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Until the Hour of Separation

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When Danny Williams falls in love, he always falls hard. It’s like being clobbered over the head with a two by four; it drops him where he stands, turns him inside out and blind and stupid and he hates when it happens.

It shouldn’t surprise him that Lieutenant Commander Bugfuck Crazy McGarrett almost gets him killed their first day of working together. That’s how it usually goes, only in a more metaphorical way. When Danny comes home that evening, he’s sore and bruised and his knuckles hurt and he has a bullet hole in his arm. Seriously, a bullet hole, what’s the deal with that? He’s managed his whole career in law enforcement so far without getting shot once, and within 24 hours of meeting McGarrett, his lucky streak is broken.

And God help him, he can’t wait until tomorrow when he gets to see the psychotic bastard again.

The thought makes him want to bang his head against the wall because this was not supposed to happen to him again. He can’t fucking do this again, not when he’s only just begun piecing his life back together after the last time.

After much consideration, he does bang his head against the wall. He does it twice, with feeling. Then the neighbour next door starts banging back, and Danny gives up and rubs his forehead. He takes a deep breath, cracks open a beer, and turns on the TV.

He’ll be all right. He’s done this before, and he knows how it goes now. All he has to do is to keep it from going too far this time.

* * *

Suzie Tanaka was Danny’s first love. She had brown, almond-shaped eyes, and her hair was long and dark and silken. Actually, Danny had no clue what her hair was really like because Suzie was a little weird about it, but Mom had a silk scarf and he imagined Suzie’s hair would feel like that if he ever got to touch it. He was eleven years old and he knew from the first time he saw her that she was the love of his life. Within two days of getting to know her, Suzie had him wrapped around her little finger, and he didn’t mind one bit.

Matty thought Suzie was stupid, but Matty was still at the age where he thought all girls had cooties and he was mad that Danny would rather walk home from school with Suzie than with him. Angie and Liz thought Danny was stupid, and teased him over the dinner table every night until Mom told them to leave him alone.

He never did get to find out what Suzie’s hair felt like. Her family moved to Chicago the summer before sixth grade, and Danny’s entire world ended. He’d been prepared to do anything for her. He’d even tried learning to play the clarinet because Suzie was in the school band and he’d wanted to impress her. He’d turned out to be extremely bad at it and but at least it had made her laugh so he took that as a partial win.

Danny refused to go to school, and he refused to come out of his room. Officially, he was sick; the kind of illness that required careful application of the thermometer to a radiator to produce a fever that was high enough to keep him home from school but not so high that it would merit panicked parents and hospital visits. He was pretty sure Mom was onto him, but she hadn’t called his bluff yet and Danny was far too miserable to care anyway. Mostly he lay on his bed and stared at the ceiling and tried to ignore it every time someone knocked on the door.

Mom came in to sit on the side of his bed one evening. She ran her fingers through his hair and Danny wanted to lash out, scream and shout at her because he was almost twelve years old and not a baby anymore; but he’d also just had his heart broken, and in a way it was nice to know that she cared.

“I wish I could say it gets better when you get older,” Mom said quietly. “But I’m afraid it’s only going to get worse.”

“Not helping, Mom,” Danny told her and turned his face to the wall.

Mom sighed and stroked her hand down his back. “You’re just like your father,” she said. “You give everything you have, heart and soul. And that’s a good thing, Danny, don’t change. I’m just worried you’re going to get hurt.”

“Seriously Mom, you’re really not helping,” Danny muttered.

He never saw Suzie Tanaka again. She wrote him a letter just after she’d moved, told him that she missed him and that she hoped he could come and visit some time. Danny didn’t answer, couldn’t answer, and that was the last he heard from her.

The wound scabbed over, and Danny went back to school and swore he’d never fall in love again.

* * *

Danny falls for Steve the first day they met, and it’s almost scary how easy it is to fall into a partnership with him.

He honestly hadn’t meant for it to go any further than a professional work relationship, a friendship at the most, because he’s been on the job long enough to know that it rarely works out between partners who aren’t also friends.

Most days, it’s not even that difficult to pretend that he’s not stupidly in love with Steve. Danny could easily write a book on everything that’s wrong with the man. Steve isn’t exactly what you’d call well adjusted, and a lot of the time Danny feels like he’s babysitting a six foot plus hyperactive child with frightening amounts of military training and next to no impulse control. Steve’s a walking catastrophe waiting to happen, and Danny wonders when having bullets flying around his ears stopped being a potential risk and became part of his daily routine. There are days when he dreams about locking Steve up somewhere and not letting him out again until he’s passed a written exam on due process and proper police procedure. Then again, Steve would probably ace the test on the first try and then go out and keep doing things exactly the same way he’s always done them.

Then there are the days when something happens that reminds Steve that he’s a human being. Danny thinks they’re a bit alike in that aspect. Steve gets blindsided by his emotions too, but while Danny is very much in touch with his, it’s like Steve hasn’t even realised that normal people are supposed to have them.

It’s almost always cases involving children, more specifically children who’ve lost their parents. They get to Danny too, but he’s learned the hard way, had to learn, that he cannot put Grace’s face on every child he comes across on the job. That way lies burn-out and madness and mandatory counselling.

Steve doesn’t have that experience. Instead, he’s got Navy SEAL-grade skills in compartmentalising. Whenever he comes across something he can’t deal with, he puts it away in a neat little box, out of sight and out of mind, channels his frustration into furious action when what he really ought to do is to stop, take a deep breath and let himself feel something for once.

Danny is one hundred percent sure that Steve doesn’t even realise himself why he’s acting the way he does. He throws himself from one gruelling case right into the next, keeps himself occupied in some kind of desperate attempt to stop past hurts from bleeding through. Steve himself might not want to acknowledge it, but Danny can see it, the deep sadness that flickers over Steve’s face in unguarded moments.

It makes Danny want to cradle him, hold him tight and safe and shield him too.

And then come those days when Steve does something unexpectedly sweet, when Danny catches him with that warm, fond look on his face, and Danny has to go home and bang his head against the wall a few more times, just to remind himself that getting involved with Steve McGarrett would be extremely bad for his mental and physical health.

* * *

Then all pretense comes tumbling down after a day of adrenaline-fuelled desperation. It starts with an anonymous bomb threat to Ala Moana Center at lunchtime and the rest of the afternoon is devoted to the logistic nightmare of evacuating Hawai'i’s biggest shopping mall while simultaneously trying to track down the people responsible for the threat, and determining if there even is a bomb in the first place.

Because Danny is such a very lucky guy, there turns out to actually be a bomb. It’s also set on a timer, and the bomber is busy babbling about how crass commerce has taken the place of culture and history under Chin’s stern glare, and has no intention of providing any information on where he placed his homemade explosive device or how to defuse it.

Because Danny is quite possibly insane, he ends up being inside the mall while the timer is steadily ticking down to zero, since Steve was adamant that he knew the most logical location for the bomb and that there was ‘no time to wait for the bomb squad, Danno, I had bomb disposal training in the Navy’.

If Danny had any brains left at all, that should have been his cue to turn on his heel and walk right back out. He has a daughter, damnit, and he will never forgive himself if he gets himself blown up and leaves Gracie without a father. But Steve is not listening to reason, and Danny is not very optimistic about his chances of hitting him over the head and dragging him out of there, so he keeps trailing after his suicidally determined partner while throwing out every argument he can think of in the faint hope that any moment, Steve will realise that the sensible thing to do is to run for the exits as fast as his abnormally long legs can carry him. Who is he kidding? Steve wouldn’t see reason if it jumped up and bit him in the face.

Then they do find the bomb, and it becomes clear that neither of them is going to make it out of the mall before it goes off.

There are twelve seconds left on the timer, and Steve has that look on his face that usually means his scary laser focus is wholly concentrated on the task at hand, but might also mean he’s thinking very hard about what kind of low-fat delicacy he’s going to have for dinner.

Danny closes his eyes and prays, and hopes that the fact that he hasn’t been to church since Gracie was little won’t have any impact on the benevolence of the big guy upstairs.

He can hear a faint click and mentally steels himself for the big boom. Rachel is going to bring him back from the dead and kill him all over again. Then, Steve exhales slowly and Danny opens his eyes.

The digital display shows 00.04 in angry red numbers. The countdown has stopped. Steve is holding a disconnected blue wire between two fingers. There’s something in his face that Danny has very rarely seen before, something that looks very similar to stark naked fear.

It’s like time suddenly speeds up to normal again, and Steve seems to shake himself awake from the trance-like look he’s had and shouts, “Why the hell didn’t you get out, Danno, you have a kid!”

Danny shouts back, “Why the hell didn’t you get out, you asshole, did you seriously expect me to leave you to get blown up all on you own?” and his hands are shaking, and he decides that the most sensible course of action at this moment is to just sit down on his ass on the floor because if he doesn’t, his legs will probably give out any second now.

Steve slowly sinks down beside him, looking pretty shaky himself, warily eyeing the countdown timer on the bomb as if it’s going to start ticking again if he takes his eyes of the frozen red numbers. It strikes Danny just how very absurd the entire situation is, and he suddenly can’t stop the laugh that bubbles out of his chest. Steve looks at him like he’s gone mad, but then he starts laughing too, the kind of I-can’t-believe-we’re-not-dead laugh that only comes with excessive levels of adrenaline.

The bomb squad arrives a few minutes later to find them sitting on the floor, leaning on each other and howling with laughter. Danny is pretty sure this will add even more wild tales about Five-0 to the circulation.
Later, after Steve has been properly chastised by both Danny and Chin and the Captain of the bomb squad, and Danny has dropped by Rachel and Stan’s home for a surprise visit, begging to get to say goodnight to Gracie in person (he’s very proud of how well he managed not to let on how very close he came to dying an hour ago), the two of them somehow end up at Steve’s place.

It should be like any other evening - a few beers on the lana'i and round four hundred and thirteen of Hawai'i vs. Jersey, possibly interspersed by the always-popular conversation topic ‘Crazy Shit Steve Learned in the Navy’.

It should be like that, because Danny’s entire strategy for how to avoid getting his heart broken again hinges on the old familiar routine to continue like everything is normal. But he still feels a bit shocky, and Steve has been a little too pale and quiet, a little too intense, since they got out of the mall. Something is going to happen tonight, Danny just knows it. He also knows that he’s going to be helpless to stop it once the crucial moment comes, and he really should just drop Steve off and smile and wave goodbye, and then go home and take a cold shower and maybe a Valium or something and go to bed.

He doesn’t. Instead, he parks the Camaro in front of Steve’s garage and follows Steve through the door, and when Steve turns to him in the hall and takes hold of his wrists and presses him against the wall, Danny just goes with it. He opens his mouth and lets Steve kiss him, and then he kisses back because Steve just disarmed a bomb with four seconds to spare and they should be dead right now.

They fall into bed, both of them shaking with reaction and desire and need, and Danny gets to be the one to see Steve’s hard edges soften, gets to see all that laser guided focus directed at him, and it does extremely scary things to Danny’s chest, but it’s so beautiful that he can’t bring himself to regret it.

Afterwards, Steve holds him, face pressed close to his neck, like he’s trying to drown himself in Danny’s skin.

He’s so screwed.

* * *

The bed is empty when Danny wakes up the next morning and he reaches for the vacated spot with a strange ache in his heart, somewhere between disappointment and relief. He figures he ought to be grateful that Steve had the grace to clear out and leave Danny to do the walk of shame with at least a little dignity left. Then he gets up and gets dressed in the wrinkled, sweat-stinking clothes Steve ripped off him yesterday. It’s still early enough that he has time to go home and shower and change before he has to be at work.

He goes downstairs, and it turns out Steve didn’t clear out after all. Steve is in the kitchen, leaning against the counter and drinking something green and probably disgustingly healthy straight out of the blender. He’s dressed only in damp swim shorts, and his hair is drying in funny little whorls around his ears.

“That is so wrong,” Danny says, staring at the sludge that passes for Steve’s breakfast. “Nothing edible should have that colour. I fear for you.”

“You could’ve borrowed a clean t-shirt,” Steve says. “Coffee?”

Danny considers the offer and decides that he’s going to need vast amounts of caffeine to deal with this morning, so he accepts a mug from Steve and promptly proceeds to burn his tongue on the scalding hot drink.

“You should come with a warning label,” he mutters and then takes another cautious sip. “I don’t know what they taught you in SEAL school, but coffee is not supposed to be weaponised, okay?”

Steve doesn’t say anything. He just steps up close and gently palms Danny’s jaw, looking down at him like he’s something precious. Then Steve bows his head to kiss him, and Danny is falling all over again.

* * *

Falling into a relationship with Steve is almost as simple as falling into a partnership was. It’s not like anything actually changes, except for the fantastic sex, which leads Danny to the conclusion that they have actually been dating all this time and no one told him.

“Why didn’t anyone tell me?” he asks Chin and Kono, because if the two of them didn’t notice, they don’t deserve their badges..

“I thought you knew,” Kono says, looking innocent like only Kono can.

“I just thought it was fun to see how long it would take you to figure it out,” Chin says, looking just like he does when he’s making a perp sweat and secretly finds it far too amusing, but can’t let it show because it would destroy his badass image.

Danny buries his head in his arms and groans, and wonders what the hell he’s gotten himself into. If only he had known he could have... what? Stopped it before it even had a chance to begin? That would mean he would never have found out about the noises Steve makes when you kiss his bellybutton.

The problem isn’t that he’s in love with Steve. He’s been in love with Steve since day one, and he’s handled it just fine since then. The problem isn’t even that Steve loves him back.

No, the problem is how natural it all feels, like his life doesn’t even need any adjustment to slip in neatly together with Steve’s. Gracie already adores Steve, and Rachel thinks he’s a good influence (she must clearly have met a completely different Steve McGarrett than Danny, because his Steve is a walking talking recipe for disaster.) They don’t have to go through the awkward stage of finding out each other’s pet peeves and disgusting habits, because Danny already knows that raw onions give Steve gas and that eating them will get him banned from the Camaro for the rest of the day, and Steve is well aware that Danny likes to sleep in in the morning and therefore skips breakfast more often than not, no matter how healthy and well-prepared it is.

It’s like they’ve been together for a lifetime already when in reality it’s only a few weeks, and Danny is beginning to feel like he’s completely lost control of the whole thing. He should take the time to sit down and think it all through, because right now he’s not being very smart. He’s just crazy in love and, he has to admit to himself, stupidly happy.

It just can’t last. Sooner or later, the other shoe is going to drop, and with Danny’s usual luck, that shoe is going to be made of cast iron and it’s going to land right on top of his toes.

* * *

Danny and Eddie Cole were on the basketball team together in junior year. Eddie was tall and had dark hair and eyelashes to die for. The two of them weren’t best friends; Danny’s best friend was J.J. Martinez, and he’d never once thought about what J.J.’s eyelashes looked like. No, Eddie was just the guy Danny liked hanging out with a little too much for his own good. The two of them used to sit in Danny’s room and talk about what they were going to do after school, about their dreams and expectations. Danny thought that he might become a firefighter like Dad, or maybe an ambulance driver, which would also be cool. Eddie just wanted out and away, to go anywhere but here.

There was something about Eddie that Danny just couldn’t put his finger on, something new and exciting that gave him a weird feeling in his stomach. The way Eddie looked at him, the way Eddie listened to him made Danny want to spend a whole lot more time in his company, and they were already pretty much inseparable.

Then Eddie started turning up Danny’s his jerk-off fantasies, the shy little duck he did with his head when he’d said something clever, the thoughtful line of his mouth. The first time it happened, Danny was so surprised he had to stop and wonder what the hell was wrong with his brain. Then he thought, Oh, that’s what it is, part relieved that he’d finally figured it out and also a bit freaked out, because he was pretty sure this was going to turn problematic.

Troublesome or not, Danny was hopelessly in love with Eddie Cole and there was nothing he could do about it, except carry on as usual and hope that Eddie wouldn’t notice.

Close to Christmas, Eddie was talking more and more frequently about going away. Before, he’d always talked about what he was going to do after graduation, but now Danny was getting the feeling that Eddie was gearing up to just drop out of school and pack and go. He couldn’t figure out why, because Eddie was really smart and got high grades in all his classes, and Coach Abramovitz was talking about making him Captain of the basketball team next year. The more he talked, the more nervous Danny got that one day, Eddie would simply be gone. He hadn’t forgotten Suzie Tanaka and how she’d disappeared from his life.

Then came the day, just after school had started again after the winter break, when Eddie turned up at the Williams’ family home to ask Danny to come with him. It was cold out and the snow was coming down, and Eddie was only wearing a shirt. He was shivering and Mom made him come in and sit in the kitchen and warm up, and then she sent the two of them to Danny’s room to find something dry for Eddie to wear.

Danny was pretty sure Eddie had had a fight with his dad again; the two of them didn’t get along at all, but when he asked, Eddie said that nothing had happened. He’d just had enough. He was leaving, now, at once, and he wanted Danny to come too.

Danny protested that he couldn’t leave, he had school and Angie and Liz and Matty to look out for, and all kinds of responsibilities he couldn’t just give up.

Then Eddie grabbed hold of his shoulders and kissed him, and everything else ceased to matter completely.

They ended up naked together in Danny’s narrow bed. Danny’s first time was fumbling and awkward and new in every way, and the moment they were done, he wanted to do it all over again. He and Eddie spent the rest of the evening making out and planning their big adventure. Eddie wanted to go immediately, but Danny convinced him to wait for a couple of days, just so they would have time to make better plans.

The next day in school, Eddie acted like nothing had happened. At first, Danny thought he was just trying to keep their adventure a secret, but after lunch, when Eddie hadn’t even looked him all day, Danny cornered him outside the school cafeteria and asked what the hell was up with him.

Eddie said that nothing was wrong, he just had stuff to do and by the way, he wasn’t going to leave after all. Come to think about it, it was probably best if he and Danny stopped hanging out so much because people were beginning to talk.

Danny stammered something about yesterday, not really believing his ears. He’d already started to pack his bag.

“If you ever tell anyone about yesterday, I’ll kill you,” Eddie interrupted and backed away like he’d been burned. Then he ducked around a corner and disappeared.

Danny felt like he’d been punched in the gut and left on the ground gasping for breath. He’d been ready to do pretty much anything for Eddie, including leaving home and running off to see the world together. Never mind the fact that a couple of seventeen-year-olds with no car and barely any money probably wouldn’t get much farther than Hoboken.

Now, Eddie seemed to suddenly hate him for some reason, and Danny had no idea what he’d done wrong, how he could have misread the situation so completely.

Danny quit the basketball team and he wouldn’t touch a ball again until many years later when the memory of Eddie had faded enough that it didn’t hurt so much anymore. His grades dropped to the point where Mom and Dad started to worry, but he just couldn’t bring himself to care. He just wanted Eddie to stop strutting around school with his stupid eyelashes and his shy smile like nothing had happened. He was miserable for months and he was angry even longer. He’d wanted to give Eddie everything, and Eddie had taken it and then thrown it on the ground and stomped on it like it was worth nothing.

It took time, but Danny did forgive Eddie eventually. A year later, Mr Cole kicked his son out, ‘kicked’ in the literal sense of the word. There was a lot of gossip in the neighbourhood. As far as Danny could tell, Mr Cole had found out that Eddie was a ‘faggot’ and Eddie had ended up in the ER with two cracked ribs.

All Danny could think about was how very lucky he was that his own parents had only made vaguely questioning noises about grandkids when he’d finally managed to get up his nerve to tell them that he really liked girls, okay, girls were awesome, but he kinda liked guys too.

In a way, he should be grateful for the whole ugly experience. Eddie had taught him to guard his heart better, that even the people he loves can hurt him. He knows now that he has to be careful and that he has to be smart, has to use his head. Eddie had taught him that he needs shields, that he has to learn how to protect himself, or there’s a very real possibility he’ll see the day when love will kick the shit out of him and stomp him into the ground and leave him unable to get up again.

Last time he heard, Eddie lived in San Fransisco with an interior designer named Mark. Danny thought about calling a couple of times, just to let him know there were no hard feelings, but he never got around to it.

* * *

Two months in, Steve asks, “Why don’t you move in?”, drops it into conversation like it’s the most natural thing in the world.

“Whoa, aren’t we getting a little ahead of ourselves here?” Danny protests. There are warning bells going off inside his head, klaxons screaming at him that it’s time to start treading very carefully. “Let’s not rush things, babe.”

Steve seems disappointed, but he doesn’t bring it up again. Instead, he gets sneaky, and Danny is ashamed to admit that he has no idea what's happening until it’s already too late.

It starts with the key. “Just in case,” Steve says when he slips it into Danny’s hand, and Danny has to admit that it makes sense. He doesn’t reflect too much over it at first, and instead makes up a spare key for the apartment and one for the Camaro, since Steve drives the damn thing more than Danny does anyway.

Then comes the laundry. Danny has kept a change of clothes both at the office and at Steve’s house since before they started sleeping together, in case of job-related incidents like unforeseen swims in the ocean, prompted by, oh, people shooting at them, though who is he kidding? Getting shot at is an expected, near-daily occurrence, and how is this his life again?

Danny also absolutely hates doing laundry. His place is too small for a washing machine and there’s no communal laundry room in his apartment complex. He’s had to make do with the nearest laundromat, where the clientele is decidedly odd and people just don’t seem to be able to take the hint that a humble civil servant who spends his days protecting the citizens of Hawai'i might want to do his laundry in peace.

Steve listens to his rants with uncharacteristic patience, and then says, “So do it at my place,” and, well, that does seem like a solution to the problem. He can do laundry in his own time, whenever he feels like it, and he doesn’t have to hunt for coins.

It’s not until Danny has a coffee mishap in the car and has to rush home to change his shirt before he’s due in court that he realises that most of his wardrobe has mysteriously migrated out of his apartment and over to Steve’s house.

He has a similar epiphany with the fridge. One evening, he comes home from work, opens the door to the refrigerator and wonders how the hell can there be nothing in there but one lonely bottle of beer and a small assortment of condiments, when he went grocery shopping yesterday. Then he remembers that all those groceries ended up at Steve’s place, as did most of the food he bought the time before that. It’s not a mystery, really, because Steve has a more neurotic approach to food than most women Danny has ever met, and when he stays over, he likes to be able to open a cupboard and find something that’s not whole grain or non-fat or whatever the health gurus are advocating this week. It doesn’t matter what Grace’s nutrition class teacher claims; grown men cannot live on salads alone.

They spend Danny’s weekends with Grace at Steve’s more often than not, since the house has much more to offer a little girl than Danny’s apartment. Lots of space, private beach, actual beds to sleep in, just small stuff like that. Steve even lets her decorate one of the spare bedrooms just the way she wants, and doesn’t protest when she chooses pale pink for the walls. Instead, he helps her paint a line of jumping dolphins above the bed, and almost every time Grace comes to stay the night, some new glittery little trinket has found its way into her room.

All right, so Danny likes staying at Steve’s house. There are no nosy neighbours who keep track of his comings and goings, and Steve has every sport channel known to man, and possibly a few more that he must have acquired by hacking a satellite or something; Danny is not going to ask. There’s enough space that he can turn around without hitting his elbows on something, and as far as he knows there is no vermin issue. The fact that he gets to go to sleep with Steve’s arm wrapped around his waist, that’s just a bonus.

* * *

Rachel, of all people, is the one to clue him in. She’s waiting at the door when he comes to drop Grace off, and she says, “Daniel, we need to talk,” in that tone of voice that automatically makes him start trying to figure out what he did to piss her off this time.

She invites him in and leads him into the kitchen while he goes over the weekend in his head. Okay, so they did not spend the whole time watching TV. He and Steve took Grace to the Waikiki Aquarium to see the Monk seals, which has to qualify as a fun and educational activity. They did not have junk food for dinner. There were no excessive amounts of sugar. He did not spoil her with too many new toys. All right, so Steve got her a stuffed animal from the Aquarium gift shop, but that one counts as a souvenir. As far as Danny can remember, he’s been a model parent the entire weekend.

As it turns out, it’s not his parenting skills that are being put to question, but his apparently non-existent skills at noticing things that are going on right under his nose.

“Why didn’t you tell me you moved in with Commander McGarrett? I would have appreciated finding out before the fact,” Rachel says, and Danny feels his chin drop half way to the floor.

“I’m not... I haven’t moved in with...”

And there he is, standing in the middle of Rachel’s shiny design kitchen, realising that somehow he’s ended up living with Steve McGarrett and he hadn't even seen it happening. He hasn’t stopped by his apartment in two weeks now - why would he need to when all his clothes and all his food and nearly everything he cares about is at Steve’s? There’s a new parking spot cleared for the Camaro right beside Steve’s truck, so he doesn’t have to park in the street. Yesterday, he didn’t only buy groceries, he bought lightbulbs and washing detergent and toilet paper, the kind of stuff you buy for a house you live in. He commands half the dresser and half the wardrobe, and almost his entire DVD collection has made its way onto Steve’s bookcase downstairs.

Danny might not have intended to, but he has moved in with Steve. The manipulative bastard had tricked him. And why the hell is he still paying rent for his little rathole? He could have saved a fortune!

No, wait. This is no time to get sidetracked. This is the time for being furious with Steve, and to try not to take it out on Rachel, because it’s not her fault Danny’s partner is a sneaky asshole with no respect for Danny’s decisions.

“Rachel, I’m sorry,” he says, very impressed over how calm he sounds. “I should have said something. Would you believe I actually didn’t notice?”

“You never were very perceptive about these things,” Rachel says, and there really is no call for that smug little smile of hers. So what if it took him thirteen years to figure out that she crashed into his car on purpose? It’s not the same thing at all. “You need to contact Grace’s school and give them your new information,” she continues, like it’s not a big deal at all.

No, I really don’t, because this stops now, Danny doesn’t say. Instead, he says his goodbyes with an admirable amount of restraint, gives Grace a hug, and drives hom... no, drives to Steve’s, damnit.

Steve is doing yardwork when he gets there. They were discussing it over the breakfast table, how no one’s really done anything about the garden since Steve’s mother died, and that maybe they should try to clean up a little in the veritable jungle around the house. Danny should have known then. He should have known weeks ago.

“Steven,” he begins, not really sure how to go on. “I applaud your efforts, I really do. It’s obvious that all your Navy Intelligence training was good for something. Well done, you got me this time. However, when I told you, oh, a month ago, that I did not want to move in with you, I actually meant it, okay?”

Steve looks up from the huge Bougainvillea he’s been cutting down. “You never said you didn’t want to move in. You just said you didn’t want to rush things.”

“And then you went ahead and moved me in anyway!” Danny can feel his blood pressure rising as he speaks. “There is such a thing as personal space, McGarrett, and there are some people who happen to value theirs, okay? Is that such a very difficult concept to understand? You’ve already taken over my job and my life and my car, and now you make decisions about my living arrangements without informing me first? How is that normal?”

Steve brushes the dirt off the knees of his cargoes and stands up. “I thought this was us taking it slow,” he says. “What the hell is so terrible about living in my house anyway?”

“Your house is full of crazy, okay, and I don’t want to catch it!”

The moment the words spill over his lips, Danny knows he shouldn’t have said that. Steve’s eyebrows do that thing where they crinkle together and his whole forehead scrunches up. Hell no, not the kicked puppy face. Danny cannot deal with the kicked puppy face on top of everything else.

“I’m going home,” he says. “Home to my place, okay? I’ll come by tomorrow and get my stuff back.”

Then he storms off, just so he won’t have to see Steve’s sad expression with the knowledge that he’s the one who put it there. His apartment is so empty it echoes, and looks more like a storage space filled with half-packed boxes than a place suitable for human habitation. He sits down on the sofa-bed and sighs deeply.

The thing is, Danny does like Steve’s house. He likes that it’s a home and not just a place to sleep and keep stuff. He likes that it has a history, such as it is. He likes sitting in one of the Adirondack chairs on the beach with a cold one in his hand and watching Steve emerge from the ocean like some mythical sea-creature, dripping with water from his evening swim. He likes it when Grace stays over on weekends and wakes them up too early in the morning, and all three of them sit on the couch together, watching cartoons and eating cereal out of the box, and Steve’s arm always ends up around Danny’s shoulders. He likes it when something prompts Steve to tell him about a childhood memory with fondness in his voice instead of old pain.

The problem is that the very fact that it’s beginning to feel like home is enough to remind him of the last home he built together with someone, and how that particular house of cards came crashing down over his head.

* * *

Danny made it all the way through college and the Police Academy without falling in love. He dated and he fooled around a bit, but it never got serious, never made him feel like he’d been run over by a bus. He was almost beginning to think that maybe he’d be lucky enough to get through the rest of his life with his heart intact.

Then a gorgeous British woman rammed into his car, and it was love at first sight. Danny has no idea how he knew Rachel was the one, and he still doesn’t get why. She was everything he wasn’t; classy, beautiful, an only child, not to mention extremely smart. He never could figure out what it was she saw in him, and he couldn’t believe his luck when he proposed and she said yes.

There were times in the early days when Danny wondered if he wasn’t making a mistake. They were too different. It was never going to work. Sooner or later, he was going to get his heart broken again, and he knew from experience that it was going to hurt even worse this time. But then Rachel would flash him one of her brilliant smiles, and all that would be forgotten.

When Grace arrived it was like being broadsided all over again.The first time Danny held her, no more than a few minutes old, red and wrinkly and screaming her lungs out, he couldn’t believe that it was possible to love someone that much. For the first time, Danny felt his life coming together, and it was perfect.

Of course there were problems, but all couples had problems, right? Money was an issue; he knew Rachel was biting her tongue not to bring it up too often, but she was used to vacations abroad and not having to save up for years to buy a new car. Danny’s job was an issue; the long hours and the shitty pay and the ever-present risks and the unfortunate fact that the same passion that made him a good cop also made it impossible to switch off when he got home. Their stubbornness was an issue; how neither of them could bend and admit that they were wrong. Their tempers were an issue; how Danny could blow up over the simplest little thing and how Rachel could go around and silently seethe for days.

He should have noticed it beginning to fall apart. He should have seen what was happening, should have realised it was heading in the wrong direction when the fights got more frequent than the kisses.

Danny loved Rachel and he loved being married to her. He wonders sometimes; if he’d loved her just a little bit less, maybe the divorce wouldn’t have been so ugly. If he hadn’t persisted in holding on long after there actually was anything left to hold on to, he and Rachel might have been able to part as friends. Instead, Danny had dug in his feet and fought and struggled every step of they way. Even when he hated her the most, he still loved her, and he knows it’s stupid in hindsight, but he would rather have had that miserable existence together with her than seeing her take their daughter and walk out the door.

Rachel leaving broke him worse than he’d ever been broken before, and there were several times he’s pretty sure he wouldn’t have survived it if it hadn’t been for Matty. His brother spent six months shoring him up, making sure he got just drunk enough to be able to sleep but not too drunk to make it to work the next day. Matty listened to Danny raging and raving and calling Rachel all kind of ugly things that he would be ashamed to remember later. Without him, Danny’s pretty sure he would have done something unthinkably stupid.

Somehow, he got through it. Danny wouldn’t have believed it while it was going on, but he came out on the other end and he was, if not fine, at least okay.

Still, he knows how badly the breakup destroyed him, can still feel the slowly mending pieces of his heart turn their jagged edges against each other now and then, and he knows he can’t take another hit like that. There’s no way he’ll be able to live through it.

That’s why he needs to take it slow this time. He needs to think about it carefully, make sure that he makes his decisions for the right reasons. Steve, on the other hand, is impulsiveness personified. When he gets something into his head, he just goes for it. He never stops to think about whether it’s actually a good idea or not.

Danny’s just going to have to think ahead for the both of them. He doesn’t want to make any mistakes with this thing they have together, and he doesn’t want Steve to make any mistakes either. He doesn’t want either of them to do anything they’ll regret later.

Maybe if he just tells Steve, lets him know exactly how he feels about them, how much he wants it to work and how terrified he is that it won’t, he can fix this mess. It can hardly make things any worse.

* * *

Steve is sulking the next day at work, which means that the whole team is miserable. Danny comes in a little later than usual, and it’s all because of traffic and has nothing at all to do with the fact that he spent fifteen minutes of the morning trying to come up with a plausible reason to call in sick.

Chin won’t even speak to him, just glares darkly over the computer table in a way that makes the spot between Danny’s shoulderblades itch.

“You couldn’t have picked a better time to break up with the boss?” Kono asks. “Like, never?” She looks extremely sour, which probably means Steve has given her some thankless task to complete.

“Oh for Gods sake!” Danny throws his arms up. “I didn’t break up with him.”

“Does he know that?”

No, probably not, Danny realises. Now that he comes to think of it, his abrupt exit yesterday could probably had been interpreted in a number of different ways, especially by Steve McGarrett, who is practically one huge abandonment issue all by himself.

He’d been hoping to put off this conversation until at least after he’d had a cup of coffee because he hadn’t slept much last night and dealing with a grumpy Steve before he’s been properly caffeinated is not something Danny looks forward to. But Kono’s blocking his path to the coffee machine, and there’s no way he’s going to try to get past her when she’s in this kind of mood. No one would ever find his body.

Instead, he sighs deeply and heads for Steve’s office to beard the lion in his den.

The door is closed but the blinds aren’t drawn, and Danny can see Steve sitting in there, staring intently at something on his computer screen. He looks like he’s hard at work, or he might possibly be trying to cheat at computer solitaire. Danny knocks and when Steve looks up to see who it is, his face falls. Uh-oh. That’s not a good sign. It takes several long seconds for Steve to school his expression into the blank super-SEAL face, and when he motions for Danny to come in, the gesture is short, clipped, like it wasn’t just yesterday morning they were doing filthy things to each other in their... in Steve’s bed.

“Yes?”

Danny swallows. “We should talk.”

Steve glances at the computer. “I’m busy, can't it wait?”

“Only if you want Chin and Kono to lynch me, so please hear me out?” Danny steps inside and walks up to the desk. He catches a glimpse of Steve’s screen out of the corner of his eye. Yep, definitely solitaire. “I’m sorry about yesterday, okay. I lost my temper, I do that sometimes, but I shouldn’t have left like that.”

Steve leans back in his chair, crossing his arms protectively over his chest. “All right. Apology accepted.” He still has the blank face on, the one that Danny hates because it makes it impossible to try to figure out what he’s thinking.

“Also, just so you know, yesterday was not me leaving for good, okay? Yesterday was me needing some space and not rushing ahead.”

That finally gets a reaction out of Steve. He shoves his chair back and stands up, and the blank face has been replaced by the bewildered face, also known as the emotions-are-difficult face. “Danno, it’s been months. How is that rushing ahead?”

“Excuse me, have you met my ex-wife? There are times when we manage to have a civil conversation in real time, but most of the time we communicate through voice mail, because we don’t want our daughter to be left an orphan after we’ve strangled each other. Well, I guess Rach would be a little more sophisticated about it, a cup of poisoned tea, that’s more her style, but still, what I’m trying to say is that it was a bad break-up, okay, and I don’t think I can survive another one like that.”

To Steve’s credit, he’s at least listening. He seems to be listening to the wrong things though, because as soon as Danny has finished talking, he asks, “Why do you assume we’re going to break up?”

“I’m not assuming anything, Steven. I’m merely trying to make you aware of the possibility that one day you might wake up and hate me for not picking up the drycleaning and leaving dirty dishes out and being overprotective and yelling too much. It happens, okay? It happened once and it could happen again, and I will gladly admit that a lot of it was my fault, because the job had me a little screwed up there for a bit, I admit that.”

“I kinda like the yelling, actually,” Steve says, completely missing the point just as usual. “It’s soothing.”

“Soothing. Soothing? All right, there are so many things wrong with that statement that I’m not even going to get into it, you enormous freak of nature.”

Steve’s still standing behind the desk, like he needs that barrier between them. Danny wants to go back there and pull him out in the open where there’s no cover to hide behind for either of them, but Steve doesn’t look like he’s planning to budge anytime soon. Danny starts pacing instead, waving his hands as he talks, because he needs something to do with them, okay, or he’s pretty sure he’s going to explode.

“The way I see it, there are a couple different ways this could turn out, so let me tell you about them.” He starts to count them off on his fingers. “One - you get tired of me.” Steve opens his mouth and Danny motions for him to shut it again. “No, be quiet, don’t talk, let me finish, okay? Can you do that? Good. So, you get tired of me, maybe someone better comes along, a shinier toy, I don’t know. Or the whole wanting to strangle each other thing comes into play again. Either way, it ends there and you know what? That is actually the preferred outcome, because at least it leaves you alive.”

He has to make a quick oxygen break there ,and Steve starts to say something, but Danny holds up his hand to silence him again. He’s on a roll here and he’s not going to let Steve get a word in until he’s done. “And that, my friend, leads me to option number two - you get your stupid ass killed.”

Jesus, even saying it makes him want to puke. It was stupid, letting it go this far. He'd known it even when they'd started the whole thing.

“Danny...” Steve says. He looks stunned and a little pale, like he hadn’t even thought about it before. Of course he hasn’t.

“Do not tell me that is not a very real possibility. Do not even think about telling me that, McGarrett. Statistically, you are dead, do you get me? Statistically, you die about three times a week, and one of these days, the world is going to catch up to the fact that you’re not actually Superman. One of these days, I’m going to have to dig out my uniform and the black band and I’m going to have to go to your fucking funeral and I’ll only have a folded flag to remember you by.”

That’s the thing, he realises in a flash of clarity that steals his breath away. That’s why he can’t do this. He has no idea what happened to Suzie Tanaka, but he hopes she has a good life somewhere, with someone who gets to touch her hair all they want. He’s happy for Eddie Cole and his interior designer, because with all the shit Eddie had to deal with, he deserves to have something turn out right. And even though Rachel isn’t his anymore, their lives are still connected, he still has small pieces of her left. She’s happy with the new life she’s created for herself, and Danny’s finally getting to the point where he can be happy for her too.

He might have lost them, but at least they’re still around. The day he loses Steve, it will most likely be to a bullet, and it doesn’t matter that he’s come to expect it, doesn’t matter that he’s living every day with the possibility of it, he knows it will break his stupid, fragile heart into a million pieces. Losing Steve will be final, and there is no fucking way Danny will ever be able to get over that.

It’s like someone sucked all the air out of the room, and there has to be something wrong with the AC because it’s simultaneously too hot and too cold. Danny’s beginning to get a little lightheaded, and he must be looking pretty bad because Steve finally comes around the desk.

“Danno, come on. Sit down, breathe.”

Steve guides him over to the couch and gently pushes his head down between his knees, stroking his back while he tries desperately not to be sick. It takes Danny a while to get a hold of himself, and when he finally does, Steve’s sitting there, watching him worriedly.

“Better?”

Danny swallows around the sour taste in his mouth. “Yeah. Sorry.” He feels stupid and more than a little angry at himself. If the mere thought of losing Steve forever is enough to give him a panic attack, he’s let it go way too far.

“What about option three?” Steve asks softly.

“What about it?”

“Neither of us die. We don’t break up. Shit, Danno, move in or don’t move in, it’s not like it’s a big deal. I’m just trying to be practical here!”

Danny buries his head in his hands. “I can’t believe that after everything I’ve just said, you’re still hung up on the cohabitation issue,” he says, distantly hearing how oddly calm his tone of voice is.

“I can’t believe you actually came up with that many reasons for us not to be together!” Steve answers. He sounds pissed, and when Danny looks up, he gets a full dose of the I’m-a-scary-son-of-a-bitch-and-I-will-fuck-you-up face. It’s the face that reportedly once made a perp piss himself. Danny wasn’t there for the occasion, but he’s willing to take Chin’s word for it. In any case, Danny has a certain amount of respect for that face.

“Because I know how it goes, okay? It’s good now, but for how long?” Danny’s mind is spinning. Somehow, the conversation that should have been him telling Steve that he wants to stay, suddenly turned into him telling Steve that they should break it off. And they should, it’s all to clear now. “Seriously, can you even tell me why we should keep doing this? I mean, a good, long-term reason?”

Steve keeps clenching and opening his fists, like he wants to hit something but isn’t sure what. “Okay, I’ll give you a reason. I’ll give you several.” He takes a deep breath and begins rattling them off. “I love you, how about that? I love Gracie. I miss you when you’re not around. The house was so empty last night that I had to sleep in front of the TV because I couldn’t take the quiet.”

Danny blinks, remembering his own lonely night. He spent it listening to his upstairs neighbours have extremely noisy sex and trying not to think about how the only sounds that ever make their way into Steve’s bedroom are the ocean waves. His crappy bed creaked every time he turned over and he just couldn’t fall asleep without Steve’s soft snores beside him.

“You know what,” Steve says, interrupting his thoughts. “Fuck you. I keep candy that I don’t even eat in my freezer for you. I let your daughter paint the guest room pink. What am I supposed to do with a pink bedroom if there’s no one around to sleep in it, huh? My closet is full of your stupid ties and I don’t mind, I want them there. You can’t just come into people’s lives like that and make them care, and then walk right out again just because you’re scared.”

“I’m just trying to do the sensible thing here, okay?” Danny says, but it comes out less confident than he meant it to, like it’s himself he needs to convince.

Steve just shakes his head, and it’s like someone has suddenly cut his strings. His shoulders slump and a weary, resigned look creeps into his eyes. “I was playing for keeps here, Danny, and I thought you were too. I guess I was wrong.”

He gets up from the couch and turns his back and he looks so utterly crushed that Danny’s heart almost stops in his chest. He suddenly realises that he’s not the only one who has something important to lose here.

Steve McGarrett does not let people get close. He’s spent his whole life guarding his heart even more carefully than Danny has, because he’s grown so used to people leaving him, or being forced to leave them. That he even found the courage to take a new chance with one Detective Daniel Williams... It’s so big that Danny wants to bang his head against the wall again, because of all the things he should have noticed lately, that is what’s most important. Danny might have taken a risk, getting into this relationship, but Steve took a far bigger one.

“We’re morons,” Danny says out loud.

Steve stops, turns around. He looks completely baffled. “What?”

“Idiots.” Danny stands up. “We’re so stupid it’s a miracle we’ve made it this far. C’mere.”

He holds his arms out and Steve steps into his embrace, as if on pure instinct. It feels so perfectly right, holding him like this, and Danny can’t believe he was just about to throw it all away.

“I’m not leaving, okay?” He cranes his neck and presses his lips to the corner of Steve’s mouth, trying to kiss that broken look away. “I never should have thought about leaving. I’m just so damn terrified something is going to happen to you, babe, because I couldn’t take that, all right? I can not watch you die, do you get me?”

Steve shudders against him, buries his head against Danny’s shoulder. “Jesus, Danny. You scared the shit out of me.”

“I know, I’m sorry. I won’t do it again.” Damnit, he was so focused on the fact that he was going to fall apart if he lost this that he was prepared to turn around and do exactly the same thing to Steve.

“I promise I will do everything I can to stay alive,” Steve says, whispers really, against his neck. Danny almost starts laughing, because as vows go, it’s absurd and insane and so very Steve.

Losing Steve will destroy him, there’s no way around that fact. But the knowledge that the feeling is mutual, that Steve needs him the same way he needs Steve, that counts for something. If he can just remember that, they’ll make the rest of it work.

They stand there holding each other for some time, and Danny basks in the rightness of it. Then he catches a glimpse of something out of the corner of his eye and remembers that Steve’s office has glass walls.

He stands on his toes to peer over Steve’s shoulder. Chin and Kono quickly duck their heads, suddenly very focused on something in the opposite direction.

“They’ve been watching the whole time, haven’t they?” Danny asks with a sigh. It’s not like he and Steve are keeping anything secret from the rest of the team, but he hadn’t exactly planned on providing them with entertainment for the day.

Steve turns his head to look, and then nods. “Yep.”

“Wonderful.” He steps around Steve and cheerfully flips them the bird.

Chin and Kono grin back and toast each other with their coffee mugs, which makes Danny remember that he still hasn’t had any caffeine today. Kono will probably let him have some coffee now, judging from the happy thumbs-up she’s giving him.

Steve doesn’t seem to want to let the show go on any longer, because he closes the blinds. Then he turns back to Danny, looking a bit uncertain. “So, do you still want to come and get your stuff? I tried to... pack some of it up, last night, but I didn’t even know where to start.”

Danny can picture him walking around the house, picking up things, trying to make a clean break. God, Steve must've been miserable last night. He wants to hit himself hard. The answer is already on his tongue.

“Nah. Too much work.” He smiles. “I think my stuff is exactly where it belongs.”

- fin -