Danny has his hand on the Camaro when the lightning hits him.
That's what sticks with him later. That he had his hand on the Camaro and maybe that's why things changed the way they did. Or maybe the Camaro had nothing to do with it. Hell, maybe the lightning had nothing to do with it. Maybe Danny just... caught a bug or something.
But he thinks it was the lightning, and his hand on the Camaro. The sudden flash and the absurd feeling of being licked by a giant tongue, immediately followed by the far less absurd feeling of lying in the wet dirt and blinking up at the sky. Danny knows that feeling from personal experience.
It's afterwards, though, once he's picked himself off the ground and staggered into the driver's seat. When all he gets is a click as he turns the key and he bangs his head against the headrest a few times before he puts his hand on the key once more and says, "Come on, work with me here." It's when his head hurts and his skin tingles and the key turns and so does the motor, turns over easy as that, like it never made any trouble in the first place.
That's the first time. And so, yeah, probably the lightning's fault.
The lightning, and Danny's hand on the Camaro.
He chalks up the car thing to coincidence, of course. His one stroke of luck on a shitty day. In fact, he kind of forgets about it. Doesn't give it another thought, not even when he drops onto the couch some hours later and picks up the remote on autopilot and turns the TV to the first game he finds. Not even when, half an hour later, he remembers that the TV died a sad and sudden death four days ago. Maybe it spontaneously recovered. Technology can be weird that way.
So no, it's not the TV that clues him in. Neither is it the way his rickety old lawnmower roars to life on the first try for once and powers forward like it just rolled off the assembly line.
It's the coffeemaker.
Danny's overslept. He still feels a bit jittery, but his heart is pumping okay and the skin on his arm is only a little reddened in patches, so he foregoes the doctor. It's probably not his best idea, but if Steve finds out that Danny got struck by lightning (and he will find out; the moment it goes into Danny's medical file, Steve will know), there's no telling how he'll react. This is why Danny rushes through his morning routine and briefly mourns the loss of Steve's french-press coffee as he hurries up the steps to the office because no matter the grinds they put into it, their office coffeemaker sucks.
Chin greets him with a raised eyebrow and a pointed sip from his disposable cup. Danny flips him off and Chin snorts, because Chin's sense of humor is a warped and twisted thing.
"You okay, brah?" Kono asks, looking entirely too awake this early on a Monday.
"Tell me you made coffee," Danny begs.
Kono scoffs. "On that thing? If I want paint stripper, sure."
At least Steve's not there yet to witness Danny's sorry state.
Wait. Why isn't Steve there yet?
"Hold that thought," Danny says, and pulls his phone from his pocket. Sure enough, there's a text from Steve.
Gonna be late, it says. No explanation, no ETA. Danny debates calling him, but decides to give it another half-hour in case Steve's day started out as bad as Danny's did.
"All right," he sighs. "What's one more ulcer to a law enforcement officer?"
Only... that's not how it turns out. Danny fills the coffeemaker, switches it on, and then he briefly rests his forehead against it, eyes closed, and mumbles, "Just... coffee, okay? A decent cup of coffee. That's all I ask. Can you do that for me, huh?"
And something in his brain kind of twitches, the weirdest sensation, there and gone.
And the coffeemaker spits out the best coffee Danny has ever had.
And that? That makes him wonder, finally, if something's going on here.
Steve rolls into the office twenty minutes later, looking gloomy and upset in a way that Danny, sadly, has become far too familiar with.
"The Marquis?" he asks.
"She keeps spitting out oily exhaust," Steve says despondently. It's amazing how such a bulky guy can look like a little kid when he's frustrated. "No matter what I do, it's just clouds of black smoke. Kind of like you."
"The negativity thing." Danny nods. "You're a funny guy."
"If I may interrupt," Chin says, holding up his phone, "Duke just called. They got something for us over in Waikiki."
"Why didn't he call me?" Steve asks, using two fingers to fish his own phone from his pocket.
"He said he couldn't reach you."
"But I..." Steve pokes at his phone, lightly at first, then harder, scowling when nothing happens. "It's dead."
"Probably the battery again," Danny says, because Steve's had to replace it twice already. "Can I see it?"
His heart is pounding as Steve slaps the phone into his palm with a resounding smack. This isn't going to work, he tells himself as he makes a show of popping off the back cover and pulling out the battery, because what he's thinking is crazy and has no way of working. He rubs the battery against his leg, plastic sliding over fabric, and ignores Steve's doubtful expression as he clutches the phone with his other hand and concentrates on thinking, you gotta do your job, all right? The goof can't call for backup if you're not working and I need him to be safe.
He gets that weird, twitchy feeling in his brain again as he reinserts the battery and slides the cover back on. There's the vague sense of a loose connection righting itself somewhere inside the phone. Danny pushes the on-button.
Steve's phone gives a pleasant little chime.
Usually, the way Steve's mouth drops open would be enough to carry Danny through the day. It looks phenomenally stupid. But Danny's a little preoccupied trying not to show that he's quietly, privately, freaking out.
"Nice work," Kono says with a pat to Danny's arm. "Now can we go?"
"Sure," Danny says, and thinks, a little hysterically, I think I have superpowers.
Or maybe the lightning put him into a coma. Danny almost laughs when he realizes that would be the more comforting option.
The case in Waikiki, for all it looks suspicious, turns out to be less of a murder and more of a clumsily self-administered overdose. The dead guy gets sent to the morgue, the remains of the drug get sent to the lab, and Danny sends himself to Steve's for a couple of beers and one final test before he lets himself believe that he can do... stuff.
"Hey, you mind if I hit the shower?" Steve asks.
"You can hit the ocean if you want," Danny says, because Steve has been somewhat mopey all day and maybe the water will cheer him up. "I can occupy myself for half an hour."
"You sure?" Steve asks. He's a good host, even when it's just Danny, but sometimes friendship means letting your partner splash around in the Pacific for a while.
"I'm sure, go ahead," Danny waves at the glittering expanse of water, "do your thing. Channel your inner fish."
"I prefer to channel my outer SEAL," Steve says with a grin, the goof, and with a brief clap to Danny's shoulder, off he goes.
Leaving Danny with plenty of time to find out if he's losing his mind.
The garage is cool and a little musty, the Marquis safe under its cover. Danny has to admit that he doesn't get cars. Growing up part of the Williams clan means he can do an oil change and knows where to get decent parts for a cheap price, but in his family, that much is the expected bare minimum. And the Camaro is nice, sure, but he wouldn't spend an afternoon carefully washing it by hand. If something breaks, there are plenty of mechanics in Honolulu who make a living taking care of those things.
Steve, though, Steve likes to tinker. He likes to build things with his hands, and this car in particular means something to him. Danny will never understand how a clunky piece of old metal could be so important to someone. He treasures people and memories, not things. But for all Danny's ribbing and his conviction that there have to be better things for Steve to remember his dad by than this gas-guzzling disaster, Steve's disappointment whenever the thing breaks down still tugs at his heartstrings.
Doesn't mean he'll stop ribbing, though.
He plucks the cover off the hood and lays his palm flat on the metal.
"Okay," he mutters, "now what's wrong with you, huh?"
A moment later, he knows without any idea where that knowledge comes from. Knows that the fan belt could do with some tightening. Knows that the line from the cooling water tank is brittle. Knows that there's a hairline fracture in the engine block that allows oil to seep into the gas when the motor is warm.
He knows all these things, and he knows that if he asks nicely, they will somehow fix themselves.
He asks. Very nicely. A feeling like he's about to sneeze comes and passes, and then he's standing there in an empty garage with his hand leaving a greasy print on the hood of Steve's carefully-polished car, like a total schmuck.
He gives the hood an awkward pat.
"You keep him safe now, you hear?" He feels stupid as he says it, but he can't help himself. With Steve's talent for getting into trouble, Danny figures the guy needs all the assistance he can get.
He pulls the cover back down and makes his escape out to the lanai.
They spend a nice evening there, he and Steve. The water really did work wonders, and the jokes get sillier the longer they nurse their beers.
Danny would never admit it, but it's times like this, with the smells of ocean and flowers and barbecue in his nose and Steve's voice in his ears, that he truly feels at home. Not in his house; not with the TV on low and his kids sleeping down the hall. It's here, on this stupid beach, in this stupid chair, with this stupid guy sitting next to him.
Crazy. His brain is crazy. It's not the lightning that messed him up, it's this entire island.
Then the sun sets and Steve brings out his guitar, studiously not looking at Danny as he plucks and hums and plucks some more, like this is a private moment but Danny's presence doesn't count. Like Danny's presence is a given, not a disruption, and Danny?
Danny loves this guy so much it hurts.
"Can you pick me up tomorrow?" he asks, feigning nonchalance. "It's inspection time for the Camaro."
It's not. Not yet, anyway. But Danny can pay a mechanic two months early if that gets him what he wants.
"Sure," Steve says. "But you make the coffee. I don't know what you did, but it actually tasted decent today."
"Trade secret," Danny says, because it's either that or 'I controlled the coffeemaker with my mind.'
"Uh huh," Steve says with a fond eyeroll. "Tomorrow then."
"Tomorrow," Danny echoes, and pretends it doesn't kill him a little to leave.
Like Danny half-hoped and half-dreaded, Steve shows up in the Marquis. He looks like the personification of smugness as he waits for Danny to get into the passenger seat.
"Why do you do this to me?" Danny asks because it's expected of him. He can't freak out now. If he gives any sign that he's freaking out, Steve will keep prodding until Danny spills the whole stupid story, lightning strike and all, and then Steve will lose his shit.
"Why do I give you the privilege of riding in a flawless classic?" Steve pretends to think about it. "I don't know, Danny, maybe I like your talent for light conversation."
"Goof," Danny says, but it comes out far too affectionate so Steve just grins. "When this heap breaks down, I'm not going to help you push."
"She won't break down," Steve says.
The Marquis proves him right about that.
"Looks like the pumpkin has finally turned into a car," Danny says as they pull up in front of HQ. His heart is pounding.
"Looks like," Steve agrees, and Danny would let himself be struck by lightning a dozen times over for the expression of uncomplicated delight on Steve's face.
He explores his... power? His gift? This freakish thing that he can do? What does he even call something like that? Who does he tell about something like that? He kind of wants to tell Steve about his lightning-induced... affinity? Affinity sounds less dumb than superpower; he can go with that. He wants to tell Steve about his affinity, but a lifetime of watching movies makes him think about sterile labs and horrific experiments and gives him nightmares about being locked up in a top secret Navy research division. It's stupid, he knows it's stupid. If there's anyone in this world he can trust to keep his secrets, it's Steve. But knowing, rationally, that he's being an idiot and working up the guts to do something about it are two very different things, so he keeps his head down and his mouth shut.
In the meantime, he explores his affinity to figure out its boundaries. Turns out that if a thing has wires or moving parts, he can kind of talk to it. He can un-jam the office printer, fix the external hard drive that stores Grace's precious files of some TV show Danny's never even heard of, and stop Kono's fountain pen, inherited from a well-meaning uncle who seems to have only the foggiest concept of Kono's job, from leaking all over the place.
He can't convince his laptop to uninstall Cortana, talk the spilled coffee into leaving his shirt and hopping back into the mug, or stop his Enemy Mine DVD from doing that annoying freeze-skip during the Mickey Mouse dialogue.
Basically, Danny's affinity for technology is less scary than he thought. It's also, as far as his job is concerned, of no practical use.
So he finds a practical use for it.
It's not that Danny has a habit of fixating on his issues. Except he does; he fixates and blows things out of proportion and pursues his goals with a sort of tunnel vision that might worry him if he had any attention left to spare.
It's just... Steve's gun sometimes jams when it gets too hot. Their firefights hardly ever last long enough for this to become an issue, but 'hardly ever' isn't the same as 'never.' Danny's been trying to make him get a replacement for years, but Steve's weirdly attached to this particular piece. Now, when Steve gets a call in the middle of cleaning it and walks out of the room, Danny seizes the chance to touch every part of that gun, sternly telling it to work like it's supposed to and keep Steve safe.
And Chin's bike has been running less than smoothly. Probably dirt particles in the gas, Chin said, sighing as he added that he tried everything short of taking the whole engine apart, so that'd be his weekend sorted out. Danny spends his lunch break outside and casually reminds the bike that it's not supposed to jerk and stutter. Stop that, please, and keep Chin safe.
Kono's laptop when its connection to their server gets too slow. Lou's emergency sat phone. Jerry's ridiculous collection of USB sticks. The funny little GPS gadget Adam likes to take along on hikes. Grace's fitbit. The cooking station in Kamekona's truck. Hell, even Kawika's diving equipment.
Be better, he tells them. Work faster. Stay reliable.
Keep them safe.
More than a week goes by and the red marks on Danny's arm have almost faded completely. A few more days and he might even wear a t-shirt for a change. Just as well; Steve's been eyeing him in that way he has when he's plotting how to get the prissy mainlander to relax, so Danny sees surfing in his immediate future.
For now, though, there's a case to focus on. Someone tried to kidnap the son of one of Governor Māhoe's main campaign contributors, and while the boy has been whisked off to Europe for a fun holiday featuring old castles and a gaggle of bodyguards, Five-0 is under orders to find the would-be perps.
Which is, of course, when Steve goes missing.
Danny has this thing, okay, where he needs to know the location of the important people in his life, preferably every minute of every day. After the past few years, he thinks he can be excused for getting twitchy. Luckily for him, Steve has his own thing where he likes to indulge Danny's more rational fears, though he can't resist mocking him for it.
So with Steve five minutes late and no text from him, Danny sits a little straighter at his desk and taps his finger on his silent phone. Ten minutes, and Danny's call goes straight to voicemail. Fifteen minutes, and Danny tells Jerry to check Steve's GPS signal. Twenty minutes, and Kono is going through traffic cameras, Chin is calling Hickam to see if they ordered Steve in, and Lou checks with HPD if anyone has called them about anything that might be even vaguely related to Steve. Twenty-five minutes, and they know that Steve took the Marquis that morning, that he and his car vanished from the footage almost an hour before Danny called him, and that neither the Navy nor HPD have any clue about Commander McGarrett's whereabouts.
Thirty minutes, and Chin and Kono are on their way to Steve's house, Lou is back on the phone, Jerry is doing god knows what on the internet and Danny...
Danny is back in his office, quietly losing his mind. His laptop is open, showing their current investigation because maybe there's a connection, but all he can think about is Steve, out god knows where with god knows what being done to him. The images refuse to leave his mind: Steve, bruised and bleeding in the back of a truck in North Korea. On a gurney in Afghanistan. Sprawled across a basement floor, the groove left by a bullet that barely missed his brain bleeding sluggishly at his temple.
Breathe, he tells himself. Think. You're a detective, figure this out!
If only there was something he could do. He scratches absently at his arm, stares at the images on the laptop screen without really seeing them. Of course he'd end up with the most useless superpower in the world. What good is fixing Steve's gun if Steve can't use it? What if some bad guy uses Steve's gun to-
No, he thinks, vicious, scared, no, no way, you keep him safe, you hear?
Something tickles at the back of his brain, not quite a headache. Something almost like a whisper.
Keep him safe, Danny thinks again, more purposeful, trying to give the thought direction and it's weird, the order echoing in his head like he's shouting into a vast auditorium, screaming at silent spectators. All of you, keep him safe.
For a long moment, he's left with nothing but the fading reverberations of a desperate command. Then the audience breathes in, all at once, with a roaring, hissing sound that fills Danny's brain with static. He moans, warm liquid dripping down his upper lip as the audience says, YES.
He's dimly aware of sliding out of his chair.
He's unconscious before he hits the floor.
Steve's day started off pretty decent.
The Marquis stopped spitting out oily exhaust so he's been taking the old girl out a lot. He has no idea why she's suddenly running so well, but Chin's bike apparently fixed itself as well, so Steve's prepared to let it slide. Engines can be temperamental sometimes.
So after a good morning swim and his first cup of coffee – not as good as whatever magical brew Danny's been concocting at the office lately – he slid into the driver's seat and gave a small, happy grin at the Marquis' throaty rumble. He pulled out into the sunshine, ready to face the day.
Things went downhill from there.
They pulled the classic car-broke-down-at-the-side-of-the-road trick. Steve could kick himself for falling for that. But the kid waving helplessly reminded Steve of Nahele, and by the time he realized they weren't alone, well. Being kidnapped in his own car is humiliating and that's all he's going to say about that.
After over an hour of crawling through a labyrinth of overgrown back roads, greenery scratching along the Marquis' side and the shocks creaking unhappily at every pothole, they pulled up in front of a shack that had definitely seen better days. The door was hanging crooked, all traces of paint long gone, and Steve didn't think those guys had brought him there to keep him for ransom.
Now here he stands, hands raised as one goon points Steve's own gun at him while another stomps on Steve's phone, shattering the display and bending the casing. A third guy is busy leafing through Steve's wallet and the kid is playing nervously with the keys to the Marquis. They all look similar enough to be brothers, dark-haired Caucasians with a vaguely Asian slant to their features. Russian ancestry, maybe.
"Well, Commander," the one with Steve's gun says, "time to say goodbye."
Which is such a bad villain line, Danny would have scoffed if he were here.
Thank god Danny isn't here.
"Aren't you going to tell me what this is about?" Steve asks, though he can guess. Not many cases involving kidnappers these last few weeks.
"Nah," the guy says with a grin.
Steve inhales, hopes Danny won't be the one to find him. Knows better.
The guy pulls the trigger.
At the same moment, the broken phone on the ground vibrates, long and loud, like it's trying to literally buzz off.
With the one guy frowning at the gun in his hand and two more staring at the phone like it might jump up and bite them, Steve moves. The guy closest to him is the one with his wallet. Steve takes him out with an elbow to the throat. He lets the wallet drop to the ground as the guy goes down, choking and clutching at his neck, and goes straight for the second guy. The phone-stomper. His first punch is blocked, but the second and third land easily and Steve takes great satisfaction in meeting the guy's chin with his knee on the way down.
The guy with the gun has been pulling the trigger several times, growing more and more frantic. His eyes are wide as Steve moves towards him. Panicked, he turns the gun to check down the barrel.
The gun fires.
The guy howls. Steve skids to a stop, staring at the bloody mess where the guy's cheekbone used to be. The guy has dropped Steve's gun and is doubled over, whining and bleeding, fingers twisting in the air in front of his ruined face, not daring to touch.
What the hell?
"Don't move!" The voice is high and shaky, full of fear.
Steve holds his hands out to his sides, slowly turning his head. The kid stands a good fifteen feet away, battered gun pointed at Steve.
"What the fuck, man!?" the kid demands, shifting from foot to foot.
"Listen," Steve begins.
The revving of an engine interrupts him.
The kid keeps the gun on Steve but takes his eyes off him to look towards the noise. Steve calculates his move – run, stay low, disarm, disable – legs tensing to jump into a sprint as the kid cries out, jerks his gun around, fires off a single wild shot.
The Marquis plows into him like a tank into a sapling. The kid lands on his back and lies still.
Steve stands, staring open-mouthed at his father's car, heart racing. The motor runs smoothly, the deep bass of a time when mufflers were a distant afterthought. A blue cloud of exhaust spreads gently from the rear.
There's nobody behind the wheel.
"… Christine?" Steve asks dumbly. It's the only thing he can think of; Danny loves to make him watch that movie.
The Marquis just sits there, perfectly inanimate, and whoever ran over the kid must have legged it... in the split second when Steve wasn't looking. He closes his mouth, swallows.
The car drove itself.
No. That's ridiculous. Still, he backs away slowly, keeping his eyes on the Marquis as he bends down to pick up his wallet. Another few steps and there's his phone, the casing chipped and splintered under his fingers, the display cracked and missing a corner. For all that, it's not as badly bent as Steve thought.
The Marquis' engine falls silent, like the car is trying to reassure him it's not going to take him out next. Steve keeps looking at it for a long moment before he chances a glance at his phone.
It informs him, in off-colored pixels, that he has several new messages. Probably Danny, working himself into a low-key panic. Steve should call him. He jumps when it starts to ring.
"Chin," he says, not waiting for the greeting, "I need HPD at my location." He takes in the weeping guy on the ground, still bleeding, and the kid with his empty eyes wide open. "Three injured, one dead."
"I'll inform dispatch." Chin's voice has an odd undertone. Steve, having just knelt down to see if the guy he elbowed into the throat is still alive, straightens. "Steve."
"Where's Danny?" Steve asks, his gut filling with dread because Danny should have been the one to keep trying to call him even when Steve's phone was off.
"Queen's," Chin says, voice clipped. "He collapsed in his office. We don't know why."
"On my way," Steve says and disconnects the call, kidnappers suddenly unimportant.
If Danny's at the hospital, then Steve needs to be there.
Murder car be damned.
It takes him some time to make his way out of the maze of back roads. He waves briefly at the squad cars that pass him, lights flashing, followed by two ambulances.
The Marquis goes wherever he steers it, meek as a two-ton lamb.
Steve strides into the waiting area at the Queen's ER to find Lou already waiting for him.
"Report," he barks, and then cringes because his team like to give him shit whenever he slips into what Danny likes to call Steve's G.I. Boat persona, defying taste and logic like only Danny can.
Lou gives him a strange look.
"Why don't we let the doctor tell you?" Lou's voice is far too casual. "I think he's still with Kono."
"Lou," Steve warns him.
Lou snorts. "No way in hell am I getting in the middle of this," he says ominously and then refuses to say anything else.
Steve understands why when Dr. Keahe says, "He's fine. Some unusual activity in his brain, but that's likely to be a residual aftereffect of the lightning strike. There's no indication of an overall negative impact on his body."
Kono clears her throat. Lou studies the ceiling with great interest.
"Lightning strike," Steve says flatly.
"As I understand it, Detective Williams was struck by lightning," Dr. Keahe studies his clipboard, "ten days ago. Besides the slight, and I must stress this, very slight, irregularities on his brain scan and a lingering inflammation of the upper epidermis of his right arm, there seem to be no ill effects."
"He fainted," Kono points out as Steve tries to wrap his head around this, "with one hell of a nosebleed."
"That he did," Dr. Keahe agrees. "I understand he was very stressed this morning? And his medical records indicate a history of high blood pressure." He briefly lifts his clipboard in Kono's direction. "You know 5-0 has priority here. I assure you, it may seem like we're rushing our diagnosis, but we checked Detective Williams very thoroughly. We didn't find anything wrong with him."
"So you're saying he's fine." Steve's initial relief is quickly giving way to rising anger.
Lightning strike. What the hell, Danny?
"He's fine." Dr. Keahe smiles cheerfully and points towards a door further down the hall. "You'll find him thataway."
"Excuse me," Steve says through clenched teeth and stalks down the hall, barely noticing that Kono and Lou elect to stay back.
Danny's sitting sideways on a bed, legs dangling as he fills out a form. He's wearing a short-sleeved scrub top, his shirt in a clear plastic bag at his side. It's covered with large, reddish-brown stains. It's anyone's guess what he wants it for.
Danny looks up, his expression turning apprehensive when he sees Steve striding towards him.
"Uh. You all right?" he asks, pen clattering to the floor as Steve grabs his wrist and pulls at his arm. Faint red marks curl and twist like fragile flowers along Danny's skin.
Steve sucks in a breath, has to make an effort to unclench his jaw.
"Lightning strike," he says.
Danny swallows and looks away.
Steve tightens his grip on Danny's wrist.
"Lightning strike," he says.
"I didn't want to tell you," Danny says, his voice uncharacteristically quiet.
"You didn't want to tell me," Steve says, trying to stay calm, "that you were struck by lightning?"
"I didn't know how to-" Danny breaks off, lets out a shaky laugh. "'Hey, Steve, I got struck by lightning and now I can talk things into doing stuff. How was your weekend?'"
Steve's grip on Danny's wrist slackens.
"Things?" he echoes.
"Things." Danny waves his free hand. "Cars. The damn printer. If it has moving parts or wires, I can talk to it. That doesn't sound crazy at all, does it?" He laughs again, a bitter sound. "I'm sure you would have believed that."
"No," Steve says absently, ignoring Danny's minute flinch. "I wouldn't."
Before this morning, he would have forced Danny to talk to a shrink and to get his head examined for a brain tumor. Before this morning, the mere concept of 'talking to things' would have been ludicrous.
Moving parts or wires. Jesus.
"Danny," he asks, slowly, not quite believing even now, "did you talk to the Marquis?"
Danny seems to stop breathing.
"I did," he finally says, eyes narrowed, body tense.
Steve swallows. "What did you tell her?"
"Just to run like she should. And, uh." Danny licks his lips. "To, to keep you safe."
Now Steve wants to laugh. He bites it down.
"And my phone," he prompts, thinking back at Danny 'fixing' the battery. At his phone buzzing like crazy even though by all rights it should have been busted beyond repair.
"To stop shutting down," Danny says. His mouth twists into an unhappy line. "So you can call for backup. To... keep you safe."
"My gun?" Steve rasps, his throat strangely tight.
"Stop jamming." Danny closes his eyes. "Keep you safe."
Something twists in Steve's chest. For all his life, he's been the firstborn, the son, the older brother. He's the Navy SEAL, the team leader, the one people look at to take care of their problems.
And here is Danny, pouring his soul into protecting Steve. Into making sure he makes it back home. The idea is so huge, so unfathomable, and yet so completely familiar, Steve can't even begin to wrap his head around it.
"Danny," he says, overwhelmed, helpless. "I don't need protecting."
He doesn't know what kind of reaction he expected. Danny cracking up wasn't it. And yet Danny laughs right into his face, open and faintly mocking, all traces of discomfort gone for the moment.
"You don't need protecting!" he chokes out between peals of laughter. "That's good, babe. That's great. I had to keep you from getting shot on our very first day, but you don't need protecting. Christ, Steve, my children get into less trouble than you do."
Steve splutters. "I don't get into trouble!"
"Excuse me?" Danny jabs his left index finger at Steve, his right wrist still in Steve's grasp. Steve realizes he has been smoothing his thumb over Danny's reddened skin for the past few minutes. "You spent the morning getting kidnapped!"
"You spent the morning passed out on your office floor!" Steve shoots back.
"To make sure you were safe!"
That doesn't even make sense but Danny's glaring at Steve, eyes blazing, and he is... he's so...
"You're infuriating," Steve says, and kisses him.
He hesitates at the last moment, but Danny immediately closes the gap between them, mouth already opening. The kiss is like their arguments: heated, affectionate, vehement, fun. They egg each other on, Danny's tongue swiping across Steve's bottom lip leading to Steve's tongue dipping behind Danny's teeth, leading to a few seconds of thoroughly enjoyable contact before Danny shoves his tongue so far into Steve's mouth that Steve bursts out laughing. Danny pulls back with a proud little grin. His lips are damp with their combined spit, and all of a sudden Steve can think of so many new ways to score his points off Danny, he's dizzy with it.
Wait. Can Danny talk to... toys?
He feels his cheeks heat up at the random thought and his blush must be obvious because Danny's giving him an intrigued look.
Steve clears his throat. "Tell you later."
Of course, they wouldn't be them if they left it at that.
"I thought you said you didn't believe me." Danny eyes Steve like he's a puzzle that not only fails to show a coherent picture, it's also upside-down.
"I didn't say that, I said I wouldn't have believed you," Steve points out. "That's not the same thing."
"I pour out my heart to you and you're arguing semantics?"
"I wouldn't have to argue semantics if you stopped trying to talk me out of believing you."
"I'm not trying to talk you out of believing me, Steven, I'm trying to get why you're not freaking out about this!"
"Not freaking out? Danny, my car ran someone over for threatening me, by herself. I'll have nightmares about this!" Steve's going to be freaking out for days.
"It did?" Danny lets out a satisfied little hum. Then he pauses, jaw dropping. "Wait." His face does this thing where it simply... lights up. There's no other way to describe it. Steve hopes Danny never figures out all the stunts Steve would pull to see that expression. "Your car... your car turned into Christine?"
"No," Steve grumbles, but his voice gets drowned out by Danny's delighted cackle.
Steve's kind of okay with that.
He once learned how to make a giraffe out of balloons just in case Danny needed some hardcore cheering up at some point in the future. Knowing he'll have to suffer through that goddamn movie again is nowhere near as embarrassing.
Steve eventually has to let go of Danny's wrist so that Danny can finish filling out that form and they can get out of there.
The only obstacle is that Danny's pen refuses to write.
"You broke it!" Danny accuses, shaking the pen like that might help.
"Sorry, I broke it?" Steve makes a show of must-have-heard-that-wrong, wide-eyed and indignant. "You dropped it!"
"Yes, I dropped it! You made me drop it!"
"Can't you talk it into fixing itself?"
"Sure I can." Danny gives an exaggerated nod and makes a sweeping gesture at the floor. "Do me a favor and catch me if I collapse off the bed because I overdid it, okay?" He shakes the bag that holds his ruined shirt. "You can use this to mop up the blood."
"Just..." Steve closes his eyes and works his jaw as he mentally counts to three, "shut up and use mine."
The briefest look of satisfaction crosses Danny's face, there and gone, as Steve takes the pen from his shirt pocket and hands it over. Danny clicks it and rests the tip against the paper, thumb tapping against plastic for a moment before he starts to write.
Steve watches him from narrowed eyes.
"A pen isn't going to keep me safe, Danny."
"I don't know what you're talking about," Danny lies as he bends over the form. "I only wanted something to write with."
Steve huffs, but he lets it slide.
It's just a pen, after all. What harm can it do?
Two months later, that pen will somehow manage to unscrew itself and snap its spring from Steve's shirt pocket into a perp's eye. It will be the only reason Steve won't end up with a vicious set of bruises around his neck, or worse.
Danny will give Steve shit about it for decades to come.