The Theory of Relativity according to Danny Williams went a little something like this:
Leaving Grace and Rachel to get on that plane to Jersey without him, just so he could go bust Steve out of jail? By the book, no less? Due Process et al, even if he’d had to resort to calling in the freakin’ Navy for back up, and so what if it had taken a couple of weeks (literally) or a few years (because that’s what it’d felt like) off his life?
Easy as pie.
Doggedly, relentlessly, tirelessly working to clear Steve’s name for the Governor’s murder, even if Wo Fat was still at large after seemingly falling off the face of the planet, while simultaneously getting Kono off the hook, figuring out how to work around Chin’s ruse with HPD while still making the most of his tech-savvy talents, and bringing Jenna into the Five-0 fold?
Piece of cake.
Standing there, in the circle of Steve’s arms, after the dust had settled, after he’d given Steve a bone-crushing hug that had maybe lasted a few seconds too long, after Steve had kissed him senseless and stupid (and shit, that’s where the fuck they’d been heading all this time while Danny had been foolish enough to think it’d all been about friendship and partnership and pushing each other’s buttons just for the hell of it) and then pulling away from Steve and telling him that he had to hightail it back to Jersey ‘cause he’d knocked up Rachel and they were going to give their marriage another go?
That was suddenly the hardest fucking shit Danny had ever had to do in his life.
So yeah, sarcasm aside, it was all relative.
And Steve didn’t take it very well. At first, Danny thought it was because of the whole moving back to Jersey when they still had a madman on the loose thing. After The Kiss (yes, capitals; that shit had been epic), he realized it was more about the sleeping with your ex and getting her pregnant with your baby while she’s still married to your kid’s step-dad thing. And that was above and beyond Steve’s panicked holy shit, I just kissed you and you’re not kissing me back, forget I was here, this never happened thing.
Steven McGarrett was a conundrum: He had no qualms about dangling someone off the roof of a skyscraper, or throwing them to the sharks, or the friends-with-benefits thing he had going on with Cath Rollins, but when it came to family, he had principles. And the way he’d looked at Danny? Like he was Disappointed in him – and yes, with the capital D, because he knew all of Steve’s Faces and that one had never been directed at him before – that had cut like a knife.
So Danny had made a mistake, so sue him. It wasn’t his first and it sure as hell wouldn’t be his last.
Take leaving Hawai’i, for example. It had been all Danny could think about since the first day he’d set foot on that godforsaken group of islands: getting back to New Jersey. Yet there he was, at the Departures gate at Honolulu International, a one-way ticket to Newark in his hand, and he was dragging his feet.
Chin and Kono, part of his family now, his ohana, were right there with him. Jenna had kissed him goodbye and seen him off at HQ, and Kamekona had given him his last shave ice (Danny’d given in and tried the pineapple) and a hefty thump on the back for good luck; somehow, both of them were his trusted friends now, his haopili. Only Steve, their fearless, fearsome leader – their alaka’i – was still nowhere to be seen. Only Steve, Danny’s partner, his best friend – his hoaloha – had been MIA all damn day. Ignoring the guilty looks and shifty eyes he got from Kono and Chin, Danny waited as long as he could, until the last possible second, until the airline fucking paged him, and with one last hug for Chin, and an extra-tight squeeze for Kono, he accepted their parting gift of a Word-A-Day calendar (the Hawaiian edition, God help him) and turned and left.
He thought he saw a glint of a Five-0 badge when he passed through his gate, in his peripheral vision somewhere, but when he turned and scanned the sea of faces in the crowd around him, he didn’t see the one he was looking for. Wishful thinking, he supposed. It was only when he took his seat on the flight and buckled up, his journey back home stretching out like a bleak eternity ahead of him, that he pulled out his phone to turn it off; he almost didn’t see the text.
Mahalo, Danny, Steve had written, a hui hou. Aloha ‘oe.
He got the flight attendant to translate the phrase he didn’t know, and then spent a good few minutes staring at his phone in silence; she had to come back and remind him to put it away for take-off.
Until we meet again.
It was the first time he’d ever wondered if Jon Bon Jovi had gotten it wrong after all; maybe there was no going back home.
If Gracie hadn’t been waiting for him in the Arrivals area at Newark, her pretty face lit up in a smile that could power the entire Eastern Seaboard, Danny was pretty sure he’d have turned right around and booked it on the next flight back to Hawai’i.
It took him about a month of being in Jersey to get broadsided by the clue bus. Some detective he was.
Thinking back, he often wondered about his naiveté, wondered how he’d let Rachel walk all over him a second time around. He’d needed her after that shit with Matty had gone down; he’d turned to her for comfort because she knew him and she’d known Matt and he hadn’t known where else to go. That’s when it had started, the two of them falling into bed together, finding consolation in each other, both of them trying desperately to forget the pain of desertion, Danny’s brother and Rachel’s husband. That’s what had tipped the scales, making him lose the tenuous balance he’d found in his life since joining Five-0.
Since meeting Steve.
Sure, Rachel loved him, but she loved other things more, like Stan maybe, and his money and his lifestyle, and Danny’d always known that he’d never been enough for her, and that wasn’t going to change anytime soon, love or no love. Danny also knew, okay – he knew that Rachel was the type of woman who needed to be in a relationship to thrive. She’d gone from divorcing him to marrying Stan in the space of a few months, and he’d found out, even though Rachel had never caught on, that she had been seeing Stan on the sly, letting him reel her in, while she’d still been married to Danny, and yeah, no kidding, what went around came around later and bit you in the ass big time. Point was, it made sense that she needed to hang onto Danny now that her relationship with Stan was going south.
And yeah, sure, Danny loved her, too; he just wasn’t in love with her any more, hadn’t been in love with her in a long while, even if he had fantasized about becoming a perfect family again. When that had changed, he wasn’t quite sure, but changed it had. It had taken his fist through a glass pane, a lot of shouting at his new partner, Joey Matteo, for his inability to let things go because, goddammit, sometimes you needed to follow your instincts and not proper police procedure, a lot of yelling at Rachel to get the fuck out of his face, a lot of apologizing to his mother for not bringing his problems home to her sooner, a lot of hugs from Grace to make his gloomy world a better place, and one out-of-the-Hawaiian-blue phone call from his ex-partner to clear his head and make all the pieces of the puzzle fall into place.
Funny, that. Steve’s name flashing across his phone, his In the Navy ringtone startling Danny so much that he’d been unable to get a grip on the damn thing and it had gone flying right out of his suddenly sweaty hands and skittering across the linoleum floor of the precinct; he’d frozen and Joey had to go pick it up and bring it back to him.
He didn’t know what made him say it, but say it he did. “Aloha.”
Jesus Christ. The sound of his voice did things to Danny. It was fucking stupid was what it was, but Danny’s heart raced and his eyes got a little teary, and Joey was looking at him funny, so Danny put his head down and stalked to the washrooms, found the first empty stall and locked himself in there. He tried not to picture Steve’s face in his mind but it was futile; behind his closed eyes, all he could see was that face he missed so much and Steve’s goofball smirk.
As Steve yammered away about one thing or another in his ear, about Kono and Chin and Jenna and how they were all getting on, about how much they all missed having him around, about how sorry he was that he’d been a jackass to let Danny go without a proper goodbye, Danny learned to breathe again, and that tightness in his chest that had been there from the moment he’d stepped on that plane eased up a bit.
“The hell, asshole?” Danny shouted into the phone once he’d found his voice, which was coincidentally just when Steve started to run out of steam. “You’re calling me now to apologize for being…”
“Better late than never, right?”
“…a dick over a month ago?”
“Shut the fuck up and let me talk, you idiot! You owe me that much!”
“No! You know what? No! I have nothing to say to you! Except for the fact that you knew…you knew I was leaving that day! You knew it was for good, and what? You couldn’t take ten minutes to come see me off? Actually, what am I even saying? The way you get around the island, it would’ve taken you ten seconds!”
“I’m still talking here!” Danny roared, the sound reverberating through the tiled bathroom; he vaguely heard the guy who’d just come in the men’s room door turn around and walk right out again.
Steve sighed. “Sorry… I’m sorry.”
His contrition did nothing but fuel the flames of Danny’s anger. “You’re sorry? Oh, you’re sorry! Like that just makes everything magically okay? I called you every damn day after I got back! For two weeks I called you, and not once – not once did you ever pick up! Not once did you ever call me back! Why the hell would you think I’d wanna talk to you now, Steve?”
“You’ve been what, Steven? I know your mammal-to-mammal communication skills aren’t the best on any given day but it’s been a month since you’ve spoken to me, so spit it the fuck out, I got a life here I gotta get back to!”
“The Navy’s re-instated me.”
Everything came crashing to a standstill; Danny was pretty sure the world stopped spinning right then; he’d have sworn it on a stack of bibles. “What?”
“I’ve been asked to come back to the SEALs…”
“No! No, Steve…”
“Danny. It’s a temporary assignment.” Steve paused. “It’s high risk, though.”
“Where?” Danny demanded. “Where is this ‘temporary, high risk’ assignment that is more likely than not going to get you killed?”
“Don’t you ‘Danno’ me, you bastard, and don’t give me any of that bullshit about this mission being…”
“It is classified, Danny – I can’t talk about it.”
“I don’t know. As long as it takes.”
“You do this on purpose, don’t you? Just to give me a heart attack, right? Do you lie in bed every night dreaming up the easiest ways to go out there and get yourself killed? Now that you can’t do it with Five-0 so much, what with the new Governor breathing down your neck and all, you decide it’s okay to go back to the SEALs to get your kicks? You are sick in the head, my friend! Why are you calling me?”
“I’m leaving tomorrow and I’ve…I’ve never had anyone to say goodbye to before…”
The fight went right out of Danny. “What?”
“I mean, I called Mary, and I’ve said my goodbyes to the team,” Steve said huskily, the tone of his voice like a sucker-punch to Danny’s gut, “it’s just you left. And Gracie… I was hoping you’d let me say goodbye to Grace.”
Danny scrubbed a hand down his face and it came away wet. “You sonuvabitch.”
“Is this some sort of suicide mission, McGarrett? What are you not telling me? You’re actually going into this ‘mission’ with the idea that you’re not coming back to us?”
“No, you sick fuck! You come back!” Danny held his phone away from his ear and yelled into it. “You wanna say something to me, you say it in person! You don’t just kiss me like you did and then walk away! And you wanna say so long to my daughter, you better tell her to her face, you coward! Go serve our country and die a hero, see if I care! I’m done with you!” Danny choked back a sob. “I’m done.”
And then he hung up the phone, washed his face and went back to work.
Nothing Joey did that day got him riled up, and when he went home after dark, nothing Rachel said had him seeing red.
He read Grace a bedtime story later that night, and they called Steve together because she’d been thrilled at the prospect of speaking to him again, and Danny had maybe needed to hear his voice again, and maybe he’d needed his last words to Steve to not be angry, because there would be plenty of time for anger later, when Steve did get back – and he would get back, he had to – and he and Grace fell asleep just like that, his little Monkey curled up in his arms, his phone lying on the pillow between them, silent now, but there, ever present, along with the shadow of the man they’d been talking to, the man who’d somehow wormed his way into their hearts to become a part of their special little ohana of three: Grace, Steve, and Danny.
The man they may never see again.
After that night, it became a thing with him and Grace to ask God to look out for Steve in their bedtime prayers, to safeguard and protect him, whatever he was doing, wherever he was in the world.
He didn’t share a bed with Rachel after that night, but it took him a couple of days to move all his stuff out of their bedroom, and even though he hadn’t really touched her since he’d first become suspicious, just the thought of lying next to her now made his skin feel like it didn’t fit his body right.
It took another couple of weeks of keen observation and looking into the call log on her cell phone to find out that she was still talking to Stan on a regular basis and not through divorce lawyers like she’d done with Danny once upon a time; he figured he could be forgiven for invading her privacy when she was going around behind his back. Funny how he actually thought she’d be better off with Stan now.
He stayed with her, for Grace, and the baby they had on the way; he stayed until he just couldn’t anymore.
It was almost a month later when he finally worked up the courage to leave Grace again and move back into his parents’ home temporarily; it hurt like hell, and his little girl may have hated him for it, but it had to be done, so he did it. At least Rachel still let him see Grace every day, so that was something.
It took Gracie three of the longest days of his life to forgive him for not loving her mom enough to stick around for good, and Danny learned to breathe again when she fell back into his arms, her little face tucked into the crook of his neck as she sobbed and held on as if afraid to ever let him go.
Three months after he’d left Hawai’i for Jersey, two months after Steve had left Hawai’i for parts unknown, just as he and Grace were settling in for story time one night, that’s when he heard it again.
In the Navy… Yes, you can sail the seven seas…
He and Grace looked at each other, wide-eyed and shocked.
In the Navy… Yes, you can put your mind at ease…
“Danno, it’s Uncle Steve!” Grace exclaimed gleefully.
In the Navy… Come on now, people, make a stand…
Grace was bouncing on the bed next to him, but damned if Danny could move.
In the Navy, in the Navy… Can’t you see we need a hand?
Grace poked him in the side. “Danno, do you want me to go get it?”
In the Navy… Come on, protect the motherland…
“Danny?” Rachel called from the living room. “Your phone’s ringing! It’s Steven.”
In the Navy… Come on and join your fellow man…
“Daniel?” Rachel walked into Grace’s bedroom, waving Danny’s ringing phone in her hand; Danny couldn’t take his eyes off the picture of Steve’s Book ‘em, Danno Face flashing back at him.
In the Navy… Come on, people, and make a stand.
They want you, they want you, they want you as a new recruit!
The song abruptly stopped there; his voicemail would’ve kicked in. Grace was frowning mightily at him and Rachel just looked flummoxed. “Whatever’s the matter with you?” she asked.
“Danno,” Grace looked up at him pleadingly, “what if Uncle Steve was in trouble and he needed you?”
Oh God. Danny was going to be sick, he was, he was going to break his stupid record and now that he could finally move, he all but stumbled off of Grace’s bed in his haste to get his phone and call Steve back, but it rang again in his hand.
“Are you dead?”
Steve laughed. “I’m okay.”
“Were you hurt?”
Danny’s heart threatened to beat right out of his chest. “What does that even mean, you’ll live? Steven, I asked you a question, gimme a straight answer!”
Steve huffed, like he was the one who’d been put out by this whole escapade, and yeah, all right, he was the one coming off the heels of his super-secret mission after risking life and limb for his country, but Danny hadn’t been unaffected either, not if his recent sleepless nights and increased blood pressure had been anything to go by. “I was shot…”
“What?” Danny’s knees buckled and he would’ve fallen on his ass if not for his quick reflexes and the fact that Grace’s bed was right there to catch him.
“Just in the shoulder, Danno, left side,” Steve explained, his tone a bit too complacent for Danny’s liking. “Bullet lodged in there and I needed surgery, but I’m good now. I’m gonna need physio to get full movement back in my arm but I’ll do that once I get settled in O’ahu.”
“Full movement? What? Wait, where are you now?”
“Can’t say,” Steve told him, “and I can’t talk long. In fact, my ride’s here. I’ll call you once I get home, okay?”
“Steve, wait!” Danny breathed hard. “You’re really okay?”
“I’m good. Better than,” Steve reassured him, and Danny could feel Steve’s smile telegraph itself over the cell signal. “Better now that I’ve heard your voice. I gotta go, okay? Give Gracie my love,” he called out over the loud thrumming swish of propeller blades – a chopper, maybe – in the background. “I gotta go, Danno. Later!”
“Bye,” Danny said into dead air. “Welcome home.”
True to his word, Steve called back twenty-four hours later, sounding worn out but safe; Kono and Chin had confirmed that much. Danny put him on speaker and he and Grace talked to him together, and that became their new thing, calling Steve, sometimes to chat and, between the two of them, to talk Steve’s ear off, and sometimes just to say Aloha.
When it had become Danny’s new thing to call Steve at random hours of the day or night, and for Steve to call Danny just as often, was a mystery, but it kept Danny sane, it kept him together, and it helped that he could talk to Steve about any topic under the sun, even if their sense of timing sometimes sucked.
“What was that?”
“That would be the sound of gunfire, Danny.”
“Are people shooting at you again?”
“Yes. It might have a little something to do with the fact that I’m currently in pursuit…”
“You’re talking to me in the middle of a high speed chase? What kind of moron are you? Idiot! Hang up the phone!”
“I always talk to you in the middle of a high speed chase. While you just sit there and yell at me. Kinda like what you’re doing now.”
“And hang on for dear life. Don’t forget that… Oh God, I am hanging up now. You stay in one piece and call me when you catch the bad guys.”
“Copy that, babe. Over and out.”
“Why are we whispering?”
“I happen to be in the middle of a stakeout, that’s why I’m whispering. Why you’re whispering, I don’t know. Also, it’s cold outside, and I can’t keep the car running to have the heat on and so I’m sitting here, freezing my balls off and my new partner can’t haul ass fast enough to get us some coffee. Jesus. How is this my life?”
“You could’ve just stayed in Hawai’i, you know.”
“And be stuck on a stakeout with you? With Lieutenant Commander Steven I-have-no-patience-for-this-let’s-go-blow-shit-up McGarrett? That you?”
“The one and only.”
“Thank you, but I’ll pass. I like not being shot at. A guy could get used to not being shot…”
“Was that a gunshot?”
“Shit! Fuck! I’ll call you later.”
“How do you get blood out of silk?”
“Whose blood is it?”
“Are you asking me or telling me?”
“The guy had a knife, Danno. I got cut, no biggie.”
“No biggie, he says. How many stitches?”
“Newsflash, Steven: if it requires stitches, it might be a ‘biggie.’”
“Jesus, Mary and Joseph.”
“It’s just a scratch.”
“Sure it is. And did you drip on your silk cargos while you got slashed? It’s just a scratch, my ass.”
“You say that like it’s a filthy word. Seriously, your aversion to harmless neckwear is a mystery I am going to get to the bottom of if it’s the last thing I do…”
“I was undercover at this upscale club…”
“Where the female patrons doubtless eye-humped you all night long.”
“I didn’t notice.”
“Of course not. Is this club still standing?”
“I’d chalk that one up in the win column. Toss the tie. Buy a new one. Put it on the Five-0 tab.”
“Babe, I called you, like, five times.”
“Funny. I have fifteen missed calls.”
“My thumbs have minds of their own; I am not accountable for what they do when I’m not looking. You, however, need to be. Where the fuck were you?”
“Aww. Were you worried about me, Danno?”
“You. The team. The population of O’ahu and the survival of the entire island nation of Hawai’i.”
“I went for a swim.”
“It’s too late for your swim.”
“I know. I slept in.”
“You slept in? You’re usually up before the sun, you freak of nature, you.”
“I may have had one Longboard too many last night.”
“Oh? Party of one?”
“Nah. Cath dropped by.”
“Cath. Huh. That’s…nice.”
“We had dinner. Talked a lot. Got a little drunk...”
“O-kay. I can figure out the rest. She’s a cool chick. And she’s got the balls to keep you in line, so that’s a win in my book. Give her my best.”
“Umm. What else is new?”
“You mean since I last spoke to you? Yesterday?”
“Nothing happened, Danno. You know, with me and Cath.”
“I don’t recall asking if anything happened with you and Cath…”
“Yeah, well, I’m just saying…”
“Duly noted. I have no further comment at this time.”
“You let me know now…”
“Oh, you can count on it, McGarrett.”
“Rachel and I… We aren’t together. I know I haven’t come right out and said it, but yeah. I haven’t been with her for a couple of months now.”
“Danny… Man, I’m sorry. I really am.”
“Thanks, babe. Stupid of me to think all the things that made us split up in the first place would just magically disappear because we’re having a baby and I had that close brush with death…”
“Yes. Please don’t joke about that.”
“You started it.”
“It’s called a coping mechanism. Talk to me about Rachel.”
“She’s calling Stan a lot. I think…maybe they’re trying to reconcile or something. I find myself strangely okay with that happening.”
“She could do a lot worse than him.”
“True. And the guy genuinely adores Gracie…”
“Well, who doesn’t?”
“It’s kind of ridiculous how my daughter has you wrapped around her little finger, McGarrett.”
“She’s…a tiny, little force of nature. Like her old man, just more subtle and less loud.”
“Yeah. Not by much, though, Blondie.”
“How’s the new partner working out?”
“No, your other new partner. Of course, Weston. I hear through the grapevine that she’s like the female version of you and I’m not gonna lie, Steve, that terrifies me a little. It’s like Steve squared. Jesus.”
“Is this you being worried about the fate of Hawai’i and its people again? That’s rich considering you also think of it as a – what did you call it? Oh yeah…a pineapple-infested hellhole.”
“You have an eidetic memory, don’t you?”
“That’s classified; I’ll never tell.”
“Idiot. And anyway, who knows? Between you and Weston, you might sink the whole damn archipelago.”
“It is a geographic term referring to a group of islands.”
“You’re a veritable fount of information.”
“I’m a fount?”
“What? You think you’re the only one with a vocabulary?”
“So where is she?”
“Weston? She’s riding with Kono today. Chin’s at HQ with Jenna and I’m flying solo.”
“What? I keep telling Chin you not to let you out of his sight unsupervised! Who the hell is gonna rein in your tendency to start a shootout wherever you go?”
“Why’d you think I called you?”
“So what’s your new partner like?”
“Like you don’t already know.”
“How would I know?”
“Oh, I don’t know. You’re the one with the contacts in Naval Intelligence. Contacts who maybe owe you a favor or two. Contacts who would do multiple background checks on your ex-partner’s new partner once in a while?”
“Cath called you.”
“I always liked her. Now I know why. What I don’t know is why you need to know every single little detail of my life, from what I’m having for lunch to who’s riding with me in my car out here in Jersey, you deranged, nosy lunatic.”
“Your safety on the job is not a ‘little detail.’ I needed to know if this guy’s got your back.”
“And the verdict?”
“He’s had SWAT training…”
“Joey? My Joey’s had SWAT training? Asshole never mentioned it.”
“He was good at it, too, but he likes the challenge of detective work.”
“Does he also like long walks on the beach, Steven? Did you look that far into his life?”
“I’m sensing a little annoyance here…”
“I’m not apologizing for wanting to make sure you’re in safe hands.”
“I… What? You… You’re something else, you know that, right?”
“You like him? This…‘your’ Joey?”
“Yeah, I like him, you jealous, possessive jackass! He’s a good cop.”
“Unlike me, you mean...”
“You’re good at what you do, and you’re a good partner. There’s a difference. Joey – that’s something he needs to learn.”
“Well, he’s not gonna get a better teacher than you.”
“I… Thanks, man.”
“Yeah. Yeah. I better be on speaker, and both your hands better be on the wheel. Pick a good station! None of that crappy stuff.”
“Of course, you’re on speaker. And I think you mean catchy stuff.”
“Don’t tell me what I do and do not mean, Steven, I know my own mind. God, what is that? Because it is not music, Steve. It sounds like…disco. I think I threw up a little in my mouth. ‘I’ve always had a weakness for a man in uniform’? No shit, you like this song…”
“Dr. Love, please come running, can’t you see I’m in pain…”
“You know the lyrics? Wait. You’re singing?”
“You’ve broken my heart and you should be ashamed…”
“Shut up! Please, shut the fuck up!”
“My pulse is getter weaker… Please come back again…”
“I’m hanging up now.”
“If Rachel and Stan get back together, she’d probably move back to O’ahu, right?”
“You sound like Gracie after a few too many sugar cookies at Christmas. In a word: Bouncy.”
“It’s just that the Yakuza may have gotten a new boss out here. We could use all the help we can get.”
“Right. Because of the Yakuza.”
“And the safety of the people of Hawai’i.”
“Just admit you miss me.”
“Not even out of fear of death.”
“I came to the airport, you know. I saw you get on that plane.”
“What? Wait… Really? Then why didn’t you…?”
“I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t say goodbye.”
“I came to see you in Jersey, too.”
“Yeah, I know. I’m an idiot.”
“Steven, what the actual fuck? You better be yanking my chain, you asshole! When was this?”
“When I got back from my mission…”
“You were at your parents’ house…with Grace and Rachel and the rest of your family and you looked so happy. I didn’t know you two…weren’t together anymore, and I…I didn’t want to intrude.”
“You… Are you for real? You didn’t want to intrude? You didn’t… Oh my God! I nearly went outta my mind worrying about you – every day, Steve… Every. Damn. Day! I think I would’ve been okay with you crashing my parents’ place…”
“You were pissed when I left…”
“FYI, Steve: that was nothing compared to what I’m feeling right now. Right now, I’m livid. You’re familiar with that word, right?”
“Yes. I said I was sorry!”
“What were you thinking?”
“To be fair, I was on a lot of painkillers… You said you were done.”
“I was done?”
“With me. You said you were done with me. Before I left… It sounded pretty final.”
“Did you forget the part where I called you a couple of hours later to apologize?”
“The sentiment was there! Even if I didn’t say the words! You know what? You are an idiot. So when you called me, you were in Jersey?”
“I was at the airport.”
“Apology not accepted!”
“I’m not talking to you.”
“Right now, or for good?”
“Both! I hate you so much right now. Just to let you know, because you’re so clueless about these things…”
“You’re not doing a very good job of not talking to me.”
“Shut up! Grace and I would’ve loved to see you. Welcome you back. Give you a hug or two. You not only deprived me of that experience, you deprived my daughter, too. And she adores you. She calls you Super Steve! You’re her freakin’ hero – after me, of course. I think she may even have a crush on you, God help me. And don’t you think I would’ve loved for you to meet my family, you moron? Why am I still talking to you?”
“I won’t do it again. I promise.”
“You better not, McGarrett. And no more secret missions that could get you killed, okay? You tell the Navy things are different now. Tell them you have a family and we need you around. I mean, you’ve put your life on the line for God and Country too many times to count already, tell them to give someone else a turn. It’s only fair. And it’s time they let you have a shot at normal. Not that you know what normal means, but at least you’ll be here at home while you figure it out, and I can keep tabs on you.”
“You know, you can keep tabs on me a lot better if you were here…at home…with me.”
“Is that right?”
“Yeah. Definitely. It’s just common sense.”
“Yeah, well… I’ll think about it.”
“Danno? What’s wrong? You okay? Grace okay? Danny! Talk to me!”
“I am a horrible person…”
“Are you drunk?”
“More like a lot.”
“Yeah. I’m home, though, stop freaking out.”
“What’s going on?”
“How is this my life? Seriously. How, Steve?”
“Danny, I don’t know what you’re talking about…”
“I think about you all the time…”
“Why is that? Huh? My life was supposed to get better. I got my daughter back 24/7, had my wife back and a baby on the way… I’m back in Jersey, even, and I feel…”
“What? What do you feel?”
“I feel…incomplete. Empty. Hollow.”
“I don’t think this baby is mine, Steve.”
“I feel like shit for even thinking it, never mind saying it out loud and to another person, but I…I don’t think this baby is mine.”
“What makes you think that?”
“It’s a hunch.”
“Rachel went in for her ultrasound today.”
“Her due date’s off. It’s too early. But that’s not even the problem. It’s… Steve, I didn’t feel anything. When Grace… When Rachel was pregnant with Grace…it was so different. I’m disconnected this time and I can’t figure out why and I am a horrible person and a shitty father.”
“Shut up! You are an amazing father!”
“I don’t know what to do, Steve… Tell me what to do.”
“Talk to Rachel. That’s what you do. You two have a baby on the way; it doesn’t matter who the father is, the baby’s still Rachel’s. So talk to her about it.”
“She’s going to hate me for doubting her… What if she takes Grace away from me?”
“She’s not going to do that, she knows better now. But if she does… Let’s just say that I know some people.”
“What? Are you gonna put a hit out on her? Maybe there’s some Jersey in you and you just don’t know it…”
“Lawyers, Danny. I know lawyers. You can take her to court in a civil suit and I’m sure any one of them can get you a better custody deal than the one you got shafted with in the divorce.”
“I can’t afford lawyers that good.”
“You won’t have to. I can call in a favor.”
“You’d do that for me?”
“What kind of question is that?”
“I need to know.”
“I’d do anything for you, Danno. Know that.”
“I didn’t mention it last time, but the ultrasound Rachel did? We found out... It’s a girl.”
“She’s Stan’s daughter, Steve.”
“I may have put Rachel through the wringer a little… Pulled out those interrogation techniques I tried to teach you at one point before I gave up.”
“No, we’re cool. Rachel and I, I mean. It’s okay. She was pissed and she yelled a lot but I was right, so… We’ll get past this.”
“Okay. Good. I’m…sorry, Danno. I know how excited you were…”
“I’ve got Grace. She’s all I need.”
“And you. I think I need to have you around, too.”
“You’ve got me. Whenever you need me. Always.”
They’d been in Jersey for four months before Danny acknowledged that niggling seed of doubt that had been growing slowly in his mind about whether or not the baby was really his; he wasn’t kidding when he’d told Steve that he’d felt detached from this unborn child. That immediate connection he’d felt when Rachel had been pregnant with Grace just wasn’t there, and no amount of soul-searching and wallowing in guilt had changed that, and Danny couldn’t for the life of him chalk it up to the fact that it was only because he didn’t love Rachel any more.
He hated himself for it, for doubting her when she’d been so sure in telling him, when she’d seemed so sincere, but every finely honed gut instinct was telling him to step back and look at this like a cop; Danny may not have been top of his class at the Academy, but his intuition had never let him down before and something was definitely not right with this picture.
The Danny that Rachel had married way back when would’ve lost his temper and gone berzerk. This Danny, in the here and now, the one who’d maybe soaked up a little Aloha spirit out there in O’ahu, stayed calm. A week after confiding in Steve, he confronted Rachel with it, and she denied it, blustering in the face of his stoicism, guilt-ridden and afraid of what he might do as he noted every single one of her tells, trying to talk her way out of the web of lies she’d already spun, deceiving both him and Stan.
It was a horrible time to live through (and he’d live through his divorce), and he didn’t think he would have made it if Steve hadn’t been just a phone call away.
In the end, it didn’t take much convincing on his part to get Rachel to do the right thing, to stay her hand and think before she signed those divorce papers a second time around; it just took time.
In the end, it wasn’t Grace that made Danny decide to return to Hawai’i; it was the thought of Steve, waiting for them on the other side.
In the end, leaving New Jersey again, saying goodbye to his family, his childhood home and every familiar thing that he’d once held so dear, had actually felt…all right.
Because, like he’d said from the get-go, when it came down to it, in the end, everything was relative.
Surveillance sucked ass.
At least the rest of the team was doing something productive: Chin was remotely monitoring the goings on in the suspect’s room, Jenna was poring over the evidence they’d already collected, and Kono was coordinating their point of attack with HPD, all of them marking time at HQ and waiting for just the right moment to strike, while Steve McGarrett, their freakin’ boss, had been relegated to stakeout duty with Weston. Like they were punishing him for his snippy mood all of last week or something.
By giving him a fucking time-out.
Steve gritted his teeth and eased off on the white-knuckled grip he had on the steering wheel; he couldn’t even remember when he’d put his hands there. It was almost as if his hind brain was gearing up to drive right through the hotel lobby and up to the suspect’s room, which would’ve been a feat considering the room was on the penthouse floor. He closed his eyes and concentrated on breathing steadily through his nose, trying to achieve some form of tranquility and defuse the tension in his body, but the pain refused to abate.
It had started with a dull ache somewhere in the back of his neck, but after five hours in the car with Weston, Lori, formerly an officer with Homeland Security, and currently, ostensibly, Steve’s Governor-appointed partner – as if she even knew the meaning of the word – his headache was full-blown and throbbing dangerously, like someone had stuffed a stun grenade into his skull and pulled the pin, and if he had to endure another hour of deafening silence in what should be the raucous confines of the Camaro, Steve was going to explode like said grenade.
Chin’s tentative green light (okay, so it had been more like amber…with shades of red) was all it’d taken for Steve to get moving; no judge would ever convict him for doing what needed to get done to take these drugrunners down, especially considering that they’d gotten a very large haul of cocaine off the streets. Besides, he was pretty sure the hotel’s insurance policy would cover the more or less (depending on your perspective) minor damage inflicted on the suite.
Forty-five minutes later, he was back in the car and stepping on the gas before Weston could even slam her door shut, and with a screech of rubber on asphalt, he broke a couple of land speed records and got them back to HQ with his sanity intact.
Weston remained supremely unruffled as usual as she walked inside with him, easily matching his usual clipped pace without complaining or pausing for breath. “I still don’t understand what I did wrong, Commander,” she insisted on saying, picking up the reins of the conversation they’d probably started on, oh, her first day on the job. “I did exactly what you would’ve done – and did do – in the same situation.”
Her indifference made Steve want to bang his head against a brick wall. God, is this what Danny’d had to deal with, with him? He suppressed a shudder and focused his fury on Weston. “You were supposed to call for back-up first.”
“I did. HPD and CSI were standing by. Book, seize and process.”
“Chin and Kono,” Steve gritted out. “They are our back-up. Like first responders, they get the call first. Why is that so hard to understand?”
“As per my directive, I’m supposed to notify HPD first, and since Kono was briefing them…”
“Your directive,” Steve growled, “is to do as I say. Period.”
“With all due respect, Commander, I work for the Lieutenant Governor.”
Steve glared at her and she glared right back; respectfully, of course. The nerve right behind the orbit of his right eye throbbed painfully, so he took a deep breath to calm himself. “Just go write up your report,” he ordered with exaggerated ease, “and this time, don’t ‘forget’ to let me see it first.”
“I’m not required…”
“As long as you work for…with me,” Steve snarled, his tone deathly serious, “you’re required.”
“Commander,” Weston huffed, as if she was the one who was being inconvenienced by all this bullshit he had to put up with, “it is not my fault that there were inconsistencies in the reports we filed last week.”
“Then whose fault was it?” Weston stared pointedly at him, and Steve resisted the urge to ram his fist through a nearby wall. He counted backwards from ten – slowly, twice– before speaking again. “You do not need to put every little detail into those reports, Weston. For example, take our stakeout today. All you need to note is that we were…casing the perimeter…and we heard a distant sound of distress through the door, announced our presence, and entered the domicile. It is called ‘probable cause to enter’ and law enforcement officers use it all the time.”
“Those suites on the VIP floor are soundproofed. We didn’t hear or see anything. You just deduced that it was a steel door that couldn’t be kicked in manually and you didn’t have a battering ram handy, so you grabbed the axe from the fire safety box in the hallway and hacked away at the doorframe until you could kick the door open and…”
“Details! Details that do not need to go into the report!”
“You almost strangled the suspect with the fire hose from the hallway.”
“It wasn’t strangling, I was subduing the suspect! He was trying to run!” Steve ranted, this close to pulling his own hair out because how many times had they had this same fucking discussion? “Listen, Weston – boring bureaucratic types do not need to know little details. I keep trying to tell you: Read Danny’s old reports and fill your reports in accordingly. Why can’t you just do that? Is that so difficult? Does that require a degree in English? No, right? I didn’t think so! Just do what Danny did!”
“I think that might require a degree in Creative Writing.” Weston pursed her lips and narrowed her eyes as she peered up at him with a laser-like focus that meant she had a rock-solid counterargument and Steve was about to be screwed. “One of Detective Williams’ reports stated that a person of interest was apprehended for questioning when the door he had barred was opened with ‘due force.’”
“That sounds like a reasonable description of events…”
“Commander, you threw a grenade in there.”
“I didn’t throw it, I hooked it on the doorknob. What’s your point?”
“You don’t see the discrepancy between ‘due force’ and lobbing a grenade into someone’s place of business? Because I can assure you, Governor Denning does.”
“I’m not going to lie, Commander,” Weston stated in that annoyingly calm manner of hers. Did nothing ever set this woman off? Jesus, would it kill her to show a little emotion?
“I’m not asking you to lie, Weston.”
“Well, I’m not going to embellish the truth either.”
Steve groaned. “I’m not asking you to… God, how is this my life?” He threw up his hands in disgust. “All I’m asking is that you tone down the truth.” He nodded to himself; that’s exactly how Danny would put it. “Yeah, that’s what I’m asking. Dial it down a notch. Give them the truth but on a need-to-know basis. They don’t need to know about grenades and axes and one of the many uses of fire hoses. Danny understood this. Intuitively. Why can’t you?”
“Because I’m not Detective Williams.” Weston looked at him like he was something unpleasant that she had found stuck to the bottom of her combat boot. “You need to let him go.”
“No. You need to be more like him,” Steve told her without preamble, his index finger jabbing the air in front of her face. “Here’s an idea: why don’t you call him and get some pointers?”
“Call him in New Jersey?” Weston blinked at him like he was the idiot in this scenario.
Steve snapped; both his tone and his patience. “Yes, dammit!” he roared. “You need his help! I will pay for it!”
Before he could slam into his office – metaphorically, because you couldn’t slam jackshit with those heavy glass doors literally – the sound of familiar male laughter stopped him dead in his tracks; he’d know that sound anywhere.
Steve turned slowly, sure that if he moved too fast, that sound would disappear, certain that he was imagining things. But no… There stood Danny, right by the tech table, just like before – except without the tie – flanked by Chin and Kono and Jenna, all of whom were laughing, looking happier and more relaxed than he’d seen them in a long while, none of them looking all that put out at being left out of the drug bust.
Danny. Bent over, almost doubled at the waist as he laughed, his eyes crinkled up in the corners, scrunched shut as he clapped his hands and hooted and straightened back up, pointing at Steve and laughing some more.
“That, my friend,” he gasped, clutching his stomach, “is what I call karma! And it’s kicking your ass, baby!”
“Danno…” Steve said when he could speak again, when Danny’s laughter had subsided into husky chuckles and he’d wiped the tears that had slipped out the corners of his eyes. He still couldn’t believe it. Danny…was here. In Hawai’i. And not in Jersey, and shit, maybe that’s why he’d been so elusive and unavailable this past week every time Steve had tried to call him to have a conversation that was more than five fucking minutes long.
Danny’s blue eyes actually fucking twinkled. He winked. “Steven.”
Steve was fairly certain a dorky, delighted smile was forming on his face right about then. “You’re back…”
“But you’re back.” Steve insisted, needing to know, because he was grinning like a loon but he still couldn’t get his body to move, and he really, really wanted a hug, but he suddenly didn’t know how to get one, or whether Danny would even give him one, and then it didn’t matter much because Danny was talking again, and Jesus, he’d missed the sound of his voice, live and in person.
“I’m back,” Danny confirmed, “though for how long, I don’t know yet.”
Steve immediately decided he’d do whatever it took to make sure Danny’s stay lasted as long as possible. Forever, if he could. He vaguely wondered if kidnapping was a viable option in this sort of scenario. “How’s Grace? Is she here?” Steve knew it was stupid but he still couldn’t help looking around for her.
Danny smirked. “Well, not here here. She’s with Rachel. Who is with Stan. Who is back in her good graces.”
Comprehension dawned on Steve. “Oh! She’s telling him the…”
“She didn’t want to do it over the phone…”
“Enough said. When’d you get here?”
“A few minutes before you got here and gave us that awesome show.” Danny grinned; Steve felt that if he’d been standing any closer, Danny’d be poking him in the chest right about now, just to emphasize his point. Steve really wanted to be poked in the chest, but there was still that pesky little problem of him not being able to move. “Steve, you are a man of many talents, my friend. I had no idea you could gesticulate like that. I must’ve rubbed off on you. Also? What the hell, you brute, you axed someone’s door open?”
Steve bit his lip. “So you heard about the…”
“Yes, Steven, I heard. I’m pretty sure people on the mainland heard about your improper use of fire hoses.” Danny huffed, but there was no heat in the sound. “Honest to God, when will you learn?”
“Aw, come on, Danno, I had to!”
“I’ll just bet.” His ex-partner rolled his eyes. “Let me clarify for the class: There is improvisation, and then there is the batshit stuff you do. It’s called insanity, pal, and it is not a good thing.”
“Sometimes it’s a good thing.” Steve couldn’t help the burst of happiness spreading warmth through his chest. “Hey! You want some coffee? Maybe a malasada or two? I’ll go get it! Then you can yell at me all you want!”
Danny just looked at him, a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth, the kind of smile that meant Steve had said or done exactly the right thing for once. “I want the ones with the…”
“Those are so bad for your health. Well, worse, actually… Grace’ll have my hide…”
“Steve, I am a grown man…”
“Half grown. On a good day, when your knee’s not acting up and you’re all hunched over,” Steve couldn’t help but quip; Danny blithely ignored him as if he hadn’t spoken.
“…if I want a cream-filled malasada…”
“Fine, I’ll go get them. You can explain your elevated cholesterol levels to your daughter.” Steve patted his pocket to make sure he had the keys to the car and turned to leave, pausing for a second to point at Danny. “Don’t go anywhere. Stay.”
“I’m not a dog, McGarrett. And here I thought we were making strides on your people skills.”
“Please. Not an inch, Danno. Don’t…”
“My malasadas ain’t gonna get themselves, Steve.”
“Ten minutes,” Steve called out from the main doors, but seeing Danny’s face contort in righteous indignation, he corrected himself. “Okay, okay! Twenty!”
“Stick to the speed limit, McGarrett; I swear to God if anything happens to my malasadas…”
“I’ll guard them with my life!”
Steve made it back in eight minutes and forty-seven seconds. What? He knows people, okay? And if some of those people can go get Danny’s second favorite pastries and meet Steve halfway with them, then Steve can take care of a parking ticket or two for some of those people.
Also, that’s what sirens and flashing lights were for: emergencies.
And, note to self, find out where Chin got those cocoa puff things Danny waxed orgasmic over, and maybe buy shares in the bakery, because that might entice Danny to stick around in a way that nothing else could. Plus, Steve wouldn’t get charged with a kidnapping felony. Bonus.
Steve walked back into HQ to find Danny chatting with his team and Weston, all of them seated around their conference table. In fact, Danny was laughing and smiling and talking to Weston as if they were already friends, good friends, the kind of friends who maybe commiserated together about a certain mutual partner they’d had to put up with. Steve didn’t like it; he didn’t like it one bit. And Jesus, who knew Weston could even smile? He sure as hell hadn’t seen evidence of that since he’d been forced to take her on; he’d even had the urge, once or twice, to check for a pulse.
“Oh my God…”
Steve sank into the empty seat at Danny’s side and smirked at his surprise. “I have my ways.”
“Do those ways involve Star Trek technology? Can you teleport, Steve? Or is that more classified Army intel?”
“Navy, Danno. I was in the Navy. And don’t be silly; if I could teleport, I’d’ve been here sooner.”
“My car better still be in one piece, McGarrett.”
“Give or take a dent or two.”
“Define ‘a dent or two.’”
Steve grinned at the way Danny’s hands sliced the air. “Why are you getting all bent outta shape? You gave her to me when you left.”
“On the condition that you would treat her like a lady!”
“I do.” Steve grinned a little lecherously. “Wham. Bam. Thank you, ma’am.”
“You, sir, are an animal,” Danny groused, reaching out for the box of malasadas and picking the biggest one before passing the box around the table. “How are you not dead yet? Seriously, how has Rollins not killed you for that cavalier attitude of yours?”
“Chicks dig my cavalier attitude,” Steve bragged, and then bit his lip and lowered his voice, mumbling, “’sides, Cath and I… We don’t do that thing we used to do any more.”
“You don’t? Huh.” Danny pursed his lips as he studied him, those beady blue eyes boring into his soul with deadly precision, in the way that only Danny could get away with, because he was the only one Steve ever let get that close. “Gimme my coffee.”
“Here you go, cream puff.”
“Jackass,” Danny mumbled around a huge bite of his malasada. “Hey, did you make any headway with the Stamatos case?”
“Yeah, that’s where we were…”
“That was Gibson’s door you axed? Okay, now, you have my stamp of approval. And?”
“Your instincts panned out. You’ve still got the best nose out there, Danno.”
“It’s a gift, what can I say?”
“Most of the drugs were on site, but it looks like they moved some of it already.”
“You get anything outta him yet?”
Steve shook his head. “Just had HPD book him; I need to get him to talk before he decides to lawyer up. Nick Stamatos has his fingers in too many pies; we need to catch a break to get him and Gibson’s our best bet.”
“Well, from what you’ve told me, Gibson’s not stupid enough to clam up this early in the game, even if he does call in his legal eagle; he’ll wanna show good faith and ‘cooperate’ ‘cause he knows you’ve got him dead to rights.” Danny chewed thoughtfully and took a sip of his coffee. “I say you let him stew for a bit.”
“Not an option,” Steve told him, “we need to find the rest of that shipment. Stamatos may lay low for a while now that we got his right hand man, but it won’t be for long.”
“I see you still have no patience to speak of,” Danny muttered, “surprise, surprise.” Steve shrugged and Danny rolled his eyes. “Leave him alone for twenty-four hours, no contact. Everyone’s still on high alert for Stamatos, so you can afford to exercise a little restraint here. And from what you’ve told me about Gibson, he’s gonna get ants in his pants and, by this time tomorrow, he’ll spill to save his own ass.”
“I like the way your mind works.” Steve started to smile but then reality bit and he grimaced. “Dammit, there’s no way he’s gonna crack without a little shove in the right direction. I don’t have that kind of immunity any more. New Governor, new rules.”
“Guess you’re gonna have to do some old school police work, huh? Bust out the kind of interrogation skills that they don’t teach at Gitmo. My, how the mighty have fallen,” Danny teased, smirking, and Steve was all set to take mock offense when Danny took another bite of his pastry. It left a tiny dollop of cream clinging to the bow of his upper lip, just there for the licking and Steve blinked, thoroughly sidetracked and completely entranced.
He’d kissed that mouth once, he recalled with sudden clarity, and he very much wanted to do it again. And possibly keep doing it for a very long time.
He reached out without thinking and rubbed that bit of cream off with his thumb before sucking it clean, and oh, wow, that was nice and sweet with the tiniest hint of salt. He wondered if the saltiness was the taste of the ocean air on Danny’s skin, and the thought made his pulse spike, so he distracted himself by reaching for the box of pastries and claiming the last malasada for himself; he’d just swim extra long tomorrow to make up for the indulgence and maybe calm his overeager libido while he was at it.
It took Kono snorting to remind Steve that he and Danny weren’t alone in the conference room. A split second recon indicated that Chin was smiling like a sphinx, Jenna was grinning and looked about two seconds away from squealing and perhaps clapping her hands like a seal – the cute marine mammal, not the badass Navy kind – and Weston looked…well, a little shell-shocked.
It was a good look on her, Steve thought smugly.
“How do you know so much about this case?” she asked Danny.
Danny shrugged. “Eh, I get updates.”
Weston quirked an eyebrow at him. “You get updates?”
“I get updates.”
“How is that allowed?”
Steve felt his temper spark to flame. “My team, my decision,” he said, a blatant warning to back off in his tone; Danny bumped his knee under the table. He huffed out a breath, frowning when Weston dared to continue.
“But he’s not a member of this team…”
“He will always be a member of this team!” Steve snapped, his hackles rising with his rage as he stared Weston down.
“Amen, bruddah,” Kono was quick to chime in, and Chin nodded in amused agreement, her dimpled grin and his playfully sage words diffusing the tension inside him like a bomb. “Once you’re in, there’s no getting out.”
“Really?” Jenna quipped, doing her part. “I wish someone would’ve mentioned that before I joined you guys.”
Steve blinked the red haze from his vision and turned back to Weston as the rest of his team laughed. “If it’ll make you feel better, think of Danny as a…consultant.”
Chin smiled that ridiculously Zen, all-knowing smile of his. “Nice one, brah.” Steve couldn’t help but grin back, and they reached across the table to bump fists. “Wish you would’ve told us. We could’ve used Danny’s input once or twice.”
“The hell are you talking about, Chin Ho Kelly?” Danny sputtered indignantly. He jabbed a finger in the air in Chin’s direction. “You call me every Saturday. Like clockwork. Just to shoot the breeze or give me – very helpful, I might add, so thank you – hints on how my phone works.” He stared down Kono. “You call me twice a week! Sometimes three! And sometimes, you make me talk to your mother! Who is a lovely lady, no doubt, but what gives? And you with the daily emails,” he pinned Jenna with an irate stare, “and the LOLcats.”
“I think my mom’s got a little crush on you.” Kono laughed and Danny gaped at that bit of news. Steve hid a smile. “Besides, she knows you’reohana, brah. And the LOLcats were for Grace.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Danny groused, and then leveled a steady look in Steve’s direction, one that was playful and heated and did funny things to Steve’s heart rate. “So, if I’m a consultant, how come I haven’t seen a dime for my trouble? I’m gonna have to demand payment for services rendered, McGarrett.”
Steve gulped and scrambled for an appropriate response, because all his thoughts had just headed into exceedingly inappropriate territory. “You work for food,” Steve told him, with a pointed bite of his pastry, “and outta the goodness of that big haole heart of yours. Cheap and easy.” Danny kicked him under the table and Steve grinned unrepentantly.
“Out of curiosity,” Chin started, looking so innocent that Steve’s smile slid off his face, “how often are you in touch with Danny, boss?”
“None of your damn business,” Steve grumbled, trying not to pout; Danny was laughing at him, though, as were Jenna and Kono, so he didn’t think he was successful in that endeavor.
“One or two or twenty, thirty times a day, I tend to lose count,” Danny supplied with a smug smirk, his gaze focused on Steve like a tractor beam. “Calls, texts and emails. It’s almost like you miss me or something.”
“What do you think ‘consultancy’ means?”
“Calling me for laundry tips?”
“That was just the one time!”
Jenna giggled. “This I gotta hear.”
Danny obligingly turned to her, that damnable grin still on his face. “He needed tips on how to wash his tie…”
“I got blood on it…”
“You get blood on everything; that is what you do best.”
“…he’s the one always wearing ties, so he was my go-to guy.”
“He’s your go-to guy, tie or no tie,” Kono said, chuckling and winking at Danny. “Personally, I dig the tie. So sexy.”
“Seconded,” Jenna chirped.
Steve felt another growl rumble in his chest, one that felt horrifyingly, fiercely territorial, but thankfully, Danny’s laughter masked the sound of it. “Man, I should go away more often if this is the kind of reception I get when I come back.”
Terror gripped Steve. “You’re not going anywhere.”
“Says who?” Danny asked, all brash belligerence that Steve found entirely too charming; maybe Danny was right and he really should get his head checked.
“You and whose army?”
“Was that another anti-Navy quip?”
“I’m not anti-Navy,” Danny clarified, “I love the Navy. I have the highest respect for the Navy. The Navy…gave me you.”
Steve felt the echo of the undoubtedly ridiculous smile on his face in every cell of his body. “You love me.”
Danny grinned, holding his thumb and forefinger in front of Steve’s face, about a half inch apart. “Maybe a little.”
Chin snorted. “No ‘maybe’ about it. Don’t think I didn’t see that whole miming thing with the heart when Steve was airlifted off that mountain with a broken arm, brah.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Danny hedged, not quite hiding his amusement.
“I remember that, too,” Steve delighted in telling him.
“You were delirious…”
“I was in complete control of all my mental faculties.”
“Emphasis on the mental.”
Steve smirked. “You’re staying with me, right?”
Danny blinked at the non sequitur. “Er… I was gonna get a hotel.”
Steve smiled fondly at him. “Ohana, Danno. You’re staying with me.” He’d deal with the consequences of having Danny in his living space later; bridges: Steve didn’t cross ‘em unless he absolutely had to, or at least until he could rig them with explosives and take them out of the equation altogether.
“Yeah, fine.” Steve was pretty sure Danny’s smile was the mirror image of his. “I gotta get Gracie later tonight, though.”
“We’ll go together.”
“Only if I drive.”
“But it’s my car now…”
“If it’s your car now, then by your logic, I should be the one driving it.”
“But you gave it to me.”
“If you think I’m letting you drive with my daughter in the car…”
“I would never…”
“I know that, you goof, stop with the Constipated Face already, I’m just yanking your chain. And, I miss driving my Camaro.”
“Fine,” Steve capitulated – only ‘cause it was Danny – as he looked at the rest of his team. “Will you guys take care of the food? We’ll get the booze. My place at 1800.”
“Copy that, boss,” Kono said, smirking, and Steve leaned back in his chair, hands tied behind his head as he surveyed his team and Weston. His lips quirked when his gaze settled on Danny.
Steve grinned at Danny’s flustered look. “What what?”
“What’s with that face?”
“Thought you knew all my faces.”
“Yeah, well, that’s a new one,” Danny grudgingly admitted, squinting as he leaned in for a closer look. Steve obligingly leaned in too. “Huh. That looks like your Goof Face with a side of your Dopey Face, and you just added a little smidgen of – ah, my personal favorite – your Pouty Five Year Old Face.”
“You scare me sometimes.”
“I scare you?” Danny scoffed. “You’re scared of little ol’ me? You’re losing your touch, Super SEAL.” Steve opened his mouth to vehemently deny that but Danny held a hand up and pulled his vibrating phone out of his pocket. “Oh hey, change of plans. Rachel and Grace are here… ETA about two minutes, and they’ll come get her tomorrow afternoon.”
Steve brightened at the prospect of seeing Danny’s little girl again. “That’s great! We’ll hang out tomorrow morning, do something fun.”
“Fun, huh?” Danny’s tone was teasing and a little sweet. “Will it involve sun and surf and sand in uncomfortable places?”
“With a pineapple on top.”
Danny laughed, which made Steve laugh, and maybe stare at his ex-partner for a little longer than was absolutely necessary.
Steve wrenched his gaze away from Danny to raise an eyebrow at Weston. “Oh, what?”
Weston, Kono and Jenna exchanged a quick look, all wide eyes and faked innocence; Chin was still doing his sphinx thing. The hairs at the back of Steve’s neck rose and his survival instincts kicked in. “Nothing,” Weston replied, shaking her head and waving a hand at them. “Carry on.”
She was smirking, though, and Steve didn’t like it. He frowned at her and he would’ve said something but for Danny reaching out to smooth the furrows in his forehead.
“That Frowny Face is not pretty, babe,” he teased, “and if you’re not careful, it’ll stick like that. Gimme the one from before.” Steve couldn’t help smiling at him any more than he could help breathing. And it had been six months of separation; shouldn’t he be over this thing he had for Danny by now? Danny beckoned him closer with a crook of his finger and Steve went. Right. So, not over then. “Let me get this straight. We were partners for, what? A year and change?”
Steve nodded and then shook his head. “And best friends. That too, right?” Unless Steve had fucked that up by kissing him; God, he hoped not.
Danny propped his chin on his hand and just looked at him, that tiny, teasing smile still on his face. “That, too. Right.” Steve sagged in relief. “And I’ve been gone a little over six months, and I’ve been back a little under sixty minutes, and I got a hug from pretty much everyone – even Weston here – but you. What gives? Too macho for public displays of affection unless one of us is getting outta jail free or, I don’t know, back from the brink of death?”
“Weston hugged you?” Steve shot her a look that should’ve, if the universe was a fair and just place, rendered her extinct.
“That’s the part you focus on? Hey, McGQ! Quit giving your partner the stink-eye and gimme a hug, goddammit.”
“We’re sitting down.”
“Then stand the fuck up.”
Steve stood, grinning, and Danny stood, chuckling, arms wide open, but before they could move, the sound of flip flops slapping against the tiled floor interrupted them. Steve turned just in time to catch Grace in his arms.
“Gracie!” Steve felt every tense muscle in his body relax around Grace’s little body, which fit in his arms like there had always been a special place for her right there, no matter how small or big she was, speaking of which, he could’ve sworn that she’d grown in the last six months. Steve breathed in the sweet scent of her shampoo and held on tight, pressing a kiss to whatever bit of her face he could reach. She wriggled in his arms and giggled helplessly when he made a game of it. “Missed you so much, sweetheart.”
“We missed you too,” she told him, smiling adorably as Danny reached out to grab her hand and bring it to his lips for a kiss. “Hi, Danno.”
“Hey, Monkey. You enjoying being back in Hawai’i?”
“Yeah! Mommy took me to get shave ice and then I hung out at the pool at Step Stan’s while they talked and talked and talked.” She rolled her eyes and Steve and Danny both choked back their laughter in time to see an elegantly pregnant Rachel walk up into the conference area. Grace gave Steve an extra-hard squeeze and practically leapt from his arms so that she could go hug Kono and Chin and get introduced to the others.
They made small talk for a few, very uncomfortable – for Steve anyway – minutes before Danny offered to see Rachel out, while Grace, with one last kiss for her mother, elected to stay put. When her parents were out of sight, she pinned Steve with a look of disapproval.
“You let Danno have a malasada, didn’t you?” The accusation brought Steve to his knees in front of her.
“He let Danny have two,” Kono supplied helpfully as her cousin snorted in amusement. “The cream-filled ones. Mmm, so onolicious…”
The glare Steve shot her would have incinerated a lesser woman, but Kono just smirked, the traitor. “Gracie,” he pleaded instead, turning back to his pint-sized adversary, “it was just to welcome him back to the island. He hasn’t had one in six months!”
“He had donuts in New Jersey. Lots and lots of donuts.”
“Well, now, that’s on you. You should’ve been watching him a lot closer,” Steve teased. “You slacking off, princess?”
“I can’t watch him at work, silly,” Grace huffed, her tiny hands stabbing the air in front of Steve’s face in emphasis, not unlike the way her father spoke to him; he bit back a grin at her irate little face. “And his new partner, Joey? He’s so lolo, he doesn’t listen to me at all and now Danno’s gonna get so momona!”
Steve couldn’t hold back his laughter: Danny’s daughter was breaking out the Pidgin. “Danny’s getting a little chubby because Joey’s er…lolo?”
“Totally!” Grace nodded. “He’s a goof.”
“Who’s a goof?” Danny asked as he strutted back into the room. “Uncle Steve? Because Uncle Steve is the biggest goof who ever goofed…”
Grace frowned. “No, Joey.”
“My partner, Joey?” Danny blinked at Grace in surprise.
Steve couldn’t decide whether to feel smug because Grace thought Joey was stupid, or feel a little (okay, a lot) jealous that Danny had a partner who was not Steve, and that was wrong on so many levels that Steve didn’t even know where to start, and he certainly didn’t give a shit that Joey had checked out and seemed like a stand-up guy.
He stood up and stared Danny down, his Serious Face out in full force, much to Danny’s apparent amusement. “I hear Joey let you eat one too many donuts back there in Jersey,” he told him with a teasing, yet none-too-gentle smack to Danny’s – admittedly still-trim – abdomen. “I thought I noticed something different about you, Danno.”
Danny sputtered and Grace giggled. “You did not just call me fat! Did he just call me fat? Did you just call me fat? Me?”
“If the patent leather loafers fit…” Steve frowned. “Or the pants don’t fit.” He shook his head. “Whatever.”
“Goof. I’ll have you know that if you didn’t make me break my knee again, I could run circles around you, SEAL boy! This is all muscle!”
“Sure, Danno, whatever you say.” Steve pacified him, winking at Grace and pointing an accusing finger in Danny’s exasperated face. “But ho, brah, ainokea malasadas so ono. Grind too much, ass why you come so momona.”
There was a moment of stunned, pin-drop silence before Chin, Kono, Steve and Grace – Danny’s beautiful, precious, Pidgin-spouting princess – all burst out laughing. Danny’s eyes goggled as he gaped at them. He stared at Grace like she’d betrayed him somehow.
“You understood all that?” She smiled angelically and waved her hand like she got the gist of it and Danny turned on Kono with a squinty glare. “I knew I should’ve never let her speak to you without supervision.”
Kono shrugged, her cheeks dimpling with the effort it took not to smile. “What? It’s good to know a second language.”
“Pidgin?” Danny asked, with a wave of his hands. “Pidgin does not qualify as a second language. You know what does? Spanish! Or French! Urdu! Tagalog! American Sign Language! Those? Those qualify! Pidgin? Is like a made up language. Like Elvish! Or Klingon!”
“There are Hawaiians here, haole, quit talkin’ stink bout us,” Steve felt obliged to point out and Danny turned and glared at him.
“You need to sh…ush. Shush!” he modified for Grace’s benefit. “I’m pretty sure you just called me fat in two different languages! Why, I oughta…”
Steve smirked, flexing his muscles and cracking his neck, planting his feet in a fighting stance. “You like beef, brah?”
“I hate you so, so much,” Danny muttered, but Steve caught him staring at his biceps, looking a little riveted, and hey…that was interesting.
Steve flexed again, put his pecs into it this time, and Danny’s eyes kind of glazed over. He tried not to look too smug, but it was a lost cause, and now he really wanted to grab Danno and never let him go, so he picked up a still-giggling Grace to occupy his arms instead, because he wasn’t quaking in his combats at the thought of hugging her and, it was a close thing, but he wasn’t afraid that he’d never be able to let her go. With her, he got to cuddle to his heart’s content, and he got sort of stupidly happy when she sighed, looped her small arms around his neck and trustingly snuggled into his embrace and whispered in his ear. He listened attentively and shook his head, whispering in her ear this time as Danny’s eyebrows rose and his brow furrowed in surprise; Steve and Grace looked at each other and nodded in agreement.
“Malasadas only once a week, Danno,” Grace told her dad, “or if you’re gonna have more, you have to go swimming with Uncle Steve.”
Danny looked like he was fighting a big, ridiculously happy grin. “Oh, so that’s how it is, huh? You ganging up on me, Monkey? Now that you got your Super Steve back?” Grace snickered when Danny tickled her tummy and grabbed onto Steve. “What about cocoa puffs, huh? Do I get any of those?” Steve looked at Danny’s daughter and raised his brow in question. Her little bow-shaped mouth pursed up in thought and she looked at him enquiringly; he gave her a tiny smile. “Oh my God, what is that?” Danny sputtered. “First Kono with the Pidgin and now you with the super secret wordless language of the SEALs? No! No way. Next thing, Chin’ll be teaching her how to hack a computer, and Jenna’ll be recruiting her into the CIA, and…”
Danny clapped his hands over Grace’s ears and stared belligerently up at Steve. “Her Jersey cousins already corrupted her enough.”
Steve nodded in approval; he’d definitely noticed the newfound confidence Grace had; there was more Danny in her personality now than Rachel, and as far as Steve was concerned, there was nothing wrong with that. “Influenced, I think is what you mean. It’s a good thing, Danny.”
“I know, but I don’t want her growing up too soon. She’s my baby.”
“I’m not a baby, Danno,” Grace responded with the longsuffering sigh of a daughter with an overprotective father who adored her, hearing the conversation loud and clear despite the hands over her ears.
Danny’s gaze flitted from Grace to Steve as he stared at them, all his bluster gone, slowly replaced by a soft, sweet smile on his face as he stroked Grace’s hair and trailed one hand down until it settled warm, and a maybe little possessive – and hey, that was a good thing, too; a very good thing; an awesome, amazing thing – on the meat of Steve’s forearm. “She hugs you like she hugs me,” he whispered, for Steve’s ears only, even though Steve was sure everyone else had already left. Danny’s blue eyes bored into Steve’s, crystal clear and intensely bright; it was like looking at a piece of the Hawai’ian sky. Danny laughed then, squeezing his arm before letting go, and Steve came back down to earth. “Let’s go home.”
“Home,” Steve agreed, smiling, probably very goofily.
He was a big enough man that he didn’t hold the fact that he’d been cheated out of a hug with Danny against his daughter.
Danny was itching to touch Steve.
Not the casual, light touches he’d worked into their conversations since they’d left HQ, like slapping Steve’s hands away from the radio when they argued as Danny drove them back to Steve’s place, or the lighthearted jabbing at Steve’s chest when he teased him about not changing the code on his alarm since Danny had set it way back when, or the playful tugs on his wrist or the lingering brush of his fingers against Steve’s forearm, or the affectionate squeezing of his shoulder as they’d laughed and bantered back and forth every moment since then, always talking, always touching...like they were going through the steps of some stupidly complicated mating ritual.
Don’t get him wrong; it was awesome. It just wasn’t enough.
And Steve hadn’t touched him once. He’d just stood there, or sat there, tattooed biceps straining against the snug confines of his t-shirt sleeves, his arms crossed against his big, burly chest, not touching Danny. It was…frustrating. Danny would’ve been offended had it not been for the affectionate expression and lopsided smile on Steve’s face whenever he looked in Danny’s direction. Which was pretty much every couple of seconds. It was ridiculous and fond and sweet and Danny could feel Steve’s eyes track his every movement across the room as he got reacquainted with Kono and Chin, Jenna and Kamekona, and chatted with Weston and Lieutenant Commander Joe White, US Navy, the man who’d trained Steve, the man who’d stepped in when Danny hadn’t been able to and saved Steve.
Danny had a lot of respect for Joe White. He’d also had a few choice words for him, because SEAL training was all well and good but Danny was the one who’d had to deal with the fallout of unleashing Steve back into the general population.
He watched as Steve and Joe spoke out on the lanai, Steve standing at Parade Rest; what a goof, Danny thought with an eye roll. He smiled when he saw Steve’s eyes sporadically flit to the hammock where Gracie was curled up with a big cushion, fast asleep, Steve’s face filled with so much affection as he looked at Danny’s daughter that, God, it was like a punch to the heart every single time; the only thing better was the look on his face when Steve looked at Danny.
So yeah, okay, Danny might’ve been a little in love with the way Steve looked at him, like he didn’t really want to be looking anywhere else, or at anyone else – with the exception of Grace, of course. She also got that look from Steve, like he’d do anything for her, whatever it took to keep her safe and happy and smiling and, oh boy, Steve was going to spoil his kid rotten someday soon, and Danny would just sit back with a big, goofy grin and let him.
And while Steve was busy watching him and Grace, Danny kept his eyes on Steve. It didn’t matter who he was talking to at the time; he made sure that Steve was somewhere in his field of vision, within touching distance if he could manage it, including him in the conversation if he couldn’t, talking enough for the both of them when they stood shoulder to shoulder because Steve could be very verbal without saying a word. They balanced each other out, he supposed, yin and yang, and as the night wore on and the beer flowed freely – but still in moderation; Grace was present after all – Danny found that every look Steve sent him had the power to sock him right in the gut, intense and fiery, heating him up from the inside out.
He really wanted to grab Steve, haul him into a dark corner and kiss him again. Or for the first time again, because last time, he’d just been a spectator; this time he wanted to savor it, kiss Steve senseless, give Steve a little payback for making Danny crazy over the past six months, for sealing his fate and changing the entire course of his life.
SEALed with a kiss, Danny thought with a stupid smirk.
Yeah, so maybe he was a little smitten with Steve. Danny was fairly certain most people were smitten with Steve at first sight, so long as he wasn’t shooting at them or something; maybe Danny should start a support group.
Later in the night, everyone ended up outside, just off the lanai to where Chin and Kamekona had gathered up all the loungers and rickety old chairs they could find around the fire pit, where a good blaze was going, crackling and spitting sparks into the air. They were close enough that Danny could still keep watch over Grace but far enough away that they wouldn’t disturb her with their chatter. He pressed a kiss to her forehead and joined the others, taking the seat left free for him, the one by Steve, clinking the rim of his beer bottle against Steve’s as he sat down and sprawled in his chair.
“So tell me something, Williams,” Joe said gruffly, after staring at him some, “how did you hook up with McGarrett?”
Danny didn’t spew out his beer in surprise, but it was a close thing. Seriously? ‘Hook up’? Jesus, Mary and Joseph. But oh. Oh. He meant their partnership. Er…their Five-0 partnership. Right. Now, that was a story Danny knew how to tell; he’d regaled Joey and his sisters and his parents and cousins and the occasional perp with it in Jersey.
“It all started with him pulling his gun on me…”
“You had your gun on me, too!” Steve pointed out. Danny glared at him.
“Who’s telling this story?” Steve waved a hand at him to continue; Danny blithely turned back to the Commander. “As I was saying: It all started when he…we… Okay, it started with a stand-off at gunpoint…”
“Like in an old western?” Kamekona asked. “Like John Wayne and Clint Eastwood at high noon? I like westerns.”
Danny drew in a deep breath. “Okay. First, I don’t think John Wayne and Clint Eastwood were ever in the same movie together. Second? Let me tell my goddamn story!”
“Okay, brah. My bad.”
“Thank you,” Danny said, trying not to smile when Steve did. “My point was…”
“I’m pretty sure stories should start with ‘Once upon a time.’ Seriously,” Kono interrupted with a cheeky smile, “you have a daughter, you should know that.”
Danny closed his eyes and prayed for patience. “Is this gonna become a thing? Because I will shoot the next person who speaks without being spoken to.” No one said a word. “Okay. Where was I? Oh yeah. Once upon a time, there was a ridiculously, and I mean ridiculously, intelligent and intuitive and ruggedly handsome…”
Steve winked at him. “Why, thank you, Danno.”
“…blond detective, and one, batshit crazy, grenade-toting, trigger-happy ex-SEAL.” Kono snickered and Danny grinned at her. “Happy now? Can I get on with it?” She nodded and waved him on. “Thank you. So Steve, and me, in a stand-off, at gunpoint, because, you know, most things with Steve involve fire-power of some sort. He was trying to steal evidence from my crime scene…”
“Technically, that tool box was mine…”
“What did I just say about interrupting me?”
“I reserve the right to interject as I see fit,” Steve told him with that stupid, smug look he had that Danny really kind of hated, and loved, but whatever, “especially since this story involves me, too.”
Danny ignored him. “Then, when I refused to let him take it, he called the late, not-so-great Governor, got sworn in, and over the phone, pledged allegiance to Hawaii and her people, and took off with the toolbox. Not an hour later, he shows up at my apartment…”
Steve, of course, couldn’t let that one slide without comment. “Your hovel.”
“I was – still am – paying child support on a cop’s salary. Gladly, because I would sell my soul for my child. So yeah, I couldn’t exactly afford to stay at the Ritz.”
“It was a shit-hole.”
Danny glared and Steve smiled, looking like butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth. “It is rude to interrupt someone in the middle of an epic tale!”
“My apologies. Do go on.”
“Anyway – he came to my place, soaking wet in the sudden monsoon outside – because hello, Hawaii – dripped all over my floors and told me that I had no choice, he was making me his partner and we were gonna get along great…”
Chin and Kono burst out laughing, Kono gaping at Steve. “Oh my God – you didn’t. Seriously? I had not heard that. Have you heard this, cuz?”
“I heard what happened after, but this part is news to me,” Chin replied, his chest shaking as he laughed at them. Danny rolled his eyes, and Jenna leaned forward and…hiccupped, and yeah, no more booze for her.
“Then what happened?” she asked, not unlike Grace at story time.
“Well, not five minutes later, he got me shot, because such is my lot in life being his partner,” Danny bemoaned dramatically as Steve huffed beside him. “He didn’t even have the decency to apologize before putting me in an arm lock…”
“Because you were poking me in the chest!”
“…so I had no recourse but to punch him in his stupid, smug face.”
Weston smirked at them. “So love at first sight, then?”
Danny and Steve both shot her a withering look but she just grinned wider. Jenna was a lot more drunkenly sympathetic as she wagged a finger at Steve. “You got him shot on your first day? Bad Commander.”
Steve pouted. “It was a flesh wound…”
“How are you still with him?” she asked Danny.
Danny smiled at her naiveté; she obviously hadn’t been partnered with Steve in the field yet. Lucky girl. “Glutton for punishment, I guess. And someone has to look out for the safety of the citizens of Hawai’i.”
“It was a scratch! There was barely any blood!”
“Then what happened?”
Danny pretended to consider. “Umm, let’s see…” He ticked off his fingers as he spoke, “There was a shootout, of course there was, the first of many, I might add; then, there was the blatant disregard for proper police procedure, still ongoing as far as I can tell; and, to top it all off, there was the almost international incident he started by driving a police cruiser onto a Chinese freighter without permission…”
Steve rested his chin on his hand and gave him a hooded look. “Why’d you have to focus on the negatives all the time?”
“You wanna focus on the positive? Singular, you understand. Not plural. Okay.” Danny grinned. “Then he got Grace and me a weekend at a swanky hotel where my baby could go swimming with the dolphins, so all in all, it was the beginning of a beautiful, nerve-wrecking, insanity-inducing, mayhem-causing partnership.”
“Aww,” Kono said, chuckling, her dimples winking in her cheeks, “he had you at ‘Aloha.’”
Danny smirked and Steve frowned. “How come no one ever wants to know my side of the story, huh? What about what I had to put up with, with him?”
“Like what?” Danny asked, trying not to grin like a lunatic because, oh man, did he love riling Steve up and getting riled up in return. “What did you have to put up with that was so terrible?”
Steve started ticking shit off on his hand too. “He yells at me all the time…”
“Because. It is hard to hear over the sound of gunfire and screeching tires and grenades going off in my general vicinity! I shout to be heard, and to hear myself over the ringing in my ears!”
“He argues with everyone, about everything, but he gets a sick and twisted pleasure out of arguing with me. I think he thinks it’s a sport or something, and he’s trying to medal.”
“That’s because someone needs to show you how to interact with normal people and I drew the short straw!”
Steve smirked and Danny could’ve kicked himself because Steve didn’t disappoint. “You are the short straw.”
Danny glared at him. “It’s like I’m human and you’re from a mysterious, amphibious alien race and the rest of my fellow earthlings need a translator and I don’t know how, but I seem to speak Steve!”
“He has anger management issues…”
Danny barked out a laugh. “Pot, meet kettle.”
“He never shuts up… Nag, nag, nag… 24/7! He calls me from Jersey just to nag!”
“Do not even go there, Steven, you know you find the dulcet tones of my voice soothing…”
“Dulcet?” Steve stared at him looking pissy, but Danny knew better; he could see that wicked gleam in Steve’s eyes. “Really?”
“It’s a word. It’s totally a word.”
Steve turned back to address Joe. “He wears ties. In Hawai’i. And really tight dress shirts in this thousand degree heat…”
“At least I keep my shirts on! You’re the one who keeps stripping in public! One of us has to maintain some semblance of decorum and dignity!”
“He hates Hawai’i…” And oh, Steve had no business sounding so glum about that.
“It’s not that bad…”
“He hates the beach…”
“It’s the sand mostly, it gets into everything.”
“He can’t swim.”
“I can swim! I just choose not to! Why does everybody need to swim all the time? What does that accomplish? I am not a marine mammal, I’m a man!”
“He hates pineapples! I mean, who hates pineapples?”
Danny felt the urge to defend himself, especially when Kamekona clucked at him in disapproval. “Putting pineapple on a pizza is a crime against humanity, okay? It is a travesty against nature. But the pineapple shave ice is growing on me. And maybe I like the little pineapple slice in my mixed drinks. I have also been known to occasionally indulge in a piece of upside down cake. So there.”
Steve looked unimpressed. “He has bad taste in music.”
“I have bad taste in music? Me? You listen to disco, Dr. Love! You downloaded ‘Sexy Eyes’ onto my phone and you made it your ring tone for months before I could figure out how to change it!” Danny glared at Chin. “No thanks to you!”
“It was catchy,” Steve and Chin said together and Danny hated them both.
Joe, though, he was staring at Steve in stunned awe. “You’ve said more in the last five minutes than I’ve ever heard you say in the entire time I’ve known you. So…years.”
Steve gaped at him. “Look who I’ve got to keep up with!”
Danny smirked and tried not to look too smug, because that was never an attractive thing. It didn’t work, but whatever, it was worth it to see that pinched look on Steve’s face. “I don’t know what the Army calls it but out here in the real world, it’s called ‘conversation.’”
“I don’t know what the Army calls it either,” Steve growled. “Because I was in the goddamn Navy!”
Steve threw his hands up in frustration. “He’s noisy. Even when he’s not saying a word, he’s noisy!”
“Well – you’re nosy.”
“It’s called Investigative Instinct.”
“And what do you call doing a background check on my partner back in Jersey?”
Steve blinked, a suddenly blank look on his face. “Curiosity.”
Kono snorted, and then outright guffawed, falling off her chair almost. Chin’s eyes goggled. “You did a background check? On Danny’s partner? You’ve got it worse than I thought, brah.”
Steve crossed his arms and wrathfully stared Chin down, daring him to say another word. “I was looking out for him.”
Chin, bless him, just chuckled, so Danny stepped in to save him. “No, Steven. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, and I’ll keep saying it because I like to point out the obvious. You have control issues.”
“Well, you’re bossy! And…short,” Steve muttered, pouting petulantly, and if he had to resort to a lame jab at Danny’s height impediment as a comeback, then Danny knew he had him by the short ones. But then Steve sighed, got all dopey-eyed and, just as surely, turned the tables. “You’re also the best partner I’ve ever had.”
Danny ignored the rush of affection and pride he felt; he grinned into his beer bottle. “I’m the only partner you’ve ever had.”
They turned to look at each other at that, Danny all but melting inside at the sweet, sweet smile lighting up Steve’s face, and shit, Danny was in such Big Trouble.
There went his life as he’d known it.
It took Joe clearing his throat – loudly – to snap them out of it, and aw, hell, now everyone was giving them their version of that look, that ‘How long have you two been married?’ look. “Well, kids,” Joe said, standing up and stretching, “this has been swell, but I think that’s our cue to call it a night, let these two lovebirds get reacquainted.” Cue the laughter; goddamn traitors. “Weston, you want to share a cab?”
Weston snapped to attention; it was hilarious, really. “Yes, sir.”
“Terrific. Anyone else?”
It was quickly decided that everyone else would stay the night; Jenna had passed out at some point and Chin had to carry her up the stairs in a fireman’s hold, dumping her on the bed in Mary’s room as Kono dropped down beside her; she was asleep and snoring before Danny could even douse the lights. Kamekona had taken the twin bed in Steve’s old room, so Chin called the couch and disappeared downstairs; Steve had already carried Grace into the master bedroom.
Danny leaned against the doorframe and watched this rigid, hardass military man gingerly and tenderly tuck his daughter into bed; Grace stirred awake and Steve startled guiltily.
“Sorry, Gracie,” he whispered, smoothing back her hair as he soothed, “Go back to sleep, sweetheart.”
“Is the party over?” Grace mumbled sleepily as Danny walked up to the bed and sat down. His daughter blinked blearily at him. “Did you give everyone their taffy, Danno?”
“Everyone got taffy,” Danny assured her.
Steve pouted. It seemed to be a thing with him tonight. “I didn’t get taffy.”
“Do you eat taffy?” Danny asked.
“But if everyone got a present from Jersey…” Steve started, just as Grace sat up in bed and rubbed her eyes, “…then I should get one, too.”
“What are you…five?”
Grace giggled and patted the bed beside her; Steve sat. “I think we should give him his present, Danno.”
“Nah,” Danny teased both his daughter and his…Steve, “he’s a big boy. He doesn’t need presents.”
“Everybody needs presents!” Grace and Steve chimed in unison and Christ, Danny was in so much trouble with these two working together, it wasn’t even funny. He hauled Grace into his lap and cuddled her close, both of them smirking at Steve until he got suspicious and frowned.
“You want your gift from Jersey, you got it,” Danny told him. “Actually, you’re looking at it. It’s kind of a buy one,” he said, pointing to himself, and then at Grace, “get half free type of deal. No returns, no exchanges.”
Steve stared, shell-shocked. “What?”
“Mommy and Step-Stan are getting back together again!” Grace exclaimed before Danny could elaborate, and yeah, she was wide awake now. “Danno and I are staying in Hawai’i and we’re gonna save on long distance!”
Danny burst out laughing because his child was a parrot who soaked up things like a sponge and sure, he was mixing his metaphors, but it was worth it to see that look on Steve’s face, the one where he looked like Christmas had come early and Santa had gotten him that bazooka he’d always wanted.
Grace jumped Steve as he leaned in, and finally, God, finally, Steve was touching him, and yeah, sure, Grace was kind of trapped between their bodies, but no matter, Steve had his big arm around Danny’s back and he was kissing the top of Gracie’s head and then pressing his cheek right into Danny’s as he held on tight, Danny’s scruff scraping against Steve’s stubble, the quiet rasping of soft skin and coarse hair drowned out by happy, little-girl giggles.
Steve pulled back to look at Danny, his expressive hazel-blue eyes still a little unsure, like this news was too good to be true or something. Danny grinned at him. “Rachel confirmed it this afternoon. Grace and I decided to wait until everyone went home to tell you but then she fell asleep and everyone decided to stay… Hence, the delay.”
Steve’s breath gusted out of his body. “You’re sure?”
“What about your stuff?”
“I don’t know. You only had the one suitcase, and Grace’s one.”
“Oh. Well, Grace is having her stuff shipped over with Rachel’s, and I don’t have much,” Danny told him, shrugging. “I figure I could go shopping.”
“For ties?” Steve looked both hopeful and discouraging and Danny seriously needed to get to the bottom of this obsession Steve had with his neckwear. Someday soon, it was gonna happen.
“Maybe I can lose the tie a couple of days a week,” Danny compromised. It seemed to pacify Steve, who chuckled when Grace kind of snuggled into the warm space between their chests.
“So, you’re not going back? Ever?”
“Nope. Well, maybe on vacation sometime. If my boss gives me time off.”
“Who vacations in Jersey?” Steve scoffed.
Danny growled low in his throat. “Don’t start with me, McGarrett!”
“Well, I suppose I can put in a good word with your boss.”
“I don’t know,” Danny lamented, shaking his head, “he’s a tough nut to crack. Emphasis on the nut and, come to think of it, he is cracked.”
“Shu…shush.” Steve squeezed the back of Danny’s neck. Then he blinked and looked around the room. “Umm…you and Grace can sleep here...”
“Where’re you gonna sleep, Uncle Steve?”
“I’ll sleep out on the hammock.”
“Outside? Alone?” Grace pouted and looked at Danny like maybe they should do something about that. “Can you stay for story time?” Grace wheedled, the cunning little squirt; she’d spent way too much time with his sisters’ horde of little monsters back home; they’d been such a bratty influence on his sweet angel. Danny saw Steve’s defenses crumble like a cookie in the wake of her big doe eyes and snorted. Some big, bad Navy SEAL he was.
“It’s way past your bedtime, Monkey.”
“Just a couple of pages, Daddy. Please?” And yeah, okay, Danny had no resistance to speak of, either.
“All right, already. Go grab your jammies and get changed. Bathroom’s through there.” He pointed at the door to Steve’s ensuite and Grace nodded, hopping off the bed to go unzip her suitcase and rummage through it.
While Steve went to lock up the house and set the alarm, after a very friendly, very persistent reminder or two from Danny, and Grace got out of the bathroom, Danny changed into his pajama bottoms and t-shirt before joining his daughter in the middle of Steve’s big bed, Grace and her book of choice cradled in his lap by the time Steve got back, all changed into shorts and a tee himself. He looked rumpled and relaxed and content and so unlike the high-strung guy he tended to be; Danny could get used to seeing him like this, everyday maybe, for the rest of natural life if Steve let him hang around that long.
Danny patted the bed on his left side. “C’mere and sit down. I need a backrest.” Steve gulped, Danny saw his Adam’s apple bobbing in his throat, but after a tiny false start, he nodded and moved to the bed, turning off the overhead light until only the lamp at the bedside remained on. Danny waited until Steve got into bed, his posture almost military stiff now, before he carefully pulled the covers over the three of them and relaxed into Steve’s side.
It took about fifteen minutes of Danny reading to get Grace to fall back asleep and his arms, and for Steve to start snoring softly. Danny smiled in satisfaction, yawned and reached over Grace to click off the light. He snuggled down under the covers, Grace tucked into his right side and Steve’s long, lean body on his left, his face buried in Danny’s hair and his arms curled protectively around them both.
It was exactly where Danny wanted to be.
He wasn’t sure what woke him up a few hours later, before the sun had even risen, still fuzzy with sleep, but he figured it had something to do with the way Steve was staring at him across the pillow they were sharing.
Danny smiled sleepily. “Creep.”
Steve gave him a tiny, pleased smirk. “I have about an inch of space left behind me before I fall off the bed.”
“It’s what happens you share a bed with my daughter,” Danny said, chuckling and peeking over his shoulder. Sure enough, Grace was somehow sleeping sideways, in a nest of all the covers she’d stolen during the night, with her feet pressed up against the small of Danny’s back.
Steve’s smile grew. “I noticed. It’s cute.”
“Yeah, now it’s cute. I worry about her future husband, though, you know, when she gets married fifty years from now.”
“It’s a valid concern,” Steve agreed sagely. Danny grinned. “I can’t feel my arm.” Danny raised his brows enquiringly. “Because you’re sleeping on it.”
“Did I ask you to put it there?” Steve shook his head. “Then it’s not my problem, is it?”
“Jackass,” Steve mumbled. Danny tsked.
“Language. Little pitchers have big ears, even when you think they’re asleep. I learned that the hard way,” Danny confided, shaking his head. “There was no other reason for a two year old to drop an f-bomb in the middle of a grocery store. My ma was with us; I thought she’d put a hit out on me.” Steve huffed out a laugh, his warm breath ghosting over Danny’s skin. Danny shivered. “Hey, c’mere,” he beckoned, tugging on Steve’s tee.
“I am here.”
“What? You can’t come closer?”
“I…I can come closer.” He did, so Danny leaned in, closing the inch-wide gap between them until he was nuzzling Steve’s cheek.
Steve’s arms tightened around him like a vise, and when he spoke, his voice was low and husky with emotion. “Me, too. God, Danny…”
Danny cupped Steve’s jaw in his hand and they stared into each other’s eyes for a few endless seconds before they leaned in together, and then…they were kissing. Again. Finally.
It was soft, that kiss, light and warm like an ocean breeze, like they were just breathing against each other’s mouths, their noses tucked in close as they shared the same air.
Last time, Steve had attacked his mouth with fire and passion, in celebration of his newfound freedom; this time, it was a different kind of celebration – a homecoming – and it was a gentle melding of their mouths, as if both of them were afraid to make the first move beyond where they already were and fuck it, Danny was so not the patient type. Last time, he’d been taken by surprise, ambushed; this time, it was part of his plan of attack.
He parted his mouth on an exhale, slow and gentle, his tongue slipping out to nudge against Steve’s lips. Steve opened up like he’d been waiting for the invitation, and his tongue tangled and twined with Danny’s in a languid dance until Danny sucked on it like it was taffy, until he’d have known the taste of Steve anywhere.
It was the perfect second First Kiss, Danny thought, pulling away reluctantly, because Grace was still in bed with them and there was no way he was sporting wood with his daughter nearby.
Steve was staring at him when he opened his eyes, looking more than a little awestruck. Danny gave him a lopsided grin. “What?”
“Are we…?” He blinked at Danny as if afraid to ask. “We’re…doing this?”
“I moved all the way back to this pineapple-infested hellhole for you, buddy. Damn straight, we’re doing this.”
“You mean this pineapple-infested hellhole you’re gonna be calling home?” Steve asked, laughing quietly.
Danny chuckled and tucked his face into the crook of Steve’s neck, yawning and more than ready to fall back to sleep. “That’s the one.”
Steve squeezed him in tight. “In that case, welcome home, Danno,” he whispered softly into Danny’s ear. “Aloha e komo mai.”
“Howzit, brah?” Chin greeted Danny as he walked into the kitchen.
The words were barely out of his mouth before the doorbell rang, and since Chin, apron on and spatula in hand, was otherwise occupied, Danny went to get it. Of course, it was Rachel and Stan, there to pick up Grace, because someone up there couldn’t give Danny another hour of peaceful tranquility with his daughter.
“Is Grace ready?” Rachel asked, Stan hanging back after exchanging a terse nod with Danny, and yeah, there was still no love lost between them, but Danny figured the guy had been put through the wringer enough, so he cut him some slack and offered him a cup of Chin’s amazing coffee. It was gratefully accepted as Danny and Rachel went out to get Grace.
“Grace and Steve were up with the sun this morning, but I told him to make sure she was ready for when you got here,” Danny explained as they headed down to the beach where they could see Kono in the distance, bikini-clad and beautiful, silhouetted in the morning sun. Rachel raised her brows questioningly, and Danny shrugged. “What? It’s like their national costume.”
He could hear Grace’s excited chatter but he couldn’t see her until they got closer and found her snuggled in Steve’s lap on the lounger, both of them pouring over a photo album.
“Hi, Mommy! Danno,” she greeted them excitedly, “Steve’s showing me pictures of when he was a kid!”
“Is that right?” Danny asked, suddenly much more interested. Steve snapped the album shut and stood in one lithe move, getting both himself and Grace up and on their feet. Danny was kind of impressed and a little jealous of his natural grace. Grace went to hug Rachel and Danny winked at Steve.
“Morning, Smooth Dog.” It was in direct reference to the not-so-smooth way in which Steve had woken him up the second time earlier that morning, trying for sexy and ending up falling on the floor on his ass instead.
Steve’s smile was halfway between bashful and smug and all the way adorable. “Morning, Jersey.”
Danny got an armful of Grace before he could say anything else, so he settled for grabbing her hand and walking inside with her, brushing shoulders with Steve as they did, Steve waving Kono in when they got to the lanai. They were barely over the threshold when Chin came up to them, his game face on.
“Weston called,” he informed them just as Kono jogged up, “HPD spotted one of Stamatos’ cars heading north on Farrington…”
Steve slipped into attack mode in the blink of an eye. “Dillingham’s that way.”
“Tell Weston to follow and HPD to fall back, I don’t want to tip them off,” Steve ordered. “And I want to know who his contact is at that airfield. The guy doesn’t own a plane. One of the charter’s has got to be involved. We need to flush them out. Kono?”
“I’m on it,” Kono said, already on the move, all business now.
“Chin, take a couple of uniforms with you and stake out Stamatos’ place; I want to make sure he’s not leading us on a wild goose chase just ‘cause we got Gibson, and Danny, you’re with me…” Steve trailed off, his mouth tilting up in the corner, sort of stupidly happy. Chin chuckled.
“Danny maybe back on the runway, but he hasn’t been cleared for take-off yet, brah,” Chin reminded them and Danny had to grin and shake his head.
“Go,” he told them, handing Grace over to Rachel. “Steve, Weston’s already there, just make sure you have back up before you do anything.”
Steve took a step in Danny’s direction before abruptly aborting the move and changing course, as if suddenly recalling that they weren’t alone; he kissed the top of Grace’s head and he and Chin made for the door instead. Danny waited two seconds before going after them.
He wasn’t about to tag along; he didn’t have his badge, after all, and something like that could screw up the whole case and get it tossed out of court when things went down to the wire. Besides, he hadn’t even been issued a weapon yet, not that that mattered, because Steve probably had an arsenal stashed in the pockets of his cargo pants, and why the hell had he been wearing cargos on a Saturday? Steve was so going shopping with him later.
Danny shook his head to clear it caught up with Steve at the Camaro; he needed to ground Steve before the guy went off like a firecracker.
“Hey,” Danny called out as Chin rumbled off on his bike, right on Kono’s tail. Steve was tugging on his TAC vest, the one with the pec holster, and if that wasn’t both the dumbest and the hottest thing Danny’d ever seen, he didn’t know what was, except maybe for Steve himself. “Hey, Super SEAL,” he tried again when Steve yanked the door open and got into the car. He already had the door closed before Danny could get to him, so Danny ended up leaning in the window.
“What?” Steve asked a little irritably and Danny knew that face; it meant Steve was itching to go bust some bad guy ass.
“I expect you home in one piece, Steven,” Danny told him, his finger almost taking Steve’s eye out as he tried to emphasize his point. “I mean it! I will kick your ass into next week if you get yourself hurt. Be careful out there.”
“I’m always careful!”
“Be careful like I’m careful, not like you’re careful.” Steve frowned at that distinction and Danny couldn’t help himself; he kissed him, hard and fast and fiery before whispering hotly in Steve’s ear, “If you die before you fuck me, I will bring you back to life just so I can kill you again, McGarrett. Do you hear me?” Steve looked stunned so Danny kissed him again, biting down hard on his bottom lip until Steve yelped in surprise. “What’re you waiting for? The bad guys aren’t gonna catch themselves.”
Steve swallowed and nodded and said not a word before he put the car in drive and peeled out of the driveway. Danny watched him until his taillights disappeared and he didn’t realize Grace was standing next to him until she slipped her little hand into his.
“Is Uncle Steve gonna be okay, Daddy?”
“I will yell at him if he gets hurt so if he knows what’s good for him, then yes, he’s going to make sure he’s okay.”
Grace nodded, a look of fierce determination overcoming the worry on her face. “I’ll yell at him, too.”
“A little bit.”
“Okay,” Danny said agreeably, putting a smile on his face for her benefit and sending a prayer heavenward for Steve’s.
“After we hug and squish him, though, right?” Grace asked.
“Yes,” Danny clarified, “after the hugging and the squishing, and maybe a kiss or two for his boo-boo’s, and we’re sure he’s really not hurt, then there will be yelling. Lots and lots of yelling.”
They smiled at each other before turning to find Rachel and Stan had joined them, Rachel with a quizzical look on her face. “We really have to go, Danny. I’m sorry, but I have an ultrasound appointment and Grace wanted to see the baby.”
“Yeah, no – it’s fine. Let me go get her bag.” Danny handed Grace over to Stan with an expression he hoped looked like a smile and went inside, taking the stairs two at a time and making quick work of getting Grace’s stuff repacked into her suitcase.
He bumped into Jenna in the hallway at the top of the stairs. “Where is everybody?” she asked groggily.
“The team got a lead on Stamatos; they’re following up.” Danny chuckled. “You need to up your alcohol tolerance, you badass CIA analyst, you. Either that, or stick to pineapple juice. You’re no good to them hungover, ‘sides, I think they got it covered. Stay and keep me company. Kame still here?”
“He’s in the bathroom.”
“All right,” Danny said, “clean up and meet me in the kitchen. Chin made breakfast before he had to leave.”
Danny headed downstairs to find Rachel waiting for him. “I wanted to talk to you alone.”
“Oh. That’s why my spidey senses were tingling.”
“Very funny,” she drawled. “I just…I just wanted to say…thank you, Daniel.”
Danny frowned at her in confusion. “For what?”
“For convincing me to come back. I honestly don’t know what I was thinking before.” She stared at the floor while she absently rubbed her swollen belly. “You stopped me from making a mess of things again. With you. With Grace. Even with Stan.”
“No, hear me out,” she pleaded. “I was stupid…”
“Well, it was your turn,” Danny told her. He was rewarded with a small smile.
She took a deep breath. “You’re going to get a call from my lawyer on Monday…”
Danny tensed up. “What?”
“No!” Rachel hastened to reassure him. “It’s not bad. It’s just… I’m increasing your visitation. With Grace. I wanted to make it official.”
Danny felt like his grin would’ve rivaled the sun in it gloriousness. “Are you serious?”
Rachel nodded. “Stan agrees. He’d been bugging me about it even before… Well, that’s neither here nor there, but…I was thinking it might be a good idea, especially after the baby arrives…I don’t want her to feel left out. So, maybe the weekends you have her, you can pick her up from school on Friday afternoon and she can stay with you on Monday, too; just drop her off at school on Tuesday morning, and then I’ll take over. And maybe we can work out an additional night during the week as well, depending on our schedules…”
“Rachel! That’s amazing of you – thank you!”
“Don’t thank me, Danny,” Rachel said, her eyes tearing up a bit. “I’ve been so selfish and Grace just adores you. She shines when she’s with you and yet, she’s so reserved and meek when she’s with me and Stan, and I don’t ever want her to resent me…”
“Rach, she loves you, don’t be ridiculous,” Danny told her, “and as much as it pains me to admit it, she likes Stan, too.”
“Not as much as she likes Steve, apparently.”
“Ah.” Danny rubbed the back of his neck and felt his face suffuse with heat. “Right. Well. Steve is very…likeable.”
“I gathered as much from the way you kissed him goodbye.”
“Yeah. Er…about that. That’s a new development…”
“Really, Daniel? Because all those times you and Grace called him – I think it was every night for the past few months – that might’ve clued me in.”
“It wasn’t like that, Rachel,” Danny tried to explain, but how do you explain something that defied every logical thing you’d come to count on in your life? He and Steve – that had come right outta left field and Danny was still reeling from the shock and novelty and absurdity and wonderfulness of it all.
“But it is now?”
“It’s looking that way. I hope so.”
“Then, I wish you well.”
They smiled at each other until Danny couldn’t take it anymore; he reached out and hugged her. “Thanks, babe. For everything.”
A few minutes later, he watched as they drove off to Rachel’s appointment and he couldn’t help but beam at the way things had worked out.
His life didn’t usually fall into place like this; no, his life usually involved strife and ridiculous amounts of pain and his hope for happy endings had gone the way of the dodo after his divorce. And yet, now, there was hope on the horizon: A new lease on life with his daughter, a place he’d never thought he’d call home, another chance at love… He could get used to this life. And Steve? Steve had better do his damndest to stay alive so that Danny could share this life with him.
“You should’ve seen him out there, Danny,” Kono said when she called, hours later, with a status update, long after Kamekona had given Jenna a ride home. “He was like a man possessed! Like Chuck Norris and John McClane had a lovechild and then got Jackie Chan and Jean Claude Van Damme to come over and babysit and teach him some moves!”
“Oh God,” Danny groaned. “Is he still in one piece?”
“More or less,” Kono laughed, and that? That was not in the least bit reassuring. “He got it done, though, that’s what’s important.”
“Yeah, yeah, but was he bleeding at the time?”
“Pretty sure there wasn’t a scratch on him. Not even when he jumped that plane as it taxied down the runway…” Kono was saying and Danny wondered how that was possible, because this was Steve… Then her words registered.
“Wait a minute… What?”
But Kono was too busy with her merry little recap to notice that Danny was dying here. “Anyway, Stamatos is custody, and Weston took down the crooked head of Paradise Charters. She got grazed by a bullet, no biggie. Chin and I were a little shook up by an explosion I might’ve set off as a diversionary tactic but we’re good. The boss waited ‘til we booked everyone and HPD logged the rest of the drugs and then he took off…”
“He just took off? After jumping on a moving aircraft?”
“Like a bat outta hell.”
“I’m gonna shoot him myself,” Danny grumbled, but he perked right up when he heard the Camaro pull into the driveway. “Oh hey, Kono, lemme call you back, babe. I hear the Batmobile.”
“Hey, go easy on him, brah…”
“Fat chance… Oh, hello Batman,” Danny said when Steve stalked into the house, looking hale and hot and, more importantly, uninjured, despite his hijinks out in the field. He punched in the alarm code like he had a personal vendetta against the security system, and maybe even the alarm company, and then walked up to Danny and grabbed his phone, staring down at the display.
“Kono,” he growled, “Danny’s gonna call you back.” He hung up before Kono could get a word in edgewise and tossed the phone clear across the room; it landed on the couch.
Danny followed the trajectory of the phone and then gaped at him. “What the hell is the matter with you, you Cro-Magnon moron?”
Steve grabbed him by the shoulders and slammed him into the wall, leaning close until he was panting in Danny’s ear, and Danny’s dick rose right along with his temper as Steve snarled, “You said I could fuck you if I didn’t die.” Steve bit down on his earlobe and sucked on it. Hard. “I’m alive. You gonna deliver on that promise?”
“Fuck. Yes,” Danny gasped, and as Steve dropped to his knees, Danny felt like maybe he was the one in danger of dying today.
But oh, Danny thought as he stared down at his sexy ass ex-partner, what a way to go.
As in, how could he say shit like that just when Steve had been headed out on a bust? Steve had been tempted, for a fraction of a second, to call Weston and tell her to take the lead on this one while he dragged Danny back inside the house, by his hair if he had to, barred them both in the bedroom and fucked him until he couldn’t walk straight any more.
As in, yeah, all Steve wanted to be doing right now was fucking Danny. And Nick Stamatos was the only thing standing in his way.
Those were the main thoughts Steve had on the brain – compartmentalized thoughts, of course, because he was a freakin’ SEAL and capable of thinking other things, too, concurrently, no less, like mission strategy and angles of trajectory and trying not to get dead, because, yeah, he needed to get back to fucking Danny so he could fuck him already – when he’d launched himself from the roof of the cruiser Chin had been driving and onto the wing of the taxiing Cessna Citation Stamatos was trying to fly away on, straddling it until he regained his equilibrium and stood, basically surfing the wind until he got close enough to leap into the closing door of the private jet and get inside, gun drawn.
He wasn’t quite sure how it happened, but it was over in a few minutes. The jagged burst of adrenaline he got when the shit hit the fan always did that to him, put him in the zone until the mission was accomplished; he’d remember it all just fine when it came time to fill out those pesky case reports. It was all kind of anticlimactic, really, although from the awed looks the rest of his team, a few HPD stragglers and the bad guys he hadn’t already knocked out cold kept shooting him, they might have seen things a little differently.
Steve forced himself to exercise some patience and make sure that everyone was all right, that the drugs had been seized by HPD, that he wasn’t absolutely needed by his team any more. Then he took off. If he could’ve hijacked a chopper to do it, he would’ve; if he knew Governor Denning would cut him some slack, he’d’ve definitely flown back to his place – he’d just park on it on his private beach, there was plenty of room out there, and return it later – anything to get him home sooner, because Danny was all he could think about right now.
It was a wonder he made it back to the house without a major traffic incident or two; those sirens and flashing lights always came in handy in a pinch.
His vision went sort of hazy when he walked into the house and saw Danny lounging against the living room doorway, in jeans and a t-shirt so blue it matched his eyes, barefoot and sexy, looking worried and harassed, his hair in disarray like he’d been running his fingers through it. He also looked like he owned the place or something, like this was exactly where he was supposed to be, where he belonged, right there in Steve’s space, in his home, and suddenly Steve couldn’t think over the buzzing in his ears. He keyed in the alarm because some part of his brain, the only part that was online and not firing impulses to his dick, told him that doing so would ensure that nothing would intrude in on his time with Danny and that it would keep Danny’s nagging down to negligible levels.
Danny was talking but Steve wasn’t listening, he didn’t really know what he was doing, but in the next second he was cutting Kono off, tossing Danny’s phone and throwing Danny up against the nearest wall. Danny squawked in indignation, that much Steve registered, but he mercifully shut up when Steve spoke.
“You said I could fuck you if I didn’t die,” Steve rasped, right into Danny’s ear, and he was there, so he bit down on the satiny skin of Danny’s earlobe and sucked. “I’m alive. You gonna deliver on that promise?”
Danny said something but Steve dropped to his knees, too far gone to hear it. He leaned in and nuzzled Danny’s crotch, mouthing over his denim-clad dick as he breathed in the scent of him and Danny smelled like coconuts, and maybe aloe, like after-sun lotion… The sonuvabitch must’ve been out on the beach without Steve there to see him, shirtless and with his swim shorts hanging off his lean hips and it made Steve growl low in his throat.
“Easy, tiger,” Danny soothed, even though the rough, desperate hold he had on Steve’s head belied his calming tone, “I am not some edible treat here for you to devour.”
Steve begged to differ; Danny smelled divine and he’d bet his life savings that he tasted delicious.
Only one way to find out.
He stripped down Danny’s boxers and jeans and got them around his knees in a deft move that had Danny cursing a blue streak and telling him to watch the goods because he needed those, thank you very much. Steve ignored him, choosing instead to stare intently at Danny’s erect cock, gorgeous and thick and angrily flushed with blood, leaking a little at the tip and just begging for his mouth. Steve licked his lips and went for it, because he had to, he was sure he’d die if he didn’t and he’d never been able to deny himself anything to do with Danny, ever, and he wasn’t about to start now.
The feel of Danny’s cock in his mouth, the heavy weight of him on Steve’s tongue, the sharp, biting flavor of him and his musky, addictive scent was almost Steve’s undoing. It felt weird to channel his SEAL-honed stamina and indomitable control into sucking cock, but Steve did what he had to do to make this good for Danny, and make it last, blow Danny’s mind right along with his cock, so Steve got off on it, too. He slurped a little as he sucked hard and took Danny deep enough that his nose was buried in the thatch of dark blond curls at his base, and he reveled in it, savoring every sensation and every guttural, carnal sound spilling from Danny’s lips.
When Steve grabbed on to Danny’s bare ass, it was to give himself purchase, and to stop himself from flying apart at the seams, but the feel of smooth, muscled flesh under his fingertips got him impossibly hard and tenting his cargos and Steve just wanted to see it, see where he would soon be fucking into Danny, so he pulled off, leaving a trail of spit and pre-come in his wake as he manhandled a protesting – of course, he was protesting – Danny, and turned him around to face the wall.
Damn, but Danny had a sexy, tight ass. Round and firm, freckled and slightly paler than the skin above and below it and Steve wanted…wanted to squeeze and bite and lick and fuck… Three out of four wasn’t bad for the time being, he mused as he planted his hands, their span just enough to give him a good, firm grasp as he gripped and parted Danny’s cheeks, breathing into the crease as he pressed in close.
Danny whined, hands slapping against the wall as he gasped. “Fuck, Steven,” he panted, “what’re you doing to me, babe?”
Steve figured the question was rhetorical, so he proceeded to show Danny instead, closing his eyes for a second just to breathe and block out the erotic image of Danny’s dusky pink asshole right there, the tiny muscle constricting in anticipation of his mouth, beckoning Steve. The first touch of his tongue to that pretty little hole shot what felt like an electric current straight to Steve’s dick; it was an instant, heady kick that brought all his senses to high alert, and he couldn’t stop at that one taste, so he swiped his tongue along the crease a couple of times before closing his mouth over Danny’s hole and sucking hard, licking over the tightly furled pucker when Danny groaned and bucked back into his face, pushing until his tongue poked inside Danny, shoving in until he was as deep as he could go, Danny clenching around him and moaning wantonly, muttering curses as he reached back and clutched the back of Steve’s head, keeping him close.
As if Steve had somewhere better to be.
He licked and sucked, fucking Danny with his tongue before pulling back to breathe as he squeezed and bit at Danny’s one cheek and then the other before going back again to tease Danny’s hole again, easing it open bit by torturous bit until his tongue’s slide inside got a little smoother, deeper…
“Steve…” Danny gasped, his tone pleading, “please.”
Steve found it impossible to resist that voice, broken and begging for it, so he pulled back, turned Danny around and took his cock in his hand, gazing up at Danny’s wrecked face as he rubbed his thumb over the glistening tip, dipping into the slit once, twice and again because he saw what that did to Danny, the way his breath hitched, the way those eyes blazed blue fire as he stared down at Steve, hunger and lust and something that looked a lot like…love in his gaze. It blew Steve away and he kept his eyes locked on the man above him as he leaned in and took the tip of Danny’s cock into his mouth, sucking on it and tonguing his slit as Danny cradled his head in his hands. Steve moved his own hands then, got a grip on Danny’s delectable ass, and looked up at his partner, knowing the expression in his eyes would get his message across loud and clear.
“You’re sure?” Danny asked, his breathing choppy, even as his hands tightened their hold on Steve.
Steve took Danny deeper, swallowing around him as he pressed his tongue against the sensitive underside of Danny’s cock, steeling himself against his gag reflex when Danny finally took charge, fucking his mouth with smooth, languid strokes, obviously relishing the feel of Steve’s mouth, so Steve kicked it up a notch, sucking in his cheeks and breathing harshly through his nose as Danny’s pace stuttered and became erratic, his hips pumping like a piston until his entire body tensed beneath Steve’s fingers. Danny tried to yank Steve off his cock, tugging almost painfully on his hair, but Steve held on tighter, wanting all of him, touch and taste, and Danny surrendered, shuddered out a breath and came down his throat, bitter and bold, and Steve swallowed all of him down.
Danny slid to the floor in a boneless heap, staring at Steve with glassy eyes, panting for breath. “You…are a dirty, filthy…animal.”
Steve smirked, cocky as all get out because he had put that look on Danny’s face, he’d been the one to blow him apart. It was exhilarating; an adrenaline rush like he’d only ever felt when his life was on the line. He leaned forward and nipped at Danny’s jaw, mouthing his way downwards, as Danny obligingly bared his neck until Steve found a spot he liked, right over Danny’s pulse, and sucked hard.
“Marking your territory, caveman?” Danny asked with an amused huff, and Steve grunted, biting down on tender, freckled skin so sharply that Danny yelped. His outrage quickly turned into breathy chuckles as Steve nosed the now reddened area of skin; the bruise that would bloom there later would be his stake of ownership, not that he’d ever admit it out loud. The smell of his own spit on Danny’s coconut-scented skin was erotic beyond belief, though. It made his dick throb painfully in the tight confines of his cargos but he ignored it to kiss and lick at Danny’s salty skin some more, adoring and more than a little desperate. Danny laughed at him, grabbing his face and kissing him hard. “C’mere, you big goof, let me take care of you,” he said, his hand slipping down to cup Steve’s erection and give it a squeeze through his pants.
The breath whooshed out of Steve’s body in a rush. He groaned and pushed into Danny’s firm touch. “Danno…”
“You don’t say much during sex, do you?” Danny mumbled, as if musing aloud things he didn’t mean Steve to hear. “So much single-minded focus – not that I’m complaining or anything. Just like a mission: Go in, get the job done, get gone and don’t think of yourself.” Steve stayed silent: that really did sum up his approach to sex. It was all about the other person; his release was incidental and that was just the way he liked it. It kept things from getting too personal and Steve could maintain his distance and that disconnect he’d been trained to cultivate in all his relationships. It just made him, as Danny would no doubt say, more of a… “Control freak.”
Steve huffed out a laugh against Danny’s neck, burrowed in closer and wrapped his arms around Danny as Danny pressed kisses along the side of his face, the hand on his crotch more soothing, fondling without intent. And that just wasn’t right, because unlike any other person Steve had been with in the past, he wanted everything Danny had to give, he wanted in on every aspect of his life, every little corner, every nook and cranny; Steve wanted an all-access pass. Besides, being with Danny, whether professionally or personally, demanded everything Steve had to give, too: theirs was a partnership on so many levels that he didn’t know where to start making sense of it all; they defied explanation; they just were, they’d been that way from the very beginning and Steve loved that about them.
And Steve loved Danny. Every loud, brash, gorgeous, amazing inch of him.
And…he was in love with Danny and he’d been in love with him for months, maybe even from the get-go if he was being honest with himself, because Danny had gotten under his skin like nothing and no one else and he’d stayed there, even long after he’d left for Jersey, and now Danny was back in his life and back in Hawai’i, and it was too much and just right and everything Steve wanted and he was suddenly frantic with fear because, up until now, he’d lost everything he’d ever coveted; he couldn’t lose Danny, too. That was not an option.
“I spoke to the Governor earlier, after we got Stamatos – he called Weston for an update,” Steve told him, and Danny frowned.
“Babe, I know you’re not big on the interpersonal skills but even you have to know that this is not appropriate post-coital conversation.”
“We haven’t had coitus yet,” Steve pointed out and Danny rolled his eyes and thumped his head against Steve’s shoulder. “What?”
“Nothing. You were saying?”
“I asked him to fast-track your return to Five-0…”
“What?” Danny looked as shocked as Steve had felt.
“He said something about due process and reviewing your old case files to see if your conduct and productivity made you a valid addition to the team…”
Danny groaned. “Please tell me you didn’t do or say something stupid.”
“It was a close thing, but I calmed down enough to tell Chin to send him the pertinent information once he got back to HQ. Told Denning you were an excellent detective and we needed you and he said he would take it under advisement and I wanted to drive over to his house and kick his ass off the island…”
“Oh, shit.” Danny covered his eyes. “You didn’t, did you?”
“Chin held me back.” Steve took a calming breath, his anger at the governor still roiling inside him. “Told me to come home to you. Work it outta my system.”
Danny laughed and kissed Steve’s forehead. “Well, mission accomplished, super SEAL.”
“I think he might’ve meant go swimming or something,” Steve mused with a small smile. Danny kissed him. On the mouth this time and Steve could really get used to this.
“I think Chin’s smarter than you give him credit for,” Danny said. “Let’s face it, babe. We are not subtle and the whole team’s probably betting on what we’re doing right now.” Steve gaped at him. “I might’ve used those interrogation skills I keep bragging about on Kaye; she sang like a bird.” Steve laughed and Danny kissed him again. “That’s better. This is the face I like the most. Happy Steve, my favorite.”
Steve smirked. “I think this might be Horny Steve.”
“That works, too.” He let Danny distract him with kisses but he couldn’t help frowning; there was still something he needed to clear up. “What?”
“What’re you gonna do?”
“You mean, for work?” Steve nodded. “Hit up HPD, see if they could use me. I don’t have a lot of fans there but hopefully that’s water under the bridge after what happened with Meka’s case. They might still hold a grudge over the ruckus I caused when they arrested you, but c’mon, even they have to let that slide; I was looking out for my partner.” Danny shrugged. “I’ll figure something out until the Governor gets his ducks in a row or whatever the fuck he’s trying to do. Worse comes to worst…”
“You’ll go back to Jersey?” Steve couldn’t help but ask, and that right there was his biggest fear, and everything, his very existence, Steve thought, hinged on Danny’s answer. Danny, subtle as always, smacked him upside the head. It stung. “Ow!”
“You idiot.” Danny cupped Steve’s face between his hands and stared down at him, affection and anger warring in his gaze; affection won out and he sighed. “Is Grace here?” Steve nodded, staring at the hollow of Danny’s throat with great interest. “Are you here?” Steve’s gaze jerked up to collide with his.
“Yes,” Steve breathed; Danny smiled at him like he was a little short-bus special.
“Then I’m here,” Danny said, “end of story, end of discussion, and I will be here until Gracie decides leave us and go to college, and then we shall have to follow her to make sure she stays safe, and to beat off the boys who come sniffing around her with big sticks.”
“I think the whole point of leaving for college is, you know, leaving for college.”
“You shut up! And I’m warning you right now, Steven, do not go putting ideas into my baby’s head. We’ll look into the University of Hawai’i. I’m sure it’s an excellent school…”
“It is…” Steve tried to interject as Danny continued to rant, heedless of the fact that Steve had checked out because…Danny’s future included Steve. There was no I, or Grace and I, there was we and us, and he hadn’t been referring to Rachel.
Questions answered to his satisfaction, Steve stood in one nimble move and brought Danny to his feet with him, sandwiching him between the wall and Steve’s body, cutting him off in mid-sentence when he kissed him hard. “Wanna fuck you,” Steve muttered against Danny’s mouth, their gazes tangling and holding for a few endless moments, like Danny was seeing straight into his haggard soul; like he understood and had accepted everything Steve was.
“Thought you’d never ask.”
They pushed and shoved and kissed like they were starving for it, all the way up the stairs and into the master bedroom, Steve efficiently divesting Danny of his clothes, piece by piece, and littering them all over the room, not stopping until he toppled Danny onto the bed and stood back, staring in wonder at the picture he made, all taut muscle and golden hair dusted over his trim body, framing his pink nipples and his beautiful cock, and fuck, heat pooled deep in Steve’s belly at the thought of licking every mouth-watering inch of him, whorling his tongue into the hair on his chest as he suckled on those sweet nipples.
“Get naked and get down here,” Danny growled; Steve snapped to attention at his commanding tone.
“Sir, yes, sir,” he said, his voice husky with desire, and he smirked when Danny’s gaze darkened.
He took his time stripping out of his clothes, not slow, but not too fast either, making sure the sinew of his muscles stood out when he flexed and played havoc with Danny’s libido and yeah, Danny’s soft cock had definitely twitched with interest. Steve’s, on the other hand, was hard enough to pound nails. He was still in complete control, though, his will rigid and inflexible, no matter how fast the blood was rushing through his veins, no matter how hard his heart was pounding; it was all about the end-game.
He left Danny splayed against the pillows as he rooted around his bedside drawer for some slick and a condom; he found the lube and then swore under his breath; it’d been a long time since he’d had someone over for sex and he was out of condoms. Fuck.
“What’s the hold-up?”
“You got something against barebacking?”
He stared Danny down, his dick getting impossibly harder at the thought of sliding into Danny with nothing between them, of coming inside Danny, and shit, Steve’s vaunted SEAL self-control went flying out the window. “Fuck.”
“My point exactly,” Danny said, smirking sexily like he knew how close Steve was to teetering on the edge of madness. “Get over here, sailor.”
That right there made Steve burn hotter than the sun, Danny and that clever, cocky mouth of his, all his words, everything he called Steve, equals parts affection and derision and teasing and taunting and Steve pounced, got right up on all fours, hovering over Danny, feeling feral and a little unhinged.
“I’m clean,” he murmured huskily, because he felt obligated to say it, and Danny just raised an eyebrow up at him, like he was stupid to even think that Danny had thought otherwise and yeah, okay, they were both too smart to consider doing this without protection with everything they had riding on this partnership…this relationship if they weren’t absolutely sure they were healthy.
“Me, too. So, I repeat, what is the goddamn hold-up?”
“And that is news to you how exactly?”
“Oh my God, is sex with you always gonna be like this?” Steve asked, a little horrified and a lot excited at the prospect of fighting and fucking and falling in love with this irascible, impossible, incredible man.
“It’s called foreplay, Steven. Get with the program.”
“You’re going to be the death of me,” Steve muttered, lowering himself down onto Danny’s body, closing his eyes to savor the feel of skin on warm skin, reveling in the tickle of Danny’s chest hair against his torso, and moaning with Danny as his cock settled into the crease of Danny’s thigh, slotted next to Danny’s hardening cock, getting Danny wet with a healthy spurt of pre-come.
“I think you got that backwards,” Danny gasped, canting his hips up to increase the friction between them and Steve suddenly had zero patience left. He grabbed the lube and slicked up his fingers, easing two of them into Danny without preamble. “Fuuuuuck…” Danny hissed and keened and bucked into his hand. “See? I…was…right!”
Steve kissed him just to shut him up, because this was them and provocative statements like that could quickly devolve into a pissing contest and Steve wasn’t about to be distracted now; time enough for foreplay when Round Three started, probably tomorrow morning, because Steve was going to ream Danny’s ass and he didn’t think either of them would survive that and recover enough to go again tonight.
He sucked on Danny’s tongue, their kiss dirty and wet and sloppy, just like what he was doing to Danny’s hole with three fingers now. He nipped his way down Danny’s chin, licked into the hollow at his throat and made his way down, nosing into the hair on his chest, finding a nipple and suckling at it as Danny writhed and bucked and moaned as he touched Steve anywhere he could reach, frantic and winded by the time he tugged Steve back up to his mouth, kissing him fiercely as he jacked himself back to full hardness.
“You ready?” Steve asked moments later, and Danny nodded, so Steve heaved himself up and, as Danny spread his legs wider, Steve gave him a few more thrusts with his fingers, curling them to stroke Danny’s inner walls, unerringly finding the spongy tissue of his prostate and massaging it until Danny was almost sobbing under the ruthless pressure, his breath stuttering as he tried to catch it, the look in his eyes scorching as he stared Steve down.
“Fuck me, Steve. Quit playing…”
Steve pulled his fingers out and in one smooth move – he hadn’t earned that nickname for nothing – grabbed his cock and nudged Danny’s puckered hole with it, pushing it past the first ring of muscle with barely any resistance. “Not a game with you,” he rasped out, his voice gravelly as he sunk in a little deeper, inch by inch, holding his breath, watching Danny’s chest still too.
When he slid in all the way, both of them exhaled.
Then things went a little haywire.
It could’ve been the tight fit of Danny around Steve’s cock, it could’ve been the way his ass sort of sucked Steve in, like Danny was dying for it. It could’ve been the sexy way Danny wrapped his legs around Steve and canted his hips up, the shifted angle giving Steve’s thrusts new depth, forcing him to pump faster, push harder. It could’ve been the sensual way Danny was just lying there and taking it all, one hand stroking his own cock between their bellies as Steve fucked him from above, the other grazing over Steve’s nipple, pinching it and rubbing against it.
It could’ve been…but it wasn’t. It was all of the above and more; it was the way he looked at Steve, like he was soaking up every sensation, every grind and slide, the feel of Steve inside him with no barrier between them, like there was no one else he’d rather do this with, no one else he would give himself so completely to, no one else who could make him feel this way.
It was more than enough to make Steve lose his usual swagger during sex. He’d never felt this primal urge to just possess someone before. He wanted to mark Danny up with his mouth and hands, tattoo his name across that gorgeous ass, or stamp it on his forehead or something equally ridiculous: Property of Steven J. McGarrett, Don’t Touch, Look at Your Own Peril. Gone was his legendary focus, gone the moment he’d kissed Danny, not today, not last night, but that day six months ago, so far gone from the moment Danny had started chipping away at all of Steve’s defenses from the moment they’d first met.
Steve didn’t mourn its loss.
He liked it, Steve thought, losing control like this, giving it over to Danny, the only person he trusted enough to take it from him.
He reared back and up, the movement drawing Danny’s legs down until Steve could grasp his ankles, and it was impossible not to turn and kiss the delicate bone on the inside of his foot as he nuzzled the curved arch and kissed it. After that little detour, he got back with the plan, pushing Danny’s thighs up against his stomach, getting leverage so he could fuck him harder, so hard that his balls slapped salaciously against the moist skin of Danny’s ass, until Danny was grunting with the force of each thrust.
Steve rolled his hips on each downstroke and Danny’s breath hitched as Steve’s cock hit his prostate, and he moaned, dirty and deep, so Steve did it again and again until Danny was gasping for breath in between the litany of curses he was uttering along with Steve’s name. He could feel Danny’s body tense, but it still surprised him when Danny came, warm, slippery come splattering across their skin, Danny’s ass clenching and spasming around Steve’s cock as he fucked him through his orgasm, frantically seeking his own now, too, thrusting harder and deeper until every muscle in his body seized and he came with a guttural roar, spilling hot and slick inside Danny.
He blacked out.
When he came to, what had to be mere seconds later, it was to find Danny wrapped around him, arms and legs, holding him together and kissing the side of his face, Steve’s cock still buried inside him, softer now, resting right where it belonged. Steve raised his head, blinked down at Danny, and learned how to breathe again.
“Is there anything you’re not good at?” Danny asked, blue eyes dancing with mirth, needling Steve as usual, egging him on with that damnable mouth of his that Steve loved so much.
Steve smirked, completely and utterly conceited. “No.”
“Over-achiever,” Danny accused. “It’s not polite to brag.”
“Really? You’re gonna give me a lesson in manners now?”
“It’s called post-coital etiquette,” Danny told him, grinning, “and you are sorely lacking in it, babe.”
“Well, if you would just shut up for a sec and let me get a word in edgewise…”
“Then you would fall asleep on me.”
Steve smiled unrepentantly. “Probably.” He yawned, shifting a little and letting his dick slide out of Danny.
“We’re filthy.” Danny said, sighing and smiling and looking sated and satisfied and hey, Steve had done that; it was hard not to feel smug.
“Who said fucking was a neat and orderly thing to do?”
“Well, look who’s chatty and communicative all of a sudden…”
“You bring it out in me, what can I say?” Steve fell back against the pillows, boneless. Danny chuckled and got up with a groan, shuffling into the bathroom. Steve heard water running and then Danny returned with a damp washcloth. He’d already cleaned himself off, so he took his time with Steve, gently wiping him of sweat and come and tossing the cloth into the hamper before he fell back into bed and into Steve’s arms; he snuggled close. Steve held his breath. “I don’t usually…do this.”
“Mmm, I can tell,” Danny murmured into his chest, pressing a kiss to his nipple before squishing in impossibly closer. “Maybe it’s the fact that you’re as stiff as a longboard and not in a good way.”
“Figures that you like cuddling after sex,” Steve grumbled, hiding his smile in Danny’s unkempt hair, “just like you like cuddling after near-death experiences.”
“Oh, so now it’s okay to joke about it.” It really wasn’t, so Steve just held on to Danny a little tighter; he figured Danny would get the picture. “You big softie, you.”
“Navy SEAL here, nothing soft about me.”
“Is also not soft.” Steve gave it a good squeeze to demonstrate. “Kinda love your ass.”
“Kinda love you.”
Steve startled, looking down at Danny with a million different emotions coursing through him, frenzied and all over the place; they calmed at the look in Danny’s eyes, open and honest and trusting. Steve blinked and willed his pulse to slow. This was okay. This was Danny. He didn’t need to keep his guard up against Danny; he knew that instinctively, and now he knew it completely.
“I love you too, Danno.”
Danny grinned and kissed him, lingering and sweet. Perfect. “Now that? That is perfect post-coital conversation.”
A couple of weeks later, Governor Denning still hadn’t approved Danny’s return to Five-0; he’d gotten wind of the not-so-professional relationship between them - because Danny was right, there wasn't anything about them that was subtle - and he didn’t believe in mixing pleasure and police business. It was a valid concern, Steve knew, but it didn’t apply to them; Sam Denning didn’t know that, and he probably didn’t give enough of a damn to find out. It was starting to shred the last vestiges of Steve’s sanity, like having Danny close but not being able to touch; it just wasn’t the same with any of the others by his side.
See, Steve had become acclimated to the quiet; he’d had long bouts of it on missions, like the last one he’d been on, and he’d had to deal with it again when Danny’d left him to return to New Jersey. The last thing he wanted to do was slip into that mindset again and cut himself off from everything and everyone around him just so he could deal with the job. He became too tightly coiled when that happened, and it was never a pretty sight when the pressure built and he…sprung.
He was also used to the noise: the shouted orders and bellowed commands were a Navy staple, as were the sounds of war. Sure, the SEALs were a more refined, deadly lot – ninjas, like Danny always teased – but the comfort of having Danny yelling in his ear, not orders, not commands, just words, words to keep Steve grounded in reality when the bullets were flying, words to remind him that this wasn’t the battlefield or unfriendly territory; this was Hawai’i, his home, and these weren’t militant commandos they were fighting, unless they were, of course; these were run of the mill bad guys and Steve needed to take it down a notch.
He needed Danny out there, by his side, to remind him of that.
In the beginning, when he’d first gotten this gig, he’d been shocked to discover how much he enjoyed their banter, all the sound and barely suppressed fury that Danny held within him, most of it stemming from the raw deal he’d gotten shafted with in the custody battle for Grace. He’d let go of that anger as Steve had gotten to know him better, when he’d learned that Steve had his back, even when it came to Grace, when he’d learnt that he wasn’t alone anymore.
Steve was just as surprised to find that he’d lost his usual military-ingrained reticence where Danny was concerned; he’d discovered how much he loved pushing Danny’s buttons, until he blustered and went blue in the face trying to defend New Jersey, or pizza with mozz and sauce, or ties and dress shirts in Hawai’i and looking professional on the job, because it meant that Danny cared enough to do this, to yell at him, cared enough not to when the situation called for it, cared enough to fight just as hard at his side when the need arose. It was like stroking a match to tinder sometimes, but Steve had been accused of being a powder keg himself, so he just stood back and enjoyed the show that was Danny on one of his rants, bursting into energetic, exuberant flame; it was a thing of rugged beauty, much like the man himself.
So yeah, Steve missed him. Missed having him always there, missed solving cases with him, missed saying ‘Book ‘em, Danno,’ missed the glare he would get for his trouble.
On the bright side, as Danny had pointed out, HPD had welcomed him back with open arms and a bit of a raise because they were short on good cops and crime was on the up, assigning Danny a partner that even Steve admitted to liking, no matter how grudgingly. Noelani Haloa was a rookie detective, even though she’d been on the force as a uniform for years. She stood almost shoulder to shoulder with Steve, which meant that she towered over Danny, and that was never not funny. She also had the sweetest disposition Steve had ever seen in a cop. Until she got up close and personal with an unruly perp and went ballistic which, according to Danny, was a sight to behold.
They fell into a routine as the days ran into each other, Danny getting picked up by Noelani and Steve heading into work in the Camaro (without Danny next to him). Steve went out and did his job (without Danny watching his back) and came home at the end of the day (to Danny, and if that wasn’t the best thing ever, Steve didn’t know what was). He was still enraged, though: at the Governor, at the fact that Weston existed where Danny should be, no offense to her or anything because she was good at her job and she was growing on him, but she still wasn’t what he needed her to be; she wasn’t Danny.
“Earth to Steve McGarrett, come in, Steve McGarrett.”
“Ha fucking ha.”
“Oh, you’re in that kind of mood today,” Danny surmised. “Come hither and join me in my hammock of love.” Steve did as he said, and for the first time in the week it had taken to bust up a Yakuza-run car theft ring, he let himself unwind and relax into Danny’s arms. Danny kissed the side of his head and scratched his fingers soothingly through Steve’s hair. “Quit pouting, you did good today.”
“I’m not pouting,” Steve argued, pouting, of course. Danny kissed it right off of his face and snuggled closer, setting the hammock swinging into motion.
“Think of it this way, babe,” Danny reasoned, “until the Governor comes to his senses, when you don’t call HPD for back up, I will be there anyway, watching your back. Like good back up is supposed to do. When you call for back up. Which you should do from here on in, just to get into the habit.”
“I don’t want you at my back. You need to be by my side, in my car, out in the field, always. That’s where you belong! That’s where I need you to stay.”
“Oh, babe…” Danny chuckled and stroked his hair as he stared at him. “First off, it is my car, and second, it’s times like these when I think that somewhere deep down inside, you’re still five years old.”
“I’m a grown man...”
“Yeah, yeah, and you have quote unquote equipment to prove it.”
“Danno…” Steve sighed. “I don’t want to do this without you anymore. It was bad enough when you were in Jersey. Then, after I got back from my mission, you started calling me on a regular basis so it got a little easier… But this, Danny – knowing you’re here and not being able to… I can’t do it.”
“And what’ll you do if you don’t do this?”
“Go back to the Navy?”
Danny reared up, lost his balance on the hammock and came crashing into Steve’s chest, so when he growled, it was right in Steve’s face. “No. No! I veto that decision! Absolutely not, Steven, I mean it!”
“Training, Danny. Just for training over at Pearl. No active missions. I…” Steve hesitated and didn’t speak until Danny nuzzled his cheek. “I don’t think I can do that anymore, D.”
“Talk to me, babe; just let it out. You never talk about that last mission – and don’t give me that ‘classified’ bullshit – there’s something you need to get off your chest, so do it.”
“It was winter where I was,” Steve said, a couple of minutes later, because Danny was right and it was too hard to hold the words back; he’d been holding them back for far too long already. “There was snow everywhere, and it was so cold… Most of our mission in the beginning was recon. Watching the target, setting up the op, getting our timing right. It was a lot of solitary work, out at night, or in white camo during the day… Jesus, Danny, I’ve never felt more isolated and alone in my life… I let it get to me, you know, and that made me a liability. I mean, I got through it, but…it’s never been like that for me in the past.” Steve blinked away that deep-rooted loneliness that had crept up on him again and grounded himself in Danny’s steady gaze. “I’m think I’m done with that part of my life.”
“Well, I am very happy to hear that, Steve. I speak for Grace, too. And everyone who loves you. The Navy’s losing a good man, but like I said before: they’ve had their turn, you belong to us now.”
“You. I belong to you. And Grace.”
“I like the sound of that, not gonna lie, babe.” Danny was quiet for a few lengthy seconds as he stroked Steve’s cheek, his gaze both fond and serious. “And you’re not alone anymore, and you’re not going to be; I’m not gonna let that happen. But say you do quit the team, what happens to the good people of this lovely island who are counting on Five-0 to ensure their safety and protection?”
Steve had to smile at that; it was a quiet, comforting kick in the pants, the way only Danny could do it. “Oh, so it’s a lovely island now, huh? What happened to ‘pineapple-infested hellhole’?”
“This is my home now, McGarrett, I won’t have you impugning and maligning it.”
“Do you know how sexy you are when you use big words?”
“Do you know how annoying you are when you try to avoid the issue at hand?”
“Think of it this way, babe,” he tossed Danny’s words right back at him, “how much havoc would I cause without you around to rein me in.”
“Rein you in? Rein you in? When have I ever ‘reined you in’? When do you even listen to me out there, before you barrel in willy nilly into bad situations without back up, guns blazing and grenades launching, stripping off your shirt and showing off your tats at the drop of a hat? Rein you in, he says. I’m lucky if I can teach you the difference between right and batshit crazy. And you can stop with the stink face already.”
Steve stared at him in consideration. “I may have forgotten about the incessant nagging…”
“You shut up…”
“I lecture because I love you.”
“…and I do get it at home anyway…”
“Oh, I’ll give it to you all right!”
The two of them grinned at each other before Steve’s smiled slipped a little. “I…I just miss you out there, Danno. It’s not the same.”
Danny sighed. “C’mere, you big goof.” He held Steve close and kissed him. “Give it some time, okay? Who knows? If we’re lucky, something’ll happen to change the Governor’s mind and we’re golden. It’ll be good, you’ll see. I have a good feeling.”
“You have a feeling?”
“There’s Irish blood flowing through my veins. Our people rely a lot on feelings; we’re ruled by them. That and the occasional Guinness.”
“I hope so, Danno.”
“Have a little faith,” Danny insisted. “Now shut up and kiss me, I’m part-Irish.”
Steve obediently did as he was told, and he didn’t know if it was the luck of the Irish or what, but a few weeks later, Danny was proved right and as much as it pained Steve to admit that, especially in the face of Danny’s smug smirk, he took one for the team and did it; it was totally worth it to have Danny by his side again, the way they were meant to be.
Partners in every sense of the word.
Chapter 5: Epilogue
“What’ve we got?” Danny asked as he jumped into the car and Noelani sped off, lights flashing and siren wailing.
“Hostage situation at the lagoon-side tiki bar at Hilton Hawai’ian Village,” his new partner reported succinctly, maneuvering and changing lanes like a cop who’d had advanced training in defensive driving and not a Nascar driver on crack like another partner he could name; Danny kind of missed the thrill of the race. “They were getting set for dinner at the hotel’s Waikiki Starlight Luau, and turned out some of the wait staff were armed.”
“And let me guess, the shit hit the palm fronds,” he muttered. “Only in Hawai’i.”
“How’s that, brah?” Noelani asked, confused. She had issues with driving and keeping up with the conversation even without him talking in his usual rapid-fire way.
“I said,” Danny repeated himself for her benefit whereas usually he let it slide, “only in Hawai’i would criminals be lame enough to take hostages at a tiki bar.”
“Eh, they’re probably mainlanders. Locals know not to mess with a luau.”
“You know what? You’re probably right. Morons.” Danny chuckled as they pulled up to the hotel, two other cruisers on their tail and three ahead of them and, if he’d heard the scanners right, SWAT on the way. “Looks like a party.”
“Detectives!” A uniform Danny recognized jogged up to them.
“Officer Cabrera, right?”
“Yes, sir,” Cabrera confirmed. “Called you and Haloa because one of the gunmen matches the description of your perp from the bank job you were investigating last week.” He pulled up a mugshot on his phone. “Got an ID. He look familiar?”
Danny thought the guy was a dead ringer for the sketch the sole eyewitness to the bank robbery and the forensic sketch artist had come up with. “Reilly, Michael. Guy’s got a season pass to Halawa, he’s been in and out so many times, and a nice, long rap sheet to which we can now add parole violation and armed robbery. Let’s go give this dumbass a one-way ticket back.”
He noted the amped up police presence as they navigated their way through hotel’s lobby and got out into the open again. Cabrera gave them the lowdown as he led them along the paved path to the lagoon. “Officers are already deployed and they’re negotiating with the gunmen. As far as we can tell, it was supposed to be a straight-up heist. Guests sat down to dinner after the entertainment wrapped up and the wait staff pulled the guns. Five male perps, all armed, handguns mostly but one of them’s packing an assault rifle. They took jewelry and cash and cleared the area. Looks like your guy Reilly’s in charge.”
Danny stalled. “If they cleared the area, how come we have a hostage situation?”
“Er…that’s the other reason we called you…” Cabrera suddenly looked everywhere but at Danny. “The governor was in attendance.”
Danny barked out a laugh. Simply because he didn’t know what else to do. “That’s where you’re wrong, my friend. The governor’s dining at the Trump Hotel tonight. I know that – you know how I know that? Because McGarrett and Weston are at that dinner with him. Undercover security detail for the foreign dignitaries Denning’s showing off for, that is how I know that.” Danny bit his lip as Noelani patted him on the shoulder. “They had a change of plans, didn’t they?”
Cabrera nodded. “Governor’s office said he wanted his out-of-town guests to experience a little island flavor.”
“Awesome,” Danny groaned. “But the perps didn’t know that, did they?”
“Not until the governor mouthed off to them and the situation escalated from there.”
“Of course it did.”
“Hotel staff called HPD, and we’re fairly certain the perps don’t realize that two of their hostages are Five-0.”
“Perfect,” Danny muttered, “I would say let’s keep it that way, but I know McGarrett. And Weston, come to think of it. I’m betting the perps know by now.”
“How many hostages in total?” Noelani asked, and yeah, that was pertinent information right there; other people besides Steve McGarrett mattered to…other people. Danny, however, had a one track mind right now, and most of it was focused on ensuring Steve was safe and not shooting things.
“Five in Denning’s group not counting McGarrett and Weston and six of the entertainers who didn’t get away in time – a few hula dancers and a couple of Samoan warriors.”
Danny knew it wasn’t funny, but he couldn’t resist the smirk. Hula dancers and Samoan warriors; beat that, Jersey.
He double-checked the fastenings on his TAC vest, unholstered his weapon, and took the lead, walking through fire – literally, there were tiki torches lining the way to the luau – to get to Steve. Who was engaged in a standoff with an armed gunman, of course he was. Steve had his Sig pointed at the gunman’s head and the gunman had his Glock pointed at the governor’s head, and neither of them showed any signs of backing down.
Danny groaned and rubbed a hand down his face before moving up the HPD ranks behind Steve and Weston, slowly raising his own gun. He did a quick recon of the open-air dining area by the lagoon and confirmed what Cabrera had told him: five perps, two in the back with their guns trained on the governor’s terrified guests, and one watching the huddled group of entertainers by the ‘stage’ area. The last guy had his AK47 trained on Steve and Weston; she returned the favor with her firearm, the stony look on her face eerily similar to Steve’s. That just left Reilly and the governor – who was gagged and bound to a chair with duct tape; that’ll teach him to mouth off to a guy with a gun – front and center. Reilly looked like he was both spooked and spoiling for a fight, and that was a bad combination, right there.
“Give us what we want and we’ll let them go,” Reilly told Steve.
“We do not negotiate with terrorists,” Steve growled back. “Stand down.”
Yeah, McGarrett and his nifty negotiation skills were legendary. Danny felt the immediate need to step in and diffuse the situation. He nodded at Noelani and Cabrera and found that HPD was all for giving him a wide berth as he worked. Very gingerly and in full view of the gunmen, he moved closer to Steve’s side. “Steven.”
Steve’s eyes flicked to him and back so fast, Danny almost missed the subtle movement, and Steve’s cheery tone belied the tenseness of the situation. “Hi, Danno.”
“Hey, babe,” Danny greeted just as casually. It had Reilly and his boys looking at him funny. “Whatcha got here?”
Steve eased off a bit on his rigid, hostile stance. “Well,” he said, nodding to Reilly, “these gentlemen were very rude and interrupted our dinner. With guns. And ridiculous demands. I was trying to get them to see reason and give themselves up.”
“Ah,” Danny nodded in blithe agreement, as if they were discussing the vagaries of the Hawai’ian weather. Even Governor Denning was looking at him as if he had a few screws loose. “Any luck with that?” Steve woefully shook his head. “Shame.” Danny looked at Reilly, crooking his eyebrow up at the man. “Whatever happened to knocking off plain ol’ jewelry stores, Mikey? Huh? Suddenly you graduate to the big leagues and take the freakin’ Governor of Hawai’i hostage? There’s no coming back from this one, pal, I can tell you that. Smartest thing you can do right now is give yourself up.”
“You know this guy?” Steve asked nonchalantly even as Reilly gaped at him. “Who are you?”
“Detective Danny Williams, HPD.”
Reilly’s recovery time was impressive. “No offense to you, Detective, but I thought this guy was calling the shots.” He nodded to Steve, and Danny nodded right along with him; Steve remained stoic and focused.
And smug. Always so fucking smug.
“Trust me when I tell you that you do not want him ‘calling the shots.’” Danny darted a look at Steve just in time to catch the conceited smirk on his face. He turned an irate glare on the gunman. “See what you did, there? You’re gonna give him a big head and I have enough problems with his ego already, okay? Besides, he may be the boss, but I’m his big kahuna, capiche?”
Steve actually turned to look at him. “Big?”
“Shut up, you.” Danny glared at him. “I notice, though, that you didn’t object to the ‘kahuna’ part.”
“Because I have no problems with that part,” Steve said with a grin. “You’re expert at…many things.” Danny rolled his eyes and looked back at Reilly.
“Tick tock, my friend.”
“Not gonna happen, Detective. I want safe passage off this island.”
“Is this guy for real?” Danny asked of no one in particular. “Do you think anyone’s gonna listen to you?”
Reilly sneered, barely suppressed fury in his eyes. “People listen when you have a gun pointed at them.”
“Yeah, they listen all right,” Danny agreed, “but then they send in a SWAT team – with snipers – to shoot you.”
“Well, then…we’ll…shoot the hostages.” Danny didn’t miss the suddenly concerned expressions on the other gunmen’s faces – not to mention the sheer terror on the faces of the hostages – and he was pretty sure Steve had caught on to that, too. These guys weren’t killers, then; good to know. Hopefully none of them had hair-trigger fingers.
“See, now, no good can come of that,” Danny reasoned, “not for you, and not for us, so let’s step back and review, shall we? Okay? Okay. You want us to listen, we’ll listen. But first, you gotta show some good faith.” Danny pretended to think. “How about you let some hostages go? You know, I have sisters. And if they were in this situation, God forbid, I would be seriously pissed. I’d want to punch you in the face, I’d be so pissed. Respectfully, of course. So, you want me to listen? Let the women go.”
Reilly looked like he was considering it, and Danny let out a breath he hadn’t known he was holding when he nodded. “Just the women,” Reilly instructed his men and, in seconds, the five women present were escorted to safety by Cabrera and another uniform.
“Great, now we can talk,” Danny announced. Steve, of course, had to go and ruin it.
“Are you kidding me?”
“Steven, Michael and I are trying to have a conversation here, please butt out.”
“A conversation?” Steve huffed noisily. “I know you like to talk, Danno, but this is ridiculous even for you.”
“Ridiculous?” Danny reared back to look at Steve. “You know what’s ridiculous, McGarrett? What’s ridiculous is that you can’t pick up the damn phone and tell me about your change in plans. That is what is ridiculous!”
“You’re mad because we decided to come to a different hotel?”
“It’s called communication, Steve, and unless it involves speaking in code and acronyms, you suck at it!”
“What difference would it have made?”
“I could’ve been here a lot sooner! Maybe! The point is I would’ve known to worry! Because you may be a strong and mighty warrior, Steven, but I am a worrier, okay? I worry. That is what I do! You do not get to deprive me of that! That’s what difference it would’ve made!” Danny’s voice increased in decibels as he worked up a full head of steam. “Also, it would’ve been nice to get a call from you and not HPD for once, but as usual, you still haven’t grasped the concept of calling for back up!”
Steve stared at him, Aneurysm Face out in full force. “Danny, do you think we can continue this discussion at home? How about we try and focus on the guys holding people hostage?”
Reilly and the governor nodded in unison but, of course, only Reilly could voice his thoughts. “Yeah, how about we focus on that and you two discuss your marital problems when you’re off duty?”
Danny blinked. “Marital problems? Oh, no you didn’t…”
Steve snorted. “Oh, yes he did.” He stared Reilly down. “Now you’ve done it.”
Danny stared Reilly down. “We do not have marital problems, all right? Because you have to be married to have marital problems – trust me, I would know, because, boy, have I been there and done that! – and contrary to popular belief, we are not married!”
Danny gaped at Steve’s quiet, almost offhand comment. “What?”
Steve’s smile was innocuous but Danny knew better. “We’re not married. Yet.”
Danny couldn’t help it; he was sure his eyes goggled. Like one of those crazy cartoon characters. “Was that a freakin’ proposal, Steven?”
“So what if it was?”
“Huh. Okay.” Good question, Danny thought. He blinked at Steve. Who was his future husband apparently. Danny bristled. “No! No, dammit, not okay! What kind proposal was that? Why aren’t you down on one knee? And where the fuck is my ring?”
“God, you are so high maintenance.”
Danny did a double take. “I’m…I’m high maintenance? Me? Me?” Danny sputtered, his gun hand waving to vehemently emphasize his outrage, but whatever, the safety was on. “Have you met you?”
Steve stared at him in exasperation, gritting his teeth as he spoke. “Oh, I’m sorry. I apologize. Once we’re done with this hostage situation, I’ll wine and dine and woo you to your heart’s content and do this right, okay?”
“Okay!” Danny huffed. “Was that too much to ask? Stop pouting! A little romance won’t kill you!”
“Fine. Fantastic. Can we move on?” Steve’s snide tone was completely cancelled out by the fond, amused look in his eyes.
Steve studied him for a second. “Yes, okay, as in you’ll marry me, yes, okay?”
“Yes, okay, as in I’m taking it under advisement,” Danny told him, just to be a dick. “My answer is forthcoming. After we wrap things up here.”
“See? That wasn’t so hard now, was it?” Steve smiled and looked way too full of shit; Danny finally chose the high road and ignored him.
“Fuck me. You’re those guys,” Reilly gasped suddenly, waving his gun at them, motioning to the rest of his gang while Denning looked like he was on the verge of having an apoplectic fit. “Mr. and Mrs. Five-0. Heard about you two at Halawa.”
Danny didn’t have to look to know that Steve had a big, stupid grin on his big, stupid face, but he looked anyway. Then he got a bit pissy. At Steve and not the gunman. “Oh, you think that’s funny? It’s not funny, McGarrett!”
“It’s a little funny.”
“No! No, it’s not even the teeniest bit funny and you wanna know why, Steven?”
“Because you are built like a Mack truck and you look like freakin’ James Bond in that tux and everyone’s gonna think I’m the Mrs.!”
Steve grinned like a shark. “Well, you are…petite. And you have pretty eyes. And you did just get done asking me to romance you, ergo, you are the Mrs.”
“Petite?” Danny huffed in disgust. He motioned to Reilly. “Petite, he says like it’s not the most insulting thing ever…” Then Danny paused, brow furrowed, and looked back Steve. “Wait… You think I have pretty eyes?”
“They’re blue,” Steve said, smiling and winking at him. “Like the blue right where the ocean meets the sky on a clear, prefect day. My favorite color.”
They grinned a little stupidly at each other. Someone groaned. Or maybe several someones. Weston, for sure. Denning, definitely. Reilly just looked flummoxed, like he couldn’t quite believe this was his life; he shook his head as if to clear it and spoke. Or shouted, more like. “If you guys are done flirting can we get back to the fucking negotiating here?”
“Yo,” Danny snapped at him, “the adults are talking right now, shut up.” He looked back at Steve. “You were saying, babe?”
“Oh. My. God,” Weston groaned again from where she stood behind Steve, and if Danny wasn’t mistaken, she and AK47-toting guy shared an eye-roll of commiseration.
Steve ignored her, smiling at Danny a little shyly. “I also like the way they crinkle up in the corners. S’cute.”
Danny smirked. “Yeah?”
“Well, just for the record – I think your eyes are beautiful, too.”
“Danny…” Steve mumbled in a stupidly adorable aw shucks manner that made Danny want to snort in laughter, but he kept his game face on.
“No, for real,” Danny insisted, on a roll now. “They’re hazel, you know, but they keep changing color – like a kaleidoscope. Sometimes they’re a little brown, sometimes they’re a little green, but most times, especially when you come in from your swim, I see blue, like you keep a little bit of the ocean with you.” Danny heard his own words and winced. “Er… I said that out loud, didn’t I?”
Reilly gaped at him. “Are you two gonna break into song or something? Because if we have to listen to you telling him your heart will go on, we’re gonna start shooting people as a public service!”
“What did I tell you about talking?” Danny growled at him. Then he drew back. “Celine Dion? Seriously?”
“Hey!” Reilly screamed, veins popping in his neck, right in Danny’s face he was so riled up. “Hostage situation here!”
“I know!” Danny yelled right back, pulling back and socking Reilly in the right in the chest, winding him, while – in a clever little move he’d picked up from McGarrett – smoothly disarming him and putting him on his knees, dazed and out of breath as Danny moved, lightening fast, and cuffed him. If he also cuffed him on the jaw while he was at it – with his fist and hard enough for Reilly to see stars – then that was between him and Reilly, and no one else was the wiser.
Of course, Danny’s quick reflexes were expertly timed with the arrival of Chin (who took care of the two guys in the back with ninja moves he had to have practiced with Steve), Kono (who swung in Tarzan-style from above the stage and clobbered the guy with the gun on the hula dancers and the Samoan warriors) and Weston, who pretty much had the machine-gun-guy disarmed, bleeding and hogtied by the time Danny had slicked his messed-up hair back into place. Even Noelani had been quick to get with the program and cover the governor.
It took all of maybe thirty seconds, and it left Steve bitching. Yeah, so what else was new?
“But I didn’t get to do anything.”
Danny huffed and pulled Reilly to his feet; the moron slumped drunkenly against Danny, practically knocked out cold. “You got to stand there and look pretty in your Bond suit, what more do you want?” Danny grunted as he supported more of Reilly’s weight just as Chin and Kono walked up to them. “What took you guys so long?”
Kono shrugged. “Traffic, brah.”
“Yeah,” Chin nodded, “sirens kind of negate the whole sneaking up from behind thing.” Chin squinted at Steve. “I can’t believe you proposed to him during a standoff at gunpoint.”
Steve grinned at him. “It’s how I roll.”
Chine laughed and bumped fists with Steve. “Classy, boss. Congratulations to you both.”
“Yeah, ho’omaika’i ‘ana!” Kono piped up, cheeks dimpling when Danny went a little red in the face and mumbled his thanks. “Also? Props to you for picking up on my signals, Danny. You’re so freakin’ awesome sometimes.”
Danny preened and winked at Steve. “I am freakin’ awesome all the damn time. But sirens or no sirens, next time – step on it. I had to make small talk, here!”
Steve snorted. “Yeah, ‘cause we all know how much you hate to talk.”
“I talk for fun. Hostage situations are not fun for normal people, Steven. I also talk for my health, because otherwise I would get a coronary from all the shit you pull on a daily basis. I talk for the sanctity of my mind, because you drive me crazy, and talking at you is therapeutic for me. And you know what else I talk for, Steve?”
“What else do you talk for, Danno?”
“The safety of this island. I do a public service that I get no fucking credit for. Because if I don’t talk to diffuse the ticking time bomb that is Steve McGarrett, you’d have blown everybody up by now with one of those grenades you keep in my glove compartment!”
“Danny. It’s my glove compartment. You gave it to me when you gave me your car.”
“My God, are they always like this?” Noelani stage-whispered, nudging Weston. Danny took the opportunity to slap Reilly awake; nada. He sighed and kept holding the asshole upright; he had a purpose to serve still.
Weston nodded at Noelani and confided, “And believe me when I say it’s a good thing. You don’t want to see McGarrett without Willams around.” She mimed an explosion with her hands. Danny glared at her.
“Like you’re any better?”
“You were given a biased opinion,” she retorted. And yeah, okay, Danny had to give her that. “Besides, you’re not the one who had to live through six months of him saying ‘Danny this’ and ‘Danny that’ and how I should be ‘more like Danny.’ God. Danny, Danny, Danny!”
“Ouch,” Noelani empathized. “At least you can understand what McGarrett’s saying. Sometimes Danny talks so fast…I just nod and smile and I have no clue what I’m agreeing to.”
Danny sputtered and glowered at his current partner. “Et tu, Haloa?”
Everyone burst out laughing but they sobered up pretty quickly when the governor joined their little circle and immediately took center stage, all business and after how he’d taken Steve away from Danny? They should’ve let him stew with the gunmen for longer, Danny thought with a grimace. “You know,” Denning began, “I’d heard rumors about how…unorthodox…Five-0 was in the execution of their operations but I never really believed it up until now.”
Steve stared the Governor down, his narrowed gaze steely-eyed. “‘Unorthodox’ works well for us.”
Denning’s lip curled superciliously. “I see that now,” he drawled.
Danny stepped in before Steve could open his mouth, because he had a feeling that wouldn’t have ended well. “Look at it this way, Governor Denning,” he said, keeping his voice (and Reilly) steady, “hostage situation neutralized and not a single shot was fired. Unorthodox or not, that’s a good day.”
Denning studied Danny with an assessing expression that would’ve made a lesser man – who was not Jersey-born and bred – quake in his patent leather loafers. “I have to agree with you there, Detective Williams.” He cast a sideways glance at Reilly’s prone form and then shook his head, summarily dismissing the guy who’d just held his life at gunpoint not five minutes ago. “You really knew all along – while you two were having that ridiculous argument – that the rest of the team was planning an ambush?”
“You can’t work with this guy,” Danny gestured at Steve, “for over a year and not pick up a few pointers on how to run a covert op.”
Denning looked a little impressed. “I’m going to revisit Commander McGarrett’s request to reinstate you into Five-0 as his partner. I’ve obviously underestimated your place on this team.” Danny couldn’t hold back his grin, and he didn’t need to look at the rest of his team – and yeah, they really were his team again – to know that they were all grinning like loons at the news, too, but Denning was now looking at Steve and talking and yeah, Danny needed to pay attention here; Steve still didn’t like or trust the man one bit. “Does this mean you will no longer require the services of Officer Weston?”
Steve’s tiny smile fell off his face. “Weston is part of this team now, sir. She stays.”
“She’ll need a partner out in the field,” Denning pointed out as Weston gaped at Steve in surprise.
“Haloa’s a good cop with an excellent record of service so far,” Steve said, surprising everyone, Noelani most of all, but she was Danny’s new partner, so of course Steve had done his homework on her. “The job’s hers if she wants it.”
The Governor nodded imperiously. “Have the paperwork on my desk tomorrow and I’ll have it approved by the end of the week.”
“Will do, Governor.”
Denning turned to include all of them in his parting address. “Thank you for a job well done. Good work, Five-0.”
Then he walked away. Danny watched him go and pursed his lips in thought. “Was it just me or did he seem like an over-the-top hardass comic book general dismissing the motley band of crime-fighter heroes he put together?” All he got in return was a whole host of puzzled looks. He shrugged one shoulder. “Just me then? Roger that.” He sighed. “Well, there goes my cushy HPD job. It’s back to risking life and limb with Five-0.”
Steve growled low in his throat; it sounded territorial and the rest of the team took it as their cue to back away slowly and leave. Cowards. “I love your limbs and your life is mine, Danno – not gonna let anyone take you away from me.”
Danny closed his eyes and prayed for patience and tried not to get turned on by the heated, possessive look in Steve’s eyes. “Steven, I am not a girl to be protected and mollycoddled out there.”
“Yes, it’s a word – expand your vocabulary, you heathen. Read a book.”
“I read books.”
“Something other than ‘How to Plan the Perfect Black Op.’”
“Someone wrote a book on that? Really?”
“You could write a book on that. Stop looking so intrigued at the idea and get a move on.”
Steve pouted. “Now I have all this pent up energy I don’t know what to do with,” he complained just as Reilly came to.
“I know what you can do with all that energy,” Danny drawled, leering at his…partner. Boy, did it sound good to say that again.
Steve’s gaze went from sad to smoldering in a split second. “Yeah?”
“But I wanted to bust bad guy ass…”
“Next time,” Danny assured him. “Tonight you can…er…bust my ass.”
Steve looked stupidly hopeful. “Promise?”
Danny rolled his eyes and grinned. “I promise, you big baby, you.”
“I don’t know,” Steve frowned and pretended to consider his options, all the while sidling up to Danny until his chest was pressed all along Danny’s side. He leaned down to speak to him and the sensuality of the move, and the hand Steve settled on the small of his back, made Danny shiver. “I might need some added incentive.”
Danny cleared his throat. “What sort of incentive?”
“You have to come swimming with me when we get home.”
“Seriously?” Danny asked, shaking his head. “Are you really part-seal? Why does it always have to come back to swimming with you?”
Steve leaned in impossibly closer, his body radiating heat as he growled low in Danny’s ear. “Wanna fuck you in the ocean.”
Danny’s entire body suffused with heat, his breath shuddering out of him at the images in his head. Before he could respond to that, however, Reilly groaned.
“Oh God,” Reilly muttered, “get a fucking room.” Then he blinked and giggled. “Fucking room, heh!” Then he blinked again and frowned and pouted so hard he gave Steve a run for his money. “You two are the weirdest cops I’ve ever met and I’ve met a lot of cops.”
Danny whacked him upside the head. “What’ve I told you about interrupting us? We’re trying to have a conversation here!” He turned and smirked at Steve. “There is one thing you can still do with this bad guy, Steven. Do you want me to tell you what it is?”
Steve’s frown deepened in confusion for a beat but then cleared up into that gorgeous smile that Danny loved best. “Yeah?” he asked, sounding like a little kid in a candy store, his pockets full of hard-earned allowance.
Danny wanted to kiss him, but he restrained himself. Because he was strong like that and not because they were still in public, no sir; besides, soon as Steve said the words, they were outta there, as fast as Steve could drive them. Time enough for kissing when they got home. Or in the car maybe, because he didn’t think either of them were strong enough to resist each other for that long.
Danny grinned up at the man he was gonna marry someday. Soon, hopefully. “Knock yourself out, babe.” Steve laughed like the lovable idiot he was, and it made Danny laugh, too. He urged Steve on with his free hand. “Hey, McGQ, I’ve got a hot date I need to get to. Hurry it up.”
“Hot date, huh?”
“Yeah. I gotta see a man about a ring.”
“You planning on saying ‘Yes’ to that ring?”
“Yes? As in yes, yes?”
“Yes as in yes, yes.”
“In that case…” Steve kissed him soundly, showing his usual blatant disregard for proper police procedure, and grinned. “Book ‘em, Danno.”