Looking down at the man slumbering - and drooling a little if he were being honest - on his chest, Danny couldn’t help the grin that tugged at his lips. It wasn’t like Steve could see it and use it against him. Not like the way he’d used every hot-spot Danny had – including a few he hadn’t even known about – to his ruthless advantage, wringing a frankly distressing amount of pleasure out of the detective before passing out with a smug smile on his face.
He should have known.
For all he, repeatedly and with good reason, called his partner a Neanderthal, if pressed Danny would admit, though not out loud or anything that drastic, that the man wasn’t actually quite as stupid as he looked. And sometimes acted. And more often than not genuinely was.
His point was, that it had taken only a handful of nights of Danny crashing at Chez McGarrett for Steve to realise the informercials and shitty chat-show reruns all night long had less to do with drowning out the Hawaiian water torture and more to do with drowning out the silence.
Danny had grown up with noise. He was one of four children in a Jersey household made up of Italians. He had no memories of not having to share a room with his little brother, Matt coming along before Danny was three and taking over half - more than half most of the time because little brothers were also little shits - his childhood bedroom. His earliest memory was visiting his father at the firehouse, sitting on his lap and being allowed to turn on the siren for five gloriously ear-splitting seconds.
It had only gotten louder from there. He’d gone from his parent’s crowded and boisterous house, to a crowded and rowdy dorm. Even during the Academy he’d had roommates, all of whom were varying degrees of housebroken. Then had come Rachel and of course Grace. To whom, in the grand tradition of the Williams clan, God had gifted one hell of a set of lungs. A fact she’d demonstrated with alarming regularity for most of her colic-riddled infancy. Her laughter and the slap-slap-slap of her little feet on the hardwood floors had followed.
Then a whole different noise had entered Danny’s life.
Yelling and screaming was nothing new to Danny, though the emotion behind it had never been anger and hatred before. But fighting meant there was still hope, still a chance. Fighting meant you still cared enough to try.
Silence meant you’d stopped. Stopped trying. Stopped caring to try. Stopped loving.
For the first time in his life, he’d been totally alone. No steady breath on the other side of the room or beside him on the pillow. No little girl sneaking out of bed and stubbing her toes despite the night-light, bitten back sobs carrying down the little hall.
To be a Williams was to thrive on noise. Silence was a slow death.
For a week, Danny hadn’t managed more than an hour of sleep at a time, the artificial silence caused by the hotel sound-proofing waking him again and again. But then there had been Matty coming across from the City every night no matter how exhausted he was. Matty and his beer and his endless, pointless nattering about who-the-fuck-knew-what. Matty and his alcohol-induced snoring that could wake the dead.
Matty back on the other side of the room where he belonged.
But in Hawaii there was no brother bringing beer, no more Matt at all, and that was a whole new wound all of its own. There was no Gracie down the hall except four pitiful days a month. Just Danny and the silence night after night after night. At least in his crummy little apartment the island had the decency to provide him with the familiar refrain of traffic noise, the occasional domestic from next door that normally devolved pretty quickly into make-up sex – and hadn’t that been excruciating to try and explain to Grace the next morning when she’d asked about it – and his seventy year old neighbour’s TV that as far as he could tell was never turned off. It wasn’t the right noise, but it was just enough to allow him to get the rest he needed to remain alert enough to keep himself, and a crazed SEAL, on the right side of the grave.
But with its private beach and expansive gardens, the sounds of the highway never reached the McGarrett home, the neighbours were civilised and kept their music to themselves, and somehow even the planes flying into Honolulu were muted. All that remained were the waves to focus his ire on because if Danny had wanted to live in a spa, he didn’t have to leave Jersey for that.
So Danny had turned to the only thing he had to drown out silence; it was hardly his fault that late-night TV was such shit. Or that Steve, who had spent most of his adult life in a fucking warzone or on a ship with a few thousand other people and constant noise apparently couldn’t handle anything over ten decibels because he was a freaking delicate flower.
Which was why after the fourth night of trying to fall asleep to the dulcet tones of an overly-peppy moron extolling the virtues of yet another pointless kitchen gadget, Danny had found the blanket stripped off him and he’d been hauled, unceremoniously and with no small quantity of cursing, onto his feet and shooed towards the stairs. When he’d failed to ascend, Steve had huffed and puffed and dragged him up towards his bedroom.
Truth be told Danny only followed him because it was likely the only thing to stem the flow of what was probably an imminent lecture about not angering the ancient Hawaiian gods of hospitality. Or some other shit that Danny was too tired to endure without putting a fist through Steve's perfect white teeth.
"I'm only doing this as a favour, y'know," he'd grumbled as he collapsed face first into what was an annoyingly sublime pillow and really where the fuck had Steve been hiding it because the pillow he'd given Danny for the couch was shit.
"Uh-huh." The comforter had been pulled up around him, tucked in until he was all cosy, and Danny magnanimously had allowed it to happen without threats of bodily harm.
"Don't wanna upset your dentist. He cried last time you showed up with three of your teeth in your hand," He'd mumbled as he hugged the world's most glorious pillow to himself and tried to muster enough exhausted brain power together to determine how to smuggle it out of the house when the time came to go home. It was the least Steve owed him for keeping it from him every night he’d slept over since they’d met.
“Whatever you say." The bed had dipped and in what was no doubt Navy training, Steve had fallen asleep in roughly 1.3 seconds flat.
But between his snoring - surely the only reason the neighbours didn't file noise complaints was the semi-regular shoot-outs at the house and they feared angering the escaped mental patient who lived there because even the abundant trees weren’t enough to dampen that racket - and restless shifting around, the sounds of another just inches away lulled Danny to sleep before he could be muster enough energy to be irritated about it.
Disgustingly well-rested after his first real night’s sleep since he’d set left Jersey, Danny had woken alone in the bed, with little memory of how he’d gotten there, no real complaints about it, and a cooling cup of coffee on the nightstand beside him. He’d swear, that if he strained his hearing enough, he’d been able to make out the sounds of Steve splashing around in his element and likely giving his octogenarian neighbours the vapours when he strode out of the water like Bond.
Stacking up all the pillows on the bed – and would you look at that, his phenomenal pillow had friends and they were all coming home with him because unlike some he would never split up a family - Danny had hauled himself into a reclined position, cuddled the coffee to his chest and mulled it all over.
His main conclusion had been thus: even sleep-addled, Danny had recognised the truth behind Steve’s eyes when he’d insisted Danny come up to bed or be murdered as a noise nuisance: he understood the dangers of the silent night. How in the quiet, when loved ones slumbered and there were no distractions, the memories could come. The voices of the lost. Of the innocent. Of the damned.
In the dark it was often difficult to tell which was which.
Danny had always thought he knew the sort of shit that Steve had been called upon to do, but watching the events of ‘Operation Payback’, not to mention that he’d read far more of the dossier on ‘Operation Strawberry Field’ than he’d admitted to Steve – and he wasn’t stupid, he knew Strawberry Field was a codename for a CIA camp near Guantanamo Bay and he really didn’t wanna know what those assholes would have had Steve doing – and he’d had more of an insight to the things Steve had seen and done than perhaps he truly wanted.
It was a wonder to Danny that Steve slept at all. But perhaps that was why he was so protective of the silence. Silence meant no gunfire. No mortars. No death. Silence was safety.
Physically, at least.
Danny had burned some eggs for breakfast and served them alongside perfectly fluffy banana-chocolate chip pancakes in gratitude because Steve might argue against fruit on pancakes and unhealthy foods but he was a lying hypocrite, and that was the most it was discussed.
That night, after Steve had come out with a ludicrous excuse for keeping Danny from moving out and even tried to make it easier for him to stay, and they’d spent the evening with takeout in front of the game rather than Max’s party, it hadn’t been suggested that Danny would return to the couch. Instead the detective took himself off up the stairs while Steve turned off the TV and locked up before following obediently, and suspiciously silently behind him.
The second morning Danny had woken alone in the SEAL’s bed, he’d found his case on the floor by the nightstand, his ties hung carefully over the mirror and his suits in Steve’s closet. Because that was Steve’s way; Steve was a man of action, not of words. He wouldn’t know how to articulate that he was all too aware of what silence did to Danny, nor was he about to just let Danny suffer, so he did what he always did: Figured out the problem and came up with a solution.
Danny couldn’t sleep alone? Then he wouldn’t.
After that…well, Danny just never left. Neither brought up that the date Danny’s landlord had given for the mold treatment work to be done had long since passed, nor did Steve suggest that he should find somewhere else to live as the days ticked over into weeks and still Danny shared the pillow beside his. In fact, Danny was pretty sure Steve was taking advantage of his early rising to get to the paper first to winkle out the classified section.
His suspicion was confirmed when Grace woke him with a call early one morning and he’d taken advantage of the dawn awakening to sneak downstairs and caught the SEAL in the act of slipping the section free before stuffing it into the bottom of the recycling can in the pantry.
Steve was still an idiot, however, as it had taken him another two months of Danny throwing out signals left and right for the guy to kiss him. And even then only because Danny took the moron by the hair and kissed the shit out of him. So while he’d temporarily restored Danny’s faith in Naval Intelligence, he wasn’t exactly blown away.
That came later.
Hugging Steve closer with a contended sigh, and refusing to be utterly charmed by how his lover nuzzled against him, Danny burrowed his head into his pillow. At least he wasn't going to have to try and steal it anymore, and tomorrow they could go get the rest of his stuff out of storage.
He had noise again. He had love. He had Steve. And apparently another bedroom - the existence of which Steve had much explaining to do about in the morning given the number of nights Danny has spent on the couch - that would soon house the soft snores and giggling gossip of his little girl.
He wasn’t alone in the silence anymore.