Steve is grateful when he finally steps off the plane in Hawaii. He’s grateful for Junior taking charge of what little luggage they have, grateful for Lou and Tani waiting for them with the Camaro, and grateful for Danny bundling Steve into the car and not even giving him time to even pretend to want to fight him for the keys. Mostly, he’s just grateful to be home, which brings an instant feeling of comfort with it that’s almost unreal after a full month of nothing but tension and grief.
They leave the other three in the rearview mirror after Lou assures them he’s got Junior’s ride home covered, and sooner than Steve thinks possible, Danny is killing the engine and they’re parked in Steve’s driveway.
He stares up at the house for a moment. 2727 Piikoi Street, right in front of him. There was more than one point over the past weeks where he wasn’t sure he’d ever see it again, but then Danny turned up and drew him back home, like he always does. Steve is still surprised at that, every single time.
He clears his throat. “Thanks,” he says, into the silence that the car’s purring left behind.
“Sure.” Danny sounds casual as anything, which is how Steve knows for certain that Danny understands the weight behind that word. “We gonna sit here until it’s dark, or are we going inside?”
“Inside is probably a good idea,” Steve admits. He unbuckles his seatbelt and opens the door, but by the time he pushes it shut, Danny is already climbing the steps of the front lanai with the two duffle bags he got from the backseat in one hand. When Steve catches up to him, he’s digging around in his pants pocket with the other hand.
Before Steve can say anything about keys and how he’ll need his bag to rifle around for them, Danny produces a set, picks one with a certainty that people usually don’t have when it comes to spare keys to friends’ houses, and puts it in the lock. It fits. Of course, it fits.
Danny hesitates with his hand on the doorknob. It’s the first time he’s shown the slightest ounce of uncertainty since he pushed a plane ticket into Steve’s hands that promised a one-way trip to HNL. “Before we go inside, there’s something I should probably tell you.”
“What, did no one clean up the blood on the kitchen cupboards yet?” It’s a bit of an uncomfortable thought to be faced with that kind of reminder of how it all started – how he wasn’t ready and let some guy get the drop on him in his own home – but if that’s it, he’ll deal with it. He has more than enough experience in washing away blood stains.
Danny pulls a face. “No, I did that the day I got back to the island from Grace’s college tour.”
Danny still looks nervous, so Steve studies him for a moment. A horrible thought occurs to him. “Is Eddie okay?”
“Of course Eddie is okay!” The next time Danny claims Steve has Faces, capital F, Steve should remind him of the one Danny is pulling now. It’s only getting worse. “Eddie’s vacationing at the Grover’s. We can go get him first thing tomorrow, if you want.”
The relief is overwhelming. He doesn’t know how he would have dealt with another loss right now. “Then what is it?” he demands, a little terse from the effects of the emotional whiplash.
“I, uh, I’ve been staying at your place since you left. That’s all.”
Danny pushes inside before Steve has a chance to process this, let alone respond, so there’s nothing for him to do but follow. Inside, no immediate signs of Danny staying over jump out at him. Danny’s own presence isn’t damning at all, because he was over here all the time even before Steve left. Things look much the same as Steve remembers them.
Then Danny dumps the bags on the floor by the stairs and disappears into the kitchen. It’s as if he’s still running away, so Steve takes another look, and slowly, he starts to see it. The house is clean, for one thing. After a month of absence, there should be dust on most flat surfaces, but there’s nothing of the sort to be found.
After that, he notices the little things, one by one: a pair of shoes by the couch that aren’t his, a stack of Autoweek magazines on a side table with the top one dated from after he took off, the plant in the corner that looks far too alive not to have been watered regularly. The tv remote is balanced on the arm of the couch, where Danny puts it in his own home, instead of on the coffee table, where Steve usually keeps it. He thinks he can even see a lonely Lego brick hidden away in the shadows under the cabinet in the back half of the room, which would imply Charlie had been here at some point, toys included.
Still captivated by these revelations, Steve trails Danny into the kitchen. Danny is at the counter, assembling a sandwich with lettuce, pickles, mayonnaise and some kind of lunch meat, which – apparently Steve’s fridge and pantry contained the requisite ingredients for that. Huh.
Danny doesn’t look at Steve when he comes in, but he does point at two glasses of water sitting next to the sink. “Drink something. You hungry?”
“Not really,” Steve admits, but he takes one of the glasses without protest to take the sting out of it. This isn’t something he wants to pick a fight over. He wants answers, first of all. “You’ve been staying here? Why?”
Danny flattens the second sandwich a little with how hard he presses the last slice of bread on top. When he lets go, it springs back up, but Danny’s shoulders sag. “I thought you might come home. Or someone could’ve called here, I don’t know.”
“Where did you sleep?”
“On the couch, mostly.”
Steve is temporarily struck speechless. “Why?” he says, again.
Danny sighs heavily and turns to Steve, hip cocked against the counter. “Because I missed you and I was worried sick, alright? Is that a crime?”
Steve opens his mouth to respond – with anything, an apology, a reassurance, a joke to lighten the mood and get that awful tightness around Danny’s eyes to disappear – but Danny doesn’t give him a chance. He pushes the plate with the two sandwiches in Steve’s direction.
“You should eat something.”
Steve accepts it mutely, still lost for words. He pushes the plate back with the remaining sandwich still on it and Danny rolls his eyes like this is Steve being difficult somehow, but he takes it anyway. They stand there, close together at Steve’s kitchen counter that doesn’t have any blood on it, quietly absorbing the food. Steve learns that he was more hungry than he thought.
He keeps darting glances in Danny’s direction. Danny must notice, but he doesn’t give much of a sign of it.
When Danny had said ‘I’ve been staying at your place since you left’ Steve had assumed Danny had spent his days here when he wasn’t working, going back to his own home to sleep and eat and shower. Apparently he was wrong – apparently, Danny has been living here, surrounded by Steve’s absence. The mental picture fills him with a weird mixture of giddiness and dread. It’s always been a house full of ghosts to Steve, but he never wanted it to be that for Danny.
Steve opens the dishwasher when he’s done. It’s empty, which he’s pretty sure it wasn’t when he left because he did it in a hurry, so it’s another sign of Danny’s influence. Steve drains his glass and waits for Danny to do the same before putting both glasses, the plate and the knife Danny used into the washer, while Danny puts away the remainders of the sandwich ingredients. They’re done at nearly the same time. Steve catches himself looking to Danny for directions on what to do next.
“Bedtime,” Danny says, like Steve asked a question, or like he’s suddenly reverted to being Charlie’s age. He considers lodging a protest, but discards the idea when he realizes that actually, bedtime sounds like a brilliant idea. Never mind that it’s not even dinnertime yet, because his body seems to feel that he’s been on his feet for two days straight, even though he hasn’t.
He thinks. Time zones can trip such calculations up if you’re not careful.
Back in the living room, Danny grabs one of the bags from the floor. Steve startles a little when he realizes it’s his. He assumes for a moment that Danny made a mistake, because he’s moving for the door with it, but then Danny turns left and ascends the stairs halfway to the first landing before he pauses and looks back at Steve. For once Danny is the one looking down.
“What’s eating you this time?” Danny asks. He sounds like he’s trying for brusque, but Steve gets stuck on the fondness hiding underneath.
“I’m not dying,” he points out. “I can carry my own things up a single flight of stairs.”
Danny doesn’t dignify this with more than a huff. “Move your ass, Steven. You’re going to have to deal with me making a minor fuss regardless, so just go with it and make this easier on both of us.”
“Okay,” he says stiffly. He’s not good at letting people do simple tasks for him that he could do himself. Not when it’s about someone genuinely caring for him, instead of the result of some stupid bet or something. “Thanks.”
Danny huffs again and continues up the stairs, so Steve hurries to chase after him, as much as his somewhat fatigue-heavy limbs allow. Once on the first floor, Danny pushes Steve’s bedroom door open without so much as a look back at Steve for confirmation. It shouldn’t be weird, all things considered, but it still is. It’s eerily metaphorical that Danny keeps opening Steve’s doors like it’s no big deal while Steve can’t do anything except look on in wonder.
Danny puts Steve’s bag down by the closet, but Steve is riveted by the bed. It’s made, just the way he does it every morning – tight, but no longer with perfect military corners – but there’s something off about it. He can’t put his finger on the discrepancy until he absently runs the tips of his fingers over the closest pillow.
“You’ve been sleeping in my bed,” he realizes, with a sudden jolt. He looks up at Danny, because suddenly the bed isn’t that interesting anymore.
For a moment, Danny looks so stricken that Steve has to consider he got things wrong, but then Danny snaps his mouth shut. “How the hell did you know?” he asks. “I washed the sheets.”
“That’s how. They weren’t fresh when I left. Why would you do that if no one was using them?”
“Because I’m a nice guy who wants his buddy to come home to a bed that smells of freshly mowed grass after a harrowing ordeal. Ever consider that?”
Steve almost laughs. It’s as if something has fallen into place about this whole thing, some puzzle piece he’d been missing, and the picture he’s seeing now gives him a thrill. “As opposed to a bed that smells of you?” Privately, he has no doubts about which of those he would prefer.
Danny’s complicated Face is back. It’s accompanied by less gesturing than Danny normally does. “I wasn’t lying, you know. I did sleep on the couch, but only the first night and for naps after that.”
“That’s good. Makes sense.” Danny looks at him like he’s probably crazy, which is kind of late in the game for Danny to figure that one out. Nevertheless, he caves and gives a further clarification. “There is no reason you should’ve been murdering your back while there was a perfectly functional, totally empty bed right here.”
Or in either of the guest rooms, come to think of it, but he decides to skip that part of the conversation. It’s unlikely to make Danny feel less defensive.
“Right,” Danny is saying now. He seems relieved, but suspicious. “Okay. Glad you see it that way, because it wasn’t anything weird.”
“I get it.” He hesitates, takes a step closer to Danny and stops. “Wanna sleep here again?”
Danny’s narrowed eyes watch him closely. “Oh no, Steve, you’re not banishing yourself to the couch or one of your own guest rooms the day you get back.”
There. That’s his opening.
“No,” he says, slow and deliberate and resisting the urge to fidget like his life depends on it. It very well might. “I’m not.”
Danny keeps watching him, right up until the moment where the question mark in his eyes visibly straightens out and turns into an exclamation point. He glances at the bed, then back at Steve, and he does fidget, shifting his weight and rubbing at his neck. “Wait. You’re saying-”
“I’m saying,” Steve confirms, sparing both of them the awkwardness of having to put it into words.
Danny shakes his head a little, but in a befuddled way that fuels rather than stomps out Steve’s hope. “I can sleep on the couch. I promise I’m not going anywhere tonight.”
“You could. But I don’t want you to sleep on the couch.”
“I should, anyway,” Danny insists, because he’s a stubborn bastard. Steve loves him for it – he has a hard time not loving Danny for any part of him – but that doesn’t mean it’s always a convenient trait in the moment.
“Danny-” It’s increasingly obvious that it’s time to either tap out or lay all his cards on the table. He reminds himself that Danny has never once let him fall. He reminds himself, more importantly, that Danny has spent weeks sleeping in Steve’s bed on the off chance that Steve might come home unannounced and forget to call Danny first.
He’s not sure he even really needs the reminders.
“Danny,” he says again. “Joe died.”
There’s still an edge of confusion to Danny’s expression, but the loudest emotion displayed now is empathy. He takes a step closer, the last one needed to bridge the distance, and reaches out, putting a hand on Steve’s elbow. “I know, Steve. I’m sorry.”
“He told me not to wait until it’s too late.”
“He did?” Danny says, or asks. It’s something in between those two.
Steve goes on without asking which one it is. He couldn’t stop right now even if he wanted to. “None of this is new. I’m just tired of pretending it’s not there.”
There’s a long, torturous pause. Then Danny’s fingers around his elbow tighten, and Danny says, softly, “So am I.”
Steve nods, once, like this decides it. He hopes to God it does.
And God seems to be listening, for once. That tightness that’s been lurking around Danny’s eyes this entire time softens, and then it’s gone, like it was never there to begin with. For a wild, wondrous second, Steve can’t believe his luck. He’s dizzy with it.
“Will you come to bed now? Just-” He grabs the hem of Danny’s button-down and pulls up. He gets it out of Danny’s pants, but not much further than that, because Danny doesn’t wear his shirts loose enough by half to allow for it. Steve has never had a problem with that before today.
Danny bats his hands away, but starts deftly working the buttons, so Steve doesn’t have it in him to protest anything that’s happening. “Jesus, McGarrett,” Danny says, while more and more of his hairy chest becomes visible. “Should’ve known you’d go from half-spoken love declarations straight to tearing my clothes off. Don’t know why I’m surprised.”
“Don’t know either,” Steve mumbles, kind of distracted from their conversation by the fact that Danny’s shirt is completely hanging open, now.
“Alright, listen,” Danny says, so Steve drags his eyes up from where they’d wandered lower than is in any way polite. Not that he wants to be polite with Danny. Not that Danny seems to mind, either. He’s kind of… glowing, maybe. It’s a stupid word, but it’s the best Steve can come up with for the quiet, affectionate contentment Danny exudes. “Here’s the deal. You, my friend, need sleep, and so do I. So while I appreciate the way you’re looking at me, we’re going to shelve that for the moment, okay? And we’ll circle back around to it later.”
“But you’ll sleep here?” Steve points at the bed to avoid any miscommunication. “Here.”
“Okay,” Steve says. “Good plan. I can work with that.” And he can. Except-
He ducks down and kisses Danny. He doesn’t make a big production out of it, because Danny is right that their priorities need to be elsewhere, but surely they can spare ten seconds. Or thirty. Or a minute.
When Steve pulls back, Danny moves up on his toes to chase after him. He watches Danny open his eyes and blink, dazed, which is a great feeling. Danny is taking his turn pulling at Steve’s shirt, now, but he’s smarter about it, plucking at the buttons and accomplishing something, even if he fumbles it a bit more than when he was undressing himself. “Or we could just, you know, each chug five cups of coffee and go for it.”
Steve laughs and captures Danny’s hands. “Remind me who’s tearing whose clothes off?”
“It’s mutual. All the clothes have to go. No survivors.”
“Yes,” Steve says, because God, yes. He rubs his thumbs over Danny’s knuckles once and then lets go, taking a careful step back, putting some physical distance between them for their own safety. “Later.”
“Later,” Danny agrees, but the way his gaze skitters over Steve from head to toe leaves Steve feeling warm enough that it’s as if he said some completely different things.
Neither of them says those things out loud, though. They stick to the plan and divest themselves of their own clothes down to their underwear without each other’s help. After the quickest, most cursory brush of his teeth Steve has ever allowed himself, he lies down in bed and listens to the breathtakingly domestic sounds of Danny puttering around the bathroom. Danny had to get a clean toothbrush, because apparently he cleared all the stuff he’d started keeping here for convenience’s sake away before he went to lure Steve home from Montana.
Sleep tries to pull Steve in waves, like the tides out in the ocean, but he makes sure to resist until Danny flicks out the bathroom light and slips under the covers beside him. Only then does he let himself relax fully. He can still see Danny very clearly, because the curtains may be drawn, but they don’t stand a chance at blocking out all the light from outside, where the sun is convinced it’s still late afternoon.
Danny catches him looking. He rises up like he’s about to turn his back to Steve, but instead he just leans very close for a moment and kisses Steve’s forehead, before retreating back to his own pillow. “Night,” he says, almost a little gruff, like he’s pretending he didn’t just do something very tender.
It’s alright, because Steve is hiding the flutter of his own heart, too. He reaches out and finds one of Danny’s hands, and holds on to it. “Goodnight,” he answers.
Danny gives him a half smile and lets his eyes slip shut. Steve observes him and knows he should follow suit, but he can’t, because something amazing just occurred to him.
“What?” Danny sounds groggy already, but he could be putting it on for show.
Steve decides to share his epiphany anyway. It’s just that good. “You were here because you were waiting for me, and you were in my bed. You were waiting for me in my bed. Literally.”
That gets Danny to open his eyes. He’s amused and a little grouchy about it, which is one of his signature moods. “Don’t read anything into it.”
“What would you have done if I’d come home unexpectedly?” Steve asks, because asking is not the same thing as reading.
“I don’t know. Told you I’d been warming the sheets and tucked you in.”
“Aww,” Steve starts to say, more than a little mocking, but Danny isn’t done yet.
“Smothered your face with a pillow to keep you from making any smartass remarks, like I’m very tempted to do now.”
Steve turns his face into his pillow completely willingly to mask his laughter. He’s not very successful. “Sexy. Good seduction strategy.”
“Thank you. I’m very proud of it.” Danny smiles at him again, a full one this time, and Steve heroically does not roll over and pin him to the bed only because he’s not sure his body would fully cooperate at the moment for anything but an island-threatening emergency.
Later. He’ll get his chance later.
“Night,” Danny tries again.
“Night,” Steve echoes, and this time, he closes his eyes and lets the waves pull him under, because he has nothing to worry about with Danny’s hand to anchor him.