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Home is the Sailor, Home from the Sea

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Steve grows up in and around the water. His mother liked to say he'd learned to swim before he learned to walk, and it's probably not much of an exaggeration. For as long as he can remember, Steve's loved the ocean.

***

He's sixteen the first time he goes on a real sailing trip: Steve and three buddies on a borrowed sloop. They're guys he's played football and blown up things in chemistry with, and sure, it's partly about getting out on the open ocean for ten days with no parents and a smuggled case of beer, but for Steve it's mainly looking in any direction and seeing nothing but sky and water. He loves the way a cloudless sky gives way to dark blue at the horizon, the way the edges of each are indistinct, as though the world could flip upside-down at any moment and anyone would be hard-pressed to pinpoint the difference.

The others are more skittish when there's no land in sight, but Steve loves being disconnected from the land-locked world. There's a sense that anything is possible, that they're the only ones in existence, and the universe is reduced to the slap of waves on the bow, the smell of wind and water, the salt sting.

They get back feeling older, more mature, as if they've lived a lifetime in those ten days at sea. Steve's tanned and more tired than he can remember being, the work of setting sails and tack seeping into his muscles and taking up residence. He could probably sail in his sleep, body going through the now habitual motions, and he can't wait until the next time he's allowed that kind of freedom. The first few days are breathless with stories of how amazing every moment was, and his parents are indulgent, Mary less so, and Steve eventually comes down from his high, feels his feet grounded in sand. School. The mundane and everyday. He dreams of the open ocean, the sloop's white sails, the waves rocking him gently, rhythm as familiar as a heartbeat.

It's Easter Sunday, April 19, 1992, when the world ends. The officer stands outside the door, quiet and official, and tells them there's been an accident. Steve tastes water and salt, feels the grit of sand in his eyes, and it's nothing like being at sea. He feels lost. Trapped.

The world narrows to dark suits and black armbands, to his dad working all the time. Mary runs away, stumbles home drunk and strung-out, grows up overnight into someone Steve doesn't know and doesn't like, while he concentrates on holding their family together. They manage until Steve finishes high school, and by then his father's so obsessed with work, there's no room for anything or anyone else. Mary's sent to stay with a relative in L.A., hoping it will straighten her out, and Steve picks Annapolis, the Naval Academy, and it's about as far from Hawaii as he can get and still be in the United States. The ocean there is different—colder, darker—but Steve's different too, and it feels like coming home.

***

Steve never expected to live in Hawaii again. He'd made his peace with bunking down with hundreds of other sailors on aircraft carriers and destroyers, in dense jungles and sweeping deserts. He was one of many, with equal training and dressed in the same uniform, and it was a good feeling to retreat into the sea of faces, the tasks at hand, the endless tug of the ocean.

Until Victor Hesse. Until a bullet he couldn't stop. Until the world shrank back to the size of his father's house on Oahu, and he inherited a toolbox of secrets and a house full of memories.

***

He meets Danny Williams on a Monday. Steve's been back in Hawaii less than a day, and he's already dealt with a funeral and a job offer. All he can really concentrate on, though, is finding Victor Hesse. Every time Steve thinks about what Hesse took from him, he feels the tension in his jaw, and his body already aches from jet lag, anger, and grief he hasn't had time to deal with.

He likes Danny from the start, mainly because he doesn't back down. Steve knows he can be intimidating and uses it to his advantage when necessary, but this short, blond guy in a tie—and, seriously, Steve thinks, who wears a tie in Hawaii?—looks at him as if Steve's just another in a long line of annoyances that he doesn't want to deal with. He looks like he wants to shoot him, or at least punch him really hard just on principle. Well, Steve knows the feeling.

He decides to conscript Danny into service for the task force even before he talks to the Honolulu Police Department, but what the police captain tells him just cements his decision. Danny seems to step on toes wherever he goes, but the captain's assessment of “tenacious,” “experienced,” and “capable of talking suspects to death, but he's a good cop” suits Steve's needs. He can probably do without the talking, but he wants someone who's not going to be scared off easily, who won't flinch when fists and guns come out, and Danny seems like he could be a suitably blunt instrument when required. He's a tool—a way inside the HPD, and Steve's already thinking of his father's voice on the tape, of not knowing who he could trust on the force, and Steve's going to need someone a little out of step with the usual drummer. He figures he can't get much more out of step than a haole cop from New Jersey.

Danny Williams is a means to an end. That's all.

***

By the time the Coast Guard's sweeping for Hesse's body, Steve's wearing exhaustion like a badge. His face is bruised, his arm's in a sling, and he doesn't know what to do with himself. He's a man without a mission, and he can't even begin to process what he's gotten himself into by signing up for the Governor's task force.

“Stop it,” Danny says, appearing at Steve's elbow, and tugging him away from the docks. “The Coast Guard is not going to let you supervise the search for Hesse's body, especially not when you look like you're going to drop at any minute. I don't even want to know why you're back here and not in the hospital. You got shot, you idiot.”

“I'm fine.”

Danny snorts, and says, “Yeah, I can see that. You look like shit, and I'm taking you home, or wherever you're staying.”

“Home,” Steve responds and lets Danny man-handle him into a car.

***

They're parked in Danny's car in the front of Steve's father's house, the yellow crime scene tape still on the door.

“You know,” Danny starts, “when you said 'home,' I kind of assumed you meant you had a place here, or a boat to go back to, or you know, something other than an active crime scene.”

“It's my crime scene.”

“That doesn't mean you should be living in it.” Danny turns to face him. “You can stay at my place.”

Steve laughs, shaking his head. “No.”

“So it's not the Hilton,” Danny responds, “but seriously, you're not staying here.”

“It's my house.” The paperwork from the will hasn't gone through yet, but it's Steve's house, and Mary's too, although considering she didn't make it back for the funeral, Steve's pretty sure she wants nothing to do with it. He knows he should make an effort to get in touch with her, but right now, Mary's just one more thing he doesn't want to think about.

Danny looks like he's trying to be understanding, but the jut of his chin and the shake of his head say he's failing miserably. “There's got to be somewhere else you can go. You grew up here, right? Friends? Family?” Steve glares at him, and Danny swallows. “Sorry, I'm sorry, look, I'm only trying to help.”

Steve's starting to get pissed off. All he wants to do is go inside and crash. He hasn't slept in a couple of days, and every part of him that isn't numb from painkillers is aching. “Danny, I'm just going to sleep. That's all. It's no big deal.”

It's obvious Danny doesn't agree, but he relents and helps Steve drag his duffel inside. Steve's practically asleep on his feet, and he's climbing the stairs on automatic, oblivious to Danny's presence.

“I'll just let myself out then,” Danny says quietly, watching Steve's back disappear up the stairs. He hears a cushioned thud a few seconds later and assumes Steve's found a bed.

Danny's been in the house before, of course. He'd been on site when the body was being taken out, and he'd gone over the crime scene with the CSU. Now, though, it's something different. Steve McGarrett's not just a next-of-kin in a police file, and Danny takes in the dried blood spatters on the wall, the papers still strewn across the floor, and thinks that no one should have to come home to this. He'll make some calls in the morning.

***

Danny can't imagine what it's like to live in a house where someone died violently. Maybe it's because he watched too many spooky movies growing up—where angry ghosts and vengeful spirits did nasty, nasty things to innocent folks—but Danny's made it his mission (albeit a secret one) to get Steve out of his father's house, at least temporarily.

“Come to the hotel with us,” Danny says for the third time since Steve handed him a gift certificate for a luxury hotel so Grace can swim with the dolphins.

“No, that's for you and Grace. It's a thank you. Just shut up and take it already. I'm not crashing your weekend with your daughter.”

Jesus Christ, Danny thinks. He doesn't have a clue what to do with this guy. Steve won't take help from anyone, but he's generous to a fault, and he hasn't taken any time off, even though he's still bandaged and bruised and obviously in pain. Danny's already overheard him offering to give Kono additional hand-to-hand training, and promising to talk to the Governor about the computer upgrades Chin wants. There's a mean-spirited part of Danny that wants to demand something ridiculous like a rocket launcher, but he's half-afraid Steve will produce one from some arms' locker Danny hasn't discovered yet.

Chin and Kono have already headed out for the weekend when Steve sticks his head into Danny's office. “You should get out of here, go get Grace.”

Danny points a finger at him. “You're a menace.”

“What? Why?” Steve asks, confused and a little bit hurt.

“You can't just do things like that and not let people be nice to you in return!”

“You want to be nice to me?” Steve grins.

Danny rubs a hand across his forehead. “Don't get used to it. I'm sure it will pass.”

Steve leans on the doorway, looking thoughtful. “In less than a week, I got you shot and you wrecked your knee. I'm surprised you've decided to hang around.”

“I wasn't aware I had a choice.”

Steve shrugs, and yeah, that's what Danny thought. Apparently once Steve McGarrett decides to keep you, there's no turning back.

“Look, Danny, you had my back even when you didn't have a good reason to, and I wanted to say thanks. If you do something to thank me, it's like sending a thank you card for a thank you card. It's unnecessary. Redundant.”

“You send thank you cards?” Danny asks, curious.

“You know what I mean.”

“Okay, then what if I asked for a favour? Are we friends? I got shot for you, so I kind of feel like we're something. I don't take bullets for just anyone, you know.”

“We're partners. What kind of favour?” Steve sounds suspicious.

“I'm not asking for state secrets or a kidney, McGarrett.” Danny comes out from behind his desk. “I just think you could stand to get out of the house.”

“What's your problem with my living arrangements?” Steve asks, and Danny wants to tell him the truth, that he doesn't think Steve should be going back to the house where his father was murdered, but he knows that will only make Steve dig his heels in harder.

So Danny does the only thing possible and plays his ace in the hole. “Grace was really hoping you would stay with us—it's a suite, Steve, there's plenty of room—and she wants to say thank you. In person.”

Steve's face softens, and Danny knows he's got him.

“For Grace,” Steve concedes, and Danny makes sure not to smile too broadly. It works every time.

***

The suite is bigger than Danny's rental apartment and has a spectacular view of the ocean and Diamond Head. There are two separate bedrooms and a roll-away cot, which he already knows is going to be the subject of debate because Steve's predictably self-sacrificing and Grace is nine and happens to think a cot is cooler than fluffy hotel beds, mainly because she can drag it close to the windows and watch the stars.

They order room service and a pay-per-view family movie with talking guinea pigs, and Danny thinks, not for the first time, that his post-divorce life is weird. Steve and Grace eat all the pineapple garnishes, which is fine by Danny, and when Rachel calls to say goodnight to Gracie, it's a testament to Rachel's British stiff upper lip that she doesn't freak out when Grace mentions Steve's staying at the hotel with them.

“Daniel?”

“Look, Rache, I told you about Steve.” Danny ducks into the bathroom with the cel phone. “He's my new partner.”

“Yes, yes, I know all that, but why is he at the hotel with you and Grace?”

Danny takes a deep breath because he knows that nothing good ever comes from lying to Rachel. He goes with the truth. “Steve's been staying at his father's house. Where his father was killed. The place still had blood spatters and crime scene tape when I was there.”

“That's horrible.”

“I know I'm not the most astute guy when it comes to feelings, but even I know it's probably not healthy to be hanging out there, at least not until it looks like a house again. So, I talked him into staying with us on account of Grace, so I could send HPD's clean-up crew over there to get rid of the blood and stuff.”

“Daniel, I'm impressed,” Rachel says. “That's really quite sweet.”

He can hear the undertone of surprise in Rachel's speech, just enough that Danny has to wonder if he was really such a terrible husband. He's sure there were times when Rachel would've thought he was sweet, but the last few years have left them both angry and worn out.

When Danny gets off the phone, he finds Grace curled on the couch reading a book.

“Where's Steve, monkey?”

“He fell asleep. I didn't want to wake him.” Danny hugs her, and helps set up the cot. She climbs in to her pyjamas, brushes her teeth, and gets settled on the cot in front of the picture window. “You can read for a while if you want,” Danny says, and she nods as he kisses her goodnight, tucks her in between the clean white sheets.

Steve's pretty much out cold when Danny checks on him, so Danny pulls a blanket over him, and takes the second bedroom. He falls asleep almost instantly.

***

Steve dreams of swimming. He's in the open ocean, doing his best to stay on top of the waves he's pushing through. There's a bell ringing in the distance and Steve tries to place the sound. He thinks he should swim towards it, but he isn't sure what direction to take.

He lifts his head out of the water and sees the house he grew up in. It's the way he remembers it being when he was a kid—when the paint was fresh and the palm trees were only a little taller than him, before the chairs became permanent fixtures down by the beach. Steve turns towards it, swimming harder now that he has a destination in mind. He can feel the burn of exertion in his muscles.

Every stroke should put him closer to the shore, but the house looks further away. Steve's disoriented, and then he notices there's something not quite right about the place. There are vines growing over the back of it. Some of the windows are broken. Steve can hear voices inside, arguing.

Then Victor Hesse is standing there on the edge of the sand.

“I killed you,” Steve shouts, and the water splashes into his mouth. “You can't be here.”

Hesse just grins and runs into the house. Steve's maybe twenty feet from shore now, but his legs feel like lead. He has to force himself to keep swimming. There's a muzzle flare from the living room window and two gunshots echoing in Steve's head. Hesse is laughing as Steve pulls himself onto the sand and rolls into the grave that Hesse has been digging. Steve has a moment where he feels like falling, then his head snaps up, and the dream recedes, leaving Steve sweaty and breathless, tangled in the blanket Danny must have laid over him.

The hotel room is quiet and Steve carefully stretches out his shoulder, his other aching parts. He's wondering if he can sneak out of bed to grab painkillers and some ice without waking Grace or Danny when the door to his room opens silently. Danny's already-familiar frame moves into the room and comes closer to the bed. He's in a t-shirt and boxers.

“Do you have super-hearing or something?” Steve asks in a whisper, sitting up against the headboard and stretching his arms in earnest. The accompanying popping sound makes Danny wince.

“I'm a father. I'm conditioned to wake up when someone sounds restless or in pain. Or in your case, both.”

“Did you just compare me to your kid?”

Danny shrugs. “If the tiara fits ...”

“Fuck you,” Steve says, but some of the bite is lost when he winces and loses his breath.

“You realize you're about as threatening as a Care Bear right now, right?” Danny pats him on the shoulder and wanders into the main suite. In no time at all he's back with painkillers, a glass of water, a towel and an empty ice-bucket. “Take these,” Danny says, handing him the water and the pills. He drops the towel on the edge of the bed and leaves with the ice-bucket; when he returns, Steve has his shirt off and is examining the bruising around the bullet wound.

“Are you one of those guys who can't keep his shirt on?” Danny asks, dumping ice into a plastic Ziploc bag he's produced from somewhere, then wrapping it in the towel.

“What?”

“Nice tats, by the way.” Danny holds out the towel to Steve. When the first wave of cold hits his skin, he huffs out a breath, but he knows he'll be better off in the long run if he ices it now. “It's just that some guys, good-looking guys—not that I'm necessarily saying you're one of those, but you're probably not what anyone would consider ugly—”

“Uh, thanks, I think.”

“--especially in a warm climate, which Hawaii definitely qualifies as—some guys spend an awful lot of time taking their shirts off so that everyone can be impressed by their six-pack abs and perfect tans and, oh yes, their many, manly tattoos.”

Steve, holding the ice-filled towel in place, settles back down on the bed, his back against the headboard.

“I can assure you that I spend very little time taking off my shirt.”

Danny's eyes narrow. “That still sounds like I'm in for bouts of half-nudity.”

“Says the man in his boxers.”

“Hey, I sensed a child in pain. Don't be insulting my parenting skills.”

“Yeah, well, you can go back to bed, dad, I'll be fine.” The words are a joke, but something in Steve stumbles on the word “dad” and the accompanying ache makes his shoulder seem mild. Danny looks at him sympathetically, and sits on the edge of the bed.

“You can talk about it if you want.”

“I don't want to talk about it.”

“You're sure? 'Cause if you need to talk about it—”

“Danny, I'm sure.” Steve closes his eyes, forcing himself to breathe in and out slowly. “But, thanks—thanks for the offer.”

“Yeah.”

When Steve opens his eyes Danny's still sitting there. “Danny.”

“Steven.”

“I said I'm fine.”

“You'd say the same thing if you were bleeding from multiple stab wounds and your intestines were spilling out. Admit it, you would.” Danny edges closer to Steve. “I've been shot. I know what it's like, and it sucks. You're probably not going to be able to get back to sleep, I doubt that I can sleep anymore, so maybe we should just play cards or something. You like cards?”

“Not particularly.”

“Or we can talk.”

“Cards sounds great,” Steve says with absolutely no enthusiasm whatsoever.

Danny grins. “If you win, maybe I'll tell you about when I got shot.”

Steve adjusts the ice so he can lean against the headboard without having to hold it in place. Danny goes out and comes back in track pants and the same t-shirt, with a pack of cards in his hand. He shuts the door quietly and sits cross-legged on the bed across from Steve.

“Is the time you got shot a few days ago and was it my fault?”

“Maybe. You'll have to win to find out.”

Steve takes the cards he's dealt and fans them awkwardly in his left hand. “What are we playing?”

“Go Fish.”

***

The weekend plays out about as Danny expected, except that Steve doesn't make an earnest attempt to get away from them until Saturday afternoon. They're about to head down to the dolphin pool when Steve tries to beg off.

Grace latches onto him immediately, and Danny's heart swells with pride. He couldn't have managed things better if he'd planned it.

“No, Steve,” Grace says, tugging at his uninjured arm. “You have to come see the dolphins. Danno said this was your idea, so you have to be there.”

“She's right, Steve,” Danny agrees. To his credit, Steve doesn't even try to protest, just lets himself be dragged along to the dolphin pool by a chattering nine-year-old girl in a flowered swimsuit. Danny puts on his shades, swings his towel over his shoulder, and follows along.

The dolphins are everything that was promised and more, and the dolphin trainers are two lovely young women with flawless tans and equally flawless smiles. Danny glances up as Steve wanders over from where they've dropped their stuff on a pair of pool lounges. He's got his shirt off. Of course. That took no time at all, just as Steve said, Danny thinks. The dolphin trainers look at Steve appreciatively, and Danny suppresses the urge to roll his eyes at the nice man who made this experience possible for his daughter.

“Meet Squeaker and Flora.” Danny gestures to the dolphins that swim up to the edge, and Steve smiles that ridiculous, goofy smile he sometimes has, and grins at the two trainers.

“Which of you is Squeaker?” he asks, and is rewarded by girlish laughter.

“The dolphins, Steven,” Danny interjects before the trainers can get any more side-tracked with questions about Steve's bandages and bruises, or anything else. Danny takes Steve by the arm and steers him back towards the lounges. “We're right over here, Gracie,” he calls, waving, pleased when Grace waves back enthusiastically. A moment later she's squeaking with delight as the trainers let her pet one of the dolphins.

“Do those lines ever work for you?” Danny asks. He slaps sunscreen on every exposed inch and slides his lounge further into the umbrella's shadow.

“You'd be surprised,” Steve murmurs. Of course, he's soaking up the sun like a waffle soaks up syrup, but Danny's pleased to see the obvious pain is mostly gone from his face, and he's twitching his shoulder less and less.

“I would be surprised, actually.” He snaps a few shots of Grace and the dolphins. “You can go in with the dolphins too if you want. It's not just for kids,” Danny says.

Steve shakes his head. “It's fine.”

“What, is there some kind of hostile relationship between SEALs and dolphins that I don't know about? A long-standing and bitter war between your species?”

Steve laughs, but makes no effort to move from his spot. He reaches out a blind hand and pats Danny somewhere around the ankle.

“Whatever,” Danny says, and orders them both margaritas.

***

After the dolphins—which takes a substantial amount of time with photo ops and a thousand squeaking goodbyes—the three of them head back to the room. Grace is barely bathed and changed into regular clothes when she's falling asleep in Danny's arms. He sets her on his bed and closes the door. He joins Steve out on the room's balcony.

“I don't think there was much alcohol in those margaritas,” Steve says when Danny sits down.

“Why do you say that?”

“I'm not feeling it.” Steve rolls his shoulder in a slow, circular motion. “I kind of hoped I'd be feeling it instead of, you know, pain.”

“You really think I'd let you drink with the painkillers you're on?” Danny doesn't even try to look sorry about that fact. Obviously, Steve can't be left to his own devices when injured.

“Then what was I drinking?” Steve sounds a tiny bit outraged, but not enough for Danny to actually care.

“You've heard of virgin drinks, I assume? I get them for Grace all the time.” Danny grins. “She likes the little umbrellas.”

“For the last time, Danno, I'm not your kid.”

“And yet, you've co-opted her pet name for me, so really, I feel kind of justified in treating you like this.” Danny pats his shoulder fondly. “You've brought it on yourself, babe.”

Steve shakes his head, but he's grinning. “Virgin margaritas? Really?”

“You've got something against virgins?”

“Absolutely not.”

“Well, then quit complaining.”

***

They grab a late dinner at the hotel restaurant. Grace spends considerable time re-enacting her time with the dolphins, even though both Steve and Danny were there watching, but she's so damn happy Danny can't be bothered. She eats most of her dinner, but drops off with a half-finished bowl of ice-cream in front of her.

“She's pretty tired,” Steve observes.

“Yeah. She's go-go-go, and then when she crashes, she's out.” Danny licks ice-cream off his spoon. It was Grace's, but Danny's pretty sure it's going to be a melted chocolate and vanilla soup before she wakes up again, and Danny hates to see things go to waste. He offers a spoonful to Steve, who shakes his head. “Your loss, buddy. This ice-cream is delicious.” Danny takes another bite, then licks his lips, wet and messy. There's a look on Steve's face that Danny can't quite place.

“What?”

“Nothing.”

“No, what?” Danny asks. He can feel his cheeks heating up under Steve's stare.

“Just ... Grace.”

Danny's pretty sure that isn't what Steve was going to say, but he decides to let it go. For now. He continues eating, gesturing for Steve to continue.

“She's a good kid. You're a good father.”

Danny shrugs. “You do what you can, right?”

“Yeah.” Steve's eyes are distant, and Danny knows he's thinking about his own father. Danny's read the transcripts of that last call. It couldn't have been easy for either of them, knowing the likely outcome.

Danny clears his throat, pushing the empty dish aside. “So,” he starts. “You're a little like Grace, I guess.”

Steve raises an eyebrow.

“You know, go-go-go and then you crash. You've been driving yourself pretty hard since you got back to the island.”

“It was necessary.”

“Well, maybe you can take a break now.”

Steve shakes his head. “This with you and Grace—this is my break.”

“I cannot possibly communicate to you how sad that is, Steve,” Danny says, but he's grinning and Steve is too, so Danny's going to put one in the victory column for distracting Steve. He looks like he's going to start suggesting he should go home again, but Danny decides to nip that in the bud, “I've got some Longboards sitting in ice in the room upstairs. Once we get Grace settled, I might even let you have one.”

Danny can see Steve licking his lips at the prospect of something alcoholic, and one drink's not going to do much more than put him to sleep a little quicker with the meds he's taking.

“Yeah, okay,” Steve agrees. Danny picks up Grace carefully, following Steve out of the restaurant and back to the suite.

***

Steve settles in the chair on the balcony while Danny puts Grace to bed. Danny seems completely at ease with the routine, none of the awkwardness Steve's seen in other suddenly-single fathers. Danny appears to take everything in stride, and Steve likes that about him. Considering what Danny's had to take in stride just this week—gunshot, new job, new partner, new team, knee problems—Steve thinks anybody else would be happy to get away from him for the weekend. But here he is, spending the weekend with Danny and his daughter, and Steve has to admit it feels nice. Grace is such a sweet kid there's no time to think about his own situation. Well, almost no time.

And Danny is ... something to consider.

“Here.” Danny hands him a Longboard, cap already off, and shuts the sliding deck door behind him. The sounds of the city drift up from below: a steel drum tapping out a reggae beat, bursts of applause for various street-performers, and beneath it all, the wind and the ocean, the squawk of seabirds settling down for the night.

They sit in silence for a while. There are the distant sirens that every city has, and the ebb and flow of traffic noises: stopping for lights, starting up again, the occasional squeal of tires.

“I'm thinking of fixing up my dad's old Mercury,” Steve says.

“The one in the garage?”

“Yeah.”

Sometimes Steve forgets Danny was at the house and the garage before Steve ever met him. He wonders if Danny saw his father, or if the body was already gone to the M.E. for autopsy. Not that there was any doubt what killed Jack McGarrett. Steve knows his new position comes with access to HPD resources. He could request the crime scene photos if he wanted. He honestly doesn't know if it would be better or worse than what he's already pictured in his mind.

“Hey, you okay?”

Steve takes a long swallow, and his voice is just a little more hoarse than usual when he replies, “If I say 'yes' are you going to drop it?”

“Probably not.” Danny sips his own beer, thoughtfully. “Is it weird being back? You've been gone, what—ten years?”

“More. And yeah, it's weird. I mean, I came back sometimes on leave, or to help dad out with renovations on the house or whatever, but it hasn't been home since ... well, since a long time.”

“You must've moved around a lot, though, in the Navy.”

“Yeah, but there's consistency. The Navy runs on rules, and one ship's bunk isn't that much different from the next. As long as the ocean was there, I—” Steve stops, takes a drink.

“You what?” Danny prompts. Steve lets the silence fill in the space between them, but finally settles on an answer that feels right.

“I felt connected to something. Out there. Like I had a purpose.” Steve tips his drink back and finishes it in two long swallows. He doesn't know why he's telling Danny this. He's never been one for examining his feelings, let alone talking about them, but Danny seems to invite conversation. Steve's surprised at how quickly the guy's gotten under his skin. That doesn't usually happen.

“Well, Hawaii's got plenty of ocean,” Danny says. “That should help, right?”

“Yeah.” Even to his own ears, Steve sounds unconvincing.

Danny looks at him for a minute—long enough for Steve to wish he had another beer handy—then lays a hand on Steve's arm. “You don't have to stay in Hawaii, you know.”

“Trying to get rid of me?”

“No, I'm not. For some stupid reason, I like you.” Danny's blue eyes are completely serious. He bites his lower lip. “But you should know that you don't have to stay. If it's going to make you miserable, if it's some way of punishing yourself for not saving your dad, then you should go back to what you were doing before.”

“It's not that.”

“Steve.”

“Danny, it's not that. But it's going to take some time, okay?”

“Okay,” Danny says. They watch the ocean for a while, nothing to be seen in the dark except the occasional white peak of surf, the distant lights of a cruise ship heading along the horizon. Steve thinks about going back to sea, about black ops and classified missions with guys he'll never speak to after the op is done. He also thinks about a loud cop from Jersey who's already figured out more about him in a week than most people ever will. Of Danny's daughter sleeping in the next room, trusting them to look after her. He thinks of Chin, who's got a chance to redeem himself, and Kono, who's going to be one hell of a cop, and Steve considers what would happen if he left now. He discovers he really doesn't want to leave.

Danny yawns and stretches his arms over his head. The muscles in his back crack, and for the first time all evening, Steve thinks about his own injuries. Danny and Grace are a good distraction.

“We'll survive, you know. Chin, Kono, me. If it's too much for you to be here—”

“Danno.” It comes out sounding a little bit exasperated and a lot fond.

“We might miss you. Just a little bit, but you deserve to be happy, too.” Danny takes the empty Longboard out of Steve's hand, and for a minute, all the hair on the back of Steve's neck stands up from the proximity. Danny gives him a once-over that makes Steve a little breathless, and he thinks maybe the combination of the beer and the meds wasn't a good idea after all. It's going to his head.

“You still look terrible,” Danny says finally. “You should get some rest.” He slides the door back and slips inside, leaving Steve to sort out the rapid beat of his heart, the sudden spike of something he thought he'd left behind years ago.

“Fuck.”

***

They've only got the one car, so after a breakfast brunch where Grace eats her weight in pineapple, Danny drops her off at Rachel's, then takes Steve home. He's had a text from HPD letting him know the cleaners are done with the place, and he hopes Steve appreciates the gesture. He doesn't know Steve well enough yet to predict how he'll react. Danny supposes that Steve cleaning up the crime scene himself might be some misguided plan to get closure, but he still thinks no one should have to deal with trying to get the blood of someone they love out of the carpet. It's something he's very clear on. Besides, Steve seems like the kind of guy who can punish himself well-enough without having additional props to help out.

“You want to come in?” Steve asks, as if they haven't spent the last two days together, and Danny says, “Yeah, I would,” mainly because he wants to make sure the crew did a good job.

They're a foot inside the door when Steve lets his duffel slip to the ground and drops into a crouch, pulling a gun from an ankle-holster Danny had no idea Steve was wearing. Steve pushes Danny down beside him, and Danny's looking around for something he can use as a weapon because, unlike Steve, he's not armed and dangerous at all times.

“What? What did you see?” Danny asks, adrenaline racing through his veins.

“Someone's been in the house,” Steve whispers, and Danny rolls his eyes. He should've known. He starts to get to his feet, only to be yanked down by Steve. “You don't have your gun. Until I give the all-clear, you stay behind me.”

“Oh, for fuck's sake,” Danny says, shaking free of Steve and standing with a glare that warns not to do that again. “No one broke in, you paranoid freak. I had the HPD crime scene unit come over and clean the place up.”

“What?” Steve looks confused, and Danny has a second to think that's kind of adorable before he catches himself and remembers Steve's someone who can probably kill him with a spoon and a paperclip. He shouldn't be thinking of him as anything other than the guy who knows 127 ways to kill a man. Adorable is definitely not in the cards.

“Yellow crime scene tape is so last year,” Danny says, gesturing around the room. “I just figured if you were planning to stay here, you should have a fresh start.”

“Danny.”

“Look, I know cleaning things isn't an instant fix. I know you're going to be replaying it and thinking what you could've done differently. I just didn't think you needed—well, no one should have to deal with that by themselves.”

Steve's looking around at the freshly painted wall, the floor that's free of both papers and bloody bootprints. The desk has been polished, the piles on it stacked neatly. Danny has to admit that HPD came through this time. There's nothing at all to suggest someone died here.

Steve steps over to where there's a small bouquet of flowers in a vase on the bookshelf.

To Commander McGarrett, with sincere condolences,” Steve reads off the small white card. “Honolulu Police Department, Crime Scene Unit.

“Oh, that's-—nice.” Danny isn't actually sure if it's nice or not, but he tries to keep in mind that it's the thought that counts.

“I don't know what to say,” Steve says. He looks a little lost. “You had people come to my house.”

“Okay, for the record, it's not as if I had a wild party while you were out of town. I'm sorry about the invasion of privacy, but your head is already a miserable place, partner. I figured you didn't need the visuals as a constant reminder.”

Steve rubs at his jaw, and Danny isn't sure if Steve's grateful or pissed off.

“I can't believe you did this.”

Unfortunately, Steve's tone doesn't actually help Danny decide what Steve's thinking. He feels like he should be apologizing, which kind of pisses him off, because he was trying to do something nice for Steve.

Steve clears his throat. “So, the hotel? Grace?”

“No, it wasn't just—yes, it was a diversion, but that wasn't all it was. We wanted you there. Gracie was thrilled to have you there, and--” Danny stops as he realizes the truth of it. “I wanted you there. I wanted you to relax and forget about Hesse and your dad and all this shit for a while. So sue me.”

“You ran a strategic op on me. With your nine-year-old daughter.”

Danny opens his mouth, then closes it again. Grace would be thrilled. “Is that good? I honestly don't know what you're saying to me right now. I can't tell if you're pissed, or what you are, so maybe if you could communicate something to me of what you're feeling--you know, feeling?—it would help me decide whether to leave or duck or—”

Suddenly, Steve's got Danny in a fierce hug, which is ridiculously awkward considering Steve is built like a tree. A very tall tree that feels like it's currently bent in half.

“This. This is fine, too.” Danny pats Steve on the back, tries to get his equilibrium back, but part of him wants to stand firm, be somebody Steve can lean on when he needs to. He hasn't wanted to be that person for anyone but Rachel and Grace in a long time, and not-so-much Rachel anymore since she has Stan. It occurs to him this is all happening way too fast, but maybe that's just the way things happen around Steve.

“Thank you,” Steve is whispering, and Danny pushes gently until Steve's leaning against the desk, and their heights aren't as mismatched. The hug's still awkward, but considerably less so, and Danny's all too aware of Steve's broad back under his hands, the spread of his thighs on either side of Danny's hips.

“Thank you, Danno. Thank you.” When Danny starts to pull away, Steve's leaning his head towards him like he knows what he wants, raw emotion clear in his eyes. His hands reach up to cup Danny's face. “Tell me now if you don't want this.”

“I can't.”

Steve hesitates. “Is that 'I can't do this,' or 'I can't tell you that I don't want this'?”

Danny blinks, licking his lips. “The second one.”

Steve thinks for a second, then gives Danny a blindingly bright smile, and kisses him. It's close-mouthed and warm, a little hesitant, and Danny thinks that's good. It's very good, and Danny instantly misses the feel of Steve's mouth when he pulls away.

“Is that how you always say thank you?” Danny asks.

Steve blushes, and Danny's got the feeling every thing they do is going to be this awkward push and pull of misunderstanding and enlightenment. Yet he can't help staring at the good-looking fucked-up guy in front of him, and though Danny can't say it's something he wanted before, he thinks it might be something he wants now.

“So,” Danny says, not stepping away, moving his hands to rest on Steve's hips, “is this like that thank you card thing where if you kiss me, I'm not supposed to kiss you back because we'd just end up in a never-ending loop?”

“Do you want to kiss me back?” Steve's eyes are dark, watchful.

“I would like to, yes, but not if you're going to think it's redundant.”

Steve smirks and Danny lets his eyes drift shut, his mouth find Steve's. It's a little less chaste, but achingly sweet, and Danny can tell they're already in serious trouble. If whatever this is between them goes the same way as their partnership, Danny's going to be black-and-blue and exhausted in no time at all.

“Thanks, Danno. Really,” Steve says when they part a second time.

“Welcome home, sailor.”

Steve laughs, a genuine bark of laughter that brightens his eyes, and Danny heads for the kitchen, knowing there'll be beer and steaks in the fridge, two comfortable chairs at the edge of the beach, and the ocean close enough to touch when Steve needs to feel at home.

“You took your shirt off already? I hope you know I'm not that kind of boy.”

“It's the beach, Danny. The beach. It's called being comfortable.”

“It's called being an exhibitionist!”

The rest of the time, Danny figures, Steve's got him and he's got Steve, and just maybe that's enough.

 

THE END