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Kauoha ("to order or command")

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“Freedom is independence of the compulsory will of another, and in so far as it tends to exist with the freedom of all according to a universal law, it is the one sole original inborn right belonging to every man in virtue of his humanity.” -Immanuel Kant

-----
Danny’s parents never talked about the curse.

He’d had it for as long as he could remember, but whenever he asked his mom and dad, they always sidestepped it. They called it his “condition”, and cast sidelong glances until Danny wanted to yell and shake his fists with rage. Finally, to curb his questions, they simply ordered him to stop asking about it.

Danny’s mouth snapped shut, compelled by the power in his parents’ words. An order. A direct order. Something he could not disobey, even though he longed to.

Danny found ways of working around it, insomuch as he was able. He tried to keep people at a distance, lest they suspect something was different about him. He never had any desire to tell someone, not that it would have mattered, as his father had expressly forbidden him from it. Danny became good at paying close attention to the inflection in people’s voices. Sometimes there was an implied question mark hanging off the end of a poorly-worded phrase, and at such times it was easier to hold off the pounding headache that resulted from disobeying an order.

Growing up, Danny didn’t know if his headstrong attitude was because of his curse, or in spite of it. When Matty began asking questions, Danny tried not to feel bitter about the fact that his little brother didn’t have the same…impediment. It was only him. Danny’s parents made it very clear to Matty that he was never to take advantage of his brother’s “condition”, or tell anyone else about it. It helped some that Danny’s sister, Jo, was fiercely protective of him.

“Danny, can I have some of your ice cream?” Matty asked. They were at the zoo. It was the day after Danny’s birthday, and he was proudly sporting one of his birthday gifts, a plastic police badge and pair of handcuffs. Jo had walked on ahead with mom and dad, who carried their baby sister, Anna.

“No, you shouldn’t have eaten yours so quickly,” Danny said, sticking his tongue out.

Matty pouted. “I could make you share,” he said.

Danny glared at him. “You wouldn’t. Mom would ground you for a month.”

Matty opened his mouth to speak. Danny punched him in the arm before he could say anything. He handcuffed Matt to the bars by the monkey cage and ran off, covering his ears with his hands lest Matt demand to be set loose. The ice cream was abandoned on the ground.

Danny was grounded a week for his stunt, but it was worth it. And Matty never threatened to take advantage of the curse again.

--

To some, joining the police force might not seem like the wisest of career options for somebody in Danny’s…situation, but Danny had always known what he wanted to do. Being forced to obey commands had given him a certain respect for the rules society lived by, and he wanted to see those laws carried out. And he didn’t want to let anything, least of all a curse, stand in his way.

Danny’s training officer had been impressed with his ability to follow instructions and learn quickly from mistakes, and for the first time it seemed there was a way to use the curse to his benefit. Someone said, “do this,” and he did it. They said, “no, not like that,” and he corrected himself until it was right.

Danny never told anyone about the curse, but that didn’t stop the occasional person from finding out. Like Mick, Danny’s partner of over a year. The incidental commands were the worst, the things people said without thinking; “Chill out,” “hang in there,” and the like. Mick noticed, and brought it up with Danny. There was only so much Danny could say, bound by the command issued by his father years ago, but Mick got the gist. Miraculously, their working relationship was unaffected. If anything, Danny felt more at ease, knowing if someone issued him a direct order without thinking, Mick could negate it.

Of course, for all that Danny had found ways of working with his curse instead of against it, there were still awkward, unforeseen moments which could arise.

“Tell us who you’re working with,” Danny said to their suspect, one Jerry from East Orange.

“Go fuck yourself,” Jerry spat.

Danny gritted he teeth against the sudden wave of compulsion that hit him. Orders like this were the worst, when his mind didn’t know whether he had to take the words literally or not. His body certainly had an idea; he was hard and straining against the inseam of his trousers.

Sweat broke out on Danny’s brow as he fought against the flippantly thrown insult that the curse couldn’t distinguish from an actual command. And then came the headache, the migraine-level pain that had him seeing bright spots on his vision. Oh, fuck how was this his life, that he had a hard-on in an interrogation room?

Mick put a hand on Danny’s shoulder, flashing him a sympathetic look. “Danny, don’t,” he said, quietly, so only Danny could hear.

Danny relaxed, tension draining from his body as he was released from the command. He was shaken, though, and Mick could tell.

“I can finish here, if you like,” he said.

He was giving Danny an out, phrasing his words in such a way that there were choices, and Danny was grateful for it. He nodded, taking his leave of the room.

Six months later, Mick was killed in a crossfire, a stray bullet hitting his neck. Afterwards, the medics had to tell Danny to take the pressure off the wound; Mick was already long gone.

--

Danny hadn’t really given much thought to marrying. It was better for him to keep people at a distance; less risky that way.

Of course, then he met Rachel. And she was witty, intelligent, beautiful—and seemed to like him for all of his Jersey charm. It was no wonder he wanted to marry her. But then, there was the problem of his curse. He wanted to tell her, he truly did, but his father’s command prevented him from doing it in so many words.

Rachel was perceptive, though, she picked up that something was wrong.

“What’s troubling you, Daniel?”

“It’s…” Danny began, and the words were on the tip of his tongue, but they wouldn’t come out. His father’s words echoed in his mind. Never, under any circumstances, tell anyone about your condition. Don’t write about it, either…If people know, they’ll only use it to take advantage of you. “It’s nothing,” he finished.

“Tell me,” Rachel prompted.

And there it was, the impulse to do as Rachel had directed, but her words were in direct conflict with his father’s. Danny opened his mouth again to answer, but nothing issued forth. It seemed that Rachel’s order couldn’t override the ties which forced his silence on the matter. A dull pain began to build between his eyes as he found himself unable to fulfill his directive.

“I…can’t.”

Rachel arched an eyebrow at him. “What do you mean, you can’t?”

“I mean I’m…not able.” It was difficult to get the words out, but Danny threw as much weight as he could into them, hoping that at least some of his meaning might come across in what he couldn’t say. Or that Rachel might read into his stare and arm gesticulations.

“What, are you under orders, or something?”

Christ, it was like punching water, every word and movement felt like a struggle against a current. He gave a stiff nod. “I can’t. I want to, but I’m not…physically able. To tell you.”

Rachel had a look of befuddlement on her face. Danny didn’t blame her; what he was saying probably sounded impossible and bizarre. Still, something in Danny’s own expression must have conveyed his earnestness, because Rachel’s face softened after a moment.

“So,” she began, tentative, “You’re incapable of telling me…because you were ordered not to?”

Danny nodded. It was easier now. The order given to him by his father hadn’t prevented people guessing. And his headache was lessening now that he wasn’t working in direct conflict with the curse.

“And is…does what you want to tell me directly relate to the…circumstances preventing you?”

“Yes,” Danny said, relieved that he could feel his headache lifting, the words coming easier now that Rachel was catching on.

Rachel stared at him for a while, brows furrowed. It was clear she was close to the truth, was perhaps even entertaining thoughts of what the truth was, but the impossibility of it was drawing her up short.

“You can’t talk about it…” Rachel began slowly. Danny shook his head. “What about writing, can you write it down for me?”

Danny shook his head again. C’mon Rach, you’re so close to figuring it out.

“But…you can tell me if I’m right?” At Danny’s nod, Rachel continued, emboldened, “Okay, let me know if I’m way off base here, because I’ll admit this sounds completely ridiculous. Just nod or shake your head. Is there—are you in some way bound to follow orders?”

Danny nodded vigorously.

“But…how is that even possible?” Danny shook his head and gave a shrug. It was a question he had been asking himself his whole life.

“Okay, okay, so…any order?” Rachel asked, and Danny gave another nod of affirmation. “And…I’m guessing you were ordered not to talk about it, which is why you…can’t.”

Danny nodded again, giving her a thumbs-up for good measure. She knew. It had taken them a while to reach that point. But she knew. And Danny wasn’t afraid.

“So,” Rachel said.

“So.”

“Where does that leave us?”

--

They found a way to work around it. Rachel never made him feel abnormal, and she always tried to be careful about the way she phrased things. Occasionally there was a slip-up, but she almost always caught it immediately and retracted her words.

When Rachel became pregnant, Danny worried endlessly. What if their son or daughter had the same thing he did? Would he want them to grow up facing the same challenges, in a society where everybody wanted something from you, and advertisers seemed hell-bent on selling you their product?

(Danny always muted the television during commercials now; he had three sets of Ginsu knives, four shake weights, and a video camera pen. It was a nightmare, and he had come to loathe every time he heard the words, “Call in the next 15 minutes and you’ll receive…” Now, if that happened, Rachel would simply turn to him and say, “Only if you want to.”)

Danny needn’t have worried, because when Grace was born everything was good. Better than good, it was perfect. And when Grace was old enough to understand, Rachel sat her down and explained everything to her about Danny’s curse. Well, she explained it in such a way as a little girl could understand, which meant that Danny’s curse became the result of a wayward fairy’s mistaken “gift.” At this point Danny had entertained so many theories in his mind, each more impossible than the next, it wouldn’t surprise him if that was the one which turned out to be true.

Grace was the only person who never once slipped up and gave him an order. Of course, Danny’s whole world revolved around her, and he couldn’t deny her anything, regardless.

--

Danny should have realized things were too good to be true. At least, he should have suspected when things began going downhill. He couldn’t trace when he had first felt a discernable shift in his and Rachel’s relationship. It was little things that turned into arguments, or arguments that turned into them tacitly agreeing to Not Mention It for the sake of Grace. Even still, the little things—the petty disagreements, the personality quirks that had them at odds—could be worked around. Other things weren’t so easy. Much of it revolved around Danny’s job, and the danger he was placed in. Rachel worried about him, in his line of work, but it mattered too much to him to quit. It went unsaid between them, but Danny knew her real concern was how his curse might be used against him.

“This matters to me, Rachel, I can’t just give it up!” Danny tried to keep his volume in check; Grace had already been put to bed.

“But you can’t know nothing bad will happen out there. What about me? What about Grace?”

Danny caught Rachel’s face in his hands, thumbs bracketing her cheekbones. He needed her to understand this. “It’s because of you and Grace that I do this. You think I don’t know it’s dangerous, huh? But I’ve lived with this—this thing—my whole life, and I’m still here.”

Rachel pulled back. “Just stop,” she said, “Stop putting yourself in danger. Stop doing this to us.”

It was like ice water had been poured down his back. Rachel’s mouth dropped open in horror as she realized what she’d just said.

“Oh god, Daniel, I didn’t mean it like that. Ignore what I just said. I take it back. I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.”

It was too late, though. Danny may have been freed from carrying out the command, but the damage was done. Danny knew then, on a certain level, a line had been crossed. Rachel seemed to realize it too; there were tears in her eyes. The worst part was, it wasn’t just the breach of trust, it wasn’t just that she’d said that, knowing Danny would have to obey. It was her reasons behind the words, the reasons that made her fear for Danny in the first place. Those reasons were still there, and weren’t going to simply go away. And Danny couldn’t blame her, not really, for being afraid. He just also knew that this, this problem between them, couldn’t be fixed. And it left him feeling gutted.

Two days later, Danny moved into a nearby motel. Matty helped some, he was there every night to support Danny. And while Danny appreciated it more than words could say, it was a bit like trying to put a band aid on a gaping wound.

--

In spite of how devastated he felt, Danny was reluctant through the initial divorce process. For a little while, he tried convincing himself they could fix it, for Grace’s sake. Rachel was apologetic over what she had said, and he might even be able to forgive her that. But Danny’s job—not just the hours, but the danger it placed him in—was always going to be a divisive factor in their relationship. And under all that, implicit but never mentioned, was his curse.

Danny knew the break was just as much his fault, knew that because of his curse, he took a dogmatically stubborn approach to anyone trying to tell him how to live his life. His job didn’t only offer him the opportunity to help people, it gave him a purpose, one that he had chosen of his own volition. Danny couldn’t give that sense of freedom up in order to take a safer job, not even for the sake of his marriage.

He and Rachel went their strained but separate ways, and Danny was grateful for the time he had to see Grace. There was some lingering bitterness on his part over the custody battle, and Danny hated himself a little that he knew Grace would be safest overall with her mother. Danny knew, with his curse, that Rachel was the more stable option, that there was always the chance someone could manipulate him while he had Grace in his care. Rachel had never brought the curse up with Danny during the custody battle (that he never would have forgiven), but he offered to allow her the majority of time with Grace, and she tacitly agreed. Nothing more needed to be said.

That is, until Rachel remarried, and decided to move her entire life, and his (because what was his life without Grace in it?), to Hawaii. There had never been any orders involved—Rachel had never again given him an order since That Night, but Danny was still without a choice in the matter. And that rankled, that even in his supposed “freedom” his options were still so limited. Stay in Jersey, the place he had considered home his entire life, or follow Grace, his home in every way.

He transferred to HPD, which was an experience in and of itself. The police force there had an entirely different way of looking at things than he was used to in Hoboken, which was both a good and a bad thing. It gave him some new perspective, and it meant he had stuff he could bring to the table. He was fortunate to find a good partner in Meka, who laughed off his caustic attitude, and who appreciated his insights. As much as Danny appreciated having Meka as a partner, he wasn’t anywhere near the point where he could trust another person with his secret yet, and he kept himself guarded so Meka never discovered it.

Danny disliked Hawaii on principle for everything it wasn’t (Jersey), but he put on his best poker face whenever he got weekends with Grace. She could sense it, sometimes—he had taught her how to play poker, after all—but that made her more determined for them to have a good time. That made everything worth it, trapped in this pineapple-infested hellhole as he was.

--

Danny got better, not at disobeying orders—because the rules of the curse wouldn’t allow that—but at prolonging the time until he had to obey them. It felt like someone was hammering at the inside of his skull and made him cranky as hell, but it was worth it. Every moment of resistance felt like a triumph, some small degree of control he had over his life. Then, he met Steve McGarrett.

“Put your weapon down, right now!” Danny shouted, leveling his gun.

“No, you put your weapon down, and show me your ID!” the man, Steve McGarrett, yelled back, and Danny braced himself against the familiar compulsion to carry out the order.

“You show me your ID, right now!” Danny replied, but it was a delaying tactic and he knew it. His arms felt heavy with the desire to lower his gun.

“I’m not putting my gun down.”

“Neither am I.” It was an empty affirmation. Even now, Danny could feel the strain on his arms to keep the weapon up.

“Use your free hand, take out your ID,” McGarrett said.

Fuck, more orders? Danny only hoped he could bluff his way through this without McGarrett suspecting anything was amiss. “Please, after you,” he said.

“At the same time?”

“At the same time?”

“Yeah, at the same time.”

“What, like on the count of three?” Danny asked, sarcasm dripping from his words. He was pushing his luck in putting off not one, but two direct orders. His head was pounding, and he could feel sweat breaking out across his brow.

“Sure, okay, three’s good.”

Danny reached for his ID, no longer able to deny the pressure in his head. “One…two…three.” McGarrett flashed his ID, and Danny was finally able to lower his gun. The pain dissipated immediately. Danny managed to suppress his inward sigh of relief.

Things only continued to go downhill from there, when McGarrett tried taking the toolbox with him. Danny’s own orders, emphatically given—“Leave the box, or get arrested”—were unheeded. Times like this, he wished more than anything that other people could get a taste of what he went through. It wasn’t enough for McGarrett to just defy him, however, he had to take Danny’s case right out from under him. Danny was seething—stupid Army commanders and their stupid penchant for throwing orders about. He went home, determined to completely forget about Steve McGarrett.

McGarrett wasn’t deterred by Danny’s obvious dislike of him, or his resolution to ignore him. An hour later he was knocking at Danny’s apartment door. And the tossing about of orders didn’t stop: “Enlighten me,” in regard to the Doran investigation, “Let’s go talk to him”—was the guy allergic to questions or something? How difficult was it to use a little common courtesy?

“It’s guys like you, they think they know how to do everything better, and that only makes my job harder.” It’s guys like you who take away my ability to make choices.

“You’ve got no choice, detective. The governor gave me jurisdiction, I’m making you my partner. We’re going to get along great.”

Danny gritted his teeth in frustration. It wasn’t an order, being this guy’s partner, but it may as well have been, considering McGarrett had the governor’s backing. At least he had some say in whether he liked this guy or not. McGarrett hadn’t taken that from him, yet.

Two hours later, however, McGarrett had gotten him shot at, and didn’t even have the decency to apologize. Instead, he was caught up in the case, single-minded in his determination to find Hesse.

“You just took a stupid risk, okay, understand that! I am not getting myself killed for your vendetta, I have a daughter, okay?”

“Yeah, that girl there is someone’s daughter too,” McGarrett said.

“You don’t get it, you don’t get it. I mean, for somebody who’s just lost his father, you’re pretty dense.” Danny knew he was hitting a nerve, but he hoped that maybe it would open McGarrett’s eyes a little.

Instead, it only made him angry. “What’d you say…what’d you just say to me? What if she was yours, huh? Is there anything that you would not do to hunt down the son of a bitch who did that to her and kill him?”

Danny was incensed; he stepped right into McGarrett’s personal space, pointing a finger at him. “Do not question my resolve, you understa—”

“I’m warning you, take your finger out of my face.”

Right. Danny felt the curse surge up, the pain with it. Two could play that game. He jabbed McGarrett in the chest instead. “Listen to me, you son of a bitch—”

A second later he was facing the ground, his arm twisted up behind his back in some kind of crazy jujitsu move. The flare of pain he felt this time was very real.

“What did I tell you? I warned you,” McGarrett said reproachfully.

“What are you, a ninja? Let go!”

“—in front of all these nice people. It’s fine, go back to work, it’s fine!”

Danny ground his teeth, wondering at his chances of pulling free as he gave a grunt of pain.

“Now, you don’t have to like me, but right now there’s no one else to do this job,” McGarrett said, sounding more calm.

Okay, let me go.”

He did, and the moment Danny was upright again he hauled back and punched McGarrett as hard as he could in the jaw. It hurt like fuck, but it was worth it.

“You’re right, I don’t like you.” And as long as Danny continued to have a choice in the matter, he wouldn’t.

On a certain level, Danny couldn’t say he found McGarrett’s inability to observe social niceties surprising, frustrating as it was. Still, for all that Danny couldn’t recall ever having received this many orders in so short a time, the situation was good practice. Danny had forgotten what it was like to spend prolonged periods of time with someone who threw so many orders about. It honed his resistance, and he was quick to come up with a witty rejoinder, which served to distract from the fact that he was always carrying out the things he was told to do. McGarrett probably just chalked it up to good rule-following, was used to being obeyed in the military.

Still, Danny didn’t have to like it when the man grinned and said, “Book ‘em, Danno.”

“What’d I tell you about that?” he responded, but there was no real argument or resistance in his tone. He was already moving to cuff the guy. He’d had enough of the headache throbbing constantly at his temples for one day. So when McGarrett—Steve, his brain supplied—offered Danny the hotel tickets later with a, “You can swim with the dolphins, just take it,” Danny accepted the gift without complaint.

--

Danny should have realized Steve’s behavior wouldn’t be a one-time deal. Being a part of Five-0 had its good points and bad. The good, he had more opportunities than he would ever have had in HPD to keep the island, and by extension his daughter, safe. The bad, he had a boss who seemed to be doing everything in his power to shorten Danny’s lifespan.

The man also liked to throw commands around like they were going out of style.

“Danno, I’m hungry,” Grace said. They were at the football game with Kono, Chin, and Steve.

“How can you be hungry? We ate an hour ago.”

“We didn’t eat nachos an hour ago,” Grace pointed out like it was the most obvious thing in the world.

“What was I thinking about? Of course we didn’t. Come on, let’s go.”

“Hey, get me some,” Steve threw out as Danny started walking down the bleachers.

Danny gritted his teeth. How difficult, honestly, would it be for Steve to turn that into a request?

Grace was quiet as they walked towards the concessions area, had been since Steve’s casual order and Danny’s reaction to it—she was too perceptive.

“Okay, out with it. What’s eating you?”

“No one told him the rules,” Grace said, voice somber.

Danny ushered Grace to the side, out of the way of people walking. He crouched until he was at eye level with her. “No, you’re right. No one told him. But that’s because he doesn’t know, none of them do. But Grace, this is important—no telling them. This job is important. It means I get to keep the island safe for you, and when the island is safe that means I get to see you more. So I gotta keep this a secret.”

Grace pouted, her face furrowed in a frown. “Still,” she said, “It isn’t good manners.”

“Tell you what, then. When we get back with nachos, you can tell Steve that his manners stink, and that he should say ‘please’ more often.”

Grace nodded, letting the matter drop. That was when Danny saw the guys with guns. He quickly found someone to keep an eye on Grace, a woman there with a daughter of her own, before going after the men he had seen.

There was a dull pain in his head, the curse responding to the fact that Danny was no longer on his way to get nachos. Of all the times for it to bother him. Danny pushed forward through the pain, sternly telling himself and his curse that he would buy nachos for Steve later today, if necessary. He just needed to sort this out first. He called Steve.

“Where are my nachos?”

Forget the fucking nachos. “Hey, I’m right in front of you. I’ve got two guys headed to the field, strapped. I think something’s about to go down.”

The guys opened fire a minute later, and then there was chaos in the stadium. Chin took off running after someone, and Danny saw at least two go down. In the pandemonium, Steve subdued one of their suspects, and then turned to Danny.

“Go! Go! Go get Grace!”

Danny bolted for the bathrooms. It wasn’t until he was hugging Grace again that it struck him. He hadn’t even realized, but he’d obeyed an order without thinking. True, he’d wanted to, wanted to ensure Grace’s immediate safety, but there hadn’t even been the passing annoyance he usually felt when someone gave him an order he was in the process of carrying out anyway.

Danny had always resented the orders given to him. People took free will for granted, didn’t even consider the fact that for someone like Danny, it wasn’t an option. And as much as Danny hated Steve’s orders in particular, mostly because of the sheer amount of them, he had to admit that nothing he’d been told so far had been impossible.

That was, until Steve suggested he try ham and pineapple pizza.

--

The most frustrating thing about working with Steve was not only his tendency to give orders all the time, but also his unwillingness to change his ways. Danny was exasperated that that Steve made guidelines out of what could be simple requests, and he took to dropping casual hints as part of his delaying tactics; “Would it kill you to say please?” “Ask nicely and maybe I will.”

He only ever did that when nothing important was at stake, when no time would be lost by trying to resist an order.

They were working on the Amanda Reeves case at the Governor’s request. They were at the club where she had last been sighted with her sister, Robyn, who was possibly still alive. Steve ordered a pair of longboards, saying that it was a good idea to try to blend in and get eyes on the place until they spotted their guy.

“Looks like this place has got eyes on you,” Danny said.

“Could you focus, please? Just—just once, just focus.”

“Okay, wait a minute, let me ask you a question,” Danny interjected. He was focused, Steve’s remarks to the contrary. And Steve hadn’t specified what he had to be focused on, so Danny chose, at this moment, to focus on Steve. “Two very attractive ladies are eye-humping you, respectfully, and what, nothing? Nothing, I mean, should I check for a pulse? You alive? Hello.”

If he hadn’t been focused on Steve, he might have missed it, the little smile that gave Steve away. And it filled Danny with an unreasonable amount of glee to see Steve acting almost embarrassed, the reason he’d been so cheerful all day that he’d gotten laid.

Even better was Steve telling Danny, “You’re very perceptive,” right before he distracted him again with another order, “Take a look at Casanova over there.”

Later, when they found out a Filipino terrorist organization was behind the kidnapping, Danny and Steve headed to where the money drop was supposed to take place. They located the shipping container being used for surveillance, and ousted Russell Ellison and his security agents.

Once they’d established Robyn was indeed still alive, Steve turned to Danny, gesturing at the chair in front of the computers. “All right, they’re bringing Robyn in, we need to get a visual.”

Danny arched an eyebrow. “You’re kidding me.”

Danny knew he was being unreasonable, that until his knee finished healing it would be safer for him to take things easy, but it didn’t help his sense of self-worth. Though, Danny had to admit—as he watched Steve, Chin, and Kono from the multi-paneled screens—there was something refreshingly different about giving instructions and having Steve be the one to follow them.

“Okay, hold up, hold up. I’ve got two at the south entrance. One of them is making the rounds, coming your way right now…He’s coming up right behind you. Be on you in about ten seconds. Wait…wait for it,” Danny said, the seriousness of the situation overriding the novelty of his own orders being followed. “Now!”

After it was all over, Russell Ellison approached them about the possibility of one day working in the private sector. Steve, in typical Steve fashion, handcuffed him for obstructing their investigation.

“Book him, Danno.”

“You know, I gotta be honest, I actually didn’t mind that one.”

Danny tried not to think about what it meant, that he found himself less annoyed by Steve’s orders. That he was maybe becoming accustomed to them.

--

Danny took the news hard when Meka turned up dead. Even worse was when no one seemed to believe him that Meka was a clean cop.

“You know what? I’m done, how about that, all right? If my word is not good enough for you, then I do not know what I’m doing here,” Danny said, turning to leave.

He expected Steve to call him back. Was waiting to hear the “Don’t leave, Danny” that would have kept him there. He didn’t want to stay, not when his own integrity and character judgment were being called into question, but it’s not like he would have any other choice.

Steve didn’t call him back, however, and Danny was able to walk out of Five-0 headquarters unhindered.

Later, when Chin walked up to him at the bar, Danny tensed. He wasn’t ready for it, the demands to spill his feelings that came whenever he attempted to drink some of his troubles away. Chin didn’t seem to want an explanation for Danny’s earlier behavior, however, just ordered drinks for the both of them.

“Hey, JJ, set me up. And one more for my buddy, here.”

“Good timing,” Danny said, as he finished off the last of his bottle.

“His old man was the same way, you know,” Chin said, “McGarretts, they’ve got this laser focus embedded in their DNA. That’s why it’s good sometimes to remind them that their way isn’t the only one that works.”

Danny smiled. “Yeah, right now, somewhere, Steve just twitched.” He took a sip from his new bottle.

Chin laughed. “Sometimes, though, he misses things, things that should be really obvious.”

His tone was loaded, and Danny felt something in his chest seize up. He cast a sidelong glance at Chin across the bar, fighting to keep his face nonchalant. Chin gave Danny a searching look, and whatever he saw in Danny’s face confirmed his unspoken question.

Danny gave a defeated sigh. “How long have you known?” he asked.

“Couple of weeks, now,” Chin said, “I’m guessing here, are you allowed to—”

“I can’t talk about it,” Danny said, putting as much inflection as he could into the words.

“Figured. I’ll admit, I don’t fully understand it.”

“You and me both,” Danny said. He was going to need another beer, at this rate. “Does Kono know?”

Chin nodded. “She’s the one that figured it out, and came to me.”

“But you haven’t said anything to Steve?”

Chin shook his head. “I figured you wouldn’t want that. I’m sure Steve suspects something, because he’s observant, and he’s your partner. It’s his job to know when stuff is up with you.”

“He can’t know, Chin.”

“Why not? Yeah, it doesn’t make much sense, but Steve will understand. He would never—never make you do something you didn’t want.”

Danny pinched the bridge of his nose between forefinger and thumb. On the one hand, it would be so much easier, not having to pretend he was like everybody else in the presence of his team members. But on the other, being just like everyone else, or treated as such, was all he’d ever wanted.

“I know he wouldn’t. But Five-0…you guys are like a family to me. This, all of this, this job, this team, it means a lot. And I can’t…I don’t want to be considered a liability. I don’t want this taken from me.”

Chin reached out to place a comforting hand on Danny’s shoulder. “I understand your reasons, brah, but I still think you don’t give us—or Steve—enough credit. We’ve got your back, and I’m in your corner a thousand percent. You can tell me what you need.”

Danny sighed. “I need to clear Meka’s name, so I think I gotta listen to McGarrett, go see somebody.”

Danny went back to his apartment later that night. He was still focused on the case, but Chin’s visit at the bar had given him a lot to think about.

Chin and Kono knew. They knew, and they hadn’t treated Danny any differently in the time since finding out. Perhaps it was true, what Chin had said about Steve. Maybe it would be worth the risk of Steve finding out, having people Danny trusted know about it, and knowing they would watch his back.

But then, the more people that knew his secret, the greater likelihood there was that someone unwanted might discover it and take advantage. He could be forced against his will to compromise his team’s safety. To compromise Grace’s safety. To turn against Steve.

And then, underneath all his misgivings about whether or not to tell Steve, there was also the issue Danny had with this thing, whatever it was. Somewhere along the line, somewhere between the “Book em, Danno’s” and the demands for the Camaro keys, Danny was finding himself drawn to Steve, in spite of how infuriating the man could be.

Danny shifted uncomfortably on his pull-out bed. Whatever this thing with Steve was, it didn’t change the fact that he was still annoyed with Steve’s behavior over the Meka case. Danny would worry about it later; first, he had to clear a man’s name.

Danny knew it was a risk going to see Sang Min alone, but he had known this job would be risky when he had signed up, had known he might sometimes be in less-than-ideal situations on his own. Besides, he was still pissed at Steve, and didn’t want to admit the possibility that Steve might be right.

He idly considered calling Chin, just to have someone along in case an…unforeseen situation arose (Danny was reminded of the incident years ago when Mick had been his partner), but he abandoned that idea. Danny couldn’t bear the thought of anyone holding his hand through his curse. He had dealt with it his entire life, and he would get through this alone.

Sang Min, when he was escorted from his cell to the visiting area, seemed more interested in trying to get a rise out of Danny, making comments about Danny’s looks, his family, Kono. Danny brushed it off, kept his frustration in check while he tried to keep Sang Min on task.

When Danny put the picture against the glass, hoping to prompt any sort of answer, Sang Min turned unresponsive, hanging up the phone and saying, “I’m done here.”

That wouldn’t do. Danny lost his temper, banging his hand against the glass to get Sang Min’s attention. “Hold on. Hold on, listen to me. Pick up the phone, pick up the phone. Pick up the phone!” Not for the last time in his life, he wished the curse worked both ways, that other people could feel a similar compulsion when given an order.

Sang Min’s eyes were wide and intense as he watched Danny through the glass, probably considering the risk to himself in revealing his information. Danny tried a new tactic, appealing to Sang Min’s emotions, talking about Meka’s family. He knew that Sang Min would be able to relate.

Finally, it seemed his plea had paid off, as Sang Min said, “If you want me to risk my safety, detective, then I set the terms of our deal, before I tell you anything.”

Danny knew it was a risk. Knew that Sang Min could demand anything, with the proper phrasing, and Danny would be powerless to resist. Still, clearing Meka’s name, doing this thing for his family, was most important right now. “What do you want?” Danny asked, resigned.

--

Everything worked out in the end, Detective Kaleo was exposed as the mole in HPD, and Meka’s name was cleared. The ceremony was everything Danny could have hoped for, under the circumstances. And then, when his team showed up, Danny couldn’t hide how grateful he was. Chin and Kono gave him supportive smiles, and he wondered how he hadn’t suspected sooner that they knew his secret. Danny traded handshakes, a pat on the shoulder, with each of them.

Steve’s face was indiscernible. Danny considered himself a good judge of Steve faces, being that he categorized them. But this, he had no frame of reference for this.

“I appreciate you being here,” Danny said, “I know you didn’t know him.”

“I know you,” Steve said, like it was the most simple—and obvious—thing in the world.

Danny felt something inside him shift, and for once it had nothing to do with an order or directive given him.

Oh.

This could be a problem.

--

He was attracted to Steve. He was attracted to Steve. Never mind that the man was crazy—with his penchant for running headfirst into dangerous situations and a tendency to forget Miranda rights—Steve also issued more orders than anyone Danny had ever met. He did it without thinking, and how fucked up was it that not only did Danny find himself no longer minding Steve’s commands, he actually sometimes enjoyed carrying them out?

Under normal circumstances, when someone made an offhand order, Danny would do the bare minimum necessary to fulfill it, usually bitching the whole time. Or he would resist as long as he was able, his own private rebellion. But nowadays, when Steve issued commands, especially in the middle of a case, Danny followed through without thinking. He’d come to trust Steve’s judgment. Off the case, Danny found himself wanting to take that even further.

They were in the middle of one of their ‘discussions’. They were at Steve’s watching a football game, a couple of beers in, while Danny extolled the benefits of other sports, like basketball and hockey. Don’t get him wrong, he enjoyed football as much as the next guy, but he felt that Steve was woefully under-informed about other worthy sports.

“I’m just saying, it’s your kinda game. Lots of bodychecking, you like that.”

“Relax, Danny,” Steve said, laughing before taking a drink from his beer.

Danny felt himself instantly calming at Steve’s words. Why was he arguing? Sports were sports, and provided there was good food and company, they were all pretty similar. The order hadn’t told him to stop arguing, only to relax, which could mean anything, really. Danny had been given more specific commands on numerous occasions, and had easily found loopholes or ways of working around them. He wanted to listen to Steve, though. Wanted to relax, to take the order further and go boneless and languid into the couch, to stretch his body out like an invitation.

There was a humming in Danny’s veins as he shifted more comfortably on the couch, and he couldn’t tell if it was the alcohol or curse talking. Scratch that, definitely the curse. Though, at this exact moment, he wasn’t sure he would call it that. It filled him with a sense of euphoria, that he was taking enjoyment out of fulfilling an instruction, for once, that he wasn’t fighting it. Is this what it felt like, to truly embrace his curse? Danny could only imagine if Steve gave him other orders…

No. Danny gave an involuntary jerk upright, startling Steve next to him.

“I’ve…uh, just remembered something. Something I have to get done,” Danny said, too quickly, “Is it all right if I cut out early?” He could feel the edge of a headache returning; he was no longer relaxed.

“You sure you’ll be okay?” Steve asked. Was that disappointment in his tone?

“Yeah, I’m fine, I only had a couple beers,” Danny said.

Steve frowned, and Danny braced himself for a command to stay. He wasn’t strong enough, didn’t trust himself not to follow that order completely. He was thankful, then, when Steve only said, “If you’re sure. Get some rest tonight, Danny, you look pretty spent.”

“Will do,” Danny croaked, his body thrumming to obey. He fled Steve’s house shortly after, before his mind could dwell on rest and Steve and all the things he’d rather be doing involving some combination of those.

When he got back to his apartment, he paused long enough to strip down to his boxers before collapsing on his bed. His body relaxed instantly, finally able to do what he wanted since Steve’s house. He was half-hard in his shorts, but that could wait in lieu of rest. He wanted rest, Steve had told him to rest. He wanted…

--

This wouldn’t do. Being attracted to Steve was bad enough, but wanting to carry out his orders? Danny knew it was fucked up, but it didn’t change the small frisson of pleasure he felt whenever Steve told him to do something. It wouldn’t do, though, he had to distance himself.

His decision was only reinforced when they found Chin with a bomb strapped to his neck.

“Okay, would you relax? You’re getting me wrong, okay, Superman? Bring it down, just a notch. All right, our boy is in trouble, we do what we gotta do, I understand that, I’m just trying to measure the level of insanity we are dealing with.”

“High, high, very high.” Steve was frantic, all manic energy.

“Clearly, clearly.”

Danny was just as worried as Steve was about Chin, he was just better at keeping things compartmentalized. His mind kept going back to one thing, however. That could be him. If Hesse had caught him on his own instead of Chin, it could be him strapped to that bomb. If Hesse or someone else discovered his secret, a bomb would be the least of his troubles. They could order him to take someone’s life. They could order him to take his own life.

It wasn’t that Danny didn’t trust Steve with his secret. The more he thought about it, the more it was becoming a moot point. Steve would never betray Danny’s trust, if he knew. The problem came in where Danny’s attraction was concerned. If he started something with Steve, assuming Steve even felt the same way—that was something that could be taken advantage of by an outside individual, if Danny’s secret was ever exposed.

Danny couldn’t risk it. He knew Steve would never betray him, but he couldn’t bear the thought of being forced, against his own will, into betraying Steve.

When the bomb finally deactivated, Danny was there to help Chin up from the ground. It was a small gesture, the least he could do compared to what Steve and Kono had risked, but he could tell Chin appreciated it.

--

Danny put his feelings behind him. There were other things to be worrying about, thinking about, and his own desires took a backseat to all of that. When Rachel’s car got carjacked, with Grace and Rachel inside, exposing Stan jumped to the forefront of Danny’s concerns.

“You need anything, you call, all right? Anything,” Steve had said.

Danny had just finished seeing Grace and Rachel off at a hotel, and he was on his way to the airport. What he needed was a way to prove Stan had been involved in dirty dealings. He needed to strike a little Williams family fear into the guy. He needed…he needed to talk to Steve, before he took this too far. There was a dull pressure in his head, the curse reminding him of Steve’s words. Danny reached for his phone.

After five rings, Steve picked up. “Danny?” His voice sounded hushed, and there was an odd strain to it. “Are Grace and Rachel okay?”

“Yeah, they are safe, but I am sick, I’m in the middle of a panic attack, okay. This little incident just shaved five years off my life...What’s up with the witness, you find her yet?” The last bit was an afterthought. Danny admitted to himself he hadn’t really been thinking much about what his team had been up to, and he berated himself for the oversight.

“Yeah, but don’t worry about that, okay?” Steve’s voice still sounded strained as he said it, “You stay with your family, don’t come out here.”

Danny frowned. Three commands, the second one being the most problematic at the moment. They hadn’t been issued with Steve’s usual emphatic weight, however, and the fact that he’d been given multiple orders at once meant the second would be easier to ignore.

“Okay, I’m not,” Danny said, “I’m actually on my way to the airport.”

“What are you talking about, airport? Why, you going someplace?” Steve asked, too quickly.

“Well Stan—Stan comes home and, uh, I’m going to offer him a lift home,” Danny said vaguely.

“Buddy—” Steve’s breathing was labored on the other end of the line, “Buddy, Danny, what are you doing?”

“I’m not doing anything,” Danny said. He wasn’t sure what he was doing, baiting his words in such a way that he knew Steve would feel compelled to respond.

Listen, okay?” Danny could feel himself responding to the order, and he pressed the phone receiver closer to his ear. Steve continued, “I may not be able to see you, okay, but I can hear you, and you have a tone.”

“Tone, I don’t have a tone.”

“Okay, you say I have a face? You, my friend, you have a tone, okay, and it’s a tone that says ‘I’m gonna hit somebody’. Now, what’s going on?”

“Okay, I think that Stan—In fact, I know that Stan has something to do with what happened to Rachel and Grace,” Danny said. He knew he was taking a risk in telling Steve this much. Steve could tell him to go back home, abandon his current pursuit. With the mood Danny was in, he wasn’t so sure that would be a bad thing.

“Okay, is that based on anything other than the fact that you hate the man?”

Yes, it is, okay? They stole his car. They got his car, not hers, okay? They returned it in an hour, and they didn’t take anything! They house was broken into, ransacked, and just like the car, they took nothing, okay, does that sound normal to you? My daughter—my daughter sleeps in that house, okay, and if Stan has anything to do with it, I am going to encourage him to tell me what he knows.”

“Okay, listen to me, all right?” Steve said, and even though his voice was hushed, it was forceful. “I get that you’re pissed, all right, I can hear that, but whatever you do, do not touch him, okay? Do not touch him.”

Steve’s words carried weight, and Danny could sense the curse responding. Not for the first time, he wondered how much Steve knew, or guessed.

“Yeah, I understand that, but you gotta understand that I am a father, all right, this is my daughter we’re talking about.”

“Yeah, you’re also a cop with a gun, okay? And when those worlds cross it gets messy. Danny?”

“Yeah, well, I’m not the one who crossed them. Just—just don’t worry about me, please. I will handle it. Just get your witness to court.”

Danny hung up, before Steve could tell him to stop, go back to Rachel and Grace, not do anything stupid. He waited to hear his phone ring, Steve calling back to tell him just that, but no call came. Whatever Steve was involved in at the moment, it had him too occupied. It must be big, because under normal circumstances, were their roles reversed, Danny would be calling himself back. He was aware of how he sounded, like he was going to take some dangerous risk. The thought had crossed Danny’s mind.

Do not touch him.

Danny could work with that.

In a way, Danny was relieved. Not that Steve’s order gave him some leeway, but that Steve had issued the order in the first place. It was almost reassuring, knowing he had that to keep him from going too far. Danny wondered if that was the reason he had called Steve in the first place. Well, certainly, what Steve had said earlier today was part of the reason for that. You need anything, you call. What if what he really needed had been someone to talk him down? It explained why he had been so forthcoming in his information about the situation, knowing Steve read him too well.

Danny drove to the airport. Stan was there, about to get into the car he’d arranged to pick him up.

“Hey.”

Stan looked up, surprised. “Danny?”

“Yeah, I gotta talk to you,” Danny said. At Stan’s hesitation, he continued with, “I’m not asking, come on. Come on.”

Stan followed Danny to the Camaro and got in without argument. That always was their main difference. Stan wasn’t confrontational, he never argued. He always acquiesced, which, Danny supposed, was a good trait in a businessman, but it irritated the hell out of him.

“You know, Stan, when I had a daughter I knew there were certain things I was going to have to deal with. Texting. An obscene clothing budget,” Danny said, counting them off on his fingers as he drove. “A stroke-inducing cell phone bill regardless of the plan that I chose. But I’ll tell you, there is one thing that did not make the list.”

Danny paused, checked to see that Stan was still with him. “Carjacking. Carjacking did not make the list of things that I thought that I would encounter with my eight-year-old daughter, so I am going to ask you one time, what kind of trouble are you in?”

Stan had the gall to look ignorant. “This has nothing to do with me, Danny. I’m as shocked as you are.”

“Shut up. Shut up, okay? I want you to know something, normally I would just pull over and give you the worst beating you’ve ever had in your entire life until you told me the truth.”

And normally, Danny would, if not for the order given to him by Steve. Do not touch him. “But I am working,” Danny continued, “I am working on my anger management issues and I am learning conflict resolution, you understand? And I recognize something. I recognize although you are trying to hide it, you are very scared right now, as you should be, but I am going to give you the benefit of the doubt, and I am gonna remind you that because of you, people put guns near my daughter.”

Danny was proud of himself, his words were just as effective as any threatening gestures could be, and he didn’t feel that dull pounding in his head when he was straying too close to disobeying an order. It helped, also, that Stan looked properly cowed, now, as he spilled the details about the deal he’d tried to broker, the threats, the taped conversation. Danny couldn’t help the small, vindictive part of him that was pleased his suspicions had been confirmed, and that Stan had been somehow involved in this mess. That small satisfaction was short-lived, however. Stan wasn’t Bad News, as Danny had been hoping. He was just a good (boring, dull) person in the wrong situation, and in over his head. And much as Danny would love to expose his flaws, he knew he wouldn’t—couldn’t—do that. He had to do what was best for Grace, which meant, much as it pained him to admit, doing what was best for Rachel, too.

It was immensely satisfying to corner the housing commissioner, slap his badge against the man’s forehead, and strike the fear of Danny Williams into him. It made Danny feel like he actually had some measure of control over his life. Less satisfying was, later, watching Stan hugging Rachel and holding Grace’s hand. It left a bitter taste in his mouth, after all he’d been through that day.

Danny felt keyed up as he drove back to his apartment. He was on edge, and not just from everything that had happened. He needed, he needed…

You need anything, you call.

Danny had his phone in his had before he’d even finished the thought, pressing the speed dial for Steve.

Steve picked up on the first ring. “Danny? Is everything all right? How did things go?” He sounded better than he did before, but there was worry in his tone.

“It’s good, fine,” Danny said, “Everything’s fine. Look, are you home right now? I, ah, was wondering if I could stop by.”

“Yeah,” Steve said after the briefest of pauses, and Danny wondered if he was imagining the way Steve sounded almost relieved. “Yeah, I’m here, come on over. I just got back from the courthouse a few minutes ago.”

“That go okay?” Danny asked.

“Yeah, it did. I’ll tell you about it when you get here.”

Danny pulled into the driveway fifteen minutes later. He walked through the front door—unlocked, he was really going to have to talk to Steve about that—and into the living room. The water was running upstairs. Danny suppressed the mental images that threatened to spring to mind, of Steve showering, the long lines of his body slick and wet. Danny went to the kitchen, grabbing a beer for himself while he waited for Steve to come down.

He didn’t have to wait long. Steve appeared five minutes later, rubbing a towel over his head. He was dressed in a cotton tee shirt and drawstring pants. Not thinking about it, not thinking about it, Danny told himself fervently. Steve also seemed to have some stubborn greasy streaks on his face that even a shower hadn’t been enough to erase.

“Look at you,” Danny said, “What happened? You look like you brought the jungle home with you.”

Steve gave a self-conscious rub at his face, to no avail. “I’m still not convinced I didn’t,” he said, “Anyway, what’s up? What happened with Stan?”

Danny laughed, and he was surprised by how wrecked it sounded. “Well, you’ll be pleased to know, I didn’t touch him,” he said.

Steve, in the middle of trying to wipe his face again with the towel, froze. “Danny, what did you do to him?”

“Nothing! Well, I confronted him—verbally!” Danny said quickly, at Steve’s disbelieving face. “And I was right, he was involved. But it wasn’t his doing, he just got himself too deep in some trouble. I sorted it out.”

“You did that for him?” Steve asked, still wary.

“I did it for Grace,” Danny said, remembering the terrified look on the housing commissioner’s face. And he would do it again, in a heartbeat.

Steve frowned. “And…everything’s okay now?”

“Yes. No…I don’t know,” Danny admitted. His free hand raked through his hair, messing it up.

“What’s the matter, Danny?” Steve asked, shifting closer.

“I just—It’s never enough, is it? I always feel like I’m only half in control of myself, if that. I’m fighting, but it’s never enough,” Danny said. He was treading into dangerous territory here. Any second now Steve was going to ask for clarification.

“Danny…” Steve began.

“And, this afternoon, that just hit it home,” Danny said, interrupting wherever Steve was planning on taking that sentence. “Watching Stan and Rachel and Grace go back into that house together. That’s something I can’t have. Not that—I mean…Rachel and I have been better lately, yeah, but it’s over, long over. And anyway, that’s not what I want. I want…”

And Danny couldn’t even articulate it, for reasons that had nothing to do with his curse and everything to do with his own inability to talk about his feelings. It was the same feeling that had him on edge earlier, the same need that compelled him to call Steve. Danny looked up and…wow, Steve had moved closer. His arms reached out to bracket Danny’s shoulders, steadying him. Danny had never felt more off-kilter.

“I know, Danny,” Steve said, and for a wild moment Danny thought Steve was referring to his curse. “I get it, me too.”

Danny’s eyes locked with Steve’s. He couldn’t mean he wanted—wanted this? Danny found himself unconsciously leaning into Steve’s touch.

“Danny, I—” Steve hesitated. Steve never hesitated about anything. “Can I kiss you?”

Danny was so shocked that for a moment he could only stare. People never asked him things, they always just took, or demanded from him without any regard for his feelings. Even Steve, whose offhand orders given on the case Danny had grown accustomed to, because they were usually given with good reason. And here Steve was, asking him…and Danny realized he had yet to give Steve an answer.

“Yeah,” Danny said, and it came out almost a croak. “Yeah, you’d better.”

Relief flickered across Steve’s face, a flash of a grin, and then he was leaning in. Danny tilted his head up to meet him. It was tentative at first, a soft tease of pressure as they felt each other out, a scrape of stubble across jaws. Steve pulled back slightly, as if to assess Danny’s reaction. His eyes were wide and probing, and Danny was struck for a moment by how long his lashes looked from this close, in stark contrast against skin. When Danny made a low noise of protest at the absence, Steve moved back in.

Danny had given a lot of thought to this. Well, not to this specifically, but he had definitely spent enough time thinking about kissing Steve, about doing other things with Steve. He never would have guessed it would be like this, as Steve’s lips moved against his in a warm slide. He’d expected more of a hungry crashing of lips—and there was definitely the potential for that still, a barely contained energy in Steve’s bearing—but right now it was a careful, thorough exploration that filled Danny with a strange warmth in his chest.

Danny angled his head, offering better access. Steve let out a shaky breath, and Danny felt a brief moment of smugness, that he was the reason for that. His lips quirked in a smile against Steve’s. Danny didn’t know who sped things up first, but then they were moving, pressing into each other’s space as they kissed like they’d been starving for it. And Danny couldn’t speak for Steve, but he knew he had.

Danny groaned, and Steve used the opportunity to gain access with his tongue, moving against Danny’s in a warmwet slide. Danny grappled at Steve, one hand clutching at his waist, the other at the nape of Steve’s neck, pulling him closer. Danny’s fingers threaded into Steve’s hair, and Steve’s answering groan was heady and empowering.

Steve clutched tighter at Danny’s biceps. He kissed with a single-minded sort of determination that left Danny breathless, everything in his mind narrowed down to the feel of Steve’s lips against his. And Danny had always liked kissing well enough, yeah, but not since his high school days had he ever felt so keyed up just from that. Even more amazing was the way Steve seemed to feel the same way, if the surprised sounds coming from his throat were anything to go by.

And, thing is, Danny had had some experience being someone’s everything. Enough to recognize the way Steve kissed him, like nothing else mattered. And that—that frightened him, because he couldn’t be someone’s everything, when there would always be a part of him that wasn’t his own. When, any moment of any day, someone could force him to turn on those he lo— cared about.

Danny pulled back like he’d been punched in the gut. “I’m sorry. I can’t do this. I’m— I’m sorry.”

“Danny, wha-…?” And Steve didn’t get it. His expression was dazed and half-lidded as he reached out, and Danny wanted nothing more than to go back to kissing him, to see where that kissing would inevitably lead. He couldn’t though…he couldn’t.

“I’m sorry,” Danny repeated, stepping back and away from Steve as quickly as he was able. That got Steve’s attention.

“What’s the matter, Danny? Was it something—did I do something wrong?” There was worry in Steve’s voice, and he had his hands held up in a placating gesture, like a peace offering. It made Danny feel even worse.

“No, it’s not—” But Danny couldn’t say it. Couldn’t say it’s not you, it’s me. Because Danny couldn’t risk the questions that would follow, the possibility of Steve demanding an explanation. Because Steve deserved an explanation, but Danny knew he couldn’t give it.

“I just—I realized this was a mistake,” Danny said, though it was a physical ache in his chest to say it, because nothing had ever felt more right. He moved for the door.

“Wait.”

The uttered word was gravelly and soft, barely above a whisper. Danny froze in his tracks, held there by a single word. He turned his head slowly, looking back at Steve.

Anxiety and confusion lined Steve’s face. “Danny,” he began—pleaded—and his voice sounded wrecked and broken.

Steve,” Danny interrupted. He couldn’t let Steve finish wherever he was going with that thought. This was hard enough as it was. The words caught in Danny’s throat as he continued, “Please…let me go.”

Something strange flickered in Steve’s eyes for a moment before it was gone. Danny wasn’t even sure if it was there to begin with. Steve’s shoulders sagged in a defeated slump. “You can leave,” he said, voice resigned.

Danny felt the hold of his curse loosen, and he could move again. Thing was, he didn’t want to. He wanted to stay, wanted to tell Steve everything. Wanted Steve to know the reasons why this couldn’t work. Wanted to stay, and find a way for it to work anyway.

Steve had turned away, and Danny could no longer see his face. Probably a defense mechanism, as Danny could read every emotion on Steve’s face even when he was trying to hide it, and Steve knew it, too. Danny wouldn’t forget the look Steve had just given him, hurt and concern and betrayal written there plainly for him to see.

Danny swallowed past the lump that had risen in his throat, and left the house.

--

It hurt, pretending that nothing had happened. But Steve very tacitly didn’t bring up That Night, and Danny didn’t either. They still argued, they still bickered with one another. Occasionally they would even get in one another’s personal space, but then they would seem to realize where they were, what they were doing, and would back off.

When Hurricane Matty blew into town, Danny looked forward to the distraction. Matt hadn’t changed much, still the good-natured ribbing, the easy humor Danny was used to. Even Steve let go of some of his tension from the last couple weeks, laughing over dinner with them. Danny found himself unconsciously reaching for Steve, needing his touch as an anchor.

And then the ball had dropped. The federal officers told Danny and Steve about Matt’s impending indictment.

“If you hear anything about his travel plans, I’d appreciate it if you give us a call, okay?”

Danny took the proffered card, but he already knew he wouldn’t make the call. He hadn’t been ordered to do so.

And then they were gone, and Steve was standing there with him. Because in spite of all they had been through, Steve stood with him. And even though the evidence seemed damning, Steve wanted to believe Danny that Matt couldn’t have done this, and that counted for something. What, Danny wasn’t sure yet.

“Talk to him, take all the time you need,” Steve said.

Danny nodded, his mind thrumming at the order. Of course, since Steve had given him the luxury of time, he didn’t feel compelled to talk to his brother right away.

--

For one brief, harrowing moment, Danny thought Steve would do it, would give up Matty’s location to the Feds. Not out of any sort of vindictiveness, obviously (though Danny was sure he deserved it) but because, for all of Steve’s bending of rules, he took upholding the law very seriously. But then Steve had locked eyes with Danny, and Danny couldn’t quite say what had passed between them there, but a moment later Steve was lying, lying, to the Feds.

“Thank you,” Danny said once they’d gone.

Steve only nodded, his expression one of utter incredulity at what he’d just done…and Danny would dwell on what that meant, on the fact that Steve had lied to federal officers for him, later. Now, he had Matt to worry about.

Danny drove at speeds that would have made Steve proud, racing to get there. He arrived just in time to see Matt about to board the plane.

“Matty! Matty…Matthew Williams, hey!”

Matt turned slowly, the briefcase in his hand. “You gonna shoot me, Danny?”

“I should shoot you, you stupid son of bitch! Huh, laundering money for drug dealers, what the hell is the matter with you?” Danny’s hand on his gun was shaking, he was so angry.

“I had no choice,” Matt said, and Danny wanted to tell him to go fuck himself, because seriously. Danny knew what it was like, living every day with the threat that his free will might be taken from him at any moment. Danny knew what it was like to not have a choice.

“You did have a choice, you had a choice, I gave you a choice! I said I was gonna help you. I said I was gonna get you through this, didn’t I?”

“It’s not that simple, Danny, this isn’t you beating up cousin Jimmy because he stole my bike.”

“Matt, listen to me, you are gonna turn yourself in. You are gonna turn yourself in!”

“And go to Federal prison? I’d never survive, Danny, I’m not strong enough. I’m not you!”

Danny didn’t want to think about what that meant, that Matt thought he was the strong one. If anything, his curse had made him stronger, but Danny didn’t feel like he was anything to aspire to. He continued reasoning with Matt, “What the hell is the matter with you? Huh, what’d you do? You went through with it? What is that, getaway money?”

“It wasn’t supposed to be a getaway, Danny, I was trying to-…I was trying to fix things.”

“Trying to fix things? So what’re you going to do? Huh? You’re just going to run away? You’re going to fly off and forget about us? Huh, is that your plan? Hey, I’m asking you a question! What about mom and dad, huh, what about Grace? We’re your family, Matty.”

Matt leveled a stare at Danny, filled with resolve and regret. “This ends one of two ways, big brother, you either shoot me, or you say goodbye.”

Danny’s breath hitched, and it felt like something had taken an icy-cold grip on the inside of his chest. Matt couldn’t mean…

“Shoot me or say goodbye, Danny,” Matt repeated, placing just the right emphasis on the words so that his curse couldn’t help but respond.

Danny felt sweat break out along his brow as he tried to resist the pull, tried to fight it.

No,” Danny grated out, though it was a futile effort. His finger trembled towards the trigger with every moment he didn’t say it. Goodbye. He couldn’t, couldn’t…couldn’t not. “Please, Matty, don’t make me…”

“I’m not making you do anything, Danny,” Matt said, and his voice was pained, “Except choose.”

Danny choked back a sob that was threatening to escape. For a wild moment, he entertained the possibility of shooting Matt somewhere non-vital, like an arm or leg. Even as the thought occurred to him, however, he knew he wouldn’t risk it. His hand was trembling so much from resisting the command, there was too great a chance of his bullet going awry, hitting something like the femoral artery. And even if he succeeded in incapacitating Matt and nothing more, he would have to live with that, look his brother in the eye after having shot him.

The pressure in Danny’s head was mounting, becoming unbearable. There were tears in his eyes, and he blinked them back. With a mighty effort, he lowered his gun.

“Goodbye,” Danny whispered. It was a struggle to say it, like he was swallowing past hot coals and broken glass just to get the word out.

Matt nodded once, and turned to board the plane. And then he was gone. Gone. And Danny had lost him, Danny had let him go. And it—it had been Danny’s decision.

Danny needed to talk to someone. Someone who would understand what he was going through. He didn’t realize until five minutes after getting in the car that he was headed to Rachel’s.

Rachel sensed something was wrong the moment she saw him.

“Danny…what’s happened?”

“He’s gone…Matty’s gone. I lost him.” I let him go.

Rachel’s sympathy mirrored his own pain, and she embraced him. It wasn’t enough, though. It wasn’t what Danny needed.

After a moment, Rachel guided Danny inside. She directed him to the kitchen, where she gestured at one of the stools, and filled a kettle with water for the stove.

“All right,” she said, “Will you tell me what happened?”

Danny nodded. He told her everything, from confronting Matt, getting him to agree to go back to Jersey, up to finding out what the Feds had revealed. At some point, Rachel put a hot cup of tea in front of him.

“And then, once I’d caught up with him, he told me—” Here Danny hesitated, the memory still fresh and painful. He tried again, “He told me I had to either shoot him or say goodbye, He—he ordered it.”

Rachel let out a breath next to him. “Oh, Danny, I’m so sorry. You…you didn’t?”

Danny shook his head. “I couldn’t…couldn’t shoot him. I let him go. But Rach…he’s gone now. He’s gone, and on the run, and it’s all my fault.”

“Daniel Ethan Williams,” Rachel said, voice stern, “It most certainly is not your fault. It is no one’s fault but Matthew’s. He is the one who was engaging in illegal activity, he is the one who got indicted and didn’t own up to his mistakes, and he is the one who ran. He’s also the one who forced you into, quite frankly, an impossible and horrible situation, where no matter what choice you made you would still feel the guilt of it. It is not your fault.”

Rachel was quite adamant, and Danny knew she wouldn’t listen to his protestations on the matter. He felt the lump in his throat rising again, threatening to overwhelm him, and he took a gulp of tea to distract himself from it. It burned the back of this mouth and felt good.

They didn’t say anything for several minutes, though Rachel rested a hand on his shoulder. It was comforting, but it wasn’t enough. Neither of them talked about the last time Rachel had given him an order he didn’t want to carry out, though they were both thinking about it. Matty had been there for him then and now…now Rachel was here. Danny laughed, and it had an edge of hysteria. It wasn’t funny, it really wasn’t, but he couldn’t do anything else, given the situation.

Rachel stood suddenly, crossed the room, and grabbed the cordless phone from the cradle. She held it out, a severe expression on her face.

“What’s that for?” Danny asked.

“You,” Rachel said, “You should call your parents. I would, I’d love to give them a piece of my mind, but it’s not my place.”

“And you want me to instead?” Danny asked. They were his parents, he couldn’t…

“I think you need to talk to them, yes. And you ought to call them anyway. They need to know what’s happened to Matt, and you’re the best person to break that news to them. Would you rather they hear the news from the police?”

Danny shook his head. The phone rested in his palm. How would he tell them?

“Danny,” Rachel said, sighing, “I know this is difficult. And I’m not going to make you do anything. But I do think there are some things they need to hear from you, and some things they ought to hear from you. You can take as much time as you need.”

Danny was reminded suddenly of Steve’s, take all the time you need. It occurred to him then, he didn’t know what had happened to Steve after the Feds had left, and presumably their trail had gone cold. Danny pulled out his cell phone, and saw that there was a missed call there, from Steve. He needed to talk to Steve as well, but that would have to wait a bit. He shot off a quick text, lost Matty. talk to you about it later, before putting his cell phone away.

When Danny looked up, Rachel was moving across the kitchen. “Wait, where are you going?” Danny asked.

“I just thought I’d encourage you to call by giving you a little space,” she said, “It’s only 8 pm there. Prefect time for calling.”

Rachel went out into the living room, leaving Danny with the phone. Much as he hated to admit it, she was right. His parents needed to know about Matty, and it was better they heard it from him than from a stranger. But more than that, this talk with them had been a long time coming. He was upset—devastated—over Matty, but more than that, he was angry. Angry that he had been put in that position, angry that he had been forced to choose. And maybe the situation would have been the same regardless of his curse, but damn it, Danny ought to be able to make that decision himself. It might make dealing with the fallout that much easier.

His mind was made up. He dialed the number. After several rings it picked up, his mom’s familiar voice on the other end of the line. “Hello?”

“Mom? It’s Danny.”

“Danny! It’s been a while.” And Danny could tell his mom was about to launch into small talk of you should visit sometime and we miss you and how’s the weather there, and he wasn’t prepared to deflect all that.

“Yeah, ma, it has. But look, that’s…not why I called.”

There was a hesitation over the line. “Is everything all right?”

Danny’s chest felt tight as he said, “No. No, it isn’t.”

--

An hour later, Danny’s head felt like it was going to split open. He’d told both his parents. There had been some denials, some anger, some sobbing. Danny was just waiting for someone to place the blame on him. Why did you leave your brother alone? Why did you let him get away? Though Danny knew such accusations were undeserved, part of him wanted to hear them.

His mom had gotten off the line some time ago, to call and inform other family members of what had happened. Danny was left on the phone with his father.

“So…” his dad said. As far as ‘things we don’t want to talk about’ conversations went, this was an auspicious segue.

“So,” Danny said. There was a lot he still wanted to talk about, but thanks to several different orders he had to wait for his dad to bring it up first.

“There’s still something you aren’t telling us.” It was true. Danny had intentionally left off Matt’s command, partly to spare his mom dealing with that information, and because he knew his father would pick up on the omission. And this was a conversation they, the two of them, needed to have.

“Such as?”

“I can tell when you’re upset. It’s more than that—you’re angry. Now, you wanna tell me what really happened?”

It was like the last thirty years meant nothing, and Danny was a kid again. It was at once reassuringly familiar and infuriating. Danny was leaning more towards the latter.

“Matty broke your first rule, dad. I caught up with him, could have brought him in, but he told me—he said to either shoot him or let him go. He ordered it.”

There was a long, horrible silence over the phone, while Danny let that information sink in.

“I’m sorry, son.” His father sounded ashamed. Good. “I never…I didn’t think—”

“No, you didn’t,” Danny interrupted. “You thought that by giving me that order all those years ago, not to tell anyone about it, that you were protecting me. That somehow, I would be safe from being taken advantage of. Well, I’ve got news for you on that front, my own brother used my curse against me. Meanwhile, the people you wanted to protect me from, most of them have already guessed. My partner when I was still in Hoboken, Rachel, two of my team members here, they all know, and it doesn’t change a thing. And yeah, there have been slip-ups on occasion, but none of them would ever intentionally make me do something I didn’t want.”

“Other people might,” his father said, echoing an old argument.

“Yeah, I know that,” Danny said. He had to live with that possibility every day, “But you know what? I wouldn’t tell them. I would, however, like the freedom to tell whomever I choose about my curse. I would like to tell people I trust about it. You know I’m a good judge of character. That way I know someone has my back, if I ever am caught off-guard.”

“I was only trying to protect you, when I gave that order.”

“I know you were…but I’m a grown man, I can make my own decisions, I can make my own mistakes.” Except when I’m ordered not to, Danny thought but didn’t say. “Look, dad. If you care at all about my own free will, you’ll take the order back.”

Danny wondered if he had pushed his luck too far. There was silence over the line, and then, finally, his father said, “Okay…yes, I take it back.”

“You have to phrase it like an order, for it to work,” Danny pointed out. That was the only way he could be released from this particular command, or Rachel’s “tell me” would have worked all those years ago.

“Danny…tell people about your curse at your own discretion,” his father said, with finality.

Danny gave a sigh of something like relief. He could tell people, he could talk about it. He could tell Steve.

“Thank you,” Danny said, realizing belatedly that it was the first time his father had ever acknowledged it as a curse.

“I’m sorry, Danny,” his father said suddenly.

“About Matty?”

“About everything. I’m sorry about what you’ve had to go through. Your mother and I…we didn’t mean for any of this to happen.”

Danny’s breath caught in his chest. His father couldn’t be talking about the circumstances surrounding the curse, could he? Danny had resigned himself years ago to the fact that he might never know, when his parents had ordered him to stop asking about it. Even now, that order prevented him from prompting further; he could only listen, and see how much his father divulged.

“This is going to sound completely impossible…”

More impossible than an obedience curse? Danny wondered.

“I don’t know if you realize this, but there are things in this world…beyond our comprehension. Old things. Well, I don’t know why I’m telling you this, I never believed any of it. But your mom did. Did you know she was infertile? Doctors said she would never have kids…”

He trailed off, but Danny could put the rest together himself. He was the oldest of four, and also the only one under a curse.

“Let me guess,” Danny said. A guess, after all, wasn’t asking questions. “There was a deal of some sort. You reneged, and I was punished for it.”

“Something like that, yeah, but you have to know, Danny, we never wanted—we never meant for it to happen this way,” his father implored, his tone apologetic.

“I know,” Danny said. Just like he knew what his parents really wanted was forgiveness. Danny didn’t know if he could give it, not right now, at least. This was his entire life, after all. “Can I ask one thing?”

“Yes.”

“Can I ever be rid of it?” Danny asked, quelling the lump rising in his throat at the possibility of hope.

“I don’t know.” Danny could hear the pain in his father’s voice as he said it.

Danny had wondered for so long about it, he almost didn’t know what he had been expecting. But, in truth, the story behind his curse didn’t matter so much as the actuality of it. Regardless of how it had come about, he still had to live with it. At least now he had the option of divulging information about it.

With a sudden rush of clarity, Danny realized that what he wanted at that moment, more than anything, was to tell Steve. Certainly, there were ways he could have told Steve sooner, via Rachel or Chin or Kono as proxy, but there was something about knowing that Steve would be the first person he ever told about his curse. Danny liked that idea.

“Look…I’ve, uh, gotta go right now,” Danny said, “It’s getting really late here, and I just realized there’s something I need to do.”

“Yeah, okay, sure…Look, Danny, I’m—”

“I know, dad. I do. But don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine.”

“You can’t know that,” his dad pointed out.

“Can any of us know that? But really, I’m better than I’ve ever been. You should meet the people watching my back.” Danny felt a swell of pride just thinking about them. He trusted them, all of them.

“I feel a little better, knowing that,” his dad said, “We worry about you, your mother and I. Just, well…I won’t say ‘be careful,’ but you know what I mean.”

“Thank you,” Danny said, both for his father catching himself and for the intent behind the message. “I’ll call again when I’m able.”

Danny ended the call. His half-finished tea had grown cold. Rachel walked back in as he got up to rinse the cup.

“Don’t pretend you weren’t trying to follow the conversation,” he said mock-accusingly.

“My hearing isn’t quite that good, I just came in to see how you’re doing. Judging by your tone, I’d say better?”

“Getting there.”

When Danny didn’t offer any more information, Rachel surveyed him with a searching expression.

“Danny…” she began, “I’m aware I may be overstepping my bounds, saying this. Of course, you are always welcome to come here when you need someone to talk to. But…I have a feeling I’m not the person you want to be talking to.”

Danny could only nod. Once again, Rachel had gotten right to the heart of the matter.

“I know it isn’t my place, but if you want me to tell Steve for you…”

“Chin already offered,” Danny said.

“What’s stopping you from taking him up on that? I mean, I know you go on your rants about Steve all the time, but that’s how you express affection even under the best of circumstances. You trust him, don’t you?”

“With my life,” Danny said, a little surprised by his own earnestness. True, for all he railed against Steve’s methods, and would continue to do so, he knew Steve would see him through any situation. The man had lied to federal officers for him. “I don’t need anyone to tell Steve for me, though. I can do it myself.”

Rachel’s face was quizzical. “But, I thought you couldn’t.”

“I couldn’t tell anyone about my curse because my father, years ago, ordered me not to. I convinced him to take it back.”

“And now?”

“Now…I’m going to tell Steve,” Danny said. The knowledge that he was going to do this, really do it, filled him with a nervous sort of energy.

Rachel smiled. “I think that’s a good idea. I’m truly happy that your talk with your parents went well.”

“Yeah, now I just gotta hope that this next talk goes half as well,” Danny said, giving a weak smile. He hadn’t forgotten a couple weeks ago, how he had left that encounter between them, and in spite of their public behavior to the contrary, he knew Steve hadn’t either.

Danny made his way to the door. Though he knew Rachel would allow him to stay if he needed, he felt his welcome overstayed. “Thanks, Rachel, for everything,” he said, “You know, it’s funny…that story you always told Grace, about my curse? Turns out you weren’t far off the mark.”

Danny left Rachel looking confused and more than a little surprised. There was no harm in letting her mull over that for a bit. And Danny didn’t know how much longer he could remain when all he wanted right now was to be near Steve.

How he got there without speeding, Danny didn’t know. The house was completely dark when he arrived. A glance at the LED clock revealed it was 4 am. Any normal person would be asleep. Steve too, apparently, though he was far from normal.

Danny entered the security code Steve had given him several weeks back. The house wasn’t just quiet, it was empty; Steve wasn’t here. Danny allowed himself ten seconds to panic and wonder who might have gotten to Steve, before calming himself. Steve had probably just gone back to their headquarters, and had lost track of how late it was. It wouldn’t be the first time.

Danny pulled out his cell phone and pressed the first speed dial. It took a while, but Steve finally picked up, sounding sleepy.

“Danny? Where are you?”

“I’m at your house, you goof,” Danny said, unable to stop the grin tugging at the corners of his mouth at the thought of groggy Steve. “You know, where you ought to be right now. Where are you?”

There were sounds of fumbling over the line. “I’ll be there soon,” Steve said, “Wait for me?”

And then he hung up. It was one of the gray areas of the curse, when a sentence was phrased like an order but the question mark was clearly implied. Of course, Danny had no intention of leaving, so it didn’t matter either way. He kicked off his shoes and settled down to wait.

When Steve arrived, Danny had already begun to doze off on the couch. He started awake at the sound of the door opening, in time to see Steve, looking as exhausted as Danny felt, setting down an unopened six-pack of beer.

Suddenly, it clicked for Danny, where Steve had been. His own words echoing back in his mind, ”My brother, every single night, he would come over with a six-pack of beer and all the time in the world.”

“Really?” Danny asked, gesturing at the beer. It wasn’t accusatory, more bemusement at Steve’s behavior. “How long were you waiting for me?”

“Uh…four hours or so? I lost track of time.” Steve looked defensive. “I…uh, might’ve picked your lock. By the way, the security at your apartment could use some work, anyone could break in.”

“No one would want to break in except for crazy ex-SEALs who don’t know how to drop a call before visiting,” Danny pointed out.

“Technically, I did call,” Steve said, “You just didn’t pick up. And then you texted me.”

Danny wanted to ask Steve why. Why he would wait four hours with beer in Danny’s rundown apartment. Why he didn’t question the fact that Danny was at his house now. But, it occurred to Danny, he already knew the answer. The answer was in everything Steve did, from his offer to drive Danny and Matt to the airport, to his lying to the Feds.

It was this thing between them, somewhat strained since Danny had left Steve’s house those weeks ago, out of fear and something else he hadn’t been ready to admit. He was tired of running from it.

Steve was still standing by the door, looking somewhat sheepish and just the slightest bit uncomfortable, as if he wasn’t prepared to deal with the reality of Danny being in his house again. And that was a shame, Danny didn’t want to be the cause of that, which was the only reason he could explain for why he crossed the room in as few strides as he could manage, until he was right up in Steve’s personal space.

“Danny, wha—?” Steve said, startled, as Danny reached hands toward his wrists, gripping the pulse points there.

“I’m sorry…about what happened last time I was here. I didn’t—” Danny hesitated, “I didn’t mean to hurt you. It isn’t what I wanted, but I couldn’t tell you why at the time.”

If Steve looked uneasy before, he was even more so now. He went rigid, tense with indecision, as if he was contemplating turning and running. Danny couldn’t have that. He remembered the way Steve had looked at him then, the way he had seemed betrayed, and Danny felt awful for this secrecy. He wanted to put it to rights, now.

“This is about your secret, isn’t it?” Steve asked slowly. “The thing you’ve been keeping from everyone?”

Danny could only gape for several long moments. “You know?” he finally managed to stammer out.

“I know there’s something you haven’t been telling me, Danny,” Steve said, and there was a trace of hurt in his tone. “I’m your partner, it’s my job to know what’s going on with you. But I figured you would tell me on your own time.”

Danny threw his hands up. “Okay, first of all? This was not an entirely intentional thing. But clearly, I need to start at the beginning. Which I am not going to do right here by your door. So grab those beers, put them on ice, and let us move someplace we can talk.”

Part of what helped Danny deal with his curse was whenever he gave direction to others, he expected compliance, or at least adopted a tone that suggested as much. It worked, a surprising amount of the time, as Steve moved towards the kitchen with the six-pack. He returned a moment later with a pair of chilled beers from the fridge, and gestured towards the couch. It was as good a place as any, and Danny sat down.

“So, the beginning?” Steve prompted, as he twisted the tops off the beers and offered one to Danny.

“Yeah,” Danny said, and why did he have fucking butterflies, now that he was finally able to talk about it? The beginning, he realized, might not be the best approach, seeing as he’d only just learned it—what?—two hours ago? Best to start with what was easiest, what he knew.

“Okay, first of all,” Danny began, “You say you’ve suspected I wasn’t telling you something. How much have you guessed?”

Steve shrugged. “I know you don’t like it when I give you orders. At first, I thought it was because you didn’t like me, but you get irritable when other people do the same thing. I mean…I’ve been trying lately, not to do it as much.”

Danny nodded. “You’re on the right track. I’m cursed.”

Steve’s brow furrowed. “Excuse me?”

“I’m cursed. With obedience. Any order, any command, that isn’t phrased as a request or question, I have to carry it out. I am incapable of disobeying.”

Through his confession, Danny watched Steve’s face carefully. Steve seemed intent—wary, perhaps—on what Danny was saying. There was no small amount of skepticism there, though not outright disbelief. That was something.

“I don’t know, Danny,” Steve said slowly. “That seems…”

“I know how it seems. But look at me, Steve, trust me. Think back, all the orders you give me, have I ever once disobeyed any of them?”

Steve looked thoughtful, features drawn together in concentration as he presumably looked back on all their cases, the time spent together off jobs, the first time they met. “But…you always bitch and complain.”

“Yeah, I do, because nine times out of ten, I’m being forced to do something I don’t want to. The curse only requires that I be obedient, it doesn’t make me subservient.”

Steve stood suddenly, paced a moment, before sitting back down. His beer rested forgotten on the table. Danny took a drink of his own bottle.

“Okay, that’s—” Steve began, “I’m not saying I fully understand, or that I believe it.” His tone spoke otherwise, Danny could tell. Steve’s gut had already accepted the truth, even if his brain was taking some time in catching up. “But if what you’re saying is true, then you should have told me, Danny. This is…you could have been hurt.”

“Okay, back up there,” Danny said, getting a bit angry now, “Did you miss the part where I said I wanted to tell you, but that I couldn’t? And, for the record, where do you get off telling me what I should or shouldn’t have done? I’ve lived with this my entire life, and the times it’s most difficult are the times when people try telling me what to do about it.”

Steve held out a placating hand. “Danny, I’m sorry. I—I didn’t mean it like that. It’s just…I give you orders all the time. How can you not…hate me for it?”

And, god, that’s what had Steve so upset? The idea that Danny could be compartmentalizing this hatred towards him over the orders thing?

“You’re an idiot sometimes, you know that? You didn’t know,” Danny said, giving Steve’s hand a reassuring squeeze.

“But, Danny, I…what if I had made you do something you didn’t want? You said yourself, you were forced.”

Danny winced. Okay, maybe that hadn’t been the best choice of words in reference to the orders Steve gave.

“Steven, stop it right now with the self-loathing. You never used my curse against me. You want to know how Matt got away?”

Steve looked confused at the sudden change of subject. “You said you lost him.”

“Yeah, I did. Want to know how? Matt knew about the curse; he’s my brother, how could he not? When I tracked him to the airfield, you know what he did? He said ‘shoot me or say goodbye.’ I had to pick one, the curse wouldn’t let me do otherwise, and Matt knew that. He knew it, and he forced me to choose.”

Steve’s breath hitched. “You didn’t…?”

“Shoot him? No. I couldn’t. But my point is, Steve, that my brother took advantage of my curse, he used it against me. And I know…I know you would never do that.”

Steve was silent for a moment, taking that all in. Finally, he spoke, “You said…about that day, that you wanted to tell me about your curse, but you couldn’t…why?”

“What I said before, about people telling me what to do about my curse? When I was a kid, my dad gave me an order to never tell anyone about it,” Danny explained. “Tonight, I talked to him on the phone, and he took it back.”

“But that didn’t stop people from finding out?”

“Some people did, yeah,” Danny said, not wanting to make an issue of it. “Rachel did, when I was married to her.”

A beat, then Steve asked, “Do Kono and Chin know?”

Danny hesitated before answering, “Yes, they do.”

“I should have guessed, too,” Steve said, sullen. “I mean, I suppose part of me did guess—I noticed you always obeyed orders, and that you didn’t seem to like it when I gave them—but I never put it together.”

“Look, Steve, I don’t blame you for not knowing. It’s not any fault of yours,” Danny said quickly. Steve was already blaming himself for every order he had ever given Danny, apparently; he didn’t need to blame himself for this as well. Danny continued, “You’re military, you’re a SEAL, you’re used to giving orders, and you’re used to them being obeyed. There is nothing wrong with that. I am not blaming you.”

Steve didn’t say anything, and Danny added, “Besides, I asked them not to tell you.”

Steve looked up suddenly, hurt flashing in his eyes. “Why not?”

“Because, at the time, I was worried you might…consider me a liability. On cases.”

“Had I known, I might have taken extra safety measures,” Steve said.

“That’s just the thing, though – much as I appreciate the gesture, I don’t want to be treated differently. I never wanted that. And I didn’t want Five-0 taken from me.”

“I wouldn’t let that happen,” Steve said, defensive. “You’re my partner, and you’re a part of this team. Things wouldn’t be the same without you.”

“Good to know I’m irreplaceable,” Danny said, smiling.

Neither of them said anything for a moment. It was a companionable, if somewhat awkward, silence.

“Danny,” Steve said hesitantly, “I’m—”

“Steven J. McGarrett, if you apologize again, so help me, I will punch you in the face.”

Steve’s mouth snapped shut. He held a hand up. “Okay, okay…not apologizing. But I have a question. That night, when we…when we kissed. You backed off, said it was a mistake. Can I ask what you meant by that?”

Danny tensed at the reminder. “Think about my curse, Steve, think about what it means,” Danny said, voice quiet, “I wasn’t worried about you turning it against me, but rather, if someone else were to use it against me to get to you, or to get to Five-0, or Grace.”

Steve nodded, expression guarded and somber. Danny could tell he was thinking about Hesse, about his father’s murder. About Chin, with that bomb strapped to his neck. Steve understood what that was like, better than most.

“But, Danny,” Steve said, hesitant. “I’m not saying I disagree with you or your reasons. But…you say you’ve lived with this your whole life? If someone were to use it against you, would you and I—” he gestured between them, “Would that, would us—make a difference?”

Danny considered it. In truth, anyone in theory could use his closeness with Grace or Five-0 to their advantage. It would be the last thing they ever did, but it was a possibility. A relationship with Steve wouldn’t change that either way. Plus, he reasoned with himself, was it fair to deny himself this out of fear, all because of a possibility that something bad might happen?

“No, it wouldn’t,” Danny said.

“Okay…so,” Steve began slowly, “Just checking…it wasn’t the actual kiss you were objecting to, was it?”

Danny’s pulse quickened, and he shook his head. It was too much to hope…

Steve gave a careful smile, leaning close until Danny could feel the heat radiating off his body.

“Can I?” was all he said.

“Oh, god, yes,” Danny groaned, gripping at Steve’s shoulders and pulling him close until they met in a hungry clash of lips and teeth, noses and jawlines and stubble.

The past few weeks were a blur in Danny’s mind. They were making up for lost time now. Danny tried not to think about the missed time or opportunities, focusing instead on the feel of Steve’s mouth against his. On all the things he wanted to do with Steve.

Danny pulled back, breathless. “Let’s move this upstairs, babe, yeah?”

Steve’s response was a growl of affirmation, and then he was tugging Danny, pulling him up from the couch and manhandling him towards the stairs. Danny offered no resistance, though their progress was briefly halted halfway up the stairs when he ground the heel of his palm against Steve’s hard-on through his cargo pants.

Finally, they made it to the bedroom. Danny’s tie was loosened, though it still hung around his neck. About half of the buttons on his shirt were undone, and he was working on tugging at Steve’s shirt.

“Wait—Danny,” Steve gasped.

Danny froze, hands halted in their movement. Steve stiffened, his face mortified.

Shit, Danny, I’m sorry. I meant—could you wait a sec?”

Danny nodded. He was used to slip ups, and he wasn’t upset, partly because Steve had corrected himself immediately, and because Danny had stopped being annoyed by Steve’s orders ages ago.

“I can’t—I don’t want—” Steve said haltingly. Danny’s heart hammered in his chest. Had Steve changed his mind? Steve tried again, “I don’t want to fuck this up. I don’t want to make mistakes, and I will, I’m sure I will.”

Steve looked so worried, clearly shaken by his gaffe and seeing Danny’s curse “in action” for the first time. Well, the first time when he actually had knowledge of it. Danny reached out to reassure him, and Steve’s eyes settled on the hollow of his throat.

“Would you gag me?” Steve asked suddenly.

“Excuse me?”

“I’m serious,” Steve said, voice fervent, as he pulled the loop of the tie over Danny’s head and held it out. “If you gag me, I won’t be able to accidentally order you. I wouldn’t make you—” He trailed off. “You would be in charge.”

That wasn’t entirely true, Danny mused. Steve still had his training that gave him the upper hand against most. Still, the proposition was an intriguing one, and it would certainly level the playing field a bit.

“You really want that?” Danny asked.

Steve nodded, and Danny kissed him, swift and deep. The gag would soon make that impossible. Steve looked the tie so it rested across his mouth, pressing on his tongue. Danny helped make sure it was secure, and that Steve wasn’t in any danger of choking himself.

“You’re something else, you know that?” Danny said, needing to fill the voice with words, even if Steve couldn’t respond. His tone wasn’t mocking, more of amazement. “Ever since the moment I met you, you’ve been infuriating, impossible at times to deal with, but I’ve never wanted anyone more.”

Steve let out an unintelligible, muffled noise through the gag, his eyes wide and dark from arousal. It was a heady feeling, having the weight of Steve’s gaze on him, as Danny made quick work of his remaining shirt buttons. Steve made things easier by removing his own shirt in the meantime.

Something wasn’t quite right. Danny felt as though something was going against the grain in his mind, and he tried to tell himself it had nothing to do with the way Steve couldn’t say anything. This was good. This evened out the imbalance between them; it gave Danny the advantage. He should be happy about that. Danny distracted himself with the sight of Steve’s tattoos spread out before him. He traced one of the shoulder tattoos, then pressed a hand to the hair on Steve’s chest, pushing him back until he was seated on the bed.

“Can’t tell you how long I’ve wanted this,” Danny murmured, mostly to fill the silence as Steve fumbled with the button and zipper on Danny’s pants. “Probably couldn’t tell you why either, even if you told me to.”

Something flickered in Steve’s eyes, but it was gone too quickly for Danny to identify. That was another thing about the gag, it made it harder to identify Steve’s faces.

“You’re just so…god, I don’t even know,” Danny said, as Steve began slowly jacking Danny’s cock in his callused palm. Danny groaned, fumbling to reciprocate and getting caught up in Steve’s cargo pants. He wanted…he wanted…

“Wait, Steve, stop,” Danny said suddenly. Steve did. “I can’t do this. Not—not like this.”

He pulled at the gag, fingers slipping where the material was soaked through with sweat and spit. Steve looked confused and concerned, but he assisted until the tie was loose once more.

“What is it?” Steve asked, voice hoarse.

“It’s not the same. I want to hear you.”

Steve’s brows furrowed, tight with worry. “But, Danny,” he protested, “What if I…I mess this up?”

“Haven’t you been paying attention?” Danny breathed, running light fingertips across Steve’s jaw. “It’s you I want. You, as you are. I stopped being annoyed by your orders a long time ago.”

“But…how could you…?”

“Oh, you really are a moron sometimes, aren’t you? Do I need to put it in more explicit terms? You can give me orders sometimes, it’s okay. And—” Danny swallowed. This next bit was more difficult to admit. “I might even…like that.”

There, he’d said it. While part of him felt like he ought to be ashamed, he was past the point of caring. Besides, hadn’t this night been all about honesty? Steve watched him with a careful wariness, but he didn’t seem disgusted by the admission, and that was something.

“What if I ordered something you didn’t want to do?”

Danny sighed. “Then I would tell you I didn’t want to do it, and you would take it back. I am allowed to voice my objections. It isn’t an automatic thing, I do have time to resist. You just need to get it out of your head that you’re going to accidentally, I don’t know, tell me to cut off my own head or something. Now, think we can do this?” His erection had died down, and he really wanted to get back to stripping them both naked.

“Okay,” Steve said, nodding. “Okay, yeah. But, Danny…I’m serious about this, I don’t want you going along with stuff just to spare my feelings or whatever. If I give you an order that makes you uncomfortable, tell me.”

The last two words carried weight, but that didn’t matter, Danny already knew he would listen to them if the need arose. He nodded.

Steve smiled, and then said in a tentative tone, “Kiss me.”

Danny was all too happy to comply, more than ready at this point to get back to doing things. He sighed into Steve’s mouth, and Steve made a contented noise as he gripped Danny’s biceps and shifted them so Danny was the one on the bed. He was still being cautious, though, and Danny wanted more.

Steve pulled back for a moment. “Touch yourself,” he said. The order was mild, and Danny could see the implied question in Steve’s eyes.

Danny quirked an amused eyebrow, and brought a hand to his face to touch his nose. “I appreciate you wanting to be careful, but I am not a delicate flower, Steven,” he said, baiting.

That did it. Steve’s eyes took on a dangerous edge, pupils going dark and wide. Danny felt his pulse quicken in anticipation.

“Put your hand on your cock, Danny,” Steve all but growled.

Yes. Danny’s body ached as his curse responded to the command, thrumming with need and desire and want to comply. It felt like all his blood had gone immediately south, and he reached to where his trousers and boxers has been shoved down, giving his cock a long, slow pull.

Danny didn’t know if it was because Steve had ordered him to, and he was obeying, or if it was just the effect of having Steve’s eyes on him while he touched himself, but it had never felt so good. Danny groaned, letting his head fall back on the bed as he thrust up into his fist.

“Look at me,” Steve said, voice sounding hoarse. Danny angled his head up until his eyes met Steve’s again. Steve looked as wrecked as Danny felt, as he drank in the sight of Danny. Danny’s hips stuttered under the intensity of that gaze, his cock leaking precome, the movement of his hand eased by the slickness.

God, Danny, you’re amazing…trusting me like this,” Steve breathed.

And Danny did, he realized. He trusted Steve, not just with his safety, his well-being, with his secret, but with his life.

“Wanted…this,” Danny gasped, “Thought about it…all the time.”

Steve arched an eyebrow. “Oh? What did you think about? Tell me, Danny.”

Danny groaned, hips arcing off the bed as he gripped his cock tighter. “Fuck, I—” He hesitated. There was a twinge at the back of his mind, his curse compelling him to continue. “I thought about you…telling me to fuck you. Telling me to go harder, faster…Thought about you telling me to suck you off.”

Steve let out a breath. He pressed the heel of his palm hard to his own erection, still mostly trapped by the confines of his cargo pants. And then he was moving, crawling onto the bed and up Danny’s body. He lightly smacked Danny’s hand away from his cock with a murmured, “stop,” and then he was gripping both of Danny’s wrists and pressing them above his head on the bed as he kissed Danny thoroughly. Danny gave back as good as he got, nipping at Steve’s lower lip as he bucked his hips upwards, seeking friction.

Steve pulled back after a moment, lifting his head just out of reach and looking down at Danny with a mixture of desire, awe, and something inexplicably Steve. “Stay,” he said, squeezing Danny’s wrists for emphasis.

Danny shivered, both at the order and at the way Steve was now traveling down his body, nipping and sucking at skin as he went. He bypassed Danny’s cock entirely, instead focusing on the remainder of Danny’s clothes, tugging at the pants and boxers until they were off. He disappeared for a moment, and Danny angled his head slightly until he could see Steve shucking his cargo pants. Then he was back, and Danny reveled at the feel of naked skin on skin. Steve’s cock dragged along his leg, leaving a slick trail there.

It was the strangest sensation. Danny knew, on a distant level, that he could try to move his arms, knew that excruciating pain would follow if he tried. That knowledge didn’t upset him in the slightest, the way it would in any other situation, and in fact the compulsion to remain where he was held him in place more effectively than any bondage could do. The awareness that he was doing this, doing this because Steve ordered it, filled him with a strange sort of pleasure that he’d never gotten from his curse before. The closest he’d ever come to this was that one night—had it only been a couple months ago?—when Steve had told him to relax. That was what this felt like, giving himself over completely, embracing this part of him and trusting in Steve to see him through.

Being told to look at Steve meant that Danny didn’t miss any of what was going on in Steve’s head. He had always been easy to read, and never more so than now, the look on his face one of fierce protectiveness as his eyes traveled down Danny’s body.

Steve nudged at Danny’s hips, encouraging them wider, before settling himself between them. He gripped at Danny’s cock, giving it an experimental tug. At Danny’s encouraging noise, Steve continued, sliding his lips over the head as he stroked Danny further.

“Oh, fuck,” Danny uttered. He made small thrusting motions with his hips, apparently within the bounds of the “stay” directive, as there was no retaliatory discomfort that came when he tried to disobey. Danny was on edge; he had never been this keyed up before from the simple tease of a blowjob—he didn’t think he would last long.

As if sensing this, Steve pulled back. His lips were indecent-looking, and his tongue darted out to chase the slickness there. “Don’t come yet,” he said, warned.

Danny whined low in his throat, brought back from the edge by that simple command. All the same, he couldn’t bring himself to be truly upset. There was a buzz building under his skin, the orgasm denied to him and his curse responding to the multiple orders he’d been given. Steve gave him a once-over, as if to assess that they were still on the same page, even though Steve’s tell-me-if-I-give-you-and-order-that-makes-you-uncomfortable thing was still in effect. Danny gave Steve a reassuring nod.

Steve’s free hand, which had been occupied elsewhere on the bed, worked between Danny’s outstretched legs. His fingers were slick with lube, and they glided along Danny’s perineum, teasing at his opening. Danny let out a sigh as Steve slid one finger inside.

“Can’t believe you,” Steve murmured. “Can’t believe you’re letting me do this…that you trust me with this.”

Danny wasn’t sure whether “this” referred to what Steve was doing now with his finger, sex in general, or this entire situation with them. He found he didn’t care, and in all situations there was only one possible response. “Yes,” he breathed.

Steve shifted his other hand so that it was no longer on Danny’s cock, instead splayed out on Danny’s belly. The fingers tangled with the coarse blond hair there, grounding him, steadying him with a gentle pressure. With his other hand, Steve began working a second finger inside. Danny’s breath hitched.

Relax, Danny.”

Danny was reminded again of the last time Steve had given him that order. He had resisted then, afraid of giving himself away, afraid of what it might lead to. As much as he had wanted to listen to Steve, he had held himself back. He had no such impediment now, as he allowed himself to give in to the command, body going boneless and languid as his muscles relaxed, easing the passage of Steve’s fingers.

Steve sucked in a sharp breath at seeing Danny’s reaction. “Is this…is this okay?”

Danny nodded. It was more than okay. He felt amazing, and if he didn’t feel so languorous he might be thrusting his hips into Steve’s fingers in encouragement. “M’good…really good.” He was cut off suddenly as Steve’s fingers massaged over his prostate. “Keep doing that.”

Steve grinned. “I thought I was the one giving the orders?”

“If you know what’s good for you, you’ll follow this one.”

“Oh, I intend to,” Steve said, voice full of promise, as he worked a third finger in.

Danny was already relaxed, so his body easily accommodated the intrusion, but he still let out a whine at his inability to move—into it, away from it, it didn’t matter. He was immobilized, and it was a testament to no much he trusted Steve that that knowledge still didn’t distress him any. He was more than willing to wait until Steve gave him leave to move again. It was just a distant part of him that also wanted to reciprocate.

While Steve worked his fingers deeper, he began mouthing at Danny’s hipbone, sucking and worrying at the skin, inching closer to where Danny really wanted his mouth to be. And then he was there, swallowing Danny’s cock down in one smooth motion. And Danny could do nothing but take it. The hand on his belly pressed down, but it wasn’t what was keeping him in place. Danny was close, so close, but he couldn’t…

“Steve,” Danny croaked.

Steve slid off, his mouth making an obscene sound as he lifted his head, eyes meeting Danny’s. The fingers inside Danny stilled. “What is it, Danny? What do you want?” he asked.

“Want to touch you,” Danny pleaded. “Want—c’mere.”

“Of course,” Steve said, pulling his fingers free and crawling up the bed until he was braced over Danny’s body. “Go ahead. You can move.”

Danny gripped at Steve’s arms, fingers digging into muscle as he grappled with Steve, fighting to get him closer, longing for more contact. Steve groaned into Danny’s mouth, and Danny chased the taste of himself on Steve’s tongue. There’s bodies pressed close, skin in contact with glorious skin. Steve’s cock slid into the groove of Danny’s hip, right up against the line of his own erection. Danny gasped, and Steve began rutting against him, fucking into the space between their bodies at a feverish pace.

“Fuck, yes…Steve.”

The rhythm was a little off; Danny kept trying to lift his hips to counter Steve’s, and it didn’t quite match up, but they made it work. Danny was close, had been for some time, but he wasn’t there yet.

C’mon, Danny,” Steve murmured into Danny’s neck, breath hot behind the shell of his ear. “Come for me.”

And that was it. Danny was done, spilling between them with a wracked groan as he just gave in and let go. Steve followed a couple seconds later. He gave a full body shudder before allowing his arms to give out, collapsing half on top of Danny. It was fitting, Danny thought, that his first orgasm with Steve felt like a punch to the gut. Everything about Steve, since they’d met, had left Danny feeling off-kilter, out of breath, like he was constantly recovering from a chokehold. And yet…Steve was always there, helping him up, pulling him back, until the next time Danny felt thoroughly out of his depth.

That was how Danny felt now, with Steve sprawled partly on top of him, head pillowed on Danny’s shoulder. Steve trailed a hand through the mess on their bellies. And really, as out of his depth as Danny felt, he knew a thing or two about Steve. He knew that Steve, for all of his ability to launch himself headlong into dangerous situations, had a difficult time expressing his emotions verbally. It wasn’t that Steve couldn’t express himself emotionally, just that his methods usually involved turning the radio to bad 80s power ballads or inviting Danny out for a joy ride in his Mercury Marquis—before it broke down. And right now, Steve’s movements were tentative, almost nervous. His fingers tapped out hesitation on Danny’s hipbone.

“Hey,” Danny said, “I’m not freaking out. You shouldn’t either.”

“That was okay?” Steve asked.

“Babe, it was better than okay. Now, stop asking, or I’ll think you’re fishing for compliments.”

“Not fishing,” Steve said, smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. “Just…adjusting.”

“Hey.” Danny smacked Steve’s arm lightly. “This changes nothing. I’m the same person, have been this whole time since we met.”

“Except, you know…now I can bribe you with sex.” Steve began nuzzling at the spot on Danny’s neck right below his ear. And really, he’d just come, Danny should not have found it that much of a turn-on.

“Not fair.” Danny squirmed until Steve was out of reach of his sensitive spots. “Get us cleaned up and I’ll consider it.”

“Demanding, aren’t you? I should have guessed something was up just from the times you throw orders about.”

“What can I say, babe? It’s my one area of overcompensation,” Danny said, all the while thinking, Don’t you dare say a word about my height.

Steve grinned, and Danny could tell he was thinking it, the bastard. Danny couldn’t find it in him to be mad, though, not when Steve looked so damn fond, in over his head and no longer afraid.

Yeah, they could make this work.

--

Danny should have known by now that once Steve got an idea in his head, it was difficult to sway him. He kept trying to be cautious, assigning duties based on the level of potential risk, until Danny finally cornered him and told him to stop trying to hold his hand through all this. If he persisted it was going to be difficult for Danny to resist beating his head in.

And then there were the guilty looks Steve would flash him if he ever accidentally let an order slip. The first time was almost endearing, but after the third Danny confronted him.

“Not that I don’t appreciate your sudden effort to undo years’ worth of bad manners,” Danny said, “but if we’re on a case, drop it. You never give orders on cases without good reason, and I’d rather just follow them than have you waste potentially precious seconds apologizing and taking it back.”

“But, Danny—”

“I will stab you in the face, Steven, no lie. And then I will make you eat deep fried food—from Jersey—until you admit you like it.”

Steve shuddered at the prospect. Danny had seen what Steve kept stocked in his kitchen, knew that there were lean, frozen pizzas in the freezer.

Kono, who had been following their argument with no small amount of amusement, let out a laugh at Danny’s threat. Chin was pretending to do something important on the computer table, but he wasn’t fooling anyone. Danny gave them both a look that was meant to be imposing.

“What? Oh, yes, I’m sure you’re both very amused by this. Happy I told him? I’ll have you know, though, that if the productivity of this task force starts to suffer from a loss of professionalism, you have only yourselves to blame.”

They settled back into the groove of working on cases. It was a little different, but Danny had to admit it was better, knowing each of his teammates knew his secret, and he trusted them with it. It was extra security, as well, in the event Danny found himself in an awkward situation.

Then had been the superhero convention where Alex Baker had been murdered, and the string of misunderstandings and mistaken identities that had led them to Richard Davis and his wife. Steve was also caught up in his own investigation with Jenna Kaye over his father’s missing case files and the whereabouts of Wo Fat. Danny could tell Steve had far more on his mind than he was showing, but didn’t know whether he ought to press for information or not.

So when it turned out Anne Davis had been responsible, indirectly, for Alex Baker’s death, Danny did nothing more than tighten his lips when Steve said softly, “Book her, Danno.”

Whatever was going on with Wo Fat and John McGarrett’s murder, Danny only hoped Steve might be willing to talk about it after his meeting tonight with Jenna Kaye.

Danny was just finalizing his paperwork when his phone rang. He looked up—whoa, when had it gotten dark?—and answered.

“Danny, you still at the office?”

Something was wrong, seriously wrong. Steve’s voice sounded manic, and Danny’s mind immediately began conjuring all sorts of worst-case scenarios.

“Yeah, I am. But back up, what’s happened? I know that tone, you sound like you’re about to chase someone over a cliff.”

“I can’t—I don’t—it’s Wo Fat, he’s—and Jenna—”

Worry surged up. “Whoa, slow down,” Danny said, forcing his voice to emanate calmness, “Deep breaths and full sentences, please. Is Agent Kaye all right?”

“Not a field agent,” Steve said, letting out a huff of laughter that bordered on hysterical. “She’s—she’s fine. Was supposed to meet me, but then—Wo Fat showed up.”

“Wait, at the meeting place?”

Yes, Danny, that’s what I’m trying to say. He just sat down, and I couldn’t do a damn thing, because he knew where Kaye was. He knew where she was, and I couldn’t—”

Danny swallowed against the lump in his throat. “Yeah, I understand. Are you—?”

“I’m fine,” Steve said automatically. He sounded anything but. “I’m on my way there now.”

When Steve arrived, it was everything Danny could do to just stand back and let him work. He moved with an agitated sense of purpose, all full of frenzied energy, and it was clear he was in no mindset to be calmed down. Eventually, Kaye joined them, and the two of them worked on setting up a proper Five-0 file for Wo Fat, examining possible leads to follow next. Danny wished there was more he could do to help, but he felt like he would only get in the way. He settled himself on the couch in Steve’s office.

He didn’t realize he had started dozing until Steve looked at him some time later, guilt written across his features. “Hey, Danny…I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be keeping you here. You should go and get some real rest.”

Danny had to admit, he did want to sleep, but he also didn’t want to leave Steve when he was clearly still distressed. “Make me,” he said, forgetting for a moment that Kaye was still there.

Steve glanced over at her, but she was typing away at her computer, not paying attention to their exchange. “Nah, I don’t think so. But you really should try to sleep. I’ll call you in a few hours, okay?”

Danny nodded. Steve seemed more collected, at any rate. He could at least go knowing that Steve wouldn’t do anything completely reckless without letting him know.

Danny drove to his apartment. Whatever he and Steve had now, Danny wasn’t sure yet if it was at the point where he should sleep at Steve’s without Steve being there. Danny told himself that his logic was flawed; he went into Steve’s house uninvited all the time. Still, he didn’t want to push things too fast, and anyway, he would need to get clean clothes from his own apartment.

The key stuck in the lock for a moment—aftermath of Steve’s little break-in with the six-pack. Danny was caught up in his thoughts as he went inside his apartment.

“Don’t move, Detective Williams.”

Danny halted where he stood. Fear gripped him like an icy vise. His first instinct was fight against the confines of his curse, but the exertion from doing so would give him away to his intruder. It was entirely possible they didn’t know, had just thrown out the words as an intended threat, not realizing Danny was bound to follow orders. Possible, but not probable.

“Who’s there?”

A figure stepped from the shadows. Danny had been seeing pictures of that face for the last couple hours. It was Wo Fat.

He knew. Danny didn’t know how he’d found out, but he knew. One look at the man’s face told Danny everything he feared. And Danny was stuck here, unable to run, attack, anything. That didn’t, however, prevent him from calling out for help.

Wo Fat must have seen the intention on his face, because he spoke up, “Ah, none of that. Do not scream, yell, or otherwise draw attention to yourself. I merely want us to have the chance to speak with one another. Now close the door behind you, and sit down. Make no aggressive movements.” He gestured at the couch.

Danny’s breath huffed out, the shout he’d built up aborted. His mind was moving at rapid speeds, trying to think of a way out of this. His hand itched to reach for his sidearm, but as that was pretty clearly an “aggressive movement”, he was unable. Pain began building at his temples, the longer he went without shutting the door.

Play into it, for now. You don’t have a choice, he told himself.

No choice. No choice. Danny turned, his movements jerky as he fought against them, and closed the door. Then he turned until Wo Fat was in his sights again, a satisfied smile on his features. Danny began moving towards the couch, but then changed his course, sitting on the edge of his desk instead. Wo Fat’s order had only stipulated “sit down,” he hadn’t specified where. It was a small measure of defiance, but it was better than nothing. Danny folded his arms across his chest.

Wo Fat raised an amused eyebrow. Danny wanted to punch it clean off his face. And, somehow, get a message to Steve, but there was no way of doing that.

“Do you know who I am, Detective Williams?”

“Wo Fat,” Danny said, voice curt. He wouldn’t give him satisfaction of drawing this out.

Wo Fat gave a formal nod. “I had the pleasure earlier this evening of meeting your partner.” Was that an inflection Danny detected on the word partner? He couldn’t tell, and didn’t want to give himself away any more than he already had.

“So I heard.”

“Then you have heard, no doubt, about my desire to know the man who wants to know me. That includes knowing about the people closest to him.” He paused, and Danny fought to keep his features even, though he was furious inside. Wo Fat continued, his voice casual, “McGarrett really ought to keep a closer eye on those under his care. First Chin Ho Kelly, then his sister. Then tonight, Agent Kaye.”

Now me. “What do you want from me?” It came out snappier than he’d intended, but Danny didn’t really think he could be blamed for that, under the circumstances.

“Simply to confirm a…theory. One that has thus far proven true, though I would still like to test its limits further.”

The way he said it, with that detached calculation, filled Danny with a terrible dread. For one brief moment he let his composure slip, and tried fighting his curse, struggling to reach for his gun. It was no use, the pain mounted in his head and his limbs would not obey him, and he stopped.

“Interesting,” was all Wo Fat said.

“Fuck you,” Danny spat, finally letting his anger show. He asked the question that had been plaguing him, “How did you find out?”

“Observation, Detective Williams. Observation, and accounts from those who work under me. One account, in particular, from Sang Min. You become more guarded around criminals, did you realize that? Criminals who are already imprisoned and are, logically, no longer a threat to you. You become quickly angered when you issue directives that are not followed, but are strangely compliant when one is issued to you.”

Danny felt sick to his stomach hearing it. His worst fears realized, because he’d given himself away by being too careful. Wo Fat continued, “From there, my curiosity piqued, it was a matter of accessing your files. Easily done. Your superiors always had the most positive things to say about you. ‘Follows orders to the letter.’ ‘Learns quickly from mistakes.’ I observed your movements and actions, and then I had only to test my theory.”

Danny’s jaw was clenched as he resisted the urge to say the first thing that leapt to his mind. Instead, he was frantically thinking of a way to get out, an escape from this, but nothing presented itself. Terrifying as it was, it made sense, how Wo Fat had found out. It was the same way Mick had found out, the same way Kono and Chin had found out. They just had the benefit of spending actual time with him, instead of hacking his personal file.

Danny couldn’t recall his curse ever trapping him in a situation so hopeless. The only thing that came close was what Matty had done, but this was so far from that it wasn’t even comparable. And worse yet was Wo Fat’s sinister promise that he still wanted to test the limits of the curse.

I won’t have it used against anyone I care about, Danny thought adamantly, even though he knew such determination was empty. He couldn’t fight the curse for Matty’s sake, what made him think he could do it now?

“Draw your sidearm, Detective Williams, but do not fire it.”

Danny held off until the pain behind his eyes felt like a migraine, and he was blinking back tears. All the while, Wo Fat just waited, observing. Finally, unable to resist any longer, Danny unholstered his gun. It was a Heckler & Koch P30, and the weight of it was familiar in his hand.

“Good,” Wo Fat said, and Danny hated him. Hated him for what he was doing, hated him for whatever he was planning to do. Hated him for the smug expression on his face. “Turn off the safety, now.”

The extra emphasis made it unable to hold that order off like he’d done previously. Danny flipped the safety off. His mouth was pressed into a thin line, and a litany of curses rolled through his head, all the things he would love to hurl at Wo Fat right now, if there wasn’t the danger of provoking him.

“Chamber a round. Do nothing more.”

Danny had been tempted to try firing a shot off before Wo Fat could get another order out. The earlier order not to fire had been an addendum to drawing his weapon, and that was enough of a loophole that the curse may have allowed him to work around it. He no longer had that option. He checked the gun, trepidation filling him at what Wo Fat had planned.

“Now, raise the gun to your head. Press the barrel against your temple.”

Panic gripped Danny. Wo Fat was going to make him kill himself, and there was nothing Danny could do to stop it. Even worse, it wouldn’t be pinned on Wo Fat, because all forensics evidence would make it look like a suicide. Danny’s hand began lifting of its own accord, compelled by the curse, and he fought to keep it down.

“Do it now.”

Danny drew a shaky breath as the cool metal of the barrel pressed against his temple. He gritted his teeth; he couldn’t lose it, couldn’t give Wo Fat that satisfaction. Danny didn’t know what would happen. A wild part of him reasoned that maybe he could fight it off, maybe he could break his curse. After all, he had never been forced into a situation so directly in conflict with his own safety; surely, his own sense of self-preservation would protect him.

Wo Fat only smiled, and Danny braced himself to hear the order he was dreading. He would do everything in his power to fight it, he knew, but he just didn’t know if it would be enough. It had to be enough. For Grace. Unbidden, tears welled up at the corners of his eyes, and Danny blinked them back.

“Engage the safety and reholster your weapon, Detective Williams,” Wo Fat said calmly.

Danny’s eyes flew open, and he let out a startled breath. He wasted no time in moving the gun away from his head. There was a tang in his nostrils from where his sweat had mixed with the smell of gun metal. Danny flipped the safety back on and holstered the gun, watching Wo Fat the whole time with a wary eye.

“But—” Danny began haltingly. He didn’t want to provoke Wo Fat, but he needed to understand. “Why?”

“Why didn’t I go through with it? That was never my intention. As I said, I was merely testing a theory. Creating some assurances for the future. Plans within plans.” The offhand way in which he said it chilled Danny to his core and made him livid.

“You son of a bitch.” The words were out before he could stop them. He struggled to rise from where he was seated.

“Stay where you are.” The words came out quick, though Wo Fat’s face didn’t alter at Danny’s outburst. It only served to make him more angry at the man. “Now, now, Detective Williams, is that necessary?”

“Why are you even telling me all of this?”

“Because,” Wo Fat said simply, “You won’t remember it.”

Danny felt as though something was constricting tightly in his chest. He took an unsteady breath, filled with apprehension at whatever was coming next.

“Do not tell anyone of this encounter,” Wo Fat said slowly, words dripping with weight and intent. In the corner of Danny’s mind, he felt the curse reverberate. “Do not give any indication that this encounter took place. Do not even think about it. When I leave, forget I was here.”

Danny’s throat was dry as he frantically tried to consider his options. In a minute, Wo Fat would be gone, and then Danny would be trapped, trapped without even realizing it. He needed to find a way to leave a message for himself, something that would clue Steve in…but even as he tried to formulate an idea his thoughts slipped away, driven by Wo Fat’s “do not even think about it” .

Wo Fat smiled again, cold and calculating. “When I am gone, you may move again. Not before.”

Danny was already struggling against his curse, straining to get up, to find some paper and a pen, anything. The pain in his head mounted as he tried to disobey.

Then, suddenly, the pressure in his head lifted. Danny overbalanced, collapsing forward onto the floor. He was on his feet in an instant, looking around. He felt disoriented, and he didn’t know why. His entire body was tense, like a coiled spring about to pop. There was sweat across his brow.

It had been a noise which had startled him, hadn’t it? Danny looked around, but there was no one in his apartment.

Something niggled at the back of Danny’s mind. He tried to focus in on what it was, but it was like trying to hold the details of a dream upon waking. It slipped from him. There was a low throb of pain in his head, the beginnings of a headache. Danny considered that for a moment; he couldn’t remember the last time he’d eaten.

There was something else, too, but Danny couldn’t place it. Perhaps Steve was right about Danny needing rest. Steve…

Steve. Danny needed to talk to Steve. There was something he needed to tell Steve. Something important. Danny grabbed his keys and headed out to the car.

Steve’s house was dark when he arrived, and then Danny remembered. Steve was probably still at HPD with Jenna Kaye. There had been that situation earlier in the evening with Wo Fat, and they were probably still researching possible leads.

Danny’s headache flared, and he grimaced. He let himself into the house, raided some aspirin, and stripped down to his shorts before collapsing on Steve’s bed. There was a lingering sense of urgency in the back of Danny’s mind, but until Steve got back he might as well take Steve’s advice and rest.

--

Danny woke with Steve sprawled across him like a possessive octopus. He grunted, shifting beneath him, trying to get loose so he could use the restroom. A few well-placed shoves had Steve grumbling and moving enough that Danny could get free.

When he came out of the bathroom, Steve was sitting up on the bed, looking at him through half-lidded eyes. Danny halted by the doorframe.

“Hey,” he said stupidly.

“Hey.”

Steve tugged at the sheet and got off the bed. He was dressed in nothing but low-slung shorts—dear god, how old were those, they were threadbare and holey in places—but none of that mattered as much as the way Steve was advancing on him, predatory and feline.

Steve took Danny’s face in his hands and kissed him thoroughly. No fair, Danny thought, as Steve clearly had the advantage when they were standing. He returned the kiss as aggressively as he could manage, craning his neck in order to meet Steve halfway.

“Nice surprise,” Steve said, a little breathless once they had broken apart. “Seeing you here when I got back.”

“Yeah…” And there was a reason behind that, Danny was sure. “I went to mine first, but then I came here because there was something I needed to tell you.”

“What was that?” Steve asked, though it was clear his attention was only half there, the rest devoted to driving Danny crazy as he trailed fingertips across his torso.

Nnngh…um…don’t remember.” Danny was losing the ability to coherently form sentences as Steve slowly sank to his knees.

“Couldn’t have been that important, then,” Steve said, and he began to mouth along the elastic waistband of Danny’s underwear.

Steve could be a damn tease when he wanted, but on other occasions he wasted no time. This was one of those times, as Steve pulled Danny’s shorts down and licked a long stripe up Danny’s cock.

Yes,” Danny breathed, jerking his hips forward. Steve looked up, unreadable expression on his face. That was new, and Danny’s stomach flipped at the thought of whatever Steve was planning.

“Want to fuck my mouth, Danny?”

The question was so unexpected and so hot that Danny almost staggered from it. Steve’s grip at his hips helped him remain balanced. “Oh, fuck,” Danny muttered, and his cock ached at the mental image alone Steve’s words had produced.

“Because I’d like that,” Steve said, looking up at Danny through long eyelashes as his tongue snaked out, flicking across the head of Danny’s cock. Danny would have to amend his earlier statement. Steve was always a damn tease. “Go on, do it. Fuck my mouth.”

Steve’s mouth closed around the head of Danny’s cock as Danny surged his hips forward. His hands came down to twine in Steve’s hair. Steve hummed around his cock, allowing his throat to go slack, to ease Danny’s movements. Danny’s hips jerked, settling into a rhythm, and all the while Steve just took it, throat relaxed.

For a moment, Danny wondered what might happen if he were to accidentally hurt Steve. Oh god, what if he was choking Steve? What if Steve couldn’t say anything, because Danny had no way of stopping himself when the order to fuck Steve’s mouth was still in effect?

Danny looked into Steve’s eyes then, hoping for some signal of how Steve was doing. He would endure the migraine-levels of pain that going against an order would bring, if he needed to. But Steve looked completely blissed out, eyes half-lidded with pleasure. He was getting off on this, getting off on Danny fucking his mouth. Danny’s hips stuttered, and fuck, he was close, he was too close…

Steve’s arms wrapped around Danny’s hips, hands gripping tight at his ass—and that was it, Danny was done, spilling down Steve’s throat with a ragged groan. Steve took it all, swallowing around him. Danny’s hips stuttered, and he pulled back, hissing at the feel of air on his sensitized skin.

“Come here,” Danny muttered, pulling at Steve’s shoulders. “Get up here, c’mon.”

Steve let out a hoarse laugh, but complied. Danny kissed him, tasting himself on Steve’s tongue, while he slid his hand into Steve’s boxers and jerked him once, twice, before Steve gasped and came.

They remained there for several moments, leaning into one another, using each other’s weight to ground them. Danny stared at the line of Steve’s collarbone.

“So,” Steve croaked, “What was it you needed to tell me?”

Danny shrugged. “Can’t remember. Glad I’m here now, though.”

--

Danny wondered sometimes if the criminal class was becoming more idiotic. It certainly seemed that way, with the slew of cases they’d had lately with people making stupid decisions for stupid reasons. It was distracting them from the big fish, such as the leads Steve and Jenna were corresponding over, trying to find something that would lead to Wo Fat.

Danny grimaced at the twinge of pain between his brows. He’d been having chronic headaches for weeks now, and rather than kill his liver with Tylenol (More of Grace’s health and wellness classes—what were they teaching kids at that school?), he had taken to drinking water to keep hydrated. It certainly made Grace happy (“My teacher says you should be drinking one and a half liters every day”).

Danny glanced up as Steve walked into his office, planting his ass on the desk like he owned it. Danny tried not to distract himself with the way Steve’s cargo pants pulled tight over his thighs, instead giving Steve a long-suffering look.

“I’ve been thinking,” Steve said.

“Congratulations.”

Steve made a face that was absolutely not attractive, or at least Danny would tell himself that. “I was thinking about your curse. About maybe…what if there was a way we could break it?”

Danny felt a small jolt of pleasure at the “we”. “Are you saying this because you have an actual theory, or is this just speculation?”

Steve’s face fell slightly, but he continued, undaunted. “More of the latter. But look, Danny, is there anything else you can tell us about it?”

“Nothing I haven’t already.” He had told them all last week everything he knew, including his father’s confession. Danny knew Kono had been researching it, but there was only so much reliable information to be found; a simple Google search just brought up World of Warcraft add-ons.

“Well, what if I give you an order, and you try resisting it?”

“What do you think I did the first few months I knew you?”

Steve frowned, and Danny regretted reminding him of the earlier days of their partnership. Steve still felt some guilt over that, in spite of Danny’s reassurances. Danny stood up, going around the desk to place a hand on Steve’s shoulder.

“Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate everything you guys are trying to do. No one wants this thing broken more than I do, but believe me when I say it isn’t a simple matter of building up a resistance. I’ve dealt with this my whole life, and if there is a way to break it, it will be from something different.”

Steve nodded, resigned.

“You’re gonna keep researching behind my back, aren’t you?”

Steve grinned. “Of course.”

Danny felt a surge of affection, and he wanted to give into the urge to kiss him right then and there. They’d come to the unspoken agreement, however, to keep things professional while at work. Steve seemed to sense it too, because he got up from Danny’s desk and took a step back.

“So, uh, I gotta run back to my house for a bit to grab something,” Steve said. “I’m meeting with a handwriting analyst today about those envelopes I keep receiving, and we’re going to see if we can maybe find out who’s sending them.”

“Sounds good,” Danny said, ignoring the feeling of unease he felt whenever those envelopes were mentioned. “Meet up later for Longboards?”

After Steve left, Danny occupied his time with finalizing all the paperwork on their most recent case, the murder of photographer Renny Sinclair. About an hour into his work, Chin ducked into his office.

“Hey, Danny, I just got a call from the governor. I told her Steve is out, and she says she needs me and Kono as representatives of Five-0 for something press-related. Shouldn’t take more than a few hours.”

With them gone, Danny felt awkward all alone in their headquarters. It was too empty without the usual excited energy. And Danny couldn’t place it, but he felt on-edge for reasons he couldn’t identify. He raked a hand nervously through his hair. He’d done enough for today, he needed to get out for a bit. Maybe he would stop by Kamekona’s, he missed their friendly antagonism.

Danny was happy to note that Steve had taken his truck, leaving the Camaro. He was just getting in when his phone rang. The number was unlisted. Danny answered it.

“Hello?”

“Listen to me and do not hang up.”

Danny’s hand tensed on the phone, alarms going off in his head at the sound of that voice. He recognized it, was familiar with its smooth cadence, but for the life of him he couldn’t place it. His immediate impulse was to try to pull the phone away from his ear so that the voice couldn’t tell him to do any more, but that would be going against his directive to listen.

“Who is this?” Danny could feel the anxiety creeping into his tone.

“Oh, you don’t remember me? Such a shame. I’ll keep this simple and to the point. I have Steve McGarrett in my keeping. You will do exactly as I tell you, not because you want to see him alive, but because you have to listen.”

Danny trembled at the dark promise in those words. Fuck, this is exactly what he never wanted to happen.

“Do not attempt to notify Chin Ho Kelly or Kono Kalakaua of what has happened. Do not try to draw attention to yourself or call for help in any other manner. Follow my orders to the letter, with no deviation. I am sending an address to your phone. Using your phone’s GPS, memorize the location. Once you have it memorized, dispose of your phone and come here. Do not delay for the purposes of prolonging anything. Obey the posted traffic laws, but come straight here.”

Fuck, fuck, fuck, Steve, Danny thought. He needed a way to get out of this, but the voice on the other end of the line seemed to have thought of everything.

“I need proof,” Danny croaked, “that you have Steve, and that he’s safe. Let me talk to him.”

A low laugh over the phone. “No, I don’t think that will be necessary. Proof of life is meaningless when I know you will be here regardless. But if it will satisfy you, I will send a picture with the location address. When you arrive, keep your gun holstered, and walk in with your hands visible. Come immediately.”

The call ended, and Danny wanted to shout in frustration. The curse didn’t allow that—do not try to draw attention to yourself. The pressure in his head was unbearable; so many orders, one after the other, all given with the same emphatic weight. His will was usually strong enough to delay the more vaguely-spoken commands, but these were given with such specificity as to be stifling.

There was a ping from his phone. Danny didn’t want to look at it, didn’t want to see where he had to go, see the evidence that Steve was taken—and how did that bastard allow himself to get snatched, anyway? Do not delay for the purposes of prolonging anything. Danny opened the message.

Sure enough, there was a picture of Steve, tied and gagged (no hope, then, of Steve helping him out of this). Danny couldn’t see enough of the room to determine anything about it. The message also contained an address, which Danny plugged into his GPS. The location wasn’t far, about twenty minutes, and Danny looked over the directions until he felt familiarized with them. He cast his phone out the car window and started driving.

The entire way there, Danny pored over the information in his head. Somebody knew his secret, that much was clear. Danny tried to place who the voice belonged to, but the pressure in his head increased every time until it was almost unbearable. One thing he knew, Steve hadn’t given up his secret. Danny couldn’t see yet where all the pieces fit together, but he felt that with certainty.

Everything had been too easy, and that’s what had Danny apprehensive. Whoever it was, whatever their purposes, they had to have orchestrated everything. Steve’s kidnapping when Danny wasn’t with him, Chin and Kono’s timely engagement. Danny was a cop, he didn’t believe in coincidence.

All too soon, he pulled up outside the location. It was one in a long line of nondescript warehouses—how clichéd could you get? Danny tried not to think about what awaited him there, focusing instead on the orders still in his head. He placed one foot in front of the other—he knew he wouldn’t attempt a resistance at this moment, not while Steve’s life was at stake—jaw set in firm determination as he approached the building, hands held up where they could be seen.

His orders didn’t stop him from observing his surroundings, and Danny had a watchful eye surveying the area, looking for possible getaway points. He had no way of knowing how many people were inside. The curse pressed at the back of his mind; he was trying to delay. With an inward sigh of resignation, Danny opened the door and walked inside.

Immediately he caught sight of Steve, tied to a chair and gagged. Steve was making muffled noises through the gag, shaking his head frantically as he tried to communicate. Danny made to run for him, when he caught sight of another figure in the room.

“Stop where you are, Detective Williams.”

Danny froze mid-stride, his breath escaping him in a snarl. He turned to look at the newcomer, blood going cold when he saw it was Wo Fat. Danny recognized him from the pictures from Steve’s investigation. And something else, too, nagging at the back of Danny’s mind, but he felt pain lance through his head when he tried recalling it.

Steve, never one to sit still, was struggling against his bonds. Any moment he was going to knock himself onto the floor. Wo Fat turned to him.

“Cease your struggling, McGarrett, or I’ll tell your partner to slit his own throat.”

Steve halted instantly, a combination of hatred towards Wo Fat and terror at the threat crossing his features. Danny could feel his own insides seizing up at the possibility, but at the same time he knew that wasn’t what Wo Fat had planned. And then Wo Fat’s attention was on him again.

“I’m surprised you aren’t more verbose, Detective Williams, you’re usually so chatty. What, still don’t remember me?” Wo Fat’s tone was coy, and Danny hated feeling as though he was being played with.

“You’re Wo Fat,” Danny spat.

“Yes, I am, but you probably recognize my face from your files. No, I want you to remember our first meeting.”

Danny just looked at him, confused. What other meeting? Steve looked just as lost.

Remember it,” Wo Fat said.

In a rush, Danny’s memories came flooding back. That night. He’d gone back to his apartment, and Wo Fat had been waiting for him there. He’d known, he’d known about Danny’s curse, and had wanted to test its limits.

“Now, raise the gun to your head. Press the barrel against your temple.”

Danny clutched at his head, the rush of memories dizzying in their intensity.

“Do not tell anyone of this encounter…Do not give any indication that this encounter took place. Do not even think about it. When I leave, forget I was here.”

“You son of a bitch,” Danny grated out. Then, to Steve, “I didn’t know, Steve, he made me forget. Please believe me—”

“Don’t talk to him,” Wo Fat said curtly.

Danny leveled his most vicious glare at Wo Fat. He couldn’t talk to Steve, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t talk. “What’s all this about, then? Kidnapping Steve, getting me out here, what’s your endgame?”

Wo Fat smiled that infuriating smile. “I had a few loose ends that needed tying.”

Danny tensed at the implication in those words. “How did you even get the jump on Steve?”

“With your help.”

Danny’s breath hitched in his throat. He tried to think of what Wo Fat might be referring to, but pain flared up in his mind. No, he couldn’t mean…

“Remember, Detective Williams.”

At Wo Fat’s bidding the other suppressed memory surged to the forefront of his mind. Just a week ago, Wo Fat had called him, had ordered Danny to give up the security code to get into Steve’s house, as well as forward a copy of all the information Five-0 had gathered on him thus far. He had also made Danny tell him about the envelopes Steve had been receiving from a mysterious source. And then, like the time before that, he had ordered Danny to forget, with another well-placed order to clear his phone’s call history.

“Fuck you,” Danny ground out, unable to hide his rage. He felt manipulated, violated, and he hated his curse, hated Wo Fat for using it against him in this way.

He also hated how calm Wo Fat was, completely at-ease in the knowledge that he had the advantage over everyone. But there was a detail bothering him. He had to keep Wo Fat talking, had to prolong this until he could find a way out, until someone could notice his and Steve’s absences. Danny spared a quick glance at Steve, who was contained now thanks to Wo Fat’s threat, looking at Danny with pleading eyes. But what Steve wanted, Danny couldn’t yet guess.

“The envelopes? Did you send them?”

Wo Fat shook his head. “Another…unfortunate loose end. After you forwarded the information to me, I was able to ascertain that the envelopes had been sent to McGarrett by Miss Hills, Pat Jameson’s public liaison.”

Danny furrowed his brow. There was something else, something more, that he was missing. And then he realized Wo Fat had only used the governor’s full name.

“The governor…” It was all falling into place. But, that meant—

“Ah, I see you’re beginning to get it. Yes, the governor. Another loose end. She has neared the end of her usefulness, especially when she let the items in her possession get into the hands of Miss Hills, thus enabling your team to get this close to me. But they’ve been dealt with, along with Miss Hills.”

Danny felt an icy tremor pass through him. Chin and Kono, called away by the governor for her press-related event. And the governor…in on the whole thing with Wo Fat? Danny’s mind rebelled against the very idea, going over all the times they had spoken with her. And then, he remembered the luncheon she had with Hiro Noshimuri. Oh.

Chin and Kono were in terrible danger, and Laura Hills with them. Danny looked to Steve, and his face held the same anxiety.

“What are you going to do to them?” Danny’s voice was barely above a whisper.

“It is already done. A strategically placed car bomb.”

Danny could barely hear over the blood pounding in his ears. He made to lunge at Wo Fat, but the curse held him in place. The spike of pain he felt at attempting to disobey was sharp and sudden, so intense he would have fallen to his knees if the curse wasn’t also keeping him upright. In the chair, Steve was screaming through the gag, trying once more to break free from his bonds.

“Now, McGarrett, you wouldn’t want me to have to get creative, would you? I could tell him to hold his breath—you know I would do it.”

Steve halted his movement. Emotions flashed across his face in quick succession, too quick for Danny to follow, but one pervaded most; guilt.

“Why are you telling me this?” Danny asked, voice raw.

“Because, in a moment, it will no longer matter.”

Danny felt an upwelling of dread at Wo Fat’s words. He knew, on a certain level, what Wo Fat had planned. It was his worst fear realized, and Danny should have known that no amount of caution could have prevented something like this from happening one day.

“You are unusually quiet, Detective Williams. No witty rejoinder to add to the conversation?”

Danny was seething at his words. The man had the nerve, after what he’d said had happened to—and Danny couldn’t even think it, couldn’t face that reality—and now he expected Danny to be his normal, snarky self? Fuck him, Danny wouldn’t give him that satisfaction. Wouldn’t speak just because Wo Fat had given him a hollow sort of permission.

Wo Fat smirked. “Pity. Well, then, this next part you are familiar with. Draw your gun, disengage the safety, and chamber a round, but do not do anything else.”

It was déjà vu all over again, only this time felt even more hopeless, because Danny had already seen what Wo Fat was capable of. He tried to hold off, as he had done then, but the pain and pressure in his head amplified.

Against his own volition, Danny drew his gun from its holster. Steve was shaking his head, making muffled noises through the gag, probably trying to order Danny to stop. If only he could. He clicked the safety off, chambered a round, his movements robotic through the entire process.

Good,” Wo Fat praised. “Very well-trained, aren’t you?”

Danny ground his teeth. There was a litany of swearing pouring through his head, and the only thing keeping his tongue in check was the knowledge that it would probably just amuse Wo Fat.

“Aim the gun at Steve McGarrett.”

Danny knew it was coming, and he braced himself against it. His curse flared up, sharp and painful. He fought to keep his hand down, and the exertion had sweat breaking out across his brow. The hand holding the gun rose jerkily until it was leveled at Steve.

Danny’s hand trembled and shook; he couldn’t prevent that, not unless Wo Fat told him to keep it steady. He looked at Steve, really looked at him. His wrists were rubbed raw from the bonds keeping him restrained. His eyes were red and bloodshot, but they met Danny’s in an earnest expression. Danny expected to see disappointment there, betrayal over what Danny had been forced to do. If anything, there was remorse written in that gaze, his eyes apologetic and forgiving. And Danny couldn’t handle that, couldn’t take Steve absolving him for what he was about to do. What Wo Fat was going to make him do. Danny drew a shaky breath, wishing he could say something to Steve to make this situation better.

Wo Fat stepped around behind Danny, placing a hand on his shoulder. It would be so easy, so easy to turn his gun and kill Wo Fat now, if only he had the freedom of his own movements.

“Shoot him. Shoot to kill,” Wo Fat said. His voice was low, but still loud enough that Steve could hear it. Then he stepped back, content to observe.

The pressure in Danny’s head raged, and his finger itched towards the trigger. No! He couldn’t. Had to. Couldn’t kill Steve…didn’t have a choice.

Danny was shuddering, gasping through the pain as he fought to resist. His hand shook violently, but he knew, could sense that the bullet wouldn’t miss if he pulled the trigger. And all the while, Steve just looked at him with that expression. Fearful, yes, but not judging him for what he had to do. Something flickered in Steve’s eyes, and Danny recognized that look, could see it even through the gag obscuring half of Steve’s face. Steve trusted him. And Danny—Danny didn’t think he deserved that.

The pain flared up again, white-hot inside his head. It was worse than anything he’d ever endured, worse than Matty—“Shoot me or say goodbye, Danny”—worse than Wo Fat telling him to turn the gun on himself.

“Now, raise the gun to your head. Press the barrel against your temple.”

Danny blinked back tears through the pain. Shoot him. Shoot to kill. The words echoed in his head, reverberating back and increasing the pain by tenfold every moment he resisted. And through it all, Steve just looked at him, eyes trusting. Danny couldn’t—had never wanted his curse used against the people he loved.

His curse. His entire life. Punished over no fault of his own, bound to obey the will of others. Danny had always felt only partly in control of himself, and it wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair.

The trigger. His finger was touching it. He had only to pull it, and the pain would go away. He had only to pull it, and Steve’s life would be lost. His mind rebelled against the very thought. He turned his focus inward, away from it all. He had to—he couldn’t.

“No!” the cry punched out of him, and Danny jerked the gun away, pointed it at Wo Fat.

The pain reared up, so intense that Danny’s vision whited out for a moment, and he pulled the trigger. The kickback of the gun shook his frame, startling him into awareness. He could hear, faintly, the sound of sirens approaching, and his vision cleared enough that he could see Wo Fat clutching his shoulder. The sight of red on Wo Fat’s hand shocked Danny’s senses, and he wondered, mutedly, that he had caused it.

Danny’s ears were ringing, and he felt a strange sort of lightheadedness. There was shouting—“No, not me. Him! Shoot McGarrett, shoot him now!”—Danny was dimly aware of it, but he brushed it off. The sound of sirens grew louder.

Danny wasn’t fully aware he had collapsed until his knees gave out, floor rising up to meet him. Footsteps, there were footsteps running, a muffled curse, and then a moment later the doors of the warehouse were bursting open, and Kono and Chin were there.

“That way, he went that way,” Danny said, waving at the only possible escape route Wo Fat could have taken. His voice was muffled to his own ears, as though he was listening from underwater. He would wonder later at Kono and Chin’s unharmed state.

They took off after Wo Fat, and Danny struggled up into a crouching position. His gun was in front of him, and he grabbed it, suddenly alert. He felt…different. Fuller, somehow—

A crash from several feet away interrupted his thoughts. It was Steve, his chair knocked over.

“Steve!” Danny cried out, rushing to him. Oh, god, what if he had actually shot him? But no, Steve had just overbalanced in his struggle to get free. Danny grappled at the knots until Steve’s limbs were loose. Steve tore off the gag.

“Danny! I’m sorry.” And Danny thought it weird, really, that Steve was apologizing for getting kidnapped. “It wasn’t—I know you had nothing to do with—But…you did it, Danny. You did it!”

Danny’s thoughts wouldn’t settle. He kept replaying everything in his mind. And maybe it was the after-echo of the pain that was making everything difficult to focus, but Danny was finally able to calm the tumult in his mind.

“I…I didn’t shoot you.”

Steve grinned. “No, you didn’t.”

“I couldn’t shoot you.”

“Glad to hear it.”

Danny swallowed, throat gone dry. “Tell me to do something,” he said suddenly.

“Stand on your head.”

There was nothing. No pressure in his head, no compulsion to obey. “No,” Danny said.

“Hop on one foot.”

Again, nothing. Danny felt giddy, euphoric. “No,” he breathed. It was broken. His curse was broken. He’d done it.

“Kiss me.”

Danny laughed. “Only because I want to,” he conceded, fisting his hands in Steve’s shirt and pulling him in until their lips met in a wild tangle.

They were interrupted a moment later by Chin and Kono’s return, joined this time by Agent Kaye and Laura Hills. Danny pulled back, doing his utmost to not look guilty. Steve just grinned.

“Hope we aren’t intruding on anything, boss,” Kono said, flicking them a mischievous smile.

“Feel free to interrupt any time our lives are at stake,” Danny said.

--

Unfortunately, Wo Fat was able to get the slip on them. While Kono coordinated setting up a search perimeter with HPD, Laura Hills filled them in on everything that had happened. It was thanks to her that Kono and Chin were safe, and had shown up when they did. When she had found out that the Governor wanted them for a vague “press-related” function, she had been suspicious and called Agent Kaye, after first attempting Steve’s number. Agent Kaye, familiar with Wo Fat’s tendency to use improvised car bombs, had been able to warn Kono and Chin in time. The governor was now facing an inquiry.

Chin supplied the remaining information. He had tapped into the Camaro’s tracking device (installed after the unfortunate incident with Victor Hesse) to determine Danny’s location, and they had rushed there as soon as they could. Backup from HPD had followed, and they were now searching the area for any sign of Wo Fat. Danny didn’t think they would find anything.

Steve’s relief at his team’s safety was clear on his face. He offered Laura a job on the spot as Hawaii Five-0’s public liaison, as she would no longer have that position under the governor’s employ. He extended an invite to Kaye as well, for something in a more permanent capacity as they continued their search for Wo Fat.

Through it all, Danny was uncharacteristically quiet. At first, he thought it was because he wanted to keep Jenna and Laura from picking up on his secret, but then he realized with a jolt that he never had to worry about that again. Danny assessed himself. He felt different, but he couldn’t place where the discernable shift was. All he knew was that when Steve gave an unconscious command—“Listen up, everybody”—Danny felt no compulsion to obey. He could, and he did, but he didn’t have to.

He was free.

Finally, they had only the formalities left. They spoke with HPD about the ongoing search for Wo Fat. He was injured now, and the next couple days could be critical, especially as he would be in need of medical attention. They went back to their headquarters, where they had the beginning of the governor’s inquiry to deal with. There were also statements about the kidnapping to be made. Steve and Danny were both careful about the exact details contained in their statements. Steve sent a security detail to go over his house with a fine-toothed comb to ensure Wo Fat didn’t have it bugged, and that it would be safe for him to return to later.

Chin and Kono didn’t say anything about the curse; they wouldn’t, not while Jenna and Laura were still with them. They kept casting Danny knowing glances throughout the remainder of the day, however, whenever an incidental command was dropped.

The hours dragged, and Danny was getting anxious. He found himself periodically reaching out to touch Steve. The movement was unconscious at first, but Danny quickly realized he needed it to ground him, as a reassurance that Steve was safe. He couldn’t banish from his mind the image of Steve strapped to that chair, his eyes filled with trust.

At last, they had done all they could for the day. At last, they could worry about everything else tomorrow, and they headed to the car.

“Here, let me drive,” Steve said.

“No.” Danny took delight in how the word rolled off the tongue. He knew Steve had only said it so that Danny could refuse him, just as he knew that in a couple of days Steve would be back to driving the Camaro ninety percent of the time.

The drive went by in a blur, neither of them saying much. Tomorrow there would be more to do. Tomorrow Danny would visit Grace and Rachel to tell them what had happened. Right now, he felt too tightly wound.

No sooner had they arrived at Steve’s house than they were on each other. Danny spared half a minute to lock the door behind them and engage the security system—reset with a new code, of course—and then all his attention was on Steve.

Their kisses held a desperate edge, as though they were trying to memorize the taste of each other. They went up the stairs, stripping clothes as they went, leaving them by the wayside in their frantic need to be closer, skin against skin—until at last there was nothing between them but air, and then very little of that.

“Can’t believe you…can’t believe—” Steve murmured, interrupting himself every couple of words to kiss Danny again, unable to be apart for even that long.

“Give me an order,” Danny said. He wanted that reminder that his curse was gone, wanted the novelty of refusing.

“Don’t stop.”

Danny groaned. As before, there was nothing in his being compelling him to obey, but this was one order he didn’t mind. He would choose to listen to it. “Wasn’t planning on it,” he said, as he pressed Steve backwards until he was on the bed, then more until they were both horizontal. Horizontal and naked.

There was so much he wanted to do. Which was ridiculous, Danny knew, as there had been nothing preventing him before, but this time was different. He wanted to map Steve’s skin with his tongue, he wanted to take Steve apart.

“I want—”

“Anything,” Steve said.

Danny tasted the sweat at the hollow of Steve’s throat. His stubble rasped along Steve’s collarbone, and Steve shuddered. They were touch-drunk already, and they had barely started. “I really want to fuck you,” Danny said.

Yes,” Steve breathed. His legs fell open in invitation, and he hooked his hands on his knees to pull them apart further.

Fuck…Steve,” Danny groaned, as all higher brain function ceased. He shuffled awkwardly on the bed until he reached the nightstand drawer, and pulled out a condom and lube.

“Can’t just—fucking do shit like that to someone,” Danny groused. He slicked up his fingers and slid one in. “…Without warning.” He punctuated the last word with a twist of his finger.

Steve keened high in his throat, tilting his hips to provide better access, and really, why was Danny complaining again? He focused instead on watching Steve go completely to pieces, bearing down as Danny slid another finger in.

“Fuck it,” Steve muttered, “M’ready. Do it now.”

Danny didn’t think he would ever get tired of the little thrill he felt at knowing he didn’t have to obey. He knew he would never take it for granted.

“You’re ready when I say you are, Steven, and not before,” Danny said, twisting his fingers in and up.

Steve’s breath hitched in a whine, his head thrown back, and Danny wished he could reach the exposed line of Steve’s throat. Instead, he leaned over Steve’s torso and latched on a nipple, nipping lightly with teeth and tongue.

“Fucking—fuck!”

Steve writhed beneath him. It was a heady feeling, knowing he had done that. Danny quickened the pace of his fingers, unable to be patient when he wanted—needed to be closer. He pulled his fingers free and grabbed the condom.

Steve let out a ragged laugh. “You’re going to be impossible now, I can tell.”

Danny was occupied with rolling the condom on. “When have I ever not been? And you’re one to talk.”

Steve grinned. “Still the same person, then?”

“All the important parts, at least.”

Danny braced himself over Steve again, and then he was pressing down and in. Steve groaned, opening up beneath him, and Danny pushed forward, didn’t stop until he was fully encased. Until he was above Steve and Steve was around him, and Danny wasn’t going to last long, he could tell, not with how tight Steve was. And especially not with the way Steve was looking up at Danny like he just couldn’t believe his eyes, amazement and yearning written there.

Danny pulled back, enjoying the slow drag until just the head of his cock remained, and then snapped his hips forward again. Steve grunted, releasing his knees so he could wrap his legs around Danny, pulling him deeper. Danny shuddered, starting up a quick rhythm. His hips pounded, and fuck it felt good, as close to Steve as he could possibly be.

Fuck, Danny, c’mon. Faster, need—” Steve muttered, words stringing together until Danny couldn’t make sense of them anymore. He got the gist, though, and he was happy to comply (chose to comply) as he quickened his pace.

Danny reached for Steve’s cock then, smearing precome across the head with his thumb. Steve whimpered, going impossibly tight around Danny’s cock. Danny shuddered, and then he was coming. It was intense and powerful, wrenching a cry from his throat. Steve wrapped his legs even more firmly around Danny, holding him in, anchoring him. Danny trembled through it, giving himself over to it and just letting go. He managed to jack Steve a few times before Steve spilled across his palm with a ragged moan. Danny’s breath hitched at the way Steve looked, eyes screwed shut, the cords of his muscles tense and rigid. He held himself there for a moment longer, just trying to regain his sense of self, his bearings and his breath.

Danny gave his hand a cursory wipe on the sheets before pulling free and disposing of the condom. He slumped down next to Steve, who reached out for him unconsciously, as though the couple seconds’ separation had been too much. Hands grappled and clutched at him until Steve’s face found a home buried against Danny’s neck, nuzzling right beneath his ear. Danny allowed himself to be manhandled, would never admit it but he liked to draw out his post-coital glow. And right now, he needed the contact, needed to be close to Steve like he needed to breathe. So he grudgingly gave into Steve’s attentions until he was all tangled up in him. Until he couldn’t tell quite where he stopped and Steve began.

Tomorrow they could worry about everything else. Tomorrow Danny would see Grace and Rachel, and bring them up to speed. Tomorrow he would call his parents. But all that could wait.

“Mmmm…sleep now,” Steve murmured into Danny’s neck.

“Make me.”