'A'ole au e nalo iā 'oe.
"You will not fail to remember me."
Steve's doing what he would never do -- pushing his lover's head down. Long fingers, his fingers, are thrust in a sun-bleached fall of hair that's longer than he sees every day. It shines bright against his own dark skin. He'd be ashamed of himself if he didn't know it was a dream, but there's no fucking way this could happen in real life. Because Danny's glad to; he's moving down like a man with a mission, and it's all about getting Steve's cock in his mouth.
God, the mouth on that man.
The details are different, but Steve knows who they are.
Pale fingers reach up in between his own, dark and light tangled together. Sunlight is hot on his skin, but not as hot as that loving touch. He stretches against the tree, welcoming the rough bark against his back. This is the first time Danny's done this . . . offered, no, demanded to taste him, out here in the open. He's making noise against Steve's body, moans that roll right through to the bone, that echo in his flesh, all because he's touching Steve's skin, kissing his hip. Danny rubs his cheek against the rough trail of hair as he licks his lips, building the pressure of need in Steve's belly.
Their kisses are sloppy and eager and triumphant, out here on the trail where they've been chasing each other down, running naked and free, and it could only lead to this. It's more right than anything's been in a long time. As firm lips close around his cock, delicious suction, he wants to come, needs to come; hell, all he wants to do is die knowing that Danny's here for him. Only for him. As Danny's mouth takes him in again and again, that knowledge sears through him as fast as his orgasm does.
Groaning, he shudders awake to his tight hand gripping his still-hard cock. There are fresh wet patches in his dark blue sheets. Having Danny in his house is ruining him. Christ, he hasn't run through this many sheets since he was sixteen. That was when he learned to do his own laundry, because no way was his aunt going to find out how much clean bedding he needed. He smears the evidence off himself with a sheet that feels too rough.
He shivers off that vague sense of wrongness that comes with fantasies about his friends. Knuckling his eyes, he wonders when Danny's going to find a place of his own. He hopes for good news on that front every day, even though every night he dreams that Danny will just . . . stay.
Situation Normal, he thinks, All Fucked Up. At least military service teaches you to embrace awful inevitabilities, like having sex dreams about your partner, but things have been getting worse. This unwanted attraction has him more turned around than being tortured in North Korea. He knew damned well that would end, and soon, one way or the other. Once this torture ends, and Danny moves on to another apartment, Steve will still be working with him. It would be nice if he could do that, someday, without imagining Danny's lips stretched around his cock.
It's not looking like that's in the Cosmic Plan.
He wonders if some day he can find a nice boy, like his mom always promised Mary. "Someday you'll like boys," she told the wailing girl. He grabs one of his pillows and shoves it over his head. His mom never knew she'd been talking to the wrong child.
To Question Repeatedly
Chin starts it.
They're around the table trying to find a facial match to a fake driver's license pulled off a dead body found floating near the site of a shootout. It was HPD and some folks who were moving six hundred pounds of explosives off-island. For once it wasn't Five-0, or even the HPD, who eliminated all the witnesses. The one man who escaped did it for them.
"So what's wrong with Danny?"
Steve's pacing back and forth. Everything's taking forever. They're still waiting for Danny and Lori. The two of them went out to chase down a lead based on two bills of lading that Danny pronounced 'hinky.' The man's spent too much time watching NCIS reruns. "Nothing. Nothing's wrong with Danny."
"You're the one who lives with him. Haven't you noticed how quiet he's been lately? I'm getting worried," says Chin.
Kono chimes in with, "Let me count the things that are wrong with Danny."
"Are you serious? What's up with you two?" Steve turns to her. He's not about to criticize Danny behind his back, even with Chin and Kono. "Danny's just fine."
"I'm serious as a grenade launcher. Where have you been?" She's moved back against the nearest wall, hands on her hips, shoulders forward, a cross between an overdressed calendar girl and a street fighter out for blood.
"I've been right here, every day."
"Really, you never noticed? You don't talk to him? You don't!" Kono's eyes widen. "You live in the same house! He's been having a tough time! You never have a beer, get da kine after the thing with Rachel?" Now she looks like she's ready to leap at him in order to wring his neck.
No. No way in hell. There's no way Steve's talking to Danny, or anyone else, about Rachel.
He despises Rachel. He's not proud of it, and he tries not to think about her at all. But the knowledge that she's still, after everything that's happened, Danny's one and only . . . makes Steve sick.
At first, he thought she was pretty decent. He didn't think much of her trying to take visitation rights away from Danny, and forcing her to knuckle under had been a small triumph. It made him hope Danny would see him differently. For a little while, that even worked, sort of. In Steve's fucked-up head, Danny became almost attainable. They spent more time together. A pizza and beer in the evenings, sometimes a game. He knew better than to think Danny would turn gay for him, but he seemed okay with the smiling glances Steve couldn't stop handing out like some kind of perverted candy.
They were friends. After Nick, Steve knew better than anybody else how much he needed a friend. Danny's obvious irritation with his old buddy -- jealousy, insisted a tiny voice -- warmed him like hot coffee after a cold recon.
Then Danny was back in her bed. He never would've believed that seeing Danny so happy could hurt so much. That day in the hospital, Danny's doped-up world-by-the-tail grin burned like a fresh tattoo. He wasn't sure how he'd managed to hide it, or if he even had. It didn't matter; Danny was oblivious to everything but the woman in his arms. Grace's glowing face sealed Steve's fate. His worn-out daydreams were history.
Since then, Steve's tried to back off. Treat Danny like any normal coworker, ignore his griping, just plain ignore him as much as Danny can be ignored. He told D to get back in the saddle, for God's sake, spitting the words out like rotten fruit. Anyone is better than Rachel, who can and will turn Danny inside out on a whim. Anything is better than the strange limbo Steve's been living in. Sometimes he still has to smash down the burnt curling edges of disappointment when Danny stands too close to him.
Then the housing disaster struck. No way in hell was he going to ask Danny to stay with him. That was just masochism above and beyond.
And he wasn't, he didn't, until the day Kono offered Danny space on the floor in her studio, saying sweetly that Chin's house might be available for rent in a couple weeks -- pausing only to glare at Steve. She even came up to him later and asked him flat out why he wasn't offering. He made noises about being the boss and how they argued too much, but she shamed him into it. Did she really know? He hopes she wouldn't have done that if she did.
Why wouldn't she know? Hell, everybody knows. People who've never seen them before know. That hurts, too. Thank God Danny himself has never noticed. Contrary to what Danny thinks, Steve knows when he's making that face, the one that's more puppy love than puppy-dog eyes.
So he tries not to pay attention to every little thing about Danny. He just can't handle that awareness anymore. He can't deal with the bruising intensity of his own hope. Christ Almighty, the man is living with him, and the last thing he needed over the past three months was Joe picking up on it. Joe's not stupid. Why should Steve out himself to his one-time CO, the man he used to look up to, over something that can never happen?
He never came out to his own father; no reason to stir shit at this late date.
Finally Steve answers Kono, and he's aware that he sounds grim. "He never said word one to me about it."
"Cannot! That's kapakahi!" Kono says, then narrows her eyes. It's a look he doesn't get much from Kono, and it rankles. "Okay, you must really be married after all."
"Hey!" Chin's offended for the sake of marriage, but they ignore him.
"He lost his family. Again." The woman is ruthless. He's got to start her on more interrogations. "He complains about everything, but not that?"
Steve leans up against the doorframe of his office, hands shoved in his pockets -- the picture, he hopes, of easy confidence. "Danny is one of the strongest men I know. He's got more determination than you could pack into anybody twice his size. He'll be fine."
"It doesn't matter." Kono makes a sweeping gesture that knocks Steve's assertion off the table. "Read my lips, bossman. He's a human being, not the Determinator! He's been a mess for a long time! The big stuff started Halloween weekend."
Chin ignores the face blinking up from the table. "Yeah, seeing ghosts? I know people I'd expect that from, but their spirituality encompasses the supernatural -- unlike Danny."
"I didn't think much of his scamming the apartment manager, either. Not to mention when he took Grace trick or treating in his creepy no-tell motel. Who does that?"
"Much less Danny Williams, Father Of The Year," agrees Chin.
"He's exhausted. Look at the damned circles under his eyes, will you? And he's kinda, I guess the word is 'volatile.' Hey, looks like there's a name to this face." Kono's thoughtful as she taps a nail on the table, then turns back to the real subject at hand. "I think everything from the last couple years just caught up to him, finally. There's no way to tough that out."
Steve thinks Danny's dark circles are a good match for his own. He's heard Danny tossing and turning at night, sometimes mumbling, but frankly, he wasn't about to poke that sleeping dragon. Steve's never run from trouble before, but this is the wrong kind. The worst kind.
"Fine. Whatever. What do you want me to do, send him for a psych eval?" He knows damn well that's not what Kono wants, but he doesn't care.
"What's wrong with you? For God's sake, just talk to him!"
If it wasn't Kono, he'd say she was about to stamp her foot. She's glaring at him like she wants a smackdown. Well, that's too bad. He's not going to share his deepest secrets with her or Chin. They'll have to cope with what's on the surface, like he's had to.
"Yeah," he says. "I'll think about it. But I'll think about it while we track down Furneau's known associates."
To Begin Again
The dreams started not long after he blundered over the heiau that horrible Halloween, right about the time he started getting maybe six minutes of sleep per night. At first he didn't think anything of them. They were just vivid snatches of color and motion, like flipping past tv channels. But after a while, he began to notice that he was dreaming in longer fragments and remembering more details when he woke in the mornings. It's been a couple months. They're crystal clear now.
The baby . . . Rachel's baby. The baby that should have been his. He grits his teeth, crushes the insidious longing. He's pretty sure that's what brought on the next round. It all seemed so . . . real. He'd slipped into exhaustion and crashed on the couch, dead to the world, within minutes after Steve drove them back from breakfast.
He looks down at his hands and watches them measuring flour on a scale. He's not surprised they're shaking. Women die bearing children. Customers murmur in the store, dust motes following them in the diluted sun from the windows. He looks up at every movement, every blade of light from the door, distracted beyond bearing. Before he can chalk the amount onto the slate beside him, someone is shouting, "Will! Come and see the baby!"
He rips the oilcloth apron off and vaults over the counter, his feet echoing as they pound up the stairs of the square house next to the store. The flock of women in the doorway moves apart and he shoves through to see his wife sitting up in their four-poster bed. She is exhausted, face pale and her dark hair clinging to her forehead in damp ringlets, but she's smiling at him. Glowing. In her arms she is holding out a bundle of cloth and she says, pride in every syllable, "Come and meet your son, William."
When he takes the impossibly tiny bundle into his arms, he cannot breathe. He cannot remember ever feeling this terrifying joy before, not even on the morning he married his beautiful Sarah. His chest is too small to contain his beating heart and, when he looks to Sarah, he knows that she feels the same.
After that dream, Danny woke and just lay there on Steve's couch in clothes wrinkled with the scent of last night's fear and excitement, remembering Grace's birth. He'd sped to the hospital with lights flashing, other motorists pulling aside to let him pass, barely suppressing the need to let the siren wail. Then he perched beside Rachel on the edge of her hospital bed just like last night, giddy after working a graveyard shift, for the final three hours of Rachel's labor.
His hands shook when he reached for his little girl, but they steadied the instant he touched her. As he held her in his arms, the world reformed itself around this new fact of his existence, like gravity or oxygen, and the world was good.
Danny showers with a smile on his face and leaves to pick up Grace from school.
When he dreams later that night, though, everything's different.
The morning they bury Sarah is fair and hot. He stands beside the open grave and barely hears the drone of the parson or the tears of the women around him. The coffin is small, so much smaller than she had seemed in life. But it is large enough for his wife, his son, aged nine days, and all that is left of his heart. He jerks at the sound of the first shovelful of dirt to hit the coffin lid and
Danny's body writhes in the darkness, tears streaming down his face. The sounds and colors of mourning in a far-away graveyard are slow to dissipate. Still half-caught in the dream, Danny lies on what he knows is Steve's couch, his t-shirt clinging cold and damp to his body. His son is dead. His wife is dead. It crushes him, sucking his lungs empty, leaving him paralyzed. It's not true, though, it's not true. That never happened.
Standing in the sterile hospital corridor watching the baby through the glass, Danny had known that this boy, this innocent who for so many days had belonged to him, who had been his, was gone from him. His wife, Rachel, was gone. As he stood there, lifting his phone to send proof of Rachel's love to a man he despised, the last bits of him had faded away.
Danny knew he looked like a real person to anyone who passed by, a solid man of flesh and blood. That guy who said something about a nose in the hospital corridor, he talked to Danny as if he was any other proud father, any man, but he'd been wrong. Inside Danny there was nothing. There was nothing left but a fragile candy shell that could shatter at the slightest touch, and the cold hospital air was sinking heavily onto him.
Except there was Steve, standing next to him, sharing his strength. Steve, the one he counted on. Steve, who rescued him, who used a smile to hold Danny up until he could walk with steady steps, walk away from his grief. Steve, who would try to help him fill the empty shell. The weight of Steve's arm around his shoulders didn't break him; it held him together.
The couch and the house fade away, then, as if they're the bad dream.
Will awakens to so much pain. He tries to reach out, but there's nothing familiar. Will hurts all over. There is a warm hand on his forehead gently stroking back his hair. He tries to open his eyes but it's as if they were sealed with tar. He feels the sting as he panics and some of his eyelashes tear out when he wrenches them open.
It's dim and cool wherever he is despite the fever heat in his body. Leaves rustle and there is the dripping of water. A wet cloth soothes his face, passing over his hot skin and wiping away sand and salt. It takes time before his eyes focus, and when they do, there's a dark presence hovering over him. He blinks a few more times but the presence stays, shadowy and enormous and . . . unknown. Dark skin, piercing dark eyes that gleam in the little available light.
He tries to speak, say something, but only croaks. His throat hurts. His whole body aches as if he's had a terrible beating.
The man smiles when Will's eyes focus, and his teeth are very white in the cool green dimness of the hut. He lifts Will to sit up, careful as he can be of Will's mumbled pain, and waits for a moment while Will's head swims.
"Here. Drink." There is a large serrated tooth hanging from a piece of rawhide around his throat and it gleams whitely against the man's skin. He ought to be terrifying -- Will's heard tales enough of headhunters, bare-chested, tattooed and huge -- but he's somehow calming him, easing his fears. Will still has his own woozy head, after all.
"Thank you." He doesn't try to whisper, but his voice is small.
"You have been asleep for a day and a night since I found you. Here. Drink this now." It's slippery and thick, different than the water, strange-tasting, but not like medicine. "Coconut," says his helper. "It will help you heal."
"Who are you?" Will tries to sit up straight; he's as weak as a kitten and his breath catches as every part of him cries out. A muscular arm slips around his shoulder and he is angled to sit more upright, tucked against a warm body. He shivers at being so close to another living person; it has been over a year since Sarah died. It feels so very good, he can't even be offended that a stranger takes such liberties.
"My name is 'A'amakualenalena."
"Ah . . . Ah . . ." He cannot say it.
"The Godly Men gave me a name perhaps more pleasant to your tongue. They called me Stephen."
To Hold Fast
He likes Danny, he does, even aside from the nag of yearning that feels like a pack weight he'll carry forever. Danny's looking haggard in the mornings, and yeah, Steve noticed. As much as he tries not to, there's little he doesn't notice about Danny. And now Steve feels guilty. After Kono, that's a given. What she's really asking is, what happened to our team? And her answer is, Steve's ruined everything. He's got his own gripes, but she's not that far wrong.
They were so close, the four of them, but Steve wanted more than any of them could give. He wanted their trust. He wanted their secrets. Worse yet, he wanted Danny's love. When none of that happened, he let them all go for the one person who might still be his family . . . Jenna. Yet she was the worst betrayal of all. Steve needs a friend more now than he ever has before. If Steve is going to salvage anything, he's got to save Danny.
Of course, when Danny's questioned, he cranks out another complaint about wave action as if it's right up there with jackhammers. By the time Steve finds Danny face down, asleep on his desk in the middle of the afternoon . . . okay, he never bought that fairy tale in the first place.
But Detective Williams is a tough nut to crack. For a man who talks as much as he does, he's serious about the right to remain silent. He has no intention of sharing whatever's been smudging his eyes.
"Why do you look like you got into a bar fight with a raccoon? Something wrong with the couch?"
"What, now I got rings on my tail?" Danny's face turns red, as if he realizes he just asked Steve to check out his ass. He turns around and waggles it like that's what he meant. But Steve sees what looks like a real flash of fear in his eyes.
"That's not what I --"
"Sheesh, go one day without makeup and everyone gets on your case."
"No, but unless you wear eyeblack – seriously, what's been --"
Danny's not about to let him finish a sentence. "So I'm not pretty in the morning. You shoulda thought of that before you invited me to stay over."
There were so many things Steve should have thought about before inviting him to stay. Then Danny's phone rings, and the rest of Steve's sentence fades into the breeze.
Later in the afternoon, Danny stops by the museum to see Gabrielle. She's a friendly face. He needs one. He can't go to his coworkers with this. "This" is nothing more or less than his daily life. They've all had their problems, and don't need to spend any extra time on his. There's nothing that can solve them. Besides, who really wants to hear that one of their teammates, a man who's supposed to have their backs, thinks he's going a little nuts?
All the things that could splatter someone's ordinary life roared down on his head over the last two years, and the avalanche of shit just keeps on coming.
Besides, having coffee with a woman will distract him. He's watching Steve for some reason, and he can't get the dreams out of his head. It's like he's got another life hovering over his shoulder, another shadow down the sidewalk, and he can't get away from it.
Then there's the life he used to have. He was just kidding with the air-heart and the I Love You, right? He's been wondering lately; was that a joke on Steve, or a joke on him? Because the universe tilted a little when Rachel dumped him a second time. A set of broad shoulders is looking better than a pair of shapely legs. And they're his partner's shoulders.
He gets thumbed back toward Gabi's office with a nod and a smile from Makani, who's walking into the gift shop.
Gabrielle looks up from a cardboard box of junk. "Hey! What's up?"
Nothing explodes. She doesn't report any dead bodies, gang wars, or betrayed friends trapped in countries run by ruthless dictators. She's a white picket fence compared to the hurricane-battered shack that is his life and his work.
"Not much. What's that?"
"Museum stuff." She smiles, friendly and uncomplicated. "People give us all sorts of things. In Hawai'i the kupuna, elders, can have astonishing things stashed in the attic." She hands him a pair of light gloves like the ones she's wearing and then offers him, of all things, a knife. "Here, it's okay to examine them."
It looks so familiar. It's a big-ass knife, heavy, dulled with age, with a cracked handle that must be made of bone. It's carved with a tiny scene of a ship, a volcano, and a whale. He holds it in his hand, tracing the lines with his eyes. The butt has a banged-up metal cap on it. He'll ask Steve later if he keeps museum pieces in the garage. This couldn't compete with Steve's stash of SEAL paraphernalia, but where else would Danny have seen one?
He listens vaguely while she talks, but stops listening when he turns the knife over and sees the scrimshawed picture of a man on the grip. First there's the sizzle of recognition. Then there's a rush of loneliness and sorrow so vast that it pushes him back a step. Chills stream up his spine and he shivers, hoping Gabi isn't watching too closely. It's not much of a likeness, but by the tattoos, the muscle, and the long legs, it's the man in Danny's dream.
Instead of throwing it across the room, his first instinct, he wants to keep it. Keep it, fix it, stop the sadness, make everything better, even though he knows there's no way he can. His dreams aren't real. This thing means nothing to him. So he had some dumb dream, what difference does that make, and why is he staring at a banged-up knife, anyway? He's giving himself the creeps.
Still, he wants it. He needs it. For a moment he floats the idea that he should shove it in his pocket, as if she wouldn't notice it was gone. That's ridiculous. What would he do with an old, dull knife? Put it in the glass curio case that he doesn't have? Tack it up on Steve's wall with duct tape for as long as he might be living there?
He feels a stupid pang at the thought of moving out. It's been nice to live in a real home, like his life isn't in shreds, like he's still whole. Even with Steve's rules, or maybe because of them -- face it, they live to bitch at and with each other -- it's so much better than his first lonely apartment or the awful places after that.
"Great." He reluctantly hands back the knife. "Coffee?"
They have a nice time, like a glimpse through a broken window into the real world. Too bad the caffeine has no effect whatsoever on his pounding headache. He stops at the drugstore on the way back to the office and, popping open the bottle of ibuprofen, swallows four with the dregs of his coffee.
Broken To Bits
Two weeks after Sarah's death (and his son, his son!), William can take it no more. He can't go back to New Bedford to work in his father's smithy as if he were a stupid boy again. He's a man, with a man's sorrows. But he cannot stay here on Nantucket, selling dry goods and groceries in his father-in-law's store. The grief is a fog that enfolds them all and fills his throat from dawn 'til dusk.
One morning, he finds himself down on the docks, a canvas bag in his hand. In it are some clothes, his Bible and a lock of Sarah's hair. Before he really knows what he's about, he has signed on as crew on the whaling vessel "Swallow", bound for the Outer Ground. They will not return for at least two years.
The first whale they slew was a revelation for William. With his strong back, he was on the first mate's boat. The endless hours spent pumping the bellows for his father finally paid off. He can row for an hour without stopping, so was accorded the honor despite not being Nantucket-bred. When the harpoon sank into the great animal's flesh, they were suddenly roaring through the sea faster than a galloping horse. He found himself laughing and shouting with the rest of the men in his small boat. When the animal finally tired and was killed, he felt nothing but a vague regret that the wild ride was over. Then it was a long hard row, five miles back to the Swallow, towing the carcass behind them.
The Universe has decided to fuck his shit up some more. It's not enough that he can barely sleep or that when he does, he's plunged into some cut-rate Moby Dick miniseries. When the dreams start invading his waking hours, that's when Danny knows he is well and truly fucked.
The first time he has a dream flashback, it nearly kills him. He finally agreed to let the rest of the team in on the fact that Kono has been teaching him to surf. She's decided he's good enough to not embarrass her. Lori begs off, but the rest of them meet up at the ass-crack of dawn one Sunday morning. Danny has only agreed to be there because someone promised to buy him a massive amount of pancakes if he stays on his board for three runs in a row. Since he finally found his balance on the waves, he's surprisingly cheerful when they hit the water.
His wipeout, when it comes, is nothing spectacular. He jerked a little and flipped himself right off the board and back into the water. He's fallen off more times than he can count. But this time, something is different. This time
the water is foaming all around him and there is nothing to breathe, nothing to stand firm against. With a terrible, grinding, cracking noise, terrifyingly loud even over the storm, and the deck lifted his stomach into his throat. He's thrown right off, flying over the storm rail and into the churning dark sea.
Will doesn't know how to swim and it doesn't matter. There is no way anyone could swim in the maelstrom. His shipmates are screaming off to his left; the water swirls white around the stricken Swallow, foundering on an invisible shoal. The oil from her lanterns spilled across the deck and flames throw a hellish glare across the water. He slides into the dark trough between two waves and everything goes black when something strikes his head. He has just enough wit left in him to grab the barrel floating beside him. He manages to get most of his chest out of the water, locking his arms around it.
He doesn't know how long he floats like that. He wishes he still believed in the God of his childhood; he would like to be able to pray. But the only things he knows now are wind and water, darkness and cold. He doesn't even feel the hands that reach down to pluck him from the sea.
"Danny! Can you hear me?" Kono is practically shouting in his ear. He's lumped across the front of her board and she's trying to paddle them both to shore. In this gloriously sunny morning, there are no shoals in sight.
"What happened? Did the board hit him in the head?" Steve is shouting from a ways away, but Danny can tell he's coming closer.
Gentle hands are probing at his head; Chin's, most likely. The voice confirms it. "Nah, I don't think so. No blood."
He hasn't got the energy to shove at Chin's hands. "I'm fine, guys. Really." He pushes himself up a little and slides off Kono's board. They are close enough in now that the water is only waist deep on him. He needs it. It's holding him up.
"I dunno, bruddah. That was one serious wipeout."
"Believe it, Danny. When I caught up to you, you were face-down and unconscious." Kono's voice has a little tremor to it and he reminds himself that, tough as she is, she's still a decade younger than all of them. He reaches out and grabs her hand, squeezing it tightly.
Steve is there, saving him from having to make any reply. He's got Danny's board, pulling it along by its leash, the one that should have been snugly velcroed around his ankle. He knows he'll hear a lot about that once everyone is suitably convinced that he is all right. He's a little short on how to do that, because he's sure as hell not all right. He's so very many land-based miles from all right. His head is killing him. His hallucination almost did the same.
He agrees to sit on the beach for a bit, but grunts and waves them all back out to catch some surf. For the first time in his life, he uses hand gestures because he's too freaked out to speak. He just almost died, drowned in a freak accident. From something that, if it ever really happened, and he's starting to wonder if it actually might have -- the illusion was absolutely all-encompassing -- happened nearly two hundred years ago.
He would really like to demand of the heavens, "Why is this my life?" -- but he's too afraid of the answer. So he sits and digs his toes into the nice, warm, dry sand and tries not to think about drowning.
Steve insists in coming in to check up on him after every ride. Danny hates being fussed over, especially when he already feels like a dumbass for falling off his board and having to be rescued by the rookie. Of course, in this realm, she is a professional, an expert, and he is the raw rookie. And, of course, he might just be going insane.
Steve keeps staring at him, starting to say something and then stopping. Even when Danny demands, "What?" in his pissiest tone, when he can finally hack the word out, Steve just shrugs and heads back down to the water.
He's still weak yet his rescuer deems that this is the time to wash him. "Come with me," urges the giant. It seems little work for him to nearly carry Will to the seashore.
In the last light, black markings on the broad chest are clear to see. A wide band with rows of tiny triangles curves up and over his shoulder and across his heart. It forms a beautiful curling wave made of diamonds. There is a small turtle figure tattooed on the opposite side of the giant's chest. His arms are coiled with patterns of fine leaves.
Will stares at the painted breadth of hard muscle and shrinks deep inside at how much that must have hurt. He wonders if they are burned into him like a brand.
A stream joins the bay, flowing from the mountains above them and the rains which pour daily upon their face. The man sits him carefully in the shallow flow, then begins to wash him, gently sluicing away the salt and fever-sweat with clean, pure water. There is so much clean, clear water that Will doesn't know what to do; it is heaven. He hasn't had a real bath for his year aboard ship save what a bucket of sea water or the rain could provide.
The man's hands are gentle and firm, careful around his deep bruising and burns. Suddenly Will is back in the sea, a shattered still-burning timber shrieking steam as it falls upon his back. Had he not gone under the surface with it, it would easily have broken him. He's lucky he didn't stay under forever. He gasps at the pain, that brilliant spark of memory, grasping for the rest, but he cannot reach it.
"Are you all right?" The man's huge hand touches his face carefully. The other hand rests on Will's thigh. He has never met anyone who touched so often. Or so intimately. Will feels himself blushing even as a thumb strokes over his cheek again, dark eyes kind and worried as they search his face.
Lines Of Worry
"I need Wednesday off." Danny barges into Steve's office without even a courtesy knock on the door frame.
Steve tries not to sound concerned. "Great. What's up?" Given Danny's testiness lately and his apparent deep need for Valium, or at least a decent night's sleep, 'unconcerned' is tough. The weekend's surfing accident rattled Steve more than he wanted to admit. Danny's distressed quiet afterward only deepened his sense that something is badly wrong with his partner. The only way Steve can think to protect him is to pretend everything is fine.
"Do I need an excuse, Mr. McGarrett, sir? Do I not receive fifteen vacation days a year to do with as I wish, without your kind interest?" When Steve's face freezes, he must realize how nasty he sounds, because he opens his mouth and takes a step back. "It's Grace."
Steve stands up, knocking his desk chair back. Adrenaline surges so fast and hard his heart stutters in his chest. "Grace! What's wrong? Tell me," he demands.
"Jesus!" Hands are up, waving Steve down. "Don't stain the carpet."
Steve knows he only has to remain silent to drag the story out of him, even with Danny surrounded by a nearly impenetrable cloud of pissed-off.
"It's like this," he finally says, flopping into the other office chair. "Grace is going on a class trip, and I'll be a chaperone."
"That's . . . good?"
"It's fine. It's just great."
Clearly it's neither. "Because?" There's only so far he can drag that word out.
"Because that asshole Stan, he's sending the whole class on a whale census. What does anybody need to count whales for, anyway?"
Steve snickers. "They can't very well count themselves."
"What, they're cheating on their taxes? Declaring too many dependents?"
"Six remoras and a calf." Steve can play along for a bit. He knows there is no need to say anything about endangered species or eco-tourism or anything else; Danny is nowhere near done.
"He's flying them over to Maui in his company jet." Danny's fists clench. "But he's too busy to go along, because he's got bigger fish to fry. Yes, bigger fish than whales!" he insists at Steve's raised eyebrow. "And Rachel needs to stay home. With their son."
Danny's throat moves convulsively, trying to swallow that one down, and Steve winces inwardly at the defeat on his face. But Danny's still not done. He licks his lips and says, "Grace isn't important." His voice falters. "She doesn't matter to them anymore."
"Oh, fuck." Steve has no fucking idea what to say to that, what might make Danny see reason. Last week Danny said that any man who'd stare down death to save Grace was a man he could respect. Steve's unease deepens, but it's not his kid or his fight, so he keeps his mouth shut.
"Yeah, it sounds nice, doesn't it? Good-guy step-dad. He says the jet would just be sitting around unused this week, like it's crusting over with barnacles as we speak, but I know the fucker's going to figure out some kind of tax write-off."
A little too urgently Steve says, "You'll be together. You'll have fun."
Danny does a verbal 180, but isn't any less angry. "Yeah, you know what? I don't care. My precious daughter is going to watch sea monsters and who's gonna be there for her? I am! Me, Danny Williams, Grace's father, is going to be there to spend time with her when her loving mother," he grinds that one out, "and that idiot she married are too busy."
He's up now and pacing Steve's office. Kono and Chin are giving them sidelong looks through the glass. "Stan's always gone and Rachel's busy with a newborn; you'd think under the circumstances I'd get more of the Grace-Time Continuum, but noooo. And we all know it's Stan's baby. No real estate billionaire is going to take back a woman who's been fucking her ex without some proof." His fist bangs against the glass, making Steve jump and startling their audience.
Danny's voice drops and he gets smaller before Steve's eyes. A small, pinched Danny Williams is some kind of abomination. His harsh whisper is clear in the utter silence. "At least I'll only have one child that I barely get to see instead of two. Why Rachel ever tried to suck me back into that whirlpool, I don't know. She sure as hell didn't want me."
He's been looking at Steve, but now he looks away, out through the glass at nothing. Chin and Kono start flipping pages and typing gibberish as they try desperately to look unaware.
"I don't flatter myself that she magically fell back in love with me. Not the way she dumped my ass when . . . when I didn't take the redeye to Jersey. At least it's really over now." His voice hardens again. "But they don't get to throw my daughter away, do you hear me?"
"I'm with you, Danny." He means it. It's killing him to hear Danny pour out his grief, the fear that his daughter will be abandoned, and it echoes in a place that's never been filled inside of him. "What kids want is time. It's enough, some days, just to show up. You're doing the right thing." He moves Danny out into the main office with as much of a smile as he can make, one hand on his shoulder. "It's pau hana - quitting time, and I'd kill for a plate of dim sum. It's on me. Who's coming?"
They all troop out the door, Kono taking point as Steve and Chin share a worried glance behind Danny's back. He hasn't even patted Steve down to make certain he's brought his wallet. Something's just not right.
Moku 'O Kohola
The wind is bracing and it feels good to be out on the boat. Danny's love of cities never quite edged out his wistful daydream of owning a sailboat, but that was for rich men, not for cops starting a family, and the bills never got smaller. Now he lives in a place where there's nothing but open ocean all around, and the only time he's been on a boat was to throw that poor son of a bitch into the shark cage. Danny made the most of it, pretending it was his ride as they clinked beers. Until now it was a first and last.
They haven't seen a whale yet, and Danny doesn't care if they never do. The mountains are a lot prettier from a distance. He knows he was way out of line in Steve's office yesterday, spilling his guts like his boss could do anything about it. Steve doesn't have the governor in his pocket any more, and the fact that he hung out his most personal laundry in public makes Danny cringe. He complains about everything, but that's not personal.
Half the cops he knows have been divorced, but he doesn't know any man who's lost his family twice. He wouldn't have believed anything could hurt worse than losing Rachel and Grace. Now he knows better. Losing them again was piercing agony undulled by drunken nights with Matt -- oh, God, Matt -- and every day drives another nail between his ribs. The only thing that can help him now is making sure his daughter is loved and happy.
He's out here in the breeze with Grace beside him, and she's so happy she's about to explode into a little girl's worth of sparkly confetti. He smiles at how intensely she listens to Rosie, Princess of Whales, talk about escorts and miles swum and how long a whale's gestation period is. The other kids are pretty sweet, too. They're still young enough to be polite and well-behaved and even look impressed by what Grace's dad does for a living.
Then there's a lot of shrieking from the other side of the boat; sounds like the party started. He doesn't see anything. Obviously whales aren't dogs. They don't just come running up for a whale treat. Of course, considering the noise so many excited fifth graders can make, he imagines that somewhere down there is a whale cringing and trying to stuff a fluke in its ear. Seriously, only dogs and cetaceans can hear the high notes when this herd gets going.
Then there are more earsplitting shrieks, and this time he sees a whale rise up and fall over backward with a huge splash. The humpback's pretty far away, binoculars would be better, and he applauds its good sense. But it's nice to see the kids have fun and jabber questions at Rosie.
The boat putters to a stop. "Looks like we need to stop here," says the Whale Whisperer. "There's a group to the left and one ahead of us to the south; keep watch on them especially. There's a mother and calf just west – basically, we're surrounded. We have to cut the engines because they're within 300 feet and look like they might keep on coming."
Rosie gestures to the water. "Keep your eyes on the whales. There may be more activity. We'll be waiting for one of the groups to move on so we can get going, but whale numbers have gone up almost 7% in the last year," she tells them. "Of the 18,000 Northern Pacific Humpbacks alive today, some 10,000 spend time in Maui waters. What we're sitting on top of is a big bowl of whale soup."
The kids all giggle happily. Danny is never swimming here.
Grace is back beside him, hair flying in the breeze. "Look, Danno! It's coming closer!"
If it gets any closer, it'll be in the damned boat with them. But, he has to admit, this is way cooler than he ever imagined it would be. "Grace, look! It's flirting with you, I can tell. Just look at him! A little eye contact, a slap of the fluke . . . yup, I've seen this behavior before. It's the same in every high school. You've got to watch out for that when you get a little older."
Ms. Loa is standing beside him, giggling.
"Sure, you laugh now, but he's handsome and a good swimmer." Danny winks at her conspiratorially and feels sane and normal for the first time in a long time.
By God, the thing is circling the boat. Then it starts going beneath the boat, its white underbelly flashing pale blue as it swims underneath and pops up on the other side. The kids scream at the top of their lungs and applaud wildly every time it comes up, racing from one side of the boat to the other in sheer glee. It even rubs its barnacled chin against the hull of the boat, like it's giving them thoughtful consideration.
Suddenly it appears right next to him at the rail, its face pushing up out of the water. It's staring him right in the eye, and he sucks a big lungful of salt-laden fishy air.
Cameras are clicking like tap dancers on bubble wrap.
The behemoth is eyeballing him.
"Hey, I thought we were out here to look at you, not the other way around," Danny says down to the whale.
The blue-black eye moves slightly and he can't escape the feeling that the whale has just rolled its eyes at him. He's as breathless and fascinated as the kids. He has never been this close to such a massive living thing before.
Except . . . he has.
If the whale answers him, he doesn't know it.
He's swaying with the sea on the wooden deck of a sailing ship, and they're letting down the whaleboats. His callused hand-over-hand moves the craft down the side of the ship until it smacks gently down onto the water. Then he and the others are vaulting over the rail and sliding like monkeys down to join the first mate and his boat-steerer.
"Haul, ye lads!" the booming voice of his first mate is almost enough to conquer the sound of the waves that shove and splash into their small boat. The rain of seawater cools his heated skin.
They row and they row, trailing in the wake of the whale itself, arms straining, sun beating on their backs. He likes rowing. It's simple and someone else tells him when to row, when to pull harder, when to stop. He likes pulling in tandem, strong and steady.
But something's tugging at his arm.
He tries to shake it off, keep his concentration. It's ruining his count; he can't keep the beat of their low-voiced song.
"Danno, Danno! Are you all right?"
The lower voice of Ms. Loa slides into his mind. "Mr. Williams --"
He's Will, who is Mr. Williams? He hasn't been made a mate. And when the hell did they get a woman onboard? He's rocking back and forth, trying to keep time to the song in his head.
"Hey, haul away..."
There is an almost physical snapping feeling, like a rope pulled so tight that it breaks, and Danny is back in his body, back on the whale watch boat. His daughter is looking at him with wide, frightened eyes.
"A touch of sunstroke, I guess," he tries weakly.
"Mr. Williams, come sit down now."
He does, following after Ms. Loa with careful steps. He feels more wobbly than he should, and he's glad for her hold on his arm. She leads him inside the cabin and presses an icy can of Coke into his hand. He tries to smile for Grace, to calm her down, but she is way too smart to be palmed off like that.
"What happened, Danno?"
He hands her the Coke and leans over, pressing his head to his knees. His head feels like it'll split if he doesn't. He's nauseated. His hands dig into his hair a few times before he feels enough in control of himself to sit back up. He can't exactly tell her that he was communing with the history of whaling.
"I have no idea." He doesn't. There's nothing in the world that ever gave him a reference point for this. Explaining it would be impossible. "I think maybe I have a bug or something." Or I am going insane, he thinks, and struggles not to let his eyes fill with tears at the thought of his daughter having to cope with that on top of everything else in her life.
Grace raises an eyebrow at him in a move scarily like her paternal grandmother's, but he just shakes his head carefully and takes back the Coke. Maybe some caffeine and sugar will help. He's pretty much been living on it for the past few weeks, anyway.
On the way back home, he holds Grace's hand and pretends he's asleep. After a few minutes, Grace is asleep herself, tucked against his arm, warm and soft and unshakably certain that she's safe with her dad. He tries to concentrate, but his thinking is all messed up. There's a reason why sleep deprivation is used as torture in every shithole the world's got to offer. His head feels like it's full of straight pins and fiberglass insulation. There's no direct line to coherent thought.
Danny's afraid. Fucking terrified, to put it bluntly. There's something cold crawling under his skin, and even here, sitting in his seat on the plane, he's shivering. On the inside. He's lucky his sharp kid didn't pick up on that, because this is scaring him more than anything Steve "Boom-Boom" McGarrett could come up with. The truth is, he's pretty sure he's losing his mind.
He never understood what that meant before. His mind is literally going away from him, going somewhere else. He's losing control over his own perceptions -- losing control of reality. He's a man who's always been certain of what he sees and knows, but he stood on the deck of that boat and he was somewhere else at the same time, in a place that Grace could barely reach him.
If she'd fallen over the side, he couldn't have jumped in to save her. Hell, he couldn't have saved himself. He's always been self-sufficient, a protector, not a victim, not someone in need of care. Now it's up to Kono to save him from drowning, up to the fifth grade teacher to watch his daughter.
That's not good. That's supposed to be science fiction, not Detective Daniel J. Williams' life. Danny Williams, that's who he is. Detective, that's what he is. At least he is when he's in full command of his own mind. He has always known his own mind, every back alley and dark corner, and he's always patrolled every inch. Now he can't even see the streetlights.
Lt. Commander Steven J. McGarrett notwithstanding, they don't let crazy people be cops. And as many times as he's told Steve he needs to see somebody, Danny's the one facing a padded room.
Herb For Insomnia
The next day Kono pulls him into the kitchenette and says without preamble, "I had a few sleepless nights myself, a couple months back." She ties her hair on top of her head in some convoluted thing and sticks a chopstick into it, eyes on the window. He thinks the chopstick might be sharpened to a point. "Letting a man die didn't come easy to me. Not to mention hanging out with the scum of the earth. And, a word to the wise? Don't get on the boss' bad side. His interrogations are a bitch."
Christ, he'd never spared the rookie a minute for the things she'd done in the line of duty, for that asshole Fryer. What the hell kind of friend has he been? "It shouldn't come easy to anybody. Damn, I'm sorry, Kono." He touches her cheek, lets his hand drop to squeeze her shoulder as she blinks away sudden tears. "I'm sorry."
She shakes her head, some of the hair falling back to where it was in the first place. "That's not it, what I mean is, I just -- jeez, it's not shameful, I took something for it, all right?" Now her chin's up and she stands tall, shoulders back. "Just like all the overbooked suburban mommies, I went and got some Ambien." At his surprise, she says, "It worked, is all I'm saying."
Danny stiffens as he feels his pulse aim for the ceiling. No doctors. He can't go to the doctor. There aren't nearly enough doctors in this hellhole to keep shit like this a secret. This is not work related; it's not his first shooting. It's juicy fruit, psych eval, permanent record or . . . suspension. What if he zoned out in the doctor's office? What if he zones out at work? He can feel his thoughts racing in all directions like mice from a cat.
"I, yeah, sure, I get you," and he's taking one step to the side, his body trying to run. He's fighting all his impulses to run, to escape, to throw himself into her arms, to just lie down and rest for a while.
"Here, tough guy." She rolls her eyes, hands him a half-full prescription bottle with a wry smile. "Get some sleep."
He stares blankly at the pills as she raps his head with three fingers and walks off.
Leader Into Battle
On Friday morning Lori comes in early. Steve's already at work, getting stuff done. Well, okay, not getting a whole lot done -- he came in when Danny left to take Grace to school. He couldn't hang around the house twiddling his thumbs until the day officially started.
"Can I see you in your office?"
He looks around, sees nobody else. "Sure, I guess. If you want." This has to be something serious. He leads her in and closes the door behind her. He wonders briefly if she plans to quit.
"You have permission to speak freely." She gives him a strange look, and he realizes maybe that wasn't the right opener.
"Good," she says. "Because you need to do something about Danny."
Ouch. She's usually direct but that was straight to the jaw.
"What do you mean?" he asks casually. There's got to be some way to deflect this. He already knows what she's going to say. Not exactly, but he knows well enough.
"I don't do a lot of profiling here," she says. "However, I'd like to take this opportunity to share my thoughts on Detective Williams."
"Hold it right there." He still has the ring of authority when he cares to. He steps closer, using his size to make his point. "There is no reason or need for you to be profiling Danny. His life, frankly, is none of your business." You're an outsider, he means. You don't belong here.
"Yes. There is." She's well aware of what he means. "Danny's endangering himself and others, and that makes it my business." Her bitter blue gaze could freeze him solid. "A reminder -- you're not my boss. The governor is. Sit. Down."
She's serious. For the first time ever, she's pulled the power card. Not about any of the things they've done as a team, things that he knows were far over the line, but about Danny. That makes him more uneasy than anything else he's heard. He sits.
This woman is a threat. He doesn't know what she wants, but she's threatening his partner, his friend, and by extension, all of them. She came here to be the watchdog. She could be trying to take down the entire team.
He'd have followed that line of thought, except the whole rest of the team minus Danny just opened the door and walked in. Chin looks distressed. That takes a lot. Kono's back is straight and so is the line of her otherwise full lips.
"Really? You, too, really?" They're here to support Lori. For one blistering second, they've become traitors. Steve has to grit his teeth to keep from doing something unpardonable. "Cornering me in my office. Nice." He jerks his head toward Lori. "I'd have expected this from her." Even though he hadn't. He's trying to save some tooth enamel here, so he waves his hand in a circle. "Explain." He stares the words out of Chin.
"Sorry, Steve, but this what they call an intervention."
"And what does that mean?" He stands, fists clenched so tight that the blood's not getting to his knuckles.
Kono's lips are back in use. "It means we're scared."
Those are words he'd never imagined coming out of Kono's mouth. That's how he knows it's time to sit back down and listen. He takes a deep breath. "All right. Let's get this over with."
"Before he separated from Rachel, Danny was on the fast track, with several commendations and a sterling record. During the first six months of their separation leading to the divorce, Danny was written up once for insubordination and once for what sounds like showing up at work with a massive hangover.
"His captain confined him to desk duty and made a note about 'slovenly appearance' and 'unprofessional behavior'. Steve, he was disintegrating before their eyes. And that was just from the break-up of his marriage and family."
“So what? He's nothing like that now! I haven't seen him with a drink in months!"
"His move to Hawai'i meant a new job, hazing at work, and financial troubles. That was before he met you. Since joining your team, Commander, he has been shot, injured, poisoned, and his best friend was murdered. He reconciled with his wife, lost his family again, lost his new job, infiltrated a foreign country in order to rescue you, had his daughter kidnapped, and shot a decent man to save her life."
Steve is almost grateful that she doesn't mention Matt or the ten million dollars. It's good to know some secrets are still their own. He avoids looking at Chin and Kono, wondering if they're thinking the same thing.
"So it's my fault." Steve grates out. "What, I've destroyed Danny's life?" He glares at his accusers.
"And by the way, Commander McGarrett." Lori drops her notes and skewers him like a fencing master. "Are you aware that it was not Joe White, but Danny Williams who spearheaded your rescue? Without Danny to save your sorry ass, we'd have never known when or where you died."
His hearing fades out and it leaves his ears ringing; shaking his head only makes it worse. Why had he thought it was all Joe? Okay, the logistics and Joe's buddies from Seal Team 9 and, well, everything. But . . . Danny? Of course. Joe hadn't even known he was gone. Danny knew. Danny was the last person he'd spoken to before he lost contact -- before he was taken. The first face he saw from the blackness inside that truck, the face he thought would end his life, was the face of the man who'd set his rescue in motion.
Steve's sour gut clamps down. The words ricochet in his now-empty head as she keeps talking.
"The only thing he has held onto throughout all of this has been his sense of duty as a police officer. Now he's losing even that."
Chin finally jumps in, but it's not as a defender. "Would the Danny you knew a year ago have punched a restrained suspect? Taunted a witness with a live grenade, or threatened one with drowning? Would he have helped you torment a blindfolded, bound man and push him over a cliff?"
"He didn't help!"
Kono says, "He didn't try to stop you."
While Steve is trying to right himself from that left hook, Lori finally cracks. "He's like a zombie. On Monday he fell asleep at a red light on University. And he was driving! Do you even realize what's happening to your best friend?"
Even as he feels a hot flush of shame at her words, something relaxes a little within him. Lori isn't a threat to Danny, she's trying to help him. So are Chin and Kono.
"Steve, please! Before the worst happens, do something!"
The light hits Lori's eyes oddly and he realizes she's starting to cry, but she dashes the tears away, slaps her portfolio shut as she rises, and stalks from the room, nearly walking into the doorframe on the way out. Kono almost leaps up to follow her out. Instead of leaving immediately, Chin moves to stand next to him. He puts a hand on Steve's shoulder as Steve rubs his face with his palms.
"It'll be okay," Chin says. "You'll fix this, and we're going to help you." After a quick squeeze, he follows the others out, leaving Steve at his desk. He wants to call them back, say he's sorry, that he's grateful, but he's got nothing. Nothing but a brass-band headache, a guilty conscience and a pile of worries he's been trying hard to whitewash.
Fuck, now he has to do something about it, about Danny. He considers what Lori has told him and he realizes one thing -- Danny is hurting. The guy might as well have been gutshot. In fact, if he thinks about it like that, Danny is wounded.
Now he knows what he has to do. That sick feeling is back but at least he has a direction. The one thing he knows for sure is - Danny is going to hate this.
At least it's Friday.
A cop walks into his boss' office. The punch line to that one is never funny.
God, he feels awful. He can barely think. He's got lead ball bearings rolling and banging from ear to ear, and more lead in his shoes. His vision is blurry and his depth perception uncertain. He's not sure he could even tell if he's walking in a straight line. He was afraid he'd rear-end somebody on the highway while taking Grace to school this morning. He aches all over, like his muscles just can't rebound from the beating they take in his dreams. There are tremors running down from his shoulders, making his hands quiver.
Danny remembers the last time he took the long walk into his boss' office.
The shame is seared into his soul. This time it's better, because he hasn't been drinking himself into a stupor every night, and also worse, because it's Steve. Steve, the man he admires and genuinely likes more than anyone else he knows, despite his tendency to blow shit up. The man he's been . . . face it, the man he's been thinking crazy thoughts about whenever he has enough brain cells to think. Steve, whose body fascinates him with its planes, ridges, angles; the man he wants to reach out and touch.
"Have a seat."
Steve's got a fake smile plastered all over his face, except for those deep lines of concern around his eyes he's got no control over; Christ, what a lousy actor. He can't believe it. Danny's mouth beats up and hogties the last of his common sense. "Knowing as I do that you have run undercover operations all over the world, I cannot imagine how they succeeded."
Steve looks blank. "What?" Clearly he had some kind of script, and Danny just blew it out of the water.
He's tired. He's so, so tired. "Cut the crap. Please. I know why I'm here."
Steve leans back in his chair, suddenly looking tired himself as his facade drops. "You tell me, then."
"Things aren't working out with me. I'm no longer performing up to 5-0 Task Force standards."
To Danny's utter horror, the anvil that he hadn't even realized was hanging over his head comes hurtling down, smashing his life into glistening shards. Oh, God, it was true. He was thinking he'd get his knuckles rapped, but that's not it. 5-0 demands more out of its people than any ordinary police force; why hadn't he factored that in? For a moment, he can't speak. Steve is waiting. Danny clears his throat, not even sure if that will let the words come out of his mouth.
"I'm . . ." He can do this. "I'll turn in my badge and my gun now. Chin can delete my access codes immediately. I'll be out of here in five."
He has no idea where he's going to go. His car isn't exactly livable. He stands, flips his badge onto the desk. He needs to take the handful of steps out of Steve's office before he breaks in half. His body is confused. It wants to go comfort Steve, who looks -- appalled. Stricken.
"Danny, no! That's -- you're -- stop!"
A bright red rocket of hope shears through him and then, just as fast, fizzles. He squares his shoulders, but he can't help snapping, "What?"
Steve's standing now, too, and the expression on his face -- Danny's never seen anything like it, some strange combination of hurt and fear. Steve is silent almost long enough for Danny to turn around and leave, his lips parted, but then out of his mouth stumbles, "I think . . . I think you might have a brain tumor."
His words soar into the stratosphere. "Did you fall out of your palm tree?"
"Danny." Steve's in front of him, giant hands so familiar now clasping his shoulders gently, as if he really could break in half. He's staring soulfully, eyes luminous with concern. "You've been having headaches --"
How Steve knew that, he has no idea. "Everybody has a headache once in a while, especially around a maniacal partner who thinks 'overkill' is short for 'not nearly enough'!"
"That's more like it," murmurs Steve, visibly relaxing. "It's not just the headaches, though." He's so close, talking softly. "You can't sleep. You fell off your stick, brah, and you were unconscious."
"Stick?" Danny's voice has shifted to match Steve's, low and gentle, as he counts the colors in Steve's eyes.
"Your surfboard." Steve speaks in soothing, deep tones like he's talking to a scared dog. Danny can't find it in himself to get angry about that. "You've gone into fugue states that sound like PTSD."
He doesn't get it. "What?" He's still mesmerized. It's got to be a previously unknown Ninja Steve thing. "I'm getting a crick in my neck." But he doesn't tell Steve to back off, and for a shining moment he thinks Steve's going to lean in and kiss him. He can feel Steve's breath, smell the darkness of coffee he was drinking. He can almost feel the press of those warm, soft lips, the only soft thing about Steve, but they move away.
Steve slides one hand up to massage Danny's neck. God, that feels good.
"Grace called me after the whale watch. You scared her that day."
Danny finally looks down, away. "I'm sorry." He is. He was then, and he is now.
"I didn't know what to do about it." Steve's thumb slides up into his hair, along his scalp. "I want you to pass a complete physical before you come back." Warm voice. Warm hand. "You have an appointment for Monday. You've got to take some time off work, though. Just until you're feeling better."
Danny's not losing his job. He's not losing . . . his partner.
Steve says, "I'm taking the afternoon off. There's nothing going on here. Let's go home."
It sounds so much better than breaking his life into a million little pieces. When Steve folds Danny's fingers around his badge and steers him out of the office, palm still under his collar and warming the back of his neck, he goes without protest. On their way to the front door, Steve pauses.
"We're heading out for the weekend, yeah?"
Chin squeezes Danny's shoulder. To his amazement, both Kono and Lori kiss him, one beautiful woman for each cheek. Undoubtedly they heard every word. He wouldn't put it past his team to use listening devices. He ought to be furious that they all knew; it was probably a conspiracy. Instead, he's just grateful that they cared enough. His team won't abandon him, and neither will Steve.
E Manahalo ā 'Ike I Ke 'Au
Paddle Until You know How To Swim
Steve jerks full awake at the banging of pots and pans. He'd think the place was being tossed, it's not the first time he's been awakened by intruders, but the real intruders were much quieter, and they didn't stop to fry bacon in the middle of the night. Also, the kitchen cacophony is accompanied by . . . singing? He's gotta see this. Then, of course, he's going to chew Danny a new asshole.
"It's my life, it's now or never, I ain't gonna live forever." Danny's singing too loud for Steve not to hear, but not loud enough to be rousting him on purpose. "I just wanna live while I'm alive."
Surprise: Danny's got a nice voice. He's moving to the music in his head. He can move, too, hips swinging, shoulders swaying in time, conducting the stove with a whisk in one hand and an egg carton in the other. He knew Danny did some lifting; it was obvious to anyone who ever looked twice. Those too-tight long-sleeved shirts were nothing but an eye-catching distraction. Some days he thought he'd be better off if Danny would just let it all hang out so he could stop wondering.
Now he knows he was wrong.
Because Danny's making himself a midnight snack while naked as a jaybird. He has two deep dimples, one just above the center of each muscular ass cheek. Steve draws a long breath between dry teeth. He's never seen anything he wanted more desperately to press his lips against. His tongue flicks his upper lip without thought. He's trying to convince himself to turn away, which is why he's caught flat-footed by Danny's swivel.
"My heart is like an open highway --"
He's welded to the floor. There's no way he can move now. Danny is beautiful. Stunning. The man's a work of art, muscle strapping his compact body in curved lines of highlight and shadow under the hard ceiling light. Steve tries to stop his eyes from drifting down, but it doesn't work. Danny's cock is just as beautiful as the rest of him, heavy and soft in the light brown curls. There's a firm, full weight of balls pushing it forward and up a little as if it's expecting attention.
If he thought it would do him any good, Steve would beg to go down on his knees for Danny right here in the kitchen.
When he follows that trail upward, past the slightly blonder thicket of chest hair, Danny's grinning, looking at him in a way Steve hasn't seen in a long time. Like he's the next best thing to New Jersey. Given this afternoon, he thought he'd never see that look again. He can't come up with enough spit to answer the cheerful, "Hey, babe!"
It doesn't matter. Danny's face loses its glow. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to -- I'm the last man who'd want to keep anybody from sleeping, you least of all, you've been through so much lately, and I haven't been helping --"
Steve finds enough moisture to say, "For God's sake, Danny." His voice cracks. "You saved my life." Somehow he keeps his eyes above the hard brown nipples. "And now I'm going to save yours, or at least the lives of your future children." Danny opens his mouth, confused, but Steve doesn't give him a chance. "Turn off the bacon for a minute, will you?"
Danny shrugs. "Sure, you want some? It's barely started, I can put in extra."
"Yes! Yes!" Anything to get the man to turn around. Steve's already loping into the laundry room to grab anything he can find. A sheet, if necessary. There's something right on top, sweats that Steve wore last night while tinkering with the car, smears of grease, but he's desperate. He doesn't want to dig for clothes in the pile of sheets and blankets on the couch, and besides, what if the guy sleeps naked?
That's something Steve's tried like hell to avoid thinking about. He always puts clothes on a sleeping Danny in his head, like his partner's some kind of paper doll. And Steve's out swimming or running when Danny's alarm goes off. He avoids soft-faced, rough-voiced morning Danny if he can; it's so close and yet so far from what he wants to have in his house. In his life.
"Here you go," he says as Danny's laying more strips of bacon into the pan. He holds up the sweats in between them like he can protect himself from Danny's nakedness, as if he won't be seeing that when he closes his eyes.
"You sure? It seems plenty warm in here." Danny shrugs, still poking at the bacon, bowl of eggs temporarily forgotten on the counter.
"You've been slaving over a hot stove. Trust me. The splatter of bacon grease is death to your posterity." He thanks anybody who's listening when Danny takes the damned clothes.
"Posterity?" It's the same smartass tone Steve uses when giving Danny shit for his outsized vocabulary, and the same indulgent smirk. "My posterior is just fine." Steve knew that already. He's floored when Danny moves away from the stove, pulls the clothes up to his face, and smiles that big open smile he misses so much. "Smells like you. Nice."
He can't reply to that because it's unanswerable, and also because of Danny's next move. What Steve hadn't realized was that Danny would have to bend over to get the pants on. Now he can only hope his untucked t-shirt hides enough of his growing discomfort.
Is Danny drunk? For a man who only recently finally quit wearing ties, this is just . . . too much. He doesn't seem drunk, but once Danny's dressed, with too-long sweats dragging at his heels and sleeves pushed up, Steve slides over next to him at the stove. Danny adjusts the extra bacon to his personal preference and turns the flame back on. There's only the rising fragrance of bacon, hair gel, and the warm scent of Danny's body as Danny slides an arm around his waist.
Steve's only human. After a spark of dismay, he sways into Danny, wrapping an arm around his broad shoulders. There's serious muscle flexing under his palm. He should have known enough not to touch Danny. As if popping a boner at the sight of his ass wasn't bad enough, now he's copping a feel.
"I deserve a hug. I'm celebrating."
He's got no idea what Danny could be celebrating after a rotten day like today, but he's more certain than ever of his off-the-wall diagnosis. How do people with brain tumors act? Crazy? Erratic? "That's great!" He's ultra-casual. "What's the occasion?"
"I finally had a decent dream. Not like all those shitty dreams where my wife and baby son die, me and my shipmates butcher and boil down whales -- it was horrible, the smell alone, my God!" He shudders. "Then there was that one where our ship founders on a reef, goes down with all hands except yours truly, and I almost drown in the storm, too." Danny grimaces and gives Steve's waist a squeeze. "Tonight's was much better."
All the good feelings that welled up from Danny leaning in and holding him drain right out his feet onto the floor, leaving a yawning sadness in the empty space. "Those really were lousy dreams. Is that . . . is that what's been going on?"
"I know, right? I mean, it's not really me, it's some guy from whaling days, but," his fingers dig into Steve's ribs as he turns bacon over, "it feels like me."
Dreams. Nightmares. "I'm sorry." Steve, of all people, knows how that is.
"That's okay, I don't want to talk about them, or even think about 'em." Danny's beaming up, bright eyes warm. "Tonight, my friend, you taught me how to swim."
He doesn't even know how to process that. His eyes widen and his voice is quiet when he asks, "I was in your dream?"
"Sure! And who wouldn't want to be in my dreams, now, I ask you?" Danny winks. "It so happens that you were first in line."
Danny's moving off, leaving Steve's hand empty and useless without him. He whisks eggs into the pan, and he doesn't worry about them getting mixed up with the bacon. Steve hates that. Bacon belongs all by itself, crisp and delicious. If you're going to clog your arteries, do it right. But tonight? There are a lot of other things that are more important.
His partner's still talking. "You've had a starring role in several already." Danny stirs the eggs and bacon as offhandedly as if he's talking about the weather.
"Those were the bad ones?" It's almost a whisper. Please, not bad dreams.
"Nah, those were the less-bad ones. Some of them are pretty good." Danny's looking straight at him as his amusement softens. It's that way Danny used to look at him all the time, before he lost his family again. There's that same sweet smile, too, before he leans down to dish up the food.
"So, swimming?" They're powering through their disgusting eggy bacon, and while Steve admits he's eaten a lot worse, it's a serious travesty. Now it looks like Danny's slowing down some.
"Yeah," Danny shakes his head. "Jesus, I was scared. Really scared, of the water. It almost ate me alive, and sure, the water around the beaches looks innocent, but it's still attached to the water at the Offshore Grounds. Your ship goes down on you in a storm and you're gonna give some stinkeye to the sea, right? The seas around the Cape, they literally roar and try to drag a ship apart, try to swallow you whole. Nah, the sea was not my favorite thing."
The fork is in the air keeping time with his words. "But you can't keep a Kanaka out of the water. It's like they're all part fish, you know? Like you. And they don't even have to take their shirts off." His grin lights up the dim corners of the kitchen. "No shirt, no pants, no problem."
Steve laughs; he can hardly admit he used to take his shirt off in hopes of impressing Danny. That's not going to fly.
"So there I am, and you're leading me into the water, I mean not you-you, but my friend, the one who saved me from drowning, dude's got really big hands like yours, which was good because I got caught in this rip tide once -- but that was another time."
Those don't sound like smiling words but Danny smiles. "He tells me it's so easy that even a baby can do it. Tells me how he was found lounging in the middle of a pack of savage turtles when he was just a toddler. Sure, I'll buy that bridge. Anyway, he gets me in as far as my waist and we just squat down and let ourselves bob, like turtles. And he doesn't let go of my hand, not once."
Now he's serious. "I think I've got it handled, I'm really going to do this. I'm going to learn to swim. Because I'm just that brave, or possibly that stupid."
"I'd go with stupidly brave," Steve says, just to show he's listening. He doesn't want this fountain of Danny-words to dry up, so he'd better prime the pump.
"Sure." Danny squints at him. "That must be why they call you Smooth Dog. Okay, then we're still holding hands, and he puts his face in the water, like he wants me to do the same thing, so I do it. Wow, did I freak." He shakes his head. "I'm in three feet of water having a full blown panic attack! He has to pick me up and carry me onto the beach. I think I must have spent half an hour clinging to him and shaking like a puppy in a storm. All he did was rub my back and hum this song. Sounded like a lullaby but was something about Honu."
"Wow." There's not much else he can say to that.
"But in the end, over a lot of days, I got better at not freaking, and I got better at swimming. He'd hold me while I put my face in the water and kicked, so I'd know I couldn't go under." He pauses thoughtfully. "Panic attacks and turtle lullabies. I mean, my dreams are no weirder than my waking life, have you noticed that, Steven?"
"Yeah. I've noticed," Steve says softly.
"Always your strength to hold onto. At least that part's the same."
"Yeah. His voice is suddenly gone scratchy. "I've always got your back, partner."
Danny yawns suddenly. "Hey! I am finally sleepy again," he says in a pleased tone. "Man, it's been ages since I could get some real sleep. Tired, yes. Sleepy, no." He scoops up their plates and the skillet and dumps it all in the sink. "See you in the morning, aikane."
Steve is left blinking at his back as Danny wanders out of the kitchen scratching his head and yawning some more. He's so wound up now that he thinks he might not get to sleep again. Danny's already gone without another word, so Steve does the dishes. The hot water soothes him and the familiar motions ease his mind. This has been the strangest late night conversation he's had with Danny, and there have been a few. Something is seriously off. The whole last half hour has been positively surreal.
Danny's always been affectionate, or at least he was until a few months ago, but always in a manly way, back-slapping hugs and firm handshakes and the occasional shoulder bump. He would never have rambled calmly about holding hands with Steve -- or whoever's taken his place inside Danny's head. Like that doesn't bother Steve. At all.
Calm? He was positively wistful. And there was no way in hell he would ever admit to being terrified of the water or needing to be held and sung to. Not in the daylight, anyway.
Steve has a fleeting wish that he could keep this Danny. Just for himself, for the times they're home together. He doesn't want to share him with anyone else. Not this open book version. He wants to sit here at midnight, eat junk food and hear more stories, like some crazy Hawai'ian 1,001 Nights. It all sounds familiar, like fairy tales from his childhood. Dreamy and nostalgic and half-real. Being called aikane, best friend, in the language of this land, by Danny . . . that is beyond precious.
By the time he's washed up the plates and left the pan in the drainer, Danny is asleep on the couch, breathing deep and steady. He gets a little hum of pleasure in his throat when he sees that Danny is still wearing his t-shirt.
Steve doesn't get to sleep for a long time, but when he does, he dreams of a small boy in the water, black hair streaming, and the turtles that carry him to shore. Then there is a green-gray shell under his pudgy fingers and the taste of salt when he kisses their smooth heads as they bob around him. He nuzzles up to their noses and laughs when they rub his little round nose back again, beaky faces cool and wet against his own.
The water is half of the world and the sun is the other half. They float along together and the honu never let him sink. He tumbles like a coconut in the gentle wavelets until he feels the sand under his fingers and grabs wet handfuls. He is still playing happily between the sand and the surf when great big warm hands pick him up and cradle him to warm breasts.
The dark-haired boy cries a little when the big people take him away from Honu and his friends, but he is smiling again soon, as they feed and play with him. Words filled with pleasure and gratitude flow over him like the warm waters; that is enough. "Pepe," they say, "Pepe u'i, keiki kane lilo, loa'a kakou 'oe."
The sun crashes onto the water, sailor's delight, its reds and golds broken over the ocean, creeping up the mountains. There was never anything like this in his old home. He can't say he misses it. And he's got family here now. The endless shifting family that surrounds 'Aumakua -- that's what he calls his protector since he found out what that word meant; the man seems a guardian spirit to Will -- took him to their hearts without a second thought. 'Aumakua told them Will was a gift from Kanaloa, god of the sea, and they embraced him as their own.
Older ladies tease him in the flowery language he doesn't understand. "They say you are pretty. They admire your bright hair. They offer to . . . walk in the moonlight with you," says his friend.
"I . . . I . . ." Will has no wish to offend either his friend or the teasing ladies.
"My family cares for you." 'Aumakua laughs. "Do not worry. I tell them you will only walk out with me." And he had. They've come out to the edge of the sunset. The moon is hooked upon the enormous brown mountain to the southeast; Will cannot pronounce its name. The water is calm, but palms swish lightly against a higher breeze.
They lean against each other's shoulders in the fashion Will has become used to, and impulsively he leans closer to touch the black markings on the man's chest. They fascinate him. So close, they are very nearly irresistible, but everything he has ever been taught stays his hand in midair. For all of 'Aumakua's touches, Will has never touched him back in the same way. The markings are dulled in the fading color of the sky. They are bewitching. Beautiful, like this strange and wonderful man.
"They tell my story," 'Aumakua says softly.
When Will's gaze shifts to the other side of 'Aumakua's chest, he sees the outline of a turtle. "Honu?" he asks, voice a little uncertain around the strange word. 'Aumakua smiles broadly at him, like a proud teacher. Then his gaze softens and he reaches over and picks up Will's hand. Gently, as if Will were fragile, 'Aumakua draws Will's hand close enough that his fingers touch the warm marked skin.
He wants to pull away. He should pull away. His hand is shaking with it. But when 'Aumakua releases his hand, Will's fingers move on their own across his chest, following the swirls and lines indelibly marked into his friend's skin, raising goosebumps as they pass.
"I have long awaited your touch," says 'Aumakua softly. "This is how it should be between us, aikane, do you not know that?"
"I . . . it's wrong. I should not touch you at all!" Will has heard of these things. He never thought he would know them. The sins of Sodom, men with men, his preacher had thundered about from the pulpit on those long-resented Sunday mornings. How could he have known that his joy with 'Aumakua would lead to sin?
'Aumakua smiles a little sadly. "Your people tell us that so much is wrong -- what we wear, how we live, who we love. What is really wrong?"
There were men on the Swallow, evil men, who cornered the young ones and forced them. One day he came upon Elisha Whipple and Toby Barnes, the man hard against the boy's back, the boy's face pressed against the cabin wall. Tears ran down his cheeks. Will had dragged the man off and loosened his front teeth with a blow that left his knuckles bleeding. He left the man sprawled on the deck, helped the boy back to his bunk, and soothed him with balm and a glass of precious rum.
"You are my beloved friend, my dear one. I would never hurt you and you would never hurt me. So how can it be wrong?"
'Aumakua is not cruel Elisha Whipple. He would never hurt Will, and Will could no more think of harming him than he would have hurt his Sarah. He loves this man as he did his wife. Everything is different now. When the tips of his fingers tentatively stroke 'Aumakua's skin, his friend draws in a breath.
"Will," he whispers. Will turns up his face and one of those enormous hands cups his jaw. " 'O ku'u aloha no 'oe."
He doesn't know what those words are, but he feels them brush his face just before the tender touch of lips. He jerks back, very nearly toppling, but 'Aumakua lowers him down to the cooling sand. "You are fearful? Were you not with a woman?"
Will has not felt desire for so long that it shocks him inside. He thinks he did not even recognize its presence until this moment. Curiosity has turned to a need for his friend's kiss that he cannot explain, least of all to himself. Even though he knows he should roll away, even strike out, he pulls 'Aumakua closer, pulls him down to lay on top of Will. The naked weight of him makes Will moan. He and Sarah were never naked with each other.
By this touch he is breaking the law, breaking the teachings of his church, and it doesn't matter. This is who he is now in this faraway place. It is wondrous, like being home, being safe, being exactly where he should always have been. Where he should always have wanted to be.
'Aumakua's warm hands are gliding over him so gently, so reverently that he cannot be afraid even as his clothing is removed piece by piece. He has never been naked before another, open to his gaze, in this way. He has never lain beneath the open sky and felt the sea breeze on his heated skin under the eyes of a lover. When he was washed, that was to make him well. This is to make him happy. He wants to be happy. More, he wants to make 'Aumakua happy, too.
'Aumakua kisses his face, his hair, his chest. He pushes up, unthinking, against the hands that hold him. His sex is filled, he is ready. For what, he does not know. His pastor had never explained the details of a man loving a man, and Will knows Elisha Whipple did not love.
"Slowly, ku'u ipo."
"No!" Will hears the soft words, but he cannot obey them. "Please!" He pulls 'Aumakua hard against him and ruts up, overwhelmed and reckless with it. It has been so long, and this has never felt like his whole world before. He is gasping, needy, ready --
At the bang of the door, Danny heaves up, panting, wits scattered.
It's Steve, coming in from swimming, water droplets falling down his skin in the slanted light. "Sorry, D." He hangs his head apologetically. "Didn't mean to wake you."
"Then why'd you --" It's automatic, even with clouds in his head, that he'll have a comeback, but the rest of it's eclipsed by the sight of Steve. Steve right out of the ocean, white smile, head to toe dripping wet, all rangy muscle and tattoos. Steve. Stephen. 'Aumakua. They don't just remind Danny of each other. Danny's seen this man before. He's loved this man before.
Stunned, he drops back onto the couch before he remembers his dick is standing straight up under the covers. Flinging himself onto his side, he grumbles, "Go away." Move along, nothing to see here. Just a man losing the last vestiges of sanity on your couch.
Danny hears Steve jog up the stairs and clunk the sticky bathroom door shut as he reaches down to curl his fingers around his dick. He hasn't needed it so bad in a long time. It's just -- why couldn't he at least have finished that dream? He gives himself a long slide of palm through his pants and wonders where the hell the sweats came from, why's he wearing Steve's clothes?
The minute the thought floats across, he doesn't care why anymore, only that he's wearing them. He's wearing Steve's clothes, and his body feels them all over, soft, firm cotton touching him everywhere. He rolls his shoulders into the fabric, testing, tugging. He's still too nearly asleep to be anything but honest with himself. Right now there is a part of him, a very large part, that wants to be wrapped up in Steve McGarrett.
He wants to roll in the clothes like a puppy, wallow in his dreams, press and tug the shirt and pants everywhere, all around. The faded t-shirt is tight across his chest, and it pulls. There's a big faded plastic-y insignia on it that must have been rubbing on his nipples all damn night, like a lover's hands, making him extra-sensitive. One hand clutching his dick, he uses the other to pull the tee up to his nose. Yeah, that's it. The scent in his nose merges with the one from his dreams - sweat, maile, ginger, the ocean. That's why he was dreaming about . . . that man. The man who's really Steve.
God, he's so hard. He can hear the shower running and knows he doesn't have much time.
The guy wasn't kidding about the three minute showers, but it takes him another five minutes to shave and two more to dress. Danny hasn't been keeping track or anything. In the shower . . . oh, hell, yeah, he's seen Steve's naked chest enough to know exactly what it looks like, and now he knows why it got burned into his brain. There's been more going on in his brain than he ever realized, and it's all about his partner, but fuck, he can think about that later. Danny's not going to feel guilty about his fantasy life.
Wet, the man was just standing in front of him dripping wet, and now he's upstairs soaping himself. The idea of Steve's freakishly large and well-formed hands slipping down his own golden abdomen, maybe even touching himself while Danny is down here and touching himself …
Yeah. Steve's doing it, too. Danny knows it's happening. The shower hasn't stopped. The three minute rule shattered a minute ago, and that's the only reason it does. Steve will walk out of the bathroom looking a little more relaxed, Danny's seen it before, but today Danny's looking behind that small smile for the first time, looking into the shower.
The soft cotton under his fingers rubs his cock, gently at first, then harder. Tighter. Danny and Steve, they're jacking themselves together, Steve's fingers so long and so strong as he moves the skin. His piece is bound to be big like the rest of him, red and heavy, dripping water that Danny would love to lick away.
All of a sudden he can feel that cock in his mouth, sliding on his tongue, too big and just enough. He can taste it, salty with a hint of soap. His imagination is way better than he ever thought. In his head, Danny's letting the steamy water roll down his back as Steve grabs the shower stall with both hands and comes with a shout, splattering come on Danny's face.
Danny groans as he pumps his dreams into his hand. Steve's sweats are dirty now, wet and hot. There's a lightning-swift stab of satisfaction now that Steve's clothing smells of both of them. He's still floating, completely drained, by the time a loose-limbed Steve comes down the stairs and gives him a curious glance.
"You feeling okay?"
"The best," he mumbles, wondering how he's going to get up and walk away from this one. He's fuzzy after an orgasm anyway, and that was the most intense he's had since . . . never mind. Now there's a cooling, spreading map of the islands on Steve's sweats. When Steve turns his back to go into the kitchen, Danny fumbles off the couch, wrapping the sheet around him as if he's naked underneath. He feels like he is.
To Secretly Love
When Danny gets downstairs from his shower, Steve makes a subtle opening to talk about last night's little chat. "So," he says, trying for nonchalance, and, by Danny's squinty-eyed look, failing. "Did you get a good night's sleep?"
Danny's lips part but he doesn't answer for a moment, like that wasn't what he was expecting and he doesn't know how to respond. "Yeah. As a matter of fact, I did." He sounds surprised. "I slept great. I didn't wake up once all night!" While Steve's processing that, he wanders over to the refrigerator and peers in. "Hey! Where's my bacon?"
Amnesia. He's got amnesia. It's looking even more like Steve's wild swing was right on the money. It's . . . horrifying. It opens up a chasm right in front of his feet, the idea of Danny so ill, maybe even dying. There's no way he wants to rattle Danny's cage when he thinks he slept all night long, not right now. Steve is so, so not ready for that.
The brain tumor was only a stupid idea that came jumping out of his mouth, just a crazy excuse that he didn't really believe, except now . . . it's not looking like such a long shot. He says, "Sorry. I was hungry last night. I'm just glad I didn't wake you up."
"You?" The blue eyes are comically wide. "You. Got the munchies. You? And you got up in the middle of the night to eat bacon -- my bacon, I might add, and then this morning you have the balls to say, "I'm sorry?" You should be groveling, my friend, not for eating my bacon, per se, or at least not merely for that, but for all the times that you dissed my food habits and even bacon itself, innocent of all wrongdoing as it --" and Steve lets the the flow of words wash his dread away.
"Let me take you and Grace out for breakfast. You're going to see her today, right?"
"Yeah, I was going to pick her up pretty soon."
Over Steve's dead body. "I can drive." Over Danny's objection, he says, "You know how much she loves to ride in the truck!" And that's all it takes to get Danny off the road without complaint for at least another few hours. "Listen, we can stop at the grocery store and stock up. She'll stay the night, right? We need some food, and I'll buy us all plenty of bacon." In just a few words, he put the driving issue off for most of the weekend.
Danny looks at him suspiciously. "You sure you got your wallet with you?"
"Right here." He pulls it out, a little surprised that Danny's eyes follow his hand as he reaches for his back pocket and flashes his bank card. That's all it takes to make the guy happy, at least for a few minutes, and that's good. There could be some tough times ahead.
Saturday night Grace is there, brightening up the place just by being herself. She and Danny have spent the day outside, Danny actually bestirring himself to go into the water. No doubt he complained of sea monsters and giant jellyfish the whole time, or maybe that's only for Steve. They splashed and played and dog paddled around; he saw them from the window.
Steve worked on the car for a while, and later he pretended to read. He wasn't going to come between father and daughter today, even if it killed him to sit around in the house alone. And he sure as hell wasn't leaving.
That turned out to be okay, since Grace finds him in the garage on one of her attempts to turn the house into a sand castle. She's pink from the sun, her brows pinching over worried eyes. "Uncle Steve?" The two words are a question, as if he might be mad that she interrupted him. Then she looks over her shoulder, checking for Danny, he thinks, and comes closer.
"Hey, sweetheart." He gives in to his urge to hold out his arms, and she walks right into them. "You give such good hugs."
"You do, too."
"What's on your mind?" He lifts her to sit on top of the hood.
"Did I do the right thing to call you about the whale watch? I felt like I was telling on him. But mom is really busy and tired, and she would've gone hewahewa." She eyes him warily, waiting.
"You did the right thing." He's more than happy to reassure her. "You can always call me when something goes wrong or you're scared. You could save someone's life." He especially doesn't say, 'your dad's life.' He puts his hands on his thighs and scrunches down to eye level. "Your dad needs some rest, and a few days off work. He hasn't had a vacation in almost two years. This kind of work is pretty stressful."
She nodded. "We talk about stress in school." Schools really are getting stranger. "Danno seems a lot better today. But you're going to take care of him, right?"
And Danny says he's got puppy eyes. "I sure will, Gracie. Your dad's going to be fine." He hopes.
Relieved, she flashes him a brilliant smile, slides off the car, gives his waist another quick squeeze, and runs back into the house. He smiles after her, not even counting the sand scratches on the front quarter or the foot marks from the way down.
To Steve's relief, they finally come in for an evening of spaghetti and Monopoly to which Steve is graciously invited. After Grace has gone to bed, Danny not-so-subtly stretches, yawns and makes time-to-hit-the-sack noises. Steve is upstairs and staring into the dark by 10:30 p.m., which leaves him a little nonplussed. But he figures the early bedtime will pay off if he has to get up in the middle of the night. Sure enough, it does.
When Danny gets up he's very quiet, but Steve hears him because he's been waiting in his sleep. He pulls on a tee shirt and wanders downstairs. Danny is in the kitchen again, this time making himself a peanut butter sandwich. His hair is tufting over his forehead like Woody Woodpecker, but at least he's dressed this time.
"Hey," he says softly. "You want one?" And Danny starts to make Steve a duplicate of his own sandwich. Steve is nonplussed. This dreamy-eyed Danny is nothing like the nude karaoke act he'd seen last time. Thank God, he says silently.
"What the hell are you putting on that sandwich?" Steve asks and Danny frantically shushes him.
"Shh! Grace is upstairs asleep, you moron." In a less hectic tone but still softly, he answers, "This, my friend, is the supreme comfort food of kids all up and down the east coast." He brandishes a knife dripping with something thick and white and like nothing Steve has ever seen near peanut butter. "This," Danny announces, "is a fluffernutter sandwich. You'll love it."
Steve doubts it but goes and pours two glasses of milk anyway. They sit side by side at the table. Steve can't help but grimace at the unholy trinity of unhealthy foods Danny's conjured up for a midnight snack. Mass-produced white bread, peanut butter filled with corn syrup, and… "Is that marshmallow?" he asks in disbelief, poking at the viscous goo gluing the peanut butter to the bread.
Danny just took a huge bite out of his own sandwich, so his reply is muffled. "Marshmallow fluff," he corrects absently. "Damned hard to get out here, I'll have you know. My sister had to send some from Jersey. Go ahead, try it."
"And you complain about me trying to get you killed. At least with me, it's quick. This stuff is poison, you know?" Steve takes an experimental bite and the burst of sugar and peanut is a horror. He grabs his milk and takes a deep swig of it to wash the evil taste from his mouth.
"Good, huh?" Danny grins, then snags another bite of his own sandwich.
They sit in silence for a bit, then Steve asks, "So, why are we down here in the middle of the night eating Jersey-style comfort food? Did you have another dream?"
Danny has pinched bread from his sandwich and is rolling it into a marble between his fingers. "Not exactly. It just all kind of hit me, you know? It felt the same – my psycho ex-partner kidnapping Grace. It was kind of like Rachel kidnapping the baby." Danny blinks, hard. "She didn't steal my baby; he was never really mine. But it still feels like she did, you know?" His face is slack with grief until his lips tremble and his jaw clenches tighter.
This Danny is a little hard to take. His pain is so raw, and Steve has so little experience handling this stuff. But maybe Steve, of all people, knows what he's saying. Because Rachel didn't steal the man he loved. Danny was never his. But it still feels like he lost something.
"She stole all your dreams. She stole your plans and your hopes for a family again."
"Yeah, that's it." Danny sniffs and rubs his hands over his face. "So what've I got now? Two weekends a month with my daughter and nightly squatting rights to your couch."
"You've got more than that, Danny, and you know it."
"Right! I forgot that I also have an IA investigation for shooting my ex-wife's current husband, my partner thinks I have a brain tumor, I've got Olympic class insomnia and, when I finally DO get to sleep, I dream about some other poor bastard of a haole who washed up in Hawai'i hundreds of years ago."
He drops the crust of his sandwich on the plate and stares at it, head bent, broad shoulders suddenly so much smaller. Danny's pain is so rich and real that it hurts to see. But his affection is just as pure and clear and that is nearly intoxicating. For just a moment, Steve feels the nauseating spin of panic - what will he do if Danny really is dying from a brain tumor? He shakes it off and stands up.
"Come on," Steve says gently. "Let's go find that couch. It's not so bad, right? You'll have your own place soon enough." Steve squeezes Danny's hand too hard. Never would be too soon, he thinks as he steers Danny into the dim living room.
"And he winds up sleeping on your couch, too," Danny huffs a laugh. "Well, your pile of tapa, anyway," Danny amends and lets Steve push him gently down onto the couch.
"I don't have any tapa, Danny," Steve says, and pulls the sheet up over Danny's legs.
Danny yawns in his face, even as he's saying, "Yeah, you do. It's big enough for both of us, which is a good thing. The night breeze is cold in this place, 'Aum. I need someone your size just to keep me from freezing to death."
Steve chokes out a laugh. "You're saying you want to cuddle?"
Danny looks at him, eyes deep blue in the last of the kitchen's light, and says, "I'm asking, yeah."
And something inside Steve breaks a little at that.
Then Danny looks at him, pleading. "I know you don't . . . just this once, okay?"
"Don't like me. Like that."
Steve lets himself slip onto the couch and balance on the edge, pressing Danny against the back of the couch. Steve's arm slips beneath Danny's neck and pulls him close before he's even finished speaking.
"I like you, Danny," he says softly into the darkness.
"Like you, too."
Steve is busy arranging the rest of Danny's torso beneath his other arm and the words are mumbled into the curve of his neck. Danny sighs contentedly beneath his jaw and Steve wonders if he will remember this in the morning.
He hopes not. He doesn't want Danny's embarrassment to taint what he'll hold inside.
The barest possibility that Danny wants to be loved as more than a friend is taking a back seat to the heavy warm reality of him lying in Steve's arms.
"S'nice," Danny slurs into his neck.
"Yeah," Steve whispers and knows he can't afford to fall asleep here, no matter what Danny's longer, slower breaths entice him to do. Cuddling a sleep-walking Danny is one thing, in the dark of the night and with no one to witness, not even Danny, really. But having him wake up to the reality of Steve would not be a good thing.
The dreams are weird enough to hear about; combining them with his own half-formed daydreams and longings is a recipe for disaster. And the blatant honesty of his morning erection could sink their friendship forever.
But he'll stay until sleep threatens. He can't afford to miss a moment of Danny's trusting body against his own, sure and solid.
May There Be Love Between Us All
On Sunday they take Grace home around five. Rachel likes to have her in for dinner at home, to get settled for the school week. Bitch, thinks Steve, but he doesn't say anything. The fact that Danny doesn't say anything, either, on the drive back, tells Steve how distracted he truly is. At six, Kono, Chin and Malia show up with vegetable skewers for the grill and a side dish or two for the steaks Steve bought yesterday. Lori and Max would've come, too, but they're off doing something geeky that couldn't be missed.
They used to do this all the time.
Why aren't they family any more? Steve knows they're not traitors, and the secrets they kept were not their own to share. Betrayal was something that happened inside his own head. Maybe Danny's right. Steve should have cleaned up his own act a long time ago. Maybe he does need some help. He's been shoving away the only people he trusts. These people might have saved Danny's life by forcing Steve to act. The knowledge chills him.
He's still not letting Joe off the hook, though. He doesn't care what the reasons are -- in fact, it hurts more that Joe White is screwing him over in the name of his own damned father.
His real family is right here.
Lighter than he's been for months, he turns at Danny and Kono's laughter. He could swear he heard something about dreams, and a suspicious giggle from Kono, but they shut up as Danny turns pink under Steve's scrutiny. He's not out of his mind; that blush is plain on Danny's fair skin. "Care to share?"
"No way in hell," says Kono, a smile peeping out around her words.
"Seriously," Danny agrees. "You had to be there."
"I can only imagine," he scoffs.
"No," they chorus. "Really, no."
"Or at least I hope you can't," adds Danny.
He scowls at them, but two grinning faces are unrepentant. "Fine. Fine. I'll just have to ferret out the truth." To his surprise, they both dissolve in giggles. The world's gone mad.
When everybody's lounging around, full of steak and beer, Kono says, "If you have a brain tumor, can I have the Camaro? It's a pretty hot car."
"You can take over the payments. That is, if you think you can handle it," Danny scoffs. "Why? Your little pocket rocket isn't doing it for you?"
"I always like to move up to bigger and faster." Kono purrs, and they all laugh.
"Won't do you any good where you're going, Danny," agrees Chin. "Overheat the engine."
"Chin Ho Kelly!" yelps Malia, but she knows what's happening. It's the same with doctors, that grim humor that has Danny relaxing just that extra bit. Steve's done it all his life, and he doesn't know why he can't join in now. Instead, he corners Malia when she heads inside to the kitchen.
"Noon?" He's keeping his voice down, as if the three hooting outside can possibly overhear them.
"No worries, Steve. We've got it all set up. Danny's going to have the best of everything. He'll be poked so full of holes we'll have to mop up his morning coffee, and his head will still be ringing from the MRI when you come pick him up." Her kind look almost undoes him.
"I really appreciate this." It's not a lie, but even so, his stomach's about to eject his dinner with no parachute.
"It's going to be okay." She clasps one of his hands, and it dwarfs her own. "I promise."
'O ke kanaka ke kuleana o ka moe.
The Man He Needs To Be With
Monday was brilliant, the early sun skimming the crest of the waves with Steve. He was so eager to escape a situation he couldn't contain that he got up long before sunrise, heading up to Waimea Bay. He wasn't admitting to anybody that he used his pursuit lights on the way up. There was hardly any traffic, anyway. Four hours later, it's still only ten thirty when he pulls back into the driveway, as refreshed as he's likely to get.
He's pulling bedding off the couch, might as well throw it in the wash while he's at it, when he kicks something hard and light and hears it clatter up against the wall, bouncing back to rest near his foot. He picks it up. It's a prescription bottle with Kono's name on it. Ambien? He should know what that is, but why is it here? Maybe she dropped it under the couch once upon a time. His team used to come over pretty often. Things were better then, for everybody.
Steve's stomach growls like a jaguar. He puts the bottle on the side table and stuffs the sheets in the washer as soon as he hears the shower stop. The Ambien is forgotten in the process of making more food than he and Danny can eat in one sitting, and driving Danny to his physical.
"Do not, and I repeat, do not, wait for me! I'm not sick! I'm perfectly capable of catching a cab home!"
Steve shakes his head sadly. "Short people are terrible patients," he mourns. "Less room for the blood to circulate. Call me when you've been fixed."
Danny looks like he's not sure which to be more outraged over, and settles on 'fixed.' "You're calling me a dog? You just wanna see me emasculated!"
"If the collar fits . . ." Steve ducks around the doorframe before his partner throws a magazine at him.
Always with the last word, Danny yells, "At least I'm actually smooth!"
It's not until he's settled in the coffee shop down the street that he remembers the Ambien, and out of sheer nosiness, he Googles it. What he finds . . . sleep drug, that makes sense, and it has a list of side effects as long as his arm . . . including something called "new thinking." What the hell does that mean? Decreased inhibition. Bizarre behavior. And that's just what the FDA says.
"Other complex behaviors (e.g., preparing and eating food, making phone calls, or having sex) have been reported in patients who are not fully awake . . ." He chokes on his coffee and spews it all over himself. He's almost too stunned to get up and try to brush the Kona off his shirt and pants, and when he does, his hands don't seem to work like they used to.
Amnesia. No wonder Danny doesn't remember their nightly chats. Steve's been bonding with a man who's drugged out of his mind. Steve's mind is a little ragged, too, as he drives back home to change his clothes.
That night's another fluffernutter night. Steve would prefer bacon, but he's not going to complain. He needs this time with Danny. He wants every detail of the dreams that hold his partner hostage. These are the last pieces of Danny he'll have all to himself, whether or not his partner's sick.
"It was so beautiful then," Danny says, eyes half-closing as he remembers. "You think it's Paradise now, but you should have seen it then. All green and blue and gold at sunrise..."
Steve almost shakes himself. He's never heard Danny say a nice word about this place.
"We barely had to work to feed ourselves. Fish, fruit, poi . . . all ours for the taking or making."
"'We'?" Steve asks softly.
" 'Aumakua and me. He's the one who saved my life."
Steve is damned sure that Danny hasn't even realized that he switched to the first person.
"His full name was 'A'amakualenalena, but I called him 'Aumakua because he rescued me from the sea just like those sharks you talked about. Other times I just called him by his English name. Stephen."
Steve chokes but manages to control himself enough not to disrupt the flow. Night after night, his partner is seeing a man with Steve's name, a man with big hands who taught him to swim. "Tell me about your 'Aumakua."
Preacher Of Salvation
Will doesn't like Lahaina any more than 'Aumakua does; they go there rarely and never when the whaling ships are in port. 'Aumakua will wear nothing but the clothing of his people anymore, so his unself-conscious beauty is on display for any who care to look. His unusual height also draws many eyes on the busy street. Will never considers that his own blue eyes and hair bleached nearly white might capture the attention of passersby.
"Brother Daniel? Can it be you?"
The voice that booms across the street is flat and stirs something hateful in Will before he even turns. Who would use that name here at the end of the world?
"God be praised, it is you! We were told you had drowned." There's a rusty-black coat in front of him and his arms are being seized in a too-tight grip. There is a stench of tobacco and unwashed man and Will is staring up at the pale face of Zephaniah Cain of New Bedford. Zephaniah had been a member of the church and had always been a bully. Will hated him as a boy, ignored him as a young man, and had forgotten him completely until now.
Now he stands on a Lahaina street wearing a hard-edged smile and a minister's collar. His fanatical eyes move quickly over Will, then dart to consider 'Aumakua. His lip curls slightly as he says with false cheer, "Have you nothing to say, Brother Daniel, or have you forgotten all civilized speech out here among the heathens?"
"Zephaniah," Will manages, then corrects himself as Cain opens his mouth. "Reverend Cain, I suppose it is now. I am amazed to see you here."
"Yes, I imagine you are," he says with peculiar harshness. "Many sailors are taken aback at the presence of the Lord's soldiers in these godless lands."
"Oh, no, Reverend Cain. We have many gods," 'Aumakua says flatly.
"He speaks God's English!" But he's not looking at, nor speaking to 'Aumakua. "Who is this man?" His nod doesn't even bother to conceal his contempt.
"My friend," Will emphasizes that word, "is named 'A'amakualenalena, also called Stephen Kanaka."
To Will’s surprise, Cain grabs him by the ragged edge of his former sleeve and pulls him away. 'Aumakua makes as if to follow, but a look from Will stops him.
"What are you doing in the company of a naked savage?" The man's practically frothing at the mouth. "You are very nearly in the same state of dress! I thank God that your father, a pious man, did not live to see how far his son has fallen."
The world spins a little around Will. "My father is dead?"
Cain nods sternly. "Not ten days before we sailed." He starts speaking again, words getting louder and sharper but Will does not hear him.
Dead. His wife, his son, his father, all dead, his mother alone and penniless. The day around him turns as Cain points a bony finger at Will, shrieking about sin, about consorting with . . . Will turns away, sickened.
"I will kill him," promises 'Aumakua as he helps Will to stagger through the gathered crowd. "No one will say those things to you."
Cain shouts after them. "I will see you back in New Bedford, Will Daniel, by the grace of God and by my hand! You shall do your duty to your aged mother and relearn what it is to be one of God's children." The man's booming voice seems to still the landscape.
"If you do not return to New Bedford on that very ship," his arm waves toward the harbor, "in three days, then her captain will carry a letter to my father and to Reverend Weston. It will tell them and your mother and all of New Bedford exactly what kind of man William Daniel has become." Cain raises his hands to the enthralled watchers surrounding them. "A sodomite, a heathen, a cursed man who will know only the fires of Hell!"
A sick and burning anger fills him. How can he allow his mother to suffer condemnation by her minister and his flock, and thereby the entire town? Every person in her tiny world will chatter of his disgrace. The sly looks . . . the wicked whispers, and no one to comfort her. She is alone.
He is not a drinking man, but that afternoon, he trades a bit of scrimshaw for a half bottle of rum and he drinks it under the hollow moon. Deep in the night, his beloved holds him while he sobs, sodden with grief. He cannot bear to leave; he cannot live with himself if he does not.
Between Midnight And Dawn
He's so finely-tuned to Danny's night movements that awareness blooms as soon as Danny sets foot on the bottom step. He leans up onto an elbow, not knowing what he should prepare for. There's no moon tonight. The only light is his paranoid neighbor's flood lamps. Even when Danny's coming through the doorway, Steve can't see him clearly. He's just a light shape against the dark. Danny doesn't hesitate, simply walks right over to the bed, lifts the covers, and climbs in.
Now, like Steve, he's captured in the glare from the window, white light spilling over both of them.
"Are you –" he doesn't know why he's whispering, but it's cut off by the wet, painful noise that forces its way out of Danny's throat. Stupid question. He's not okay. Steve opens his arms and pulls Danny in. The touch of all that skin, heaven help him -- Danny's naked again, and Steve tries to concentrate on anything else. He should have known enough to start sleeping fully dressed himself. Danny's choking on his own breath; there's only a small, harsh whimper, but the stutter of his chest is clear enough.
"Bad tonight." Steve wraps himself around Danny as much as he can and pretends that it's not strange; that Danny would always come to him for comfort, naked and vulnerable. He slides fingers and palm up Danny's jaw and holds his damp face, supporting his head. The edge of the sheet works for drying the tears. Gently he says, "It's okay, baby. Whatever it is, you can tell me."
"I left you! That's what happened! I left you!"
It's loud, too loud, and Steve pulls back a little, rubs Danny's shoulder. "Shhh. It's okay, you're here now."
"I never should have listened, I should have stayed, I was so stupid –" his voice breaks into a gasp. Danny's fingers tighten almost painfully on Steve's arm.
He has no idea what Danny's talking about, and he doesn't care. "It's okay. Relax. We're here together, and everything's okay."
He murmurs nonsense until he feels Danny's body slowly relax against him. The meeting of their skin is like a low-voltage hum that circles his body. He never wants it to stop. His hand steals into Danny's hair, letting the strands catch between his fingers. His other hand is moist against Danny's back. This has to end now. The man in his arms is a little too pliant. It's not like Steve doesn't want things while Danny's up and dressed, on one rampage or another, but it's a hell of a lot easier to ignore.
Danny takes one deep, shuddering breath and sighs. "You're hard," he whispers.
Every part of Steve stills, then stiffens, his sweaty hand clenching into a fist. He can't exactly tell Danny to pay no attention to the dick behind the boxers. "You have to go." There's no point in trying to explain.
"Hey, it's okay. Me, too." Danny tilts his head up, lazily thrusting a wet line against Steve's hip. Light glows against Danny's face, in his half-closed eyes. "I want it. I like it. I want you." He bites down on a tense muscle beneath Steve's jaw. "Let me."
Steve knows he's better than that. He's not in a cell, hanging from his wrists. Danny's not going to break him. The man's on drugs, he has no idea what he's doing. But isn't his friend in there, somewhere? He doesn't seem to be hallucinating, just . . . different. Then they're kissing, little kisses that softly brush away his sense of decency, of honor, as Danny cups the back of Steve's head and holds him in place. It doesn't take that much effort. No one will know. Danny won't even remember. They could be together, just once, what would it hurt?
With a lunge Steve's not expecting, Danny rolls them over, lands on top. He's heavy, heavier than Steve knew, and the weight of him feels incredible as Danny presses him into the mattress. Danny's voice rumbles into his ear. "I missed you so much. I love you."
Steve doesn't even care that he's talking to somebody else. That's how badly he wants to hear those words. Unexpected words come out of his own mouth, and as soon as he says them he knows they're true. "I've been looking for you all my life."
Then they're both moving, just a little, like too much could shatter the dark. They're holding each other, exploring each other slowly and sweetly, sharing kisses and touching every inch of skin within arm's length.
Rolling them again, Danny runs fingertips up Steve's spine all the way to the top of his head, and it makes Steve's breath catch. In return, he licks warm streaks up Danny's neck and bites lightly at his jaw. He doesn't leave any marks, although the temptation is there. What would Steve say if Danny asked about them? The truth?
Danny's hands are in his hair and it makes Steve smile as he kisses his way over to lick the hidden hollow behind Danny's ear.
"Steve. Steve." His name from Danny's mouth sounds nothing like it ever has in the daytime. "You're mine. I want to stay. Let me stay."
"You're here. You're not going anywhere." Not right now. There's no possible way he can turn this down. He's already damned. "Relax. I'm going to make you feel so good." With the tip of his tongue Steve follows the quarter-moon of eyelashes, the crest of Danny's cheekbones, the bridge of his nose. He breathes in the no longer strange scent of hair gel. Danny's cheeks redden in the harsh light as he presses closer, as if he can't get close enough, rubbing himself against Steve's body.
He kisses down Danny's chest, through the curls to his nipples, sucking them to hear Danny make noises. It's not like the sounds he makes when he's having a bad dream – they're the rich, earthy moans of a man who likes what's happening. Oh, hell, yeah. Steve loves the feel of all that supple muscle under his hands. It's different with a man. Different with Danny. It's more . . . everything, so much more than Steve's had before that he doesn't know what to do with it all. If he could, he'd keep it, save it, live it over and over.
It's an order. Steve knew Danny would be demanding, and he loves it. He's glad to follow Danny's orders, wrapping his hand around Danny's cock, reveling in the gasp that draws. When he touches his lips to the head, the thrust is instinctive and electrifying. If he hadn't had Danny's cock in hand, it would be halfway down his throat right now. "Easy, there. Wait for it," he breathes along the shaft.
"Been waiting, damn it."
Danny moves impatiently, and to slow things down at least a little, Steve slings a leg over his as best he can. Lying on his side, with his head against that hard belly, Steve hears the groan rise from deep inside. The taste of a man, he's missed that, too. He tongues the tip for more.
Danny's making all kinds of happy noises now, and Steve swallows him as deep as he can. He manages to take it all as he buries his nose in pubic hair, and the rich musk of Danny's excitement is his reward. This luxury will feed his fantasies for a long time. He draws it out as long as he can, licking the shaft base to tip, fondling Danny's tight balls, before he needs one hand to ease his own needy cock.
"Here, babe, get up here, c'mon, up," and Danny's grabbing at his shoulders, not taking no for an answer. "Wanna touch you."
The world jolts on its axis when Danny shifts so their cocks are together in his hand. He can just see the movement, the outline of Danny's knuckles and the cocks sliding in his grasp. "Next time, I'm going to suck you," he promises against Steve's hair, and it's game over.
Steve convulses, coming over Danny's hand in long, thick spurts. "Oh, God!" His come's smoothing the way for Danny, too, who jerks them both harder and cries out. Steve has just enough energy to pull Danny close through his orgasm, until they both fall back panting.
"That was amazing," says Danny contentedly, crooking an arm under Steve's neck. In twenty seconds he's out cold, with Steve lying against him in a haze, his body still tingling with aftershocks. He lets himself enjoy it, floating in the closeness, the warmth, until Danny shifts, leaving empty space where their bodies had aligned, reminding Steve what's really happening here.
They just had amazing sex that Danny won't remember. Steve's not petty enough to curl around Danny and let him wake up with them plastered together, but the thought crosses his mind. He misses Danny already. He hadn't figured on the hole it would carve out of him when, twenty seconds later, they'd never happened.
He wanders unsteadily into the bathroom for a warm washcloth to clean them up. Afterward – using the railing – he helps a groggy Danny downstairs one step at a time. Steve tucks him into the sheets, wondering why Danny never asked why he was wearing Steve's clothes the other day. Jesus, the shit his brain comes up with sometimes.
There's a snuffle from the man on the couch, and one last time he runs his fingers through Danny's now-spiky hair. Danny doesn't open his eyes, but he mumbles, "Love you."
He might as well. Like what they just did, it won't hurt anybody. Not Danny, anyway. The words are rusty from disuse. "I love you, too."
It's been a long time since he went night swimming. The water is black and cold and chills him to the bone.
When he climbs back into bed, still shivering, he pulls on an extra blanket.
To Dream Of Canoes – Bad Luck, Sadness
Steve knows he's dreaming again. He always knows. It's an odd sensation, as if he is a guest in his own dreamscape. He is standing on the headland where he has been since last night. He has been watching the tide turn and has seen the ship's sails unfurl in the golden light of dawn. Mornings like this make him feel as if he could fly, as if he could swim across the sea to see where the sun comes up. This morning, though, that ship is carrying something away and he feels as if he has swallowed a stone. The sea will never be able to hold him up again. He drops to his knees.
The anguish swells in him and he cries out but that brings no relief. He lifts the knife his aikane gave him last night, its scrimshawed handle smoothed by that beloved hand, and he drags its sharp point across the skin of his chest. Once, twice, it hurts but not enough. He cuts deeply into his chest, across the signs of the sea on his flesh, but even that is not enough to let the anguish out.
His hands drop uselessly into his lap and he stares at them. His hands had not been strong enough to hold his love, to keep him here. Before he can consciously decide, he has laid his left hand flat on the rock before him. The sharp steel bites eagerly through the smallest finger. The blood is pattering down onto the rocks, dripping from the wounds on his chest and pouring from where he has severed his finger.
Now his pain is nearly equal to his anguish. As the sail of the ship that carries his beloved disappears into the curve of the sea, he catches up his severed flesh and hurls it into the water. He came from the sea as a child; it is best that he goes back to it, piece by piece. Now Moana has his heart and part of his hand. By and by, it will have the rest of him.
Steve awakens with tears tracking down his temples into his hair, his unmarred left hand clutched against his chest and his breath catching in his throat. The nightmare's jagged misery is still clawing through him and he hardly knows who it really belongs to. It is both familiar and remote.
Suddenly he has to see Danny, make sure he's all right. He rolls to his feet and is down the hall and slipping halfway down the stairs before he is even aware of himself. The sight of a tuft of Danny's white-blond hair over the end of the arm of the couch is like a tourniquet. The grief and loss that had poured through him simply stop, leaving behind nothing more than misty echoes.
Danny doesn't wake when Steve goes into the dark kitchen and pours himself a mug of milk. He drinks it standing at the sink, looking out into the darkness. Steve reaches a still-shaky hand up to his chest and is momentarily shocked to find wetness there. But it is only sweat, not blood, and there are no grief-gashes in his skin. No, as usual, most of his wounds and scars lay beneath the surface.
He doesn't sleep again that night.
For the next three days, Steve spends his days walking on eggshells. He knows Danny must be terrified and has no idea how to help. He spends his nights stealing time. It's wrong, the theft of something Danny would never give, but he can't help himself. Taking Danny into his bed was so profound that it shook him at a level he's never known. It's something he'll always treasure. Still, it isn't as important as the open door into Danny's soul. The intimacy of that leaves him as drunk as sex did that night.
He can't stop listening, can't stop wanting to be the one Danny tells his stories to -- when they ran after boar, swam in the ocean, speared fish, and laughed and loved each other like it was as easy as breathing.
"You freaking leapt on that boar and cut its throat with the dagger, you utter maniac! If I'd known, I never would have given it to you! There I am with a six-foot spear, one that would have kept the pissed off chunk of thundering bacon at a decent distance, and you go and jump on it!" He waves mushroom clouds to illustrate the enormity of Steve's multi-life crazy. "I thought for sure you were dead! I even saw it in my head! You, stuck by a pig, trampled into a torn mass of flesh, and me having to drag your body home to your family."
Danny pins Steve with a look. "Jesus, the more things change..."
They both laugh. Whether or not it's true, Steve knows damned well it fits.
"Wallowing in gore, I might add. Filthy mess of blood and mud and bits of boar in your hair. Yecch." When Danny smiles, there is an edge to that reminiscence that Steve wants to chase with his tongue. "I had to throw you into the ocean to clean you up, and you were still higher than a kite."
Instead of leaning in, brushing Danny's grin with his lips, he just clenches his fists under the table and asks about the feast they had from that pig. Then Danny's off, telling Will's stories again.
Steve grits his way through the days so he can have the nights. Danny never notices his hunger; all that shining love is for a long-dead 'A'amakualenalena.
He knew he loved Danny, but now he wants everything, all the time. Trying to pretend nothing's different between them is tougher than he imagined.
At this rate, he'll be grateful to see Danny find a new place. And, of course, the nasty, sticky ball of guilt and shame he's got lodged in his gut isn't doing either of them any favors, either. Sometimes when he watches Danny -- stupid things, like the way he picks up a fork or rubs a thumb near the corner of his eyebrow -- he feels like a twist of faded paper, dried out and pushed by the wind.
Suddenly there's too much between them. Too much time, too much waiting, a gulf of miles despite the fact that he can reach out and touch Danny. Especially because he has touched Danny, and Danny doesn't remember. He can't keep him and he can't let him go. Danny will go live somewhere else, but Steve feels like his loss will never end.
To Interpret Dreams
Somehow Malia wrangles Danny's next appointment for Friday. She hand-picked a team of her colleagues to review all the findings, but she is the one who calls him into her office to go over them. Danny goes to meet her on his own and Steve can't think of any argument that will break through the gorilla glass sphere of Williams Independence that Danny adopts during his waking hours. Since he's actually been getting eight or more of sleep a night, even including their nightly chats, he's safe enough behind the wheel of his own car, as he acerbically points out.
Fear and guilt simmering uneasily in his gut, Steve gives in and goes into the office to distract himself.
It doesn't really work.
This thing with Danny . . . Jesus. Steve has no idea what to do. He's the one Steve's been counting on for a long time now. Danny, who's going off the rails. Danny, the only one who's never lied to him. Danny, who's living in his house. Steve owes him protection. Owes him his life. And now Danny's in serious trouble, maybe sick, but undoubtedly losing it right under Steve's nose. He's got to help patch him up any way he can.
He can't do it by himself. He needs help.
He goes to Mamo.
"Hey, howzit?" Mamo peers over the hull of the small sailboat he's repairing. Steve has no idea how the man knew he was there, unless the Third Eye is real.
"It's been a tough coupla weeks." Months. Years. "How's business?"
"Not bad. The mainlanders are picking up some of the slack from the tsunami despite the pupule airfares." He squints at Steve. "Yeah, you're not looking so hot. You sleepin'?"
"Not as much as I'd like. I was hoping you'd trade some advice for some lunch."
"Oh, yeah, ancient Hawai'ian sleep remedy." Mamo shares a broad wink. "I know where you can get some of that. But it's down the street." He waves to the east, toward Kamekona's place.
"Alo-o-oha." Steve manages half of a grin. "Let's go."
Steve would've brought it up already, but he doesn't know quite how to start. They're sitting down at a picnic table with their grinds – plate lunches from L&L with extra macaroni salad – when Mamo gets down to business. "So what's on your mind, kane?"
He sighs, deciding he might as well jump in. "My partner, Danny, you remember? He's having these dreams. He's not sleeping. And no comments about the fine quality of Hawai'ian sleep aids, brah. He has really vivid dreams about someone else's life, and he talks in Hawai'ian."
"Haven't you had dreams, Steve?" Mamo chews thoughtfully. "When you were a boy, sometimes you would come and tell them to me. Don't you remember?"
Steve is about to answer him, tell him that he's sure as hell had dreams, and then he does remember. Like opening a little box left in a forgotten corner of some attic, he remembers. Running after boar, the sound of someone's strong footsteps just behind him. Sitting under the edge of a cliff, watching the rain fall, leaning against a warm, bare shoulder. A strong hand pulling him upright from the sand.
A friend, companion, one who shared everything -- someone who would always be there, never leave him. The memory dissipates like mist.
"Oh, yeah," Steve scoffs. "Now I remember. My imaginary friend." Now that he's an adult, it seems like more than one of his real flesh and blood friends was imaginary, too. Nick. Joe. If he thinks too much about that, it could crush him.
"Yes, Steve. Your imaginary friend. You used to tell me stories about him, you know. What you'd done that day, the hunting and fishing you had done together, the valleys you'd explored."
"Kid stuff, huh?" Steve can feel the blush rising. Thank god he spends a lot of time in the sun.
Mamo shakes his head slowly. "No, that was always the thing. What you told me about wasn't about lightsabers and galaxies far away. You told me about teaching your friend how to hold his paddle so he could ride in the outrigger with you. How to hunt and snare birds up in the hills. You told me about doing things that most kids your age wouldn't know anything about. You talked about building your hut together, spearing fish out on the reef, teaching him to swim."
Mamo's throat works on a long drink of his guava Aloha Maid. "Steve, you told me about how you found him and dragged him out of the sea after a storm. He was your gift from the gods."
"Why don't I remember any of this?" Steve asks, bewildered. He does, though; it's like remembering a faded black-and-white television program from his childhood. There are blank spots, and snow in the picture. "Did I ever give him a name, my invisible friend?"
Mamo shakes his head. "Sometimes you called him Will. Mostly you just called him your aikane and said he would always be there."
Steve can hear the hoarseness in his voice as he asks the next question. There's already a lump forming in his throat, like a pre-echo of grief. "So what happened?"
"I don't know," the old man shrugs. "One day, you just stopped talking about him. I figured you had discovered girls or something."
Steve shakes his head and tries to ignore the creeping sensation at the back of his neck. This is about Danny and Danny’s dreams, he tells himself and flexes his left hand. Not his own weird co-dependent nightmares.
“The dreams he's having, the words he's using . . . Mamo, he didn't get them from me or any of us. It's not stuff we would use. I had to look some of it up. That is no bulai, man."
Mamo doesn't look convinced. "This is Hawai'i. He coulda picked it up bumbye. He likes it here, hears people talk."
"He hates Hawai'i! I've been waiting for him to bail ever since Day One." Even Steve can't believe the bitterness that oozes from his words. But it's the truth, one he hasn't ever admitted out loud before.
"Steven," Mamo's voice holds reproach. "He works every day by your side to keep Hawai'i's people safe. This is not the action of a man who hates this place."
Mamo just doesn't get it. "You're defending him? You should hear some of the things he says about the islands."
"He's scared and he is lonely."
"He shouldn't be." Somehow there's more bitterness behind that. Why doesn't Danny see that he has ohana right here in front of him?
"Neither should you be, my friend, but you are."
"What? Why do you say that?"
Scared and lonely -- the two things he built his whole life just to wall away. Mamo could always see right through him, and he hates it almost as much as he needs it.
"Perhaps because Danny could hurt you in places that you have no protection, and he doesn't even know it."
"That's not true," he practically whispers. He tries to turn away but he can't even move. He forgot how Mamo could do this to him every freaking time. He'd come in to talk, to rage against his father or some teenage trauma. Mamo would calmly say the one thing that would unravel everything he tried so hard to hide from.
He knows now why he sometimes hated Mamo.
"You came to me for a reason, Steve. You asked. I told you."
Steve sighs. "I know. You're right. I'm sorry. I'm just..."
"Lonely and scared."
Steve decides not to take up the gauntlet again. "But what about . . ." There's a question that has been nagging at him. The haole part of him can't believe he is even going to voice it. The part of him that grew up here in the islands knows he has to. "Danny desecrated a heiau on Halloween. Could this have something to do with it?"
That gets a surprised look. "Why would he want to desecrate one of our religious sites? He doesn't seem like the kind of . . . what about Halloween?"
"He didn't, not really. Some bodies were buried there over the last year, a lot of them, by an organ thief, and Danny walked in before the priest came. He wanted to get to the evidence. He wasn't very respectful."
"Halloween does not exactly intersect with our culture. And the person who desecrated the heiau was the one who buried the bodies, not Danny."
"Thanks." He knows he's being pissy. "That's very helpful." He's beyond frustrated.
And now, so is Mamo. "Look, Steve, I'm not Yoda! Don't come asking me for answers I don't have. All I can do is tell you what I think may be happening. What I think is happening is that Danny is remembering something in dreams that happened a long time ago. Maybe the heiau had something to do with it, maybe it didn't. I don't think it's a curse. It sounds more like Danny has some unfinished business here in Hawaii, from another time, another life, maybe."
He rubs his face with both hands. Mamo's right; he could use some more sleep himself. But sitting up night after night with Danny is too precious. "Just tell me this. Do dreams mean anything?"
Mamo looks him in the eye. "Our dreams mean everything."
"Fine." Steve has to go somewhere and not-think about this any more. He now has all the answers he needs; he just doesn’t want the answers he has. "Just let me know if you need a consult on your new business of predicting tsunamis, eh? I'll give you a name."
"Heh. I was right that time, you know."
Steve nods and smiles. "Mahalo, my friend."
Mamo stands up and walks back to his work with a wave.
On the drive home, Steve considers what Mamo said. He may not know a lot more than he started with, but he's comforted. Because there really is something going on with Danny, something that's not about a brain tumor.
He very definitely decides not to think about why he didn't tell Mamo about the Ambien, Danny's amnesia, or about his own little excursions into Dreamland.
Steve finally gives up pretending to work at 1:30 and goes home. The Camaro is in the driveway, which answers one big question. It bleeds off a little of the tension that Steve's been twisting in since before dawn. He's conjured up a wide selection of Worst Case Scenarios in his head. They feature Danny sitting high up on a cliff somewhere and staring sightlessly at the water while he tries to figure out how to tell his little girl that he is dying, or Danny driving over to Rachel's and throwing himself into her arms, or Danny getting on a plane to go back to Jersey without a word . . . or pretty much any situation in which Danny leaves him for any reason.
But Danny is here. In fact, when Steve tracks him through the house, he finds Danny out in the hammock, lazing in the sun in a pair of cut off sweat shorts that leave less to Steve's imagination than usual. Which is saying a lot. Steve feels like he is staring so intently at Danny's golden chest that the man should feel it like a physical touch; when Danny looks up to see him, Steve startles.
"Hey, there you are! Pull up a chunk of lawn. Got some news for you." Danny's smile is warm and sleepy and relaxed like it hasn't been in daylight hours for months now. Something ugly and viscous drains out of Steve's heart so fast that he just lets himself plop onto the grass, legs folding in an ungainly way that has Danny staring at him.
"Whoa, there Commander Pretzel! You'll break something that way." Danny has the sheer nerve, the unmitigated gall, to look concerned about Steve.
"Danny! What did Malia say?"
"Sorry, I meant to call. I just got off the phone with Grace." Danny's eyes soften at that and his smile returns. "Short answer? I'm fine. No brain tumors, not going insane. All the stress has kinda screwed with my system. So I've got a sleep disorder, I forget the name, but I wrote it down. I also have a serious deficiency of Vitamin D, among others, which is quite the achievement in this fair state -- I may be the only mobile adult who does, hence the topless sunbathing." He waves toward the house. "There's a pile of patient information booklets in there about something called 'Sleep Hygiene' and two referrals for psychological counseling."
Danny grimaces, but Steve can tell that it's just for show. The sense of relief flowing from both of them is palpable. It's making a nice mixer for their little puddle of sunlight out here on his back lawn. In order to avoid tearing up, Steve takes refuge in teasing.
"Two referrals? How stressed does Malia think you are?"
Danny's grin is sly. "One's for you, genius. She stopped short of recommending couples' counseling, but it was a near thing."
Steve tightens his jaw. "I don't need counseling." He tears up a few blades of grass and doesn't look at Danny.
"Oh, I beg to differ, my friend. I've been telling you since Day One that you need help. The last six months have been pretty damned miserable, Steve, on anyone's scale, but especially for you."
"For me?" Steve is proud that his voice doesn't crack but it's a near-run thing. "What about you?"
Danny nods soberly, the hammock swinging a little. "Oh, me, too, Superman. Which is why I didn't crumple it up and toss it out the window when she gave me the slip. I've been so damned scared I was going nuts that I didn't want to . . . " He stops himself as a light flush comes up on his cheeks. "Anyway, here's the deal: I'll go if you will."
"You want us to go to counseling together?" This time, Steve can definitely hear his voice crack the way it hasn't since he was 14.
"No, moron. You go to your appointments, I go to mine. Nobody goes nuts in the meantime. Whaddya say?"
Steve is shaking his head even as he admits somewhere deep in himself that it looks like he'll be going to counseling sometime soon. Somehow, Danny knows and he's smiling that small, gentle smile again.
"I've got another half hour out here in the sun," is all he says. They both lay down, Danny in his hammock, swaying gently next to and above Steve on the lawn. Neither of them will admit later that they both dozed out there, relief wringing any energy they might have had out of them.
Now that the panicky voices in Steve's head have been washed away by Danny's good news, some shuteye and a really outstanding fish dinner, his better angels have come to call. What sparks off his confessional is the sight of a shiny new red plastic bottle of pills on the counter-top next to the coffee-maker where Danny tends to stand every morning to drink his first cup.
"What are these?" he asks as he picks them up and lets them rattle as Danny rinses the last of the dishes.
"Huh? Oh, that's my Ambien prescription. Until we can get the sleep thing licked, I'm going to have to keep taking those." Danny misinterprets Steve's thinned lips and waves a soapy hand defensively.
"Okay, I know it's not exactly legal, but Kono gave me some of her prescription when it got so bad. So I've been taking them for a while now, only it turns out I've been taking the wrong dose." He grins shamefacedly. "Wow, that has been resulting in some very weird dream states, let me tell you." Danny's grin fades and he says, "If I told you what's been going on in my head . . . you would think I was nuts, too. Trust me."
Steve feels a little sick. He knows he has to come clean. He can't keep this secret and still pretend to be Danny's friend. He hands Danny a dishtowel to dry his hands and says, "Sit down, okay? I have to tell you something, and you're not going to like it."
Danny's eyes widen, he turns pale under his new tan, and sits. Which is almost as worrisome to Steve as if he'd started pacing the room and yelling. Danny's done that before with less provocation than the threat of bad news.
"Danny," he starts, then falters before shoring up his determination. "There's no easy way to say this." He's got Danny's full attention now. "I. . . we . . . No, I mean I, I had sex with you while you were drugged."
"What?" He's the picture of pained bafflement. It's got to be tough to have your best friend take advantage of you. "You gave me drugs? Why? When did that happen?"
"No!" Now Steve's even more horrified and ashamed that Danny could even think such a thing. "I didn't drug you, you were -- you've been on the medication, you've been taking Ambien every night!"
He doesn't know what to think of the look on Danny's face, but Danny's tone is sharp. "I'm guessing you didn't bang me up against the wall every night, or my ass would be pretty sore, so start talking. Now."
"You, at first I didn't know, I swear," says Steve helplessly. "You'd get up in the middle of the night and make food, bacon and those nasty sandwiches with the marshmallow, and we'd talk. About everything. That's why your bacon was gone. The kidnapping, Rachel's baby, those dreams you've been having about a long time ago."
"It was the Ambien, you'd do things, talk with me and never remember, and I didn't want to tell you because I was afraid you'd get upset, I thought you had a brain tumor, and then, when --" This isn't the worst thing, but it's another thing Danny won't understand. He takes as deep a breath as he can when there's a fist crushing his lungs. "When I knew you were on something, on, on, that," he waves at the bottle on the table in between them, "I didn't tell you we talked together at night because I didn't want to give that up."
"So . . ." Danny chews on that, looking oddly thoughtful. "So at some point in time during the last, huh, two weeks, you decided we should have wild monkey sex while I wouldn't remember? You're not making any sense." His glance stabs Steve into place like a bug on a board.
This is the hardest thing he's ever had to do. All of his missions pale in comparison. The word almost strangles him. "Yes."
Danny just stares, mouth open but not speaking.
"When you came up to my room, you were naked." It's not an excuse, but it's true. "You were upset, something about how you left, left me here, I didn't know what all. You were so . . . you were crying, Danny. You got in bed with me, and," he swallows hard, wondering if his own stinging eyes are going to betray him, "I wasn't about to turn you away." He can't look across the table, so he looks at the wall.
"Aw, crap." Warm hands fold over his, where his nails are trying to dig into the Formica of his dad's old kitchen table. "That was real? I've been dreaming a lot, you know that. I'm sorry, babe. You know I wouldn't . . . I'm sorry."
"I know you wouldn't." He shouldn't be bitter. He has no right. Mostly he's just confused. He has no idea why Danny should be sorry for something so terrible. The Danny he knew should be reaching for his gun, not holding Steve's hand. "Why are you sorry?"
"Huh? You know I wouldn't put you on the spot like that. Not if I was myself. That's a sucky thing to do." The earnestness in Danny's voice is bizarre, under the circumstances, until a thumb starts stroking the inside of his wrist. "Unless, of course, you'd want me to."
Steve exhales a week's worth of shame-soaked breath. "Yeah," he whispers hoarsely. "I would want you to. If you wanted to." His hands relax and then they're wrapped around Danny's.
Danny bumps all their hands against his forehead. "Christ, you nearly gave me a heart attack with the 'you're not going to like this,' you jerk. I thought you were throwing me out."
"What? Why?" He can hardly imagine his life without Danny safe and sound and here.
Danny rubs Steve's fingers. His hands look small next to Steve's. "I've been a lot of trouble as a roommate."
"You were always a lot of trouble," Steve says, and he knows his grin is goofy as he shimmies up onto the table and rolls over onto his back, looking up at Danny, showing his belly as his t-shirt rides up. "Wanna get into some more?"
"I want to get into you, for damn sure." Danny pauses, his eyes gleaming. His lips part again and stay that way for a moment before he actually speaks, and then he says, "I knew you'd be good, but I really thought that was a dream. That's what Kono and I were laughing about, the insanely vivid dreams. To be specific, sex dreams." He runs his thumb over Steve's lower lip. "You, my very, very good friend, know how to deep throat like a pro."
"Well, everyone should have a very good friend with that skill," Steve says, riding the surge of joy. Danny knows. He remembers. He was really there when it happened. The two of them made love, together and Danny wants to do it again. He sucks Danny's thumb into his mouth, then lets it slip out slowly, dragging one side of his mouth down. "Care for another test ride?"
Eia Au, Eia 'Oe
Here I Am, Here You Are
"Oh, hell, yeah." Danny leans over him and kisses his mouth, upside down. It's not perfect, but he doesn't care as long as it gets him closer to Steve. "It's not every day I get to have a second first time. But I'm not doing this on the kitchen table, you hot-blooded weirdo."
He grabs Steve's oversized hand and hauls him up. "Come on, I'm going to throw you over my shoulder if you don't get your ass up the stairs now!"
"I'm coming! Or I will be soon," assures Steve as he swings his legs over, but Danny's already grabbing at him, so he evades; uses his longer stride to achieve the stairs faster. Then, smack in the middle of them, he turns and grabs Danny, pulling him off his feet. "What am I thinking? I want you to catch me!"
"I don't need your help for that! I can run you down like a cheetah!" He reconsiders. "But maybe I should save my energy." As he slides down to his feet, Danny gives a little extra hip thrust and lets the grin take over his face.
"Yeah, conquering hero, whatever, pillaging and spoils and all," says Steve, and his glee is so blindingly beautiful that Danny doesn't care that he's mixing metaphors. The man looks drunk with relief and happiness. "I've been waiting so long, Danny, God, you can't know."
"How long, my befuddled friend?"
"Look who's calling who befuddled! 'Pot' is not always pakalolo, buddy."
"I want to know." He really wants to know. Because when did this happen? When did his best friend become the only one he wants for the rest of his life? They're on the landing now. Steve's wrapped around him, huffing warm breath against Danny's ear. At least hauling Danny up here cost him some effort.
"Feels like a lifetime," Steve says softly, breath tickling the hair at his nape. "Can you be looking for someone before you ever meet them? Someone you know is out there?"
Of course. They'd always been looking for each other, and he hadn't even known it until now. The joke really is on him. Danny chokes out a laugh over that one.
"Hey!" Steve pulls away, a pained frown marring his features. "All this time I was feeling like an utter asshole for thinking creepy thoughts about my best friend. But Mamo said . . . he said our dreams are everything."
"Wait, were you dreaming, too? Were you . . . have you been there?" Bingo. He can see that Steve knows what he means.
"I don't know."
It's not quite a lie, maybe an obfuscation or just plain unbelief, but he's not going to pursue that now.
Steve checks Danny's face and goes on the defensive. "Well, it's not like I know how this works!"
That made no sense, even for Steve. "What?"
"I don't buy soul mates, but even if I did -- I like men, okay? I always knew that, and things happened, but it was never men I knew, or anybody I cared about."
Or anybody who cared about Steve. Danny's head hurts. He got hopped up on sleeping pills and seduced his best friend, whose most important love relationship comes into port on a yearly basis. He knows absolutely nothing about the things that Danny wants.
Steve shrugs. "Just men who were there."
Oh, damn. "Okay, for one thing, we're completely different. We'll have to make it up as we go along." The notion that he's telling Steve to break the rules is insane, but hey, these days Danny's the crazy one. So he says, "Let's do this our own way, babe. Forget about the others."
"I have. They were long gone before I even knew you."
"Good. You're never going to think about them again. They're history. Now kiss me."
Steve leans down and presses his lips against Danny's, sweeping up all the scattered emotions – the storm of relief that he won't be leaving Grace far too soon, the lance of pain that Steve might kick him out, the staggering realization that his partner wants him – and fixing them on Steve's beautiful mouth, the thrust of his tongue.
He had no idea that touching Steve could feel this good. All that bunched muscle on long, heavy bones; he won't soon forget he's with someone bigger and tougher than he is. The man wrapped around him could bench press an elephant. There are no slender arms or delicate wrists here, no lipstick kisses or high heels. It's different and strange, but Steve's always been a law unto himself. Danny lives for the law.
He smells incredible this close. It's heady, makes Danny want to do crazy things, makes him breathe deep and fast for more. But it's not nearly enough of anything, and he's never seen Steve. Surreptitious looks, hidden glances, and his imagination only go so far .
"Clothes, off!" he sputters as Steve breaks away, mouth wet and cheeks red under his tan.
"Yeah. Yeah," he says, but Steve's not letting go of him. Danny gives him a push, and another one, moving them both into the bedroom, tugging at Steve's t-shirt as they go.
"These things were made to come off, I know it!"
Steve's too busy sucking at Danny's neck. "Just rip it, I don't care."
He does. He's almost surprised when the thing tears right up to the neck, and with one more tug, it's done, hanging in parted strips over Steve's chest. It sways, caressing that terrain of muscle with each labored breath. Oh, that's a whole new kink installed courtesy of Steven J. McGarrett. He wants to rip apart all Steve's clothes now, and leave him dressed in rags forever. He deserves a bite for that. Danny's starting to feel a little ragged himself.
Steve's fingers fight with his cargoes. Hands, oh, God, those hands, so hard and dangerous, barely able to undo a button. Finally it's done, undone, and the zipper's down. Steve's commando, why ask why? His pants hang on that muscular ass, framing his rising cock like art. Art Danny wants to touch.
The urgent words roll over him. There's a pull against his weight; he leans into it before he unbalances. Suddenly the buttons are flicking off his shirt, the tiny pops ringing in his ears. It's so far from Rachel's cool beauty and expensive lingerie that memories of her explode into dust in the back of his brain. The woman who drove his life for ten years is a pale shadow of this earthy, intense man, who's pawing away his shirt like his only sustenance lies in Danny's bare skin.
He locks on to one of Danny's nipples and the sensation almost levels him. He can't help a belly-deep groan. "Babe, before my knees give out . . ." Steve only intensifies, sucking harder until it's just this side of painful and almost too good to stop, but the floor's feeling closer every second.
"I mean it!"
In answer, Steve bends down and lifts him, how can he even be that strong? It's like being carried over the threshold. Rachel, she never would have let him, and he would never be so Neanderthal. It shocks Danny that he likes it. Really likes it. He likes to be manhandled. He's finding out all kinds of things he never knew. In retaliation, he's forced to bite at the arch of Steve's shoulder until the man staggers to a halt and moans. There, now, that's better, he thinks, sucking a bruise into the skin there.
Steve's arms loosen around him. "Don't you dare drop me!" But he does anyway, and Danny bounces on the huge, high bed.
"Damn you." He grabs at Steve's pants; they're still hanging on him, one more obscure ninja skill, and pulls him off his feet. Steve turns the fall into a leap and manages to torque himself into landing on all fours, caging Danny on the bed. Who knew ninja skills were actually good for something?
"Help, help me, I'm trapped!" Danny shrieks in a Sweet Polly Purebred falsetto, and cackles like a lunatic.
"You," mutters Steve, "are a completely unconvincing damsel in distress. But if you're the damsel, that makes me the hero. I'll rescue you." It sounds more like a threat.
He skins Danny out of his khakis and y-fronts before Danny realizes that it's done. Between the two of them, they've still got one person worth of clothes. His shirt's still digging into his shoulders, but he doesn't care. The sight of Steve rivets all his attention. Instead of grabbing and biting like Danny did, he's careful. Painstaking. He's kissing his way down Danny's belly like it's his new religion, stroking along the downward trail with his lips. Danny could get into being worshipped. It has its perks, he thinks dizzily as Steve rubs his nose into the strip of pubic hair above his dick.
Suddenly a memory flows behind Danny's eyes. "No, wait. Don't."
"No!" Steve's reluctant, but he pulls back, face set. "Let me, Danny, please."
"No. I said I would suck you next time, and I mean it. Get up here."
Steve drops his head down onto Danny's stomach with a thump that nearly knocks all the air out of him.
"Ouch! Don't do that, dammit!"
Big-eyed, Steve says, "You don't have to. You don't have to do anything you don't want to."
But he looks dazed and needy, and it's a look Danny can't live without. He crabs backward, out from under Steve, who looks torn, like he should be doing something but he doesn't know what. Danny levers himself up against the headboard until he's sitting up straight, propped by pillows like some pasha with a supplicant. Going with the image, he crooks a finger, inviting Steve closer. "Kneel. Now."
Steve's mouth falls open, then snaps shut, and he shuffles up Danny, knees on either side, holding his cock in one hand. His cargoes still cling to his legs, making the perfect showcase. It's bigger than it looked before; a hot desperate thing clutched in Steve's fist with one thick drop sliding wetly down the head. It's fascinating, a little unnerving, and Danny freezes when he realizes he doesn't know what to do with it. With all those dreams, shouldn't he have learned something?
"I'm not, not gonna," Steve says, but it's a tight mumble that Danny can barely understand.
He gets it when Steve stops, grips himself hard, arches back gracefully and comes, white lines decorating Danny's chest and throat. Danny about chokes on the filthiest thing that's ever happened to him, but his tension spirals up like a runaway kite. He can't take his eyes off the honed abs that ripple in time to each snap of Steve's hips. The deep, helpless noises Steve makes with each thrust make his own dick throb.
He grabs Steve before he can fall over backwards. Steve slumps, fists on his long thighs, a drop of sweat sliding down his neck; he looks like he's going to do a face plant right on Danny. His strong, silent partner unraveled before his very eyes, and they never even got naked. Danny is epic; he can fucking fly.
They're both still trying to catch their breath when Steve can talk again, his head resting on Danny's shoulder. "Sorry, I'm sorry --"
"So good, you're beautiful, c'mere." He can hardly breathe after what he just saw, but Danny helps Steve down to the bed before he falls down, pulling him against his side.
God, Steve's a beautiful disaster, flushed and slick with sweat and eyes wide, darker than he's ever seen them. He's staring at Danny as if he's afraid Danny will disappear. It was one of the most beautiful things ever, all that muscle stretched out in front of him, Steve trying to keep the lid on, trying not to let go. Letting go anyway, because he's with Danny and he can't stop. That thrills Danny to the core.
"Don't be." His own voice is a little shaky. "I never had somebody come just from . . ." He laughs a little, but there are goosebumps rising on his forearms. He's never getting out of this bed. He starts what he knows will become his new mantra, letting his hands wander over sweat-slick skin. Touching Steve feels like a miracle.
"You are something else. Never seen a man like you. Never imagined anyone like you. When you come, do you know that you look like a bomb blast and the best porn I've ever seen, all at once? Face porn. I got face porn. Your face, when you come." He's babbling, but only the subject matter is new.
Steve murmurs something meaningless and indistinct, but he's shifted, half-laying against Danny's chest, one of those huge hands over Danny's heart, cargoes finally down to his knees. Danny thinks he can feel Steve's pulse thud. He knows damn well Steve can feel his heart beat; he feels like he just ran a mile flat out.
"And now you're snuggling up like a giant kitten? How'd I get so lucky, huh?"
"Shut up." That's pretty distinct.
He tightens his arm around Steve's shoulders and pulls him closer, until there's no 'closer' left. "Yeah, yeah. All meow and no claws." He cannot remember the last time he was this sap-happy.
Steve blows a raspberry against his collarbone. "Oh! Purring, now?" Sure, some of it is the endorphin rush; some of it is the sheer blessed relief of knowing that he and Steve are solid. Some of it's knowing that he's not certifiable. But mostly he's this happy because he's six fathoms deep in the man curled up and bitching against his collarbone.
"One more kitten comment, D. Just one more, and bam!" It's a little muffled, but certainly heartfelt.
"Hush now," Danny murmurs, generously ignoring threats of bodily harm. He reaches his hand up and lets his fingers knead through Steve's damp hair, massaging against his skull. A quiet sound rumbles out of Steve, something manly and nothing that could remotely be mistaken for a purr of post-coital approval, and Danny is grinning again at the ceiling. He decides he might as well talk to it, too.
"Where's mine, I ask you." With a deep, deep sigh, he mourns his fate. "Poor little me, the damsel in distress, left all alone here with a snoozing hero and . . . this. Oh, the humanity."
'This,' of course, is his hopeful, happy-looking erection, waving hello to Steve and anyone likely to take a friendly interest.
"Oh. Yeah." Steve blinks, bleary-eyed. "I suppose I could do something about that."
"That's fine." Danny sniffles a little. "I don't want to put you out. I'll be all right. I'll just handle it myself." Then he raises his free hand and licks his palm. Steve's eyes follow his every move. When he moves his hand down and takes hold of his erection, he feels Steve's sharp intake of breath. "Now that I have your attention . . ."
"You can't do that!" A hand circles all the way around his wrist and then some. "What would you need me for? As the hero, I ought to keep you enthralled."
"Well, every good performer needs an audience."
"Let's hold that thought, okay?" Deliberately Steve reaches out and wipes up a palmful of come off Danny's belly. He's looking considerably more awake as he slides down and tips his head, his hair brushing lightly against Danny's cock. It jolts every cell in his body, only outdone when the insubstantial touch of hair is replaced by a hot, wet hand that makes his blood simmer. Two long, slow pulls are all it takes to suffuse Danny's whole body with a flush of pink.
"Yeah, okay, let's do that."
When the come gets sticky, there's the soft, dry caress of lips. They trail down and up the shaft, finally coming to rest at the tip. He wants nothing more than to thrust up into that perfect mouth as hard as he can, but Steve's hands hold his hips to the mattress. Warm bursts of air flow over him as Steve's mouth opens and covers the swollen head. Oh, fuck. Steve McGarrett is sucking his cock and it is amazing. His wet, slippery lips slide down over Danny's fingers where he's still holding himself in shock.
Steve makes the dirtiest, wettest slurping noise as he sucks them in, too, teeth scraping against his knuckles, and Danny goes light-headed. He can't let this go to waste; seeing is believing, and he wants to believe this. He really wants to see it. He leans over, twists, wishes he was a contortionist. When those lips slide up and off, he can't keep from whining a little.
"You want to watch?" He had no idea Steve's voice could reach a register that low. He obligingly tips his head to the far side and lets Danny see how his dick is slowly, tenderly welcomed home in Steve's mouth. The feel of his lips riding down, down, then tantalizingly up –
"Christ," he can hardly get it out, and he bit his lip, damn it, "what are you doing to me?" It's not a real question, but Steve takes it as one.
"Why, Danny," and he's never seen that sloe-eyed look from anybody, "I'm sucking your cock." His fingers take up the slow, slick path. "I love the feel of you in mouth, between my lips." The words vibrate against the tender skin. His eager, sensitized, very happy cock vibrates right back.
"You're the best thing I ever tasted, D. So hard, so ready."
Steve McGarrett talks dirty. Danny can't help a gasp when he says, "I want to lick you like an ice cream bar." Because that's what Steve proceeds to do. Breath flows over his damp cock, making him squirm as Steve traces the corona with the tip of his tongue. "Are you gonna give me what I want? Come in my mouth, make me take it all?"
Every muscle in Danny's body is getting a workout . He's straining, clenching, jerking -- and that's just trying stay still. He's not about to let anything keep Steve from playing with his cock. The unfortunate pillow he's digging his fingers into may never be the same. He whimpers unashamedly. That's when Steve, the sneaky bastard, goes for the gusto. He sucks, hard, loud, and sloppy, along the shaft, and Danny just can't help it. He laughs unsteadily.
"I shoulda known you'd be a tease." As a protest, it's weak.
Steve shakes his head in argument and angles Danny back inside, letting the head of Danny's cock rub against the silky smooth inside of his cheeks. Danny presses the tips of his trembling fingers to the cheek that bulges with his cock, then strokes them through Steve's hair. It's overwhelming. "Thank you," he whispers. He's never seen or done anything like this. He can't even process how good it is.
Steve takes this as his go-ahead to suck harder, tonguing the big vein, saying as clearly as he can that he has no intention of stopping until Danny comes. Danny's breath catches in the middle of a groan, when Steve pulls one of his knees up and curls a hand around his balls.
And that, ladies and germs, is all she wrote. Danny arches off the bed with a choked-off yell as Steve works him over with his hot, wet mouth and big, experienced hand. Danny's flat on the bed, panting, when Steve pulls off his dick. He looks sweetly triumphant as he licks Danny's come off the corner of his mouth. Just watching that tongue makes his hips jerk again, but there's nothing left.
"See?" Steve's got the smuggest, cat-got-the-cream-iest look Danny has ever seen, "not a tease."
"No." Danny swallows, trying to make his useless mouth work. "Okay, no. Giant cat, yes, absolutely. Tease, definitely not."
Steve does an imitation of a jungle cat that sends skitters up his neck.
"Really?" Danny asks, genuinely impressed
"I can whistle like a toucan, too." Steve slides down next to him, his damp skin dragging the sheets along.
Against all odds, that is the perfect thing to say. The happiness in Danny shoots up like a fountain and he's laughing again. For years, Danny thought he'd never find someone to laugh with in bed again. He should have known. Steve's face is pushed against his side and he's laughing, too, now.
"Jungle maneuvers, right, I don't even want to know," grumbles Danny. Their hands find each other blindly and grip, tight, so tight. He's sweaty and sticky with come and he has a bite bruise that will annoy the hell out of him coming up on one shoulder and before he drifts off, all he can think is, how soon can we do this again?
They both lie there in a daze for a while until the evening light turns Steve's room a faint orange. "Mmmmmmm. I could get used to this bed." His whole body is flattened by a metric ton of satisfaction -- it's oozing out of his pores -- but he feels higher than he has in forever.
"So that's what this was all about."
Danny doesn't have to see that lazy grin. He can hear it. "Yep. Anything to get me off the couch." He runs a fingertip over Steve's hipbone to see that curve of muscle twitch.
"After what you've been through, it's good to blow off some steam."
"Yeah, things lately have been so . . . and I feel so much better than I have in, hell, I can't even."
"I'm glad." He squeezes Danny's shoulder companionably. "It's okay, you know. If you were just curious, it's okay."
"Curious?" He can't even imagine where this is going. "You mean like . . . bi-curious?"
"Or if you wanted to see if it was as good as your dreams."
That feeling like he got clubbed with the Happy Stick is seeping away. "Nice. Way to kill the afterglow, babe. You think I'd change sides at this late date for a laugh?"
"I'm saying you don't have to change, and you don't have to worry about it. History, you know? That's all I'm saying."
Right now there's a rock hard bicep under his neck that says something completely different, and it's something Danny never thought of. Steve doesn't do relationships. He pulls up so he can see that face, but Steve isn't making one. None of the usual faces are available for perusal as Steve meditates on the paint job on the ceiling. He tilts Steve's head so the man is forced to look into his eyes, but there's nothing in them.
He's always, always been able to read Steve. Now, now they've got this far, now he decides to blank out. Danny slaps back down and rubs his own face with both hands.
"And here I thought the hard part was over." That gets a snort. "Are you saying you don't want us? You're looking for a friend with benefits while Catherine, your other friend with benefits, is sailing the Indian Ocean? Or maybe the occasional hand job in the bunk like your Navy buddies." He shakes his head. "You and me were beyond casual before we ever had any sex."
"What I'm saying is this." Steve shifts, as if he's lost his comfortable spot. "You're in love with a man who doesn't exist. I hear about him every night. When you get better, you'll move on and find somebody real. If your life is any indication, it'll be a woman." His abs are knotted so tight Danny could bounce a quarter off them. They're hollowing his belly, making his hipbones even more prominent.
"Okay. That's fair." He can't even believe he said that, but he'd be wondering the same thing. "You think I'm crazy. Nice of you to give me an out, you dumbass."
"It's not an out." Perfectly calm. Nothing can break the surface. If Danny didn't know better, he'd almost believe it. "It's just the way it is."
All the while, he's stroking a circle on Danny's shoulder. It's like the way he doodles, ruining highly important federal and state forms -- ones that Danny broke his brain over, thank you very much -- while he's hitting rocks together in his head, striking the spark that will blow a case wide open. Now it feels like he's putting an invisible tattoo on Danny, and it's making that two inches of skin crazy-sensitive.
The doodle is how Danny knows Steve's almost there. He's working it out. He wants to believe what's happening. Part of him, the sane, stable part, already does. But Will left 'Aumakua even if Steve doesn't remember, and the twenty-first-century man next to him has nothing but abandonment issues. Great sex doesn't solve everything, as Danny well knows from experience. Only the rest of Danny's life will put that ghost-fear to rest.
Danny heaves a put-upon sigh. "Only you could be jealous of yourself." Steve's in this to the wall. He just doesn't understand Danny's right there with him. Danny wonders vaguely if 'clear-headed and patient' is something he got when he got Will. If so, he hopes it goes away; it's not nearly as gratifying as ranting down the house. He hasn't led anybody by the hand like this since Grace took her first step.
"I am not jealous of any person for any reason." Steady, quiet.
"You're jealous of a memory. I get that." He reaches over to run his fingers through that dark hair, long enough now to have the slightest wave in it. Non-regulation. He's going native. Steve pushes his hand away, still avoiding his gaze.
"I said, I'm not jealous." It's even, almost hypnotic.
If he only heard Steve's voice, instead of feeling him vibrate subsonically, he might even believe it. Careful of his knee, Danny squirms up until he can swing a leg over the man's body, and he honestly didn't mean that little knock to Steve's ribs. Settling on the concave belly, his cock and balls looking like they belong in all their naked glory right there on top, he reaches under Steve's neck to work at the twanging muscles there.
"Okay, then. I'll just have to prove it the long-term way. I'm up for the challenge." This time Danny's not leaving -- or, if he has to, he's dragging Commander Clueless with him, kicking and screaming.
He finds a tender spot with Steve's wince and soothes it with his fingers. His hands might be small compared to Gorilla Man's, but they're strong. "We have two options. If I'm not crazy, and 'Aumakua really existed, then we're both in the right place at the right time. All I need is for you to see that." The cords of Steve's neck relax fractionally.
"The second option, I'm crazy. I completely made this guy up from a depth of sleep deprivation and sheer whackitude that can rival only yours." He digs his thumbs into the stiff shoulders. "But here's the kicker. Maybe you already noticed that I didn't make him up out of thin air. I made him up to be just like you."
Steve finally looks straight at him, and there's a gleam of surprise under those ridiculously long eyelashes.
"Yeah, you think I don't know you." Danny laughs, and even Steve's mouth twitches. "I know you. You're the biggest-hearted, most insane vine-swinging superhero to ever blow shit up on these godforsaken islands. You're the man my daughter adores. You're a wild animal with jungle tendencies, and you damned well need me to keep you out of trouble."
"I do," says Steve, and tips Danny over, avoiding his bad knee. Good thing it's a big bed. He crawls right on top of him and settles himself between Danny's legs.
"Plus,"says Danny as he tweaks Steve's smiling face, "I need more surfing lessons."
"Keep me in bed and have your wicked way with me. You'll keep me out of trouble, and I'll show you how to ride a longboard." Steve's warm, agile mouth smothers Danny's snicker.
When Steve saw the email in his inbox, he hesitated before opening the attached file. It wasn't exactly that he was worried about the information that the Cemetery Commission of Massachusetts might have sent him. It was more that, despite finding the knife and learning about the wreck of the Swallow off French Frigate Shoals, some part of Steve was still rebelling against the idea that Danny's dreams -- or his own -- might be something more than stress or suggestibility.
That was the part of him that the Navy owned, and likely would have some hold on forever. The rest of him, the part that had grown up on these islands, knew the truth. But as Mamo said, knowing and having proof were two distinctly different things. He clicks open the file.
With its contents, the proof is rolled out in front of him. This causes its own problems.
Once Danny knows his dreams were real, he may want to separate what was real then from what's real now. Freed from the emotional turmoil of what happened almost two hundred years ago, he may choose to free himself from Steve.
He sits staring at the papers on his desk for almost two hours before he gets up, eases the stiffness out of his hands, and goes home.
When he walks through his front door, he can hear Danny in the shower. There is splashing, the odd snatch of whistled tune and occasional singing. Steve takes the opportunity to kick off his boots and grab a couple of cans of Coke Zero from the fridge. Since being read the medical riot act on the interactions of Ambien and alcohol, evening beers have been out for Danny and Steve keeps him company out of support. Also because Danny has a pout that makes Steve look like an amateur.
By the time Danny comes pattering downstairs in cutoffs and an old Giants t-shirt, Steve has everything laid out on the table.
"Hey, you're home early!" Danny says cheerfully, leaning over to smack a kiss into the wisps beside Steve's temple. "I was going to marinate some pork chops." He steals Steve's Coke and takes a swig before noticing the bundle of soft leather on top of a file folder set out in front of his usual seat. "What's this?"
Steve wants to smile and tell him it's a present, but it is so much more than that -- and something so different -- that he can't explain it. He just waves a 'go ahead' hand at it and opens the can of soda he originally brought out for Danny. With a long drink, he won't have to say anything else.
After shooting him a speculative look, Danny cautiously begins to unwrap the dark leather that Steve had carefully folded. When he understands what he is seeing lying on the table before him, Danny sinks back into his chair like a balloon losing air.
The knife looks more battered and less mystical in the uncompromising afternoon sunlight. It's beaten and worn, the handle cracked and the blade dulled by long and careless usage. But Danny picks it up as if it is something fragile and precious, and maybe it is. Because this is the only tangible proof he has that all of this was not simply an elaborate fantasy.
"Danny, look at the butt," Steve says softly.
Danny turns the knife and rubs his thumb over the darkened piece of lead hammered to hold the tang to the end of the scrimshawed bone handle. Cut deeply into the lead are the initials he remembers seeing before: W.D. There is a dreamy smile on his lips as he turns the knife and skims his fingers over the portrait of a man expertly scratched into the bone, then darkened with lamp black ink.
"It's his knife," Steve says unnecessarily. "I found it at the museum."
"Gabby had it," Danny interrupts. "I was gonna buy it."
"Too late," Steve smirks, then sobers a little. "I knew it the moment I touched it."
"Steve," Danny starts, then stops and flails one hand. "You don't have to humor me."
"I'm not," he promises. "Read the stuff in the folder, Danny." He settles back, not really sure what effect his packet will have.
He watches as Danny reverently lays the knife back on the leather and then opens the folder and begins to read. Danny's expression of total absorption as he gleans pertinent facts is familiar from dozens of cases they've worked. Now Steve knows they'll work many more, and he begins to relax as he hasn't since this whole bizarre chapter began.
Danny scans the two brief articles about the finding of the Swallow in less than fifteen feet of water by divers at French Shoals. He reads about some of the artifacts recovered, including whaling lances, some china and coins. There is a notation from a Nantucket Whaling syndicate regarding the loss of the 90 foot whaler "Swallow" with all hands presumed dead in 1821.
It is the last page in the file that stops Danny cold. Steve watches him stare at the image that some zealous and friendly researcher in Massachusetts had scanned and sent to him. Scribbled across the bottom of the page are the words:
'Looks like he died from pneumonia. The local church records have a woman of the same last name, aged 56, dying in September of the same year from fever. She's buried next to him but the stone is pretty deteriorated. Let me know if you need more.'
Above the note is a simple black and white picture of a headstone reading:
died Oct 12, 1824
Farewell, bright soul, a short farewell
Till we shall meet again above
In the sweet groves where pleasures dwell
And trees of life bear fruits of love
Steve watches Danny trace the top edge of the stone in the picture, then the odd winged skull carved above the words. Then he closes the file and drops it on the table before running both hands over his face with a rough scrub. When he looks up to meet Steve's eyes, face red and hair mussed, he says, "Poor bastard."
"Yeah. Will's life was pretty tough." And he died alone in the place he grew up, enduring the loss of everyone he ever loved. Steve went into the service hellbent to bash through every challenge or die trying, and there were times when he didn't care which. But Danny didn't get a signup bonus for the anguish he'd been through, not in this life or the last.
The words fall out of his mouth, foolish and unsteady. "I want to make it up to you."
"You already have. I told you, Grace is my reason for living. You're the one who made my living here better." Danny's eyes are clear and sure again. "Steve?" His voice is quiet, layered with things neither of them have said yet. When he meets Danny's gaze, the man is serious. "Thank you. For finding all of this. For believing me, for believing in me. I mean it."
"It was nothing." Steve, well, he knows Danny can see everything right there on his face if Danny wants to look. "After all, you keep reminding me that I'm the crazy one in this relationship. So I knew the proof had to be out there somewhere."
Danny gets up and moves to stand next to him, the knuckles of one hand following the line of Steve's jaw. He's smiling just a little, but there's an odd look in his eyes that Steve's never seen before; doesn't know how to interpret. "You know, my mother always taught me to say thank you when someone gives me a gift." He holds out his hand to Steve, who takes it. "I'd like to express my gratitude." But he doesn't yank Steve up for one of his no-holds-barred UFC-certified MMA kisses.
He turns Steve's hand over and presses gentle lips to the center of his palm. A faint prickle of awareness sweeps over Steve at the muted touch, as if Danny caressed his skin with a fingertip. Danny's face is freshly shaven, so smoothly fitted against his callused palm.
Danny says, "Come upstairs."
The low words curl around his ear, beckoning him to follow. He rises, but doesn't move until he's had a chance to pull Danny close. "I think I'll like your mother," he says against the damp, ruffled hair, "but this probably isn't what she meant." He just stands there, holding onto Danny's warmth.
"Yeah, but it's a lot more fun than writing a thank-you note."
Neither of them laugh.
His teeth graze Steve's ear, then nip sharply, causing Steve to completely forget what he was going to say. Instead, he just sighs out, "Okay . . ." On their own, his hands slide up that broad back to clutch heavy shoulders as Steve's mouth seeks the hollow of Danny's throat.
Wordlessly Danny leads Steve through the house and up the stairs, heading for the bed they've been sharing for two weeks now. The file folder and the knife are left behind on the table and, if Steve spares a thought for them later, deep in the night, it's only to be grateful that they were there to be found. Those small bits and pieces of a dead past are the tokens of a life that has given them this.
When Steve wanders into the kitchen the next morning, it's to see Danny standing at the sink, just staring out the window. He's wearing only a pair of cut-off shorts, which means he'll go surfing with Steve today. The idea makes Steve smile a little.
The line of Danny's back is relaxed, the curves of his muscles edged with gold from the sunlight. The two back dimples above Danny's pelvis are showing just above the drooping waistband of his shorts. Suddenly, Steve has to go over and fit the pads of his thumbs into those depressions. Danny doesn't even jump, he just takes a deep breath as Steve's hands wrap around both of his hip bones and rest there, so lightly.
Danny doesn't even move when Steve pulls himself closer to Danny, so close that the backs of his thumbs are brushing his own waist. He just stands and stares out the window and waits. Steve leans in and touches his lips to the back of Danny's neck. There is a shudder that begins at Danny's shoulders, just under Steve's lips and ripples down the length of his body.
Steve rests his mouth against the skin of Danny's shoulder. After a time, a long breath sighs out of Danny, and Steve knows that sound. It's the sound of someone coming home, slipping into something familiar, comfortable and safe. Suddenly, Steve knows that his hands are no longer fitted around Danny's waist. Now his hands are full of Danny. With that one breath, Danny has handed himself over into Steve's care. It is the most terrifyingly wonderful gift he has ever received.
He hugs Danny just to show him that he understands. His arms slide up, barely fitting around Danny's heavy arms and broad chest. And Steve drops his head into the curve of a shoulder and holds on, like a drowning man to a log, tight and grateful and impossibly buoyant. Every inch of his body feels Danny.
Danny finally moves, his hands coming up to curl over Steve's forearms. And then Danny is just still, there with him. Not moving, content to breathe together and hold on tight. Somehow it feels like a sacred moment. So Steve whispers,
"Stay," like a prayer.
When Danny's voice breaks the silence, he says something Steve never expected but knows immediately is true. "I came back to you . . ." A swallow and another deep breath, then he finishes his sentence. "'A'amakualenalena." Then the words ripple from his mouth, unfamiliar, but Steve knows what they mean. " 'O ku'u aloha no 'oe (You are indeed my love)."
Steve is shattered with gratitude, but all he can find to say is, "That means I'm yours now."
He can feel Danny smiling. His eyes are closed and his face is tucked against Danny's neck, but he can still feel Danny's smile like sunlight on his skin. Later they will have to talk about dreams and memories and artifacts and the sincerely fucked up management of the universe, but not right now. Now, it's enough to be here together at last.
The Same Deep Water by I Am Kloot
Swim out to the ocean
Drown your thoughts out at sea
And dip your hands in the water
The same deep water as me