"When are you going to get it through your thick skull that you are not a hero, you're just drawn that way?" Danny yelled at the toon, incensed that he'd once again plunged into the midst of a gun battle and helped take down a killer with little regard for his own safety. "The Navy SEAL cartoons are over! You're retired!"
"I know," Steve said, a definite pout on his handsome, painted face. "That's why I live in Hawaii instead of Hollywood."
Danny felt a momentary flash of regret for mentioning the toon's retired status. Everyone knew that toons existed to entertain, which meant a toon without a cartoon series was... purposeless. He took a breath, calming himself. "I appreciate you want to help, but you've got to stop putting yourself in danger."
Steve gave that glare that had been so effective on the big screen, full-out Navy SEAL about to go whoopass on the enemy combatants. The serious glare usually preceded miniature rockets bulging out of his eyes. "I can't be hurt, Danny, and you can."
"Of course you can!" Danny yelled, irked by Steve's obstinacy. "One of these days the bad guys are going to wise up and start carrying paint thinner!"
Danny's anger seemed to please Steve, who stepped closer, into Danny's personal space. And why had Danny never noticed how many colors swirled in his eyes? He would have said they were a deep blue, but up close he could see flecks of green and gray in them. "Are you worried about me?"
"Of course, I worry about you." Danny touched one of the bullet holes in Steve’s chest, feeling as the ink muddled and flowed under his fingers, reforming the toon’s tan t-shirt. He'd heard toons were self-healing, but it was the first time he'd felt the process. "You're a citizen of the state of Hawaii and it's my *job* to protect *you.* Which I can't do if you keep putting yourself in harm's way and getting *shot.*"
"But I'm all healed now." Steve pulled up his shirt, revealing an absolutely perfect torso, a sculpted six-pack, a dusting of body hair, and flat brown nipples. His stomach muscles rippled, like he was posing for a body building competition. "See?"
Danny had never realized Steve's clothes were painted separately, but it stood to reason, since he'd worn many different types of camo and civilian clothes in his cartoons. His cock felt suddenly heavy as he wondered whether Steve's painter had been realistic about all his body. And if parts of his body other than his eyes formed into rockets. "Yes, I see," he said, mouth dry.
"Come to my place tonight," Steve urged, and somehow he'd gotten even closer, so close that they only needed to raise their arms and they'd be hugging. "Learn more about me and you'll see that I can help."
The way Steve's voice sounded lower than normal, seductive and promising... in a human, that would be signaling interest of a purely prurient nature. The first time Steve had interceded in one of their cases, it had seemed to be a coincidence that he was passing by. The second and third times, Danny had started to wonder if Steve was bored in his retirement and simply seeking excitement. Was there a deeper reason that Steve kept appearing when Danny was in danger? Could Steve be interested in him romantically? It would be madness to get involved with a toon. Of course, Danny's marriage to a flesh-and-blood woman hadn't been a shining example of a sterling and durable relationship, so why not try something new? "Yes, okay. I'll come over after work," he promised, before raising a finger and pointing it at Steve's face. "But don't think you're going to change my mind. You're a civilian and civilians should stay out of police business."
Steve beamed his mega-watt smile, though thankfully stars didn't come spinning out of his eyes. "I'll see you then," he said, still grinning as he walked away and leaped into his military jeep, which promptly squealed its tires and took off, leaving behind a trail of fluffy clouds.
Banging the palm of his hand on his forehead, Danny cursed hyperactive, noble toons, the Hollywood executives who hadn't kept them employed, and for good measure, the entire state of Hawaii, which was so very odd compared to New Jersey.
"Time to get you a copy of 'Toons and the Humans Who Love Them', boss?" Kono asked, smirking. She'd obviously reached the same conclusion as Danny about Steve's motivations. "I hear it's on the bestseller list."
"Two words," Danny told his team member, "patrol duty. It could be regarded as a criminal neglect of your career that you never had to do any."
Kono flashed another smile, but she was a smart rookie and wisely changed the subject. "The perp's been read his rights and is ready for transport."
"Good. You and Chin take him to HPD and have them book him in."
With a nod, she strode off. Danny headed toward his own car, wondering if such a book even existed. Maybe he'd stop by Barnes & Noble on the way back to HQ. He had a feeling that he could use any help he could get tonight.
Barnes & Noble had tons of books on toons, but none of them fit Danny's needs. Their history with the studios and their unique culture looked interesting but not immediately relevant. The books on their interactions with humans all seemed to focus on how their overwhelming need to entertain and amuse occasionally made them blind to human frailty and potentially dangerous. Steve and his faithful band of SEALs had been painted to thrill more than generate guffaws, so they were in a unique category the books didn't cover. Danny hardly expected to have to avoid slipping on a banana peel in his interactions with Steve.
He also didn't expect Steve's place to be quite so nice. It was a lovely two-story home with a private beach. Toons clearly made more than detectives, even those who led the Governor's exclusive task force.
The toon jeep watched Danny with sleepy headlights as he walked up the driveway. Danny gave its shiny surface a pat. Steve opened the door before Danny's finger left the bell. "Hi," he said, appearing shy yet eager.
"Hi." Danny offered the bottle of fine cabernet he'd brought. He wasn't sure if a hostess gift was a necessary gesture, but if nothing else, he figured he'd need a little vino before the evening was done.
"Thank you. Let me open it to breathe."
He followed Steve into the kitchen, where the toon scrabbled through a drawer filled with kitchen gadgets, before pulling out a corkscrew and proving adept with its use.
"Your home is beautiful," Danny commented, trying to disguise how much he was checking it out. The house looked fully-furnished, even down to the toaster, coffee maker, and a roll of paper towels in a holder with a rooster on top sitting on the kitchen counter.
"Home ownership is a vital part of the American dream."
"And you were painted to represent the American dream, weren't you, babe? Still, private beach and all, this must have cost you a pretty penny? I thought the studios shafted you guys financially? Paid Dumbo in peanuts and like that?"
Danny was being a little more blunt than normal, but toons weren't exactly subtle individuals.
"They tried," Steve said grimly, "but they made the mistake of helping us to get citizenship so they couldn't be sued if a toon accidentally dropped a safe on a human. They'd created us to never harm humans, but they didn't trust us. So once we had legal status, we formed a union to demand a fair share of our profits. Bugs Bunny was the head of our negotiating team, and no one beats Bugs."
Huh, maybe one of those books on the history between toons and their studios would have been useful. That labor dispute must have been covered as part of the celebrity gossip culture Danny resolutely ignored. "I always liked Bugs Bunny. He's funny."
"That should be enough time, right? I was taught to cook in case I had to feed refugees my team was escorting to safety, but I don't have to eat." Steve busied himself getting out a wine glass and pouring Danny a small portion of the wine to taste.
Reaching out to take the glass, Danny curled his fingers around Steve's, which were solid and warm. Funny, he'd assumed toons would be flat until he'd met Steve. "Hey, what's wrong? And don't tell me nothing, because you were painted to be too noble to be good at lying."
"I'm sorry that I'm not funny," Steve answered stiffly. "I'm not that kind of toon."
"Did I ask for you to be funny? I've watched all of your cartoons. I know what kind of toon you are: brave and way too self-sacrificing."
One of Steve's amazing smiles crossed his face. "You've seen my work?"
"All of it," Danny said honestly. "I like to see the good guys win. Now don't be ridiculous about the fact that you don't crack jokes or do pratfalls. I came here because you promised to tell me more about you, not because I expected to be entertained by a stand-up comedian."
"What do you want to know?"
Tugging the glass out of Steve's hand, Danny put it on the table. He raised his hand again to cup Steve's cheek, running his thumb along his cheekbone. He was tired of waiting and wondering if Steve was attracted to him. "You almost glow. Why do you glow?"
Steve didn't move or back away, remaining still so Danny could touch him. "There's bronze in my undercoat. My painter wanted me to always look tan since my adventures were going to be mostly outdoors."
"Your painter did a fantastic job, babe. You're gorgeous." They both took a half-step forward, bodies almost touching in a repeat of earlier in the day, and Danny could not be reading Steve's signals wrong. He simply couldn't. Steve was too human-form for this to be a funky toon gag. He tilted Steve's head down while sliding his other hand onto Steve's waist, feeling its leanness, raising his own head so their lips could meet. Steve's lips were warm and pliable, covering Danny's and kissing him back.
Steve's hands came to rest on Danny's waist, as his tongue invaded Danny's mouth. He tasted a little inky, but not unpleasantly so. His tongue was as bold and demanding as Steve always appeared in his cartoons. Steve was a toon who knew how to take charge. Danny made a guttural sound of happiness in his throat, which was echoed by a similar sound from Steve.
"I was going to feed you," Steve whispered when Danny released his mouth. "I have a steak to grill."
Danny caught Steve's hand, tugging him toward the hallway and the staircase he'd seen when he'd entered the house. "There's something else I'd rather taste right now."
Maybe he was inviting disaster, because he'd never heard of a toon and a human having a relationship, much less a successful one. He and Rachel, New Jersey and English, had had far more in common than he and Steve, human and toon, and that marriage had failed miserably. But there was one thing Danny knew about both himself and Steve... they weren't afraid to be the first one to try something new.
As they walked up the stairs, sharing kisses, Steve hesitantly tugging at Danny's tie, stars swirled in the depths of the toon's eyes, sparkly blue and silver ones slowly floating out and circling around his head. Danny grinned before pausing on the landing to give Steve a hard, demanding kiss. He had a feeling that loving a toon, loving *Steve,* was going to be a risk worth taking.
~ the end ~