Danny spends his childhood running through the homes of everyone he meets. He leaves crayon drawings on his mama's walls and dinosaur stickers on his daddy's doors. He fingerpaints on Bridgy's building blocks and rearranges the fuzzy blobs of Matty's stuffed animals until they make a pastel rainbow.
His favorite teacher is Miss Randall, and he draws lopsided hearts on her kitchen cabinets until the day he sees that she keeps a picture of Mister DeVris on her bedside table in a heart-shaped frame, and one in her bathroom, and two in her living room, and one in the kitchen. For a week after that, he pours juice onto Mister Devris' beige carpets and leaves drippy hand prints on his pristine walls, but they're always gone from one day to the other so he gives it up.
A few homes, Danny doesn't enter. The postman's doors are always stuck so he doesn't get to go inside, but he peeks through the windows and leaves dust drawings on the sills. Mrs. Teskill from across the street has a castle with a moat and thorn hedges and things that snarl, and Danny keeps well away from that one. Mister Bukovic two houses down has a trailer that looks harmless enough, but it smells weird and sometimes people scream inside. His ma gives him a funny look when he mentions that.
Danny's grandma always said a person's heart was their home. He doesn't understand she didn't mean that literally until he asks why she's taken Grandpa's picture down and she doesn't know what he's talking about.
Of course, by that time, it's already far too late.
Danny's life goes something like that:
He is 8 years old and his grandparents are getting divorced. His grandma moves in for a while and smiles and tells stories and bakes cookies and does all the other things a grandma is supposed to do, but her heart-home is empty and the windows don't close right and Danny aches aches aches for her but doesn't know how to make it better.
He is 17 and in love and puts pictures of himself into every corner of Martin Duke's tidy room, but they disappear and disappear and eventually he just... stops, and Martin goes on with his life and laughs and puts Danny in a headlock and never knows that... just never knows.
He is 25 and there are pictures of himself in Rachel's flat, pictures and handcuffs and a model police car, and he's so happy that he has two homes now, his and Rachel's, and he vows that this will never end; that one day, they'll share a home together and he'll tell her how well her rose-gold mirror goes with the pale blue of his bedroom walls, and that he loves her loves her loves her.
He is 29 and his pictures aren't gone, but they're face-down, turned towards the wall, and he knows she's had enough of him before she even tells him.
He is 31 and his own home is a shambles, a shack, a place no one would want to live, and he sighs and locks the place down tight and just... lets it be.
(He can usually tell what a person's home will look like just from meeting them. Meka's is airy and full of light and the clutter that comes with a family. Stan's is obnoxiously big and filled with empty rooms that echo when Danny steps through them, looking for reasons to hate him but finding nothing except fancy crown moldings and gilded door knobs.
Okay, yes, he can hate fancy crown moldings and gilded door knobs, but come on.)
When he meets McGarrett, Danny doesn't need to peek to know what his home will look like. It'll be some kind of naval vessel stuffed to the portholes with grenades and guns and mayhem, probably riddled with bullets because god knows that guy doesn't take care of himself. The single door will be spiked with sabers or whatever so that no one can enter, ever, and for good measure there will be a doormat designed to blow up whatever fool still steps close enough to knock.
It's entirely possible that Danny's holding a bit of a grudge over being dismissed, shanghaied, shot and assaulted, all by or because of the same guy, all over the course of the same day. Sue him. He knows that type. He's arrested that type.
But then McGarrett ruins all of Danny's tidy preconceptions by handing him tickets to a weekend to spend with Gracie in the lap of luxury, tickets Danny knows will have cost an obscene amount of money, and Danny is forced to take a look after all.
And the reality?
The reality is so much worse.
McGarrett's home looks a lot like the house his father was shot in, and okay, that makes sense. He probably grew up in there.
What doesn't make sense, at least not to Danny, is the state the thing is in. Or rather, the state it isn't in.
There's nothing. Not a photo, not a trinket, nothing. The walls are bare and, well, maybe not riddled with bullet holes, but Danny can hear the termites in there. The whole thing reeks of rot and mildew, though it's obsessively tidy, not a speck of dust around. The window frames have lost their paint. The glass is clean, but not a ray of sunlight makes its way inside. Danny ventures upstairs, steps creaking underneath, and finds a single cot shoved against the far wall of the master bedroom.
It's the saddest thing he's ever seen.
Not his problem, though. If one of these days, McGarrett cracks completely, Danny will at least be warned.
Still, as he makes his way back out, he stops for a moment to tape a postcard to the inside of McGarrett's door. A postcard that shows some annoyingly pretty waterfall framed by trees and bushes that Danny finds unbearably kitschy but that McGarrett, the big freak, might genuinely appreciate.
He doesn't mean anything by it, of course. It's just a dash of color in a faded house, and besides, it'll be gone the next time he comes around.
It's not gone the next time he comes around, storming in to see if there's an explanation, anything, for McGarrett's special brand of crazy before he's forced to kill the man.
The postcard is not gone; instead, it's somehow acquired a little frame and made its way to the wall next to the door.
Danny stares, and blinks, and doesn't know why his heart is suddenly beating double-time.
He takes an interest after that.
Just a bit of one, mind you, and only so he'll be warned in time for McGarrett's inevitable nervous breakdown. That man is a menace, just saying, and no one, no one who dangles criminals off rooftops and throws them to the sharks should be trusted, let alone befriended, and Danny would like to get out of the eventual implosion with all his limbs intact, thank you very much.
For all McGarrett keeps nagging Danny to make Hawai'i his home, McGarrett's heart-home stays remarkably unchanged. And it's not exactly an advertisement for emotional stability.
Or emotions in general.
Still, Danny watches, and so he notices when the cot in McGarrett's bedroom acquires a towel. A towel. A single towel, and what, what is this, some sad little orphan tale? Will the next thing to appear be a bowl of gruel or some worn-out shoes? A threadbare blanket? Is McGarrett trying to drive him nuts?
But again, deep breath, not Danny's problem. There's nothing he could do about it anyway. That postcard was a fluke, a freak occurrence, something that can't be repeated.
He just... he watches, is all.
(Gracie's room, because she's too young for a whole house, is an uncomplicated oasis that has “Danno” written all over it. Literally; the lopsided crayon scrawl appeared when Danny had moved to Hawai'i and Grace, ecstatic, had thrown herself into his arms. It has stayed ever since, silent evidence for his daughter's adoration, making the room a refuge whenever Danny needs a breather.
He's not the only thing in there, of course. Pink frills and pictures of Rachel are everywhere, and even one of her Step-Stan, much as Danny tries not to look at it. Her bedspreads feature rabbits of varying shapes and sizes, as does the wallpaper. Her stuffed animals are ridiculously oversized, and while the room doesn't smell like her, exactly, it nevertheless radiates such a... a Gracieness, that sometimes, it's all Danny can do not to cry.
It's the one good thing on this island that he will let himself have, and it's enough.
As long as he has this, he doesn't need anything else.)
And then Meka dies, and Steve... McGarrett... Steve takes Danny's word for the kind of guy that Meka was, and tells Danny he knows him, and shows up for support to Meka's wake, and together with all the other little things, all the tiny, crazy overtures of friendship, this is just too much.
Danny looks at him, all earnest in his dress uniform, and thinks of lonely homes with nothing in them but a cot and a towel, and mentally throws up his hands.
Okay, already. Uncle.
He gives up.
The first thing he tackles is the structural damage. Groundwater has seeped into the foundation, the termites are still happily eating the walls, and god only knows what the pipes are like.
Well, Danny knows, because they're pretty high up on his list. Steve brought a towel, after all; water is something he might want inside his home.
Not inside the foundation, though, and Danny spends a sleepless night pulling out the old, crusty pipes and putting in new ones and draining the fucking groundwater until the floor stops being so goddamn damp. He replaces rotten wood and redoes the wiring while he's at it, and thanks every deity he can think of that tomorrow? He will suffer from the aftereffects of insomnia, yes, but his muscles won't be screaming at him for a night of ruthless abuse.
Then he steps back and leaves things be for a few days, watching Steve for any sign of encroaching sanity and finding none. Which is to be expected, really, because Danny can walk through other peoples homes, but they never know he's there and his changes never stick. It's for the better, really, for all it's frustrating sometimes.
If he really had that kind of power, who knows what he might do?
Except apparently he has that kind of power, because the next time he drops by Steve's home – not his house, his home – after Steve had to kill one of his old Navy friends, the floors are still dry and the smell of mildew has subsided. There are new holes in the walls, mirroring the damage of Steve's outside house, and the termites are that much louder, but the foundation is sound and the pipes don't creak when Danny turns on the water in the – empty – bathroom.
He stands there, looking at the clear stream disappearing down the drain, and feels his brain run on and on and on without getting anywhere, like a hamster in a wheel. He doesn't get why this stuck. He doesn't know what it means. He doesn't want to be responsible for Steve McGarrett's mental health, because that way tears and madness lie.
He doesn't want Steve to feel this abandoned, this damaged, this alone.
He doesn't... he just... how is this even his life?
Danny hasn't been to Rachel's home in ages, didn't want to be, but that night he visits, puts a daisy in a vase and leaves it on the coffee table; a small change, meaningless.
The next day, it is gone.
He doesn't want this. He can't... Steve's a grown man. Danny can't just change him. Doesn't want to change him, god help him. The idiot is kind of growing on him. Danny wouldn't call him a friend, not yet, but the potential is there. Even he can see that.
Then Steve has to go and ruin his (small, very small) streak of Things Danny Approves Of and get along with Rachel, and oh, that is just... that's not okay. You don't get along with your partner's ex-wife who dragged him to this godforsaken island and made a hostage of his daughter. You just don't.
So Danny plasters Hannah Montana posters all over the walls of Steve's home in the vicious hope that he'll have those vapid songs stuck in his head for, oh, at least a day, but nothing. No humming, no whistling, no searching for tunes on the radio. Nothing. And when Danny goes to check, Steve's walls are bare again. The posters are gone.
And, just, what. What the hell is going on with this guy? Is it that he doesn't know Hannah Montana? Is it that he'll only allow changes he might make himself, if he were able? What, so Danny can fix and repair and put up a picture postcard, but he can't get his petty revenge?
Well, screw that. If Steve wants his home improved, he can just go and do it himself. Danny washes his hands of the whole thing.
Danny is done.
(Kono's home is a sandcastle, an actual sandcastle, huge and impossible and right at the edge of the waves, with turrets and seashell decorations and a surfboard in just about every room.
Chin's home, the one time Danny looks, after his reunion with Malia, is such a loving, beautiful thing that he almost stumbles in his haste to back away.
Places like this? They're not for people like him.)
Danny, of course, is not done. Danny goes back the second they have dealt with Victor Hesse's reappearance, because that expression on Steve's face, the withdrawn moments, the sheer misery he radiates?
Danny's got a radar for misery, okay? He's been there. He can't take it, not even when it's not himself.
He goes back, and the floor is damp again, and no, oh no, not a chance. Not when Steve has made all this progress, not when he has started to smile more honestly, not when he has begun to let them in. Not that Danny has been paying particular attention to all these things, because it's not like he's invested or anything, but he fixed that floor. That's his work that Steve is letting go to waste, and Danny won't have it.
So again with the floor. So out with the termites. So on with the new coat of paint, and in with the new light fixtures, and out with the fucking cot and in with a bed. A real one, with sheets and pillows and lumbar support. He gets the windows unstuck and lets in the fresh air. He sands off the kitchen cabinets and puts on new varnish. He hangs up a picture of a sailboat next to the framed postcard in the hall and puts a couch into the middle of the empty living room because damn it all, that's what you do with a living room, okay? You put a couch in it.
And then he calls it done, because if, after all this, if Steve still won't even try to fix himself?
There's nothing Danny can do to help him.
Steve's home stays unchanged for weeks after that. Danny doesn't check more than once every few days because he's not obsessing over this, he isn't. He's done all he could and he'll be there if Steve wants his help, of course he will, but he refuses to set himself up for disappointment.
At least the walls are structurally sound now and capable of actually bearing a load. That alone has to count for something. And maybe he's imagining it, but Steve has seemed a little calmer in the last few weeks. A little less likely to go off the rails. A little more balanced.
Danny's not saying he did that. But he's also not saying he didn't do that, right; he must have helped at least a little. All those renovations must have done Steve at least some good.
Then Steve's sister shows up, and leaves almost as suddenly as she appeared, and when she's gone Steve's fridge, the one inside his heart-home, sports a single magnet. It's a unicorn barfing up a rainbow.
Danny doesn't know why his eyes are suddenly burning, but he swallows a few times and the feeling disappears. To celebrate, he puts a side table into Steve's bedroom and hangs up a few curtains and finds he can't stop grinning the entire time he's busy.
He's so proud of Steve, he feels he could burst.
It's like a switch has been flipped after that. A tiny one, mind, but progress is progress however small the steps may be.
A couple of throw pillows appear on the couch, their pattern loud and cheerful and so much like one of Chin's garish shirts that Danny laughs out loud the first time he sees them. The living room also slowly gains a coffee table, a cabinet, and a stereo with a few CDs beside it that Danny vaguely recognizes from riding in Kono's car.
More things get added, bit by bit, a drawn-out filling up of empty spaces that Danny loves to watch. A french press in the kitchen. A desk in the study. A picture of Steve's father on that desk, black ribbon crossing the frame, making Danny ache for him. A shower curtain with dancing shrimp, and damn if that doesn't crack Danny up all over again.
The thing is, he never expected Steve to have a sense of humor. If he'd even thought about it, which he most emphatically did not, he never expected to care if Steve had a sense of humor. Or if Steve got enough sleep. Or if that clunker of a Marquis broke down yet again and Steve had a bad few days and the fucking termites are back in the walls. Or if Steve... anything, really.
He never expected to care about Steve, and now they're suddenly friends and Danny... he hates his life, okay? Hates it and revels in hating it; hating the island and its distance from New Jersey and the sand and never seeing his daughter enough and a job that hasn't been fun in a long time and everyone and everything around him.
And Steve won't let him.
Steve, with his boxes upon boxes in the attic that Danny threw one look at and then slowly backed away. Steve, with his issues and his insane ideas about how the world works. Steve, with his “book 'em, Danno” and “wanna come over for a beer” and “maybe you're not as alone here as you think.”
Steve, with his tattoos and his lopsided smile and his unexpected nerdy side and his, his...
Steve and his fucking everything.
Steve, who has Chin-pillows and Kono-music and a Kamekona-shower-curtain and even a crayon drawing on his fridge that can't stand for anyone but Gracie, held there by Mary's magnet, but nothing, nothing whatsoever in his entire fucking home that would even hint at Danny. Nothing at all, and it's... annoying, is what it is. Ungrateful, and as much as Danny loves watching Steve become a real boy, it still stings a bit.
No, scratch that, it smarts, okay? It fucking hurts. It's disappointing and ungrateful and, and disappointing and Danny has never done well with disappointment. And okay, maybe he's a bit upset about the way his brother, his own little brother just fucked him over and disappeared to fuck knows where, he knows that, but still. Still.
He sits on the little wall he's privately considered his place, staring out over the ocean as he tries and fails to get a grip on... anything. Everything. The situation. His fucking life.
Because being busy supporting Steve and patching over his broken places was never entirely selfless, was it? If Danny was occupied fixing another guy's problems, he wouldn't have to look too closely at his own. Only now Matt has turned out to be definitely not the guy Danny thought he was, and maybe Danny should have seen it earlier. Maybe he just missed the signs, missed all kinds of signs from all kinds of people, so busy hating everything around him that he never really gave anything a second glance.
And maybe, just maybe, he should stop doing that. He's living on borrowed time as it is; he should show a little of the self-awareness he demands from Steve all the time.
So he sits on the damn wall and stares at the damn ocean and takes a breath and braces himself and closes his eyes and...
And what the everloving fuck.
(Danny's home used to be a two-story affair, not overly large but certainly boisterous, not unlike him. It had a fireplace in the living room and the comfiest mattress known to man, and yeah, okay, Danny's a bit of a hedonist. He can admit that.
The point being, his home used to be great, vibrant facade and maybe a little messy inside but homely, nice, until Rachel took the wrecking ball to it and Danny ached just looking at it until he simply stopped looking.
Until he locked it down and let it be.)
Danny's home looks nothing like he remembers.
Danny's home has a porch now – it's a Jersey home, okay, he refuses to call it a lanai even if he strongly suspects it has an ocean view – with two chairs and a cooler sitting next to them. The front has been painted a cheerful yellow that, Danny suspects, might have the word “pineapple” in the name.
The kitchen has been rearranged; the fireplace is gone entirely. In its stead, a giant TV screen and, okay, that kind of works for him. Grace's presence is obvious in the stuffed monkey toy on the couch, the crayons on the kitchen table, the scrunchy on the bathroom sink. A miniature motorcycle stands on a shelf by the kitchen doorway; Meka's badge lies on a windowsill. Kono's memento is a bar of sex wax because of course it is, and Danny chuckles even as he looks around in amazement.
Everything is just about the way he wants it, just about perfect if he has to live in Hawai'i instead of a more civilized corner of the world, and yet there's not a single sign of Steve.
Not a single sign except right there, in the hall, hangs the tackiest painting of the Jersey skyline he has ever seen and Danny?
Danny is a giant idiot.
He finds Steve in a chair by the beach, beer in hand as he contemplates the waves. He looks pensive, and fucking beautiful, and there's an empty chair standing next to him like he's just waiting for Danny to join him. He looks around as Danny strides through the grass towards him, smiles a little and raises his beer in silent greeting before he tilts his head at the second chair.
Danny has no intention of sitting on that fucking chair.
Instead, he comes to stand in front of Steve, stares into Steve's stupid, puzzled eyes, searches for words, and finally just throws his hands up before he reaches out to grasp Steve's face as gently as he can. You're my foundation, he wants to say. You fixed me, he cannot say. You're in my fucking walls, just like I am in yours, he absolutely refuses to say because he might be a sap every now and again, but he isn't corny.
Steve blinks up at him for an endless moment before his expression clears in favor of the most breathtaking smile Danny has ever seen on him, joyful and utterly open. He opens his mouth as if to say something, but Danny's already leaning down, already closing his eyes – which are burning again, what the fuck – and bumping his lips to Steve's, gentle, like saying hello, I'm here, I'm home.
And Steve smiles and kisses back, as if he wants to answer, yeah, me too.
A week later, Steve gets airlifted off a fucking mountain with a broken arm and Danny is torn between yelling something Steve won't hear above the noise of the helicopter and knocking his head against a petroglyphed wall to maybe knock some sense into himself. This, this is his life now, running around after a crazy person. What the hell is the matter with him? Huh?
Then again, who does he think he's kidding?
He shakes his head at himself, resigned, amused, and gives in to the inevitable. Just... lets it be. And when Steve looks down, Danny smiles up at him and draws a heart in the air, just to see the dumbstruck expression on Steve's face. He'll draw another one on Steve's kitchen cabinet later, for old times' sake.
This is his life now, and he'll take it.