snakes around Steve’s back and rests there.
They stand there like that, Steve soaking up Danny’s presence as much as he can before the moment breaks and wishing that they could stay here - quiet, comforting - forever.
Steve realizes that he’d promise Danny forever right here and now, if only Danny could promise to always be at his side.
Danny throws a glance back toward the main gate, where the monument of Lady Colombia gazes peacefully over the slumbering heroes.
“Your dad is buried over there, right?”
Steve’s grip on Danny increases marginally as he looks over his partner’s head toward his father’s grave and nods.
Danny looks back at him, his face inscrutable and Steve so very much wants to learn how to decode this man’s mysteries.
Steve doesn’t have to say anything, not that he could because suddenly his throat closes in on itself and his eyes are burning.
In this place of endings, Steve can’t bear the thought of having to come back here to bury another piece of his heart, can’t fathom a day, a week, a year that he’d have to awaken knowing he wouldn’t have that easy smile, that New Jersey accent greeting him.
He wants to take this man and lock him away where he’ll be safe and sound and with Steve, always.
Danny’s features soften, the lines crinkling his eyes smooth out and Steve physically aches to touch more of him, all of him, everywhere, right now. But Danny reaches up and cups Steve’s cheek with his hand, gently pulling Steve down.
Heart in his throat, barriers completely fallen to ruin, Steve closes his eyes and breathes out a sigh that seems to start at his toes. His forehead rests against Danny’s, and this is good. This is as it should be. Danny is here with him, safe and sound and with him.
Steve feels Danny smile. “You goof. Stop trying so hard.” And then there are two thick arms around his neck, a broad chest crushed against his and a warmth overcoming him from the inside out. His face is buried in Danny’s neck, his partner’s words rumbling through his chest cavity. “I get it, okay?”
Steve chuckles softly, hands roaming over Danny’s shoulders and back, pulling him closer, always closer. “Okay,” he says finally, and maybe now he can finally understand it all.
Steve has loved and lost and been pushed away, built walls and doors and padlocks around his heart. But it doesn’t matter anymore.
Danny has the key.