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The Broken Road, Chapter Two

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I don't remember ever being as glad to see anybody as I was to see Danny when they got home from the concert. When I woke up from that nightmare, I knew I was home, but I couldn't stop shaking. I couldn't break the grip of that fear, of how it felt to come so close to death. Worse than that, throughout the whole ordeal, I had no hope. I should have known Danny was on his way with the whole fucking military mobilized. I'll never forget the moment when he lifted the tarp on that truck in North Korea.

I thought I'd lost my mind, that I was hallucinating. I couldn't believe he was there, untying me, looking like the sight of me in that condition both relieved him, since I was alive, and tormented him at the same time because of what I'd been through. 

I should have never assumed that Afghanistan would keep us apart. I was finally beginning to believe that Danny would always be there. That he'd always come to my rescue, always be by my side. And, now, I was beginning to realize he would always love me. The thought of making love with him made me tingle, and made me curse my fucked up shoulder and my bruised ribs. It was all getting a little better day by day, but not fast enough now that the option to have him that way was in reach. Literally. 

Any illusions I've had over the years that I was in charge of our partnership have been just that. Danny is only controlled by someone he allows to have the illusion of controlling him. When he makes up his mind to something, he can move mountains. Or, more accurately, figure out a way to get me off the beach and into the mountains. Off work for two weeks because from his perspective, that's how much time I need to heal up before he'd allow me to consider working again. 

I could have fought him, but he was right. I was a mess physically and I wasn't wrapped too tightly emotionally, either, and I was in no condition to manage my own life, let alone the team. The governor was under the impression I'd been engaged in some classified government mission and had been injured in the course of that mission, so he played into Danny's hands by insisting I get clearance from a doctor to return to active duty with Five-0. 

I know Danny's idea of a good time is a fancy hotel in the city, good restaurants, maybe a concert by a band he actually likes, nightclubs...in other words, the exact opposite of the trip he planned for us, because he knew I'd love it. At first, I wasn't thrilled with another flight, but the thought of a remote cabin in the woods in Northern California, just Danny and me, was pretty appealing. I also know he wanted us to be far enough away that we couldn't be dragged back home easily, so Five-0, the HPD, and the criminal element of Hawaii would have to manage on their own until we'd had our vacation.

Danny drove us in a rented SUV from the little landing strip to the town closest to the cabin. We stopped at the general store and stocked up on provisions. There was an elderly man behind the aging cash register and a woman about the same age doing inventory and restocking shelves, though she seemed to be toddling from the back room to the store shelves with one or two cans of soup at a time. I guess in that locale, and at their ages, it didn't matter if it took all day to get through tasks the rest of us figured had to be done in minutes. 

Danny insisted on doing all the gathering and lifting, and the little old lady who reminded me of my grandmother fussed over my sling and my bruises and began selecting a number of remedies from their shelves she was convinced would speed my recovery. I was sure Danny had packed his impressive array of pain relievers, but her concern was sweet and I didn't have the heart to squash it.

While he chatted with the old man about how good the fishing was in the creek near the cabin, Danny stole looks at me, and seemed pleased I was being fussed over. It was weird, but the old lady's sincere concern did make me feel better. I don't know if any of her products would make much difference, but I was glad to buy them in return for her desire to help me.

Danny loaded three cartons of supplies into the back of the SUV. If it had been up to me, we'd have left with one, but that's probably why he was happy for the old lady to distract me from questioning his food choices or the volume or variety. It was on the tip of my tongue to tell him that unless one of us contracted dysentery, we didn't need that much toilet paper. Oh, well, whoever rented the cabin after us would have a nice stock of paper products.

I was on strict orders from Danny to do nothing but rest and enjoy the trip. The doctor had told me to rest my shoulder for a few weeks before starting physical therapy. I dreaded that. Physical therapy is like torture that's good for you. I felt like a pussy for dreading it like I did. I'd been through it when I broke my arm on that hiking trip. An injury that felt ridiculously better when Danny signed "I Love You" to me from the ground as I was being airlifted out of the jungle. I wondered how things would have been different if I'd paid more attention to his big smile or the look in his eyes when he did it. He did love me. A lot. Way back then. I've been through so much shit I could have avoided by just kissing the crap out of him the next time we got together. 

"You're not sleeping, so you must be stewing about something. Out with it," Danny said, but his expression was a mix of love and amusement. "Or is it just driving you that crazy not to be driving?" He glanced at me, just briefly looking way from the road. I liked how he looked all lit up by the sunshine and happy and relaxed. Danny doesn’t relax a lot.

"I was thinking about when I broke my arm on that hiking trip."

"Another time you shaved a few dozen years off my life falling off that cliff."

"I didn't exactly fall off a cliff, Danny, or I wouldn't be here."

"Okay, Mountain Man, I'm sorry I don't know all the right terms for the mountains and how you might fall off one."

"A rock hit me, I didn’t exactly just fall."

"That had to hurt," he said. I laughed. 

"Like a mother," I admitted, and it was his turn to laugh. 

"What got you thinking about that?" Then realization seemed to dawn. "Oh, the arm. Does it hurt, too?"

"Not more than usual when it's gonna rain."

"It hurts when it's gonna rain? Still?" Danny spared another look at me from the road, seeming troubled. It was a little awe-inspiring to have someone love me so much that it upset him to find out I had a hurt he didn't know about. "Shit. I never thought about the possibility they might have re-injured your arm."

"They x-rayed my shoulder and my arm at the base infirmary. Nothing was out of place in my forearm." I had done a real number on my arm on that fall - shattered was the term the doctor used - and it had taken a long time to heal. 

Physical therapy was pure hell, and Danny had gone with me to every appointment. He drove me there and back, and he sat there and cheered me on through everything, especially at first. He'd hold my other hand while I was doing whatever horrible exercise they came up with next, and insist I squeeze him when something hurt. Even when I did it hard enough that it couldn't have been comfortable for him, he'd joke with me and ask me if that was the best I could do. 

"Not looking forward to more PT," I mumbled. I'd rather hold hands with Danny for a more pleasant reason.

"We'll get through it, babe, don't worry about it."

It was hard undoing a lifetime of being taught to suck it up and be tough. If you had an injury, you immobilized it with a couple of sticks and some cloth and you didn’t whine about it. I could get used to this; to just getting it off my chest and having somebody care. And to know they didn't think less of me because of it.

"We're almost to the cabin," he said, turning off onto a bumpy dirt trail that was probably the private drive that led there. I really had taken it to heart to just let him handle things and relax. I couldn't remember the last time I did that.

I'm not sure what I was expecting, but I never expected something like this from Danny. It was a small, rustic wood cabin with a couple of nice big windows looking to the front and a wrap around porch with a hot tub on it. There was a creek behind it that the old man at the general store had said was great for fishing, and the whole thing was surrounded by towering redwoods. It was very different from the atmosphere on Oahu, but it was beautiful in another way, and definitely quiet, secluded, and surrounded by the beauty of nature. It was a lot cooler here than in Hawaii, too, which I'm sure was something of a break for Danny who swore he ran up a larger bill on soap, deodorant, laundry detergent, and cologne in a month in Hawaii than he did in a year "back home." He always smelled good, so I made a mental note to tell him one of these days that it was a good investment.

I was wearing a gray hoodie, t-shirt, and jeans, while Danny was wearing a blue t-shirt that brought out his eyes and jeans that brought out his other attributes. Short sleeves were enough for him on this breezy day. The tropical guy here was more comfortable just a bit warmer.

"Well, what do you think?" he asked, cutting the engine.

"It's great, Danny. Great choice," I added.

"Good. Let's check out the inside and then I'll unload the car."

"I'm not helpless," I protested. I just have bruised ribs on one side and my shoulder in a sling on the other. I can unload the car, honest! Then I'll crawl through the woods on my hands and knees with a full field pack on my back... Oh, well, years of training are hard to undo. Danny's reply made me laugh, given where my thoughts had just gone.

"I know. You could kill me 75 different ways with a toothpick and paperclip, even with your arm in a sling. Just relax and enjoy taking it easy for a while."

I didn't argue with that. It was against my nature to not pull my share of the load, and then some, and not to be in charge of every operation. This wasn't an operation, though. This was the man I loved and a vacation very artfully designed to help me get over the damage done by the worst experience of my life.

The man I loved.

"What?" he was already out of the SUV, looking back in at me, smiling. I guess I was staring at him with a sappy look on my face.

"I love you," I said. His smile widened at that and he lunged back across the seat and kissed me.

"Feeling's mutual, Sexy Eyes."

"I left myself open for that one, didn't I?"

"Wide."

The inside of the cabin was pretty much like the outside. Wood paneled walls, a big stone fireplace, great views of the woods and the creek from pretty much anyplace. The front room was a kitchen/dining/living room, and the back half of the cabin was a bedroom with a big bed that had a quilt and some pillows on it with a rough-hewn wood headboard and footboard. There was a small bathroom with a shower in it. Apparently if you wanted a tub, you could use the hot tub on the porch. 

"What do you think?" Danny asked, sounding cheerful. He was bringing the boxes in from the car and working on stocking the refrigerator.

"It's great. The views are beautiful."

"Coming from your frame of reference, that says a lot. Not often I get to impress one of the Hawaiian locals with a view other than their own," he teased.

"There's a little rowboat down by the dock."

"Yeah, we can try our hand at fishing while we're here. That's why I got foil and seasonings and vegetables."

"In case we get a fish?"

"Or several. Haven't you ever wrapped it up on the grill in the foil with vegetables and seasonings, and then you pair it with a good bottle of wine..."

"I guess I've always gone with a less fancy approach."

"Then this'll be a new experience for you. Kamekona's not the only one who can do things with a fish."

"That sounded a little perverted, Danno."

"Thanks for putting that thought in my head," he replied, laughing.

"Bed's nice," I said, sitting on the side of it. I couldn't do anything acrobatic, but I was ready to lay him out on a horizontal surface and enjoy myself. "How much longer are you gonna putter in the kitchen?"

"Putter in the kitchen?" he repeated. "My grandmother putters in the kitchen. I'm putting away our perishables so they don't rot."

"Then let me help you so you get done faster," I said, moving up behind him, purposely nudging his ass with my groin as he was bent over meticulously arranging our food on a lower shelf of the fridge. He jumped back and almost cracked his head on the refrigerator, not to mention nearly knocking me over in the process. "Whoa, I didn't mean to startle you."

"You sneak up on me and practically have your dick up my ass. What did you think I was gonna do?"

"Not try to jump in the refrigerator. What did you think I was gonna do?"

"I don't know, okay?" Danny leaned against the counter behind him. "I'm sorry." 

I stared at him a moment and was ready to further tear into him about how horrible would it be if my dick was up his ass, since I thought that's where all this was headed eventually, when I remembered him calming my nightmares and my panic and not belittling me because I was kind of a basket case since I got home. Even my aiming a gun at him, he’d gotten over immediately so he could make me feel better. 

"You don't have to be sorry," I said, trying to make my voice as gentle as I could. "I just want to know why it startled you so much."

"Have you ever had someone's dick up your ass? I haven't."

"No, I haven't. When it comes to guys, I've done a mutual jerk off a few times and got one blow job, and that's it. I kind of like guys and can handle the thought of some sexual activity with guys. It's not my dominant way to go. I just know I love you and I want to do whatever I'm gonna do with you."

"What if I don't like it?"

"What if I don't? Are you gonna dump me?"

"Never," he said without hesitation.

"Well, me neither. You I mean. I'm not dumping you either."

"I think I got my courage up to kiss you because you couldn't move fast enough to kill me if you didn't like it."

That should have upset me, I guess, but coming from Danny, and knowing how much he does love me, it made me laugh. It was brief, though, because the bottom line was, Danny was scared of this, and by association, scared of me. Even if he didn't see it that way. He was scared of what I was gonna do to him and how it would feel. 

"C'mere," I said, taking him in my arms. He hugged me back, and I touched his head, letting my fingers slip into his soft hair. He smelled good and felt good and I wanted him so much. I didn't care what we did. I wanted to feel his naked body against me, I wanted to make him come, and I wanted to hold him afterwards, I wanted to live out my life with him and get old with him and listen to him complain and rag on me until I took my last breath. I never wanted anyone else to touch him or make love to him. I didn't want him to want anyone but me. 

"I want to do that with you," he mumbled into my shoulder. "I just...it's hard to imagine that feeling good."

"You and me, naked, doing stuff to each other. How does that sound?"

"Pretty fucking good."

"Then let's do that. You're the one telling me to relax and enjoy this vacation and let go of everything. You do that, too. We're not on a schedule here."

"It's not that I don't want you like that. I'm not gay. At least, I didn't think I was."

"Is that what bothers you, that someone will think you're gay?" I asked, stepping back a little so we could look each other in the eyes. I wanted him to know I wasn't judging him even if that was it. I was having a little trouble reconciling myself with the notion that I actually wanted him to do it to me that way. 

"No," he said right away, then paused. "I don't know. Maybe. A little. That's wrong isn't it?"

"Maybe, but it's not like I don't get it. They don't exactly encourage you to express your homosexual feelings in SEAL training. It's not really the most popular thing to be as a cop, either. That's not right but it's reality. I don't imagine the men in your family really encouraged you to consider dating boys."

"That's a nice way of putting it. I think my dad would have laid an egg if I'd come out back then and announced I was gay. Matty wouldn't have a lot to say since being a felon is a hell of a lot worse than being gay. Not that being gay is bad. Fuck."

"Hey, you don't have to weigh your words with me, mea aloha," I said, touching his cheek, waiting for him to react to that. I felt weird calling him "honey" and I'm not a "babe" kind of guy. It sounds wonderful when he says it to me, but it would sound weird coming from me. At least I feel like it would. Like if he called me "Steve-o". Just, weird.

"Aloha?"

"Mea aloha," I repeated. "There's a very big difference."

"What does it mean?"

"Loved one."

"That's nice. Mea aloha, huh? I can even say it."

"You are my loved one, Danno. You don't have to struggle to say the right thing to me."

"I feel like a hypocrite. I've always taught Grace that stuff like that doesn't matter. Love is love and people are people and everybody should have the right to do their thing."

"It matters when it's you, when it's your life. For what it's worth, I'm a little nervous about all this, too, but not about any part of it that matters. Having people think of me as gay seems a little weird, if I'm being honest, but then having to explain or justify my sexuality to anybody seems like it's not right - none of their fucking business."

"People make it their business. I know it shouldn't matter how someone thinks of me."

"Being gay is something we were both taught in one circle or another was something less...manly, I guess. That it makes you a sissy or a girl or that we should suddenly become inordinately worried about interior decorating. In which case, you are completely safe from any stereotyping." I waited for that to take root.

"You're an asshole. I don't know why I'm in love with you."

"But you are, and that's all I care."

"Yeah, I am."

"What if I go first?"

"What?"

"Who says I have to do it to you? Why don't you do it to me?"

"What about your shoulder, and your side?"

"Unless your aim's really bad, we should be able to work around that." 

That made him laugh and he seemed to relax. 

"I don't want to hurt you. God knows, you've been hurt enough." His eyes actually looked misty when he thought about what I'd been through, and he touched my bad shoulder with infinite gentleness. 

"Why do you keep thinking it's going to hurt?"

"I tried doing it with a woman once, and she went nuts, yelled at me, called me a pig and told me if I ever called her again, she'd report me to my bosses at the PD."

"Whoa. Not too much overreaction there."

"I had sex with her the usual way, and a while later that night, I wanted to get a little creative. It's not like I forced her or got rough with her. I wanted to try it. I never tried it before and I was curious. Rachel was pretty straight-laced in the bedroom. The sex was good, but it wasn't exactly...she didn't like to try anything different, and that was okay, because the usual thing was good and scratched the itch. After the divorce, I guess I felt like branching out a little."

"Well, you did, buddy," I said, gesturing at myself, and he laughed. I could see some of the stress leaving him.

"I tried to be considerate, but she acted like I split her in half."

"Maybe she was tense, maybe you guys kind of rushed into it in the heat of the moment...who knows? I never took it up the ass, either. I'm not an expert."

"Did you ever do it with a woman that way?"

"No, because going in the front door is easier, and takes a hell of a lot less negotiation. Did you like it, when you tried it, before she went nuts?"

"I didn't like her too much anyway, so it wasn't great. I was so...lonely sometimes. After I got here and I didn't have any friends or any family here besides Grace and I couldn't see her most of the time...sometimes I just wanted a body to be with."

"Well, that's the hole we have to work with if we ever want to fuck something again, so I guess we'll have to figure it out."

"You make it sound like wilderness survival training."

"I don't think they give out a merit badge for that."

"How to start a fire without matches, maybe?"

"All you ever wanted to know about friction but were afraid to ask?" I countered, and he laughed. 

"Ouch." He paused. I love it that he can actually look and sound shy sometimes. It’s part of that shitload of charm he has. "I brought lube."

"Good, because there was no way I was buying that from the old guy at the store."

"No, you would've asked me to ask the old lady where it was."

"Well, you guys did have a rapport."

"Danny, I would never hurt you on purpose, physically or any other way. I know you wouldn't hurt me, either. So let's just not worry about it anymore, okay? If we're doing something and it hurts either of us, we'll stop."

"Okay, fair enough."

"You want to table the butt fucking discussion and sit on the porch and have a beer?"

"Sitting on the porch with a beer. That's manly, right?"

"Very. If my shoulder was okay, I'd toss a football around with you."

"It's the thought that counts," he said, retrieving two beers from the fridge. "I bought these out of the cooler," he said, gesturing at the six pack there. "I have a case, too."

"Because we could never make that long drive into town again while we're here," I needled.

"If we figure out how to have great sex, and you want a beer afterwards, you're going to be glad it's here and that you don't have to hop in the car and drive into town first."

"When you're right, you're right," I admitted, and we went out on the porch and sat in the cheap plastic chairs they had there - the one way in which the cabin owners missed the mark on atmosphere, but it was minor. We toasted our beer bottles and sat there enjoying the serenity, looking at different kinds of trees and listening to different nature sounds than we saw and heard back on Oahu. We held hands after a while and talked about fishing, and had another beer. It was kind of manly, I guess.

********

After I'd managed to make a complete ass of myself earlier, somehow we'd salvaged the relaxed vacation state of mind we'd come up here with and spent a nice chunk of the evening in the hot tub with a bottle of wine. The warm bubbly water seemed to be easing Steve's aches and pains, and spending a nice amount of time naked in a tub of water with him was easing my issues, too. We were sitting close, and I felt like I had to say something because now I'd made him feel like I was scared shitless of having sex with him. Maybe saying something wasn't the answer. We'd said a lot. Talking to Steve is pretty close to being the center of my life routine.

I ran my hand along his thigh, under the water, letting my fingers trail up to his balls, while I looked into those eyes of his. They were a dark, undefined color in the shadows, framed by long, dark lashes. His eyes really are hypnotic because you never know what to expect from them, and because he looks so intensely at you when he cares for you that it’s like he can see what you’re thinking - or he wants to. If he loves someone, Steve has to know everything about that person or he’s not happy. I learned early on that I might as well tell him what I brought for lunch right up front or it would drive him insane until he knew. There’s always a bit of question in those eyes, like he needs to know more. Maybe he’s looking for some guarantee that he’s not going to get hurt. The people he’s loved over the years have a knack of leaving him or dying on him. Maybe it’s not questions...maybe it’s insecurity, a little bit of fear about taking the leap and getting hurt one more time.

We had a few candles out there, and I couldn't take my eyes off him in the dim, gold, shadowy light. I kissed him then. We were good at that. I wasn't expecting to feel his hand on me, but it made me gasp and break our kiss. 

"That okay, mea aloha?" Steve whispered. His voice was deeper and softer than usual, and when it was wrapped around a love name and directed at me, I fucking melted. I kissed his chin and down his long neck. I pulled him close to me and did my best to remember not to hurt his shoulder. It was easy to remember to be gentle because I didn't want to do anything but that. I wanted to love him any way I could think of. He had my heart and my soul; how trivial it seemed right then whether or not he had any physical part of me. He had everything and he always will.

He was stroking me and I was stroking him. I'd have gone down on him without any urging if I wouldn't have drowned myself doing it. I didn't know how to give a blow job, but I'd gotten some and I knew what I liked. One thing I know I wanted was to make him crazy, to be the one he couldn't live without in any way. He held me in his arms, though I could feel his body stiffen when he moved his shoulder a bit too far too fast.

"Easy, babe. Watch your shoulder," I whispered in his ear, kissing it, kissing his cheek and the side of his neck. I knew kissing his shoulder wasn't going to fix it, but I wanted to do it. I wanted to kiss the sore spots and reclaim him from all that...horror. 

"Hey, let's go inside," he suggested as my eagerness to kiss all over him was causing me to dip below the water more than once.

"Yeah, sounds good,” I agreed. “If we put the sling back on, it’ll remind you to keep the shoulder still.”

“When my shoulder’s good again, I’m gonna hold you like you never got held before.”

“You’ve been doing pretty well with one arm, so I’m kind of excited to see what two arms can do.”

“You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.” He used his good arm to pull me close and kissed me decisively, like he was laying claim. With careful motion from his injured shoulder, he managed to get his other hand on the back of my head so I couldn’t have moved if I wanted to. Not that I had any plans to move. The taste of Steve marinated with a dash of a good red wine is something no one with a heartbeat could resist. 

I’ve seen him clean house, drop-kicking, punching, and literally tossing bad guys out of the way with a chilling strength and precision. I know what he’s capable of in strength and tactical maneuvers. I’ve always known he was equally capable of the kind of sensitivity and kindness that nobody would expect from him. He’s the man I’d want to step in for me to raise my daughter if something happened to me, because he is all those things. He could keep her safe from anything, and at the same time give her that sweet, silly, kind side of him that’s like the best surprise of getting to know him.

We were getting tangled up like we hadn’t been before. Our legs were around each other, our cocks were getting to know each other, and my chest was pressed against his. I’d been so afraid to hurt him that I’d never really held him like this. I should have known Steve could do even this better injured than I could. If I’d had his injuries, I’d have been lying on the couch whining with ice bags all over my body. For Steve, getting back on his horse was the best therapy. If I was the horse at the moment, I could live with him riding me... Well, that kind of fell into place...maybe when his hand got a hold of my butt cheek and his fingers were pretty close to the action down there, it didn’t seem so bad. It was Steve, and the day he did something to hurt me, everything I knew about life would be turned upside down. So I thrust against him, making him moan in my mouth while he was teaching me what kissing was all about. Never one to be a passive guy when things get hot and heavy, I did a little schooling of my own, kissing him so long and deep I was gonna make sure I was the best he ever had.

When we broke apart for a second, he gave me a big smile, like he was the happiest guy in the world to be doing this with me. I pressed my forehead against his and gave him a big smile back until I felt tears in my eyes, but they were good ones. I didn’t bother with words, because I couldn’t have strung them together right at the moment, and they wouldn’t have captured any of what I felt for him. Instead, I kissed his eyes and the end of his nose and his cheeks, and let my fingers get caught in his damp hair while I went after his mouth again. 

We were rubbing off on each other, the water making that pretty easy. He came first, breaking up the current round of kissing momentarily. I knew I’d remember his little broken gasps and moans for the rest of my life. The first time he came in my arms. And I came right behind him by a few seconds, because if you can watch Steve coming and not come, you’re probably dead.

“Love you,” he whispered in my ear. 

“That was something special, babe,” I whispered back. “I love you, too.”

“Now I think we ought to go inside.”

“That means I have to let go of you,” I said, nibbling at his ear. “Not sure I’m gonna do that.”

“Guess there’s no hurry,” he replied, looking at me with those beautiful eyes. I was in way more danger of drowning in those than I was in the water. There was a bed and lube in the cabin. Going inside was starting to appeal to me. I wasn’t sure how I wanted it all to play out, but I wanted to do more with him than what we’d done.

“We haven’t tried out the bed yet,” I said, reluctantly letting him go just a bit.

“No time like the present.” 

We got out of the hot tub and hurried inside, since the temperature had dropped and the night air was nipping at everything that was wet and swinging in the breeze. We dried off, and he let me help him a little to favor his shoulder. He was ready to put his arm back in the sling to give it some support, so we did that, and while he got settled in bed, I ran back outside to retrieve the wine and glasses we’d left by the hot tub. 

“Can’t forget the wine,” I said, setting it on the night stand and tossing my robe on the floor before getting in bed with him. We were both naked, except for his sling, and I didn’t expect that to get in the way of anything important. I was kind of curious to have him poke around, but it wasn’t fair to him to get him going and then shut him down if I didn’t like it. I hated that in the time we got out of the tub and moved to the bed, I was getting my Victorian virgin jitters again. In all fairness, though, I’d had him in my hand, and he was a nice handful. I love him with all my heart, but just that once, I wished he had tiny genitals.

So I poured us each another glass of wine and handed one to him. 

“I meant what I said before,” he said, taking a sip. 

When, and which conversation?

“About what?” 

“I can go first. You know. I mean, you can go first. With me.”

I looked at him for a long moment. Steve has the most generous heart of anyone I know when it comes to the people he loves. He’ll put his life in danger, defy the odds, do anything he can for someone who matters to him. 

“Sometimes,” I said, scooting close and taking him in my arms, “I can’t believe I’m the one who gets to have you like this. You could have anybody.”

“Nobody can have anybody.”

“What?” I really didn’t want to veer off into something that sounded so philosophical. I took exactly one week of Philosophy in college before dropping the class. I couldn’t stand sitting there talking about nonsense for a whole four-hour night class.

“There’s always somebody that anybody couldn’t have.”

“How’d you get drunk on two glasses of wine?”

“I’m not drunk,” he replied, smiling. He looked pretty happy in my arms. I kissed his forehead. 

“I have no idea what you’re trying to say.”

“No matter how ‘good’ someone is, there’s always someone out there they couldn’t have. That’s all I’m saying.”

“I suppose so.”

“I thought you were that person. Which sucked because you were the one I wanted.”

“That’s nice,” I said, smiling. It was fucking great to be wanted for a change. My divorce was a disaster, and there was no point in lying and saying that I didn’t feel like my guts had been put through a meat grinder thinking Rachel’s baby was mine, that she wanted me back. The only thing more miserable was standing there like a fifth wheel in the delivery room with everyone thinking I was the father until I finally told one of the well-meaning nurses that I wasn’t. Everyone looked at me like I was nuts when I said I was the ex-husband. Either they thought I was a great guy or a deranged, obsessed stalker who couldn’t get on with his life and was still playing husband to a woman who didn’t want me anymore.

Steve picked me up at the hospital that morning and took me to breakfast. I was hungry but I had a rock in my stomach and I couldn’t eat more than a couple bites. I was so disappointed. I tried not to be, tried to tell myself it was okay, that I didn’t mind standing in for my replacement while Rachel gave birth to his child. Steve was in prison when Rachel dumped me the second time to go back to Stan. I wanted so much to tell him on one of my visits there, but he had enough to cope with. My ongoing relationship bullshit didn’t seem like it competed with him watching his back in jail, maybe spending the rest of his life there. And if I couldn’t get him out of jail, if he went to prison and our partnership was over, the only way I could have survived that was to focus on my new family and try to get by, even though I never would have stopped trying to free him. And I never would have abandoned him.

Even when he got out and he asked me about it, I couldn’t get into it. I know I kind of snapped at him about it, but the wound was pretty deep and it wasn’t very well healed. And, speaking of wounds, he was wounded and still on the run. If I’d said more than a word or two about it to him, finally, I’d have been a mess and then he’d have been trying to make me feel better when we really didn’t have time for that.

So after seeing I wasn’t going to eat much after leaving the hospital, he asked me if I’d mind coming over to his place and making myself useful helping him take out this dead tree by the house. It was the dumbest, most transparent way for him to spend the day with me when he knew I felt like jumping into a volcano, but we went back to his place and removed a small dead tree from the back corner of the house. Then we drank beer and stared out at the ocean, and then went back in the house and made good use of his eclectic collection of VHS tapes and DVD’s. I slept on his couch that night, and he didn’t even give me a hard time about the TV keeping him awake. I guess he figured if that helped me sleep after such a shitty experience, it was okay.

“Where are you?” he asked.

“I was thinking about taking that dead tree out behind your house.”

“What?”

“The morning after Rachel had Stan Junior.”

“Oh.” He was quiet a few seconds. “What made you think about that?”

“I was just thinking it was kind of nice to be wanted. To be somebody’s first choice instead of a fallback plan.”

“You deserve to be first choice, Danno,” he said.

“Grace came out of all that, and I’m with the person I’m supposed to be with now, so who cares anymore?”

“I’m not doing you a favor, offering to go first. I’d...like you to try it, if you want to.”

"How could anybody not want to make love to you?"

"There have been some who could resist the temptation."

"Not this guy," I said. I spent a long time kissing him, then I decided to indulge in doing what I wanted to do in the hot tub before Steve wisely decided to distract me from drowning myself. I wanted to kiss him all over, just love all of him. Kiss everything that hurt, everything that didn't, and anything in between. 

I started kissing my way from his collarbone down his shoulder, the sprained one, easing the fabric of the sling aside a little so I could kiss his arm. I am thorough when I make up my mind to do something. I don't cut corners. I could feel him relax, like he knew what I was up to and was happy to lie there and enjoy it. I made my way across his chest, pausing to lick and suck at his nipples. I wondered what it would be like to suck a man's tits, and all I know was that I loved sucking Steve's. He gasped and touched my hair, the little nubs got hard in my mouth and I could make him writhe a bit when I played with them with my tongue. I kissed my way down the surprisingly soft skin of that taught, toned belly of his and nipped at the edges of his navel. His hips were narrow and firm but they were still nice to hold onto, and his ass filled my hands nicely as I slid them back there, cupping his cheeks. 

He was getting hard, and that impressive cock of his was difficult to ignore. I didn’t want to push him over the edge because I figured it would help things feel good to him, too, if he was into it and not too wiped out from coming to enjoy himself. I kissed his thighs, then I started kissing and licking his balls. 

He groaned and muttered my name, so I teased him a bit more before I kissed my way down each leg, one at a time. When I looked up at him, he was looking at me with tears in his eyes. I purposely tickled the bottom of his foot to make him smile. I didn’t know why he was tearing up, but I didn’t want him to be unhappy about anything. I kissed the top of his foot. 

“Everything okay?”

“Yeah, really okay,” he said, but his voice was strained.

After a little wiggling around, a bit of cursing when we moved his shoulder too much, he lay there on his back looking discouraged. This wasn’t going to work face down, and while he could lie on his bruised side on soft bedding, it wasn’t the best option. 

We hadn’t come this far to be defeated, so I worked on padding up his lower back and his side and got a pillow under his arm so his shoulder wasn’t getting jostled too much. When I was done, it tilted his lower half up at a nice angle without putting a lot of stress on his side. Plus, he had his knees up with his feet on the bed, which was giving me a real nice access to his sensitive parts and the underside of his cheeks and his thighs. He had lost a little hardness with the delay, but I found that sucking on his balls took care of that real quick. I thought about trying to give him a blow job, but I wasn’t very secure about my technique and he was too close to do something like that and still go for the main event. 

He tossed me the lube, and he was looking at me again with that misty-eyed expression. I moved back up and kissed him for a long time. I wasn’t sure why he seemed to be getting emotional on me, but I couldn’t ignore that look any longer.

“I love you,” I said, keeping my face close to his.

“Like nobody else,” he said, hugging me hard with his good arm. 

“And I’m never gonna let go of you, so don’t get any ideas that you’re getting away from me anytime soon.” What I really wanted to tell him was that for all the people who had walked out on him, died on him, or betrayed him over his lifetime, I wasn’t one of those people. I knew I couldn’t help it if I died off schedule, but I’d even do my best to prevent that. He would never be alone again, and never be left again, not as long as I had breath left.

“Don’t want to,” he replied, his breath catching a little.

I pulled back a bit and stroked his hair, kissing him again. It occurred to me then that maybe I was the only person who got to see him the way I always took for granted seeing him - with all his sweetness and caring and sensitivity just...hanging out. I tried to think of how he interacted with other people, and he was warm with his friends and courteous with casual encounters. But I always saw him in his genuine form, more often than not, pretty much unguarded and open. 

“You wanna get this show on the road?” I joked, and he smiled, nodding.

He didn’t seem afraid, but then I suppose there wasn’t much I was gonna do to him that would hurt nearly as much as some of the other miserable shit he’s been through. I wondered if he’d ever been violated that way when he was tortured, and I didn’t think so. I hoped not. I don’t think he’d have been as relaxed and willing, even with me, if he had been. If I ever found out he was, I would hunt down and kill whoever did it.

I put some of the slippery stuff on my finger and rubbed over the opening that seemed too tight and unwelcoming for me to get my whole finger in there, let alone my dick. He seemed relaxed and content to let me do my thing down there, so I worked at very gently slipping the tip of my finger into him. I was getting harder thinking about how tight he’d be, what it would feel like to sink my cock into something that tight.

I used more gel and then carefully eased my finger in farther this time. He sighed and shifted a little, and when I looked up at him, he smiled at me. 

“Relax, Danno. You’re not disarming a bomb down there.”

“We did have breakfast burritos at Kamekona’s before we left this morning.”

“On second thought, proceed with caution.”

We both chuckled at that, and I worked on getting my finger in all the way, moving it around carefully until I found the magic spot that made him arch and let out a cry that sounded really good. My finger was doing some very good things for Steve, but I had no clue how to get him relaxed enough for my cock to fit in there.

“Put another finger in,” he said.

“Seriously? How am I gonna get it in there?”

“You can’t leave me hanging now. Figure it out.”

He had a point there. I did start this, I should be man enough to finish it. I was afraid of hurting him when he’d been in so much pain, and still was. I was really afraid of making him bleed, because I think that would kill me, to do that to him.

“It feels good, so just try it,” he encouraged. 

“Tell me if it hurts - and be honest. Don’t do the whole Navy SEAL grit-your-teeth-and-stand-it stoicism thing, okay?”

“Anything, just do something.”

I withdrew the first finger and used more goo and then braced myself and worked on getting two fingers in there. He took in a breath and let it out. He was trying so hard to relax, and I was making him more nervous by acting like I couldn’t close the deal. So I got a little more aggressive and stretched him gently with my fingers, finding his prostate again and making him yell my name loud enough I think it scared an owl out of a tree someplace and sent small animals in the forest running for cover.

We were onto something here. After I worked him over that way for a while, I could see he was really hard, and I was right with him on that, because now that I knew I was making him feel good and not turning him inside out or hurting him, all I could think about was sliding to the hilt inside him, feeling that tightness on me, and being physically connected to him. 

I carefully eased out my fingers and hunted around for condoms.

“What’s wrong?” he asked, his voice sounding a little rough. I had him good to go, that’s for sure.

“Condoms. Where are they?”

“Shit. I didn’t think to bring any. Do you want them for anything?”

“I guess I’m not gonna get you pregnant.”

“If you do, we’re finished,” he joked, and I laughed. 

“I get tested when I get my blood work done for my annual physical, but it’s not like there’s been a lot of action there to worry about lately. The last person I was with was Amber, and I always played it safe with her.”

“The only person I’ve been with is Catherine for quite a while. I can’t give you a guarantee, but I think I’m pretty safe.”

“If you haven’t gotten my head blown off yet, I doubt you’re gonna kill me this way.”

“I’d understand if you didn’t want to.”

“I think I’d chance it right about now if you had a live grenade hidden in there. You don’t, do you?”

“Just a couple spare rounds of ammo.”

That made us both laugh. “At least I know where to look if we ever run out during a shootout.”

I kissed him a few times, because I wanted to get us back in lovemaking mode again, and I wanted him to know how much I loved him, that it was all about love, that I’d never hurt him, like this or any other way.

I was pretty excited when I used the lube on myself, but I made up my mind I wasn’t gonna go off like the Fourth of July before I ever made it inside him. I could have, too, seeing him lying there like that, offering me everything, no barriers. Nobody ever shared their heart, soul, and body with me that way. 

I pressed the head of my cock against that opening that seemed to have forgotten my fingers were in there a minute ago and closed up shop again. I pushed, and I slid in a bit, but I froze when Steve’s gasp didn’t sound like pleasure. He looked uncomfortable now, and I wanted to pull out and give up. 

“Try a little more,” he said. I did, but he was doing his Navy SEAL grit-your-teeth-and-stand-it stoicism thing now.

“Tell me what to do, babe,” I said, and then I regretted it because I should fucking know what to do and not put it all on him. If I didn’t know what I was doing, I shouldn’t be sticking my dick in him.

“My stomach’s cramping up. Just push in. I’ll adjust to it.”

“Like hell,” I said, even though with my cock half in and half out, I thought it might get pinched off or I was gonna die. I needed to relax him. I was nervous and he was feeding off that, and him getting nervous was making him tighten up and it was hurting him. “It’s gonna be okay, Sexy Eyes,” I said, and he laughed, even though it was the way you laugh when something hurts. “Relax, Steven, I’m gonna make this good for you, I promise,” I said, even though I had no clue how to do that. The words did make him relax a little, and when he did, things didn’t seem as tight. I rubbed his lower belly, and kissed his chest. “It’s okay, babe, just relax. I’m not moving until you feel good, and we’ve got all night. Technically, we’ve got another 13 days.” That made him snort a laugh, and I pushed in a little more. 

“I’m sorry, Danny. I’m not doing this right.”

“Hey.” I waited until he looked at me. “I love you. Just you. And you couldn’t possibly do anything wrong about this.” He gave me that emotional look of his again, that rips my heart right out every time. “If it hurts, babe, we can do a whole lot of other things instead.”

“Try pushing again.” 

I took him at his word, but I went slow. And then suddenly I couldn’t go any farther.

“We did it,” I said, kissing the middle of his chest, since that was the easiest point for me to reach given my position. 

I was fucking dying. My dick was in a vise and there was no way I could just start banging away at him. His legs were around my hips now, and he moved first. I tried moving a little in response, and while we sure as hell weren’t very smooth or synchronized, we were finding a sort of rhythm. So far, it was probably physically the worst sex I’d ever had, and I doubted he was enjoying it a whole lot more, but we deserved credit for our effort, and we were doing it with each other, and that made it all worth whatever it took. I guess the whole ordeal began to put some good pressure on his prostate because he seemed to start getting into it a little. Maybe it was because he knew there was no way I was gonna pound in and out of him until I knew he was ready, and he was relaxing more. 

“Love being inside you,” I whispered, taking his hand, lacing our fingers together. “Love you so much,” I said while I very gently pumped inside him. Holy shit, that felt good. He started making little noises low in his throat that sounded good now, and when I moved in a particular way, it made him shout and squeeze my hand, his back arching and his eyes closing. God, he was beautiful. Sweet and giving and warm and beautiful and mine. 

I wasn’t going to hold out much longer, but I knew he had a ways to go to get to the finish line. He seemed to be enjoying it now, but I also knew he would probably still hurt a little when we were done. All of a sudden, I felt my climax sweeping over me and I couldn’t stop it any longer. I came inside him and I did all I could to stay gentle but I know I was moving faster and harder than I started. Maybe that was a good thing, because he came right after I did.

When we were done, I carefully eased out of him, and he made a little noise of discomfort when I did. I gathered him in my arms and held him close, selfishly wishing his one arm wasn’t restrained by the sling. I wanted to feel both his arms around me. 

We were both sweaty and spent from the whole experience, but I thought we’d done all right for a couple of clumsy virgins. I rubbed his back in long strokes and kissed his neck. 

“I love you,” I whispered in his ear. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m good. I’ll be better at it next time.” That broke my heart.

“Not possible.” I hooked my leg around his. “There’s nothing better than being with you.” I kissed him. “Being inside you...no words for that. I need to work on my technique a little, too.”

“Guess that means we have to practice a lot.” I was glad to hear the humor back in his voice. We had to work hard to make the first time a go, but we did it together, and it was good. Like anything else you practice, it would get easier.

“Aren’t you glad I got that extra beer now, so we don’t have to go into town for a while?”

“When you’re right, you’re right,” he said through a yawn. 

We dozed off like that, all sweaty and sticky and sated and wrapped around each other. I couldn’t remember being happier ever in my life.

********

When I first woke up, I wasn’t sure what hurt worse: my ribs, my shoulder, or my ass. There are times when Danny just fucking panics for no reason about things. Well, okay, maybe he has a somewhat valid reason in most people’s eyes, but most of the time the stuff he’s flipping out about in the passenger seat works itself out. If it didn’t, we’d both be dead now.

I had to be the big shot. Taking it up the ass was no big deal. How hard could it be? I love Danny with all my heart but I did think he was being a bit dramatic and just a little chicken shit about the whole thing. He wasn’t. I was still trying to figure out if I liked it. I liked him kissing me all over. I never had anybody do that to me before - even in the dull places. I wanted to show him it was no big deal, that everything was gonna go great for us. Hey, it’s just a different hole, learn to use it.

I didn’t wish misfortune on Danny, but if his dick were to shrink by a few inches in length and maybe and inch or so in diameter, I wouldn’t have felt too sorry. I’d seen him naked before. We’ve taken a quick shower at headquarters when we got into something that was just too grimy to keep going, and we’ve stayed over at each other’s places or shared hotel rooms a couple times we had to go on the road for something. I never saw the sword unsheathed in all its erect glory before - it was just lurking there, looking deceitfully harmless - kind of like Danny can look to people who underestimate him because he's short or he's fussy. I kind of expected based on the rest of Danny’s build that he’d be pretty sturdy there, too, but it wasn’t something I had to worry about, and he generally didn’t walk around in front of me with a hard on, either. 

I also wondered if the first time we tried it on him, it was uncomfortable, if he’d ever want to do it again. I like sticking my dick in something tight and slippery. I really wanted it to be Danny, but I couldn’t exactly lie to him and tell him it was easy. I came, and it felt good on some level, but I wouldn’t call it smooth sailing. Of course I was favoring my shoulder and my side, so I didn’t really have the flexibility I normally would have. Danny worried about that, and I didn’t listen to him about that, either.

He talks incessantly and I listen intermittently. I wonder how we managed to fall in love with each other?

The sun wasn’t up yet, and Danny was snoring softly against my chest. He does hang on through the night. I guess he doesn’t trust me not to escape if he lets go of me. Not that I don’t like him hanging on to me. And I’ve got nowhere to go that I don’t want him by my side, so he’s got nothing to worry about. Love hasn’t been kind to Danny, and I want to change that.

Right then, I had to move. I needed to hit the head, my asscheeks felt like they were glued together, and my side was hurting from lying on it so much. I kissed Danny’s cheek.

“Hey, I need to move,” I said as gently as I could.

“Love you,” he said, grinning, tightening his hold on me. That was sweet but I had to go. Right that second.

“I love you, too, mea aloha,” I whispered in his ear and kissed it. My next move was to forcibly dislodge him, so I was hoping the endearment would wake him up enough to realize I needed to move.

“Are you okay? How’s your shoulder?” he asked, his voice still rough with sleep. 

“A little stiff. I need to move.”

“Oh, right,” he said, letting me out of the Danny Williams full body death grip long enough for me to sit up. Well, my ass took my mind off my shoulder. I looked at Danny, and that took my mind off both things. He looked beautiful to me, hair loose and every which way while he lay there rubbing his eyes and trying to make sense of what time it was. Dried come was on his belly, and that was my doing. I was looking forward to washing it off, washing him, rubbing him all over with soap and water... Sore side, stiff shoulder, or engorged bladder be damned, I leaned over and kissed him.

“Morning.” 

“Is it?” he asked, yawning. 

“I don’t know. Wanna join me in the shower?” I asked.

“You have to ask?”

When we finally did see a clock, it was a little after three in the morning. That’s the great thing about a vacation like that. You can get up and shower at three and then go back to bed for a few hours. My life has always been pretty regimented and I don’t get a lot of unstructured time. Danny was right that it was just what I needed. Along with him.

The shower stall wasn’t terribly big, but two of us fit in there under the warm spray of water. It was the first shower we took together as lovers, the first morning after we did something significant the night before. I had to limit the movement of my shoulder but I could use both hands with the sling off, and I did. Danny introduced me to the wonderful world of shower gel, which lathers up faster and sudsier and is a lot more fun if you’re running your hands all over your partner’s naked body than fumbling around with a big bar of soap. I thought shower gel was a woman thing. I guess I knew they made it for men but I never thought much about it. I was thinking about it now. He had some nice-smelling masculine scent of some kind - well, yeah, Danny does have a nice scent, too, but I meant the stuff we were using - and the combination of him and wet slipperiness and something good smelling was getting me going again. 

Danny’s interesting. He’s all male, nice and hairy, muscular, but he’s got a shape. He’s got curves and meat on his bones and nice, round places like his ass that fit in my hands just great. It’s in the way he moves, too. I like to watch him walk. He has a little bit of a strut, and he’s got a presence about him that makes you forget he’s short. A lot of guys are shorter than I am, but I don’t even think about it with Danny - it never occurred to me, even when he was hobbling around with his cane when his knee acted up - that his legs are a lot shorter than mine and he probably spends most of his days hauling ass to keep up with me when I’m just walking at my usual pace. I guess he laid to rest any ideas I had that he was a pushover when he slugged me our first day working together. Of course I did twist his arm and embarrass him in front of a bunch of cops. But then he did poke his finger in my chest and mouth off to me... 

We held each other and kissed and rubbed against each other while we steamed up the little bathroom in more ways than one. My shoulder hurt but I didn’t overdo it. I just enjoyed having both arms to hold him, both hands to touch his body, to map that interesting terrain while our mouths stayed locked together most of the time.

The sex hurt a little the night before, but he’d treated me with a kind of love and gentleness and concern that made it okay. We’d get better at the mechanics, and when the rest of me wasn’t banged up, we’d have more options for positions. Coming in the shower was effortless, which was a nice chaser for all the hard work we’d both done to make it to the finish line with our first...wait...second? round. That’s right. We came in the hot tub, too. I don’t remember the last time I came three times in one night with anybody else. After we came, I just held him for the longest time there. All the years of hugging him for one reason or another, but never for long enough to suit me...now I could hold him like this for as long as I wanted because he was mine. I didn’t want to ever let go.

He let me wash his hair and mess it up. I think for Danny that might be more meaningful than first time anal sex. He told me I should let mine grow out again, a bit longer, like it was when we first met. I kind of like not messing with it, but then he told me he likes getting his fingers tangled up in it when we’re making love, and he can’t get a good grip. Discussion settled. It’s growing out a bit.

We were both hungry, so we put on robes, and he helped me back into that stupid sling, and we made a big breakfast. I was willing to concede that he’d done a good job stocking our kitchen. We could have survived on a box of groceries, but we were having a hell of a nice vacation on three boxes. Danny does make me live a little, gets me outside of the whole Spartan minimal just have what you need to survive habit. I know how to have a good time, but I do it more often and in bigger ways when I’m with him.

Our spread was tasty and filling, with eggs, bacon, toast, juice, and coffee. We even had some chunks of fruit that were perfect for feeding each other. He smiled and laughed more easily in that setting than he does on the job, or even just when we’re hanging out back home. Of course, we haven’t hung out together all that much at home since we started this new chapter of our relationship, so I suppose there wasn’t a lot to compare it to. The first couple days I was home, he was taking care of me, and I was a fucking mess. I hadn’t had a nightmare in a couple nights, and I wasn’t getting weird bouts of panic. That could be because he’d managed to railroad me into a real vacation where I wasn’t stressed out, didn’t know off hand where my cell phone was, and didn’t care.

I couldn’t believe he was there with me, like that. I can’t believe the bad luck Danny’s had with love, because it seems like he’d be the kind of guy you’d never let go. I never will, and I think he’s okay with that. He seems happier than I’ve ever seen him, and I’m gonna take credit for that. Danny has been lonely most of the time I’ve known him. I don’t know if I ever really knew Danny when he was happy until we got together this way. People have sometimes dismissed him as cranky or bad-tempered. He usually was, to some extent, lonely and unhappy during those years. It’s hard to have a sunny personality when your heart hurts most of the time and you’re always alone.

We watched the sunrise on the porch, sipping our coffee, talking about what we wanted to do with our day. A leisurely walk in the woods sounded nice, so that went on the itinerary. We could have gone fishing but neither of us felt like striking out that early. That was a possibility for the next day. I never realized that Danny didn’t know my arm sometimes hurt when the weather was bad or when I overdid it. I asked him how his knee was. The way he’s always moving and keeping up with whatever we’re doing, it never occurred to me that his knee was kind of like my arm - it could act up and have him gobbling painkillers to get through a couple rough days. We agreed to be more honest with each other about that stuff. I wanted to have his back in every way (that sounded lecherous, and I mean it that way, too). Part of being life partners is being each other’s strength when things are rough. I wanted to know if his knee hurt and he wanted to know when my arm bothered me so we could compensate for each other. When you strip all the male posturing out of it, that’s a smart strategy in a dangerous job. You can’t be each other’s strength when you don’t know where each other’s weaknesses are.

I don’t know how long we just sat there talking about anything and everything. The sun was high by the time we realized enough time had passed since breakfast that we were starting to think about lunch. We got dressed and took our walk first, leisurely walking hand in hand along the trail. I looked at him there by my side, more than once, and it hit me like a ton of bricks how much I love him. I wondered how I'd ever make it if I lost him. 

I didn't want to think back of another time in the woods, not all that many years ago, when Freddie died. His death still hurts when I think about it. We were supposed to be friends for life, I was supposed to be "Uncle Steve" to his little girl like I am to Gracie. I was like another son to his parents, and I miss that. They knew Freddie was like a brother to me, and they wanted to be family for me, because they knew I didn't have much in that department. Now that he was dead, I got a Christmas card from his widow, Kelly, and from his parents, but there wasn't much reason for us to all stay in touch with each other. Losing him was one of the hardest things I've ever gone through, and I loved him like a brother...but I didn't love him in the same way I love Danny. 

I’m sure it was the whole mess in Afghanistan that was dredging that up, another mission gone bad that I came back from alone. I didn't know if I could handle having to go back to Afghanistan someday to retrieve Catherine's body.

“Hey, you okay?” Danny asked. Maybe it was the death grip I had on his hand now, or the fact I was sweating even though it was a good ten degrees cooler there than it usually was back home.

“Just thinking of some old memories I really didn't want to think about now.”

“We can head back to the cabin if you want. We could even take the rowboat out and just float around for a while on the water.”

“Yeah, maybe that’d be good.”

“Okay, let’s head back.”

“I’m sorry, Danny. Maybe we can try again later.”

“The woods’ll be here as along as we are, so no rush. I’m getting hungry anyway.” 

“I love you,” I said, and he smiled at me like I’d just given him a million bucks. 

“You don’t know the half of it, babe,” he said, pulling me into a hug. Holding onto him made the memories fade. 

We made sandwiches and ate them on the side of the porch that overlooked the creek. The little boat was just kind of swaying a bit in the water, tied to a small dock. After we ate, Danny very carefully asked me if I wanted to talk.

“I was thinking about Freddie," I admitted. I didn't know how he'd take that. Danny was so kind to me when I came home with Freddie's body. Sometimes he looked a little unreadable when I did talk about it, like he wasn't sure about how the feelings I had for Freddie compared to how I felt about him. He never said anything like that, but I suppose the comparison was natural. I couldn't very well take him in my arms back then and tell him he never had to worry about coming out on the short end of any comparison to anyone.

“Who knows why our brains come up with what they do? Probably the crap you went through this time is just bringing up crap you’ve gone through other times.”

“So you’re saying I’ve been through a lot of crap? Is that an official diagnosis for this therapy session?” I teased. I mainly wanted to make him laugh. I was glad he was playing therapist. It felt good to get some of it off my chest and I would prefer torture to actually going to therapy. Talking to Danny...that’s just second nature. 

“Yeah, I figured if this cop thing doesn’t work out, I can hang out my shingle after all the years I’ve spent dealing with you.” He squeezed my hand again. “I can either become a therapist or start seeing one.”

“Either beat ‘em or join ‘em, huh?”

“Something like that.” 

“I don’t like these chairs.”

“They’re pretty cheesy,” he agreed, laughing.

“They suck for a romantic getaway. When Grace gets older and starts dating, these are the kind of seats to have on our porch.”

“Good point. No seating options for two.”

“And these are so fucking shaky I think if we tried to do anything in one of them we’d end up on the ground.”

“Were you thinking of doing something with me?” he asked, flexing his eyebrows.

“I was thinking doing it outside would be kind of interesting. Can’t really do that at home.”

“Be a real eye-opener if the governor stopped by unannounced.”

“Or Jerry,” I added, and Danny laughed out loud at that.

“He’d be cheering us on, probably. Of course, then he’d have to give up his fantasy of being your long-term roomie, so maybe not.”

“At least he didn’t watch TV at three in the morning,” I needled.

“My ass is cuter.”

“That must be why I put up with you for so long.”

“Secret of my success,” he quipped. I wondered if he knew just how long, or how many times, I’d been watching his ass, his walk, the way he moves... “I’m sure I can drag a decent piece of furniture out on the porch.”

“The couch would work but we might want it in the house later.”

“I think there’s a roll-away bed against the wall in the living room. It’s folded up under a cover.”

“That’s right, I saw that. I guess I didn’t think much about it because it’s not like we needed another bed inside.”

“Yeah, but give me about ten seconds and I can have that baby out on the porch.”

“I’ll check for sheets.”

Energized by this new project, Danny went after the roll-away and I checked the closet, finding a set of sheets that looked like they were smaller than the ones that fit the big bed. We’d already changed those that morning, since there was a nice assortment of wet spots from the night before.

A one-armed man is close to useless making a bed, but Danny was kind enough not to point that out while we made up the bed on the porch. We’d been up since three, so an afternoon nap sounded good. Taking one out in the fresh air on such a beautiful day sounded even better. Throw in a little fooling around and I wasn’t sure dying and going to heaven would offer much more.

When Danny stripped naked to get in the bed, I was so into that idea I almost strangled myself trying to get the sling off fast enough. He sat on the bed and started unfastening my pants while I stood in front of him. I let myself have a dirty fantasy about him sucking me off, but I wasn’t going to suggest it. I didn’t know if he was ready to do something like that and I didn’t want to push him. My dick was coming to full attention; I couldn’t help that. Watching him naked with that smile of his and those clear blue eyes looking at me like I was everything he wanted...shit, who wouldn’t get hard? 

Getting my pants off was a relief. I braced myself on his shoulder with my good arm when he wrapped his hand around the base of my cock and then just went for it. He took as much of me in his mouth as he could manage, and I summoned every last bit of self control not to thrust into him. 

“Danny...” That was all I could say, and even that was almost breathless. His technique wasn’t perfect, but it was pretty damn good for a beginner, and he was giving it his all, so focused on it that I was almost as fascinated watching the degree of concentration in his features as I was enjoying the fruits of his labor. Almost. 

I probably would have come just from his mouth on me, but once he started playing with my balls at the same time, I was done for. 

“Danny...I’m...” I didn’t get all the words out before I was coming, and I think it startled him a bit because he tried to catch it all and swallow but some escaped and he coughed a couple times. Still, he did a hell of a job for a first-timer, and he didn’t give up until I’d given my last shudder.

We stretched out on the bed and he was hard. Part of me wanted to offer to let him fuck me again, but I was still kind of uncomfortable from the first time and I wasn’t quite ready for round two. The thought of returning the favor, sucking him, intrigued me and I wanted to taste him, so I did. I licked it. I was rewarded with him mumbling some profanity and throwing his arms up on the bed, over his head, giving me a nice, stretched out view of his naked body. 

Teasing him like this was almost as much fun as yanking his chain in the car, so I kept up my little licking project, running my tongue around his dick in every way I could think of. I pumped him with my hand and sucked his balls, and when a little pre-cum leaked out, I used it to slick things up until he was pumping in and out of my hand while I kept working over his balls. Not for the first time, I hated that my shoulder was so messed up because I wanted my other hand free to play with his ass. Then I got the bright idea to lick him behind his balls, to suck on that little bit of soft skin back there between the front and the back. 

He let out a scream of my name and started coming like crazy. It didn’t surprise me I could make him scream. Danny is nothing if he’s not vocal. He was vocal then, grabbing at the sheets, grabbing at my hair, before finally going limp on the bed like all his bones had come out through his dick and now he was a lifeless blob. I lay there next to him and coaxed him to roll toward me so I could hold him. I was getting more mobile, but some positions were still kind of hard for me. I couldn’t really smoosh my shoulder into the bed, and if I was on my good side, I couldn’t get my arm around him.

This was perfect. He was in my arms - arm, I guess - head on my shoulder, we were both spent and sleepy. 

“I love you, Danno.” I slid my hand in his hair and just let it stay there in the warmth of those soft strands. 

“It’s only because I love you that I let you keep messing up my hair,” he said, and I laughed. 

The breeze was mild and it felt good dancing over our cooling bodies. I could feel myself drifting off to sleep, but I had to kiss Danny one more time before letting go of consciousness. I think I was yawning when I muttered “mea aloha” into his hair. I think he said something back; it was more the sound of his voice that I treasured than the words he said. That was nothing new. Danny’s voice is the soundtrack of my life. It doesn’t matter exactly what he’s saying, as long as he’s by my side to say it.

********

I woke up to a cry of agony that was too much like the one I couldn’t get out of my mind from the footage of Steve’s ordeal in Afghanistan. He was sitting up on the roll-away, covered in sweat, breathing like a locomotive, eyes bugged. I didn’t know if he’d drop kick me off the bed if I touched him, but I chanced it. I sat up next to him and touched his back. He jerked a little, but then he looked at me.

“Steve, hey, it’s me, Danny,” I said as softly as I could and still have him hear me. “You’re safe, you’re with me.” I eased him into my arms and held on, tucking his head under my chin, trying to shelter him so he felt safe.

“Danny,” he said with a grateful sigh, holding onto me.

“That’s me,” I replied, stroking his hair, keeping his head against my chest, near my heart. He didn’t say anything else, but I knew he wasn’t dozing off again, either. He knew I’d listen if he wanted to talk. I didn’t urge him, because I knew he’d talk if he felt like it. I was just glad he wasn’t alone, that we were together the way we were, because otherwise, he’d have gone through all this additional shit by himself. I’d have been lucky to drag out of him that he’d even had a bad dream.

“I just want to forget it,” he said, and the sadness and weariness in his voice was hard to hear.

“I can’t forget it either, babe,” I told him honestly. I didn’t necessarily wake up screaming - holding onto him, being close to him...that seemed to calm my reaction to it, make it possible for me to sleep. But I thought about it, a lot.

“I was so scared, Danny,” he whispered, like it was a dirty secret he should be ashamed of.

“And you think that makes you weak.”

“I know it does,” he forced out, sounding like the words were barely speakable.

“They pounded the hell out of you, Steve. If you weren’t a tough SOB you probably would have been much more severely injured than you were, maybe killed from the beating alone. You were still trying to get away from them when you were so badly hurt and drained that your body was winding down.”

“I’m supposed to be ready to die for my country, for the mission, and when they were going to kill me I was terrified.”

“Just because you’re ready or willing to die for something doesn’t mean you have to like it. I’d throw myself in front of a train for Grace or for you, but that doesn’t mean I’d have to have a smile on my face when I jumped on the tracks. You didn’t sell out Catherine - not when they were torturing you and not when those jug-heads decided to strong-arm you in the infirmary. Fucking dicks.”

“Jar heads, and those are Marines.”

“Whatever,” I replied, and I could see his face crinkle with a faint smile. I kissed the top of his head. “You’re the bravest guy I ever met. To the point of driving me crazy because of some of the crazy shit you try - and get away with. Those fuckers who tortured you are called terrorists for a reason. Fear is what they trade in. The important thing is, you survived, and you never gave up your honor no matter what they did to you.”

“Is that what you really think?” he asked. 

“They terrorized you, tortured you, and almost killed you, and in the end, you still had your honor. There’s nothing they could do to you to touch that. There's nothing those two assholes at the infirmary could do to touch that, either, as much as they wanted to throw their weight around at you. Old dicks probably couldn't do half what you can, injured, when they're at their best.”

He was quiet a long time after that, and I almost thought he’d dozed off, but I could see those long dark lashes of his still moving, so I knew he was awake, blinking. 

“Let’s go inside, make some dinner, and watch a movie. Cuddle on the couch like old married people.”

“I’d like that,” he responded, and he smiled again, but this time, he looked up at me so I could see his beautiful face. I kissed him, but it was a gentle little kiss that wasn’t going anywhere. 

“I’m really glad you’re alive, just so you know.” 

“I got that impression, but thanks for confirming it,” he replied.

We made a pizza together, and I allowed some sliced fresh mushrooms and onions to be added to the mix. I’m generally a pepperoni-only purist, but Steve was getting in the spirit, slicing up the mushrooms and working with me on putting it together. I’d have probably agreed to most anything right then. I was still worried about the night before, if I’d hurt him. He said it was okay, but then he said that when he had broken bones, so that didn’t reassure me much. 

We tossed a salad while the pizza was baking and ate that at the table. There was a nice view of the creek from the kitchen window, and we decided to go fishing the next day. When the pizza was done, we set it on the coffee table and picked The Amityville Horror from the mixed pile of DVD’s we’d brought with us. Bellies full of pizza and moving on to another movie, I finally asked him.

“Was last night really okay?”

“Yeah, it was good.” He was eating an ice cream sandwich - another dietary staple he didn’t think we needed but he seemed to like now that we had them.

“I was afraid I hurt you,” I admitted.

“You wouldn’t do that,” he said, licking the chocolate off his thumb that invariably sticks there when you eat one of those things. “If it hurt beyond just being a little challenging, I would have told you, and you would have stopped.”

“I would have, no matter what.”

“I know. Look, I know something happened down there but it’s not pain, exactly. Just kind of raw, and like muscles that are tired because you don’t use them often. At a point, it felt really good, near the end, when the fireworks went off.”

“It didn’t feel good until then?”

“Honestly? It wasn’t all that great until near the end, no. We’re working around some handicaps here.” He gestured at his sling. “I can’t move around as much as I want, or pick another position. I’d do it again, if that answers your question.”

“You’d do it for me.”

“I’d do it for both of us. If you get scared off by your first time at something not being perfect, you never get good at it.” He took my hand. “If you’re still nervous about it, there’s no timer ticking away because you did it to me so now I’m waiting for my turn.”

“You deserve that.”

“Well, it’s worth waiting for it until you want to do it, too. You give a pretty mean blow job. I’ll survive.”

“I did okay on that?”

“If you did any better, I’d be dead.”

“You’ve got a lethal tongue,” I admitted, blushing. I knew I was because my face got hot. I expected him to tease me mercilessly about that, but he didn’t. He just pulled me tighter against his side and kissed my forehead. 

“Glad you enjoyed it,” he said, sounding a little smug.

“It’s okay if you’re worried about Catherine,” I said. He frowned, and I wasn’t surprised. It was kind of a quick subject change, but I felt like we were on the brink of getting out in the open some of the things that were eating away at him and making him wake up screaming. “I don’t expect you to suddenly not care about her anymore.”

“What made you think of that now?”

“I just...I know you’re worried. I’m no expert, but dreams are sometimes the result of unresolved stuff, and that’s unresolved.”

“Not really. She decided to stay over there and follow up a lead on finding Najib. When she does come back, it’s not going to change anything with us.”

“I know. But she was part of Five-0, and you loved her.”

“And I left her there.”

“Whoa, wait a minute. You didn’t have any choice about that.” I sat up straight. I was almost sorry I did because now that I was looking at him, I saw how sad and tired the conversation seemed to make him.

“Everyone always has choices, Danny.”

“Chasing her around Afghanistan in the condition you were in, even now, still recuperating, would have been a suicide mission. Assuming you weren’t locked up by our own troops. You had to leave. Besides, I didn’t see her making any attempt to even see you.”

“What was she supposed to do?”

“I don’t know. Apparently, nothing.”

“She couldn’t have rescued me by herself and I was safe once I was rescued. They would have arrested her, questioned her...”

“Which would have held a candle to what you went through how exactly?”

“I wouldn’t have wanted her to give herself up just because I got caught and couldn’t complete the mission.”

“You what?”

“I failed, Danny. I got caught. I couldn’t complete the mission. That shouldn’t take down anyone else but me. Thank God it didn't...this time.”

“Is that what you think?”

“It’s not what I think. It’s reality.”

It was on the tip of my tongue to yell at him, that’s fucking insane! But despite popular opinion, I can keep my mouth shut on occasion, or refrain from blurting out something insanely harmful. This was how he felt; we were at the root of what was eating him, why he couldn’t let go of this. 

“Maybe the ‘mission’ should have never happened in the first place,” I said. 

“There are a lot of missions that shouldn’t happen or shouldn’t work, but they do.”

“You got knocked out by a blast. Catherine and those kids got away because you didn’t expect her to hang around and help you. You gave yourself up to save them. Maybe the fucking mission fell apart, but it’s not because you weren’t brave or strong or because you failed somehow.”

“I saved my own ass in the end. Came home.” He paused. "Like I came home without Freddie."

“You want to find a way to punish yourself for not being Superman.” 

I got up and started pacing. I had to move. I was vibrating with energy, anger, frustration. I probed him and pushed him until he started spilling what was buried deep inside him and tormenting him. If I scolded him or punished him for how he felt, I was gonna just do more damage. I was trying to figure how to help him, standing there in that cabin scratching my head, clueless. Then I heard it begin, and I didn’t need directions on how to respond. He was sitting on the couch with his elbow on his knee, his hand over his forehead, his body shaking. 

I sat next to him and took him in my arms. I wasn't sure all of what was in those tears - if it was a feeling of failure, remembering Freddie's death again, if it was worry about Catherine, the whole fucking awful trauma... I just know it hurt my soul, and I would have given anything to take his pain away. I don’t much care for pain, but there’s something about it when you love somebody like that...it makes you wish it was your pain, that you could take it. Every time Grace has been sick or hurt I’ve wished it was me instead. I haven’t really felt that way about a lover before. And I’m sure I’d question my sanity as I was going through it if there was some weird way for me to take the experience on myself to save him, but there was such misery in him over all this. It was like poison that I wanted to get out of his system.

"It was all I had," he mumbled into my shoulder.

"What was, babe?" 

"Being good at what I do."

"You're very good at what you do. That hasn't changed."

"Yeah, I'm great. Look at me. I'm a sniveling mess."

It took everything I had not to scream at him how ridiculous that was. No one insults Steve on my watch. Not seriously, all jokes aside. Only Steve was the one insulting Steve. So I was trying to figure out how to scold him and comfort him at the same time. I chose the one I thought was most important and just held him tighter, and kept my voice gentle, and relied on what had always served us well when we were stressed out. I tried to make him laugh.

"Don't diss my partner or I'll have to kick your ass, got it?"

"No big challenge to that, apparently."

"It only took several heavily armed maniacs and some explosives. You're such a fucking pushover," I teased, and I wasn't sure how he'd take it, but he actually laughed just a little, though it was still kind of broken. 

"Or one pissed off detective from New Jersey."

"Technically I didn't knock you all the way down," I countered.

"There was a car for me to land on," he admitted, and I laughed. He was wiping at his eyes and moving away from me, so I let him, and I went to get him some tissues and a glass of water. I grabbed a couple paper towels and dampened them at the kitchen sink. 

He took the tissues and wiped his eyes and blew his nose. He smiled at me when I bathed his face with the damp towels. 

"Feel good?" I asked. I just kept it up, lingering a little around his eyes. He closed them and seemed to enjoy the feeling of the cool cloth against his eyelids.

"Yeah, real good."

"I don't buy that anything that happened in Afghanistan means you're not just as good at what you do as you were before, but just so you know, your job isn't all you have. You've got me and you've got Grace, and we'll always be here for you no matter what happens with your job."

"I know. Makes me a pretty lucky guy," he said, taking my hand, squeezing it. "Most of my life, being the best is what I lived for. It's how I survived."

"Look, Steve, I think you know what Gracie means to me."

"Of course, I do."

"There is no one in this world I would trust more to protect her from anything than you. No matter what nice things I might say to you to make you feel better, you know I would never lie about that, about her safety. I wouldn't put her life in the hands of someone I doubted, and I would put her life in your hands and I know you'd keep her safe."

"That means a lot to me, Danno," he said, a faint smile on his face. "When my dad sent me away, and all of a sudden I had no family, no friends...I wasn't the big shot football player, I was the new guy in the Army and Navy Academy. I had to prove myself...in everything, to everybody. And when I could do that, I had friends, I had Joe's admiration, upperclassmen who liked to break the new guys started to respect me when I could take it. I took everything they dished out and kept going. Achievement was how I survived, and it became my life. It's why I...mattered to people."

"Why you...?" I sat back, sickened, and ran my hand over my face. "My God."

"What?"

"What?" I repeated. "Steve...I..." 

I searched for a way to explain to him how fucking wrong that was on how many levels without making him feel like I was criticizing him for what he felt. I felt sick, my throat felt like it was closing. I thought about Grace, and how Rachel and I always made sure to let her know it was her we treasured, and not anything she accomplished. She knew I was proud of her good grades and her cheerleading and anything else she did well - but she also knew I'd love her if she didn't do any of that. I thought about a kid who believed his mother had just died being sent away from everything he knew and everyone he loved, and learning that the only way to cope with that was to achieve some exaggerated level of prowess and perfection to bring people into his life. The harsh, emotionless regimentation of military training, of SEAL training, which would kill a lot of guys, or at least break them, was how he found solace and rebuilt his life, reinvented himself alone.

"Babe, I'm sorry," I said, putting my arms around him again. He didn't really need me to hold him; he was pretty calm now. I needed to hold onto him. "Do you think that if you weren't...Superman, you wouldn't matter? Is that it?"

"It's not what I thought, Danny, it's what was. When I made a name for myself, excelled, moved up the ranks, achieved things that were considered exemplary for my age...my life got better. I wasn't alone, and people counted on me. Even with Catherine, it's what brought us together, the biggest thing we had in common."

I moved back a little. "Did you even want to be in the Navy?"

"I wanted to be a cop, like my dad. After I’d been away so long, it seemed like an old dream that wasn’t me anymore."

"Well, one way or another, you did it," I said, smiling at him, touching his cheek.

"Going into high risk situations and getting the job done is what I do. It's what I am. It's what we are. If I can't do that..." He shrugged. 

"You can do that. You're gonna be fine. And it's only part of what we are. Do you really think that if you changed jobs, it would change thispart of us?" I asked, gesturing between us.

"I know you'd stand by me, Danny."

"I wouldn't just stand by you out of some sense of loyalty. I'd stay with you because I love you and I can't picture living without you...driving my car and pissing me off." 

Steve laughed at that, and it reminded me, not for the first time, how much I loved his warmth and his silly sense of humor and his sweetness. Momentarily, his expression darkened.

"What if I can't keep you safe?" he asked, but he was looking at the floor, not at me.

"It's your job to have my back, Steve. Not to protect me. I can take care of myself."

"So could Freddie."

"I'm not Freddie, and this isn't North Korea, and I'm not going anywhere."

"He died covering me so I could get away."

"What happened to him, to both of you, on that mission was terrible. Nobody should have to walk away from someone they love when that person is dying. But you had no medical facilities, no supplies, no back up to call on for help, and you knew he was mortally wounded, or you wouldn't have left him, even then. I can't imagine being in that situation."

"I left him there to die alone, among enemies, who mutilated him..." He squeezed his eyes shut, and while he wasn't exactly crying, I could see how much that old wound still hurt. Truth be told, I'd never have the strength to do what he did. He did the right thing by leaving Freddie when there was no saving him, and Steve could still complete the mission and save himself. That's what they train guys like Steve to do. Steve wouldn't have done it to save himself, but he did it for the mission. So it kind of came full circle in my head now why not completing a mission successfully gnawed at him. He'd done what was probably one of the most painful, difficult things he'd ever done to complete a mission; it was that important to him to do that. And, in his eyes, he’d left Catherine in Afghanistan with a mission unfinished.

"He wanted you to do that, Steve. I'm sure that gave him a measure of peace and purpose to dying, and if anything could make that easier, knowing you're dying for a cause, that you're saving your best friend and the mission...you doing what you did let him die feeling like the hero he was. Not like he'd failed by getting wounded and having to watch you get gunned down as a result of that."

Steve looked at me for several long seconds, like he was processing that, like something was clicking in that sometimes inscrutable head of his.

"That's almost what he told me. He told me to go, to complete the mission so it wasn't all for nothing."

"Then you did what he wanted you to do, even though I can't picture how that felt, or what kind of guts it took to do it."

He didn't say anything else, but he hugged me and held onto me a long time. 

We went to bed a while later, but we didn't do anything. We got comfortable cuddled up together, and I rubbed his back until he went to sleep. I don't know what Freddie would have thought of me, or my relationship with Steve, but ever since Steve told me what happened, how he died, and that he'd urged Steve to go and get out of there alive, I've felt like I owed him one. The biggest debt I could ever owe anyone.

 

To Be Continued...