Grief's like a punch to the chest, winding him – Danny folds, hands braced against his knees, watching the plane door shut behind his brother. The snick of the hatch when it closes is all but lost against the whine of the engines, but it's awful and final just the same. His thoughts chase themselves like rabid dogs, angry, wounded – his parents, his daughter, his little brother who stole his crayons and his trucks and his bike and who thinks this fixes something, anything. He pushes up, stands as straight as he can, reaches to wind his fingers in the links of the fence but lets his hand drop. There's bile at the back of his throat, and his joints ache fiercely, like regret is some physical thing pushing into the spaces between his bones. "Fuck," he says softly, and swallows, tries to steady his breath. "Fuck, fuck." He gives himself one more moment, eyes screwed shut, and then reaches for his phone.
It's a simple matter to call HPD, to have them alert the control tower, to ground the plane with some vague excuse about traffic at HNL, a short delay, no big deal. Two units are dispatched – back-up, Danny requests; a federal case; FBI jurisdiction; come in quiet – which leaves only the number on the business card in his back pocket, and Danny doesn't want to think about what it means that he kept this, that he knew he might need it.
"This is Kipton."
"Agent. Detective Danny Williams."
"You son-of-a . . ."
"He's at Kalaeloa Airport, holding for take off. Cessna, N-C-144RA." Danny rubs the heel of his hand below his ribs, trying to ease the ache. "I got two units headed here to hold him, but I'd suggest you . . ."
Kipton yells something indistinct – probably covering his cell phone with his hand. "We're on our way. And Williams, I swear to god, I'm going to . . ."
"Yeah, yeah, threats, whatever. Just do your job." He hangs up, grits his teeth against the way his body's fighting him on this tooth and nail, starts scrolling through his contacts. "Lawyer, lawyer," he mutters to himself as he gets back in the car.
He passes the HPD units on the highway, so distracted by his call, by finding Matty the best counsel he can, that he idly wonders where they're headed before his thoughts snap back into sharp, nasty focus. Danny grits his teeth, smacks the steering wheel with the heel of his hand. "Yes, great," he tells Amy Matsuda. "He'll be at the detention center in an hour." He remembers to say thank you before he hangs up, considers pulling off to the side of the road so that he can sit for just a while, head in his hands, until the world feels more solid beneath his feet again, until the first jolts of this quake are past and there are only aftershocks to weather.
He drives to Kahala instead.
It's almost 3am when Steve gets to Rachel's. It's strange to be back, stranger yet to consider the circumstances, but Steve's so grateful for her tight, worried smile that the rest is inconsequential. "How is he?" he asks.
"Heartbroken?" she says, her consonants crisp, and she rubs the bridge of her nose. "In the living room." She tilts her head; Steve follows.
Danny's sacked out on his stomach, face half hidden by a red throw pillow, shirt pulled tight across the broad planes of his back. One arm's mostly off the sofa, hand lax against the floor, and his shoes are off – neatly arranged, side-by-side. He's sleeping as though he collapsed, as if exhaustion pressed him into the couch – his watch is still on; Steve can see the gleam of his cell phone sticking out of one pants pocket; he didn't take his shoes off himself. He clears his throat. "Matt's in custody."
Rachel blows out a long breath. "Danny explained – said to expect . . ." She presses her lips together. "He thinks it's his fault, of course."
"It's not, he didn't . . ." Steve cuts himself off, unable to find the short, easy words he wants, glancing across the room toward Danny.
Rachel's smiles sympathetically. "I understand." She gestures to one easy chair, taking the other. "Loving him isn't easy, is it?"
Steve hesitates, stunned, wondering what the hell to say. He shouldn't be surprised – he's around Danny all the time, the two of them locked in some orbit that they haven't addressed, which means he and Rachel are constantly drifting in and out of each other's space at pick-ups and drop-offs, weekends at the beach. Of course she'd be the one to see it. "You love him too," he manages as he sits, feeling like it's the adult equivalent of I'm rubber, you're glue.
"Love him?" Rachel muses, and she looks wistful. "In some fashion," she agrees. "For my sins, I suppose."
Steve shakes his head; if they're trading truths, they're trading truths. "You have a history. You had a kid. That leaves something behind."
Her smile is wry. "If he'd only been a terrible father, this would have all been much tidier, I agree." Steve pretends not to see her thumb the corner of her eye. "But I concede the point."
Steve lets out a breath as something between them eases. "It'll be okay."
Rachel shakes her head, lost in thought for a long, quiet moment. "His family is so important to him – I worry that . . . "
"No," Steve says softly, looking up at her. "He'll be okay. We'll make it okay."
She looks dubious. "My confidence in such things is rather shaken," she murmurs. "Remember, I've tried before."
Steve nods his head once. "This is different."
She watches him for a moment. "Maybe." She stretches out a hand into the space between the two chairs, waits for Steve to do the same and squeezes his fingers when he does – a peace offering; a recognition of their commonality, perhaps. "Maybe we might all make it so."
"Yeah." He nods, oddly touched, the moment surreal. "Thank you." He shifts in his chair to make room for all the disquiet he feels. "For calling me."
She smiles her understanding. "Of course."
Danny wakes feeling bruised, blinking into grey light that doesn't feel right. There's a seam beneath his back, couch cushions, not his bed, and he swears softly, throws an arm over his face as the previous few hours come crashing back in. "Fuck," he murmurs.
"Morning to you too, Daniel."
He knows better than to whip his head around – he's spent enough nights on a couch, sleeping badly, to have some experience – but he does it anyway, grunts against the dizziness that follows before the world steadies again. "Great," he says, appalled to not only see Rachel, but Steve. "Now my humiliation's complete."
"Danny – "
Danny sits up, swings his legs off the couch and stands, holding up a hand to stop whatever no-doubt earnest thing Steve wants to say. "I'm going to use the bathroom," he says, in what he thinks is a very understanding, patient tone of voice, all things considered. "So please, don't even, just don't."
Steve nods, and Danny glances at Rachel, looks away a lot sooner than is probably polite, makes his exit with all the self-possession he can muster. In a powder room so tastefully apportioned it makes him want to gag he takes a leak, washes his hands, scrubs water across his face and drags his damp hands through his hair. There's a sick feeling in his stomach that he swears has put down roots, and he looks like shit, almost wishes he'd drunk something last night when Rachel offered, just to give him an excuse for this pallor. He works the heels of his hands into his eyes, dislodging sleep and grit, and tries to figure out what this agitation is, if he's angry that his ex-wife and his partner are conspiring against him in his sleep, or so fucking grateful that he could weep. It isn't much of a question – it's so much the latter that he can hardly breathe, and he can't afford to dwell on it, not while the rest of everything is falling apart. "Man up," he tells his reflection. "Come on. Come on."
No one's in the living room when he wanders back in, but he can smell the scent of coffee brewing and heads to the kitchen. "I, uh. Sorry," he says when he finds Rachel and Steve, stuffing his hands into his pockets, embarrassed. "Little disoriented."
"I was just telling Commander McGarrett that you never were very good in a morning," Rachel offers.
"Hey," Danny says, and he has to point a finger at that bald-faced lie. "That is not true. There were many mornings when I was very good, when . . ." He clamps his jaw shut, suddenly realizing where this is headed, much too late.
Steve's grinning like someone just offered him a small cache of weapons. "Oh, yeah?"
"I – "
"Of course, I was drawing a discreet veil over the mornings we had sex," Rachel says blithely, hiding her smile behind a coffee cup. " I wasn't sure you wanted to share such intimate details, but I'm happy to stand corrected."
Danny stares at the pair of them balefully. "I hate you. I hate you both."
"Right," Rachel says, and she pushes a mug of coffee toward him. "Food?"
"God, no," he replies, sliding onto a stool at the island, "thank you." He pulls on the coffee – and of course Rachel knows just how to make it the way he likes; his guts twist just a little at the matter-of-fact thoughtfulness of it – and glances at Steve. "They charge him?"
"Not yet. Holding him for questioning. Although – " He lifts a shoulder, lets it drop, and Danny's struck by the fact that it's barely 5am and Steve's seemingly been up all night, knows the facts of his brother's case without having to make a call right in front of him. He loves him so hard in that moment he feels physically sick. "Matsuda's down there."
Danny pulls in a breath, rubs his thumb against his forehead, promises himself he'll think about this later, when he has time, when he has energy. "You talk to her?"
"Talked to the processing desk. Didn't think I should play my hand."
Danny nods, stares into his mug. "I gotta call my folks."
"And tell them what?" Rachel asks.
Danny lets a hand rise and fall. "Everything. All of it. I mean . . ."
"First," Steve says, "you gotta talk to your brother, his lawyer, figure out what's on the table. And before that, you gotta shower, because this two-nights-on-a-beach look? It's not working for you. And pretty soon you're going to smell."
Danny squints at him. "Smell? I'm going to smell? That's your big directive this morning, don't smell, Danny?"
Steve shrugs, unconcerned. "Yeah."
Danny doesn't have a comeback for that, so he huffs and hunches over his coffee, stays that way when Steve slides onto the stool beside him.
"You know we've got your back, right?" he asks, bumping Danny's shoulder with his own.
"Yeah." Danny nods. "Yeah I do." He bumps shoulders back at him, lets himself stay there, leaning. "Thanks."
"Grace will be awake in half an hour or so," offers Rachel. "Would you like to wait? I can explain things later, if you'd prefer – Matt told her he was going away for a while, so she won't be worried. Not that any of us quite understood the way in which he meant what he said."
Danny flexes his fingers – the urge to punch his brother in the face is overpowering. "The little shit."
"I know," Rachel says softly, and Steve rests his hand right between Danny's shoulder blades, like Danny's a restless horse, like a hand on his flank will calm him. Fuck everyone and everything that it does, that's completely beside the point.
"Let me talk to him," he says, looking up at Rachel. "Let me talk to him, work out what happens next. I'll call you, we can talk to her together. Later. If that's okay."
"It's fine," she says, smiling sympathetically. "Whatever you need."
"Okay," he says, and drinks his coffee. "Okay. All right. All right." He can do this.
There are three phases to a storm – the threat, the break, and the clean-up. Steve learned all three from experience, a kid caught out too late too many times, pounded by a deluge that felt as though it was trying to wipe him off the island, forced to pick up in the yard after the big ones hit. He feels the same way now, driving back home. The threat's passed – Matt's made his stupid choice – but now Steve's right in the cloudburst, waiting, just waiting, knowing there'll be clean-up in just a few hours but unable to do a thing until the downpour's done. "Shit," he says softly, thinking of Danny gone home to change, to shower, to head to see his brother, and he pulls into his driveway, sits there, staring at his house, knowing he needs sleep and too stirred up to go inside.
That he gets out of the truck is down to training – he shuts off his awareness of everything but the next thing he has to do and eats a little, showers, sprawls across his unmade bed, barely cognizant of each separate step. But Danny worms his way back into his thoughts – Danny with his heart on his sleeve, with a no-good, fucked-up brother, with a family he has to hold onto – and Steve swears into his pillow, pushes up on one elbow to grab his phone from the nightstand and scroll through the numbers in his contacts list.
Steve focuses. "This is Commander Steven McGarrett of – "
"Five-0, yes sir. How can I help you?"
Steve scratches at the sheets with his finger. "Could you tell me if Detective Danny Williams of this office has any unpaid fines for parking violations?"
"One moment." The distant clattering of computer keys echoes down the line. "I'm showing three unpaid tickets."
"Great. I'd like to pay those please."
"Sir, we can't allow intra-office transfers for – "
Steve shakes his head. "No, no, I mean – I'd like to pay them. Myself. On my credit card."
There's a pause at the end of the line. The clerk clears her throat. "I can handle that for you, sir. Just one moment."
Steve sags back against the pillows. Finally, it feels like he's getting something done.
Danny talks to Amy Matsuda for almost an hour, pacing the terrace outside the federal detention center. He can see the guards inside getting jumpy, and some part of him's perversely glad. "You're sure?" he asks her for the second time. "You're sure about this?"
"It's the best outcome we can hope for," she replies, and she'd know, she would – Danny's been on the other side of this situation before, alone on the witness stand with her questions coming thick and fast as she turns his testimony into dismissible garbage. He's come real close to hating her before now, had to remind himself more than once that she's doing a job, that the justice system needs people like her as much as it needs people like him.
"I want to be the one who tells him," Danny says.
"Okay," she agrees, and he nods, smoothes a hand down his tie, follows her to the doors and the guards and the metal detectors, surrenders his gun.
It's a long wait for Matt to be brought up from holding, and Danny knows the tactic, refuses the coffee he's offered since it's bound to taste like rotting wood and ash. He lets himself slip into the headspace he cultivates on stakeouts, tuning out distractions like the noises from the hallway, or the pebbled chill of his skin despite the sweat that dampens the back of his neck. Amy scribbles on her legal pad, uses her smartphone, and Danny thinks of as little as possible lest the most innocuous thought turn back on him, snarling. He's dazed when they bring Matt in at last, but stands out of a habit ingrained from interrogation rooms six time zones away. "Hey," he offers.
Matt stares at him, flinching when the interview room door snaps closed at his back. "I can't believe you," he says, and Danny sits down with painstaking care lest he pin his brother up against the wall.
"Really," he says, keeping his voice steady. "Really."
Matt looks at Amy, at the paperwork she's set down, pulls out a chair and sits, slouching with his arms crossed across his chest like he's thirteen years old again, like this is about staying out too late or sneaking a beer. He glances at Danny and away, the muscles in his jaw working hard. "You turned me in." He shakes his head, mouth twisting in a bitter smile. "I can't believe you turned me in."
Danny rests his forearms on the table, links his fingers. "You can't?" He waits, but Matt says nothing. "'Cause what, you thought I'd be okay with you just running off to wherever the hell it was you were going . . ."
"I gave you a choice," Matt says, words clipped. "I said shoot me or say goodbye, and you . . ."
"We had some kind of deal?" Danny asks, spreading his hands. "No, no, we had no deal. Whatever deal you think we had is all in your messed up head, my friend, because when you agreed to launder money for a drug cartel, you made a choice. You set us down on different sides."
Matt tips his head back just enough to look at the ceiling.
"Seriously?" Danny looks at Amy – she quirks an eyebrow but keeps her eyes on her legal pad – then back at Matt. "Just - let me get this straight, okay, because really, I need to know – you thought I would let you leave the country to work for some drug-dealing asshole who probably traffics kids and kills people for sport?"
"It was a one-time thing," Matt says through gritted teeth. "One time!"
Danny laughs, feels hysteria bubbling inside him. "And you believed that?"
Matt clenches his jaw.
"You think that's how it goes down with these guys, that you launder a little money, find out their names, a little about their operation, locations, bank accounts, and then they let you go?"
"I was – " Matt swears under his breath. "I had it under control, okay?"
Danny pulls in a breath, the way he's learned to when he's about to yell, when he needs to pull himself back from losing his mind all over the walls. "What did you have under control?" he asks. "What, exactly, did you have under control? Did you think about what would happen to the rest of us? Huh? Did you think that when they figured out you had a brother who was a cop they'd pass up the chance to apply a little pressure there? Did you think about the fact that they could target Grace if you didn't do what they wanted?"
Matt pales, jerks his gaze up to Danny's, unfolds his arms. "I didn't – "
Danny stares at him.
He leans forward, hand on the table. "You've gotta believe me, I didn't – "
"I know," Danny says, and swallows against all the yelling he wants to do, all the questions he wants to ask, all the vile, spiteful shit he wants to say. "I know. Which is why you should have listened to me, which is why . . ." He raises a hand, lets it fall. "God. Matty."
Matt's lips twist and he blinks, swallows visibly. "Shit." He leans forward, elbows on the table, hands at the back of his neck. "I fucked up."
"Yeah," Danny breathes, feeling the understatement like a slap. "You did." And hey, maybe that's a little spiteful of him in and of itself, but he feels like he's owed.
There's silence, Matt breathing hard, gaze flicking right and left to whatever there is on the scratched, beaten table-top to hold his attention. "So what do we . . ." He shakes his head, looks up at Danny with an expression that's half plea, half faith. "What do we do now?"
Danny closes his eyes for a second as his guts twist. He'd laugh if the circumstances were different – laugh at the fact that he thought he'd assessed the situation, understood the contours of it, knew what was going to hurt the worst. He'd figured it was going to kill him to call his parents, call his sisters, help them say goodbye, but what sort of dumb fuck is he that that he didn't think of this – Matty sitting across the table from him, disheveled and restless and scared out of his mind, waiting for Danny to fix the unfixable. "You can plea," he says, and clears his throat of the catch that snags at his words.
Matt nods, attentive. "And?"
Danny swallows, wets his dry lips. "The feds want the cartel, not you. You offer evidence against them, tell the feds everything you know, I mean everything, even stuff you don't think is significant, and we're pretty sure they'll . . . take care of you."
"Take care of me?"
Danny rubs his thumb against the table, erasing a smudge of ink. "Witness protection."
There's a long, tense moment, then Matt's breath rushes out of his lungs. "That would – if I – that would mean – "
"Listen to me," Danny says, leaning forward, stretching a hand across the table, his palm flat against the metal. "If you take your chances, you are screwed. You are screwed. They have tapes, they have wiretaps, they have video, they have the money, and your fingerprints are all over that plane."
Matt groans and hides his face.
"They have your financial records, Matty. They have everything. They will put you away and these guys you were working for? They got people everywhere. You will not make it, and there's nothing I or anyone else can do to stop that, do you understand me?"
Matt drags his hands down his face, eyes Danny over his fingertips.
"You turn state's evidence, they can give you a new life. They can keep you safe. You can start over."
"And never see any of you – never . . ." Matt pushes back his chair, looks around. "Never see – "
"What did you think was going to happen?" Danny yells, exasperated. "You got on a drug dealer's plane! Did you think you were coming back for Thanksgiving, huh? Huh?"
"I didn't think!" Matt yells. "Okay? Is that what you want to hear?"
"I want to hear you'll start the paperwork for a fucking deal, and you'll give mom and dad the satisfaction of knowing that if they never see you again at least you're alive," Danny shouts, and he dashes the heel of his hand against his eyes, breathes hard while he tries to find some shred of self-possession. "I want you safe, okay?" he says. "I want you living. Please, Matty. Please."
Matt looks like Danny just punched him. "Shit," he whispers.
Matt shakes his head, and for one awful moment Danny thinks he's going to say no. But he swallows, looking pained, and says, "Okay," looks at Amy, at Danny, at some middle distance beyond Danny's shoulder. "Okay. Okay."
Amy nods at Danny – a clear signal of I'll take it from here – and he pushes back his chair, stands up and begins to pace, just enough to work off the edge of his restlessness. "Read this," Amy says, pushing a handful of papers across the table to Matt. "It's a summary of the terms and conditions of witness protection. If it looks like something you can agree to we submit a formal application to the Department of Justice, and the Marshals Service will designate someone to come interview you, get your formal assent, talk to the prosecutors about the value of the testimony you can provide. You say yes, the Marshals relocate you immediately, and they'll be in charge of your protection. You won't be put in general holding, not here, not anywhere after the fact."
Matt spreads the sheets of paper with one hand, looking vaguely stunned. "And I'll – I'll leave right away?"
"You'll have to talk to the prosecutors, the paperwork has to go back and forth – I'd say we have a day before any interview with the Marshals Service happens."
Matt wets his lips, shifts the papers again. "Danny."
Danny pauses in his pacing. "Yeah."
"Can we – " He looks at Amy. "I there a chance that – " He clears his throat. "Can I see my folks?"
Danny pauses for half a second before rounds the table, pulls out the chair beside Matt and sits down. "If we do that, if we can make that happen – " he looks over at Amy, who nods that it's possible, "I got one ask. One thing I want you to do for me." He wants to reach out, steady Matt, badly, but Matt looks like he'd shatter if he did. "You keep telling the truth to all these people, you know? The prosecutors, the Marshals, the FBI, whatever – you tell them the truth. But mom and dad? Tell them you turned yourself in."
Matt shifts in his seat, turns to look at him.
"Give them that. Don't – " Danny searches for words that just won't come. "Let them think you turned yourself in."
"I'm so fucking sorry." Matt's about ten seconds from breaking down, Danny can see it. "I'm so fucking sorry – "
"Hey, hey," Danny said, and hauls him in, hugs him, cups the back of Matt's head with one hand. "I know, okay. I know." And he can't undo a damn thing, but he can offer this much, and he can give his parents a lie, and his brother will be alive, and that's the best he can do.
Steve makes it to HQ by early afternoon. He's left Danny messages and heard nothing back save a brief text – 'beer later please' – and what careful phone calls he can make about Matt's case tell him little he doesn't already know. He'd love to dig in, work every channel he can, call in favors to get information, but he can't – not since he already lied to the feds; not since Danny could be prosecuted for what he did; not with so much depending on politics and accommodation and everyone's feathers staying smoothed. There's no ace in the hole he can play just yet – he'll call the Governor if he needs to, if Kipton decides they walked the wrong side of the line too long, too far – and he figures he may as well be working as not, around people who are just as worried as he is.
"Hey, boss." Kono's working at the tech-desk, patiently sorting through something – clean up, maybe, from the last case, since there's nothing new on the docket. She looks tired but smiles at him when she sees what he's carrying. "Malasadas and coco puffs?"
Steve feels the back of his neck prickle with heat. "Yeah, well. You know."
She grins. "Mmmmhmm. You bring enough for all of us, or are those just Danny's?"
Steve briefly considers the mature response of sticking out his tongue, but puts the bag and box down on the table instead. "Dig in," he says, and smiles a little when she elbows him out of the way.
"Any news?" Chin asks, wandering out of his office. "No one at the detention center's talking."
"Nothing," Steve says. "Danny hasn't called."
"I tried HPD, worked the family," Kono offers, licking her thumb. "This thing's locked down tight. No one's got anything."
"Kipton," Chin says ruefully. "He's pissed and he's working things to the letter."
Steve sighs. "If he prosecutes Danny, I swear to god – "
Chin laughs softly. "He does that, I'm selling tickets, brah. Help with the state deficit."
"We'll go rounds," Kono suggests. "I'll warm him up, Kamekona can use a little sumo before the end."
Steve laughs and turns his head, something catching in his peripheral vision, and there's Danny, walking into the office like it's any other day, looking three-day worn despite a clean shirt. "You threatening people with violence on my behalf, rookie?" Danny asks. "Not that I'm not touched, you understand, but – " His words get lost when Kono slams into him and wraps him in a bear hug, squeezing him so tightly Steve hears all his breath escape. "Whoa," Danny mumbles, and Kono laughs, strained, eases up just a little, and Steve's chest contracts in sympathy when Danny tucks his face against her neck and lets out a long, unsteady breath.
"Hey, man," Chin says, reaching out to squeeze his shoulder. "Howsit?"
Kono steps back, and Danny runs a hand through his hair, glances over at Steve with a weak half-smile before he answers. "WitSec. He's applying to WitSec. I called my folks, they'll be here tomorrow."
Steve doesn't know what to do, what to say. He wants to yell – wants to ask what the fuck Danny's doing at the office after making that call, why he isn't home, asleep, or with Grace, or with Rachel, or texting the team to meet him at some dive bar where he'll make them pay for his beer. "You sure you want to be here?" he asks.
Danny shrugs. "Need my back up against something," he says. "Figure a couple of hours of paperwork will be a good distraction. Nothing else I can do at the jail."
Steve holds his gaze, sees the challenge there, the expression that's something like a plea.
Chin clears his throat. "You need anything? Your parents got a place to stay?"
"Oh. Yeah. I mean – " Danny pinches the bridge of his nose. "They will. I didn't figure it out yet."
"We got it," Kono says, already pulling up windows on the tech desk. "You need a rental for them?"
"I, uh – " Danny blinks. "Don't know. I was going to meet them at the airport – "
"Your car's not big enough," Chin says. "You eat?"
"No. I mean – maybe? Did I?" Danny looks at Steve like Steve would know the answer. "I don't – I had coffee."
"My office," Steve says gently. "Take the coco puffs while we figure something out, go sit down for five minutes, and then – " he holds up a hand when Danny looks like he's going to protest " – you can do your paperwork. After you eat."
Danny looks from Chin, to Kono, to Steve, to Kono again. "Fine," he says, picking up the Liliha box, cradling it to his chest. "You're all very scary," he offers, and ambles off to Steve's office, leaving Chin and Kono grinning in his wake.
"Sandwiches?" Chin asks.
"One of everything," Steve says, fishing in his back pocket for his wallet and pulling out a card to throw on the desk. "Anything he's ever said he likes. You guys too." And he pretends he doesn't see Chin's look of patient understanding as he follows in Danny's wake.
"I don't think I ate today," Danny says when Steve walks in, looking up from the half-eaten box of coco puffs in his lap, licking his lips. "These taste too good – I mean, they're good, don't get me wrong, they're amazing, every single day, but today these taste like – "
"You want to tell me about it?" Steve asks.
Danny tenses up for a second, then carefully sets the box on the table beside Steve's couch, licks a finger. "You got the cliff notes."
"So I know the outcome. That's not what I'm asking."
"I know." Danny rests his elbows on his knees. "And I don't know what to tell you."
Steve sits down beside him. "He listened to you. You or Amy. That's something, right?"
"But how the hell did he not think this through ahead of time?" Danny asks, turning to look at him. "How did he think that anything but turning himself in was a good idea? How did he get the idea that drugs were going to – " His breath stutters and he catches himself, sighs, tips his head back against the couch and rubs at his temples. "My mom started to cry, the very minute I got the words out. I broke her fucking heart. And my dad, my dad . . . " He shakes his head. "Still gotta call my sisters."
Steve tips his head back too, rests his cheek against the soft leather of the couch so that he can watch Danny. "Let me help."
Danny's eyes are bright, and he holds Steve's gaze as though he's just too tired to look anywhere else. "Thing is, you and me," he says at last, "this thing we haven't been talking about, this thing where we – " He gestures between them. "This."
Steve arches an eyebrow.
"I'm all out of pretending," Danny says softly. "I cannot do this thing with Matty, with my folks, with everyone, and keep dancing around this too, I can't."
"Jesus." Danny looks at the ceiling. "You want to help, make a decision. Stop looking at me like I'm some carburetor or something, some hard-to-find piece of your dad's fucking car that you ordered on the internet, again, despite everything I told you, only this time, okay, this one time it turned out all right, I'll grant you, you order from certain parts of New Jersey, you might get lucky once in a while, but – "
"— stop looking at me like I'm a centerfold in Modern Mechanic unless you're willing to back it up, okay? Because as fun as this mind-fuck, this flirtation, this buck-in-heat, moose-in-Yellowstone thing has been, I am losing my mind right now and I cannot, cannot . . ."
" – wait for you another fucking minute, do you hear me?"
"What?" Danny whips his head around, breathing hard.
"Okay," Steve says, and leans in, heart in his throat, and brushes a kiss against Danny's mouth. Danny doesn't respond immediately, and there's a long, tense pause before he groans and shifts, turns sideways and gets his hands on Steve's face, kisses him back with his fingers sliding into Steve's hair. Steve gasps – didn't think, not even on his best days, that it would feel quite like this, a shock of heat, the touch of Danny's tongue, the scrape of his stubble causing shivers to run down his spine. He presses forward, needy, grateful, and when he pulls back it's only because he really has to breathe.
"Okay," Danny says, and his pupils are wide, his mouth swollen, and Steve has to graze a thumb over his bottom lip, just to ground himself. "That's more like it," Danny offers, and Steve laughs softly, leans in and kisses Danny's temple, his jaw, winds a path back to his mouth that has Danny cursing, scratching his nails against Steve's scalp. "You mentioned food," Danny manages at last, right against Steve's lips, and Steve doesn't even mind the non sequitur.
"Yeah. They're ordering everything," he offers, swallowing as he pulls back, straightens Danny's tie.
"Everything. That's good." Danny's still breathing fast. "What other crazy shit did you do today?"
Steve looks off toward his desk for a second, glances guiltily back at Danny. "Might have – " He stops himself, wonders if it can stay his secret.
"Might have . . . blown something up?" Danny asks. "Might have taken down human traffickers with a paperclip and your teeth? Might have leapt from a moving vehicle into another moving vehicle, because what, the single moving vehicle trick was getting old?"
"I paid your parking tickets," Steve replies.
And Danny blinks, his mouth a perfect, uncomprehending O until he laughs, leans forward, presses his forehead into Steve's upper arm. "My parking tickets," he says blearily. "Oh shit, McGarrett, what the hell."
Danny eats – picks pork stir-fry and a bag of Doritos out of the Chin-and-Kono-haul of magnificence, lets the others eat the corn dogs and meatball subs and the steak tacos and the shrimp (which came with salad, what the hell, he never eats salad, salad is an abomination unto his soul). They sit around the tech-desk, shooting the shit and talking smack about each other, and it's the best respite he could have asked for, food and conversation and a reason to laugh. He can feel Steve's gaze on him now and again, and it makes his cheeks heat – he blames the peppers in his stir-fry – makes a fraction of the manic frustration and grief he's feeling dissipate, leaving calm. It can't make things whole, doesn't even get a foothold in the majority of what he's feeling, but it's security, comfort, a breathing space until he can work through the rest.
He does the paperwork he came in to do – he wasn't kidding about the distraction, or the familiarity of having something to bitch about other than his brother – but by four the creeping ache in his chest that's been building all afternoon has his whole attention, and he gives up the ghost, pulls his phone toward him, and calls Betsy back home.
She yawns loudly. "You forget about time differences, numbnuts?"
Danny smiles, though his stomach cramps. God, he loves his sister. "It's like, ten thirty. You ninety or something? Taken up pinochle, doing a little crochet?"
"You try having three more kids and see how early you want to call it quits," she offers. "And Mom already called."
Danny swears softly, guilt flaring, a patina that glosses every other ache. "I told her – "
"She's your Ma. Since when does she listen to you?"
"That's not the point," Danny replies, resting his forehead against the heel of his hand.
"Shut up, okay? I'm the one out here, I'm the one who should – "
"You shut up. Are you the one who threw in with drug lords?"
"So there you go."
Danny sighs, studies the wood grain of his desk. "That's great. Real simple."
"News for you, sunshine. It's exactly that simple. You are not the one who screwed up, and you are not the one who needs to do penance if penance is needed. Ma wanted to talk to us – figure stuff out, you know how she works it, talk, talk, talk. What did you want me to do, say no, hold up, I bet Danny's got a guilt complex that'll need some airing, I better wait and hear this from him?"
Danny covers his eyes with his hand, so ridiculously glad to have someone do the yelling for a change that he can't speak for a moment. "Yeah. Sorry."
Betsy sighs. "He fucked up."
"How's he doing?"
Danny blows out a breath. "Pretty bad. I honest to god do not know what he thought was going to happen." He picks up a pen, rolls it between his fingers. "Some . . . fantasy or something, 'cause no one ever pursues the guy with the money, right? Maybe he was planning on sending postcards come Christmas, Eiffel Tower and shit. And now he can't stand himself, and he's scared out of his mind, and – "
Danny swallows hard, nods and accepts everything she packs into that one, small word. "You coming?"
"Me and Molly. Em and Lauren can't get away."
"They'll deal. We'll all deal. We'll fund therapists from here to Georgia with our issues, what's new?"
Danny smiles weakly. "It'll be good to see you. I mean – not that I wish . . . ."
"You really think I'm sitting here shaking my fist at your master plan to get me on a plane?" She pauses. "It'll be good to see you too." Another pause. "I'm bringing photos."
"What? Bets, don't you dare."
"You were so cute in second grade, all those curls . . ."
"What? The people you work with, they don't deserve to know you a little better? C'mon."
Danny lets his head thump against his desk.
It's six when he finally quits, heads out of his office with his car keys in his hand, finds everyone hovering while doing a piss poor job of looking like they're doing something else. "We can never, ever go undercover again," he says fervently. "Not now I've seen this."
"Screw you," says Kono, flipping him the bird. "You need anything?"
Danny flips her right back. "What, you couldn't just come in and ask me that? Like, ten minutes ago?"
Kono arches an eyebrow. "I tried, brah. These two got all fluttery, like I'd give you a heart attack or something"
Chin and Steve look anywhere but at him or each other.
"Jesus, look," Danny says, because his whole body hurts, and he's gotta go talk to Grace, and he's so tired he can't see straight, "I will not burst into flames because we all acknowledge that my family is gone to shit right now, and that I feel pretty fucking bad about it. Can we all agree on that? Right now I am going to see my daughter and then I am going home, where I'm going to drink more than the recommended number of adult beverages and go to sleep. I will be back here tomorrow, because this is where I work." He points a finger at Chin. "You are a good man, I appreciate the Doritos, I know you're the only one who'd remember those, so I'm giving you a break." He points a finger at Steve. "You have no excuse, and what am I saying, that's the story of your life."
"You want company?" Steve asks.
"Yes, Jesus, was that so hard?" Danny replies helplessly, and throws him the keys.
The drive to Rachel's is way too short by Danny's reckoning, and there's no traffic to speak of, nothing like the heady snarl he was hoping would give him time to organize his thoughts.
"You talk to her?" Steve asks. "Plan this out?"
Danny huffs. "You think there's a plan for this sort of thing? A book you can read? Twenty ways to break it to your child that her uncle's a douche?"
"C'mon. That's not what I meant."
"Sorry." Danny rests his elbow against the window, rests his head against his hand. "No, I don't know what I'm going to say, or how she'll take it, or what we do next. I don't know anything." He can feel the thick fog of tears he's been pushing back all day gathering behind his eyes, at the back of his throat again. "Shit, Steve, I don't know anything."
Steve reaches over, slides his hand behind Danny's neck, squeezes gently. "You'll be fine."
Danny shakes his head, baffled, comforted despite himself. "What do you know? You're a goof."
"Just roll with it," Steve suggests.
Danny nods, looks out the window. "Like I have a choice," he says, and likes the thought.
After the showdown with Grace – and Steve has trouble thinking of it any other way – Danny falls asleep in the car, head tipped back against the window as Steve drives to his house. The conversation was brutal, Gracie baffled by the idea that she'd never see Matt again, and she struggled to make her world make sense. She asked if it was something she'd done, if she was being punished, if Matt didn't love her anymore; offered to write a letter, to send a postcard, to call him and apologize. But Danny said no, it wasn't her fault, said no, she couldn't talk to him, said no again and again and again in the gentlest voice he had. In a heartbeat he was the guy Grace held responsible – it was his fault, she told him, he was stupid; he was mean. And when she crawled into Rachel's lap to cry, Steve saw Danny break clean in two, watched him kiss Gracie's head and tell her he loved her, knew before it happened that she wouldn't say it back.
Danny rouses when they pull up at Steve's house, peers blearily at the world and says, "What? Why are we here?"
"Come on," Steve says, getting out of the car, waits for Danny to do the same, leads the way to the house and enters the security code beside the door.
"I'm tired of things being unfair," Danny says wearily as Steve ushers him inside. Steve doesn't bother with the lights, just shepherds Danny up the stairs. "I'm so, so tired."
"I know," Steve says, and he does, he feels it too – that there's no way this should be Danny's burden; it's not fair that he shoulder this much. He nudges Danny into the bathroom, flicks on the light, turns on the shower. "For you."
Danny blinks at him, exhausted. "I'm what now?"
"Take a shower, come to bed."
Danny sways a little on his feet. "Babe, I'm flattered, but I am so not good for anything tonight."
Steve huffs, reaches out to loosen Danny's tie, unthreads it and pulls it loose. "All we're doing is sleeping," he says, throwing the tie over his shoulder, working at the buttons of Danny's shirt.
Danny bats at his hands, frowns and twists his body away. "I can undress myself, McGarrett."
"So get on with it," Steve says, turning to pull open the bathroom cabinet, rooting around for a new toothbrush; he leaves it on the sink "Use whatever you need."
"I'm gonna smell like coconuts," Danny mumbles mournfully, and Steve has to hide a smile.
Steve deliberately doesn't think too much – pulls the sheets straight, sets his phone to vibrate, and doesn't consider what they're doing right up until the moment Danny comes back in the room, pushes right into his arms. He shushes him, murmurs utter nonsense into Danny's hair, holds him steady while Danny presses up close, skin to skin, hiding his face against Steve's bare throat. Steve's heart clatters noisily – Danny has to be able to feel his pulse racing – and he rubs his nose across the crown of Danny's head. "You really do smell of coconut," he whispers.
"I hate you," Danny mumbles, but he lets Steve pull him into bed.
Danny wakes too early. Anything would be too early; anything but oblivion is more than he wants. He remembers this feeling from the beginning of the divorce – the hollowed out bleakness of having nothing to hold onto, everyday helplessness, a messy collapse. He rubs his cheek against his pillow, refuses to even open his eyes.
"Hey," Steve murmurs, and a broad, warm hand sweeps gently down his spine, rests for a moment at the small of his back. The motion repeats – sweep, rest. Sweep, rest.
"Hi," Danny offers, eyes still closed. A flicker of hope. Perhaps not quite like the divorce.
"It's early. You can sleep some more if you want."
Danny frowns and shakes his head. "Shouldn't." Lips graze against his forehead, and he shivers in response. "Mmmm." He opens his eyes and Steve's right there. "Don't."
"Kiss me." He slides a hand from under his pillow, scratches drowsily at his ear. "I probably taste like – tuna. Really bad tuna."
Steve lifts an eyebrow. "Should I ask?"
"No," Danny offers, and turns onto his side. He slides a hand over Steve's belly, drags a thumb across one pec. "Hi."
"Hi." Steve hums when Danny kisses his throat. "We doing this?" he asks.
Danny swirls his tongue into the hollow of Steve's collarbone. "Oh, yeah, babe," he breathes. "We are so doing this."
It turns out that Steve can find all kinds of places to kiss aside from Danny's mouth. He eases him onto his back, maps every inch of his body with his lips and tongue, sweeps his hands down Danny's arms, over his hips, grazes his teeth against Danny's palm. Danny reels from the attention, yesterday's thoughts pushed aside by the slick, dark arousal that Steve coaxes hot where emptiness had its hold. He touches back without focus, trying to fill his hands with the way Steve moves, the urgency that's wound itself into ink, the scars that drag hot and broken across his skin. He's hard and wanting long before Steve lines up their hips, before he arches up into the welcome weight of Steve pressed close, before he curls his hand around the back of Steve's neck. Steve's back is damp beneath Danny's fingertips, and Danny can feel each muscle bunch and release as he rocks his hips, need building slowly, vicious and sweet, and when Steve ducks his head to press a kiss beside Danny's eye, it's the fondness in the gesture that makes Danny come with a shout. Steve thrusts against him, once, twice, and Danny's own eyes are open to see Steve's flutter shut, to hold him tight when he freezes, breaks, stutters, and falls.
They lie together, tangled, panting as their hearts begin to slow. Danny indulges a daydream, scratches soft, random patterns across Steve's scalp, murmurs softly when Steve presses into his touch. "Hey," Danny whispers.
"Hmmm," Steve offers by way of reply.
Steve pushes himself onto one elbow, looks down into Danny's face. "Shut up," he says fiercely, and reaches to mop them both up with the sheet, lies down again when he's done with his nose against Danny's arm.
They eat breakfast standing up in the kitchen, bowls of cereal held beneath their chins, and Danny points out, magnanimously, that this is proof he can perform before coffee, what did he say all along, huh, didn't he say? Steve takes the hint – tosses him a bag from the freezer and nods toward the coffeepot, tells him to go to town while he takes the first shower, and Danny splutters, sets his bowl down in the sink, yells, "this is not good host behavior!" and pretends he doesn't hear Steve yell insults about his balls. The coffee's good, and if his clothes feel stale when he puts them back on, it's nothing a pit-stop at his place can't cure – everything, he muses, should be so easy to fix.
He drops Steve in town, drives over to Rachel's; she looks small and weary when she opens the door. "You seem in better shape than you were last night," she observes.
"Yeah, well. Last night was . . ." He stuffs his hands in his pockets rather than fumble for words that he knows won't cooperate. There's nothing smart he can say about a daughter furious at her dad. "She awake?"
Rachel nods. "And quite sorry, I think."
Danny follows her toward the kitchen. "She doesn't have to apologize for being upset."
"Of course not." Rachel pulls a cup from the cupboard, pours him coffee from the pot. "But she does have to apologize for calling you stupid and mean. You're neither." She quirks an eyebrow. "At least not right this minute."
"Touché." Danny accepts the mug she offers, looks at the contents. "Déjà vu all over again."
"I hope not," Rachel says fervently. "One yesterday in everyone's lifetime is quite sufficient."
"Amen." Danny slides onto a stool. "You have plans today?"
"I'll be at the office until noon. Thought I'd keep the afternoon open. If your parents can stand the sight of me, perhaps . . ."
"Are you kidding?" Danny asks, genuinely baffled. "Of course they'd want to see you. What are you – I don't understand."
Rachel eyes Danny as though he's perhaps not the brightest man she's ever known. "I moved their granddaughter across a continent, and their eldest son by proxy. Why on earth would they harbor goodwill?"
Danny feels his eyebrows rise, lifts a hand to start ticking things off. "Because you're family, for one. Because I chose to come out here, for two. Because you were married to me for ten years and ten years is something, huh? Because you survived the hazing that is my sisters' idea of a bridal shower; because we're sitting here, right now, drinking coffee together; because – because you've been kind," he says, closing his hand again, setting his jaw.
Rachel's cheeks turn pink and she drops her gaze. "Well." She wets her lips. "Ten years is something, yes." She looks up at him. "I'd be glad to see them."
"They sent you a Christmas card," Danny points out a little mulishly.
"Because no one in the history of the world has ever sent a Christmas card to someone they disliked," Rachel replies.
"Okay, point," Danny says, but he gets up all the same. "C'mere," and he hugs her – his feelings are all over the place, pain and fondness twisting up inside. "I'll call you, we'll figure something out. After the jail."
Rachel laughs softly. "Words one never quite expects to hear in one's kitchen." She squeezes him and lets go.
"I am full of uniqueness," Danny offers.
"I recall you being quite full of –"
Grace bursts into the kitchen. "Mama, can I have – " She freezes when she sees Danny standing there, takes a step back, forehead creasing with uncertainty. "Danno?"
Danny drops to one knee, opens his arms. "C'mere, monkey." Grace flies at him, and Danny feels his heart skip a beat, squeeze painfully as he hugs her tight. "I love you, huh? You know that?"
Grace nods, face against his shoulder. "I'm sorry. I'm really sorry I said those things."
"Hey, I know, I know. When we get sad, we say a lot of stuff we don't mean."
"And I didn't mean it! I didn't, I promise." Her voice quavers, and Danny lets go just enough to cup her face between his hands.
"Listen to me. I know you were angry, and I know you were upset. I get it, okay? I love you." He searches her face for some sign he's getting through. "I'm always going to love you. Don't worry so much."
Grace wipes at her face, hooks a hand around Danny's wrist. "I thought." Her lips twist. "I thought you might go away. Like Uncle Matty."
"Oh, honey, no," Danny says, looking up at Rachel, feeling sick. "One, I am a lot smarter than your Uncle Matty, okay? Sad to say, but true. I am never going to break the rules the way your Uncle Matty did."
"Okay." She squeezes his hand, holds on tight.
"And two, and this is more important, okay? I love you. I am never going to leave you. I promise. I'm your Danno – I go where you go. I came to Hawaii didn't I?"
Grace smiles tremulously. "You like it here now."
He huffs a rueful sort of laughter. "Okay, I like it a little, I'll give you that. It's growing on me. I met some good people." He pulls her in for another hug. "Just don't tell Uncle Steve, all right?"
"Okay. Love you Danno."
Danny closes his eyes and lets out a breath he's been holding for hours. "I love you too, monkey. So, so much."
"You got laid," says Kono the moment she walks into HQ.
Steve splutters, brain racing in a dozen different directions – denial, acknowledgement, a reminder that he's her boss. His face heats and he turns around to look at the wall for a second, turns back with his arms folded across his chest. "How do you even – "
"I'm good," she says with a smile that a lesser man would think was innocent. "Although, I gotta say, as a general life rule, brah, don't wait for a family crisis to make your move."
Steve's mouth works fruitlessly. "Thanks."
"You're welcome." She spins on her heel as Chin comes in. "Boss and Danny hooked up."
Steve groans and covers his face with his hands.
"Ho'omaika'i 'ana," Chin says. Steve can hear him grinning. "About time. Though, take it from me, don't combine a family crisis with – "
"I told him already."
"Nice one," Chin says, and there's the soft sound of fist bumping fist.
Steve blows out a steadying breath, drops his hands, squares his shoulders the way his Brigade Commander taught him. "We thinking of doing any work today?"
Kono shrugs, calling up a window on the tech-desk. "Nothing on the docket. HPD made a couple of arrests overnight, just your regular DDC, a pickpocket, the usual. No update to the threat assessment, no alerts from Homeland Security, everything's quiet."
Chin steps in beside her, pulls up another window. "The Williams' flight's on time." He sweeps the image over to the wall monitors. "They're right over Sacramento." Another sweep. "No turbulence, clear skies. Two of them have window seats, so they'll have a good view of the coast."
Steve nods thoughtfully. "This is why people are frightened of us."
"Naw, man. That's the guns," Kono offers.
Steve lets his head roll back. "Someone, please, find me something to do so that I'm not forced to go find someone to shoot?"
Chin straightens up. "Well, I was thinking . . . "
"This afternoon – it's a goodbye, yeah? We need . . ."
"Something like a wake," Kono suggests. "Someplace everyone goes after. Some food, some drinks. People should be together."
Steve smiles. He loves his team. "Near the beach."
Chin's working the tech-screens again. "We can book some space with the Village at the Hilton. They're staying there anyway." He flicks a glance at Steve. "At a discount."
Steve grins. "We know anyone?"
Kono throws him a look like he's 12. "We know everyone. We'll fix it."
"No broken bones," Steve says, pointing a finger.
"That'd be amateur," she says, and Steve feels a burst of pride, doesn't disagree.
Danny waits in baggage claim, glancing every few seconds at the flat-screen TV that reads UA4081 Newark G1, as if the airline might change its mind and have him run down the terminal just for kicks. He scans the tourists coming down the escalators, watches each elevator empty its load, wipes his hands on his pants, checks his phone, keeps smoothing his tie against his shirt.
When he sees them, amid the bob and weave of a dozen other flight-dazed faces, he thinks for a second he's going to lose it completely, break down like he's five and he skinned his knee. He's so fucking glad to see them both, the smile on his mom's face like Christmas, and if he doesn't throw other denizens of New Jersey out of the way to get to them, it's a close run thing.
"Mom," he says, and fuck, his voice breaks, but it's not like she cares, holding his face in her hands and saying, "My god, you're so tan." He laughs, bends to hug her, lets her rub his back like he's waking up from a bad dream, not dragging them into one, and when he lifts his head his dad's right there. It's 84 degrees outside, but he's wearing his union jacket, Firefighter's Local 305. "Pop. God, Pop, I'm so sorry." And his dad's holding onto him now, hand to the back of his head just like Danny did for Matty the day before, and he's rumbling, "Don't take this on, you hear me? Don't go making this your fault when it's not."
Danny rubs his nose against his Dad's shoulder, inhales the scent of engine oil and other people's cigarettes. "Okay." He doesn't know how to do what he's being asked, but his sisters are loud and working on a world of distraction, so he ruffles Molly's hair and gets his own destroyed for the trouble, squeezes Betsy until she swats at his head and says, "What, you missed me or something?" thumbs at his cheek.
"I got a car – a rental, in the lot," he says, and he doesn't know what to do with hands, who to touch, where to lean.
"We got bags," his dad says, rolling his eyes. "God, do we have bags."
"I couldn't come without things for Grace, now, could I?" asks his mom. "We'll get to see her, right?"
"God, Ma, what kind of question is that, of course you'll see her." He hooks an arm around her shoulders, kisses the top of her head. "We gotta go to – " he gestures with one hand, no point in dressing it up in fancier words " – the jail, see Matty, but after we're going to eat, she'll come over, Rachel took the afternoon off work."
"How long do we get?" Betsy asks, and Danny ducks his head, heart twisting.
"Not long. There's – intake. Stuff they have to do to get him processed and the moment he's done he . . . " He bites his lip. It's that much more real with his family around him. "He's gone."
His mom nods sharply. "Jim, I see my suitcase; Molly that's your bag. We didn't come out here to chit chat at baggage claim. Let's fix this thing up." She hustles over to the carousel, family trailing after her. Danny tries to catch his breath – his lungs feel creaky, painful – and he's grateful when Betsy looks over, reaches out to squeeze his arm.
"Hey, there, numbnuts," she says.
"Hey," he says back, and he bumps her shoulder, finds her hand, feels that little bit better for the grounding.
Saying goodbye is every bit as awful as Danny had imagined. They can't go in together – they see him in pairs, and it might make him a coward, but Danny's glad he doesn't know how it goes between Matty and his folks, what they say while penned in by breeze-block walls and metal chairs. His mom looks resolute after, mopping up her face and squeezing Jim's hand, but his dad looks ashen, and Danny fetches him coffee and peanut butter crackers from a vending machine that's seen better days. His sisters look stunned when they come back themselves, as if the whole thing's surreal, as if this can't be their life, and Danny can't help them because what could he say, and it's his turn now, the last rusty link in the fucked up chain.
The room they've put Matt in is the poster-child for soul-sucking institutional decor, and Danny fixates for a second on the color of the walls, dark grey paint a stark counterpoint to the fury and gratitude on Matty's face. Danny searches for words that won't come, tangled up in his throat, steps forward and hugs his brother.
"I love you," Matty says against his shoulder. They said almost everything else the day before, there's only this left. "You did the right thing, you know? You always do the right thing."
It's bitter comfort, but Danny nods tightly, holds on, tries to keep it all in. "Love you, too," he manages.
"And you brought mom and dad, and – " Matty's back quakes for a second beneath Danny's hands, a struggle of words and breath. "Thank you for that. Thank you."
There's barely any time – the Marshal raps at the door and Danny steps back, knuckling his eyes. "I love you," he says, and he sounds almost angry with it, but it's a funeral he's standing in the middle of – this is the moment that Matty dies. "I'm proud of you, okay? Make us proud. We all love you. Don't forget that."
Matty's smile's tight and frightened, but he swipes at his face, nods like he's hoarding every word. "I will." He hugs Danny roughly one more time, squeezing him hard. "I will, I promise."
And then the room's empty, and Danny's staring at the walls, and even his ragged, painful breathing seems to echo. There's no one to hear it but himself.
The party's a success in the way all wakes are – levity and relief after a long goodbye. Steve leans against the bar, watching the ebb and flow of conversation, the ready laughter, the way every Williams can't help but touch whomever's close. He's glad they have this, that his team made this, and he's not sure if the warmth he feels is beer or sentiment, but he likes it either way.
"Scotch," says Jim at Steve's elbow. "It's time we worked up to the good stuff, don't you think?"
Steve smiles – the set of Jim's shoulders, the quirk of his mouth, they're Danny through and through, and he loves that he gets this glimpse of where Danny's from. "We should just take the bottle."
"That, my friend, is a beautiful idea." Jim claps him on the back, holds his gaze. "Danny told us about you."
Steve tenses just a little, mind running frantically through the stories Danny could tell. "He exaggerates," he offers, mentally noting that Jim's grip is steady, and while he's into his sixties, he's lean and fit. He's standing firm, weight held evenly, and Steve's in a far worse position, slumped against the bar. "You know Danny. How he exaggerates."
Jim raises an eyebrow. "Go on."
"I'm trained in the use of explosives. I could tell you my range hours," Steve offers, words hurrying out of his mouth, "but most of my weapons use has been in the field the last few years. Afghanistan. Some – " He lifts his shoulder, tries not to look shifty " – other places."
Jim's mouth is maybe, potentially curving into a smile.
"We all have vests, get them repaired whenever there's a hit, I take my team's safety seriously. And Danny's a good shot, great instincts – I do," he inclines his head, decides tactically, it's best to take this hit, "occasionally, perhaps, push boundaries but . . . " He gestures helplessly.
"He told us you two were together," Jim says.
Steve feels his mouth open, stares for longer that he ought, snaps his jaw closed. "Oh." He glances at the exits, heart racing.
Jim squeezes his shoulder. "Look. My boy's a mess. We all are. But underneath all of that he's happy here, I can see that. I figure you've got something to do with it."
Steve blanches. "Well I . . . we've only – "
"Lemme tell you something. Danny's got this heart the size of Manhattan, right? Great big thing, bleeding everywhere – he's happy, he's sad, he's hurting, he's grateful. He has no idea, most times, what to do with it all. He just . . . feels. Everything." He shrugs, as though chagrined. "What you gonna do? That's who he is, what makes him tick. But once in a while he needs a little check, a little reassurance, someone steady who's gonna stand there, weather all that bullshit he blows, you know?"
Steve thinks of every argument they've ever had in a car. He knows.
"If you can be that guy, then shit, he's a lucky man." He points a finger at Steve. "As are you, my friend, you hear me?"
Steve nods. "Yes, sir."
"All right. Let's get wasted, then." And he heads back to the table, leaving Steve to pick up the tab.
By the time Steve slides back into his seat beside Danny, Betsy's brought out the photos. Danny's dying, laughing and swearing and trying to stop Kono getting her hands on a single one, but it's a losing battle, especially since Gracie's in Kono's lap, and Danny can't tell her no.
"Look, it was 1989, okay? Those jeans were definitely cool."
Kono lists in her chair, she's laughing so hard. "It's your hair! Danny, oh my god, it's – "
"Buoyant," suggests Molly with a grin.
"He spent more time in the shower than anyone else," Betsy says. "Two types of conditioner."
Danny splutters, laughing despite himself. "That is a lie! That is such a lie."
"Daniel," Rachel chides. "Did we or did we not have conversations about who used the greater share of – "
"That was different! I was not thirteen then, I have not – you know what, screw you all, my hair is awesome, you are jealous of my hair."
Chin flips a polaroid around. "You liked NSYNC?"
"No! That was Em's – that was for Hallowe'en. Jesus!"
"We'll have less of that language," his mother chides, passing a photograph to Steve. "Look, first day of kindergarten. Have you ever seen the like?"
Steve double takes, peers closer, and can't help himself, he throws back his head and laughs. "A tie! Danny, you wore a freaking tie to kindergarten?"
"A CLIP ON!" Danny says, sweeping out his arms. "What! It's not like I tied it myself! I was six." He points a finger at his mother. "You are a horrible woman – that was all your idea, admit it."
"I did think it was awfully cute," Ellen says wistfully. "On sale, J.C. Penney, he had two you know, one in blue and one in green. He was in track pants the very next day, but oh, he was such a little man."
Danny covers his face with his hands and, groaning, slides down in his chair.
By eight, his family's exhausted, and Danny takes them upstairs, sees them settled, kisses his folks goodnight. The ride in the elevator back to the lobby is quiet, lush – a different silence from the hopelessness of waking, from the empty room after Matty had left. Danny guesses this is peace, strung with barbed wire and Christmas lights, fragile, fierce, so new it stings. He's rubbing his breastbone when he gets off the elevator, sees Steve in the lobby and stops in his tracks. The rush of affection he feels is staggering, more than he knows how to play, and he wipes a hand across his mouth, tries for light, says, "What's that expression, huh? What's that dopey grin you got on your face?"
"You're a good man," Steve says. "You know that, right? You're a good man, and you're good at what you do."
The words carry memory – that first ugly day; the white flag of beers and Adirondack chairs. "You remember that?" he asks, stunned and off-kilter.
Steve smiles; his neck is pinking. "I've been paying attention," he offers. "For a really long time."
It's not six degrees out, and there's no bite to the air. The bugs are too big, the jungle's too close, and Danny hates learning to look people in the eye. But he's put down roots, and it's bigger than Gracie – it's Kono, and Chin, and Rachel, their détente. And it's this guy, this goofball who's standing in front of him, this guy who listened half a year ago. Danny ducks his head, looks up again and does what he's able, reaches out to curve his hand around Steve's arm. "Can we go home, now?" he asks, and for his own sake it has to be a question.
Steve grins before he kisses him, before he says, "I think it's my turn to drive."