Danny frowned down at his phone, sitting on the desk at his elbow. It was the second time it had rang from the same unknown number. Whatever telemarketer they were, they were awful persistent.
He let it ring out.
Steve rapped his knuckles against the door frame into Danny's office, a twinkle in his eyes. "Danno, you up for lunch?"
Danny's mouth opened for a snappy rejoinder -something about not if it was health food- when his phone rang again. Sighing, he picked up the phone to finally answer it. "Detective Williams-"
" Danno !" Grace hissed, voice a hushed whisper.
Danny's stomach immediately dropped to the soles of his feet, and he jerked to a stand. "Gracie?"
Across his office, Steve straightened, expression going grave.
"Gracie, what's wrong? Why aren't you calling me from your phone?" Danny gripped the edge of his desk, head bowed.
" Miss Han made us leave them in the bus, " she told him, voice so soft Danny had to strain to hear her. " Mister Buck gave me his phone to call you. "
"Baby, I need you to please tell me what's going on," Danny said, expression tight.
Steve took a half step forward, hands outstretched.
" There's guys with guns in the museum, " Grace whispered.
Danny could hear her quiet whimper, and his eyes closed. "It'll be okay, Gracie," he told her quietly. "I hate to ask this, baby girl, but did you hear them say anything about what they want?"
" They want haoles out of Hawaii. All traces. They said they were gonna burn all of it ."
Danny felt his teeth grinding together. "Okay. Thank you, monkey. Danno and Uncle Steve will be there as soon as we can to get you."
" Okay ."
Danny could hear her shuffling quietly, soft thumps of shoe soles against metal, and then the faint sobbing of another child.
" Did you call the police? " a new voice asked. It sounded like a young man, older than Grace's classmates but younger than Danny himself.
She hummed an affirmative.
" Okay, good, you're doing so good, little miss. You're being so brave. "
Choking, Danny pressed a hand to his face. "Gracie, I need you to put me on mute, okay? Don't hang up, don't hang up for anything , but put me on mute."
She hummed, and her next exhale was shaky. " Muted ."
Danny put his phone on speaker, set it on his desk, and buried his face in his hands.
"Danny, talk to me, what's going on?" Steve asked heatedly, hands fisted tightly at his sides.
"Terrorists at the Honolulu Art History Museum," Danny said tightly, dragging himself together inch by inch.
Steve went carefully, totally still. "Grace...has a class trip there today."
"Yes, thank you, I am well aware," Danny growled, waving emphatically at his phone.
Both of them went still, and could hear her soft breathing over the line, and the muffled crying of another kid.
After a beat, both of them slammed out of the office, Steve already yanking his phone out of his pocket to dial up the HPD direct line.
Kono jerked out of her half-doze, her book sliding off of her face and into her lap. "Whoa, boss, where's the fire?" she asked muzzily, scrubbing a hand across her face.
"Terrorists," Danny spat, marching past her, directly to the armory. "At the AHM."
"Oh, shit," Kono pushed herself to her feet and stretched. "Got it. HPD call us or somthin'?"
"Grace," Danny supplied flatly, jerking on a bulletproof vest. His phone was on the table, the volume turned as loud as it could go.
"...Shit," Kono's frown deepened, and she slid over beside him to vest up as well. "What's the sitch? Numbers, motive, we got anything?"
"Motive is they don't like mainlanders," Danny told her. "Dunno numbers, dunno arms."
"So we've gotta be sneaky, got it," Kono nodded sagely.
Danny slid three clips into the pockets of his tacvest, expression grave. He turned back to his phone, tapping out a quick message, praying for his stupid thumbs to not betray him now.
Over the line, Gracie's breath hitched. " I dunno, Danno. I'll ask mister Buck when he comes back. "
Danny was in the Camaro by the time someone on the line spoke again, Steve gunning it the mere ten minutes to the museum.
" Mister Danno, sir? " the young man asked. " I'm Buck. I'm gonna unmute you, please keep quiet. "
Immediately, Danny pulled the phone off speaker, and pressed it to his ear.
" Okay. " Buck swallowed audibly. " Okay, sir. I hope you can pass this on to someone important, because they've shut down the lines in here. "
"I'm Hawaii five-oh," Danny told him, voice just as soft. "Just hang in there, kid. We're on our way."
" Oh, thank god, " Buck breathed, voice cracking slightly.
"Can you tell me how many people are armed in there?" Danny asked, voice gentle.
" I've been able to count five, " Buck told him. " Three of them have shotguns, all of them have M9s. Doesn't look like they have much- " he cut himself off, suddenly, ceasing even to breathe.
Danny held his breath with him, and Steve pulled up a few streets away from the museum.
Buck exhaled tremulously. " Don't have much body armor, " he finished, much calmer than Danny suspected even Steve would have been at that age. " There aren't a lot of civilians here right now. I've been hiding the kids in maintenance accesses and storage closets, but they've got most of them hostage in the main atrium. I think they're building a bonfire there, too. "
"Okay...okay," Danny licked his lips. "You're doing so good, kid. Keep safe, keep hiding. Keep your head down. SWAT is on its way."
"... Copy ," Buck said, in a way that reminded Danny distinctively of Steve. " I'm gonna put you back on mute, now ."
"Copy," Danny said wryly, thumbing the button for the speakerphone after a few seconds, and sliding the phone into the front pocket of his vest. He climbed out of the car, facing Steve.
Kono and Chin roared up on Chin's motorcycle, parking halfway up on the sidewalk.
"What's the news?" Kono asked, dismounting smoothly.
"At least five men," Danny said, darting a look over at Steve, who was still on the phone with HPD. "Probably more. Most of the hostages are in the main hall. What's the ETA on SWAT?" He asked, turning to face Steve fully.
Steve jerked a thumb somewhere over his shoulder. "They're setting up camp in the park, trying to minimize visuals. They want us to meet up, coordinate."
Danny nodded, hands fisted against the urge to break something. His greatest comfort was the sound of his little girl breathing over his phone.
Steve led them to the small family park, his expression perfectly blank. "Sitrep," he demanded, barging past the underlings to the picnic table that was serving as base.
The man's head jerked up, eyes narrowing, then relaxing. "Commander McGarrett. I was hoping you could tell me. Preliminary assessments are saying somewhere between three and ten individuals with weapons, gathering art and bringing it to a centralized location. That's all we've got so far. No one's been able to get a line in or out, and we don't wanna spook them."
"Inside source says at least five," Steve said, hands on his hips. "Most hostages are in the main atrium, which means most of the baddies are probably there as well."
"What's your source?" the officer asked, brow wrinkling. "The lines to the building are cut."
"Kid named Buck," Danny supplied, stepping forward. "He's been shuttling all the loose kids he can find into hiding, but I think he's staying put right now."
"...Good," Officer Collins said, lips pursed. "Here's hoping. What's your plan so far, Commander?"
"...We're going in through the service doors," Steve said, tipping his head and staring across the field as if he could see the doors now. "We got a map?"
"Their building plans are public access," Chin put in, coming up beside Steve with a tablet. "There's fire escape doors here and here," he pointed. "But those are probably attached to alarms."
"Not worth it," Officer Collins waved a hand, leaning close. "Even if the power's out, those things are usually hooked up to a separate system."
"Exactly," Chin nodded agreeably. "There's this way, into the storage and loading areas," he added, pointing around the back of the low-slung building. "There's a fairly straightforward path from the loading dock to the Master Hall -that's the main hall, before you ask."
Steve nodded, looking thoughtful. "Copy that," he said, clapping Chin's shoulder. "Chin, I want you to stay here and be master coordinator. Kono, you'll be covering the main door. Me and Danny will be leading the back. Collins, I'll be taking three men for each of us, and I want your best snipers covering the side doors."
Collins was nodding agreeably, turning to yell over his shoulder for his men.
"I'll be running point," Steve said, looking at Danny, who was already hooking up a discrete inner-ear radio. "Good?"
Danny nodded, expression carefully blank.
Over the phone, there was the muffled, but still distinctive, sound of a gunshot.
"... Oh no ," Grace said quietly, voice wet.
All of Danny shut down, the echo of the shot ringing in his ears.
"-anny? Danny! Danno! " Steve barked, hands on his shoulders. "Daniel, focus on me!"
Danny snarled at him, shaking out of his grip. "If you try to pull me off this, Steven, I swear to god, I will murder you where you stand," he hissed, voice tight with rage.
"...No," Steve shook his head. "No, I'm not. Don't make me regret it. Leave- you gotta leave your phone with Chin."
After a beat, Danny nodded, fishing the device from his pocket. He could distantly hear Collins barking orders in the background, commanding his personnel to organize. He sent off a quick message, not moving until he heard a response.
" Love you too, Danno ," Grace whispered back.
Danny passed the phone to Chin, who took it gravely, and set it beside his tablet.
"Chin is gonna be running map," Steve added, patting Danny's vest for security, just the way Danny did for him -swift, methodical, both of them ignoring the group around them doing the same.
Danny nodded, taking a moment to check his clip.
Kono was already gone, taking a station out of line of sight of the main door.
"Detective," Collins directed him to three men in matching black. "Kelly, Wong, and Smiths will be with you."
They each nodded in greeting at their name.
"Commander, you'll be with Kahananui, Jenkins, and Li," Collins gestured to the men at his other side. "These are my best men."
"We're going in hard and fast," Steve told them fiercely, looking them each in the eye. "Shots have been fired, that means no quarter. Non-lethal takedowns preferable, but don't hesitate if a civilian or you are endangered."
They nodded, and Wong bared his teeth in something resembling a smile.
The next twenty minutes of Danny's life only ever seemed to come to him in black and white.
Slamming the grip of his handgun into someone's temple, making them stumble to the floor, Kelly quickly hog-tying them with industrial strength zip-ties. Whispering over the radio that one was down, getting a confirmation back that the clean up crew would be through in ten minutes to drag him out.
Slamming his fist into someone's face, feeling the crunch of cartilage under his knuckles, Smiths grabbing the downed man and cuffing him to a door handle.
Catching Steve's eye across the length of the Master Hall, cocking his head to the side.
Steve holding up three fingers, two fingers, one finger-
"Freeze!" Danny roared, swinging around the corner, gun raised. "Hawaii five-oh!"
"Drop your weapon!" Steve snarled, his men fanning behind him. "Hands in the air!"
Slowly, the four men in the room set their guns on the floor, going to their knees, hands on the backs of their heads.
" Clean-up crew heading your way now, " Chin said. " Status? "
"Master Hall secure," Danny said, watching as the terrorists were handcuffed and read their rights.
Six more men slid into the hall with the easy grace of SWAT, one of them marching up to Steve and ducking his head in a shallow nod. "Building secure, Commander."
"Good," Steve turned his gaze on the group huddled in the middle of the room. "Get these people out of here. Chin, what's the ETA on EMS?"
" Just waiting on your all-clear, Steve ," Chin replied.
Danny watched with cold eyes as the terrorists were led from the building, fingers twitching with the urge to rain pain down upon their heads.
"... Where's Grace?" Danny asked flatly, jaw tight.
The SWAT member blinked at him. "Who-?"
"Where's the rest of the students?" Steve cut him off, laying a gently restraining hand on Danny's shoulder. "How many civilians did you find."
"...Fifteen kids between ten and twelve," he said, eyebrows knitting. "And-"
" I've got blood! " a woman's voice said over the radio.
"Location, stat," Danny barked, spinning on his heel.
" Director's office ," she said.
Danny raced off, Steve hot on his heels.
The woman was on her knees, attempting to soothe a boy that Danny recognized from Grace's class, who had blood down his front and a wild, terrified look in his eyes. He was wielding a letter opener like a miniature sword, feet planted firmly between the SWAT officer and the still form tucked under the desk behind him.
"Malichai," Danny breathed in relief, knees going wobbly. "Hey, kiddo, it's okay," he held out both hands, his gun shoved into its holster at the small of his back. "It's okay now, we've got you."
The boy stared at him, and it took several seconds for comprehension to dawn. When it did, he threw the letter opener down and launched himself at Danny, making him stumble back a step. "Detective Danny, I was so scared," he whispered, face buried in Danny's stomach.
"That's okay, sugar," Danny stroked his fingers over the boy's dense curls. "You're safe now, I promise. I'm so sorry that had to happen to you."
"I want my moms," Malichai told him between sniffles.
"I'm sure they're on their way," Danny said, casting a look over at Steve, who nodded.
"Hey, sugar," another officer said, this one from HPD. "Why don't you come with me, get you something sweet to drink while we wait for them, hm?"
"She's safe," Danny told him seriously, rubbing the boy's back.
After a beat, Malichai nodded, and detached himself from Danny. He took the HPD officer's hand, allowing himself to be led from the room.
"Looks like a through 'n through," the SWAT officer called, dragging Danny's attention back to her. "He's coming back- whoa!" she jerked back from what would have been a direct punch to the face, scuttling back a few feet.
"Don't-" the young man said, and Danny recognized that voice. "Don't fuckin' touch those kids!"
"Buck," Danny said, taking a step closer. "Hey, kid. I'm Detective Williams, we talked on the phone. You with me?"
Buck stared blankly at him. "You're the Danno?"
Behind him, Steve smothered a snort, because, well, it was kind of funny.
"Yeah," Danny said, shrugging, palms open and stretched out to the sides. "Yeah, I'm Danno."
From above his head , he heard a muffled sob.
Everyone's head snapped up.
"Kids," Buck said weakly, stumbling to his feet. "Kids, it's okay, good guys are here."
The vent covering the HVAC system slowly popped open, swinging downward, and Grace's face popped out.
"Danno!" she croaked, and the only reason Danny didn't hit the ground was because Steve caught him. He steadied himself quickly.
Steve hopped up onto the table, carefully dragging Grace from the vent, then the other kid that had been put up there with her.
Grace stumbled, coming off the desk, but Danny caught her, sweeping her into his arms and clutching her close to his chest.
"Oh, Gracie, monkey, baby girl," Danny choked, palm pressed to the back of her head.
She buried her face in his neck, clutching just as tight. "I was so scared, Daddy," she sobbed.
"I know, baby," Danny closed his eyes and carefully sank to the ground, curling over her protectively. "I wish you hadn't had to go through that, Grace. You shouldn't ever have to be that frightened, ever. Danno's got you now, baby, I've got you."
Sliding off the desk, Steve turned away to give them a moment. He zeroed in on the kid, Buck.
Buck looked to be late teens, early twenties, with the crisp haircut and clean shave that declared him a member of the armed forces.
"That was pretty fuckin' brave of you, kid," Steve said, crouching to peer at him more closely.
Buck blinked at him, eyes wide like a deer in headlights.
"C'mon," Steve stood, carefully pulling Buck to his feet. "Let's go get that checked out."
After a beat, Buck nodded, slightly dazed, and allowed himself to be led out.
Buck jerked and spun, eyes wide.
A small weight planted itself around his hips, burying her face in his ribs.
His arms automatically closed around her shoulders, holding her close. "Uh, Miss...Grace?" Buck blinked in confusion at the short blonde man that came jogging up. "Detective…?"
"Call me Danny, kid," he said, smiling broadly. "It's good to see you. How's that arm?"
"...Fine," Buck licked his lip, looking down at Grace, who didn't seem to be willing to let him go any time soon. "It's- still sore, didn't get any stitches, though."
"Good to hear," Danny shoved his hands into his pockets. "And- I never got to thank you."
"No, no, it's- anyone would do the same," Buck shook his head quickly.
Danny arched a dubious eyebrow. "'Anyone' wasn't there," he said seriously. "Just you. And that- what you did, that was phenomenally brave. Stupid," he added, "but very brave."
Buck flushed, looking down at the top of Grace's head.
"I made you a card," Grace told his chest, "but I didn't know where you work, and Danno wouldn't let me ask Chin to look it up."
"It's called privacy, monkey," Danny teased, smiling fondly.
Grace huffed, and finally pulled back. "Where do you work, Mister Buck?" she asked, blinking wide brown eyes at him, the perfect picture of innocence.
"HSM-37," Buck supplied automatically.
Grace's nose wrinkled, and she looked back at her dad. "HSM?"
"Helicopter Maritime Strike," Steve told her, coming up to the group with his hands full of three cups of shaved ice. "Hey, kid," he said, passing the blue one to Danny, the red to Grace, and keeping the purple for himself. "If I'd known we'd be running into you, I'da grabbed one for you too."
"Oh, no, I'm- I'm good," Buck pointed his thumb at a mostly empty bottle of mango soda. "Thank you, though," he added, because he'd been raised polite.
"Thank you, Uncle Steve," Grace chirped, smiling broadly up at him, her tongue already stained red.
"You're welcome, Gracie-face," Steve patted her head. "You're at 37? What do you do?"
"I, uh," Buck shifted from foot to foot. "I'm aircrew. I- sorry, I never got your name."
Danny frowned at Steve.
"...Commander Steve McGarrett," he said, sticking out his hand to shake.
Buck immediately flushed, jerking himself to his full height, hands fisted nervously at his sides. "Sir!" he squeaked.
Steve blinked at him, more than a little nonplussed. "At ease, kid," he said, waving with his outstretched hand. "Call me Steve."
"I, uh," Buck shook his head, but took the hand. "I don't think I can do that, sir."
Danny laughed when Steve pouted, sinking his elbow into Steve's ribs. "Babe, stop with the kicked-puppy face."
"I am not ," Steve protested, then looked down at Grace, who was arching an unimpressed eyebrow at him. He sputtered. "Not you too!"
Grace grinned at him. "You make great faces, Uncle Steve."
"...Thanks, Gracie," Steve sighed dramatically, then looked over at Buck, who looked like he was trying to edge away. "Kid, what's your name, anyway?"
Buck stiffened. "Um. Buck, sir."
"I mean like, full name," Steve waved a hand expansively.
"...AWS3 Evan Buckley, sir," he bobbed a short bow. "But please just call me Buck."
The corner of Steve's mouth pulled up in a bemused little grin. He took a bite out of his shave ice, bypassing the spoon entirely. "Suits you," he teased, making Danny roll his eyes and swat his hip.
"Be nice, Steven, you're going to give the poor boy a heart attack," Danny scolded. He waved his spoon like a conductor's baton as he said, "seriously, kid, I genuinely owe you possibly my whole life. Thank you, so much. You should let us- well, me, actually, because this neanderthal always seems to 'forget' his wallet," he rolled his eyes. "You should let me take you out for dinner sometime, for a proper Jersey thanks."
Buck's eyes went wide, and he fidgeted. "I, oh, it's, don't worry about it," he scrubbed a palm across his uninjured upper arm, shifting from foot to foot. "Thank you, Detective Danny, sir, but it's, uh, it's okay. I was just doing what any good person should have done."
Danny's eyes narrowed, and he put one fist on his hip.
"He's going to keep bothering you until you give in," Steve whispered loudly, leaning forward like he was telling a secret.
From between them, Grace nodded seriously.
"Have you eaten yet today?" Danny asked conversationally, stepping forward. "Also, side note, do you have a curfew?"
"...I had breakfast, and, uh, no?" Buck pursed his lips.
"Excellent," Danny nodded decisively, and took a bite of his shave ice. "What are your feelings on burgers? Babe," he looked over his shoulder, "what was that one place that was really good, again? I can never remember the name."
Buck stared between the three, utterly bewildered. "I...don't have much choice in this, do I?" he asked faintly.
"No," Grace chirped brightly, skipping up and grasping his hand. "Uncle Steve knows all the good places, it's okay! Don't worry, Buckaroo!"
Buck scrubbed his sweating palms across his thighs, feeling like his heart was about to slam its way out of his chest.
"Atten- shun !"
He snapped upright, and the audience before him leapt almost as one to their feet.
His gaze caught on a pair in the very front row, and his eyes went wide.
Danny shot him a wink, looking dandy in a crisp uniform himself, while to his left, Steve looked near spit-shined in his khakis.
And that...made him feel a little less anxious, actually. He barely knew these two men, but they were here , for no real reason he could ascertain.
Buck slid through the motions, saluting and shaking hands and nodding exactly the way he'd been drilled to, past the Skipper, past the Ex-oh, the CMC-
The CMC paused in front of him after he shook her hand, looking him over. "Thank you," she said, catching his eye. "My wife and I- personally , thank you, Buckley."
He swallowed, resisting the urge to fidget. "I'd do it again, Master Chief," Buck said quietly, voice strong with conviction.
"I know you would, kid," she said. "BUD/S drop, right?"
Nodding slowly, Buck frowned.
"Explains a lot," she laughed slightly, and glanced over her shoulder- at Steve and Danny. "You've got a big-ass heart, kid. I bet your dads are proud as hell of you."
Buck immediately flushed bright red, ducking his head despite himself. "Ah...thank, uh, thank you, Master Chief."
Chuckling slightly, she shook her head and moved on.
Buck zoned out as he marched off the stage, the blue certificate cover tacky against his sweating palms.
His head snapped up, zeroing in on Danny and Steve, of course, making their way towards him.
"You good, kid?" Steve asked, looking him over critically.
"I'm fine, I think," Buck shrugged, then remembered Steve was an officer , and immediately straightened, spine going ramrod stiff. "I don't think you're supposed to be back here though, sir."
"Boss lady in charge said it was fine, on account of how we're family ," Danny teased, stepping forward and unnecessarily straightening the line of Buck's lapels. "Master Chief Wilson? Her son's in Gracie's class, and I'm pretty sure she thinks you're Steve's minion."
"She called you my dads," Buck blurted, then immediately turned fire engine red, absolutely mortified.
Danny paused, then turned to Steve. "I know you do, babe, but do I look old enough to be his father?"
"You look fine, Danno," Steve patted his shoulder consolingly, an impish twinkle in his eye. "I think she caught on the blonde hair, to be honest."
"Ah, no, he obviously gets his height from you," Danny flapped a hand. "Er," he cocked his head at Buck. "Sorry, kid. You've probably got a dad already."
"Uh," Buck shifted from foot to foot, looking anywhere but at them. "Yeah."
Danny's eyes narrowed thoughtfully. "Well, statistically speaking, most people do. Hey, what are you doing after this? You're off, right?"
"Yeah," Buck nodded slowly. "I was, um, planning on hitting the pool, going for a swim."
Steve's grin went bright. "We're having a get-together at my place this evening- you should come. The ocean is much more enjoyable to swim in than a pool."
Buck licked his lower lip, gaze dipping down. "Oh, I'd hate to impose-"
"Nonsense!" Danny clapped his hands together decisively. "Plus, this'll give Grace an opportunity to finally give you her card!"
Buck smiled helplessly. "I...okay, alright. What time?"
Steve glanced down at his watch, then shrugged. "Whenever, to be honest. We'll meet you back here in...two hours? That way you don't have to call a cab."
Buck opened his mouth, then closed it again. "Oh, no, it's fine, really-"
"Seriously, kid," Danny clasped Buck's forearm. "Cab fare here is ridiculously expensive, I know you know that. Just let me give you a ride."
"...Okay," Buck nodded meekly, and Danny smiled widely.
"I like him," Danny declared, nudging Steve's hip and passing him a beer.
"I would have never guessed," Steve teased, nudging him back. "You're so closed with your affections- an absolute mystery, Danno."
"Oh, shut your yap," Danny rolled his eyes, swatting at Steve's forearm. "I know you like him too, you big neanderthal."
Humming, Steve tipped his head to the side, absently regarding the young man tossing a frisbee back and forth with Kono and Grace. "I do. I think…he's a little afraid of me, or something, though."
Resting his shoulder against the lanai support column, Danny shrugged. "I figure it's probably because he's a little baby third class, and you're a lieutenant commander, to be honest. Your excessive chest candy might also have something to do with it."
Steve reflexively looked down at himself, remembered he was in a t-shirt and board shorts, and wrinkled his nose dubiously. "Well...how do I fix it?"
Danny choked, jerking forward and coughing to clear his lungs of the beer he'd just inhaled. "What, why are you asking me ?" he asked incredulously, staring at Steve.
Steve blinked guilelessly, eyes wide. "You're the one who's good with people, right? C'mon, Danno, help me out here!"
Danny laughed, pulling away from the column. "Babe, I am your friend, not your Steve-to-normal translator. Put your big boy pants on and be yourself."
Groaning, Steve skipped after him. "Oi, aren't you always telling me to tone it down?"
"I mean tone down the excessive force, Steven," Danny said dryly, "and you know that." He bounced a finger against Steve's chest before turning away. "You're a candy-coated sweetheart, babe. Though," he glanced over his shoulder, blue eyes twinkling. "You ever heard of those Warheads candies? You might be one of those."
Steve spluttered, putting his hands on his hips. "Sweet- sweetheart ?" he yelped, nearly forgetting his beer in his hand and gesturing extravagantly. "I am not! Danny! You take that back!"
"Sweetheart," Danny sang, setting his drink on the collapsible table that had been set just off the porch. He jogged off to join the game of frisbee, bumping his hip against Buck's upper thigh and making him stumble, just a little.
Scowling, Steve slumped into one of the chairs around the carefully maintained fire pit, arms crossed tightly across his chest. "I'm not sweet," he grumbled.
Chin arched an eyebrow from where he was arranging the tinder into a neat little pyramid. "Brah, I hate to break it to yah, but you kind of are."
Steve sank deeper into his slouch, chin tucked to his chest. "In- in certain, select, few circumstances, I can be...nice. But I'm not sweet ."
Chin's disbelieving eyebrow went even higher, and he sat back, palms on his thighs. "Is this about Da-"
"Shush!" Steve jerked forward, hands outstretched.
Unimpressed, Chin cocked his head to the side to regard him silently. "Grace thinks you're sweet."
Steve opened his mouth, then closed it again. "That's different," he mumbled mulishly, looking at the sand between his bare feet.
Chuckling slightly, Chin shook his head. He stood, and dusted himself off. "Alright, brah. Whatever you say."
"You okay, kid?" Danny asked, leaning forward to regard the young man across the table in concern.
"No, yeah, I'm...fine," Buck shrugged, poking at his stir-fry. "My, uh, my parents heard about the...thing," he waved his free hand vaguely towards his arm, where the fresh pink line of a scar could be seen.
"Oh?" Danny's eyebrows lifted.
"...Yeah," Buck chewed on his lower lip, studying the table in front of him. "They were...they didn't take it well."
"...I take it you don't mean in an 'oh my god my kid got shot ' sort of way," Danny pursed his lips, reaching out to set the tips of his fingers against the back of Buck's limp hand.
Buck snorted, sounding bitter. "'Oh, how could you risk your career like that?'" he mocked, suddenly putting on a thick, feminine French accent. "'You're just starting to do so well , Evan, darling, what would you do if they'd had to take your arm?'"
Danny scowled, suddenly taking Buck's hand in his own. "What, not even an 'are you okay?'" he asked incredulously, eyebrows knit. "I mean, shit, I'm pretty sure my ex-wife hates me, and she'll at least ask that."
Lips pulled to the side, Buck shrugged listlessly, shoulders slumping. "They've...they've never really been that sort of people. They were just glad that this wouldn't make me have to quit the Navy and go back to Pennsylvania."
"Babe, you're their kid ," Danny said, tugging slightly on Buck's wrist to draw his attention. "A- well, a decent parent would have at least asked how you were. A good parent would have flown in to see for themselves."
Buck shook his head. "They aren't- they aren't bad , Danny. They aren't ," he insisted, at Danny's disbelieving look. "They're just...they're busy, alright? I'm used to them being hands-off, it's how it's always been. If I needed them to come, I'm sure they would."
"...Okay, Buckaroo," Danny said softly, blue eyes intent on Buck's face. "I don't doubt that they're not bad people. But not being a bad person doesn't make them fit for parenthood, take it from me."
"But you're a great dad!" Buck protested, clutching at Danny's hand. "Gracie loves you!"
"And trust me, kiddo, that took a lot of work," Danny told him seriously. "I had to unlearn a lot of bullshit that I got from my parents. Don't get me wrong, I love them dearly, but I'd sooner lose a limb than raise Grace how they raised me. You should be either all-in or all-out, nothing in between. Like you said- they aren't bad , but I'm old enough to realize, hey, maybe they weren't all that great, either."
Buck looked down, shoulders hunched halfway to his ears. "It's…I'll have to think about it," he said quietly.
"I'm here for you," Danny squeezed Buck's hand comfortingly, then took a sip of his lemonade. "It can be really, really fucking hard to realize that maybe your parents aren't all they're made out to be."
Swallowing, Buck nodded.
"Hey, Missy Grace!" Buck said excitedly, throwing his hands in the air to greet her.
"Buck!" Grace screeched, just as excited. "I didn't know you were gonna be here too!"
"Well, between you and me, I think your Daddo is determined to make me fat," Buck said conspiratorially, leaning towards her with a wink.
Grace giggled, dashing in to hug him around the waist.
Rachel leaned against the doorway to her home, a small, fond smile on her face. "You must be Buckaroo," she teased lightly, stepping forward to shake his hand.
"Oh, um," Buck blushed, reaching out with his own. Grace was still attached to his waist, bouncing slightly in her eagerness to go. "Just Buck is fine, ma'am."
She laughed, waving her hand. "I'm much too young to be a ma'am," she said. "Please, call me Rachel. It's nice to finally meet the young man my daughter is so enamored with."
Buck turned even more pink.
"Buckaroo is the best ," Grace declared, shifting around to face Rachel. "He knows all about all the cool things, Mum!"
Rachel chuckled indulgently. "I don't doubt that," she said lightly. "Regardless, get along, you two -I can see your father watching me from the car."
"Bye, Mum!" Grace immediately started dragging Buck away. "See you on Sunday!"
"Uh, bye, um, Rachel," Buck sputtered, waving over his shoulder. "Nice to meet you!"
"You take care of your father, now, you hear?" Rachel called, waving. "That goes for you as well, Buck!" She spotted the red crawling up the back of his neck, and had to laugh.
"What's up, kid?" Danny asked, eyebrows crawling up his forehead as Buck climbed into the Camaro and immediately shoved his face into his hands. "She didn't tease you too badly, did she?"
"She called you his dad," Grace chirped, and Buck went fire engine red.
"Aw, Buckaroo," Danny laughed, clapping Buck's knee and giving it a shake. "I'd be proud to call you son, kiddo."
"Buck would make a great big brother!" Grace cheered, clapping her hands. "I've always wanted a brother! Sammy has two big brothers, and they always take her on super fun adventures!"
"I thought Sammy only had one big brother?" Danny asked curiously, glancing at the girl in the rearview mirror, turning carefully into traffic.
Grace shrugged, kicking her feet. "She had a big sister, but he decided he wanted to be a boy, so now he's a big brother. His name is Nick, now."
"Ah, gotcha," Danny nodded sagely. He glanced over to Buck, and arched an eyebrow at the way he was being stared at. "What's the matter, kid?"
Buck swallowed, gaze dropping to his lap. "You...you're okay? With that?"
Danny's eyebrows flew up. "With, what, a queer kid?"
Shrugging, Buck wrapped his arms tightly around his middle. He suddenly looked his age -barely twenty years old, halfway across the world from everything he had known and grown up with.
"Yeah, Buck," Danny said softly, giving Buck's knee a gentle squeeze again. "It's alright. I'm queer, it'd be pretty fu- uh, heckin' hypocritical of me to not be supportive."
"You're-?" Buck stared at him, then glanced back at Grace, who was watching him curiously.
"Danno likes boys and girls," Grace told him seriously. "Mum only likes boys, which is very boring of her, I think."
Danny suddenly burst into laughter, eyes crinkling at the corners. "While I definitely agree with you there, Gracie-girl, we are absolutely not going to say that to her face."
Chuckling weakly, Buck shook his head. He squeezed his arms around himself, tipping to the side to rest his head against the window. He looked thoughtful, but not worried, so Danny left him to it, chattering contentedly with Grace.
Buck picked listlessly at the label of his soda bottle, curled tightly in on himself at the corner of the couch.
Nudging him lightly with his elbow, Danny waited until Buck looked up, and arched an eyebrow.
Licking his lips, Buck shrugged. "Where's Steve?" he asked.
"It's his reserve weekend," Danny said. "He lets us use the house on Grace weekends, since there's a beach and more room and all that jazz."
"...How long have you been together?" Buck asked carefully, gaze flicking up and then back down again.
The corner of Danny's mouth curled in a wry, slightly strained little smile. "Would you believe me if I said we're not?"
Buck stared at him, incredulous. "You're- not ?" he squeaked, then coughed, looking away. "I thought- the way you two are, I guess I thought…"
Danny shrugged, sitting back a bit. "Yeah, we get that a lot. I- well. I do love him, even if he is a great galumphing idiot that takes great joy in trying to get me shot. And steals my car. And hides explosives in said car. Ah, whatever," he waved a hand expansively, shaking his head.
"But you...you want to be?" Buck squinted, and cocked his head to the side. "You said you love him. As- as a friend, or-?"
"I love him, probably more than I ought," Danny agreed, nodding slowly. "But he- he's my best friend, too. That's how he loves me, and I? I'm fine with that. Honest," he said, laughing, at Buck's dubious look.
Humming, Buck looked away. He peeled off the corner of the soda bottle label. "How did…" he licked his lips, shoulders curling inward. "How did you know?"
"...That I loved him?" Danny cocked his head to the side.
Buck shook his head, shoulders hunching even further.
"That I...like guys?" Danny arched an eyebrow, and Buck nodded awkwardly. "Oh...well," he scratched the back of his head, looking up at the ceiling. "I guess...in the back of my head, I kind of always knew. I grew up in a big Catholic family, though, so it wasn't really...looked kindly upon." He shrugged. "College, though- college was pretty great. I got to...explore, I guess, those thoughts, urges. Figure out myself."
Buck hummed, looking thoughtful. "Yeah, I- that makes sense."
"...Having some thoughts, kiddo?" Danny asked slowly, leaning back to regard him intently.
"...Maybe," Buck shrugged, chewing on his lip thoughtfully. "I- maybe. Maybe."
"Alright," Danny nodded, reaching out to pat Buck's forearm. "Well, I'm always here if you need someone to talk to."
" Danny… "
Danny sat up in bed, pressing his phone closer to his ear. "Kid? Buck, what's the matter?"
" It's my birthday ," he said quietly, and hiccupped. " Couple- couple of the guys 'n I went out to celebrate. "
"Aw, that's pretty sweet of them, Buckaroo," Danny said gently. "I didn't know it was your birthday; I woulda called earlier, wished you a good one."
" 'S fine ," Buck told him. " Didn't- didn't want anyone to, to make a big deal of it or anything. I don't really like my birthday. " He took a deep breath, audible over the phone. " No one...no one called. It's fine, it's okay. It's okay ," he repeated, and hiccupped again, this time sounding a little wet. " I'm sorry for calling so late, Danny. "
"Oh, Buck, it's okay," Danny sighed softly, shuffling until he was leaning against the cheap particleboard of his headboard. "You can call me anytime, I promise. Even if it is-" he glanced at his alarm clock, and winced. "Two in the morning. I'll always pick up for you, kiddo."
" ...Love you, Danno ," Buck mumbled weakly. " You're the best dad. Wish you were my dad. "
"Kid, I may not be your dad by blood, but I'll be your dad in all the ways that count," Danny told him seriously. "Love you too, Buck. You're a good kid."
Buck sighed, sounding morose. " I'm...tired. "
"Still out at the bar?" Danny asked curiously, keeping his voice carefully light.
" Eh. Waiting for a cab. Just wanted to call you. "
"Alright. Stay safe, Buckaroo, okay?" Danny crossed his free arm across his chest. "And, hey, why don't you come on over in the morning? It's Saturday. I'll make you some hangover pancakes."
" Mm, pancakes ," Buck murmured dreamily. " Danno makes the best pancakes. Can I have blueberry ones? "
Danny laughed softly. "Yeah, kid. Of course you can."
" Yay ," Buck cheered tiredly. " You're the best. Oh, that's my cab! Love you, Danno. "
"Love you too, Buckaroo. And, happy birthday," Danny replied, and waited until he heard the dial tone before setting his phone down. He stared at the ceiling for a long moment, before he laughed quietly and shook his head fondly.
"Hey, you must be Buck!" Kono chirped brightly, lifting a hand to wave at the young man coming through the door. "Danny said you'd be dropping by."
"Yeah, uh, hi," Buck wiggled his fingers in awkward greeting, shifting the box in his arms. "I had some free time today -I'm not flying ‘til later, so. I brought lunch?"
"Aw, aren't you a sweetheart," Kono grinned, skipping closer to peer into the open-topped box. She whistled, "wow, kid, are you planning on putting us all in a food coma?"
Buck flushed, and shrugged.
"Don't mind her," Danny called, coming out of his office and clapping Buck on the back. "Thanks, kid. You planning on sticking around?"
"Oh, I don't wanna be in the way-"
"You're fine," Danny shook his head, leading Buck to set the overloaded box onto one of the side tables. "Not too much going on right now, anyway." He turned, already preparing to yell for Steve to come get lunch, when the man popped out of his office.
"No need to yell, Danno," Steve said demurely, hands shoved in his pockets. "I saw your boy come in."
Buck flushed, shuffling his feet, and Danny rolled his eyes fondly.
"Of course you did, you weirdo," Danny teased, swatting at Steve's fingers when he reached to dig into the box.
Steve gave him an injured look, holding his hands up like he'd been grievously wounded.
"What do you say to the nice young man who is feeding you?" Danny sang, bodily turning Steve to face Buck and giving him a little shove.
"Thank you for lunch, Buck," Steve said dutifully, dipping into a remarkably graceful little curtsy.
"You're, uh, you're welcome, sir," Buck replied awkwardly, ducking his head in a bow. "I wasn't one hundred percent sure what everyone would like, so I kind of just...winged it."
"This man is a trash compactor, don't let him fool you," Danny said, elbowing Steve lightly as he passed by with a paper bowl laden with fried rice and noodles. "Here," he said, handing the bowl to Buck and turning away before he could protest. "Eat," he said seriously, staring him down over his shoulder as he filled another bowl.
"Okay," Buck said meekly, chin ducking. He took a bite of the noodles, darting a quick glance at Danny, and seemed to relax a little under his approving nod.
Steve cocked his head to the side curiously, but stayed silent.
"Tetrodotoxin?" Buck cocked his head to the side curiously, regarding the pathology report pulled up on the screen.
"...Yeah," Chin hummed, glancing over at him.
"Like a pufferfish," Buck hummed sagely, leaning down to read the report more thoroughly. "Or a blue-ringed octopus."
Chin opened his mouth, then closed it, nodding slowly.
"Ouch," Buck whistled lowly, putting his hands on his hips and leaning back again. "Shitty way to go, don't you think? Slow paralysis? Though," he looked thoughtful. "Isn't tetrodotoxin poisoning usually from eating it? Witnesses said they started feeling numb in the- the legs, first, right?"
Chin darted a glance over his shoulder, into Danny's office, but the man had his back turned to them, talking rapidly into his phone. "Yeah," he said after a moment, eyes sliding back to Buck. "We're figuring it was probably a micro-injection."
Buck hummed, and nodded. "Is Kono going to go question the massage therapist?" he asked, tapping his lip.
Chin stared at him. "Massage therapist?" he asked faintly.
Buck turned to stare right back. "I- yeah? I mean, after his wife, they woulda been the only one to touch his legs, right? And, see," he pointed to the detailed schedule that was pulled up in a different window. "He had an appointment earlier in the day with, uh, Angie Satsuki. If you put a strong enough concentration in the oil or lotion or whatever, you probably wouldn't even need a micro-injection, which would explain the lack of needle marks-" he cut off with a yelp when Chin grabbed him into a full-body hug and twirled him.
"You are amazing," Chin said fiercely, clapping his hands on Buck's cheeks and making him nod. "If you weren't half my age I could kiss you." He let go of Buck and stormed off to Danny's office.
Buck stared after him, pressing his hands to his cheeks and blushing warmly.
"We already questioned the massage therapist," Danny said bemusedly, allowing himself to be dragged from the office.
"Have we talked to the person who restocks the rooms, though?" Chin asked intently, letting go of Danny to pull up the massage parlor schedule.
Danny's mouth curled in an 'o' of comprehension, and he excitedly smacked Buck's upper arm. "Nice job, kid!" he said brightly. "Hell, I think if you ever get tired of the Navy, Chin might adopt you as his minion."
"Brah, I think I'd hire you on as full-time," Chin corrected, scrolling through the employee database.
Buck went pink again, ducking his chin and looking awkward but pleased. "I'm glad I could help," he said softly.
"Babe, you did more than help, I think you cracked this case wide open," Danny said eagerly, grabbing Buck's elbow and giving him a gentle little back and forth shake.
Opening his mouth to respond, Buck cut himself off when his phone chirped at him. "Ah, that's my signal to head out," he said, waggling the device. "I've got a night-fam, er, familiarization flight, later. I wanna try and get a nap in before then."
"Alright," Danny smiled at him, squeezing his forearm once, fondly, before releasing him. "Shoot me a text when you get back on base, yeah?"
"Got it, Danno," Buck tossed him a lazy salute, and Danny laughed, waving him off. "Try not to blow up anything important!"
"That's Steve's job!" Danny called, waving him out the door. "Talk to you in a bit, kiddo!"
"Bye Dad!" Buck chirped, just as the door swung shut behind him.
Danny's lips curled in a pleased smile, finally turning back to the tech table, and Chin, patiently waiting.
"Brah," Chin said dryly, one eyebrow arched.
Danny shrugged unapologetically, shoving his hands in his pockets. "I fuckin' love that kid," he admitted, unashamed. "And I'm not afraid to say it, either."
Humming, Chin shrugged, and picked up his phone to call Steve. "Yeah, brah, we got a lead, we think. You still anywhere near Mellow Hearts massage center?"
Thirty minutes later, Danny was crouched beside Steve, below the window of the abandoned office building.
Steve peered through the small, unopenable window, and his eyes went wide, skin going pale. "Shit," he said tightly, dropping back down again.
"What, what now?" Danny groaned quietly, scrubbing the base of his wrist across the bridge of his nose.
"Uh. Bad news," Steve croaked, peering up again like he couldn't quite believe what he was seeing.
Danny stared at him, unimpressed. "Steven, I don't know if you've noticed, but we are facing off against probably many drugrunners who use very, very creative ways to take out their competition. Of course it's bad news ."
"At least one hostage," Steve told him, watching Danny with rounded, worried eyes. "Danno, I'm gonna need you to keep your cool, okay? Please."
Danny blinked at him, uncomprehending, for a long moment, before he went grey underneath his tan. He squirmed up to look, and saw Buck tied to a chair on the far side of the room, head bobbing wearily.
The back of a guard could be seen in the open doorway, leading to the rest of the building.
Dropping back down, Danny pressed his palms to his face, and took several deep breaths.
"We'll get him out, it's okay," Steve said softly, reaching out and lightly touching Danny's wrist. "You hear me, Danno? We'll get him safe."
Exhaling heavily through his nose, Danny looked up again. His expression was eerily blank, worse even than Steve on one of his bad days.
"I'm going to kill them," Danny said calmly, staring Steve directly in the face. "And you are not going to stop me, so help me god, Steven."
After a long moment, Steve nodded, and turned to lead Danny further around the perimeter of the building.
The back service door was propped open with a brick, the ground littered with cigarette butts and bottles half-filled with sludge. A single man stood post, leaning against the wall and staring off into the distance. He looked like any college football dropout, a cigarette tucked into the corner of his mouth as he scrolled through his phone.
Danny sauntered casually around the corner, looking for all the world like a down on his luck office worker. "Oh, hey, bro," he called, lifting a hand. "You mind if I bum a smoke?"
The man stared at him dubiously, but didn't seem overly perturbed. "Brah, you are in the wrong part of town," he said flatly, pulling a little off the wall.
"Ah, your turf?" Danny scrubbed a hand across the back of his neck. "I, shit, dude, didn't realize. Really though, can I bum one? I'll get out of your hair, promise."
Sighing, the man dug a slightly crushed packet out of the back pocket of his jeans. He flipped it open, shaking it slightly until a cigarette slid forward.
"Man, you're a fuckin' lifesaver," Danny groaned, patting himself down for a lighter. "Ah, shit, can I-?"
Groaning, the man fished it out of his breast pocket. "Keep it, man, just get fucking lost, yeah?"
"Oh, yeah, sure," Danny mumbled, cupping his hand around the cigarette like a seasoned pro. He inhaled greedily, eyes falling halfway shut, and in one smooth movement, slammed his fist into the man's throat and the lighter into his eye.
The guard gurgled as he fell, unable to scream.
Danny shoved his knee against the man's nose, making him crumple backwards, unconscious. He stared down for several long moments, puffing quietly on the cigarette.
"You know those things'll kill you, right?" Steve asked, coming up beside him.
"Not if you get to me first," Danny said absently, sighing out his exhale. He flicked the cigarette onto the man's unconscious -probably- form, easily taking his tacvest back from Steve.
Steve swallowed back the sick feeling that rose in his gut at the thought of Danny being permanently gone, and followed him into the decrepit building.
Danny's calm ease with the amount of violence he wrought almost unsettled Steve, so much more used to seeing his partner be loud and expressive with his anger. This Danny was a calm predator, merely incapacitating when he could and easily dispatching the rest.
The room where Buck had been held was empty, only a chair and ropes remaining.
In the next, however, was the man they had suspected to be the head of the operation, a tall, well-dressed man in his late thirties.
He was holding a gun to Buck's head.
Danny's mouth curled in a vicious snarl, gun trained unerringly on the man's head.
"Stand down," Steve ordered, "drop your weapon, and we'll go easy on you."
The man scoffed. "You think I am so dumb?" he mocked, shaking his head. His hands were perfectly steady. "You let me go, and I will not blow this young man's brains across the concrete."
"You touch another hair on his head and I start taking out your knee caps," Danny said, and across the room, Buck's wobbling head lifted.
"Danno?" Buck asked weakly.
"Yeah, kiddo, Danno's here," he said, staring unblinkingly at the man. "How the fuck did you get your filthy mitts on my kid?"
"Why, I simply picked him up out of the taxi," the man said lightly, pushing his gun a little bit harder against Buck's temple.
Buck swallowed thickly, watching Danny closely.
"I admit, I didn't know he was your son, particularly," the man mused, looking thoughtful. "Though I will say that it is definitely an added bonus."
Danny snarled, beyond words.
"I was curious, about this young man who so frequently visited the invaluable leaders of the infamous Five-Oh," the man admitted, swaying back and forth a little, to keep Danny from getting a clear shot. "At first I thought a young lover, but, ah, he doesn't look nearly ravished enough for that."
Steve's lip curled in disdain. "You're one sick fuck, aren't you."
"He is so pretty, though," the man teased. "I bet many a rich, lonely woman would pay a pretty penny to have this young thing on her arm...probably a good few rich lonely men, as well."
"I," Danny declared, "am going to make your last few moments on earth as excruciatingly painful as humanly possible. And trust me," he said, and winked, inexplicably, "I am very creative."
In an instant, Buck smashed his head back, then jerked forward, stumbling drunkenly before falling flat on his face.
Danny shot twice, the man once, Steve once.
The man screamed in agony, dropping his gun and collapsing like a puppet with cut strings, clutching his shoulder.
Danny ignored the sudden burning pain in his upper thigh, darting forward. He patted at Buck's face desperately. "Hey, kiddo, hey, where you at?"
Groaning, Buck tried to roll over onto his back.
Danny assisted him, gently patting him over.
The back of his head was wet with blood, and fresh red was oozing from the gouge on his temple from the sight of the gun.
"Head hurts," Buck whined, swatting around until he had Danny's hand grasped in his own. "Danno, y'kay?"
"Fine," Danny said tightly, ignoring Steve ziptying the drug runner behind him. "Just a flesh wound," he teased.
Buck's brow knit. "Flesh wound?" he asked plaintively, squinting his eyes open to frown at him.
"Ah, Monty Python," Danny told him, ignoring the ball of fire that was his leg.
"Shit, Danny," Steve said, darting forward when he saw the growing stain on Danny's khaki slacks. "Fuck, I thought he'd missed."
"Yeah, well, he didn't," Danny said tightly. "Now did you call an ambulance, or are you just enjoying the squirming man on the ground?"
"ETA five," Steve told him, dragging a wadded up cloth out of one of the pockets of his cargo pants. It had probably seen a recent past life as a grease rag, but it would have to do for now. He pressed it firmly against Danny's thigh, ignoring his hiss of protest.
"Seriously, I'll be fine," Danny said, not looking away from Buck, resolutely ignoring the grey creeping in at the edges of his vision. "Go meet the bus out front."
Steve gave him a dubious look, but had to acquiesce when he heard sirens.
Steve opened the door, and stared blankly at Buck, who was glaring at him defiantly, face pale and expression drawn. "Uh," he said blankly, and tossed his keys lightly in his hand. "Danny's...not here, right now," he said, voice tight.
"I know," Buck said flatly, hands clenched into fists at his sides, shoulders pulled forward. "You're going to go pick him up." There was a bandaid on his temple.
"...Yeah," Steve nodded slowly, shifting from foot to foot, feeling more than a little off balance. "How, uh. How do you know that?"
"Danny's been calling me," Buck jerked his shoulders in a tight little shrug. "He said so."
"...Right," Steve let his gaze wander, sliding off the young man and to the Camaro, waiting in the driveway to go pick up its owner. "And...no offense, but why are you here , kid?"
"I wanted to talk to you," Buck bit out, and sniffled, dragging the back of his hand across his face.
The kid had at least an inch of height on him, but Steve had never seen him use it, not in any circumstance, until now.
Buck's shoulders drew back, spine straightening, chin dropping.
"...Alright," Steve sighed, flicking his wrist absently towards the car. "Get in."
Buck immediately relaxed, posture dropping into something Steve was much more familiar with. He still had to contort a bit to fit into the Camaro, knees pressed almost to his chest before he adjusted the seat. Arms crossed tightly across his chest, Buck stared out the window as Steve pulled out onto the road.
Clearing his throat, Steve glanced at him out of the corner of his eye. "For having said you wanted to talk to me, you haven't really done a whole lot of talking."
"Yeah, well, I'm trying to figure out what I want to say without screaming," Buck said roughly, scrubbing his fingers through his hair.
"...Ah," Steve nodded once, sharply.
After a few minutes, Buck shuffled around in the seat to stare at Steve. "He loves you, you know."
Steve swallowed, and his throat clicked. "I know," he said hoarsely.
Buck scoffed derisively. "If you know , then, sir, all due respect- what the fuck . It's-" he huffed and shook his head. "It's not the 'oughts anymore, sir. I've seen how you look at him."
Steve scowled, shaking his head. "It's more complicated than that, kid-"
"How?" Buck snapped, incredulous. "Sir- Steve , what is holding you back? You- fuck," he scrubbed a hand across his face, slumping. "You can't...you can't have it both ways, you know. He's so...so fucking hung up on you. You need to get your shit together or- or let him go, sir."
Steve's grip was white-knuckled on the wheel, jaw working. "You- I'm- I'm fucking trying , god damn it!" he burst out, staring straight ahead. "You're young, you're not working through fifteen goddamn years of repression, trying to figure this fucking shit out! I want- fuck, I want to, okay?"
"You're right, I'm not working through fifteen years of repression, I'm working through twenty fucking years of 'you're going straight to fucking hell!'" Buck snarled back, leaning towards him angrily. "Tell me if that's any better or worse!"
Steve laughed humorlessly, shaking his head. He pulled into the hospital parking lot and silently found a spot. Turning the car off, he sat in silence for a long moment, head bowed over his hands on the steering wheel.
"...I'm sorry," Buck said eventually, looking away. "I- Danny is...I think of him like a dad, you know? I'm sure he's mentioned that mine are...a piece of work, yeah?"
Steve nodded slowly, peering at him out of the corner of his eye.
"So I don't…" Buck swallowed, and looked over at him. "I don't want to see him hurt. He deserves good things. And for some strange reason, what he's decided is one of his good things...is you."
Steve's eyes closed, forehead resting on the steering wheel.
"So...I want you, to make him happy," Buck's voice cracked, and he coughed slightly to clear it. "It'd be good for you too, Steve. I know it."
After a beat, Steve nodded, and sighed softly. He straightened, rolling his shoulders back, and climbed out of the car, a look of determination on his face.
"I'll stay here," Buck called, before he shut the door.
Steve nodded, closing it with a soft click.
"Will you teach me your kind of self defense?" Buck asked, watching Steve over his desk. His fingers flexed against his thighs.
Steve blinked at him. "My kind of self defense?" he asked curiously. "You- I don't think you want that, kid. Danny'd murder me if I hurt you."
Buck shrugged, leaning back a little. "No he won't, not if I say I asked for it."
"No, then he'll yell at both of us," Steve said dryly, crossing his arms and leaning back in his chair. "I'm not nice."
"That's why I'm asking you," Buck told him, blue eyes intent. "Because you won't hold back. You won't seriously hurt me, I know. Danny mentioned that you'd done a couple years as a BUDS instructor."
Steve nodded slowly. "That's not really self defense, Buck."
"I've already done all that," Buck waved a hand, and Steve's eyebrows lifted in surprise. "Oh, you- you didn't look at my file?"
"...No," Steve shook his head slowly. "Danny threatened to withhold Grace privileges if I did."
The corner of Buck's mouth pulled up in a smirk, nose wrinkling. "That's adorable, sir," he told him, laughing slightly.
"But," Steve flapped a hand, laying his arms on the desktop and leaning forward. "You're aircrew, now, I know that much. Injury, or just couldn't hack it?"
"...I punched my first class in the face," Buck shrugged, and looked away. "One of the guys got caught underwater- tangled in a fishing net or something, I dunno. Snapped his ankle. I was the closest one, so I dragged him out, dropped mission to get him to medical. SO1 reamed my ass, called me a worthless nobody who'd never amount to shit, if I couldn't manage a simple mission like that." He rubbed his right thumb over the prominent nub of bone in his left wrist, staring into the distance. "I kinda...greyed out, I guess. Laid him out flat. Told him if he thought it was worthless, saving people, then I was in the wrong fuckin' job." He shrugged, a tight, slightly convulsive little motion. "Pardon the language, sir."
Steve stared at him, somewhat incredulous. "That's- you could've gotten masted for that, Buckley."
"I know," Buck told him, eyes flickering over. "Woulda been worth it, though."
Rubbing a hand over his face, Steve sighed, and sat back. "You planning on staying in, kid?" he asked, peering at Buck over his fingers.
If Buck was surprised or confused by the sudden subject change, he didn't show it. "Nah," he shook his head. "I've got less than half a year left, I'm not interested in reupping. Thought about being a cop or something, but I really, really don't like guns."
Steve snorted humorlessly, nodding in understanding. "Well," he said, and stood. "Alright," he added, looking down at Buck. They were both in jeans and t-shirts, which were maybe not the most comfortable exercise clothes, but they'd do. "Show me what you've got, kid."
Buck blinked at him, then bounded upright, resembling nothing more than a puppy being told they were going on a walk. "Thank you, sir!" he said brightly, practically skipping after Steve. "I really appreciate this, just so you know. I'll try my best!"
"I know you will," Steve said, inordinately fond of Danny's boy.
Leaning his shoulders against the wall behind him, Danny crossed his arms and watched Buck flip Steve over his head into the thick pads layering the floor, then seconds later get his legs swept out from under him and go tumbling down as well.
Buck attempted to turn the fall into a roll, but his knees gave out, and he flopped down, groaning.
"Don't think you'll be joining the circus anytime soon, Buckaroo," Danny teased, pulling away from the wall and wandering over. "Curious- is it an Army thing to compulsively lose shirts, or is Steve's crazy even more contagious than I thought?"
"Navy, Danno, 'm Navy," Steve groaned, rolling himself onto his back.
"Alright, babe," Danny said consolingly, crouching next to Buck's head. "You good, you goof?"
"I'm great , Danno," Buck huffed, grinning wildly. "Did you see me put him on his back?"
"Yeah," Danny laughed, patting Buck's shoulder.
"Y'did great, kid," Steve called, forcing himself into a sitting position. He cracked his neck and sighed in relief, then leaned back on his palms. His bare chest glistened with sweat, and his entire body ached from the sort of workout he so rarely got -without chasing after criminals, at least. "Much better than the first time."
Buck allowed Danny to assist him into sitting up, beaming across the mats at Steve.
"Oh, so this is a regular occurrence, then?" Danny arched an eyebrow, looking between the pair. "I see how it is. Father-son bonding time by causing bruises, no Danno invited." He laid a hand dramatically over his forehead, tipping his head back. "However shall I live."
Out of the corner of his eye, Danny could see Steve go bright red, eyes going wide with shock.
Buck giggled, nudging Danny's arm. "What, so you wanted to see me get my ass flipped from one wall to the other?"
With a soft grunt, Danny fell back on his ass, hands falling to rest over his thighs. "Well, I'm sure it was highly entertaining," he teased. Glancing over at Steve, he arched a curious eyebrow. "You good, babe? You look like you just got clocked a good one."
"I'm fine," Steve croaked, waving an absent hand and determinedly not looking at either of them. "Don't worry about me. No concussions here."
Crawling to his knees, Buck shuffled forward, peering suspiciously at him. "I know I whacked you good at least once, are you sure you're okay?" he asked intently, poking gently at Steve's skull and waiting for a flinch.
"I'm fine, I promise," Steve huffed, shaking his head and gently pushing his hands away. "Probably going to end with a pretty solid bruise on my ribs from that kick of yours, though."
Buck smiled bashfully, sitting back on his haunches with his hands between his knees. "Yeah?" he asked, chin tucking down and looking half his age and desperate for praise.
"...Yeah," Steve nodded, reaching out and tousling Buck's carefully styled curls.
Squawking, Buck swatted at his hands, scooting back. "Oi, rude!"
Behind him, Danny smothered a laugh in his fist, watching them both with a sparkle in his eyes.
Buck jerked himself awake with a sharp shout, jerking and throwing himself off the couch. He lay on the floor gasping for breath, cheeks wet with tears. His heartbeat echoed too loudly in his ears, drowning out all other sounds.
Gentle pressure touched his back, and he flinched, curling more tightly in on himself.
The pressure immediately left.
He trembled, fingers cupping tightly over his ears. Buck knew he was mumbling, words falling out of his mouth, mashed together and almost completely incomprehensible.
Minutes, hours, centuries later, after his body had started to ache with his shuddering, he heard- a voice. Soft, low. Soothing.
Cracking open his eyes, mouth dry as the desert, Buck was rewarded by the sight of the base of Steve's leather couch.
His chest hurt.
"-I had this dream, once, where I was a tree," Danny said, "all told, it was a pretty nice dream. There was this one asshole woodpecker who wouldn't stop drilling holes in me- he kind of had a, a Steve-feeling to him, does that make sense?"
"Danno," Buck croaked, pushing himself up onto his forearms, head hanging between his shoulders. His calves and ankles were still trapped in the light throw blanket he'd fallen asleep with hours ago.
"Buck!" Danny exclaimed quietly, voice slick with relief. "Hey, kid. How’re you feeling?"
"...Like I got hit by a truck," Buck huffed, giving up on sitting up and laying back down on his side, arms wrapped tightly around himself. He stared blankly at the empty space underneath the coffee table, minute shivers still occasionally wracking his body.
"I'm sorry, kiddo," Danny sighed gently. "Is it alright if I touch you?"
"...Please," Buck tipped his head up just enough to peer at Danny out of the corner of his eye.
Danny smiled sweetly at him, reaching out and gently threading his fingers through Buck's curls. He scratched lightly at his skull and down the back of his neck, soothing the tension that had his shoulders ratcheted so tightly. "Hey," he said quietly, stroking his thumb over Buck's temple. "I love you, Buck. Evan. You know that, right?"
Buck swallowed, and when he spoke, his voice was thick with tears. "Yeah," he croaked. "I love you too, Danno."
"DD-214 party!" Kono cheered, throwing her hands up in the air.
"Aw, no, it's- please," Buck turned red, ducking his head and scrubbing a hand across the back of his neck.
"Yeah, c'mon, it'll be fun," Steve grinned, throwing an arm around Buck's shoulders and giving him a gentle little shake. "It's not every day that my boyfriend's oldest son leaves the Navy!"
Growing even more pink, Buck groaned, head dropping down.
"What're your plans after?" Chin asked, cocking his head to the side.
"I...dunno, to be honest," Buck admitted slowly, crossing his arms tightly across his chest. He stayed tucked under Steve's arm, looking thoughtful. "I want to go to school for a bit, I know that much. Work towards a bachelor's."
"Nice, very smart thinking," Steve said approvingly, giving Buck a little squeeze.
"In what?" Kono asked, leaning forward.
Buck squinted contemplatively. "I dunno," he frowned. "Everything is just so interesting , it's hard to pin just one thing down."
"Have you thought about writing?" Steve asked, knocking his head lightly against Buck's. "Those stories you tell Gracie- those are pretty fucking great." He lowered his voice, speaking for Buck's ears only. "And- you left a drawing on the table after lunch, a couple weekends ago. It was really good- like, really good. You should draw more."
"Oh, that's just a hobby," Buck mumbled, pink to the tips of his ears. "And besides, art degrees aren't very useful, anyway."
"Ah, fuck useful," Kono scoffed, only hearing Buck's response. "Hey, you could work here while you get school! I bet we could find you some kinda internship or whatever, right?" She blinked innocently at Steve, who arched an eyebrow in return.
"For criminal justice, maybe," Buck tutted, shaking his head. "Not sure how that would relate to writing."
"Aw, you don't think our stories are interesting, Buckaroo?" Steve teased, giving Buck another squeeze. "I've got a couple hookups if you ever want help with tuition assistance. That paperwork is a bitch and a half, I know."
"Yeah," Buck groaned softly, shaking his head.
"Anyway!" Kono clapped her hands together excitedly. "Retirement party at Steve's! After you're officially out, of course, so no one can bitch at you about shit. Invite all of your cute Navy boy friends!"
Buck sputtered, clapping both of his hands over his face. "I can't do that! It's not my house!"
"It's fine ," Steve laughed softly, patting Buck's shoulder and finally letting him go when he spied Danny emerging through the front office doors at long last, arms laden with takeout. "Danno!" he cheered, hands spread wide. "We're throwing your boy a retirement party! My place, end of the month!"
"Phenomenal," Danny grinned broadly, obediently turning his cheek up to receive a kiss from Steve. "No celebratory explosions, babe."
Buck choked on a laugh, eyes squinting with mirth. "Aw, not even fireworks, Danno?" he asked teasingly, making Danny groan and shake his head in mock despair.
"God, look what I've done, there's three of them now," Danny sighed dramatically, passing off the box of takeout to Steve and marching over to Buck. He clasped the young man's jaw in his hands, thumbs on his cheeks. "Sweet boy," he said gently, and Buck felt a lump rise up in his throat. "If it makes you happy, we can have fireworks."
"It's okay," Buck allowed himself to be pulled down and a kiss pressed against his forehead. "That's more Steve's thing than mine."
Laughing, Danny gently knocked their foreheads together and released him. "Alright, that's enough emotion for the time being- let's eat!"
Huffing, Danny rolled over in bed and stared at Steve.
Steve, for his part, remained staring at the ceiling, hands clasped together over his stomach.
Groaning, Danny flopped over and threw his arm and a leg over Steve. "Why are you thinking so loud, babe?"
"...Nothing," Steve muttered, closing his eyes. "Go back to sleep, Danny."
Rolling his eyes, Danny pinched his bicep. "Babe, that tone hasn't worked on me past the first month I knew you. Try again."
Steve's mouth twisted, and he shrugged listlessly. "It's dumb."
"If it's tearing you up this much, it's obviously not dumb," Danny said flatly.
"It is dumb, okay," Steve ground out, scrunching his eyes tightly shut.
"I won't judge," Danny said gently, petting his palm lightly down Steve's side. "Everyone thinks dumb things sometimes. I mean, me, you know how my brain works sometimes. Everything is a goddamn disaster scenario."
Steve huffed mirthlessly, and tipped his head to look down at Danny. "I...I want a nickname too," he finally muttered, face contorting into one of his usual ridiculous scowls.
Danny opened his mouth, then closed it again. He arched up enough to blink down at Steve. "What, is 'Smooth Dog' not enough for you anymore?" he asked lightly, arching a single eyebrow.
Steve's face tightened, and he looked away.
"Hey, babe, no," Danny pressed a hand against Steve's cheek, turning him back to face him. "Sorry, that was a little mean of me. You want a Williams-style nickname, love?"
Grumbling wordlessly, Steve shrugged. He refused to meet Danny's eyes.
"Well, that can't be too difficult, I imagine," Danny lightly stroked his fingertips over Steve's collarbone. "I'll have to workshop it with my fellow Williams."
Steve hummed, pleased, and traced his fingertips along Danny's spine. "Hey, so…" he said slowly, and chewed on his lower lip. "When we get married...can I take your name?"
Danny stared at him, eyes wide. "Wh- when ?" he squeaked, attempting to lean up. "Is- babe, Steven, I've done the marriage thing- historically, I am not good at it!"
Steve adopted a mulish expression, jaw setting fiercely. "Yeah, well, you haven't been married to me before."
Danny huffed, shaking his head. "I'm pretty sure I'm the terrible common denominator for all of my relationships imploding, so-"
Steve cut him off with a kiss, scowling at Danny's immediate self flagellation. "Danno, stop that. You're not terrible. I picked you, didn't I?"
"I've always said you had terrible taste," Danny muttered, laying his head back down on Steve's chest.
Steve scoffed, wrapping both arms around Danny and holding him close. "I think I have great taste."
"You willingly wear cargo pants," Danny mocked lightly, closing his eyes. "You definitely don't have any taste."
"You gonna introduce me to your friends, kiddo?" Danny asked, putting his hands on his hips and smiling toothily.
Buck grinned brightly, nearly bouncing on his feet. He skipped forward, wrapping Danny in a hug and rocking back and forth. "Hi Danno," he said, gripping Danny tightly.
Laughing softly, Danny patted Buck's back. "Hey, Buckaroo," he said gently, then pushed him back. He clasped Buck's cheeks, turning his face back and forth. "Introduce me," he said, voice kind.
"Okay," Buck chirped, turning. He kept an arm slung around Danny's shoulders, pointing out his friends as he named them. "That's Allen Joyer," he said, pointing out a baby-faced redhead who's shoulders were at Buck's eye level.
"Jonah Morrison," was a young black man with carefully brushed waves, wearing probably one of the brightest aloha shirts Danny had ever seen -and he'd seen a lot .
"Christy-Ann Wilson," had closely-cropped ink-black hair and a spade tattooed in brilliant purple behind her left ear.
"Everyone calls me Violet, though," she said, sticking her hand out. She wore a silver band on her left ring finger.
"Alright," Danny said easily, shaking her hand easily. "I'm-"
"Danno!" Steve called from inside the house. "Stop looming!'
He rolled his eyes. "I'm Danny," he finished, turning out from under Buck's arm. "Come inside, kids. I promise I don't bite."
Buck scoffed, holding the door open for everyone to troop inside. "Yeah, you keep saying that, and yet somehow I don't believe you."
"Okay," Danny corrected, directing them to remove their shoes at the door, "I don't bite without warning ."
"...Yeah, alright," Buck nodded agreeably, kicking his slides off and traipsing immediately out to the back deck.
"Make yourselves at home," Danny said, waving at the couch and the open door to the beach. "Drinks, snacks…?"
Both boys declined anything, immediately following Buck outside and subsequently tackling him into the water. Grace, on the shore, squealed with laughter.
"I'll take some water, if you don't mind," Violet said, easing herself into one of the kitchen table chairs with a tentativeness that Danny recognized.
"Course not," Danny waved a hand, fishing one of the water bottles out of the cooler on the deck. "Ice pack?" he added, jerking a thumb towards the kitchen.
"Huh? Oh, no, I'm good," she smiled and waved an absent hand. "It's just- this weather, you know?"
"Yeah," Danny slid into one of the chairs at the table as well, watching the boys rope Steve into a game of tag with Grace and Kono. "So- guessing by that tattoo of yours," he said, tapping the spot just below his left ear, "that you're out, now."
Violet chuckled slightly, nodding. "Yeah, couple months back. My spouse is still in, though."
Danny noted her very careful avoidance of any identifying pronouns, but didn't call her on it.
"I'm- you don't have to tell me, but," Violet turned to him, head cocked curiously. "How did you meet Buck, anyway? No one can get a straight answer out of him. Was it through the Lieutenant Commander-?"
"Ah, no," Danny waved a hand, sitting back. "About eight? Yeah, eight months ago, see, I got this call from an unknown number," he said, gesturing vaguely. "I ignore it, of course, because I have better shit to deal with than telemarketers. But they call again. And again." He shook his head, "and I finally pick it up, about ready to scream their fuckin' head off, when my baby girl starts talking!"
Violet stared at him, strangely entranced by the overly dramatic man sitting before her, physically weaving the story with his hands.
"So, see, terrorists had decided to ransack the Honolulu Art History Museum," Danny scoffed, and threw his hands in the air. "Frankly, a terrible idea any day, but on a day when my little monkey had a class trip?" he tutted, and shook his head mock-mournfully. "Anyway, Buckaroo over there was playing Superman up in there, sneaking kids off and hiding them in the vents and shit. Took ages to find them all."
Violet's eyes went wide.
"He got hurt helping protect my kid," Danny said, looking out over the sand to where Buck had Grace balanced carefully on his broad shoulders, his hands clasped tightly in hers. "And there's nothing worth more to me than that." He shrugged, and the corner of his mouth curled up in a bemused little smile. "And then I got to know that sweet golden retriever kid, and I kinda adopted him on the spot."
Sputtering out a laugh, Violet shook her head. "God, only Buck would get adopted by the second in command of the goddamn Five-oh."
Danny grinned, looking pleased with himself. "I'm pretty sure Steve's trying to weasel his way into Buck's graces as well, but Buck-oh's still a little scared of those fancy gold oak leaves he wears."
"God," Violet scrubbed a hand across her face.
"Ah, speak of the devil," Danny smiled sweetly at Steve as he came tromping into the kitchen, dripping salt water all over the floor.
"Is that me?" Steve teased, dropping an absent-minded kiss on Danny's forehead. "Kono or Chin message you, saying when they were gonna be by?"
"Kono said about ten more," Danny said, pinching Steve's side. "Stop dripping water everywhere, you heathen, I know you left towels outside-"
Steve scoffed, scrubbing his hands through his wet hair and planting them on Danny's shoulders, making him squirm and shove at him ineffectually. "It's so much more fun to tease you, though!"
"Ugh! Ugh !" Danny swatted at him, making him back off. "Towel, you neanderthal! Or I am not letting you into my kitchen!"
"Oh-ho, so it's your kitchen now?" Steve asked archly, putting his hands on his hips.
"You can have it back as soon as you promise to never buy whole wheat flour again," Danny said primly, waving him off. "Go on, shoo!"
Smothering a grin, Steve threw his hands in the air and stalked off. Instead of grabbing a towel, however, he meandered back down to the shore, to bother the rest of the kids.
"...I take it that rainbow flag out front isn't just for show," Violet laughed softly, nose wrinkling with her mirth. "Are you and Sir married?"
"Ah, no," Danny shrugged, looking down at his fingers. "I'm a little...wedding-phobic, shall we say. My last one didn't end so well, kinda put me off the whole business for a while."
"Tax benefits, though," Violet winked at him, and Danny choked out a startled laugh.
"I suppose you've got me there," Danny snorted, shaking his head. "I- I love him, but. I'm not traveling all the way to- to Vermont to get married. I'll revisit this topic when it's legal here. Or New Jersey- I could get married in Jersey, probably."