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Lost at the Edge of the Sun

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Danny never claimed to be very good with so-called higher math or any of the sciences that went with them. Once numbers got theoretical, he was pretty much a goner. But arithmetic was never really a problem -- and as soon as he had someone counting on him to provide everything in the world for her, he got to be a fair hand at budgets as well.

Not that he was all that good at not spending money, but as soon as Rachel had said "I'm pregnant" all the money went to the baby and Danny learned how to get along without things like new shoes or a steak dinner at Mario's. And that was the worst part of all this, really. He'd never been one for flashy indulgences. He didn't waste his money or gamble it away. He was responsible, mature, and careful. Stuff like this shouldn't be happening to him.

So he did the math up one more time and simply couldn't understand how it had gotten to this. He could, of course, trace the expenses and income quite specifically, right down to the penny. The numbers came out the same every single time and there was nothing very mysterious about how it added up. But karmically speaking, Danny didn't see how this was possible.

The trouble, he knew, was the house. He'd been 'lucky' enough to win it in the divorce, then had been completely unable to sell it when he'd moved to Hawai'i. He'd tried to rent it out and got nowhere, so now his nineteen year old nephew was living it in rent-free just to keep it from being vandalized. But it meant Danny still had a mortgage and yearly taxes to pay and was responsible for major repairs. One damaged roof from a snowstorm and one dead furnace later, and he was looking at a pile of bills stacked on his dresser that exceeded the amount of money on his paychecks.

Paychecks, plural. Danny did the math one more time, but it wasn't coming out any differently. He'd blown through the bulk of his savings getting out here the year before, which left him no cushion to do much of anything.

His list of options was noticeably small. Danny sighed, looked at the paperwork and thought about maybe trying to add things up one more time, but knew it was no use. He shoved everything to one side, knowing that on Monday he'd pay what he could and the rest of it.... Well, he had a short list of options which he told himself was better than no list at all.

~~~

Coffee was easy.

Danny stood by the coffee maker at headquarters, waiting patiently for the thing to stop dripping. He heard someone come into the room and glanced over, giving Kono a smile as she caught his look.

"Morning, Danny."

Danny just shook his head and gestured with his empty coffee mug. "Unbelievable, you know that?"

Kono paused, frowning at him in confusion. Danny nodded towards her head, because her hair was wet -- which he knew perfectly was from being out on the waves that morning before coming in. That meant she'd gotten out of bed at a godawful time of day in order to hit the beach and still be on time for work.

"Could you possibly sleep in just once, for my sake?" he asked her and she grinned, dimpling at him with a look that made him fear for his daughter when she got older. Or fear for himself, rather, and any boy who tried to so much as talk to her. He had a brief urge to ask Kono's father how he'd managed to raise a daughter without killing anybody, but he was half-afraid to find out it wasn't actually possible.

"Gotta catch a wave, brah," Kono said casually, shrugging at him as she reached past him for an empty mug.

"You're insane," he told her, then caught sight of Steve, just coming in the door. "Christ, not you, too?"

Steve paused, raising an eyebrow and even glancing partway behind himself, as if wondering who Danny might possibly be talking to other than himself. He was dressed like any other day, casual shirt and cargo pants hiding what Danny now knew were swim shorts underneath. But his hair was wet as well, and Danny honestly didn't understand how he could tell from across the room that this was ocean-wet and not fresh-from-the-shower wet.

It was probably the wide-eyed grin underneath.

"I should probably not be surprised you don't need sleep like normal people," Danny began, then gave Kono another look. "Actually, I'm pretty sure you're not normal, either. Chin told me about your last high-speed car chase. I might have to ask the Governor about assigning us a few more responsible adults to help balance you two out."

Steve wandered into the room, a smirk appearing on his face as he'd clearly figured out what Danny was talking about. Danny didn't bother to ask if they'd gone to the same beach -- he'd learned not to ask questions when he knew he wouldn't understand the answers. He knew the names of the area beaches, but somehow that never seemed to help when either Steve or Kono started explaining where they'd been surfing and what they'd done while they were there.

He half-suspected them of making up words just to mess with him.

Finally, though, the coffee pot had finished its brew cycle and Danny grabbed the pot, pouring himself a mug. Despite the fact he knew it was no different from a hundred other times he'd done exactly the same thing, he felt somehow as though there was a huge neon sign over his head, blinking for all the world to see. He watched the coffee fill his mug and tried not to somehow communicate what he was doing.

He'd used the last of his coffee at home a few days before and ever since then he'd been mooching off work. Not mooching, he tried to tell himself. He always drank a few mugs of coffee on the state's dime, but it didn't feel the same when it was the only coffee he could afford. The last few days he'd been growing ever more paranoid, carefully counting the number of cups he drank and making sure he didn't have more than he usually did. He'd calculated an average of four mugs on a work day and he'd told himself, no more than that.

Right now he focused on the sugar and creamer, stirring with maybe a little more concentration than it usually needed, listening with half an ear as Steve and Kono exchanged some sort of surfer pleasantries, talking about their mornings in jargon that might not have originated from English. Danny couldn't tell if either of them had had a good time of it or not, but as they talked he took his first sip of coffee of the day and tried to relax as nobody seemed to be about to call him on it.

Danny leaned back against the counter, watching for just a moment as Steve described... something from his morning spent surfing. He was holding his hands out in what otherwise would have been a classic caught-a-fish-this-big gesture, only Danny was fairly sure that wasn't what Steve was describing. Whatever it was, it was making Steve's face light up, hell, practically his entire body was vibrating with the sheer amazement of it.

Kono was watching him avidly, nodding and agreeing and Danny felt a sharp pang of resentment at the ever so familiar feeling of being left out. Or maybe, he told himself, he should man up and call it what it was: jealousy. Something had made Steve so ridiculously happy and Danny couldn't even understand the words he was using to describe it.

There was no graceful way out of the room, with the pair of them standing between him and the door, so Danny took another drink of his coffee and stared at the glass wall beyond them. It was better than staring at Steve, at least, because what he really wanted to do was watch his partner's face and listen to the tone of his voice as he talked, bouncing and excited as a little kid.

There was a pause, then suddenly he realized Steve was looking at him. The joy had vanished from his face, replaced with a frown. For a moment Danny tensed, somehow certain that Steve was about to ask him about the coffee. He tried to remind himself there was no huge neon sign on his forehead flashing the words 'I'm broke.'

At least he hoped to God there wasn't. He wanted to rub his forehead to be sure, but knew if he did, he'd give himself away.

"We boring you, Danno?" Steve asked, and he sounded more amused than insulted.

"How could you be boring me when I have no fucking clue what you're talking about? Surfing, being kidnapped by Martians, the latest episode of Housewives of Atlanta?"

"You watch Real Housewives of Atlanta?" Kono asked, sounding excited in a guilty sort of way.

Danny just looked at her, and after a moment she shrugged.

"I've never been to the mainland. Do people really act like that?"

"I wouldn't know," Danny said. "Since I've never seen the show. But it does give me the chance to ask if we're going to be getting any work done today or if we're going to spend the morning chatting about big rahanees. Or whatever that thing was you said you did."

Steve's perplexed look was, Danny had to admit, one of the perks of messing with him. He'd never call it adorable, because that implied a level of mush that Danny simply didn't aspire to. But it was definitely a perk.

With a tilt of his head that made him look a bit like a labrador retriever, Steve asked, "What's a...what did you say? Rahanee?"

Danny had to resist the urge to reach over and scratch Steve behind the ears. "Are we going to go interview some witnesses and see if we can find anybody willing to admit they saw something that might possibly be of some use to us in building a case against Carl Wong?"

They'd been working the case off and on, in-between everything else they'd been doing. It was one of those cases that never seemed to get anywhere, but they had to keep slogging forward in hopes that eventually they'd catch a break. The week had been slow, in terms of having no international terrorists, no high-profile murders, and basically no chances for Steve to fly a burning jet into the side of a mountain in an effort to prevent an outbreak of the plague. So they'd been focusing on older cases, ones where they couldn't even figure out who to dangle from a roof for a confession.

It worried Danny a lot that he was beginning to look forward to getting a new case. Especially when Steve pouted ever so slightly at the thought of doing boring -- that was, typical -- police work all day. Danny patted him consolingly on the arm. "If you don't get a chance to shoot somebody by the end of the day, I'll let you drive my car really fast down the highway and we can pretend we're chasing bad guys."

There was a muffled laugh from Kono, but Steve broke into a grin and Danny rolled his eyes. He was exactly like a little kid being told they were going for ice cream, and Danny mentally shook his head. And if he smiled back just a little, well that was just because of the coffee hitting his bloodstream and had nothing to do with the way Steve was beaming at him.

In case anybody asked.

~~~

A few days later he found a recipe online for baking rice in the oven. It was simple enough and he had the right pan already, one advantage over buying a steamer like he'd thought he might have to do. The big bag of rice he'd bought reminded him of those days right out of high school when he'd moved out of his parents' house and was making it on his own, just like a real adult.

And just like every other eighteen year old first-time apartment-dweller, he'd lived on ramen noodles and rice for a good long while. This time around he forewent the ramen noodles, if only because nothing said 'I have no money' like a cupboard full of ramen. But a bag of rice was cheap and innocuous, and frugal trips to the local farmer's market helped round the larder out to something reasonably decent if not exactly his usual fare.

There was one cupboard he didn't touch. It was packed with all of Grace's favorite foods, her cereal and macaroni and cheese and those weird puffed orange marshmallow things. The day before he'd picked her up for his weekend he'd got the milk and juice and eggs for making waffles, and a quick look around the kitchen had shown nothing unusual. Nothing that Grace seemed to notice, for which Danny was grateful. He'd been able to distract her with as much free entertainment as he could -- state parks and the swimming pool at his apartment complex had kept her busy and happy.

The Monday after dropping her off at school Danny was in a foul mood. He went to work and headed straight for the coffee machine, hoping it would help with his headache, at least, if not his temper. He took it directly to his office and sat down at his desk, glowering at the computer as if daring it to have any work-related e-mail waiting for him.

He was halfway to opening up a web browser and catching up on the fate of the New Jersey Devils. It was theoretically possible that they stood a chance of making the playoffs, although Danny had to admit it was unlikely, since last week they were still at the bottom of the conference. He had a feeling that finding out they'd lost to the Islanders wouldn't help his mood, so he tapped his fingers on the desk and stared at the blank computer screen, trying to think of something that might make the day into something bearable.

There was a knock on his door and he looked up to find Steve standing there holding up a paper bag.

"If that's a hand that somebody found in their trash can, I don't want to talk to you."

Steve barely blinked at him, then he just shook his head. "Malasadas."

Danny pointed to the chair. "In that case, come in, sit down, take a load off, give me that bag." He grabbed it as soon as Steve got within reach and dug out a donut. It only took two bites to finish it completely off and he'd grabbed a second one before looking up at Steve again. "Did you want one?" he asked around a mouthful of fried heaven. A week of eating rice and fresh vegetables and drinking nothing but water and stolen coffee made the malasadas taste outstanding.

"No, thanks." Steve looked vaguely unsettled, staring as Danny finished off a second donut in three bites then went back for another. He sat quietly until Danny was eating his fourth donut in smaller, more regular-sized bites. "Better?" Steve asked.

"Better than...? Um. Oh. Yeah." Danny swallowed a bite of donut and tried not to look sheepish. "Sorry."

Steve just shrugged. "You're always grumpy after a weekend with Grace. Kono texted me this morning and said it was worse than usual. We consider it self-defense," he added with a slight grin as he leaned back in the chair and propped one foot on the edge of Danny's desk.

"I'm not--" Danny began, but, yeah, he couldn't put much effort into denying it. At least there was no need to explain himself, he knew. Steve had heard his rants often enough, so he understood that for Danny, Mondays after having his daughter were the worst possible thing he ever had to face. Worse than watching his partner dangle people off buildings, worse than wondering if the burning van barreling towards them was going to blow them up, worse than the Governor showing up and asking about their budget reports.

It would be two weeks before he could see Grace again, no matter how much the daily phone calls helped him through it. It wasn't the same, it would never be the same, and Danny was grateful that Steve and the others understood that.

He was grateful for the donuts, particularly. Five donuts and a cup of hot, strong coffee and he was almost feeling like himself again. The day was still going to suck, because it was exactly thirteen days until he could see his little girl again. But Steve was still grinning at him, sprawled out in his chair and looking completely relaxed.

"You can tell Kono it's safe," Danny said, contemplating a sixth donut and debating the benefits of leaving the rest for lunch.

Kono suddenly poked her head around the edge of the doorway. "Chin said to remind you that you have to be at the courthouse today at one for the Landsbury case." Then she disappeared quickly as she'd popped in. Danny stared at the doorway for a long moment then back down at his bag of malasadas.

"These aren't going to be enough."

"Tell you what," Steve said. "If you make it through without pissing off the judge, I'll buy you a beer after work."

Danny raised an eyebrow at him. "It's Judge Honami and she hates all of us. What are you going to buy me after I'm fined for contempt of court?"

"You buy me a beer."

Danny just raised an eyebrow, trying not to show his amusement at Steve's grin. Dear God, but he had it bad. Too badly, because there were a thousand things he couldn't be doing right now and falling over his tongue for his partner was near the top of the list. Letting said partner figure out how Danny felt was even closer to the top, so he tried to force his expression into an appropriate scowl. "Why do I have the feeling I'm going to be buying all the beer?"

"Because the last time you had to appear in Judy Honami's court, you nearly got jailed for six months."

"Is it my fault she's a short-sighted, tree-hugging hippie who thinks that guys who shoot their elderly parents are 'misunderstood' and need therapy instead of being hung by their balls--" Danny stopped and glared harder at Steve.

"It's like playing an arcade game. I put a quarter in and everything lights up and spins around," Steve said, sitting back and watching Danny like he was the morning's entertainment.

"You're buying the beer," Danny told him, sternly.

"Then don't get fined for contempt."

Danny just groaned and put his head in his hands. "It's Honami. I'm doomed."

"We'll visit you in jail," Steve offered, not sounding a bit concerned.

"Bring malasadas," Danny told him, not bothering to lift his face from his hands. He tried not to think about just how seriously he couldn't afford a court fine and he asked himself if it was possible for him to hold onto his temper in Honami's courtroom.

He was doomed. He'd be eating rice and ramen for the rest of his life.

~~~

Chin and Kono joined them for beers after work. The bar was not their usual post-case 5-0 hangout, as that tended to be Steve's lanai and a six pack or three. But Salido's was their usual beer-away-from-home locale and it was nice enough and frequented by enough white faces that Danny didn't feel completely like the stranger in a strange land. Normally he actively enjoyed it, playing pool with Chin (never Kono, never again) or shooting the shit with other off-duty cops who dropped by.

Things had changed a lot since they'd put Kaleo away. At the station Danny had been assigned to nobody but Meka had had much use for the new haole cop. Danny hadn't really cared, as socializing hadn't been at the top of his priority list. But once he'd become part of 5-0, the regular cops had all been a mix of resentment and gratitude -- both sentiments because 5-0 could get away with shit that regular cops never could. But they got results, if usually along with a lot of property damage, so in the end there was, at a minimum, grudging respect.

When they'd nailed Kaleo, most of the detectives Danny had worked with had broken all semblance of friendly ties. Danny knew it was mostly from the embarrassment that they'd had a leak right in the department and not a single one of them other than Meka had suspected. However, every other cop in the HPD seemed to think they were heroes and celebrities, or at the very least, worth buying a beer and hoping for stories where bad guys got what was coming to them.

Danny was taking full advantage of that tonight, much as he hated himself for it. Kono had been good for her round -- as rookie she always got to pay first, a rule which made her complain every single time but one which they couldn't, in all fairness, circumvent without undoing centuries of tradition. Or so they were willing to pontificate about until she gave in and bought the first round. Second round went to whomever was down a round from the previous time, and from there it went in some kind of mutating order until somebody accidently missed their turn because he was in the john or they simply called it a night and headed out.

The team as a whole didn't tend to be hard-nosed sticklers about who paid and who didn't on any given night as each of them tended to pick up their share, a fact for which Danny was grateful. It meant that after Chin bought the second round and Steve was hiding by the pool table to avoid buying the third, Danny was able to accept Andrada's offer and let him supply them with beer for their third round.

Despite his gratitude, Danny could feel his heart racing as he took a drink of his beer. The neon sign was back on his forehead, he knew it, flashing just this side of invisibility. He watched Kono laughing at something Andrada said, watched how Chin's eyes narrowed momentarily at the other officer. Danny wondered if any of them could tell, or if any of them would even care if he simply said he couldn't cover it tonight. He had five dollars in his wallet, not enough to buy one bottle. It was left over from the cash he'd allowed himself for Grace's visit and it was all the cash he had until payday.

Not that his next paycheck wasn't already dogeared for half a dozen other things, things which didn't include beer and pizza and coffee. But Danny didn't want to think about it right then, he just wanted to enjoy his beer that other people were buying for him and let the alcohol dull him just enough that all his problems could go the fuck away for a few hours.

Five dollars wasn't going to accomplish that, but between Kono and Chin and Andrada, he was closer to it than he'd been for awhile. Now if Steve would come back in time to take his round, Danny might even get all the way to beer number six before anybody looked his way again.

A glance showed him that Steve was still hiding from his turn at the pool table, holding onto a cue stick and watching some local island boy lining up his shot. Danny didn't recognize the guy, had no clue if Steve knew him or if he'd simply accepted an offer of a game. Steve didn't appear to be chatting much; instead he was watching the pool table with a serious expression that made Danny wonder if he'd placed a bet on the game. Steve didn't often play pool for real, any betting with Danny or Chin tended to involve paperwork and cleaning the break room for a week.

Steve had also stopped playing pool with Kono, a fact which made her complain even more than having to pay for their beer. Nobody who knew her would play against her, and Danny had suggested more than once that she ply her trade in tourist bars and hustle them for cash and buy all of them beer and sports cars with her winnings.

Danny watched as Steve's opponent stood up from the table as his ball sank into a corner pocket. He was thin and wiry, an unruly head of jet black hair that made the parent in Danny want to offer up a comb. He was grinning at Steve, a taunting but friendly grin that told Danny he was winning. Steve returned the grin with a half-smirk of his own, but his face was still serious as he sized up the possible shots on the table. Danny found himself wondering even more who the guy was and why Steve was playing with him.

He jumped when someone poked him in the arm and he looked over to find Chin leaning over. There was a definite look of amusement in Chin's eyes as he said, "That's Jacob Harrison. His cousin's Matt Wong."

"Matt Wong, our person of interest for those break-ins?" Danny looked over again and realized that Steve's intent demeanor screamed 'working' and not 'I take my pool playing very seriously.'

"Jacob approached Steve a few minutes ago; hopefully because he wants an excuse to drop a few details in our lap without his cousin finding out."

Danny looked back to Chin, seeing how Kono was now sipping at her drink as she kept half an ear on Chin and half an eye on Steve. "And why would he want to rat out his cousin to us?" Danny wanted to know, because as much as he enjoyed his job being made easier, he'd learned never to trust a guy who was happy to turn in a relative.

But Chin still looked amused. "Word is that Jacob and Matt are both interested in the same girl."

Danny sat back in his chair, staring at Chin in disbelief. "You have got to be kidding me."

Chin shook his head, taking a long swig of his beer. "Steve and I have been here a few nights running, hoping to run into him." His expression grew serious for just a moment as he looked directly at Danny. "Steve would have called you, but you had Grace."

Danny just shrugged, though inwardly he was relieved -- a surprisingly great deal of relief, for having only heard a few seconds ago that Steve and Chin had been working the case without his knowledge. It was on the tip of his tongue to go over and give Steve a piece of his mind about not telling your partner everything he needed to know, but at least Steve had actually taken back-up and not simply come here alone.

So instead he scowled. "So here I am, thinking I'm being given commiseration for being in court all afternoon listening to how we're practically worse than criminals ourselves, when really we're here working?"

Chin just shrugged one shoulder, not bothering to hide his smile. "We feel your pain, brah," he said.

"We're glad it wasn't us," Kono put in. "For that, we owe you beer."

"You definitely owe me beer," Danny agreed quickly, nodding at the waitress who had just come around. Kono looked outraged, mouth open to tell him exactly what she thought of his tactics, but, really, she'd walked right into that one and Chin was apparently willing to back him up and he gestured helplessly at Kono that she'd done it to herself that time.

"Fine. But I'm going to get you back for this, Danny Williams." Kono glared at him and Danny actually shivered, just a little. But she asked the waitress to bring them another round, and she handed over two folded bills to cover it.

Danny forced himself to smile, widely and smug, as he leaned back in his chair, saluting her with his nearly empty bottle. "Look at it this way, Kono. We're working, which means you can expense it."

Kono blinked in surprise. "Can I?" she asked Chin.

"I think you'd have to be very creative in describing the expense," was all Chin said, diplomatically as he could, but Danny had a feeling -- given the way Kono was smiling rather evilly -- that she wasn't going to have any trouble with that.

"I hope if you ever decide to take over, you'll remember me as a friend," Danny told her. Then as she started to scowl at him, he added, "A friend who tricks you into buying him beer, true. But I said nice things about your aim the other day."

"That was a nice shot," Chin agreed.

Kono frowned thoughtfully and for a moment she just sat there, clearly thinking things over. Finally she picked up her beer, took a swig of it, then nodded. "I'll keep it in mind."

~~~

When the bills come due again, Danny was no closer to solving his problem than he had been before. He'd stopped spending wherever he could, but that had been more because there was no leftover cash. Now he was staring at a small pile of bills on the kitchen table and a few more on the screen where he'd logged into his bank account and clicked on the summary of all the autopays.

He'd double- and triple-checked and there was nothing he could put off; everything that was on a payment plan was already done so and he'd made phone calls and argued the minimum payments down as far as they could go. He'd considered -- and thoroughly rejected -- the option of calling his parents. They were both getting ready to retire and his sister was living at home because she'd been out of work for a year. Between that and half a dozen grandchildren, Danny didn't reasonably see how they could help him enough to make a difference.

He wouldn't say no to a care package of his mom's brownies, but that wouldn't help him pay off his medical bills. Or the house repairs or the dozens of other things that had somehow crept up on him when he apparently hadn't been looking. Even his credit card was maxed out, not giving him that cushion to delay some things until later.

He tried not to think about all the purchases he'd put on his card, things for Grace when he was trying to compete with a man who owned freaking hotels in Hawai'i and could afford to buy his step-daughter a horse while Danny could barely eke out enough for a stable of horse dolls and a doll ranch house to go with them.

He was going to have to stop that now, he knew, and telling himself it wouldn't matter to Grace didn't exactly help. It was hard, when every day he waited to hear her call Stan 'dad' and he became that guy she saw sometimes and used to live with when she was younger. If it meant buying her dolls and clothes and too much candy and a weekend with the dolphins -- or buying her souvenirs while Steve bought the weekend -- then he didn't think he'd be able to stop wanting to spend too much on his little girl.

Clearly he would have to, however, and the idea that he might have to win his daughter's affection by spending the weekend sitting in his rat-trap apartment and walking to the park to play on the swings didn't exactly fill him with pride. But even if maybe he'd spent some of his money in stupid ways, most of it hadn't been. Most of it had been necessary, like hospital bills left over from two years ago for what should have been a one-day procedure to remove his gallbladder but which had led to an infection and an extra week's worth of renting a room in the hospital and paying the doctor to say 'still not healed, yet.'

And while his Uncle Chris had been the one to fix Danny's roof, the man had four kids to feed and not a lot of work coming his way. Danny couldn't exactly regret paying what he owed Chris. Now, of course, he wished he'd asked if he could have paid in installments or something, but the money was gone and Danny had to look at what he could control.

He'd already cut down his grocery bill as far as it could go. He'd made sure he turned in every single reimbursement form to get repaid for the gas for his car, noting every single quarter mile that his car was used for work-related purposes. He'd never had cable, and canceling the landline and keeping his just cell didn't really get him that far ahead. And he simply didn't own anything that was worth enough to sell. Sure, he could sell pints of blood to pay for sandwiches, but that wasn't going to get his rent paid.

Danny was starting to see his list of options shrink and he didn't want to look at where they were going.

He might have tried to get a second job, but every cop in Hawai'i either had or needed a second job and those were excruciatingly hard to come by unless you knew someone who knew someone. Danny knew if he asked, Kamekona would find him something, even if it was just hawking t-shirts at his shave ice stand. But then Kono would know, and then Chin and Steve would know, and that was a direction Danny just couldn't make himself go in. Danny knew why, of course, but that was a whole other issue that he wasn't ready to face. He might have done it had it only been Kono, if he could sworn her to secrecy. But there was no way it would stay a secret for long and he knew he couldn't have that conversation with Steve.

Which ruled out borrowing money from any of his teammates as well. Loan sharks were flat out on principle. Danny had seen enough to know he'd rather live in his car than take any money from a loan shark. As a cop he knew he'd sooner or later be offered deals to get out of paying interest and those weren't the sort of deals Danny was ever going to make. That was a long path towards trouble that was a lot more dangerous than facing up to his friends that he badly needed money.

Danny leaned back, flipping a pen through his fingers and stared at the far wall. It was dingy, needed to be cleaned. All of the walls and baseboards did, showing that off-white fade where years had gone by without anyone taking a simple rag and water and scrubbing things clean. When he'd moved in Danny hadn't cared, more concerned with living someplace he could see his daughter more than once a year. He'd been content with a roof and a front door with a lock and windows that weren't shattered.

The neighbors had quickly proven themselves loud and annoying, drunk at nights and screaming domestics that could probably be heard on the mainland. But Danny hadn't ever considered moving because he was on the right side of the city to pick Grace up without a two-hour commute through traffic. He was as close as he could afford to get to her school, so he was available if necessary to pick her up or drop her off and thereby extend his time with her for those few extra minutes.

It had been worth it -- still was, and anything that meant he'd get to spend time with his daughter was worth doing. It was why Danny didn't consider moving back to Jersey, even though he had a house there and his mortgage payment was nearly two-thirds what his rent was for an apartment that was, by any stretch of the imagination, a piece of shit.

He knew if he moved back home, back into that house that was too big for one man alone, seeing rooms that were filled with memories that would stab him in the heart every single moment of the day, he'd have the money he needed. His bills would get paid and he wouldn't have to lie awake at night trying to think of more creative ways to turn four thousand dollars each month into five.

But moving back -- moving away from Grace -- wasn't an option. Not unless he kidnapped his daughter and they went into hiding, and it wasn't like Danny hadn't toyed with the notion when he'd first been told Rachel was moving to Hawai'i and taking their daughter with her.

So he was staying, which meant rent and a mortgage and a stack of bills waiting for a check and an income that simply didn't have enough numbers on it.

Danny sat at the kitchen table, pen in his hand, twirling it and rolling it against his fingers. He stared at the dingy wall as the sun sank into the ocean and the night crept in and buried everything in shadows. When morning came he was still sitting at the table, options still running ragged through his skull and he knew he wasn't any closer to finding any solution to his problems save one.

Nothing else made sense, nothing else was really possible and for every reason Danny could think of why it was something he could never do, he found two and three more reasons why he couldn't do anything else.

Finally he stood up and went to take a shower, and when he got dressed he tied his tie in a knot and made sure his shoes were shined, and he slipped his badge into his pocket like it was just another day in paradise. At the office, he poured himself a cup of stolen coffee, which he knew wasn't really but he couldn't think of it any other way. When he drank it, it tasted bitter and it burned his tongue, but Danny barely paid it any attention. When Steve poked his head in and said they had a lead, all Danny did was stand up and say, "Then let's go."

That evening, he got into his car and drove north.

Maybe there was another way. But if so, Danny couldn't see it from where he was.

~~~

He stood in the parking lot of the public beach, staring through the thin copse of trees beyond which he could see the ocean. There was a crowd of people milling around, some in beach gear, some carrying surf boards. A double handful of tourists walked past him, talking loudly in accents Danny only heard on the TV any more. None were closer to home than Vermont, though, so he ignored them, letting them slip from his mind as easily as the breeze that whipped past.

He could see the tents in the distance but couldn't make his feet move. He stayed beside his car, looking at the people walk by in various degrees of tan and sunburned and told himself this was nuts, this was wrong, this was not his best possible choice. He tried to tell himself to turn around, check the newspapers and find a rat-hole even shittier and cheaper than his current apartment. Find a place with five roommates all splitting the rent so he could afford to stay.

But the problem wasn't that he couldn't afford his current place. It was the fact he couldn't afford any place. If he wanted to eat, put gas in his car, if he wanted to wash his clothes or buy himself a fucking cup of coffee without sneaking into the break room scared that this time someone would notice how many he'd stolen, he couldn't spend even fifty dollars to put a roof over his head.

He felt a touch on his arm and he looked over, recognized the woman he'd met before on the Carlton Bass case. He couldn't place her name, but he saw her smiling as she glanced over to where he'd been looking. "Is there something we can help you with, Detective Williams?"

He knew she was talking about the case, no doubt she was wondering if the courts had suffered yet another setback at finding justice, or if there had been another challenge made to the will which had saved the land she and the others lived on. It would have been easy enough to lie, and tell her he was just there to check on them. To ramble on about whatever came to mind to make her think this was just business, just him taking an interest.

But the words stuck and after a moment all he could do was shake his head. Danny glanced towards the line of trees again, beyond which families lived, people who had jobs and lives and everything except the money left over for rent. When he looked back to the woman, he remembered her name was Suzanne, and she was slipping her hand into his. Her smile hadn't changed, it was still friendly and welcoming, but now there was something else in her eyes, something that made him feel safe and hidden from the road behind him and the small crowd of beach-goers who were just looking for a place to enjoy the day.

She didn't say anything, a fact for which Danny was grateful. He didn't know what he could have said, how he could have stayed polite and how he could have endeavored to explain. But Suzanne didn't say a word, didn't ask -- because of course she already knew. She must have seen it a hundred times over, as all she did was walk with him towards the copse of trees and the community.

Others greeted them as they drew near. Suzanne had a hello for each of them, some of whom remembered Detective Williams and some who didn't. Suzanne introduced them, never saying a word about why Danny was there. Danny shook hands and exchanged a few words, and some of those he met simply went on about their day while others, he could see in their eyes that they recognized him for more than just a guest. They knew, and maybe sometimes those handshakes lasted a little longer, gripping a little tighter as if to lend a silent support that Danny hadn't been expecting. But no one said those words out loud, not quite pretending it wasn't true but perhaps, Danny realized, they were letting him go at his own pace, walking among them like maybe he wasn't going to stay.

When Suzanne brought him to one particular tent, she grinned suddenly and leant towards him. "This is Richard," she said, almost conspiratorially.

Danny narrowed his eyes, wondering what the hell he was in for -- and the tent flap rippled then was drawn aside, and an old man of nearly seventy bent down and stepped out. He looked at them, peering at Danny as if unsure whether he was supposed to know Danny and had forgotten. He glanced at Suzanne in suspicion and she said, like she'd said a dozen times already, "This is Danny."

Richard walked over and his step was a lot more steady than Danny had feared; his grip was strong and when he looked at Danny, right into his eyes, there was none of the wispy confusion Danny saw so often in the elderly. Danny opened his mouth to say hello, pleased to meet you, when Richard waved a hand, interrupting him. "Eh," he said. "I'll show you."

Surprised, Danny glanced at Suzanne, wondering if maybe his re-assessment had been wrong and Richard's physical soundness belied a mental instability. But Suzanne was looking pleased and she let go of Danny's arm and stepped away. Confused, Danny followed Richard as he walked away, passing around the edge of his tent and walking past it to a small space a few yards away.

Richard stopped and considered it, then he nodded. "This'll do," he said, and his voice wasn't quite as strong and loud. He didn't look at Danny, and it was only from the way the other man so studiously watched the empty clearing that Danny understood. He looked at the space as well, gradually seeing it the way Richard meant. Enough room for a small tent, far enough away from the front edge of the community that a newcomer might feel as though he were hidden from discovery. Away from the communal area where even now children were playing and a few cooking fires were banked, away from where curious eyes and friendly neighbors might press too far in before he was ready.

Danny wanted to say...what, he had no idea, because the words were caught in his chest and his mind was whirling, still, because this wasn't really real and this wasn't really the choice he was making. He'd only come to look, just to see, to find some reason why he couldn't possibly.

"My daughter died fifteen years ago," Richard suddenly said, staring out beyond the thin line of trees towards the ocean. "My son, about five years before that. No more reason to stay in Florida so I came back here. Hadn't lived here since I was a kid." He fell silent, long enough for Danny to wonder if he were meant to pick up the conversation. Then Richard spoke again, voice still soft, not carrying much past the small area in which they stood. "Lived on Molokai for a bit, if you could call what I did living. Wasn't a good time." He shook his head and Danny didn't have to ask to understand.

Richard fell silent again and Danny stood quietly, knowing this time there was no need for him to speak. The wind pressed against him, carrying the thick scent of salt water and sun. The noises from the tourists and surfers on the beach filled the air, beyond it Danny could imagine he could hear the sound of birds.

Finally Richard nodded again, as if part of the conversation had continued in his head. "Ended up in a few bad places, then a few not-so-bad, then about five years ago I landed here." He turned to Danny, his gaze direct and clear. "These are good people, good land. Quiet at night, which is more than you can say for town." He grinned, briefly, and Danny found himself trying to smile back. He could feel something sinking inside of him. Then Richard said, "Lots of folks don't stay. Some move on, get their feet back. Some stay here because they've got no place else to be. A few stay because they want to." He paused, then said, "Some are here to surf."

Danny forced a small laugh and Richard glanced at him again, his serious mood seemed to lift a little. After a moment Danny -- didn't exactly feel better, but he suddenly realized he didn't feel like he was drowning.

"When you come, bring a few extra things you don't think you've got room for. Somebody'll put them to good use," Richard said, and the sensation of this is real slammed into Danny, but it wasn't quite the brick wall he'd been fearing.

He glanced at the clearing they were standing in, trying to corral his thoughts into practicalities. The first big one smacked him in the face. "I haven't got--" He stopped, because he couldn't say it, but he gestured at the space where a tent was intended to go.

But the older man just nodded. "There's a place in Wahiawa. Army surplus. Got all kinds of stuff. Kid who runs it'll give you a good deal. Used to live here." Richard tugged a wallet out of his pocket and started digging through it. Danny could see about thirty or more cards shoved in it. Of course, he thought, without a desk or computer to keep important stuff filed away, what else made sense? Richard pulled one card out and held it up to show to Danny. It said simply, Wahiawa Army Surplus, but there was an address and phone number printed below. Danny made a note of the information, then Richard slipped the card back into his wallet.

Then Richard looked out at the ocean, silent for awhile before he gave a sort of shrug and started to walk away. "Aloha," he said over his shoulder and Danny heard the dismissal and wondered yet again, just how intact Richard's mental facilities were. As if it mattered, he told himself a moment later. As if living here might not send a normal person just slightly around the bend, no matter what his age.

Danny stood at the edge of the clearing and watched the surfers on the water. He could barely make out any details, seeing figures on their boards bobbing on the water as they waited for the next wave. Then he turned and walked back to his car and drove away.

~~~

Kaimi turned out to be only a few years younger than Danny, a large man with a horrifically bright Aloha shirt on. Danny had barely told him what he needed, when Kaimi ushered him towards one part of the store which was crammed full of odds and ends. Most of it was old military issue, but there were some newly-packaged gear for camping and hiking, as well as an entire display of surfing gear. Danny was slightly aghast to find he could recognize it as aimed at serious surfers and not the tourist trade.

Kaimi showed him the canvas tents and cots, even dragged out an old camp stove. It looked -- if he didn't think about why he needed it -- perfectly suitable. Danny forced himself not to think about it and focused on pretending it was for someone else, or maybe he was only going camping, or-- or maybe he was going to have to stop pretending and accept the fact he had really truly come this far and had nowhere else to go.

He started to give Kaimi a nod, then a thought occurred and he had to ask, "How much is it gonna cost?" Because he'd paid the rent on his apartment this month, and next week when it was due he'd be out on his tuchus. But he wasn't going to be ahead with cash in his pocket until the month after.

The other man just tilted his head and looked at him for a moment, appraisingly. "You gotta job, brah?"

Danny nodded, quickly. "I do, I just--"

But Kaimi waved him off. "Then you come in next month or the month after, you pay me what you can, when you can until it's paid off." He held out his hand and with only a little confusion and a little more disbelief, Danny took it. Then Kaimi was shaking his hand and giving him a nod like the deal was done on nothing more than Danny's word. Kaimi bent down and grabbed the tent.

Feeling stunned, it took Danny a moment to grab the gear and follow Kaimi towards the door. The other man helped him carry it to his car where Kaimi gave it an appreciative look-over, giving Danny a glance that didn't quite tell Danny what he was thinking. Was he wondering if Danny spent too much on flashy toys and that was how he'd found himself in trouble? Or was he satisfied that if Danny drove a nice car, then he had a job and would be good for the gear he was taking?

Danny shoved away the growing paranoia, because he was done thinking about it and didn't want any of this to be happening, so he shoved the tent and cot in the back seat and the stove in the trunk with a couple bottles of propane fuel, and accepted Kaimi's hand again standing outside on the sidewalk.

"You come by on the third of the month," Kaimi said. "We get a bunch of old MREs from the airfield when they toss the old stuff." He nodded in one direction, which Danny guessed was where the Army airfield lay.

Danny didn't bother explaining that he could afford food, or at least he would once he got himself out of his apartment. He didn't want to think about what he was going to eat that night -- more rice, and the last of the green peppers and maybe, if he was lucky, he'd find a clove of garlic left. Better than an expired MRE but not anything he was in a rush to get back home for.

Next week, he told himself. One more week and he'd be able to buy himself a pizza and a six pack of beer and a bag of malasadas to pay Steve back a little for the dozens his partner had bought him. For now he simply got back in his car and aimed for Honolulu, timing the length of the drive so he'd be sure to allow enough for the commute.

The times he'd made the drive to North Shore during the Bass investigation, he'd been amused to discover the drive up the highway was actually shorter than his in-town commute through the congested traffic of Honolulu itself. But focusing on the time, the drive, and making note of any possible alternate routes and detours gave him something to do that wasn't thinking about the tent in his backseat and the fact it was going to be his home.

Only a few months he whispered to himself, trying not to think the words too clearly so he could pretend he hadn't thought them at all. Only a few months and he'd be back on his feet and he'd move back to Honolulu and live like normal people and all of this could be forgotten.

He took note of the highway signs and the very occasional cross streets, and told himself that when he got to headquarters he'd check out some maps online. He could also look for traffic reports and find out how long he could expect it to take him to make the drive.

By the time he'd reached Honolulu, he'd almost managed to convince himself he'd forgotten about the tent in the backseat.

~~~

The first week he was busy just trying to figure out how to store his stuff, how to cook actual meals on a camp stove, and how to fall asleep on a cot when his brain couldn't stop swirling long enough to shut his eyes, though the deafening roar of the waves jerked him awake whenever he did manage to drop off. It helped -- it helped a lot -- that in the evenings when Danny had more free time than he'd ever known before, that it turned out Richard liked to sit outside and talk. Without any prompting, Richard would start telling stories about his life in Florida and his work as a structural engineer and his kids when they were little. It distracted Danny just enough that in that first week he didn't go completely crazy, at least not so far as he could tell.

The first weekend he had Grace, he panicked. He took every cent he had left over on his paycheck and booked them into the Kahala Hotel to spend the weekend with the dolphins. Danny's back thanked him for sleeping on a real mattress, and Grace was simply delighted with the whole thing. Danny was ready to consider it a win, until, as they were leaving, she mentioned how her mother and Stan had brought her there twice since the first time. Mumbling something about how lucky she was, Danny felt a sort of stabbing in his chest that he totally wasn't surprised by.

But he took her home and she gave him a hug and promised to call him the next day after school. Then Danny drove north, and for the next two weeks he was flat broke again. Meals were rice cooked in a bamboo steamer over an open fire with Jill, one of his neighbors, helping him learn how to tell when it was done properly. He went back to stealing coffee from the break room, and one afternoon when Steve asked if he wanted to head to Salido's for a beer he had to beg off.

Danny asked, first, if it was work-related or if they were actually meant to be relaxing, because Kono had proven that you could get away with reimbursement for a couple of beers as long as you didn't actually call them that. But Steve just grinned and promised he wanted to kick back and have a drink, hang out like they hadn't had a chance to in awhile. Danny tried to steer him towards just going Steve's place, but only if there was already beer in the fridge. But when Steve just shrugged and repeated his invitation to go to Salido's, Danny had to say no.

He hated seeing the blanked out look on Steve's face, and he could tell Steve was trying to pretend he didn't really care. Danny had to fake that he was just a little tired, not up to hanging out in a noisy bar; he had to fake that really what he wanted was to curl up in a ball underneath his desk and hide from everybody. Seeing the way Steve's eyes went flat before he said sure, see you tomorrow, didn't help Danny's mood in the slightest. But Danny forced himself to walk out of the office, ignoring how desperately he wanted to turn back around and go back, tell Steve he'd go and just ask Steve if he would pay. He felt the words crowding his lips to say it, to say that he really wanted a burger and fries and he would do anything to not have to sleep where the noise of the ocean overwhelmed him and the only thing between him and the world was one thin piece of canvas.

It didn't get better after that. For days Danny walked around headquarters like he was trying to avoid everyone which, of course, he was. But he half-hoped no one would notice, or that the others would just think he was busy, or that if they did notice they simply wouldn't ask. Trying to act like everything was normal got more difficult every time he walked into the room and Steve would look at him, eyes lingering and a shuttered expression on his face. Sometimes he looked confused and just a little determined and Danny would immediately launch into a rant about whatever came to mind -- usually the most recent police procedure Steve had failed to follow, or the most recent case that had gotten thrown out of court on a technicality.

So far it had worked to keep Steve derailed, or at the very least prevented him from getting a word in edgewise until he got distracted by work or Danny simply was able to slip away before Steve could voice a question. It was working, mostly, although Danny could tell that Steve was starting to look at him more closely, and for the last two days Danny had barely managed to slip free as Steve had clearly tried to trap him in a room -- presumably so they could talk. Since Danny knew perfectly well what secrets he was hiding, he did everything he could to avoid that conversation.

Wednesday morning things came to a head, as they were getting closer to catching the city's most recent serial arsonist. They were closing in on their perpetrator; with the most recent fire they'd got enough evidence that they could almost point their finger at the right guy. It seemed to Danny everyone was holding their breaths, as if knowing that any day, any moment, someone would find that last, vital piece and they'd know which of their suspects was the one and the arrest would finally be made.

But there was still work to be done to get to that point, so Wednesday morning Steve walked into the conference room and announced they were taking over one of HPD's stakeouts that night. Kono shrunk down in her chair, a nonchalant look on her face to make it look like she totally wasn't shrinking down. Danny didn't blame her; boring as they were, stakeouts very often fell to the lowest cop on the totem pole. He almost volunteered out of pity -- and out of the knowledge that if he were sitting up all night drinking cold coffee and napping on whatever godawful spot was available, which usually wasn't much on a stakeout, then at least he wasn't in a tent with palmetto bugs flying around like giant mutant cockroaches from hell.

But he didn't say a word, because Danny on stakeout meant his partner would be right there with him and the one thing Danny desperately needed to avoid was being trapped with Steve for several hours. Even as he thought it, it dawned on him that Steve could very well order him on stakeout, for that exact same reason.

Which was why it took him by surprise when Steve said, "Chin, I want you and Danny to take it." He didn't so much as glance Danny's way, and the casual expression on his face made Danny wonder if maybe he'd finally convinced Steve there was nothing wrong.

As the words left Steve's mouth, Kono's head popped up, eyes wide like she'd heard someone say she'd won the lottery. She looked from Steve to Danny, clearly wondering if it was safe to ask Steve to repeat what he'd just said. But she kept quiet so as not to attract attention to herself. For his part, Chin just nodded, giving Kono a slight smirk and Danny didn't have any idea what to say. He opened his mouth, but he didn't know if he should argue, or accept, or point out that he and Chin weren't normally paired off. Then he mentally smacked himself, because this was exactly what he wanted: away from the beach for a night and not stuck with Steve.

It didn't explain the feeling of dread he felt when Chin turned to him and said, "We can meet at my place at eight."

Danny nodded like there was no place he'd rather be, then he realized how suspicious that must look. If things were normal, would he argue? Was arguing worth the risk of Steve deciding to join him instead? He caught himself before he could spin himself into a complete tizzy, giving himself a rough mental shake and telling himself to calm the fuck down and breathe.

"You two can take off for the day," Steve said, and he still sounded so casual and focused on the case as he stared at the computer's display. Danny was willing not to question it, even though he saw quite clearly how Steve hadn't looked at him the entire time, still wasn't looking at him as he dismissed them and called up another screen on the computer. Danny stared for a moment as Steve began running over the case with Kono, trying to see if there was anything they'd overlooked or an angle they hadn't yet tried.

It was surprising, and a little weird how much it bothered him. Danny reminded himself this was good, it was what he wanted. But Steve was flat-out ignoring him, and sending him off to work the case with Chin-- Danny jerked himself away and walked out of the room quickly before he could open his mouth to say something that would only get him deeper into trouble. This was good, this was necessary...only Danny suddenly realized it wasn't going to be over anytime soon. He'd have to keep Steve shut out of his life for months. Months of Steve trying to ask and Danny having to shove him away. Danny was going to have to lie to him and keep him from discovering the truth and sooner or later that was going to drive a wedge between them.

Maybe it would be better if he partnered with Chin permanently, Danny thought, only Chin was just as good a detective as Steve, if not technically even better for having been trained as a policeman. Danny sighed as he headed for his office to gather up his things, knowing that there simply was no good answer. Instead he focused on where he should go for the rest of the day. If he'd had the cash he'd rent a motel room for the day and try to get some sleep in preparation for the stakeout. As it was, he'd need to drive all the way back to the North Shore and see if any sleep could be had in the middle of the day.

He somehow doubted it, and it crossed his mind that he had a key to Steve's place. Steve would be at headquarters for the rest of the day and he wouldn't even know if Danny sacked out on his couch. Danny hesitated, then forced himself to simply gather his things and leave the office. He didn't look around for Steve as he went.

It would be a bad idea. Steve would ask why he hadn't gone back to his apartment and Danny just didn't know if he could come up with a convincing lie. Fumigating for bugs, maybe, and goodness knew his old place had had enough of those. Or neighbors arguing too loud to catch a nap -- which was also true, the couple in the apartment next to his old one had gotten worse the last few weeks he'd been living there, screaming at each other and throwing glasses or dishes against the wall. The shattering of crockery and slamming of doors had been hard to ignore, but he could hear that the fighting was two-sided, and he had kept an eye out and had never seen a single bruise on either of them. But it had made it hard to sleep sometimes, and maybe Danny could blame it on them if Steve found out Danny had crashed at his place.

Danny got down to his car and stood beside it, driver's side door open and his arms resting on the hood of the car. He looked across the parking lot at the Palace, at the trees and careful landscaping. There were people dressed in what he liked to call Island Business, which wouldn't pass for formal anywhere other than a tropical island. There were one or two suits, and the usual gaggle of brightly colored tourists, snapping photos and milling about in clumps.

It seemed completely unreal. He'd long since grown used to the difference between the Hawai'i that was shown to the tourists and the Hawai'i that people lived in, but he'd never felt it so keenly as now. He felt grubby, despite the fact he'd been to the laundromat just a few days before. But there was dirt under his nails that never seemed to come off when he washed his hands and his skin seemed to be permanently coated with a fine veneer of salt no matter how much he rinsed it away. The shower facilities at the camp were the outdoor ones for beach goers to wash the sand off before getting into their cars. Residents of the camp used them early in the day or late, some using soap and some not, though many of them eschewed them entirely in favor of a quick dip in the ocean and a scrubbing with sand.

In addition to both of those, Danny used the miniscule locker room's shower attached to the tiny gym Steve had secured for them. One big room with a mat and a single weight bench on one side, as well as a punching bag in one corner. Not much, but Danny knew most police departments didn't have anything so he'd been appreciative -- and was even more so now that it meant he had a place to wash his hair and soap those parts he didn't want exposed while standing outside at the beach.

He only dared go about three times a week though, as before he'd only gone to work out once or twice a week with Steve. He didn't dare risk changing his habits too much, but it meant he never quite felt clean. He'd gone for a dip in the ocean that morning, swimming a bit and trying casually to get the water everywhere without making it look like he was jerking off underwater. He'd played with some of the kids for awhile, Justin and Milo and Angie, all old enough to race off to the ocean as soon as they woke. The younger kids started creeping down later when they could get an adult to take them. The other parents had quickly discovered that Danny made a reliable and willing babysitter so Danny often found himself being dragged down to the shore by the four and five year olds to play at the edge of the water.

And wouldn't Steve be amused to know that in the last few weeks Danny had been in the ocean even more often than he had? Danny exhaled, slowly. No, Steve wouldn't be amused. But thinking of Steve and his lack of shower that day helped Danny decide. He'd go to Steve's place, use the shower and nap on his couch and maybe -- if he could get up the nerve, and if he thought he could clean up without Steve noticing anything -- he could steal himself a sandwich.

He dropped his head. There was no way he could get away with it. One crumb on the counter or one condiment out of place and Steve would notice. A dent in the couch or a damp towel on the rack and Steve would know he'd been there. Danny's chest tightened, because he knew if he simply asked Steve would say yes.

But then he'd also ask why, and Danny just couldn't find the words to tell him.

He got into his car and tried not to think about hot water and a clean towel, and the privacy of four solid walls. He tried not to think about digging out his cell phone and calling Steve and asking anyway, trying to lie to him and praying it would work and all of the other things he couldn't say. I need help. I'm so fucking tired. I don't know what to do.

I love you.

~~~

In the end he drove back to the camp and alternated tossing and turning on his cot with sitting outside and listening to Richard, and corralling some of the younger kids to give their parents a break. He didn't get much rest, but he stayed busy which kept his mind occupied which prevented him from walking off into the trees and screaming. When he drove back to Honolulu he tried to think about the case, and not about Steve.

Chin had a bag of sandwiches and a thermos of coffee when Danny picked him up. Chin didn't talk as Danny drove, and for the first ten minutes he told himself it was a nice change of pace from arguing with Steve about how normal people behaved and what constituted good music.

Then he remembered all the stakeouts he'd been on with George Franklin back in Jersey. Franklin never said a word if he could help it. Even when he was talking to witnesses or questioning suspects he somehow managed to say next to nothing. Being on stakeout with him was enough to make a person chew his arm off, just to have something to do. Danny had managed to survive, mostly by being good enough at Friday night poker games that he won his way out of it, gleefully cashing in IOUs for stakeouts whenever Franklin's name came up.

He didn't think Chin would be that bad, but he had no honest idea. He did glance over, maybe once or twice, to see if Chin seemed lost in thought or like he was about to say something. Each time Chin was just looking ahead, or working on his smartphone. Danny didn't know if it was the casefiles or something else, but it did remind him that he had Tetris on his phone in case of emergencies. Luckily he also had a charger for his phone in the car, so if midnight came around and it was four more hours of Tetris or start chewing, he could at least have a fighting chance at preserving his limbs.

A few minutes later Danny pulled into a spot behind a semi-deserted store front. They gathered their stuff and headed upstairs to the storage room that faced Andrew Dickerson's place. The two officers who'd been watching the place all day looked ecstatic to see their relief show up; Danny didn't want to think about what that meant for their own level of boredom come morning. There wasn't even a place to sack out; two chairs and a folding card table were the extent of the furnishings. One chair was set up at the window with the surveillance gear and the other was at the table where cards were spread out in a game of solitaire.

Danny had a feeling that by morning he was going to hate Tetris.

The two officers gave their quick rundown of the activity in the house, which amounted to 'nothing, he's been quiet all afternoon.' Then they left, and Danny sat down to take the first watch. He had a clear view of the backyard and Dickerson who was milling about and looking like he was getting ready to grill something. Danny's stomach threatened to rumble at the thought of a thick, juicy grilled steak. It was not completely lost on Danny that every meal he'd had for the last few weeks was either cold, or grilled over a open flame. But that was all fish, as the fishermen and women in the camp happily shared their bounty with him in exchange for all of Danny's babysitting. But he was frankly growing tired of fish and rice for practically every meal; unfortunately steak was out of his budget for the foreseeable future.

It was easy to imagine Dickerson grilling up a thick, juicy steak served with baked potatoes and a cold bottle of beer and Danny frantically tried to think about something else before he charged over there and arrested Dickerson just so he could confiscate his supper. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Chin putting his phone away. Chin looked over, and Danny caught the expression on his face and all he could think was, Oh, shit.

Chin said, "Steve wants me to talk to you. Would you rather do it now and get it over with or do you want to put it off until later?"

Danny wanted to bang his forehead against the window sill. Of course that sneaky fucking SEAL bastard had gone behind his back and blindsided him. "I'll kill him," Danny said mildly, because really, he shouldn't be surprised.

There was a pause then, "Is that a 'now', or a 'later'?"

Danny gave a laugh of the sort he completely didn't feel. "Now, now's fine. Otherwise I'll start climbing the walls wondering when you're gonna ask. So, did he give you any parameters or did he just say 'torture Danny for me since I won't be there'?"

"He's worried about you. We all are," Chin said, and he sounded utterly serious. Sounded worried, Danny had to admit, and he risked a glance over, not convinced Chin wouldn't read everything in his eyes or tattooed on his forehead or something.

"Why would you be worried?" he tried, forcing a casual tone that didn't sound remotely sincere.

Chin just shrugged. "You tell me, brah. You've been...tense, lately. Quiet. That's not like you." There was a ghost of a smile that Danny found himself returning, despite himself. Then Chin looked serious again as he asked, "Is Rachel hassling you about Grace?"

"No, no -- Grace is wonderful and Rachel is actually being civilized for a change. Sort of. We don't actually exchange words, but the glares I feel through the airwaves seem much more mellow." Danny shifted back in his chair a little, keeping an eye on Dickerson as he talked. Definitely grilling something, though Danny couldn't make out what. From the size of the covered plate he wondered if someone else was coming over or if Dickerson just ate like a horse.

There was silence, then, and Danny knew Chin was just waiting for him. It wasn't like he needed leading questions to know what was bothering him, but there was no way in hell he intended to tell Chin any of it. He had his mouth open to say it was nothing, feed him some bullshit about stress and work and he'd promise to be his usual self from then on. All he could do was shake his head, though, because if he couldn't say it like he meant it, it would be worse than saying nothing at all.

Another moment went by before Chin said, "If it's none of my business, then that's cool. As long as you talk to Steve." The unspoken threat was no real threat: if Steve had put Chin up to this, then clearly he was making plans. If Danny didn't talk, then Steve would try something else until finally everything Danny needed to keep hidden came spilling out into the open.

Danny shook his head. "Steve--" Was an idiot, he wanted to say, even though in this case it wasn't specifically true. He only realized how he'd choked on Steve's name when there was a light touch on his shoulder.

"Steve's the problem?" Chin sounded calm, understanding, and Danny had to remind himself that Chin had years of experience at interviewing suspects and getting them to confess.

"I don't want talk about it," Danny said, because that much was utterly and completely true. But he knew Chin would keep after him and he could see everything coming crashing down; by morning the entire team would know and he'd be raked over the proverbial coals, wrung out and hung to dry and they'd be in every corner of his life, digging around and finding all the fault -- dragging out every failure he had that had pushed him into this.

He wanted to beg Chin not to ask, not to go any further. Beg him to lie to Steve, convince him to let it go. He was surprised, to put it mildly, when Chin said carefully, "You know...no one would have a problem with it."

Danny blinked, staring at Dickerson's backyard and what looked like fish fillets being laid out on the grill. He was not encouraged to discover he could identify it as a parrotfish. He'd even had uhu for breakfast two days ago. Danny wrenched his thoughts away from the fish and the steak he was still salivating for, and back to Chin and the conversation he wanted to be having even less than he wanted to eat fish. Chin had sounded so earnest, and Danny risked a glance back at him and found Chin watching him, sympathy written clearly all over his face.

"What are you--" Danny began, then he jerked his head back to keeping watch, not because he was afraid Dickerson would make a run for it but because he could hear himself spilling everything to Chin if he kept talking.

"You and Steve. No one on the team would have a problem with it. And...you know that there's no fraternization rules that apply, here. McGarrett's technically Navy Reserves and as long as they don't overturn the repeal, there's nothing anyone can do."

Danny felt stunned. Utterly, completely stunned, and as his brain slowly churned back on he realized that a great deal of the shock was relief. Chin had guessed at the problem and got it -- not completely wrong, because yes, being in love with Steve was a part of it, a huge part of it, and no, Danny had no intentions of doing anything about it. Not with his situation the way it was, and after... well, he figured if he still felt the same and Steve hadn't gotten them all killed, then maybe, someday, he'd do something about it. Later.

He was being handed an excuse on a silver platter, and Danny felt only the barest hint of shame when he grabbed it with both hands. "Did Steve say--" He stopped, knowing how he sounded, wanting to know what Steve said without actually asking Steve, like they were in grade school again whispering at lockers and passing notes in class.

"He's concerned. He cares about you, Danny. We all do," Chin said, gently.

"I didn't mean... I just...." Danny sighed, then took a deep breath. Whatever he said, he couldn't give Chin or Steve any reason to think that he just had cold feet and that Steve should take it as the go-ahead to steamroll Danny into something he wasn't ready for. So whatever he said, it would have to convince them both that he just needed time.

That was the truth, even if he needed it for something else entirely.

"You do like him, right?" Chin asked. There was a vague note of amusement in his voice.

Danny just nodded. In a perfect world, yeah, he'd have moved in on Steve months ago, taken him up on all those not-so-subtle offers and they'd have been going at it like wild monkeys this entire time. Short breaks for naps and rehydration, and Danny still wanted to know whether sleeping with Steve would make it easier to yell at him to memorize the Miranda Rights already or if Steve would just ignore him all the harder.

Chin was waiting, and Danny didn't have to look back at him to know he was prepared to wait patiently all night. Danny just watched Dickerson for a few moments, trying to wrestle his thoughts into some kind of order and figure out what he could say that would sound convincing.

When it hit him, he waited a moment more, trying to ignore the way his heart started pounding faster. Finally he asked, "What if it doesn't work out? There's just the four of us at 5-0. If we came to work one day screaming and hating each other...." Danny fought for the words to explain, because the fear was real, even if he'd only just figured it out. If he and Steve hooked up, then broke up, one of them would have to leave.

"What if it does work out?" Chin asked, reasonably.

Danny looked back at him, flat and steady. "I was married for ten years to a woman I loved more than anything. We were happy, we had a kid and a future, then one day I came home and we didn't, anymore. So, yeah, it might not work out with Steve."

Saying it made him think, what if it didn't work out? Even if he could get together with Steve, would it be a good idea? He'd loved Rachel, he'd had every reason to think it was working out -- and even now he could feel the love he'd had for her, knew that some of it would never completely go away. But mostly he felt anger, and frustration, and exhaustion and the thought of feeling all those things about Steve made him shy away from ever wanting to say yes.

Danny turned back to the house and all he could say was, "I can't...I'm not ready to find out."

He wasn't sure if Chin understood what he was saying, or what he was hoping Chin would think he was saying. But after a moment Chin just patted him on the shoulder, then went over to the table and sat down. Danny glanced back and saw him holding his phone again, and Danny bit his tongue against asking if he was texting the results to Steve.

He'd hoped, insanely, that convincing Chin would make him feel better, give him the space he needed to try to get his life back in order. But he felt worse, instead, even though he'd gotten what he wanted. Chin wouldn't bother him, and hopefully he'd pass word to Steve that Danny just wasn't ready to take the big plunge. Maybe they'd give him time and everyone would leave him alone until all of this could be swept away in the undertow, buried under the waves forever and forgotten.

~~~

Danny and Chin had all of Thursday off, the morning of which Danny spent trying to catch a nap. He spent the afternoon down at the shoreline building sandcastles with Maddie. At age four, Maddie was already an expert sandcastle builder. She'd lived at the camp for a year while her mom tried to find and keep a second job long enough to save up for rent. It made Danny miss his own four year old, and made him think long and hard about what he was going to do about her that upcoming weekend.

The next day when Danny got to 5-0 headquarters, Steve greeted him with a smile. Danny felt his breath catch, but he forced himself to walk in and say good morning. It was obvious Chin had talked to Steve, and while Danny had hoped it would win him some space he knew that what he was about to ask would definitely risk sending a mixed message.

Steve was sitting at his desk, but Danny would have bet good money that there was nothing on his desk that was relevant to a current, open case. But hell, it was Friday, and if they spent the day goofing off in the office pretending to get paperwork done, then Danny wouldn't protest. His head was throbbing with a dull ache which he hoped would go away as soon as he hit the coffee pot and the lure of chasing bad guys over rooftops or speeding around on boats shooting at drug dealers didn't really appeal.

He rapped a knuckle on the open door of Steve's office, despite the fact Steve had been watching him since the moment he'd walked in. Steve rolled his eyes, but he was still smiling, relaxed and happy and, yeah, he and Chin had definitely talked. Danny stopped just inside the doorway, still not sure how to say what he'd been going over and over all night.

As he continued to just stand there, Steve frowned just a bit, then he was on his feet and walking around his desk, stopping just a couple of feet away from Danny. "Look, Danny, I get it, I won't.... It's okay. Take your time," he said quickly, and Danny got the eerie feeling he'd walked in halfway through the conversation.

But he got what Steve was saying, and he managed a grateful nod. Time was what he'd been hoping for, and it sounded like Steve was willing to give it to him. He didn't know if that would make this easier or harder. He sighed.

"Danny? What's wrong?" Steve was frowning in all earnestness now, and Danny could see the way his stance shifted ever so slightly, from open and welcome to defensive -- or offensive, as Steve had a tendency to attack first and get Danny to read rights, after.

"I know that Chin talked to you," Danny began, then waved a finger to shut Steve up and not interrupt. "So I don't want this to give you the wrong idea. Because.. I...." He thought about smacking himself once for good measure. Then he made himself just blurt it out. "I've got Grace this weekend and the couple next door, the ones I told you about? Yelling day and night and throwing shit, and while it's never been anything I would call the cops for, it's not..I don't want...." Danny hesitated, and he didn't know if he was making any sense or if he was about to ruin everything he'd managed to get away with on Wednesday.

But Steve was already asking, "You wanna bring her over to my place? I've got room."

Danny couldn't stop himself from smiling as relief washed over him. "Would it be all right? I don't want to impose or anything, and I'm not--" He wanted to say it wasn't about hooking up anyway. But Steve had room and neither Chin nor Kono did, so it only made sense to ask him.

As long as no one knew his real reasons. But Steve was grinning wide, and his entire face had lit up like Christmas had come early. "No, it's totally fine, Danny. It's okay; I mean, there's the..." He cleared his throat a little, and suddenly seemed nervous. "There's the three rooms, and you and Grace.... It's okay," he said again.

Danny couldn't help but grin at the goofy smile that had re-appeared on Steve's face. Somehow that made Steve's grin get even goofier, and he practically bounced as he headed back to his desk, leaning over it to type on the keyboard like he'd remembered they needed reservations or something.

"We can go to Ernie's if you want, for dinner -- are you picking her up after school?" Steve asked, but he didn't slow down long enough for Danny to answer. "I think the zoo's been closed for a couple weeks while they've been doing remodels or something, but I think I heard they were open now. We could go, if you want? You said Grace liked it." He looked up at Danny, hand still poised over the keyboard and Danny peeked over to see that Steve had called up the Honolulu Zoo website.

"Yeah, we can go. You're right, she loves it." Danny mentally counted the cash he had in his wallet. Grace could get in for only three dollars, but his own admission would be twelve. He could do it, certainly it was cheaper than trying to rent a hotel room again. Food he could probably swing as well, despite the fact concessions at the zoo were incredibly over-priced. She'd wheedle for a souvenir, he knew, and while he'd tried to budget generously for her weekends, money was still going to be tight for awhile.

But he nodded again, because Steve was practically beaming at him. He'd have to beg out of going to Ernie's, though. The steakhouse was incredibly expensive even if the steaks were worth committing murder for. The rolls, too, Danny told himself, remembering the one time he'd gone. Bread that melted in your mouth and he tried to shut his mind off or he'd start salivating on Steve's desk.

"I pick her up at three," he said, mostly to distract himself from thoughts of dinner. "We don't have to go anyplace special, though. Grace has enough of those fancy places with her mom and Step-Stan. She usually prefers mac and cheese at home like any kid."

The brightness in Steve's eyes had died a little, and Danny couldn't shake the feeling that they were setting up to go on a date, despite everything. But Steve nodded, firmly. "Right, well, we can head up to Uncle Bobo's Barbecue instead, if you think she'd like that better. I can run by the grocery store before--" He paused, clearly thinking over his schedule in his head.

Danny held up a hand. "We're not trying to eat all your food, McGarrett. I just need a place we can stay that doesn't have domestic violence next door." He regretted the words as soon as they left his mouth. Steve's face fell, then his expression smoothed over into a careful neutrality that Danny hated seeing. He kept his voice carefully soft, letting Steve hear the apology in his tone as he said, "I just don't want you to be obligated." He let the double meaning dangle clearly in the air, unspoken, hoping Steve would understand what he didn't want to spell out.

"It's not an obligation, Danny," Steve insisted, but the blankness was gone, even if it was replaced by determination. Danny knew that by the end of the day they'd be eating at Uncle Bobo's and Steve would have three bags of groceries full of food intended for Grace, no matter what Danny might have to say about it.

He gave Steve a small smile. "At least let me give you a list, huh? Unless you've used your magic SEAL Super Powers to figure out what she likes to eat?"

Steve's grin returned full-force and he nodded, happily. The labrador retriever look was back and Danny felt a stab through his chest as all he wanted was to reach out and touch him, take something he knew he couldn't have.

Yet. He could do this; it would all work out, and when things were better Steve would maybe still be looking at him with that adoringly goofy smile.

Two hours later, however, Danny discovered he was in serious trouble. Steve popped into Danny's office with that same wide grin and asked, "Hey, what if we go to Dave and Buster's for dinner? And then I was thinking -- has Grace been on the Atlantis Adventure tour? Or we can take her to the Discovery Center or the Aquarium. Unless you've changed your mind about letting her into the ocean without having a conniption fit, in which case we can go snorkeling. I promise, it's extremely safe," he added quickly, as Danny tried to get a word in edgewise.

"I don't have conniption fits," Danny retorted. "I have never had a conniption fit. I merely have very firm ideas about what sort of dangers I will and will not put my daughter into, up to and including not wearing a bikini in public."

Steve blinked at him with a distinctly amused expression, then shrugged. "I know a few places we can go snorkeling where the tourists don't go. Chances are nobody but us will even be there." Steve grinned again, almost maniacally. "Perfectly safe."

With a look skyward, Danny asked, "Why is it that those words coming out of that mouth do not reassure me?" He gave Steve a look. "And I don't care about tourists, I care about boys. Any boys, local or not. Local would be worse, actually."

Steve frowned. "She's only nine."

"It's never too early to start threatening to shoot any boy who might think about talking to her."

Steve laughed, and Danny just scowled harder at him. He remembered his younger cousin had started putting up boy band posters on her walls when she was eleven, so he figured he had at least a couple more years before he had to seriously start worrying.

"So, snorkeling?" Steve asked. "Or the Discovery Center? Or you want to just ask Grace which she'd rather do?" He was sort of bouncing, and sort of fidgeting as he stood beside Danny's desk. It was, Danny thought very much to himself, really very cute. It was also just a little bit frightening.

"How much caffeine have you had?" he asked, suspiciously.

"Oh, that reminds me, if you wanna make up that grocery list, I'm gonna head out this afternoon. I, uh, need to do a little cleaning before you show up." Steve looked slightly sheepish, which didn't help Danny at all with trying not to think about how adorably goofy he was acting.

Danny held out a piece of paper. He'd been very careful making up the list, and now as he handed it over he said, "Do not get anything which is not on that list. McGarrett, I am warning you right now that if I see packages of cookies and ice cream and candy and soda and chips, I will take my daughter right around and we will go home." Which was a complete lie, of course, and he didn't mind that Steve probably knew that as well, even if he wouldn't know the real reason why Danny couldn't leave.

Steve just took the piece of paper and as he looked over the list, he asked, "How do you know I don't already have those things in my kitchen?"

"If you get her on a sugar high I am locking the two of you in the garage together until she crashes. If she throws up, you are cleaning it up. If, next year at the dentist's she has a cavity, I am going to choose to blame you and make you pay for it. Nothing that is not on that list." He pointed a finger at the paper, wondering if it would be a good idea to make Steve read it out to him, make sure he memorized it before allowing him out of his sight.

Steve was looking a little amused, again, and he glanced over the list. "One bag of chips?"

"No."

"Kool-aid?"

"No-- Okay, maybe. Not the orange kind. Anything red flavor."

Steve nodded, a completely faked-serious expression on his face as he repeated, "Red flavor. Got it."

"I'm serious about this, you realize that?" Danny asked, because he knew Steve was going to go a little nuts, and it was bad enough he was letting Steve buy the groceries while they were staying at his place. And he could just tell, from the innocent who-me look on Steve's face, that Steve was going to buy five kinds of sugar cereal and a dozen different kinds of candy and cookies. Danny sighed and stood up. "I'm going with you. At least then I have some hope of keeping you under control."

Steve's smile became decidedly smug. "Why would that start now?"

Danny resisted the urge to smack him, because deep down, he knew he was insanely grateful Steve was letting him bring Grace over for the weekend. There was no way he was going to say so, of course, and he didn't think Steve even needed him to. But he could at least refrain from inflicting bodily harm on the guy for awhile. An hour, tops.

It depended on how much junk food Steve tried to sneak into the cart.

~~~

The weekend turned out to possibly be two of the best days he'd had since arriving in Hawai'i. Steve had behaved himself somewhat at the grocery store, and Danny had reassured himself that even if Grace couldn't get through all the food Steve ended up buying, at least Steve would have groceries for the next two weeks.

Then Danny's boss graciously gave him the rest of the afternoon off, and Danny went with him to help Steve get his house to rights for guests. It hadn't been too bad, mostly dishes needing washing and floors needing to be vacuumed. There was one pair of underwear lying in the middle of Steve's bedroom floor, but Steve had grabbed it quickly and the way he'd been blushing bright red had just made Danny laugh at him.

On the drive to pick up Grace, they'd argued over where to eat dinner and what to do over the weekend. Steve had a list a mile long of places they could go and things they could do -- they'd need an entire month just to hit the high spots, Danny had pointed out.

"So, pick a few and we can do more next time. Unless your neighbors go into couples counseling." Steve had half-smiled, hopeful and obviously trying not to be, well, obvious.

Danny had just sighed, unable to think of how to turn him down. Steve's face had fallen then, just enough for Danny to see him start to close himself off. Danny had wanted nothing more than to kick himself, hard.

Steve had said he understood that this didn't mean anything, with the relationship that both of them wanted and they'd tacitly agreed not to pursue just yet. But Steve had clearly been overjoyed at the idea of spending the weekend with Danny and Grace, and Danny sincerely hated himself for making Steve doubt that Danny wanted to be there.

He'd rubbed a hand over his face and had finally said, "It's just expensive, is all."

Steve had blinked at him, made a sort of 'oh' noise and then he'd smiled and told Danny not to worry about a thing. That had led to an argument about there being no way in hell Danny was letting Steve pay for anything and Steve hadn't really said a word, just smiled and nodded like he was agreeing. Then all weekend long no matter where they went, Steve got his hand on the check first, or beat Danny to the admissions window, or was the one to ask Grace did she want this small souvenir or the really, really big stuffed dolphin instead?

Danny had tried to tell him to stop without saying it in so many words with Grace around to overhear. He'd tried once or twice to intervene and convince Grace she wanted the cheaper option, or just subtly try to steer her towards something else. But every time he made a move forward Steve gave him a Look, and Steve would take Grace by the hand and steer her right towards whatever she wanted most, and Steve kept pulling out his wallet every single time.

And despite the guilt, and the feeling of failure that built up on his shoulders with every thing Steve paid for and despite the weird, thoughtful looks he would sometimes catch Steve giving him that made him ever more paranoid -- Danny had had the best time that he'd had in a very long while. Grace had been ecstatic the entire weekend, bouncing right along with Steve's hand in hers, and one of Danny's in the other, dragging them from place to place with the sort of energy Danny could only vaguely remember having once upon a time. She'd been freakishly well-behaved as well, which Danny suspected was her being on her best behavior for Steve.

Or, he had to be fair, it could have just been that she liked him and had been having a great time. When Danny had taken her home Sunday evening and given her a hug and a kiss at the gate of Stan's mansion, he had to admit that maybe, just possibly maybe, Steve had been a tiny bit right about the while thing.

Then he'd driven away, leaving Grace with her mother for another two weeks and leaving Steve trying to clean up after the whirlwind that was a nine-year-old girl, and took himself north to the beach that served as home. He'd slept almost well that night, after two days of regular and fairly huge meals and a steady supply of Steve's coffee bolstering his system. The cot was still too narrow, the waves were still too loud, and the wind from the ocean made it just a little too cold to sleep completely through the night. But despite it all, he felt better than he had in a very long time.

~~~

For the next two weeks, everything seemed to be fine. He caught Chin and Kono giving him weirdly sympathetic looks now and again, and once Kono patted him on the arm and looked for all the world like she'd wanted to give him a supportive hug. Steve stopped stalking Danny around the office or lying in wait to try to spring questions on him. Once or twice he'd actually backed off when he seemed to think he might be pushing. It was all sort of annoying, and seriously Steve's behavior was bordering on sort of cute, which made Danny think that he had it really, really bad. The only part that bothered him was how he'd still catch Steve watching him with a thoughtful expression, like he was seeing something Danny wasn't prepared to reveal. He didn't think it was a coincidence that on Friday Steve announced it was 5-0 Pizza Day and bought the team pies and drinks -- with an entire large, cheese-only pizza left over that Danny somehow ended up being the one to take home.

He'd been popular with the kids at the camp that night as he'd shared it with them, tearing the slices into halves and thirds to make sure it went around. The impromptu party had gone a long way towards making him feel like he wasn't a total outsider. It had also helped his overall mood that he'd been able to stop at the surplus store and give Kaimi the money he owed him. It made him skint again, but he preferred having as few debts hanging over his head as he could possibly manage.

All in all, Danny was relieved that his life away from work was settling down into routines that made it easier to bear. He'd even found it easy -- or just bearable -- to accept Steve's offer when the other man had casually asked, the Tuesday before Danny had Grace again, if his neighbors were still fighting. Danny had felt all kinds of guilt, and had had to shove down the feeling that he'd finally failed to be any kind of decent father. But he'd said yes, and he'd taken Grace back to Steve's place for the weekend.

Steve hadn't asked for a grocery list that time and Danny had found the junk food hidden in the cabinets, but he'd just shoved them back where Grace might not notice them and didn't say a word. He'd slept on a real bed down the hall from Steve, and he'd said nothing when Steve pulled out his wallet every time they went out to eat, burgers and barbecue and even lasagna. Steve had accused him of making obscene noises during lunch while he'd eaten it and Danny had simply flipped him off while Grace wasn't looking.

Danny was able to keep the entertainment down to a dull roar, one trip to the movies and the rest of the weekend was spent on the beach at Steve's place, and when Sunday night rolled around again Grace had been just as delighted with her visit and had hugged him just as hard as every other time Danny dropped her off.

He didn't know how long it would work before Steve got tired or suspicious, but there were two whole weeks before he had to worry about it. If Grace had been younger, he would have simply taken her back to the camp with him, told her they were camping out and she wouldn't have been the wiser. But he knew she was too old for that sort of deception now; she'd notice that the tents were lived in, not vacation spots. And she'd play with the other kids and they would tell her things and unless Danny was willing to teach her to lie to her mother, there would be no way Danny could prevent Rachel from finding out.

And that would end his visitation right there, he had no doubt. But he did a little figuring, and he'd decided he could afford, now, to alternate a weekend in a modest hotel with a weekend at Steve's -- or more, if Steve got tired of having them over. But he was completely determined to not worry about it for the time being and simply let himself if not relax, then at least stop jumping out of his skin every time someone walked into the room.

By the time he walked into Iolani Palace on Monday morning, only a little late due to traffic, Danny was actually feeling pretty good. He'd spent most of Sunday helping Richard repair his tent, listening to stories about Richard's grandparents living on the island nearly a century ago. He'd helped Maddie with another sandcastle, and Tony had gotten him out on the ocean and taught him how to body surf without drowning.

Mostly without drowning. Danny didn't figure he'd be an expert for some time yet, but he'd actually enjoyed himself and he'd tentatively decided that maybe the following weekend he'd let Steve convince him to take Grace snorkeling. He was smiling at the thought, which worried him to no end. He quickly recited a list of all the things he missed about Jersey, from the pizza to the baseball to the ice and snow, reassuring himself that he hadn't lost his mind completely.

He'd just gone up the stairs from the side entrance at headquarters when he saw Kono walking towards him, a stack of papers and folders in her arms. He hurried over and took half of them, earning him a smile and an odd sort of sideways look.

Danny narrowed his eyes at her. "What's up?"

"Give me a hand filing these," was all she said, leading him towards the small room that had been set aside for storage.

Without much other choice, Danny followed her. He looked down at the papers and made a face. "I thought the modern age of computers was supposed to rid us of paperwork."

She grinned at him more cheerfully, though he noticed it seemed almost forced. Had she been a witness, he'd have pegged her for knowing something she shouldn't have. But she sounded normal enough as she laughed. "Not so much. Come on, help me file them. It won't take long with two of us."

Knowing he might as well give in, Danny followed her to 5-0's official filing room. It was a tiny space down the hall from their offices with four tall filing cabinets jammed together against one wall, and along the other side was all the supplies they kept for the office. Danny peered at the shelf, looking for more post-its, but again nobody had ordered them. He didn't even know who was responsible for ordering more; for all he knew it was his job and nobody had told him.

He set his stack on the top of one of the filing cabinets and picked up the paper on the top. "So, how was your weekend?" he asked, as Kono began slowly filing the first of her own pile.

"Good," she said, giving him a brief glance, and that odd look was back. "I met up with Ben."

There was a pause, and Danny tried to remember if Kono had said they were, or were not, dating. Or wanted to be. He didn't think they were, so that didn't explain the odd tone of her voice--

Danny dropped the paper he was holding and looked at her. Kono was watching him, a solemn expression on her face, almost accusatory, and Danny found he didn't even have to ask.

She said it, anyway. "We went up to the North Shore. You know, he keeps an eye on--"

"Don't," Danny begged. "Just, don't."

"Danny, I saw you," she said quietly. She stood still, her shoulders hunched just a bit forward and her voice still quiet like she didn't want to risk being overheard.

He wanted to laugh, or possibly cry. Like she was trying to keep this a secret, too. "Oh, God -- please, please tell me you didn't tell Steve."

She didn't say a word, her expression not giving anything away. Danny pressed a hand to his eyes, squeezing them shut and thinking, wildly, that maybe when he looked again she would be gone and he would be having a very bad dream.

"Danny," she said warningly, when he'd stood there trying to pretend the conversation wasn't happening.

"Please, Kono, just.... Can't you pretend you didn't see anything?" He knew how pathetic he sounded, and knew he wasn't doing anything to convince her. But he could hardly tell her the truth, despite the way she was standing between him and the door, looking like she wasn't going to let him out until he spilled everything.

"Tell me why."

He looked at her, and she'd folded her arms and was watching him, and it wasn't exactly like standing there with Kono, his friend. This was Kono, the cop, and he had no doubt at all that she would wring the information from him, whatever it took. The ultimate threat being to tell Steve, of course, and let him do the dirty work.

Danny fell back against the filing cabinet, suddenly feeling bonelessly tired. "I suppose it won't work if I ask you to keep this to yourself?"

There was a flash of guilt across her face, and Danny barely had time to register it before she said, "They already know."

Danny felt the blood rush from his face -- from his entire body, pooling in his feet and he didn't know if he was breathing or how he was even still standing.

Kono gave a sort of half-shrug and said, "I saw you yesterday, and I wanted to see if there was something wrong, why you hadn't told us. All I could think was maybe you were being blackmailed. So I asked Chin to help me look into it." She looked apologetic, then, and Danny could understand why. Instead of confronting him, she'd gone behind his back -- but then, given the type of work they did, it was actually a reasonable assumption for her to have made.

He just gave her a nod, not really finding it in him to be angry at her for that. He didn't want to hear the rest, but Kono just kept talking.

"We found your financial records," she said, and Danny knew. He closed his eyes and saw everything he'd tried so desperately to hide come crashing down into the open. She didn't have to say anything more. He knew they'd found out everything, and when he forced himself to look at her, all he saw was apology and sympathy. He almost would have preferred reproach, Danny thought. Being yelled at might have been easier to take.

"Where--" he stopped, had to swallow, then was barely able to force the question out. "Where are Steve and Chin?"

"Down the hall. Steve's waiting for you. I've been hanging out, filing and un-filing these, waiting for you to get here. I thought I could warn you, before you walked in." The look she gave him said she knew he'd be walking to his own funeral. Her hand jerked a little, like she'd wanted to reach out, reassure him, maybe. Danny didn't know if he wanted the support or wanted to -- well, what he wanted to do was run. He met her gaze, saw all the concern there and saw no hint of anger or betrayal.

He took a step towards the door and Kono moved aside to let him go. As he drew even with her she said, "You could have borrowed my couch."

He flinched, paused in mid-step, and couldn't look over because she was right, they both knew she was right and that made all of so much worse. He couldn't possibly say anything, so he simply forced himself to continue walking. He left the filing room and thought, in a detached sort of way, about turning to the right and walking down the stairs and out of the building. He could go, just climb in his car and drive.

He wouldn't get far. The island wasn't that big and before he got more than two miles away Steve would have the airports and ports shut down, citing some 5-0 emergency. He'd be detained by uniformed officers -- or worse, Steve would simply follow him, track him down no matter where he went and they would still have to have this conversation.

Danny didn't know if it was bravery or just exhaustion at the thought of running that made him head for the office. He saw Chin in the conference room as he walked in. Danny tried not to meet the other man's eyes but he saw, despite himself, the sympathetic look Chin was giving him. Danny didn't bother trying to talk to him. He should apologize, he knew, but he could see Steve waiting for him in his office. Danny walked directly over, went in and stood just inside the door, stepping aside just enough to lean back against the wall. He crossed his arms, knowing how defensive he looked but he figured he had every right to be. He'd screwed this up, he wouldn't deny it. He'd hoped he would've had time to fix everything before anyone found out.

Steve was standing on the other side of the office, watching Danny as he came in. For a long moment they both stood there, facing each other. Danny felt himself tensing more as each second passed and he wondered if it wasn't too late to run.

Steve would probably catch him before he got more than three steps down the hallway.

After another minute went by, Danny made himself look up from the spot on Steve's shirt where he'd been staring. He found Steve watching him and he was more than a little stunned to see the same sympathetic expression he'd seen from Chin and Kono. There was no sign of the anger that Steve had every right to be feeling. Hell, Danny was still braced for a screaming match and he had no earthly idea how to react to Steve being calm about this.

Now that he'd looked, he couldn't stop staring at Steve. Trapped between the wall and Steve's steady gaze, Danny couldn't move, couldn't speak, could barely even think. He realized suddenly that he was trembling, and he tried to make himself stop, gripping his arms tighter against his body, hands wrapped around his biceps, squeezing hard.

With a start, Steve moved -- and he was around the desk and coming towards him and Danny didn't have a chance before Steve had yanked him forward, away from the wall. And into Steve's arms, face against Steve's chest and Steve's arms tight around him, tighter even than he'd been holding himself. He could feel the heat of Steve's body through his cheek and against his arms now pinned between them. He couldn't move and felt completely trapped, but Steve was just holding him, one hand on Danny's head and the other on his back. It was like being dropped down a rabbit hole and waking up in a brand new world, though Danny would have said that happened the first day he'd woken up in his tent at the beach.

"God, Danny, you look like I'm about to have you taken out and shot. Or fired, or-- Jesus, Danny, why didn't you just tell me?" Steve's voice kept breaking as he spoke and for a moment Danny just pressed in harder against him, a few seconds' more reprieve before the shouting started.

It took him a moment to find his own voice, clear his throat so he could talk without choking. "I couldn't," was all he got out.

If Steve would just start yelling, he thought, maybe this would be easier.

"Danny," Steve said, then he stepped back -- still hanging onto Danny, hands on his arms just above Danny's own, and he managed somehow to slip his fingers underneath Danny's death-grip on himself. He looked down at Danny, and Danny was still having trouble looking away from him. He had so much he needed to apologize for, he knew it, but he couldn't make himself start.

"I couldn't," he managed again, and he was somehow finding it easier to breathe, which might make it easier, eventually, to talk.

"Why?" Steve asked, and it was the question Danny had been dreading, and expecting as soon as he'd walked in the door.

Danny just shook his head because the words weren't going to come, no matter how much he knew he had to say them. He pulled himself backwards and Steve let go of him, but he stepped to the side just a little, blocking Danny's escape. So Danny paced the other direction instead, towards the wall -- glass walls and he could see Chin and Kono near the outer doorway, obviously trying not to watch. Even as he looked, Chin was hustling Kono back, out of the office.

He didn't know if he appreciated the privacy, or wanted them around for protection when Steve tried to find a place to hide his body.

Except they were on Steve's side, weren't they? Danny lowered his head, felt the last vestiges of energy draining away. He simply couldn't fight it anymore. He wanted to curl up -- possibly with a bottle in a dark, depressing bar someplace. He didn't think Steve would give him one of the beers from the mini fridge he kept, so Danny just went over and sat down on the chair, and he stared at his hands as they dangled limp, between his knees.

Steve just stood by the door, and waited. Danny's thoughts kept swirling and he felt unable to form actual words much less complete sentences. He tried to focus, because Steve wasn't going to let him go until he'd explained, and he didn't think Steve would wait patiently for long.

"I couldn't," he said again, but he tried to find the next few words to give him. "I couldn't take you knowing."

"Because you were ashamed?" Steve asked, and it sounded like he already knew. Danny was grateful for that much, at least, that he didn't have to explain about pride and the sense of failure he'd been trying to deny.

Danny just nodded.

Steve stepped forward, then, and Danny almost glanced up but stopped himself, knowing he couldn't do this if he had to look Steve in the face. In a low, tight voice Steve asked, "Don't you know I would have done anything I could to help?" His fist was clenched as tightly as his voice and Danny wondered how hard he was fighting to hold himself back. Danny looked up at him, knowing it would be clear on his face how lost he felt. Steve just shook his head once, sharply, and said, "Danny, I would do anything for you, don't you get that? And something as serious as this -- you think I wouldn't have let you move in with me? Didn't you get how easy it was with you and Grace spending the weekend -- did I ever act like I didn't want you there?"

Danny couldn't control the waver in his own voice as he said, "I couldn't have you rescue me." He stood up as Steve jerked back as if he'd been slapped, and Danny saw the anger flash in Steve's eyes and now, finally, Danny felt the words spilling out. "You think it was easy for me to do this? When I knew you'd let me stay with you? But I couldn't, I couldn't let you do that. This isn't.. I don't..." Danny tried to corral his thoughts, resisting the urge to hit something and he blurted out, "I'm in love with you."

Steve blinked at him, frozen with his mouth open for a retort. Then he shook his head, bewildered. "I'm sorry, how does that mean you don't ask for my help?"

"How long before I start wondering if you let me move in because I needed a place? How long before you start wondering if I'm staying because I can't afford better?" He held up a hand against Steve's reply, shutting him up as the words kept coming, getting louder and louder now as everything inside of him tried to break free. "You think I liked living there? That I wanted to say hey, clever Danny, found a free place to live so he can pay his bills? You think I don't look forward to one night every two weeks when I get a hot shower and a breakfast made in a microwave and an actual mattress? It's hard, fucking hard, and I don't have a choice because if I told you you'd come swooping in and fix everything with a wave of your hand and then just how fucking worthless do you think that makes me?"

Danny stood still, feeling the echo of his shouting vibrating in his chest. His hand was still up, frozen in place from where he'd been waving and gesturing, wanting so badly to shove Steve aside and run, or put his fist through a pane of glass. For a moment there was silence and Danny could imagine his ears were ringing.

"Danny, it isn't," Steve began, and he stopped. Danny watched as he tried to think of what to say, or how to say it, or maybe he was just feeling a little stunned like Danny was.

Taking a deep breath, Danny spoke more calmly. "I'm not in physical danger. There are other people living in that camp, and they're good people. There aren't drug addicts or drunks, they keep the place clean and they help each other out. For all that it's a tent on a beach, it's a pretty damned decent place. It isn't a good option but it's the best I could do, and in a few months I'll have enough shit paid off I can move into an apartment somewhere. I know...what I'm doing," he finally said, knowing perfectly well that his choices weren't the best, nor ones Steve or the others could hardly approve of. But it could have been much worse, and Danny found that he felt not a little pride at how well he'd actually managed.

"You lied to me," Steve said, sounding like he was still groping to understand what Danny was saying. He still looked bewildered and hurt, and the anger was still there but it had banked just enough that Danny thought maybe they could get through this without bloodshed.

"I did." Danny couldn't deny it, wouldn't try. "I lied to all of you, and I'm sorry. But I knew if I said anything, you'd do exactly this -- jump in and try to fix things and...take the last of my control over my life away from me." Danny spread his hands, knowing he had nothing else he could offer to explain.

They stood in silence for several long moments and Danny found he was content to wait. He had no idea what Steve was going to do and he honestly didn't know what he wanted him to do. But it was out, and Steve knew the truth, and Danny felt weirdly lighter for it all.

After another moment Steve's face grew determined. "You're not going back there." Danny just shrugged, because he didn't have any idea who was going to win this argument. Steve glared. "I could buy your house."

Danny gaped at him. "Excuse me?"

"We know that you still own your house and that's part of what's causing problems. My dad's house is paid for and I can afford--"

"There is no way in hell you are buying my house." Danny found himself clenching his fists again and he glared right back because there was absolutely, positively, no fucking way.

"Why not? It'd get rid of your mortgage and then you could afford a place sooner. That's what you want, right? Since you won't move in with me?" Steve made it sound like he was actually offering a reasonable solution.

Danny wanted to beat him over the head with a very large stick. "What part of do not rescue me do you not understand? You cannot buy my house. You can't wrangle some anonymous agent to buy it for you. You cannot find some old Navy buddy who's retiring and talk him into moving to Jersey. You will not do this, McGarrett. Not if you want me to talk to you ever again for my entire life."

Steve looked genuinely hurt. "Why not?"

Nearly growling, Danny said, "Do you think I could stand to be with someone who would humiliate me like that?"

Again Steve's head jerked back in surprise. Danny wanted to drop his head into his hands because, no, Steve clearly hadn't realized any of this. He saw a problem and leapt in, guns firing, and didn't think about the consequences.

Danny took a deep breath, trying to calm himself down. "I appreciate you want to help, I really do. And I won't pretend part of me isn't desperate for something. But...I can't. I can't...." He had to stop again, corralling his thoughts before he could continue. "I know, pride goes before a fall. But I'm not going to fall, here. It's... hard and not pleasant and it isn't society's idea of a successful lifestyle. I get that, and I get that you want to help. I do, I really do. But all I can tell you is if you do this, if you buy that house or throw money at me or make my bills mysteriously go away -- I would never be able to look you in the face. And I love you. Which is why I couldn't tell you."

Danny fell silent, staring down at the floor. He knew that it was possible -- likely, even -- he'd made no sense at all, and that Steve was just going to go ahead, full-speed, and do whatever it took to get Danny out of trouble. Only Danny found he believed what he'd said, about how living at that camp wasn't all that bad, considering. Even if he was tired all the time, and had no money for little things like a bag of fast food for lunch, he'd made the best choices he could and it wasn't going to last for very long. Five or six months, tops, and he'd have one of his medical bills paid off and he'd have enough he could look for a place with a roommate, maybe, and start paying his way again.

"I love you, too." Steve's voice was quiet and it made Danny's head pop up. Steve was looking at him with a mixture of sadness and something else. It almost looked like the edge of that goofy fondness which Danny had grown so used to seeing Steve send his way.

Danny narrowed his eyes. "And?"

"And I won't... do anything to humiliate you, Danny, even if I don't agree that it should be." He held up a hand to forestall Danny's interruption, which Danny hadn't realized he was about to make until then. "But I accept you feel that way. So I promise, I won't 'swoop in' and rescue you."

There was a brief pause, and Danny clarified, "Unless someone is shooting at me. Then, you have permission."

Steve grinned and the sudden change in his entire posture was startling. "Got it. Shooting, yes. Buying your house, no." Then he cleared his throat and said, "But then you're moving in with Kono or Chin." He gave Danny a nearly smug look, but not so blatant that Danny felt compelled to smack him.

Danny sighed. "I sort of figured." He hadn't really expected they'd let him just go back to the camp and live there while he paid things off. Neither of them had much room, but he had to admit if positions were reversed, he would have crammed any of them into his own tiny apartment and not complained.

"Danny," Steve began, and he stepped closer, stopping just half a foot away. "Is this why...do you still--" He stopped again and Danny just raised an eyebrow, because he didn't speak fluent Steve McGarrett and he honestly had no clue what the other man was trying to say. Steve just made a frustrated noise, then he swooped in, leaning down and kissing him.

And it was, in fact, exactly how Danny had imagined. Strong and demanding, and it was simple to let himself melt into the kiss, opening his mouth and just letting Steve inside. Steve's hand came up to cup the back of his head and Danny let himself relax into the embrace. He felt himself relaxing for the first time in forever and when the kiss ended he could only smile.

Steve gave him a very definitely smug look in return and Danny just laughed. Then he yanked Steve back down for another kiss.

~~~

The make-out session ended when Chin and Kono came back into the office, neither of them looking terribly surprised at what they were interrupting. Danny felt more embarrassed when they all dragged him out of the office and drove up to the North Shore, piling his stuff into Steve's truck right then and there. Danny left the tent and cot, and spent nearly half an hour saying good bye to people. Maddie had clung to his pants leg, asking him if he didn't want to stay long enough to build just one more sandcastle. He'd promised her to try to return, just to visit, and he pretended not to have seen the look on Steve's face before he got the word 'visit' out.

They took him back to Honolulu and somehow they'd managed to make a decision without him being consulted. They went directly to Chin's place, where it didn't take long for Danny to get settled as he'd got rid of most of his stuff before. Chin set him up in the den, promising that the sofa was more comfortable than it looked, though Kono was already calling around to find someone with a twin bed they could borrow.

Steve had said nothing the entire time other than to say that on his weekends with Grace, Danny would still be staying with him. It wasn't quite a question, but Danny didn't want to argue. He felt badly about imposing on Chin -- despite the repeated insistence that he wasn't -- but inflicting the company of a nine year old as well as himself in the small house Chin lived in, well, Danny didn't really mind inflicting himself and his daughter on Steve, all things considered.

As soon as the last of Danny's crap was shoved into closets and corners, Steve announced that they had real work to be doing and shouldn't somebody be out there catching criminals already. As a distraction it was welcome, though Danny wasn't really looking forward to spending the day with Steve, with everything out in the open.

Or it could have just been that he'd kissed him and knew now what it was like. Spending the day not kissing him some more was going to be very, very tough. But Danny knew his nerves really couldn't take much more, and even as he sat in Steve's truck while they drove around town catching up on the most recent locations of their least favorite drug dealers, Danny wanted nothing more than to find a soft spot and go to sleep.

He was surprised, to say the least, when he opened his eyes to find them parked at Steve's house. His neck was sore and his eyes were gritty, like he'd been asleep for some time but a glance at his watch said it had only been twenty minutes. He glanced over and saw Steve just switching the engine off then he turned and met Danny's gaze. "Are we on the clock, McGarrett?" Danny asked, trying for a warning tone but ruining it with a huge yawn in the middle.

Steve just smiled, and there was that goofy fond look once more. "We're breaking off early." It seemed like he was about to say more, but then he just got out of the truck, letting Danny scramble after him. Danny's head felt like a sack of wet concrete had been poured into his brain cavity; he managed to follow Steve into the house, then Steve took his arm and steered him towards the guest room he used when he and Grace stayed over.

Danny didn't fight as Steve steered him all the way to the bed, and gave him a gentle nudge. Danny waited until he'd bounced off the mattress once, face half-buried in the sheets. "You trying to tell me something?" he mumbled.

Steve gave a soft laugh. "Get some rest, Danno. You look trashed."

Wrestling a hand free to flip him off was too much effort, so Danny just closed his eyes again and let himself drift away.

~~~

Standing near the shore, Danny watched as Grace shot up out of the water. Her laughter rang through the air, making Danny grin so hard he thought he might literally bust open. As Grace came back down with a splash, Steve came barreling up out of the water right behind her, drawing a loud, high-pitched shriek as Grace tried, somewhat, to escape. But Steve got a hold of her again and lifted her up, tossing her into the water once more. She fell with a huge splash and popped up almost right away, arms up as she laughed and shouted, "One more time!"

Danny had tried to warn Steve yesterday when they'd been doing this exact same thing about not drowning his daughter, but both Steve and Grace had gleefully ignored him. He'd reminded them again over breakfast as he served up pancakes and made sure Grace wasn't pouring the entire bottle of syrup over hers and was, in fact, eating at least two pieces of bacon to help balance out the sugar. As soon as they'd eaten Grace had raced outside, followed closely by Steve, both of them calling for Danny the slowpoke to hurry up.

He hadn't minded leaving the dirty dishes behind; if he didn't get to them at all, he knew Steve would only bitch a little about cleaning up after them after they'd gone. Danny secretly thought Steve left the mess for a day or two as a reminder -- but he didn't need to call Steve a giant mushy sap to his face, at least not until he needed the upper hand over something important, like whether or not to drop a suspect off the top of a cliff.

Now he was standing where the ocean could just lap at his ankles, watching and shouting encouragement to Grace, warning her when the sea monster was about to catch her. Later they were going out for Grace's third snorkeling lesson and Danny wasn't completely sure why they were in the ocean now, if they were just going to be here again later. But he couldn't deny that both Steve and Grace would gladly spend the entire day in the water and he didn't honestly have it in himself to deny the pair of them much of anything.

For two months they'd been staying with Steve on Danny's custody weekends and Grace had started leaving stuff in what was rapidly becoming known as her room. It wasn't Danny fault -- he'd tried to clean everything up and haul it off with him, but Steve had physically taken his hands away, set Grace's dolls back down on the dresser, and pulled Danny out of the room.

Danny had teased Steve for the rest of the week about his eloquent way with words, until he'd been forced to take a perp's legs out from under him because the guy couldn't wait to make a break for it until Danny was through with his discussion with Steve. The perp had ended up with a broken nose and Danny had had to listen to Steve describe, with a completely straight face, the proper procedure for subduing a suspect.

He'd practiced his take-down technique the following weekend, when Danny didn't have Grace but invited himself over anyhow to spend the night at Steve's place. He still felt uncomfortable imposing himself on Chin, even though Chin was almost the perfect sort of roommate. He was quiet, and made it very clear when there was something he wanted left alone and when he expected Danny to share. At first Danny had tried to keep to himself and make sure he didn't use anything of Chin's, from eggs out of the fridge to shampoo in the bathroom. That had lasted nearly a week, then Chin had simply handed over the receipt from the grocery store and asked for half and told him to just write it on the list when they ran out of something.

Danny felt a little like Chin was taking orders from Steve, forcing him to let them help him out. But he'd stopped trying to complain because every once in a while, when he tried to remind them he didn't need as much as they were trying to offer, Chin or Kono mentioned how much they might like to own a house in Jersey.

He felt very put upon, and made sure Steve knew just how much so when Steve tried to wake him up before seven on what was supposed to be lazy Sunday mornings. Even if Steve's method involved mouths in interesting places, Danny felt obligated to protest the early hour. The first time he'd stayed in Steve's room when Grace was with him, Steve hadn't been able to hide his pleased surprise. Danny had had to explain that it was for sleeping, quietly, and Steve had more or less kept to the quiet part of the rule.

As Danny watched Steve wrestle Grace out of the water again and listened to her yelling 'higher,' he knew he'd probably been just a little bit stupid. He waded further into the water, waiting as Steve launched his daughter into the air like she was a bag of potatoes. A slippery, squealing bag of potatoes, granted. Danny gave Steve a scowl when he turned, grinning, to him.

"You break her, McGarrett, and you have to explain it to her mother."

"She won't break, Danno," Steve said, laughing and lurching towards him through the waist-high water he'd been standing in. Danny met him partway, water up near his thighs by the time Steve grabbed him and yanked him forward into a kiss. Danny heard Grace splashing as she came out of the water. He didn't quite let go of Steve -- she'd caught them kissing long before now and all she'd had to say about it was that she liked Steve, too.

Danny slipped a hand around Steve's waist and felt water swirling around his legs and the heat of the sun on his back, and thought about the look on Steve's face the first time Danny had suggested Steve take them snorkeling. He'd lit up with what Danny could only describe as sheer joy -- dumbfounded, surprised, and a tiny bit suspicious, but joy nonetheless. He'd realized that seeing that look on Steve's face was rapidly becoming addicting, so he gave Steve another kiss and thought again about something that he'd been trying to work out how to say for the last several days.

He grinned and watched as Steve grinned back, looking slightly confused but willing to be happy about whatever was making Danny smile. Danny laughed, then, nervous and knowing he wasn't doing a very good job of hiding it, and said, "I think maybe I'm ready."

Steve cocked his head -- and Danny was seriously going to start calling him Rex or Fido or something. His eyebrows furled as he looked as though he was replaying every recent conversation they'd had. Then suddenly his eyes went wide. He stared at Danny and Danny just waited as the penny dropped all the way. Danny could feel the tension in Steve's entire body as Steve asked, "You're sure?"

Danny hoped Steve couldn't actually feel how fast his heart was beating. But he'd realized a few days ago that he'd made his point, proven it to himself. Whether he'd stayed with Chin, or lived on the beach, he knew that he'd done everything he could. Now all he was doing was annoying himself as well as Steve by waiting. Pride was one thing, but there was also waking up with Steve wrapped around him, and arguing about how fast you had to drive during a high speed chase while getting undressed for bed and trading kisses along with the insults about someone's ability to use the brake pedal, and watching him play with Grace in the ocean and seeing how careful he was, despite the casual way he picked her up and flung her into the water.

She'd scraped her knee just yesterday, and Steve had cleaned it out and placed the bandage on with all the focus normally reserved for storming buildings held by terrorists. It had been adorable, and just a little heart-melting, and Danny had realized that, really, there was no place he'd rather be. He still had months to go to get his bills paid off, and he couldn't comfortably afford to take everyone out for beers and steak dinners. But it was under control, and every day things got just a little bit better.

He gave Steve a nod and a smile, and he glanced over to see Grace diving up and down into the ocean like a dolphin. Behind her the ocean stretched out, clear and blue, and in the distance he could just make out the crest of a small wave. He thought about walking into the water with a spear in his hand as Min Kyung had tried to teach him how to fish. He thought about Maddie, playing in the sand, and Richard with his stories of the past and his contentment with his present.

He'd gotten a dark tan, which Steve had gleefully discovered stopped right below Danny's hipbones. His hair was sunburnt blonde, and his skin still felt never completely free of salt and sand. He still ate way more fish than he was comfortable with, and he'd taught his daughter how to cook rice inside a shaft of bamboo over an open flame. Steve had watched them with a dark look on his face, but one he'd hidden quickly away behind a smile whenever Grace had looked up at him, delighted with the new game.

Steve still looked at him like that from time to time and Danny had never called him on it, knowing perfectly well what was behind it. Now, though, he put one hand behind Steve's neck and tugged him down, close.

"I'm sure," he said quietly, and Steve moved easily to him as Danny pulled him the rest of the way into another kiss, standing in the ocean and the sound of his daughter's laughter mixing with the cries of the seabirds and the roaring of his heartbeat in Danny's ears.

the end