After reuniting the kids with their parents, Steve declared a moratorium on paperwork until the morning and invited them all back to his place for beers and steaks. As they sat around afterward on the beach in companionable silence, Danny lay back on the sand and scratched at his belly.
Kono chuckled. “Don't fall asleep,” she warned. “Scorpions'll get you.”
“Scorpions?” Danny demanded, practically levitating off the sand. Steve's and Chin's full-throated laughter brought him up short, and he whirled on Kono.
“You,” he said, pointing a finger at her as he plopped back down on his ass, “are evil.”
Chin grinned. “She always has been – ever since she was in diapers.”
“Thanks, Dad,” Kono said, sticking out her tongue. Chin raised his eyebrows, and his face turned a little pink before he looked away, taking another swig of his beer as he did. Danny filed that question away for later.
“So, did you guys have any plans for Valentine's Day?” Kono asked.
“Valentine's Day?” Danny asked, frowning before he remembered the date they'd gotten the call about the kidnapping. “Oh, right, that was Monday. No, no plans.”
“Well, I had a date with Ben lined up. What about you?” Kono asked Steve, smirking.
Steve made a face Danny hadn't seen before. He wasn't sure what to call it. “Valentine's Day is overrated.”
Kono rolled her eyes. “You guys really need to get out more.”
“Hey, I get out,” Danny protested. Hooking a thumb at Steve, he added, “In fact, when the call came, I was out with this guy, giving myself a slipped disc. He offered to take me out for a ride in his dad's old tub of bolts, and he got nine miles before I was forced to get out and push the damned thing up a mountain. How's that for getting out?”
Danny's question was greeted by utter and profound silence. Staring at Chin and Kono's carefully blank faces in turn, he said, “What?”
Steve vaulted to his feet. “I, uh, I need another beer. Anyone want another beer?”
“Thanks, I'm good,” Chin said, too brightly. Kono shook her head.
“I could do with one, sure,” Danny said, and Steve nodded stiffly, looking at something over Danny's head, before turning and heading for the house like his ass was on fire.
“Seriously, what?” Danny asked, when Kono and Chin still continued to make like mimes.
“Oh, Danny,” Kono sighed, “You're kind of – well, oblivious sometimes, aren't you?”
“That's harsh, cuz,” Chin murmured.
“Come on, you were thinking it,” Kono said, and Chin pursed his lips in that way that meant, well, yeah.
“Could someone please explain to my poor, deficient brain what you are talking about?” Danny demanded, waving his free hand.
“He took you out in his dad's car,” Kono said slowly, “on Valentine's Day.”
Danny stared at her, brain rebelling at the suggestion. “Look, that wasn't – I mean, it's not like –”
“Where was he going to take you?” Chin asked. Danny straightened, feeling a little like a suspect who'd been brought in for questioning.
“He didn't say. Told me it was a s –” Danny cut himself off as he remembered that morning – Steve grinning from ear to ear as he presented the Marquis with a flourish and telling Danny with a smirk that if he was good, he just might get to drive it later.
Or – no, it hadn't been a smirk, more like – holy shit.
Steve had been flirting with him.
“A surprise?” Kono prompted, and Danny shook himself from his woolgathering.
“Uh,” he said.
Kono shook her head like he was the saddest bastard on the planet, which he was starting to think might be true. “Just so you know, I'm not taking any more tips on how to be a crack detective from you, because you suck at it.”
“Yeah,” Danny said, scrubbing a hand over his face, “can't say as how I blame you one bit.”
Chin and Kono came up with some pathetic excuse to leave a few minutes after Steve returned from the house, which meant that Danny was alone with Steve as the sun went down, drinking beer and not saying much of anything. Danny knew he should probably head out, too – his brain was overloaded with input and running in six directions, none of which could come up with with one word to say to Steve – but he didn't want to just leave it like this, not after it had become painfully clear to him that there was something going on they needed to talk about. He might be a lot of things, but he wasn't a coward.
“I'm trying to count it as a win,” Steve said after a while, “but I can't stop thinking about the one we lost, too.”
“That's normal,” Danny said, hands wrapped around his knees. “This isn't simple math: eleven kids safe with Mom and Dad don't cancel out the one who's never coming home. They can't, and they shouldn't.”
“Then how do you let it go?” Steve asked, and Danny turned to see his face, open and trusting, like Danny had to have the answer. It made him feel – well, it scared the shit out of him, mainly, but it also felt kind of amazing.
“You don't,” Danny murmured. “The next case comes along, and this one fades into the background, and soon enough some other face takes Justin's place.”
“Shit,” Steve gusted, “I thought that's what you were going to say.”
“Looks like we might just make a cop of you yet,” Danny said, and Steve turned and stared at him until they both smiled.
“Hey, I think there's a game on tonight,” Steve said, cocking his head toward the house. “Want to, uh?”
Danny frowned as he rose to his feet. “Football's over.”
“Yeah, I know. It's basketball.”
Danny felt a pulse leap in his wrists. “Who's playing?”
“Warriors and Nevada. Actually, the game was – uh, a few days ago, but I managed to record it.” He shrugged. “Figured you hadn't seen a score yet.”
Smiling, Danny said, “As it so happens, I haven't.”
Steve walked into the house, carrying the empty beer bottles into the kitchen, and Danny flopped onto the couch and turned on the TV. When Steve returned, he dropped a box onto the coffee table, then sat beside Danny on the couch. Danny couldn't help but notice that in spite of his loose-limbed sprawl, Steve was wound tight as a spring.
Shifting his focus to the box, Danny recognized the writing. “Oh my god, Liliha's,” he breathed.
“Yeah, Kono brought a dozen coco puffs. I told her to take them with her, but I guess she forgot them.”
“You told her to – what is the matter with you?” Danny demanded, practically ripping the box in his haste to get at the contents. “Have you ever eaten these?”
Steve didn't smile, but Danny could see his eyes were laughing. “Well, maybe one or two in my sixteen years here, yeah.”
Danny stuffed half a chocolate one in his mouth before the flavor exploded on his tongue like sweet fireworks. “Jesus Christ, I don't know how everyone on this island isn't four hundred pounds.” He gobbled down the rest, then sucked his finger into his mouth, chasing the last of the chocolate. “There are green ones, what are the green ones?”
“Green tea,” Steve said, his voice sounding a little strangled. Danny glanced at him and noticed his eyes looked sort of glazed, like someone had whacked him with a mallet. "It's, uh, it's a new flavor."
Oh. Right, so that answered one of his questions, anyway. “Okay, I'm game,” Danny said, picking up one of the green-iced puffs. He glanced at Steve, then took a deep breath and lifted it toward Steve's mouth. “You try it first, though.”
Steve pulled back a little, scowling at him. “What are you –”
“Just try it and tell me if you like it, jeez, what are you, a fussy eater?”
“You're asking me if I'm a fussy eater?” Steve complained, but he leaned forward anyway and took a careful bite of the pastry. He chewed for a moment, then closed his eyes and groaned, and wow, how had Danny never noticed Steve had such gorgeous eyelashes?
“So it's safe, is it?” Danny asked, and now his voice was the one sounding strained.
Steve's eyes snapped open, and Danny could almost feel himself being analyzed, like a bent tree branch in the forest or some damn rock on the ground.
“I don't know,” Steve murmured, “maybe I'd better try some more,” and before Danny could think what that meant, Steve had his hand wrapped around Danny's wrist and was leaning in again. Danny watched as Steve nibbled the rest of the coco puff away from Danny's unresisting fingers, and then Danny's brain leaked out his ears as Steve licked a smear of green icing off the pad of Danny's thumb.
“Yeah,” Steve rasped, swallowing, “that's, yeah, that's definitely recommended.”
“I am going to strip you naked, dump the rest of these things on your body and eat them off you,” Danny growled, hauling Steve close with both hands.
“Works for me,” Steve said breathlessly, nodding right before Danny's mouth crashed into his.
“I'm kind of disappointed,” Steve said later, when they were both naked and Danny was sure he'd sprained something in a really good way for a change. “I was promised kinky pastry sex.”
“Sorry, I got conventional at the last minute,” Danny said. He was still breathing hard, while Steve had barely broken a sweat, the bastard. “Next time we'll try the smorgasbord, I promise.”
“It's okay, I like this fine, too,” Steve admitted, rolling toward him and propping himself up on an elbow. He looked relaxed and sated and happy, and God, all three looked good on him. Danny thought about reaching up to run a hand through Steve's hair, and then remembered duh, you can do that. Steve leaned into his touch like a big cat, and Danny grinned; apparently this happiness thing was catching.
Then Danny opened his mouth and said, “That game was on Valentine's Day, wasn't it?” and Steve stiffened up again like he was suddenly on parade in his dress blues.
“I – yeah,” Steve said. “It was.”
“You were going to take me for a drive, then take me to a basketball game, and you hate basketball –”
“I don't hate it –”
“– whatever, the point is, you asked me out on a date for Valentine's Day and you didn't even tell me.”
Steve pinched the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger. “I thought the whole February 14th thing would make it obvious enough,” he said, a little petulantly.
“Were you going to take me up to Inspiration Point at the end of the evening?” Danny asked, tugging Steve's hand away from his face. “Come on, fess up.”
“You are such a pain in my ass,” Steve sighed.
Grinning, Danny pushed Steve over onto his back, then moved to straddle him. “Not yet, babe,” he said, leaning down to brush his mouth against Steve's, “but I have plans.”