It’s scary, this thing with Danny, terrifying on levels that go way past anything he’d ever experienced with the SEALs. It twists him up inside, makes him lose his focus, and that in itself is enough to make him want to step back, maybe reevaluate things.
Steve doesn’t lose focus. He never has, never thought that he could, but then – then he’d tripped across Danny, pulled him into his life, and that had been it. And Danny, of course, hadn’t been satisfied until he’d found his way into all of the dark spaces in Steve, until he’d filled all the corners and chinks in Steve’s armor with his brash personality and fiercely loyal tendencies. Steve still isn’t quite sure who initiated them as them, just that it had happened at some point along the line, and that he’s never been so grateful for anything in his life.
Except for how it sometimes makes him waver, makes him not as sure in his step as he always has been, and he knows – knows – that it’s going to cost him everything if he doesn’t get his head on straight and get everything figured out.
“Danny,” he tries one night as they’re lying together. It’s been a long day, one in a series of many, and tomorrow’s sure to be the same.
“Hm?” Danny answers drowsily. He’s curled on his side, head pillowed on Steve’s chest, one arm thrown carelessly over Steve’s hips as he teeters between cognizant and dreaming.
“Is this-” Steve stops, not sure how to ask, not sure what the answer he wants is anyway. The only thing he’s sure of, with a sudden startling clarity, is that this is, whatever he’d been about to ask originally; it absolutely, irrevocably is.
“What, babe?” Danny murmurs against his skin. He sounds a little more awake, a little more like he’s getting worried, so Steve rubs his thumb across Danny’s shoulder beneath where his hand is resting.
“Sleep,” Steve tells him, and Danny turns his face and kisses Steve’s chest and closes his eyes, and that’s affirmation enough right there.
So Steve’s got this thing with Danny and this revelation, this absolutely stunning revelation that he doesn’t know what to do with. He wants to tell Danny that’s he’s figured it out, that he knows for sure, but he doesn’t have the slightest idea what words to use. He thinks about borrowing someone else’s – ranges through movie quotes, looks through some of his mom’s old poetry books, finds in secret, between the shadow and the soul and I love you because I know no other way before he realizes that it’s all the right sentiments and none of the right sounds. He gets frustrated for a few days, maybe a week, because this is important, this is, and he can’t just – open his mouth and say it.
It comes to him in the middle of one of Danny’s rants as they’re driving one day, something about badges and double parking and sirens, use and abuse of power, when Steve is half-listening and half-thinking. It’s his default setting for this particular type of rant, the one where Danny’s talking to talk, not to get a point across. Steve knows the difference by now, so he sits back and mulls over the man in the seat next to him.
Nobody would ever label Danny as hard to read; most people think he’s pretty much a picture book, drawn in crayon and lettered by hand, but Steve knows better than that. Sure, Danny’s never going to be one to mince his words or to hold back his opinion, but he treads more carefully than Steve had thought he would when it’s personal. Steve gets that, understands that it’s much harder to wear your heart on your sleeve than your bravado and your anger. It’s harder to protect it there, harder to keep it from getting stepped on and tossed around and left in shreds. Still, though, Danny’s better at emotions and feelings and everything than Steve will ever be. Steve has always been the take-charge guy: SEAL, Navy guy, quarterback before that. Talking isn’t easy, will never be natural, but doing, that’s what he’s decent at.
He’s looking at Danny when he thinks yeah, okay. Danny pulls into the driveway just after that, still going on about why it’s bad form to leave a guy handcuffed to a bike rack after dark, Steven, as he unbuckles his seat belt and slides from the car. Steve lets him ramble as they walk up the stairs, lock the door behind them, and make their way to bed.
“-would not kill you to try,” Danny finishes as he walks into their bedroom. It’s a rule of his, Steve has learned; work doesn’t come into the bedroom. It stays firmly outside the door, ready to be picked up as soon as he crosses the threshold in the morning, but now, now he’s quiet, watching Steve with a little half-smile as they get undressed.
“What?” Danny asks him when they’re both naked, still smiling. “What, do I have something on my face, is my hair ridiculous?”
“Your hair is always ridiculous,” Steve replies absently. “Just – c’mere, huh?”
Danny walks right to him and tilts his head up, wrapping his arms around Steve’s neck, out of habit if nothing else. Steve loops his arms around Danny’s middle and just looks at him for a minute. “God,” he sighs after a minute of not knowing what to say. “You – you’re so-”
Steve gives up on words and bends to meet Danny’s mouth. It’s the barest brush of lips, again and again, and when Steve pulls his head back, Danny’s eyes are wide and dark and so full of everything that it almost chokes Steve right there on the spot, all that utter intensity focused on him.
“Tell me again,” Danny says softly as he rubs his thumb against the nape of Steve’s neck, and there’s that little smile again, the one that Steve hears as I’ve got you, I get it even when he’s saying other things. And yeah, Danny does get it, gets him, and Steve can only be thankful as he leans his head back down to kiss Danny again, still so gentle, still slow and careful.
It’s kind of beautiful, how Danny goes where Steve puts him, how he trails his fingers along Steve’s spine while Steve memorizes Danny’s body with his lips. It’s amazing how Danny curls his hand around Steve’s where it rests against his side, how Danny pulls their tangled fingers to his mouth and kisses the back of Steve’s hand as Steve mouths his way down, down, down. And the noises – God, the noises that Danny’s making, tiny catches of breath and little exhalations, the gasps dropping from his lips, each one sounding like it belongs in the soundtrack of what they’re doing, like masterpieces.
Danny’s a masterpiece unto himself by the time Steve has finished tracing the lines of muscle and curves of flesh with his mouth and his fingers and his tongue. He’s almost trembling as Steve makes his way up to meet Danny’s mouth again, and yet he’s still gentle against Steve, opening his lips as Steve opens his own. Danny’s hand is back to being curled around Steve’s neck, warm and heavy, and it’s all Steve can do to keep himself from shuddering into pieces at the look on Danny’s face.
The look stays there, beautiful and intense and burning, always burning, as Steve opens himself up and finally, finally, lowers himself onto Danny. He rocks gently, easily, moving his body in time with Danny’s, strangely graceful where they’re usually reckless. For once, Steve thinks, they’re not fucking or banging or screwing or any of a thousand other euphemisms he’s heard or used himself to describe sex. This is something else, something that feels like a memory in the making, and Steve feels maybe a little ridiculous when he thinks that this is what they mean when they say making love.
There’s speed, finally, and friction and Danny’s hand closing around him, and there’s the stuttered movement of Danny’s hips as he pushes up and bites his lip and gasps, and then Steve is dropping his head to his chest and breathing Danny’s name like a litany, again and again.
They’re sweaty and sticky and should probably clean up, but Steve curls into Danny’s side and rests his head high on his partner’s solid chest. He can feel Danny drop a light kiss into his hair as his arm curls around Steve’s back. His face stays pressed into Steve’s hair as he speaks, but Steve can hear him clearly.
“I love you, too,” Danny says quietly, and all Steve can do is close his eyes and smile.