Danny sighs deeply as he strides through his front door. He tosses his soaking umbrella onto the floor and rips off his tie. The whole day had just been one disaster after another.
First he’d overslept and as a result had been late dropping the kids off at school, Gina had used the last of the coffee at work so everyone was uncaffeinated and cranky, and the evidence for one of their cases had been mislaid on it’s way to the lab. Then Mark had been shot in the arm as they tried to arrest one of the new batch of drug-smugglers who had risen up to try take over Moyle’s place now he was in prison, and the paperwork for that had kept them busy long into the evening. And to top it all off the dark clouds that had been lurking overhead all day started raining just in time to drench him as he ran from the car to his apartment.
At least now he was home, hopefully nothing else would go wrong and he could order some pizza, sprawl out on the couch and finally relax. Thank god the kids are at their mother’s tonight, that means there’s nobody to judge him as he makes his way to the drawer full of take-out menus in the kitchen.
He doesn’t even get halfway there before someone begins pounding on his front door. With a heartfelt groan he turns and retraces his steps. It better not be Mr. Harris from upstairs complaining about the heating again. He’s in complete agreement that it’s foolish to switch the building over to winter heating before the end of September, but he definitely doesn’t want to discuss it again. He wrenches the door open and stops dead.
It's not Mr. Harris.
He’s looking wet and tired, his typical uniform of cargo pants and t-shirt rumpled and creased, speaking of long hours spent travelling in cramped conditions. His hair is plastered to his forehead and rain is dripping off his clothes and collecting into a puddle on the floor. Despite his bedraggled state he’s still the most beautiful man Danny’s ever seen and he feels his heart skip a beat as he looks at him.
“Steven? What the hell are you doing here?” Danny demands. He figures the best defence is a good blustery offence and right now he’s completely off kilter.
“Hey Danno.” Steve says softly. “Can I come in?”
“You’ve never asked before, what’s stopping you now?” Danny demands.
“I was never unsure of my reception before.” Steve states, looking over Danny’s shoulder into the apartment.
“What’s going on Steven, did something happen? Is everyone ok?”
“No, it’s nothing like that. Everyone’s fine.” He hurries to reassure Danny. “It’s just, I… I needed to talk to you, and I didn’t want you to be able to hang up on me.”
Danny sighs and steps to the side, waving his arm to invite his former partner in. Then he makes his way to the bathroom and grabs a towel. He heads back to the entryway to find Steve still standing there looking uncertain and dripping on the carpet. Danny tosses the towel at his head and turns towards the kitchen.
“Coffee?” he calls out brusquely.
“Uh, what?” Steve sounds thoroughly confused, and Danny takes some petty satisfaction for derailing whatever script Steve had in his head about how this conversation was gonna go.
“Coffee, would you like some? It’s been a day from hell and if you need me to stay awake for longer than the next fifteen minutes I need caffeine. You look like you could do with some too.”
“Um… yes please.” Steve responds, slightly muffled by the towel over his head as as he attempts to dry his hair.
Danny takes the few minutes while the coffee’s brewing to collect himself. He’d honestly never expected to see Steve again after the disaster of their last meeting. He’s not sure what it portends that Steve is here now, but he kind of hates that he’s so pathetically pleased to see him. He pours the coffee into two mugs and makes his way back to the living room to find Steve pacing nervously back and forth.
“Stop that, you’ll wear a hole in the carpet,” he grouses.
Steve startles, and something must be really wrong if he’s so out of it he hadn’t heard Danny approach. He accepts the mug Danny holds out to him (no sugar, one lump of butter) and curls his hands around it carefully. He lowers his head to inhale the steam and Danny steals the opportunity to check him over. He’s looking better than when they last met. He’s lost the gaunt and sickly look and he’s put on a bit of weight. The pinched look of tension is gone from his face as well and the line of his shoulders seems much more relaxed. Seeing the visual evidence of Steve’s improving health Danny feels some of the worry he’s been carrying around since the summer start to lessen.
Danny takes a sip of his own coffee and when Steve doesn’t seem like he’s going to say anything he spreads his arms wide and remarks, “Alright, what’s so damned important you had to fly five thousand miles to talk to me about?”
Steve straightens, swallows, and puts on his I-will-complete-this-mission-no-matter-the-cost face, the one he normally wore when Danny refused to do his paperwork for him. “I need to apologize.” Steve says, twisting his hands around his mug nervously. “You were right, I have abandonment issues.” Danny snorts and Steve glares at him. “And that may have influenced my behavior the last time we talked.”
Danny raises an eyebrow as if to say really? And Steve has the grace to look embarrassed.
“When you saw me at the wedding I… I wasn’t doing well, I hadn’t been for a long time. And I understand now that you needed to look after yourself first, but the amount of crap I’d been carrying around all the way back to Doris’ ‘death’, and then all the uncertainty and fear of the transplant on top of that had blinded me to anything but my own pain, my own misery. Watching you leave was just the final straw.”
“Steven…” Danny starts.
“No, let me speak. You got your chance to talk, this is mine.”
He pauses and looks Danny straight in the eyes. “When you left I called you a coward. But it was me who was the coward, and I'm sorry it took me so long to realize it. I can see now how unfair I was being to you that last year, to our friendship, but I just couldn’t seem to stop. I was so afraid of you seeing how broken I was that I kept pushing you away. I kept you from trying to help me because that would have meant admitting that I needed help, and I couldn’t bear the thought of being so weak.”
And it's exactly what Danny thought was happening, but hearing Steve admit it breaks his heart a little. This man deserves so much better than what life has given him. “It’s never weakness to admit you need help babe.”
“I know. I just…” He laughs a little sadly, “I just couldn’t do it.” He stops and touches his hand to his stomach where the scar is hidden beneath his shirt, and Danny feels a phantom ache in his own. “I was so angry at all the people that had left me, and I was so angry about all the shit that kept happening to me, and I took that anger out on the one person who least deserved it.”
And Danny could make some snarky comment about how of course he hadn’t deserved it, but Steve looks so contrite that he can’t find it in him. It’s all he’d wanted; for Steve to realize that neither one of them deserved all the blame for how bad things had become and now he’s finally reached that point Danny can’t find it in him to be anything but sympathetic. He knows how hard it was to acknowledge his own part in the destruction of their friendship.
“And then after the transplant I was even more afraid,” Steve admits quietly. “I was afraid of how easily you could just give away a part of yourself and ask for nothing in return. I was terrified of what that said about me that you thought I was worthy of such a sacrifice, even after I treated you so badly.”
“Steven…” Danny can't quite give voice to the maelstrom of thoughts swirling around in his head. He wants to say it’s ok, that he understands, that he's never blamed Steve for not feeling the same way but he can’t find the words.
“No,” Steve places his cup on the coffee table and turns to face Danny straight-on. “You've been the brave one all this time and the least I can do is be brave about this in return. I love you Danny. I have since you punched me in front of all those cops outside Doran’s house. I was just too afraid to admit it, even to myself. But you were the first person who refused to put up with my shit, the first person to call me out when I was being a jerk, and the first person to care enough about me to force yourself into my life and give me the family that I craved.”
And right there Danny feels the broken pieces of his heart come to life again.
“And I made it so hard for you.” Steve continues, “I kept pushing you away. I told myself I was doing it to keep myself safe, to protect my heart for when you finally left like everyone else. But when you finally did it didn’t help a damn bit, it still felt like my world had ended. I put up these walls to protect myself and all they did was drive you away, the one person who would have stayed no matter what.
Danny opens his mouth to respond but Steve forestalls him with a gesture.
“And I'm sorry I couldn't say it three months ago but I was just so twisted up inside. I hated seeing you so happy at the wedding, living a life without me. You know I lash out when I’m hurting, and I just couldn’t accept that I might have screwed up the thing I wanted most in the world. Those were the words I’d been longing to hear for six years, and yet when you finally said them to me all I could hear was that I’d failed you. I threw you out because I couldn’t face the thought that you could still cared for me after the way I’d treated you. I was ashamed of my behavior, and I couldn't accept that I deserved your love.”
“So I took your advice and I got help.” Steve continues with more confidence. “I’ve been seeing a psychiatrist who specializes in counselling veterans with medical issues and I’ve found a PTSD support group to deal with some of the other crap I’ve been carrying around from my time with the SEALS. I mean... I absolutely hate it... talking about my emotions the whole time, you’d probably laugh your ass off if you could see me. But like you said, I had to fix myself before I could think about fixing us.”
He drops his eyes to the carpet, “I knew I needed to be strong enough to survive if you turned me away tonight.” He confesses quietly. “Because I came here to apologize, but I also have to know. After everything we’ve said, everything that’s happened, do you think there’s still a chance for us? Even just as friends?”
Steve raises his gaze to Danny’s, holding his breath, and in his eyes Danny can see the same heady mixture of terror and hope that he himself is feeling.
“Oh babe,” Danny whispers, “I tried to get over you, but when have you ever made anything easy for me. I loved you even when we hated each other, even when there was five thousand miles between us. It's always just been you.”
Steve exhales “Oh thank god.” Then he's striding forward and gently cupping Danny's cheek. “I've been waiting to do this forever,” he whispers as he gently leans forward and presses their lips together.
It’s everything Danny had ever hoped for. Steve’s lips are soft and he kisses like Danny is something precious, like he can’t believe he’s finally allowed to do this after so long wanting it. Danny moves to deepen this kiss and Steve parts his lips so sweetly, so eagerly. And really, how can Danny resist an invitation like that? He slips his tongue inside Steve’s mouth and the kiss quickly turns hotter and more frantic. After a few more breathless moments Danny pulls back, nipping at Steve’s lower lip as he goes, and Steve lets out a groan.
He leans down to rest his forehead against Danny’s and they stay like that for a long moment, breathing deeply. “Just so you know,” he mutters, “now I know what it’s like to kiss you, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to stop. And I don’t care if you come back to Oahu, or if I have to move here to make it work, I just can’t bear to live without you. I did it once, and it almost killed me, I’m not letting go of you again.”
He places his hand on Danny’s stomach, gently resting it over the scar there. “You saved me Danny, so many times. Now I want to spend the rest of my life letting you know just how grateful I am.”
“Oh babe,” Danny replies, his heart full to bursting. “After everything it took to get us here I’m not gonna let go of you either.”
Despite the pounding rain of the night before the morning is turning out unseasonably warm. Gina curses the office’s ancient air conditioner as she wrenches open the window in hopes of a breeze. As she turns back to her desk she’s stopped by the voices she hears floating up from outside.
“Let go you animal, I’m late for work as it is…”
“No, no, no. Do not pull the puppy dog eyes on me. I have kids, I’m immune.”
It’s the Chief, and another voice she doesn’t recognize. She leans out the window and looks down. They're standing just around the side of the building, out of sight of the people coming and going from the main entrance. The Chief’s friend is tall and dark haired but the way he's standing she can't make out his face. He's built though, the shirt he's wearing is pulled tight across his chest and biceps. Wait… isn't that one of the Chief’s shirts? She thinks she recognises the bullet hole through the sleeve. Interesting...
“I told you I have to go to work today,” her boss continues. “But I'll be home for dinner. I'm sure you can find something to do in this city to keep you occupied until then.
“I know how I'd like to keep myself occupied…”
The other man leans forward and whispers something into the Chief’s ear. Gina has no idea what he says but judging from the way the Chief blushes right to his hairline she's prepared to bet it was filthy.
“God, you can’t say things like that to me in public…” the Chief protests weakly.
“We could go back to your place. That's nice and private…”
“No, I have to get to work… If I don't show up soon my team is gonna start wondering where I am and come looking. And if they figure out you’re in town they’ll want to meet you and then we’ll have to go out and be social tonight, instead of staying in and trying out that little idea you just shared with me. And I'm pretty sure you don't actually want that.”
The man’s shoulders slump. “You’re right.”
“I’ll tell you what babe, if it's slow today I'll send everybody home early. Deal?”
That must work for the man cause he reaches forward and pulls the Chief in for a scorching kiss that makes Gina’s toes curl. Then they pull apart and head towards the entrance. As they do Gina finally gets a good look at the man’s face. It seems strangely familiar, but they’ve disappeared round the front of the building before she can work out where she’s seen him before.
Gina saunters back to her desk and roots out the office furniture catalogue from the bottom drawer. If the Chief wants her to keep this quiet from the rest of the team he’s gonna owe her a new chair at least. Something with lumbar support. She spins back and forth as she peruses the options. Watching as the Chief makes his appearance from the corner of her eye. Finally, decision made, she strides across the office and knocks on the Chief’s door.
He's sitting behind his desk working his way through a pile of administrivia forms that make Gina glad once again that she's not the boss. She hates paperwork.
“So boss, a little bird told me that you're hoping for a quiet day today.”
He looks up at her, suspicion written all over his features. “What makes you think that?”
“Just a little conversation I heard outside this morning…” She lets her eyes wander around the office and suddenly freezes. That's the man! He’s in a photo of the Chief’s old team from Hawaii. He’s in the middle of the group standing next to her boss with an arm around his shoulders and a wide grin upon his face. It’s her boss’ old partner, the one he always brings up when any of his new team get it into their heads to toss due process out the window. Suddenly a lot of pieces fall into place.
The Chief sees the direction of her gaze and chuckles. “So what exactly was your plan? That you’d come in here and try to blackmail me into an afternoon off in order to protect my secret boyfriend? The one that’s an ex-navy SEAL, who can kill a person with nothing more than a paperclip, the same one who would be very disappointed to have to adjust our plans for the evening? Is that it?”
Gina shakes her head furiously. “Not at all. I, uh, just wanted to let you know I restocked the coffee supplies this morning.”
“I see.” He grins. “If that’s all then I’d like to get back to this paperwork. I don’t want to have to stay late in order to get it all done.” He remarks pointedly.
“Got it boss.” She tosses over her shoulder as she spins on her heel and walks out. After a moment she pokes her head back around the doorway. “So... does he have any siblings?”
“Go away!” he yells, but there’s laughter in his voice.
Gina smiles to herself as she heads back to her desk. Her boss is a good man, he deserves all the happiness he can get.