Danny sits by the bed of a dying man.
John McGarrett's face is gaunt, his breathing labored, every muscle he moves a struggle. He fights for his life. The dying always do. Even when they're ready to move on and all they have is a tether holding onto the memory of life.
John's not alone, Danny smiles at him from behind his children, his gaze distant and vague. Steve and Mary sit beside him, waiting for him to let go. The song of Steve and Mary’s grief harmonize with John’s spirit, screaming in anguish against the injustice of death. Too soon.
But Danny gently, resolutely, shakes his head. “Now is your time.”
The living are more reluctant to let go of the dying, a spectacle Danny has witnessed time and time again. The grief that flows out of Steve is powerful and loud, his anger beating like a war drum, rage entangled and imbued together with sorrow as he tries to keep it contained and reserved. No, please, just a little longer, Steve pleads, to John, to something else, Danny couldn't say, the appeal too general. Mary's tears stream down her face, her grief a gushing spring, bubbling out as she holds John's hand, the words she's kept inside for years still stuck, possibly forever, her own anger a deep sting in her heart, where John broke it too early in her life.
Steve looks at her. “Aren't you tired?”
The question is abrupt and Mary glares at him, wiping her eyes with her free hand, her stomach dropping, and her heart preparing for another blow. “What?”
“You've been crying since we sat down here, aren't you cried out?” Steve asks, his voice hoarse and his eyes sharp.
“How can you ask me that? Excuse me for not taking classes in heartlessness,” she snipes, covering her face for a moment. “Don't you want me here?” she asks bitterly.
Steve's anguish blasts Danny loud and clear. He looks between the two of them, feeling how Steve and Mary drain each other emotionally, unable to talk without the history of John's disappointment battering at their memories. Each thinking the other had been the greater disappointment.
“Don't ask thing you don't want answered,” Steve says, while his thoughts scream out for her not to leave him alone in this place, not to ever leave him.
The discord of what they say to each other and what they feel makes Danny grimace, the magnitude of his perception make their words petty and cruel.
Mary's tears keep flowing as she stares at him. She stands on shaky legs, heading towards the door, towards her baby, towards the love waiting for her at home, away from the crushing pain the presence of these men put her through.“You're a real asshole, you know that?”
Steve sits frozen, his anguish palatable and fierce, as well as his surprise, he didn't expect her to take him up on his provocation.
Danny knows this is something he's not supposed to do, but all Danny can hear is the song of Steve's regret and his love for Mary that he keeps deep inside.
Danny puts a hand on the back of Steve's neck. He can hear his blood, his flesh, it's fragile and immediate, and Steve stands up catching Mary's arm. She looks up at him, her eyes overflowing. “What?”
Danny watches them, they exhaust each other, don't know how to handle their differences, but Steve wraps his arms around Mary and she mashes his face into his chest and they hold on, alone together in this room.
Danny witnesses them and takes out his notebook, and writes down this moment, a small piece of mercy tucked into a pocket of despair.
It's then when John stands next to him and watches the moment with him. “Where do I go from here?” John asks, his body an empty shell, and Danny turns to him, shrugging lightly.
“That's up to you, I'm no judge and I'm no jury.” He smiles at John. “You're free.”
“I am?” John keeps looking at Steve and Mary, coming to stand by the body, leaning on each other as Mary weeps and Steve tries not to. “What about them?”
Danny puts a hand on his back and they start walking down the hall of King's Medical center. “They'll be free of you too, one day.”
It's the middle of the night, but the light shines bright around John nonetheless, and he goes to where the dead go. Danny doesn't linger, his mind and perception sliding away from thoughts of the place beyond the world he walks and witnesses.
His business, from the beginning, has always been the living. Even when they are dying. He looks back at Steve and Mary, and waits with them.
Steve drops Mary off at her place, and he treads the dawn by the beach, taking his camera with him. The camera is designed to look old with a classic lens and what looks like a film cartridge, but it's digital and holds within thousands upon thousands of images, frozen and captured.
The sky and the ocean split as the early light shines across the horizon. He puts on the filters and takes a few pictures, breathing in the cool air, clearing his head of hospitals and dead men.
He thinks pictures are kitsch, wants them to be proper art and knows that they're not. Steve indulges, allowing himself a small luxury, something private that he does only for himself.
When he's done photographing the scenery, Steve turns to go and does a double take as he walks past a bench by the beach.
It isn't unusual to see white people milling around, the place is a magnet for a certain type of tourist. Danny is wearing a white coat, and that makes him suspicious to Steve. The coat is out of place on a tropical island, as is the slicked back hair, barely moving in the breeze.
Danny gazes at him, at the line bisecting Steve's brow, the dark stubble covering his jaw and cheeks, dark as the hair on his forearms. He knows there are different textures to each segment of skin on Steve, on any human, but has never felt it. When he put his hand on Steve, it wasn't a touch and he wonders, briefly, what it would be like to feel his body, what that kind of touch would be like.
Steve stares at him as well, and picks up his camera, his eyes questioning. Danny smiles at him, saying a silent yes, and a throb of lust vibrates through Steve.
Danny doesn't expect that, the immediacy of sexual interest, and Danny wants to know, wants to feel that same kind of desire. Danny has never been an object of desire. Has never had an object to crave.
He looks away just as Steve photographs him. Steve looks back towards him, his eyebrows knitting as he frowns down at the small screen.
Danny knows the image looks like a blot, akin to the after image of the sun behind your eyelids.
“No good?” Danny calls out to him, watching Steve stride towards him.
Steve takes a seat next to him on the bench. “Nope, that's never happened before. Digital cameras don't get overexposed.” He shows Danny the blot on the screen.
Danny looks at him. “You want to try again?”
Steve frowns as he stares at him, confusion and attraction whirling within him, a lance of shame is muddled in there, self chastisement for flirting when his father has just died. “You always let strangers take your picture?”
Danny shakes his head. “No, but you're the only one who's ever asked.”
Steve blinks at him. “Maybe we shouldn't be strangers.”
Danny doesn't disabuse Steve of the idea that he's anything but a stranger to him. “I'm Danny.”
Steve sticks out his hand. “Steve.”
Danny shakes it, Steve's song flows and crashes around them, grief and anger subdued as Steve's want swells up, drowning them out.
“Why are you wearing a jacket? No one wears a jacket in Hawaii.” Steve looks at him, a once over that has very little to do with what he's wearing.
“I've cultivated this look for a long time, I'm not just going to give up on it because I've relocated,” Danny replies. He's never spoken this much to a living human being, and the truth manages to sound plausible through the omissions.
Steve chuckles, the corners of his eyes crinkling and Danny gazes at them, tiny grooves impressions of time and life in his skin. “Is there something on my face?” Steve asks, his eyes locking with Danny's.
“No, I was looking into your eyes.”
The lust burns through Steve again. “Yeah? You wanna see more than my eyes?” His tone is playful and his smile boyish, almost tender, trying to take the crass edge off his overt flirtation.
Sex is a strange game, he's never wanted to play it before, doesn't know how, even with this pull towards Steve. Danny wants to understand why he's drawn to Steve, when he's not made for the flesh. “I'm not here for cruising.”
Steve raises an eyebrow. “Should have picked a different bench,” he mutters, but reaches into his pocket and takes out his wallet. He pulls out a card and hands it to Danny. “If you ever want to see my etchings.”
Danny senses this is meant to be a joke, but the nuance is lost on him and he gives Steve a confused look. “You have a camera.”
Steve bursts into laughter and keeps laughing until guilt and grief bubble up again and Danny brushes his hand along his bare arm surreptitiously. Steve calms after a few moments and gives Danny a smile. “Sure, yeah, I'll take your picture.”
Danny smiles back, glancing at the card before tucking it into his sleeve, disappearing it from sight. “See you around, McGarrett,” Danny says, getting up.
He walks, feeling Steve's hot gaze until he turns a corner and is in a different time and place.
Danny walks along the edge of Diamond Head, holding hands with Grace, as the song of the ocean and all the souls residing in it echo softly; the sharp immediacy of the sharks, dolphins and whales, the soft permanence of the coral reefs, so different from the beats and rhythms of the world above.
“I followed a human the other day,” Danny comments, remembering the thrum of Steve's spirit, the sexual tension that rolled off him when he and Steve spoke. His thinking Danny was just another guy, who happened to be there, and the flirtation, leaving Danny confused.
Grace, beautiful and tiny, humming and skipping along, looks up at him. “Was he interesting?”
Danny lacks the words to explain what makes Steve different from the other humans, the difference he feels when he thinks of Steve, why his song beckons him in a way others do not, though they are no less beautiful and unique.
Danny lets go of her hand and pulls out his notebook, skimming through the pages. “He's very physical, his grief and desires pour out of him at the same time. It makes him feel guilty,” he comments.
Grace tilts her head. “That's not new. What makes him interesting to you?”
Danny gazes at her as he tucks his notebook away. “His song is loud and full of rage. He wants so many things and doesn't think he should have them. I know, that's not new either, but he's... fragile. Something about him makes me want to feel fragile as well.”
Gracie stands on the edge of the crater. “You are fragile already.”
Danny frowns at her. “Their flesh is what makes humans fragile,” he states.
Grace laughs like bells in the wind. “Don't be silly. When will you see him again?”
He shouldn't see Steve again, not the way he allowed himself to be seen and touched by him. “Soon enough, most likely.”
Grace takes hold of his hand again, tugging him along. “Did you touch him?”
Danny smiles at her. “We have no touch.” He squeezes her hand, making her giggle. She seems so young, indulging in the form she's made for herself.
Grace makes a thoughtful noise. “That's not what I asked.”
He stops, looking away from her. “I put my hand on his skin, on the back of his neck. I didn't want him to let an opportunity slip by.”
Grace swings his hand and they walk against the crowd of Waikiki. “That sounds nice. We put our hands on humans all the time, so what made it different?”
“That was only the first time,” Danny murmurs. “When I witnessed him. After that, I went after him, I let him see me. He looked right at me, I looked right back at him. He sat next to me. We shook hands.” Danny says, he touches a crying child on the nose, her sobbing calming as she starts calling for her mother, his presence a comfort she can't quite understand, but feels nonetheless.
“So you do want to see him again,” Grace says, holding a man's hand, his long sleeves hiding tattoos that hide scars, though they can't hide the melody of his sorrow.
Danny gives her a measured look. “Why are you teasing me?”
Grace lets go of the man and puts her hand in Danny's. “A baby that just opened his eyes once looked right at me when his mother breast fed him for the first time. I smiled at him and his tiny song washed over me, the way it does when it's new. It tickled the soles of my feet.”
Danny smiles, knowing it didn't really tickle, but understanding what she means. His hands tingled when they held Steve's, maybe that's a kind of touch. “But that was a moment of grace. Moments of grace are exceptional.”
She looks at him. “You're very young sometimes.” Her white dress flows around her as they stand watching the surfers ride the monster waves of the Pipeline.
The ambulance siren pierces through the air and emergency crews run around near the water, surrounding a prone figure, the noise of human distress flows around them as they watch E.M.Ts race along the beach.
“She won't die,” Grace says, taking hold of his hand. Danny looks at Grace, sees she's smiling and is glad they observe the living, not just see the dead leave this world. Grace squeezes his hand, making him look up and witness human resilience as they carry Kono on a stretcher to the ambulance, covered in a shock blanket.
“It's a small island,” he says, sensitive to the connection of love and life that coil and wind from Kono to other humans.
“This world is tiny,” Grace replies and walks down the beach to sit next to the distressed people, watching as one of their best is taken away, talking and comforting each other while the ambulance drives off.
Danny waits for the ambulance at the hospital, and he follows Kono throughout her treatment. He touches her eyes, wiping away her tears as she cries out in pain while the doctors put her leg back together. He holds her hand as tries to call out for the people she loves, lying dazed and drugged, waiting in the orthopedic unit for her family.
He takes a step back when Kono's loved ones are finally let in. He takes out his notebook and begins to scribe, witnessing their lives, written and remembered. There's a pleasure in recollection and a duty in commemoration.
Chin Ho walks in, his facade of calm masking his turmoil and agitation, and he takes a seat next to her.
Mary, her grief bright and loud, sits on the other side and picks up Kono's hand, kissing the palm.
A few hours pass in a blink and soon Chin Ho and Mary are joined by Steve, his war drums song still beating clearly and loudly, carrying baby Joan in a carrier strapped to his chest; she gurgles and giggles. Danny closes the notebook, moving closer.
Kono stares up blearily. “You all are here,” she murmurs.
Mary giggles wetly through her tears, Kono's high making her nervous. “I told you going to the beach today would end in tears.”
Kono starts crying again and Mary shushes her softly, stroking her hair, moving it away from her face and wiping away her tears. “Oh, ipo,” Kono whispers, sniffling. “I'll listen to you next time”.
“The doctors say you have a long road ahead,” Chin interjects softly, looking at them all. Danny puts his hand on Kono's knee, she shivers slightly.
Steve comes closer, unhooking Joan from the carrier and holding her in his arm, batting softly in his forearms, trying to leap out them and into bed with Kono. “Someone is excited to see her makuahine.”
Danny goes to her and slinks a finger into her tiny first, letting her take comfort in his presence as well. Steve tenses for a second, blinking. Danny sees his eyes flick in his direction, and he keeps still and invisible, briefly wondering what would happen if he let himself be seen by Steve.
Kono frowns, inhaling a deep breath and sighing it out. “You brought the baby.”
Mary kisses her forehead. “I told Steve to come by with Joan, you shouldn't have to miss her while you're recuperating.”
Kono closes her eyes. “And Steve, I'd have missed Steve, he'd never visit.”
Steve protests with a soft, “hey!” nudging Kono's nose gently.
“I'm sleepy.” She yawns loudly.
Steve smiles as he puts Joan in Mary's arms and says, “You need to rest, we'll see you in the morning, okay?”
Kono hums when Mary kisses her goodbye, letting one of Joan's hands flail over her nose. “Don't hit your mama, keiki,” Kono slurs.
Chin laughs. “You are so wasted, cuz.”
Kono turns her head to him, her eyelashes resting gently on her cheeks. “I nearly died.”
The room bursts into an anguished wail, their fear singing high and tight.
Mary holds Joan, who starts to whimper as Mary's grief and fear intertwine, her little song responding in tune to the rope of tension that wraps around Mary. Steve burns with rage and... envy. Danny frowns at that, wants to pierce through the cracks and see what it is Steve desires, what it is Mary has that he resents. Steve crushes it down with a large dose of shame.
“You didn't nearly die,” Chin says, his eyes fierce, his body trembling as he shoves away the thoughts of what would have been had Kono really died, left him in the world, utterly bereft.
“Okay, cousin,” Kono mumbles softly as they start moving, reluctantly leaving her for the night. Kono is sad and numb at the same time and she sniffles, weeping softly. Danny strokes her eyes and she calms a little, her eyelids sliding closed, her song soaring gently.
They all look back one last time and when Steve's gaze slides over to where he stands next to Kono, Danny lets himself flicker into his vision. Danny sees the tiny moment of recognition before it disappears in a haze of confusion and thoughts of delusion.
Steve rubs his eyes, his mind loud and clear to Danny, jumbled and chaotic, thoughts of John's death and meeting Danny on the bench, colliding inside him with guilt and desire. Steve leaves Kono's room distracted, his heartbeat still the loudest tattoo.
Danny stays with Kono, stroking her forehead.
“I can't see you,” Kono whispers. “But I know you're there.”
Danny tilts his head at her, taking his hand away and taking a seat next to her.
“I can feel you. You're a better buzz than morphine.” She smiles, her dimple visible.
“Maybe you're hallucinating,” Danny says, crossing a leg over his knee.
She opens her eyes and grins. “There you are. Damn, you look good. You always look so good.”
Danny blinks at her. “What do you mean?”
Kono gazes at him vaguely, her brown eyes almost black and unfocused as the drugs work their earthly magic. “Do you hear my song?”
Danny does, it echoes through her like a wave crashing onto a shore and lava boiling the ocean. “You shouldn't know about that,” Danny says gently. “And I can't see how you would know about that.” It should worry him, but it tickles at his curiosity and he puzzles over why he can't parse what he witnesses from Kono.
“Later, angel. I'll tell you later,” she slurs.
The name she gives him leaving him discomfited. “Danny. I'm Danny,” he says.
She smiles at that and closes her eyes, falling asleep.
Danny watches Kono sleep for a while, her dreams convoluted images of the people who visited her, the echo of the pain the drugs are keeping at bay and the familiar song of the ocean and the souls inside it.
He's bewildered. He's not used to that. Humans are beautiful and violent in the patterns they fall into. They're supposed to be predictable.
Two of them have managed to surprise him.
He sifts through his notebook and rubs his thumb across Kono and Steve's names. Kono spiked his curiosity and Steve... pulls at something inside him, heavy and unyielding.
He finds himself standing on the beach in front of Steve's house, the waves crashing onto his feet. He waits in the water, the dawn breaking around him, cracking the world open. The sun streams up from the horizon, its symphony washing over him. The totality of the world shifts under his feet as it turns, changing minutely and tangibly. He looks down at his hands, feeling them tingle in that way that they also don't.
He turns his head to the house and sees Steve move out onto the lanai, tossing a towel onto a chair. Steve walks slowly and calmly to the water, his song a high note in the scale, almost sharp compared to the sunrise and chorus of songs that emanate from the ocean.
Danny waits, watching Steve closely as he settles right next to him. Steve blinks at the light, wincing and Danny wants to cover his eyes, stroke away the hurt.
Steve shakes his head, takes a deep breath and walks into the water. He dives in, staying under the waves for a long time. Danny follows his heartbeat, and his thoughts. Danny almost weeps at the weight Steve feels so keenly, almost colossal in proportion to his life. Thoughts of his regrets, his father, and the disappointment of never managing to do him proud. Steve's heart twists when he thinks of Mary and how jealous he is of everything she has, the love she's managed to cultivate, the family she's made in a way he never has.
When Steve thinks of Danny, he sees how Steve regarded him, sexy and compelling, warm flesh within which Steve could get lost. Steve thinks of Danny's eyes, the color of the ocean at midday and the line of his shoulders, the bulge he speculates about; Danny thinks, perhaps, he can feel through Steve, the desire to fuck, to be fucked and simply want.
Steve keeps swimming for a long time, his thoughts and desires finally washing away and all that's left is the silence he so desperately seeks.
Danny frowns and takes another step into the water, Steve's chest hurts, his belly aches and his legs are sore, and he rests, letting himself float along the waves for a while.
Danny dives in as an undercurrent pulls Steve under.
Steve doesn't flail in the water the way others would, comfortable as a salamander in a creek or a fire. He grabs Steve under his arms, pulling him up.
Steve barely gasps, inhaling a deep breath, more taken aback than fighting for his life, and he blinks at the sight of him, his mouth hanging open, sputtering as a wave hits him in the face.
Danny pulls him along, holding onto Steve's dear life as he struggles. “Let go of me, asshole, I know how to swim! I don't need your help.”
Danny lets go of him when the ocean spits them out onto shore. “I swim for survival, which is more than I can say for you.”
Steve glares at him. “Fuck you, too.” His eyes soften and he takes in Danny's appearance. “You're still wearing white.”
Danny shrugs wetly, standing up. “I'm eccentric.”
Steve stares at him, slowly standing up and looming over him. “What are you doing here?”
Danny supposes these kind of posturings intimidate other humans, but it doesn't affect him, the artificiality of the stances rendering them entirely meaningless.
“You gave me your card,” he says, producing the piece of cardboard from thin air, performing a little for Steve's benefit.
Steve gives him a skeptical, glowering at him. “That doesn't give you the liberty to barge in here.”
Danny makes a dismissive gesture. “You're lucky I did, the undertow would have dragged you out to the middle of the ocean, and believe me, you do not want that, death by drowning hurts, you struggle for air and you struggle to swim and a watery grave brings no comfort”. The words roll out like a verbal avalanche, it's easy, the physical movements of his tongue and his lips, ensuring the sounds come out of his diaphragm, throat and mouth, made comprehensible, to Steve's ears, vibrating in this body, in a way he doesn't bother with other humans.
Steve's frown deepens for a second before he bursts into laughter, it's bitter and cheerless, though still beautiful and matching the rage and pain of his song. “You want a cup of coffee, if you're already here and having saved me and everything?”
Danny doesn't say that the coffee would be wasted on him. “Sure,” he replies at the offer.
Steve throws his towel at him. “You're soaked. Take off your jacket, at least. Isn't it weighing you down?”
Danny could be dry with a thought, but he does as Steve suggests, taking off the jacket and leaving it on the rail. It's not cloth, but it's there, just like he's not flesh, but he's in the world and he ponders that ambiguity of existence for a moment, brushing the towel over his head. Danny's shirt under the jacket is plain blue and untucked.
He notices Steve gazing at him and Danny looks back. Steve's Adam's apple bobs and he quickly puts on the shirt he left on the lanai.
He sets the coffee machine on once they've entered the kitchen and he leans against the counter. “What's the real reason you came here?”
Danny shrugs, unconcerned, bending onto the island. “I wanted to see you again. I was given to understand that you wanted to see me again as well.”
Steve raises an eyebrow. “Yeah? My card? Those are a dime a dozen, buddy.” He hands Danny the mug and stands against the island as well, peering at him closely.
Danny raises his eyebrows back at him as he holds the mug, knowing it should be hot, feeling the substance from which it is made. Glazed ceramic cups that used to belong to Steve's mother, surviving more than twenty years of use, from hot chocolate given as rewards, to hot soup given during miserable bouts of 'flu to strong coffee made in order to face a day of duty in Honolulu. The entire history of a small family inscribed and remembered. “I don't think you'd offer me a towel and a cup of coffee if you didn't want me to hang around, Steve.”
Steve's hackles rise, his eyes blazing angrily at his bluff being called and being so easily read. “If you wanted to see me, why didn't you call? That's generally how it's done.”
Danny slowly places his hand over Steve's, letting Steve touch. “You don't appreciate the personal touch?”
Steve snatches his hand away, his desire colliding head on with his shame, ill at east with Danny's advances, not used to being in that position. “You're pretty ballsy, coming to my home terf.”
Danny snorts, the territoriality amusing. “I have nothing to lose.”
Steve tilts his head. “And everything to gain?”
Danny hums, trailing a finger around the rim of the mug in his hand. “Isn't this supposed to be a mutually beneficial arrangement?” The words tumble out, resonating in the kitchen - does he sound like any man would? Is this what men sound like?
Steve gives him a measured look. “Just so we're on the same page here, are you propositioning me?”
Danny blinks at him. Is he? “That may be rushing into things,” he says softly.
Steve walks around the island and stands next to Danny, their eyes locks on each other. Steve touches the collar of his shirt, cotton under his fingers, tangible just for him. Danny notices the eyelashes shading his cheeks.
“I don't mind that.” Steve brings a hand up from the shirt to Danny's face, and leans down to kiss him, pressing his lips to his. He steps back, looking at Danny oddly, licking his lips again. “You... You feel strange.” Steve keeps his hold on him, he knows it's tight, but can't feel it. “Like you're water.” He blinks. “That doesn't make any sense.”
Danny wants to tell him everything, feels the truth of his being bubble in his belly and his chest, the words forming in his mouth, but when he opens his mouth to speak, Steve kisses him again, wrapping his arms around him. Danny holds onto Steve's shirt, bereft of touch and pained at the lack he feels, the vacuum he's never felt, raw and acute. When Steve pulls back to breathe, Danny says, “I'm not water.”
Steve looks at him, confused, touching his hair, his neck and his jaw. “I don't know what you are, but you feel good.” His heart beating strong, the blood rushing through him, throbbing and heated. “Who are you?” Steve asks, his face flushed and his eyes lustrous in the white light shining through the window.
Danny brings a hand up to Steve's face, can't feel the stubble and the skin and wanting to so badly. “I can be your friend.”
Steve is suspicious, his eyes clouding with doubt. “My friend?”
Danny smiles at him. “You know what friends are, don't you?”
Steve puts his hands on his shoulders. “I don't know you.”
Danny takes hold of his wrists. “You could.”
Steve looks at his wrists. “What would that entail?”
Danny doesn't know, but he intends to find out.
Danny knows he's left Steve confused, but so is he. He returns to Kono, awake and off of narcotics and eating a bowl of shave ice.
Kono grins at him, her lips and teeth entirely blue from the ice that soothes and comforts her. “It's nice to see you again, though I thought I'd see you sooner.”
Danny frowns at her, bemused. “What do you mean?”
She shrugs, entirely unconcerned, her thoughts scattered, the pain in her leg pulling at her attention more than she'd like. “You've been gone a few days. I didn't even feel you around, so I guess you just went to do your angelic duties.”
Danny's frown turns to a scowl. “Angelic duties. Why do you use those terms?”
Kono ignored him and hands him the bowl abruptly. “Taste it.”
He takes the bowl and sets it aside. “I don't need to taste anything. If you know what I am, you'd know that.”
She sighs and leans against pillow. “What's need got to do with it. If it was about need I wouldn't be here and neither would you, right? You've come to ask me how I know what I know about you and how you wander around watching over people, caring for us from the cradle to the grave. Anyway, no one needs shave ice. Sometimes you just want it.” She smiles, licking her icy lips.
“We want for nothing,” Danny replies, but it's a false statement at this point; he wants, there's desire in him and he wants to feel it, be the friend he told Steve he could be.
Kono snorts. “Yeah, I thought that too.” She looks at him. “I thought I could wander around, floating along, feel everything and touch nothing. Know all that is and yet be completely removed from it.” Her heart hammers in her ribcage, and she breathes in deeply. “It's lonely, isn't it, even with the others.”
“I was never lonely before, I'm not lonely now, I'm... longing. I never knew I could long for anything.” Danny says, the truth of his words heavy in his spirit and on his tongue.
Kono extends her hand to him and he takes it. “Your hands are soft, warm. It almost feels like skin, to us. But it's not, it's just stuff my mind is making me think is there, until you start slipping away.”
He stares into Kono's eyes. “How do you know this?”
Kono smiles gently. “I used to be an angel.”
Danny has never been blindsided like this, never been on the verge of discover, the immediacy of wanting to uncover everything Kono knows is startling. It takes him a long moment to articulate what he wants to say. “Used to be?”
Kono laughs, the sound merging with the power of her song, bright and beautiful and all consuming. “Yes, used to be. First I was that and then I was this.” She gestures to herself from the top of her head to her splinted leg with a spoon. “I fell,” she adds.
It shouldn't be possible, how can it be? “What?”
Kono keeps grinning. “Where do you think the stories come from?”
Danny blinks. “Human imagination.”
Kono pats his knee. “Something has to come from somewhere. Most fall and are born, like humans do, becoming babies and grow up, without any memory of grace,” she says, looking wistful for the first time. “I remember, some. Like a dream that I dream every night and doesn't leave when I wake up.”
Danny tilts his head, and she locks her gaze with his, her mind and heart open to him. “I'd walk the water around here, on the surface, on the seabed, witness the people dying and being born with the sand and surf in their blood.”
The image is clear, Kono tall and effervescent walking among the people, being the aloha imbued in the island, as deep and as hot as the magma that surges beneath the rocks. “What changed?” he asks softly.
Kono hums, licking her lips. “I wanted to feel, to touch, to taste. So I tipped over, and I fell.”
Danny leans forward. “What did you want to feel, was it someone?”
Kono gives him a gentle look. “No. I wanted to touch the water.”
Danny blinks at her. “The water?”
She nods and looks at her knee sadly. “I fell into the water and,” she stops, swallowing stiffly, bringing a hand up to her eyes, wiping away the tears that welled up. “And it felt like home. Like I was meant to walk that line between the earth and the sea,” she whispers.
Danny wants that, wants that feeling, wants his feet on earth and his hands on Steve. “That was enough for you to decide?”
Kono sniffles and smiles at him. “It's a long story, but Chin Ho found me, and he loved me, I don't know why. I became his cousin, and joined the ohana.”
Danny smiles. “Just like that? They have a big heart.”
Kono grins, her dimples dip in her skin. “I was considered a blessing, in a way. They didn't know where I came from, didn't know who I was, I looked like a kid, you know. I was an orphan, a foundling, as far as they were concerned.”
Danny rests his chin on his hand, his smile wide. “You got a family.”
Kono shifts, her smile slipping as she winces and resettles. “Yeah, and I even managed to make one of my own.”
“With Mary,” he states, thinking of the hurt Mary carries in her heart and the comfort she finds in Kono's love.
And Kono's love for Chin, and Mary, Joan, and also Steve, is all encompassing, warm and possessive and he smiles, thinking of how he could be part of that.
Kono takes hold his hand. “If you want to fall, and you probably do, otherwise you wouldn't be talking to me, there's something you have to know.”
Danny frowns at her, looks down at their hands before looking back at her. “What's that?”
Kono clears her throat and her voice is tight and wet. “Once you let go, it's forever. There's beauty and love, but the pain, the agony, it doesn't go away. You... you're so untouched now.” She brings a hand to his face, touching him when he feels no touch. “And the longing you say you feel now? It's nothing, nothing, compared to what it will be once you have skin and bones.”
He feels her concern, her worry, the echo of her memory before her fall and he thinks this is what it's like to be touched and imagines what it would be like to be loved by her. He yearns acutely, to feel the touch of Steve's lips, the heat of skin on skin. The comfort Kono generously offers him, it's an ache where his ribs would be.
Danny turns his face into her palm, letting her feel his elusive skin. He stands, taking her hand in his and places his other palm on her knee. Kono stares at him, her mouth hanging open. “Danny, what are you doing?” Hope fluttering in her heart.
Danny takes his hands away, her joy singing high as the pain dissipates. “Giving you a gift. I'll be seeing you,” he says and vanishes to a different time and place.
When he finds Grace she's at the zoo, looking at the golden monkeys swinging from tree to tree in their pen.
“They're no different, you know,” she says, looking up at him and taking his hand.
Danny looks down at her. “You don't really think that.”
Grace presses her hand against the glass and looks up at him. “Why are they special? What makes him special to you that you would give up this world for something so fleeting?” Her voice is plaintive, as though she's on the verge of crying.
“I don't know how to explain this kind of love to you. I don't know how to make sense of it when his spirit and his song have left me entirely discombobulated. I'm not really leaving, am I? I'm going to transubstantiate,” Danny says, touching her nose. “It's not really leaving, is it?”
“You don't think that's really leaving, changing from utter spirit to mere flesh?”
“They aren't mere flesh,” Danny argues, having decided and knowing what he has to do, if he's to get what he wants; desire, touch and a song of his own. “You love them too much to believe that.”
Grace leans close to him, her small hand taking hold of his jacket. “I don't want you to go.”
Danny holds her to him, her spirit and form, small and huge all at once, weaving through the colors, songs and matter that is the world.
“You can't come back,” she says into his jacket.
Danny takes out his notebook and pencil, handing them to her. “Watch over me.”
Grace takes them and is gone, leaving him among the throng that pass through the zoo; parents, children, friends, lovers and strangers.
He and Steve have a time and place in which they're supposed to meet. He's not going to be late.
Danny stands on the edge of the roof of a tall building. The fireworks of the Hilton going off, loud and smokey around him high above. The souls in the ocean sing deep and low, sharp and quick, the people's songs below a motet on the edge of cacophony. Slowly they disperse, the night deepening, growing murky as the depth of the ocean to which they are adjacent.
He looks down, the world beneath spread out in lights and music, joy and sensuality and he wants it.
Wants it more than the solitude of inviolability.
He takes a step into the air and falls to the earth.
He cries bitterly, feels hot tears stream down his face as his body throbs in tandem with his heart. Everything is loud, bright, everything a quivering hurt that thrums through his chest, his inflating lungs that touch his ribs. His hands tremble as he brings them to his eyes and rubs hard. And everything is quiet. He hears his breaths, the crashing of the waves, the chirping of the birds, and nothing else.
Blearily, he sees his hands are red.
Blood. He's bleeding. And the world has never been so silent.
“Ow,” he rasps, his voice reverberating in his head, sounding too close and far away simultaneously.
“Hey, we got you, don't worry,” he hears, the voice soft and deep, and Chin's kind face floats over his, taking hold of his hand, gripping it tightly.
He's being touched by warm, rough skin, close, it's close and the sensation of skin on skin is a shallow hurt, sounding like a whisper. Tendons and flesh belonging to someone else touching Danny's own. He grins and laughs.
“It worked, it worked.” The laugh turns into a groan, pain lancing through him, leaving gasping for breath.
Chin frowns at him. “You're going to the hospital to get checked out. You had a nasty fall.”
Danny keeps smiling, his lips stretching, he can feel his skin stretch around his mouth and his lips over his teeth. He stares at his hand inside Chin's. “This is what I wanted.”
Suddenly there's a light in his eyes and he startles.
“Can you tell me your name?” Chin asks, his face becoming blurry for a moment.
Danny blinks at him. “Danny. My name is still Danny.”
Chin looks at him, concerned. “Okay, that's good. I'm Chin Ho and I'm going to take care of you now.”
Danny lets go of Chin's hand and he leans up on his elbows, disorientated for a moment. He looks around, he's on the beach and he's hot, sweltering in his clothes. Chin frantically tries to get him lie down again. He sits up with a wince, his back a blanket of agony and pulls off his jacket, dirty from the fall and the blood on his hands. Red drips onto the white of his clothes, they're fabric, staining in a way they never did, never could, before. “I'm alive.”
Chin puts a hand on his shoulder and gently pushes him down to his back again. “Yes. And that's a good thing.”
Danny looks up at him and it's quiet, so quiet around him. The distant sound of traffic, the whistling wind and his heart hammering in his chest are all there is. He swallows, touching his chest; feeling his flesh, his skin, his ribs. “This is all there is.”
Chin waves to someone in the distance and a rolling gurney appears beside them with another E.M.T. and he doesn't know who it is, can't hear any song, can't feel anything other than the pain piercing through his body.
He's crying again.
“It's okay. We'll give you something for the pain,” Chin speaks to him softly as he's expertly placed on the gurney, his head and neck immobilized.
Danny can't seem to stop the tears. “Don't, don't, I just want, I want -” he stops abruptly, drawing in a sharp breath. “Ow. I need to see Steve. That's why I fell.”
Chin looks down at him. “Steve? You fell because of Steve? Steve who?”
He looks up at Chin's face, the early morning sun illuminating his skin and shadowing his cheeks. “You're very beautiful,” Danny says softly.
Chin blinks, smiling at him kindly. “Uh, thanks, you're not quite with it, are you?”
Danny coughs, tasting the back of his throat, thick and bitter. “I'm not what I was.”
Chin pats his arm compassionately. “We'll get you right again.”
Danny looks at him for a moment, doesn't answer as tears trail down into his ears.
Danny is admitted into King's Medical Center for a concussion, cracked ribs, and abrasions. He sleeps and then they wake him up and the hurts go on forever. He's naked under the hospital gown, vulnerable and frail.
He's powerless against the elements and he looks at his hands, scratched and bruised, just like the rest of him and he understand why humans are born as babies, tiny and defenseless, they can take their time getting used to this vulnerable skin and their tender flesh. There's a needle in his arm, attached to a drip.
He sighs heavily and drops his hands. The earth on this side of existence is crushing silence, but the sheets are soft under him and he can feel the blanket covering him and he wants to feel Steve, wants him to touch him as intimately as Steve imagined; tries to imagine it himself.
He sits up with a groan, his back creaking and popping as he moves, his body doing everything for the first time. He grips the IV pole with a shaky hand and holds on as he stands up on wobbly legs.
Danny whimpers as he moves, shuffling away from the bed and out of his room into the hall.
The lights buzz overhead, blinking a little here and there and he knows this place. Knows it like the back of his hand, which, looking at it now, is not the same hand.
Still, he knows where he is. Knows where the living and the dying are and he walks towards the familiar, limping along, forcing his body along when gravity does its best to pull him down and his brain all but screams at him to sleep.
He's sweating by the time he reaches Kono's room. His hands slip on the pole, breathing with effort as he falls into the chair by her bed.
She opens her eyes, blinking rapidly in the dim light. Her mouth drops open as she stares at him. “Danny?”
“I need to make a phone call,” he rasps, talking hurts, he's not sure why. His chest is tight, his breath ragged, and he takes hold her hand, warm and dry under his clammy and moist grasp. “Please, I need to tell Steve I'm here.”
Kono frowns. “Steve? M-Mary's Steve?”
Danny smiles gratefully. “Yes, that's the one.”
The floor rushes towards him.
When he wakes up his throat feels like he's being stabbed, his head throbs fiercely and he moans loudly. “Ow,” he croaks.
“You're awake,” he hears, Steve's voice close to his ears.
Danny groans, misery and agony pounding at him.
“You gotta open your eyes,” Steve says softly.
He opens one eye, the world blurry and it takes a while for Steve's beautiful face to stabilize, his mouth a severe line and his jaw squared. Steve leans forward, his hand hovering over him for a moment before he places it on the pillow by his head. “Am I hallucinating?”
Steve's brow furrows. “No, I'm really here.”
Danny smiles crookedly and awkwardly bring his hand up, putting it on top of Steve's. “That's good.”
Steve winces. “You're not looking too good, though.”
Danny blinks at him. “I don't?” and he coughs at the tickle in his dry throat.
Steve hands him a cup of water with a bendy straw. “Slow sips,” he says and leans back in his chair, bringing a hand to his mouth, rubbing his jaw. “Kono called me, told me that 'your friend, Danny,' has a concussion and was asking for me,” Steve says, his voice rough, his eyes reflecting the white flickering light over their heads.
Danny hums around the straw. “I am your friend, remember?”
Steve shifts in his seat and squeezes his hand. “I do. I guess I'm your friend too.” Steve sighs and brings Danny's hand to his face. “When Kono called and said you were in the hospital, said you passed out I-I,” he stops abruptly, clearing his throat.
A strange feeling comes over him, as though his stomach suddenly fell though him. “What?”
Steve inhales a deep throat. “I thought about how much I wanted to know who you are and why-why you're here.”
Danny shifts slowly until he's sitting up against the pillows, using his grip on Steve as a brace. “Why I'm here?”
Steve strokes his thumb over Danny's knuckles and Danny feels all the hairs on his body stand on end. “Why you want me.”
Danny stares at him, and sees that Steve's life is written all over his face, even though his mind is his alone and his song is locked inside where neither Danny, nor any human, could hear. Danny reaches over and takes a fist full of Steve's shirt, the cloth soft under his hand, and he pulls, bringing their lips together.
It's different, not what he expected, the feeling of skin to skin, their breaths mingling together as Steve presses closer and opens his mouth, urging Danny to do the same. When he does, Danny's skin overheats and tingles. He clutches Steve's shoulder, a small sound emitting from his mouth into Steve's.
Steve pulls back slightly, panting against his face. “Fuck.”
Danny's heart drums in his chest, the palms of his hands and in his groin. “I fell for you,” he rasps.
Steve blinks at him, his eyes dark and wide. “I think I have as well.”