Danny brushed the last dab of paint onto the baseboard and stood up gingerly, groaning as each vertebra griped and popped its way back into the proper place.
“You okay?” Steve called from the step-ladder where he was installing the new light-fitting. It had a shade with seahorses and dolphins: pink seahorses and dolphins. Just like the walls were pink, and there was a new pink rug, blinds and bed-linen waiting to be installed once they’d finished with the decorating.
Danny chuckled and grabbed a rag to wipe the excess paint from his brush – pink paint, of course. Yeah, the more things changed…
“What’s so funny?” Steve was doing the quizzical eyebrow thing that always made him look kind of manic. “Backache is fun now?” He stepped down from the ladder and dropped a big, warm hand to the small of Danny’s back – right where the pain was – and began to rub gently.
Danny moaned as the tightness eased and leaned in closer, only to find Steve holding onto his shoulders and keeping him at arm’s length. “Hey, watch the brush,” Steve laughed, nodding toward the paintbrush Danny still held in his hand.
Danny rolled his eyes but put the brush down on the paint tray. “What’s the problem? I thought you liked the paint – I mean, you’re really rockin’ those pink highlights there, babe.”
“Wha?” Steve ran his fingers through his hair and sighed when they came away smudged pink. “Well, fuck.”
“Personally, I like the whole salt and pepper look you got going, you know that, but if you’re thinking of covering up that grey, Commander, I’m not sure bubble-gum pink is really the way to go. Even now you are retired from the reserves.”
“You don’t think I could pull it off?” Steve grinned like the complete dork that he was.
Danny pretended to think about it for a second. “If anyone could, it’d be you, babe.” He waved a hand toward the flecks of pink mingling with the grey. “And if not, we could just put it down to failing eyesight or something. Say you meant to get ‘Just For Men’ but grabbed the wrong box in the aisle at Walgreens.”
“Jeez, D. I’m not ready for the retirement home yet,” Steve snorted and aimed a slap to the back of Danny’s head. “My eyesight’s just fine.”
“Hey, watch the do!” Danny grabbed Steve’s paint splattered hand and held it away from his hair. He didn’t have as much as he used to, and he wanted to keep what he’d got paint-free.
Steve shook his head and picked up a clean rag, a familiar fond smile making the corners of his eyes crinkle – and Danny’s heart feel just a little fuller. “Anyway, looks like I’m not the only one getting up close and personal with the new décor.” He wiped a corner of the rag down Danny’s cheek, his smile growing warmer as Danny huffed when it came away stained pink.
“Man, this stuff gets everywhere.”
“Yeah. Remember when you first moved in, and we fixed this room up for Gracie? And how she wanted to help and got paint all over herself?”
“Remember? I think my ear drums are still recovering from Rachel’s reaction when we took her home. There were still pink streaks in her hair and under her fingernails, and that was after she’d been in the tub twice!”
“And here we are painting Gracie’s old room all ready for little Rosie. How did that happen? I swear, the last time I looked Gracie was playing with Barbies, and now she’s married with a daughter of her own.” Steve sounded a little melancholy, and Danny could relate; sometimes he couldn’t believe that his monkey was a grown woman and a mother in her own right.
He wrapped an arm around Steve’s waist – still lean and trim even after twenty years of Danny’s homemade lasagne – and smooched a quick kiss. “But now we get to do it all over again with our grandkid. Tea parties and visits to the zoo…”
Steve smiled. “Building sandcastles and watching the latest Disney flick a thousand times until we’re hearing it in our sleep…”
Danny groaned. “Oh, no. Not ‘Lilo and Stitch’ again.”
Steve dropped a kiss to Danny’s hair. “Hey, I liked that movie.”
“Of course you did. It was set in Hawaii. It had pineapples.” But he didn’t hide his grin. “At least it had a good soundtrack.”
“A-huh,” Steve drawled, voice deep and gravelly.
Danny buried his face in the soft tee stretched across Steve’s chest. “Okay. Please tell me you didn’t just try and do an Elvis impersonation.” He gave Steve’s arm a comforting pat. “Babe, Smooth Dog you may be – though I’m pretty sure that was one of those ironic kind of nicknames like when they call a really big guy, ‘Tiny’, you know? – but, either way, a ‘Hound Dog’ you most definitely are not.”
“You know, you have such a suspicious mind, Danno,” Steve said, bottom lip sticking out sadly. “Here I was, stuck on you, and now I’m all shook up –”
Danny threw his hands in the air, choking on his laughter. “Stop! Stop with the mangling of the King. For the love of God, I give in. You are the smoothest of dogs, okay? There are none smoother; I will never deny it again – just please stop.”
“Even if I promise to love you tender?” Steve wrapped his arms around Danny’s shoulders.
“Shut up, you.” Danny nudged at Steve until the big idiot got with the plan and leaned down. “I have no idea why I find you so attractive when you are clearly a complete goof.”
Steve smiled, soft and sweet. “Because I’m your goof?”
Danny’s heart did the whole filling up his chest gig again, making his voice a little choked. “Yeah, you are.” He pulled Steve in the rest of the way, pressing their lips together. “Though God knows what I did to deserve you.”
Steve’s mouth quirked against his. “Must have been pretty bad.”
“Nah.” Danny shook his head. “Something pretty damn amazing, I think.” He pulled away for a second, just far enough to see the smile lighting Steve’s eyes, and then closed the distance until they were kissing again.
Yeah, pretty damn amazing…