And it had started so well, Danny thinks darkly as he's driving the last of the pegs into the soft soil. A weekend with Gracie that fell on the day after her birthday -- it was better than he could have possibly hoped for. Naturally, he would do anything she asked of him -- and she knew it, too, the devious little monkey. She's a Williams through and through, Danny had thought with a surge of pride warring with the mounting irritation and apprehension that her simple "I want to go camping, Daddy!" had brought.
Because how do you refuse the light of your life when she says she wants the whole Five-0 team to go camping together? Danny would rather chew off his own arm than suggest that his co-workers might have something better to do than go camping with his eight-year-old daughter -- one, because to Danny such a thought is insurmountable; and two, because Grace is at an age where any implied rejection could have lasting consequences, and Danny would hog-tie the lot of them together and kidnap them in his Camaro before he'd let her think that.
He shouldn't have worried; the delighted twinkle in Kono's eyes when he'd brought it up should have raised a few flags, though. Sneaking up on Danny's blind spot where it came to Gracie, shame on her!
Kono smiles sunnily at him from where she and Chin are finishing putting up hers and Grace's tent; she's finding the whole thing hilarious.
"You done yet, Danno? Need any help?" says the bane of his existence, hauling in their sleeping bags and overnight duffels from the car. Danny can hear the grin in his voice without having to turn and look.
"No, I do not need any help, Steven, thank you for asking," Danny snaps, straightening up at last and turning around, rubbing at the tightness in his back from the long drive down a number of dirt tracks.
Steve's grin fades around the edges. Danny feels like a prick. "You okay, Danny? Is your back bothering you?"
"Oh, the back you made me pull when you blew up that warehouse on Tuesday, that back? Yeah, it's bothering me a bit. Don't even think about it!" he goes on as Steve takes a couple of quick steps towards him. "I don't want Grace to know," he finishes quietly.
Steve's brow furrows into his Aneurysm face, and Danny would feel proud to have prodded it into existence if it wasn't for the fact that he had to share a tent with the hulking giant. He bets that was Kono's plan all along, confirmed as soon as Grace's face lit up at the suggestion that morning when they set off.
Chin likes to sleep under the stars, like the hardcore seasoned camper he is. Danny's surprised that Steve hasn't taken a leaf out of his book; God knows the outdoors freak's enjoying himself a bit too much.
"Daddy, daddy, come look at our tent!" yells Grace, poking a messy-haired head through the flap. Danny doesn't bother fighting the beam he knows is all over his face as he makes his way to her.
Danny hates camping, though he'd never utter a word about it in Grace's hearing. He hates the sound of insects buzzing around the lantern, hates the hard ground he's spread his sleeping bag over, hates the smell of smoke coming from the requisite camp fire, hates the sounds of the jungle at nighttime that wake him up every twenty minutes.
The rest of them, of course, are having the time of their lives. There's marshmallows over the fire, hot chocolate made in a sturdy pot, hot dogs for all, and the surprise of Chin's guitar brought out from the jeep's back seat. Grace's sweet voice carries through the air, joined by Kono's light soprano and Chin's shockingly deep baritone. Danny watches them, heart full to bursting.
He doesn't join in, because he doesn't want to scare off every animal or bird in the vicinity and cause a stampede -- but Steve does, eventually, with a little glance at Danny that Danny wonders how Steve expects he wouldn't notice. Steve's voice is more husky than resonant, but it's lovely nonetheless; it makes Danny think of fireplaces and snow and a glass of single-malt Laphroaig shared with his dad. He closes his eyes and basks, just for a moment.
It's a really long time before he can make himself fall asleep that night. The tent is small, and he can feel every movement Steve makes, every huff of air he lets out in his sleep. It's more peaceful than Danny had expected, granted, but in certain ways it's worse, too. Steve's proximity makes him think of things he'd thought he'd pushed away, things he can't keep feeling about his partner -- the need to reach over and snuggle into a warm body, the body of someone he trusts unconditionally to keep him safe; to have someone's (Steve's, his mind whispers) soft breathing teasing the back of his neck, to feel every inhalation, every thump of a steady heartbeat against his back. So he likes to be the little spoon; so sue him. Problem is, Steve brings it out of him more than anyone he's ever known.
Eventually, he drifts off, somewhere between one wistful thought and the next.
Some time later, when the sudden warmth soothes his restless shifting, he settles down with a content sigh.
There's something heavy pinning him down through the middle of his body. He's still so warm and happy, though, that he doesn't snap awake like he usually does. A puff of air shifts the hairs at his nape, and the something at his waist pulls him backwards, plastered against a strong chest. Danny reaches out with his senses, checking for danger, and finds none. The smell is familiar, comforting, soothing, Steve, but stronger, deeper. Like maybe what Steve's skin would smell like when he's asleep.
Danny has never been at his sharpest in the mornings; that's why it takes him a full five minutes to work out just why he feels so comfortable
"Oh my god." He blinks a couple of times, and looks down in disbelief. Yep, it's right where he expects it -- Steve's arm heavy over his middle, fingers curled in, touching Danny's body through the unzipped sleeping bag.
Steve makes an unhappy sound when Danny pushes it off, and presses in closer against his back, slinging his arm right back where it was.
And Danny? Would be really happy to stay just like this, for a really damn long time -- which is the thought that finally makes him snap to full awareness.
He's maybe a second too late. The flap of the tent peels open and Grace bundles inside, falling over Danny's legs with a thump and climbing up his body like the monkey she is.
"Wake up, Danno!" she chirps happily. "Uncle Chin is making scrambled eggs and bacon!"
“Hey, monkey!” Danny says with a smile. The warmth at his back freezes, before moving off as if scalded.
"Good morning, Steve!" Grace says, on her best behaviour.
"Good morning, Gracie," Steve rasps, rubbing at one eye and throwing Danny a questioning look out of the other.
Danny can't get out of the tent fast enough.
It's only when they're half-way out of the jungle and Danny is determinedly Not Talking About It, and doggedly ignoring the little glances Steve keeps sending his way, that he realises that it's the best sleep he's had in... Well. Since Grace was still a happy bundle of a four-year-old, curling up to nap with her Daddy. He can't speak for a full twenty minutes from the shock; it lasts until Steve takes a sharp turn around a parked truck. Danny's relief at being able to yell at him about something carries him all the way back to his flat.
He lasts a whole two weeks, which he's rather proud of, all things considered. In that time they wrap up an arson case, two K&Rs, and the missing son of a Russian diplomat on holiday in Hawaii that deteriorates into a four hour cat-and-mouse chase across the Big Island. It takes Danny crashing four times after various lengths of time ranging from 36 to 50 hours on the go to admit that he just isn't sleeping. Oh, he crashes -- for all of three hours tops, before an itch he can't quite define settles at the nape of his neck and jolts him awake, every damn time.
The day in question is a Thursday, and he's just spent forty minutes staring at the back wall of his office, trying to figure out if his doc would cave and prescribe him sleeping pills that he probably won't take in the end, anyway.
The reason is, as he should have expected from the start, Kono.
"Okay, brah," she says, closing the door firmly behind her and coming to a stop in front of his desk, arms crossed and a steely look in her eyes. He shakes his head sharply, trying to clear it.
"We got a new case?" he asks, trying to summon the energy to sound less like a zombie than he already does. He hadn't even been able to shout at Steve for butchering the Miranda rights and making him have to book the suspect again, and hadn't that been revealing. From the way Steve had kept looking at him, he can make an educated guess as to Kono's current motivation.
"Even if we did, you'd be off it faster than the boss can say 'Book 'em, Danno'."
Danny groans in despair. "Oh, you just had to go there," he grumbles, scowling at Kono's smirk. It doesn't do much for the concern in her eyes, though. "Wait. Why would I be off it?" he asks, attempting to regroup.
"Oh, come on, Other Boss! Would you send yourself out there, in the state you're obviously in, trying to corner suspects? Who'd do the paperwork if you end up getting shot?"
She has a point, and Danny knows it. He drops his head on his arms, bracing them on top of his desk. "Just shoot me now, save the bad guys the trouble," he groans. His defences are as low as thirteen days with barely any sleep can batter them.
Kono hums sympathetically. "D'you wanna talk about it?" she asks, perching a hip on his desk.
Danny's tempted, he really is, but how do you tell your co-worker that you haven't slept a wink since your boss cuddled you into his arms that one night? That you wake up shaking, twitchy, reaching for a body that isn't there? You don't, that's how.
"Not really," he mutters hopelessly into his arms.
Kono closes her eyes and huffs out a sigh, bowing her head. "Listen, Danny. Go home, get yourself sorted out. The boss is so strung out, he's looking like he wants to charge an advancing army single-handedly, and Chin's rolled his eyes at the both of you so many times in the last few days that I'm worried they'll stick that way. We're all standing down until Monday; I'll make sure the boss knows it, too. Now get going. Call if you need anything, okay?"
Danny wonders vaguely when Kono would be coming out to them as the undisputed ruler of the world. It ought to be soon; she's going to need minions.
"Fine," he says, pushing back from his desk. He hasn't the strength to argue with her, and it's high time he looked at this thing head-on.
Item the first, he thinks half an hour later back at his flat, sprawled over the sofa -- he hasn't slept more than three hours in 24 since the night of Steve's surprise cuddle attack.
Item the second -- his unconscious self thinks Steve smells comforting and familiar, a knowledge he must have gathered solely during the hours spent in close proximity -- which, now that he thinks about it, is at least five hours every day.
Item the third -- he feels safe with Steve around. His subconsciousness has obviously finally gone round the bend if he thinks Steve is in any way connected with the concept of 'safe', except in its negation.
Item the fourth -- he slept like a baby that night, held tightly in Steve's arms.
Item the fifth -- he might be just a teeny, tiny, insignificant bit in love with his partner.
Danny lets his head drop back onto the sofa and groans, with feeling.
You're not gonna chicken out now, Danny tells himself sternly as he loiters a couple houses away from Steve's place. You're going to walk in there, talk maybe, get this thing sorted out. Besides, if you have to spend one more night tossing and turning for hours, you might just end up breaking into Steve's house and climbing in his bed, anyway.
Well, that's sorted, then.
He walks up to Steve's front door and almost doesn't end up knocking anyway when he gets a good look at his reflection in the glass for the first time in he doesn’t remember how long. He's appalled at the state the lack of Steve in his bed has reduced him to -- the bags under his eyes are bruised, and the lines at the corners are way more pronounced than usual. He's pale, too, underneath the tan that has sneaked up on him when he wasn't looking. No wonder Kono was worried. He can only imagine what Steve thinks about all this.
The door flies open even before Danny has a chance to knock; Steve looms over him, Aneurysm face firmly in place.
"What is it, Danny? Something wrong?" he says in a rush, looking over Danny's shoulder for attacking ninjas or something. "And if you say 'I'm fine', I'm going to kick your Jersey ass all the way inside, you know I will. Come on, get in. You ready to tell me what the hell's going on with you?"
Danny follows Steve in, doesn't even have it in him to argue. When he walks through the door, the smell of the house hits him so hard that his knees fold up right under him -- it smells like Steve, warm, safe, familiar, somewhere where he can let go at last.
Steve catches him before he tries to do it himself, pinning him to the wall to keep him upright.
"Jesus, Danny," he says, eyes roaming over him worriedly, hesitating over the blood-shot eyes, the grey tinge to his skin, the lax mouth, from up close and personal. "How long's it been since you last slept?"
Danny's anger catches up at last; he pushes Steve off, even if he sways when he steps away from the wall. Steve makes an aborted motion forward again, but Danny's glare stops him in his tracks.
"You wanna talk about that, huh? You wanna talk about how it's been two weeks since I last slept? You wanna talk about what the hell that was back in that tent? What did you do, McGarrett, blast me with pheromones or something? Is there a drug in your SEAL DNA make-up that enables you to forgo sleep, and you passed it on to me somehow? Because unlike you, normal people need sleep to function, and I can't get any. Do you know how pissed off that makes me?”
"I'm getting some idea," Steve says dryly -- which is a mistake, because Danny's fed up with this bullshit, he's so tired he could cry, and he just wants to sleep for a goddamn week; but he can't do it without this--this--6'5'', 200 lbs of muscle there at his back. How has his life come to this?
"You. Get upstairs right now. Right. Now," he reiterates, jabbing a finger at him when Steve's mouth hangs open and he starts to protest. "I've spent the last two hundred and eighty hours more or less awake, and I am not shitting you when I say that I will kick your ass if you don't take me to your bed right now and let me sleep!"
Steve stares at him for a few moments, speechless and blinking.
"So what you're saying is, you can't sleep without me," he states, and he looks like he doesn't know whether he should start laughing or believe this is really happening to him. A small smile starts the long trek across his face; by the time Danny's glaring mulishly at him, Steve is positively beaming. "You should have said something, Danno!" he says happily, clapping Danny’s shoulder and looking against all evidence to the contrary like it's Christmas morning.
Danny is going to kill him, he really is.
Steve holds up his hands in supplication. "Okay, okay! I'm going already. I just need to switch the grill off, I'll only be a second. Bedroom's upstairs, second door on the right. Go on up, I'll be right there."
Danny trudges up the endless steps, tugging his tie off half-way. He hadn't even thought to change before he'd been out the door and into his car, a maddening mix of nervous energy and exhaustion driving his need to either kill Steve, or tie him to the bed so he'd stay there and Danny could finally sleep.
He ropes the undone tie over his shoulders as he tugs his shirt buttons undone with clumsy fingers, feeling the longed-for oblivion lapping at the edges of his awareness. He finds the bedroom, walks inside without even checking for any possible threats, he's that tired, and drops his shirt and tie on the floor by the perfectly-made bed, all hospital corners and fluffy white sheets. He thinks he moans in relief.
The footsteps padding up the stairs falter for a second before quickening. Danny unbuttons his pants and pushes them down his hips, kicking off his shoes and leaving everything in a heap on the floor. His socks quickly follow before he crawls between the sheets and falls face-first into soft pillows that smell of Steve. He breathes the scent in open-mouthed, desperate; if he wasn't so drained, he swears he'd get hard just from that. As it is, he barely has the strength to flop over to his side, so that his back is facing the centre of the bed, and wait for that final thing to push him under.
Steve walks into the room at last, staring at Danny sprawled in his bed for a moment too long.
"McGarrett, get your ass over here already. Don't make me get up, now," Danny threatens weakly, even though both of them know that in the state he's in, a kitten could take him on and win.
He feels rather than sees Steve tug off his shirt and walk closer; the bed dips under his weight, rolling Danny towards the middle. Steve stretches his freakishly tall body out, shifting so his bare chest is pressed to Danny's back. The warmth of his skin is like an instant hit of some soporific drug; every muscle in Danny’s body relaxes at once, and Danny can only sigh in relief. Then Steve's arm is around him again, and he's being settled more comfortably against Steve's front.
"Sleep, Danno," Steve murmurs into the nape of his neck, stirring the soft hairs. Danny thinks he feels the soft touch of lips pressing a kiss into his skin; but by that time he's falling, falling, safe in Steve's arms, and his last thought is that he'll figure out a way to thank him in the morning.