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A Trail Of Sparks

Chapter Text

--
From the window of a car
A cigarette's a falling star
A dream within a trail of sparks
--

He's cleaning the makeup off his shoulder when there's a knock on the dressing room door. "Yo," he calls out, grabbing the dirty tissues off the counter and dumping them in the trash bin before looking up.

Mamo stands in the doorway, two men behind him. "You got a minute, Steve?"

"Sure." He reaches for a t-shirt as Mamo lets the two guys in. One Native Hawaiian, the other haole, wearing a tie and looking out of place, both of them with guns and badges on their belts. Cops. He glances at Mamo. "What's going on?"

The blond takes the lead. "Were you working here last night?"

Steve looks up at him, takes in slicked back blond hair, strong shoulders, and a belligerent tone he doesn't care for. "I might have been. Wanna tell me what's going on?"

"Look, we're not interested in what you do here, okay, this isn't about that." The blond's words are accompanied by a swipe of his hand, dismissing the decor of the sparse dressing room.

Steve leans back in his seat. "It had better not be, because last time I checked, stripping wasn't illegal in Oahu."

The Native cop clears his throat, and his partner glances at him. "What?" he snaps.

"Let's start again," the guy says smoothly, smiling. "I'm Detective Hanamoa, the loudmouth here is Detective Williams. We're asking questions at all the establishments here on the pier, a body was found early this morning."

Steve exchanges another glance with Mamo. "What kind of a body?" he asks carefully.

"A young woman," Williams says, his tone suggesting he doesn't like this fact. "We think she may have been... a self employed professional."

"A hooker?" Steve says.

"Yeah, if you must." Another dismissive wave of his hand, and his face expresses distaste. For what, Steve can't tell. "Now, were you working here last night or not?"

It had been an average night, making him less than he'd been hoping for. "Yes, I was."

"You see anything out of the ordinary?"

"No." He finally unfolds the t-shirt he's still holding and slips it over his head. "It was an ordinary night. Kind of quiet."

Williams licks his lips and digs a photo out of his pocket. "You ever see this girl before?"

She's young and blonde, her eyes unseeing, a pool of blood spread out on the pavement under her head. Steve doesn't blink; he's seen worse. "No."

"She wasn't in here last night?" Hanamoa interjects.

Steve thinks for a moment. "Not that I can recall. But I don't look at every customer, Detective." They all blur together after a while, and the ones that stand out are the ones that tip well. This girl doesn't look like she'd have the money to be a good tipper.

"Where did you park your car?" Williams asks.

"By the docks. Cars aren't allowed on the pier."

"You see anything unusual when you were going home?"

His continually belligerent tone makes Steve want to dodge the question, but it would be petty. "No, Detective." He drags his eyes up to the guy's face. "Nothing unusual."

Blue eyes stare back into his as if accepting a challenge. "Did you go home alone?"

Steve stands without thinking. "Excuse me?"

"Danny." Hanamoa puts a hand on Williams' arm. "It's just a question, sir."

"No, it isn't," Steve shoots back. "Your partner over here was implying something I don't like the tone of."

Williams holds up his hands. "Okay, I'm sorry, I apologise."

"You better." He doesn't sit back down. "And for your information, yes, I was alone."

"What time was this?" Hanamoa asks.

Steve glances at Mamo, who shrugs. "I don't know, I did my last set at eleven, so sometime near midnight, I guess."

"Okay. Thank you for your time, sir. Just for our records, can we have your full name, please?"

"Steve McGarrett." He grabs his wallet, fishes out his driver's license and holds it out to them. "Anything else?"

"Yeah," Williams says, eyeing Steve's wallet instead of his ID. "Where'd you get that cash?"

Three hundred dollars sit tightly packed together in Steve's billfold, and he folds it shut again and pockets it. "None of your damn business."

"I'm a cop," Williams says, and the challenging stare is back. "It is my business."

Steve raises his chin as he glares back. "I worked a private party this afternoon. I got paid. This is a cash industry."

"You may want to deposit that in a bank account," Williams says, lips quirking into a smile. Steve hates the guy already, sticking his nose where it doesn't belong. "Have a good day."

Steve glares at him until the door closes behind them.

--

Mamo's closes between the afternoon and evening shift, so Steve sits at the bar, watching Mamo polish glasses and set out bottles of alcohol. "So, a murder, huh?"

Mamo glances up. "Yeah."

Steve takes a sip of his orange juice. "There's not a lot of hookers out here, are there?"

Mamo shakes his head. "Not a lot, but there's always some."

He nods, running a finger over the rim of his glass. "How was last night's take?"

"It'll cover the costs."

"Not as good, huh? Already thought so." He tries not to think about the state of his bank account. "Better luck tonight."

"Better luck next week, after payday." Mamo gives him a smile. "Don't worry about it."

Mamo's attempt at reassurance makes Steve smile as well. "Yeah." He sips his juice. "I'll give them a good show tonight, that should bring in the money."

"Are you up for it? You already did yesterday and this afternoon."

His shoulder aches where the bullet wound never fully healed, but he needs the work, so there's nothing for it. "I'll get through it."

"Stevie." Mamo puts a hand on his arm. "Don't push yourself."

Steve runs a hand through his hair and laughs dryly. "I need the money, Mamo."

Mamo squeezes his arm briefly before taking his hand away. "Okay. I just hate to see you hurting yourself."

"Yeah." He finishes his juice. "I'm gonna lie down for a bit. Will you call me for dinner?"

"Sure."

--

Kai comes into the dressing room after his first set, looking exhausted. Steve raises an eyebrow at him.

"Full house out there tonight, brah," Kai says, grabbing a towel and his boxers. "The USS Lincoln docked this morning."

So close to the port and the military bases, sailors, closeted or otherwise, make up a large portion of their business. Steve shrugs. "Whatever brings in the cash."

"You hard up?"

"Rent's coming up." Steve reaches for the makeup that'll cover his scars. "You know how it is."

"I do, man. It's been a rough couple of weeks. Have a good run." Kai slips into the small shower room at the back.

Steve gives him a wave as the door closes and focuses back on the task at hand. The bullet scar is faded, but it won't do to show the customers the merchandise is damaged. The process complete, he puts his performance clothes on and gets ready.

--

Kai wasn't kidding; it's a full house and then standing room at the back as Steve comes on stage. The crowd eyes him, a few regulars are already letting out cat calls, and this part never gets old. Steve lets the music wash over him and dictate his moves, lets it pull in the crowd and makes them cluster around the stage.

By the time he's shirtless and on his knees at the end of the first song, there's plenty of hands with cash reaching for his waistband, and he's happy to lean in closer for the back row to be able to get to him. He tries to give each of them a smile or a wink or a moment of their own, paying them back in kind.

During the second song he evades some grabbing hands and leans into others, sees Chin, their bouncer, nearby and knows that he's covered if something does go wrong. Mostly, it's a good crowd, lots of money, respectful, happy on a night out and Steve can lose himself in this, lose himself in the spotlight and the shouts and the way all eyes are on him.

His shoulder starts aching midway through the third song and he has to force himself to keep his smile from slipping. He can push through this, can use his Navy training to help, even if it was never meant for this. Sweat starts blurring his vision and he gets through the final act on sheer willpower, gives the crowd the biggest grin before slipping backstage.

--

The first thing he does is take two pain pills, the ache turning into a red hot poker in his shoulder, and he towels dry and dresses automatically, before simply curling up on the cot they keep in the corner of the dressing room.

When Cindy, the waitress, knocks on the door a few minutes later, he's waiting for the painkillers to kick in. "Oh, Steve," she sighs, handing over a wad of bills that had made it onto the stage after his exit.

He tucks the money away, knows he can trust her to be honest with it, and pastes a smile on his face. "I'll be okay."

"Yeah. Can I bring you anything?"

"No, I'm good. I'll rest up till my second set."

She frowns. "You sure you can handle it?"

"Can't leave the customers wanting," he replies.

She shakes her head. "You're crazy sometimes."

Steve waves her off and shifts futilely in an effort to find a position that puts less pressure on his shoulder.

--

Mamo stops by just before his second set.

"I told Cindy I could do it."

"I know, she told me." Mamo takes a seat at the vanity, watches Steve get dressed. "Doesn't mean I'm not concerned."

He stops himself from shrugging. "I'll work out my shift, go see my physio tomorrow. I'll be fine."

"You're on on Friday, you still up for that?"

He glances at Mamo. Part of him wants to say no; he's worked too much already this week, but weekends are the best shifts and his rent is still due Monday. And he's short. "I'll be there."

"Stevie--"

He points a finger at Mamo. "I make my own choices, okay?"

Mamo looks at him long and hard, but nods. "All right."

Steve shrugs off his bitterness and nods back. "Thanks, Mamo."

"No problem. You're on."

"You got it."

--

The painkillers aren't enough, they're never enough, and by the time he's done, he wants to go home and sleep until it's afternoon, but it's a busy night and even if he's lucky Friday, there's not enough money to pay rent and physical therapy bills.

He sits at the bar, and Mamo meets his eyes briefly, slides away to serve the next customer, and well, this is a discussion they had only once, anyway.

It doesn't take long before someone sits down next to him. "Buy you a drink?"

Steve flashes a smile. "Sure, if you make mine an orange juice."

He's not stupid enough to drink, wants to keep his wits about him. The guy signals Mamo, who puts the beer bottle and OJ on the counter with practiced ease, and the customer's money disappears with equal speed.

"What's your name?" Steve says.

"Does it matter?"

Navy, Steve thinks automatically. "Not to me. Enjoy the show?"

The guy drains half his bottle. "Hard not to."

Steve smiles. "Means I'm doing my job right, thanks."

He gets a glance up and down at that. "You do anything more?"

"I can," Steve says slowly, "be persuaded."

That gets him a calculating look. "How much?"

"Fifty. Up front."

The guy swallows hard, but he nods, digging into a pocket. Steve takes the note from him and tucks it away. He slips off the barstool and leads the guy to the back, unlocks the backroom and lets him step inside first. He keeps a smile on his face as he pulls out the condom packet, but the response is familiar.

"Aw, man, do I have to?"

"Not happening without," Steve says easily, leaning in the doorway. "You can have your money back and no hard feelings."

He waits until the guy decides, and when he nods, Steve closes the door and turns the key, leaving it in the lock. He smiles, licks his lips, watches the guy sag a little against the wall. Steve steps in close, crowding him against the wall, sliding one hand down to the guy's crotch while leaving the other against the wall next to his head.

He's half hard under Steve's touch, and he rubs his thumb over denim, feels the guy buck into it. "Yeah? You like this?" He makes a soft sound, and Steve noses at his cheek, presses a soft kiss over stubble. "It's okay," he adds, "let me hear it."

The guy turns his head, presses his mouth against Steve's with a groan, and Steve kisses him back softly before pulling back, wandering down to his neck. He's growing hard under Steve's hand, and he unzips him as he nuzzles his pecs, sliding down onto his knees.

He can rest his right shoulder for a bit in this position, uses his left hand to free the guy's erection from his boxers, and rips open the condom packet with his teeth. He slides it on using his mouth, and that trick never fails to get him a noise and a thrust of the hips, and he presses the guy back against the wall with his left arm.

He slants his eyes up at that moment, meets the guy's gaze, his open mouth, fast breath, wide eyes. Steve smiles around his dick and holds those eyes while sliding back down. He hits the back of Steve's throat and he fights his gag reflex.

He needs to keep the guy pressed firmly against the wall as he sets a rhythm, fast and strong, no need to linger. It takes only a few minutes before he twitches on Steve's tongue, and Steve takes him in deep, lets him thrust one last time as he comes.

He blinks away the water in his eyes from nearly getting choked before getting to his feet, helps him dispose of the condom and tucks him back into his pants. He kisses his cheek. Still breathing hard, the guy pushes off from the wall and follows Steve meekly back to the corridor and into the main part of the club. It's quieter now, close to closing time, and Steve gives him one last smile. "Have a good night."

"Uh, you too." He disappears into the crowd, and Steve returns to the dressing room to rinse the taste of latex from his mouth.

--

The deserted streets make the drive home easy, the only cars he meets a few cabs and police cruisers. When he pulls up at his bare, two room apartment, it's past one in the morning, and the nine flights of stairs are demoralising.

It is what it is. He takes them at a light jog, reminds himself it's a good workout, and is pleased when he's still breathing evenly as he gets to his landing. He unlocks the deadbolts and the Yale lock and automatically relocks them behind himself.

He's tired, tired enough to want to roll straight into bed, but he knows he'll regret it in the morning. He forces himself to keep moving, takes some pain pills, hits the shower and stands under the hot spray for fifteen minutes until he's woozy and his shoulder feels like it's throbbing instead of burning.

He stretches the kinks out of it, slowly and painfully, until he's sure he won't wake up with it completely seized up, and then finally crawls into bed, the clock nearer to two am than one.

--

The first thing he does in the morning is call up for a physio appointment. Once that's arranged, he can breathe more easily, work his way through a morning routine of exercises that end with a five mile run. His shoulder aches dully as he showers and dresses, and he knows it'll be a constant reminder to carry him through the day. That's not so bad; he can cope with that.

He runs a load of laundry, unpacks the dishwasher, takes a look at his finances and shudders. If the Friday shift goes well, it should cover the rent check due Monday, but it's not going to stretch to a Waikiki physical therapy bill, not by a long shot. Steve runs a hand through his hair, watches the numbers blur together as he stares at them long and hard.

Next week's payday, which means those shifts should earn him that little bit more that will cover this visit, and if he puts it on his credit card, he'll have a few weeks to find the money.

It'll have to do.

--

Greg has been his physical therapist since Steve started earning at enough at Mamo's to cover the bill. Before then, he was stuck with a VA therapist who treated him like a number and kept having to consult his medical history to figure out what to do. The bill stings every time it arrives, but Greg keeps his shoulder in reasonable working order and it's worth every dime.

"You're lucky I could fit you in," Greg says easily as Steve walks in. "You wrench something?"

Steve sits down on the table. "I don't know. Overdid it, I guess."

"That's a frequent problem for you." There's no judgment there, and Steve takes it in stride. Greg's fingers probe carefully, tug this way and that, manipulate the joint until Steve hisses. "Right there? Okay. Lie down for me."

Steve strips his shirt off and stretches out, trying to relax in spite of the pain. Experience has taught him that the more it hurts, the better the results are, but it doesn't make it easy.

Greg taps his arm. "Relax, brah. You're not helping yourself."

He consciously unclenches his fists. "Sorry."

"No sweat. You do this on the job?"

"Last night." Steve blows out a slow breath. "And don't tell me it needs rest."

"It does need rest." Greg works the kinks out of stubborn knot near his shoulder blade. "But I'm going to assume that's not an option."

"Not if I want a roof over my head." He grits his teeth when Greg digs his fingers in. "Fuck."

Greg pauses. "Too much?"

"I can take it."

"The damage is irreversible, Steve. I can fix the muscles and tendons that have to take over, but you know your shoulder will never heal."

He tries not to bristle. "Not news to me, Greg."

"I know. But try not to make it worse, because wrench this another time and you'll be out of commission for a long time."

The stern warning echoes in his head on his way out the door, back into the mid morning sunshine, and he's distracted enough to miss his name being called until someone grabs his arm.

"Steve!" Kono's out of breath from running to catch up with him, but she gives him a wide smile. "Hey, brah, howzit."

"Hey." Steve returns her quick embrace. They met in the waiting room months ago, and their shared love of surfing meant they hit the waves together frequently. "Were you coming or going?"

"Going," she replies. "You?"

"Same. You got time to catch a few waves?"

"Sure! If you're up for it."

He rolls his shoulder, thinks that after this morning's treatment, a little relaxation and light exercise might be perfect. "I'm good. Just need to swing by my place to pick my board."

"You got it."

--

They drive north to one of the quieter beaches, where there's less tourism and as Kono puts it, better waves. Before too long, it's the two of them, the wind, the waves, and nothing else. It takes a few times before Steve has a good run, and Kono leaves him behind, as always, laughing as she does it.

"Not bad, brah," she says when they stop for a break, laughing at him in a way that means she's totally condescending.

Steve elbows her in the ribs, but she evades him, digs two fingers into his side and he twists out of the way. "We weren't all born on a stick."

She pushes her wet hair out of her face. "Comes with the territory." Steve stretches out in the sand, decides to work on his tan a bit. Kono falls down next to him. "Chin says the cops were down at the pier yesterday. Something about a murder?"

Steve cracks open one eye, remembering the stubborn blond with his belligerent questions. "Yeah. Assholes."

Kono shifts in place. "Sorry, brah."

"You're not a cop yet."

"No, but--" She makes a gesture. "They toss the place?"

Steve shakes his head, opens both eyes and sits up. "They should have tried. Just a lot of stupid questions."

Kono glances sideways. "It was a girl who got killed, right?"

"A hooker, yeah." Steve stares out over the waves. "They showed me a picture. She was young, Kono."

She nods. Steve stretches out again, lets the sun dry his skin. He closes his eyes against the bright rays, listens to the sounds of the surf.

--

He wakes when Kono pokes him in the side, and the sun is in a different position. "Better put some sunscreen on, Steve, or I'd've let you sleep. You looked like you needed it."

He rubs a hand over his face. "Thanks." He accepts the bottle from her and reapplies, giving her a quick smile. "Mamo wouldn't be happy if I showed up red and blistered."

She throws her head back and laughs. "I imagine not. You up for another couple of waves?"

The sun and sea are calling, so Steve nods, follows her back into the ocean to lose her on the first wave, going under as she stays standing easily.

--

Friday morning dawns to a grey sky that threatens a storm, so Steve turns over again and catches some more sleep before finally dragging himself out of bed nearer lunchtime. He braves the threatening skies and goes for his customary run, catching the beginning of a spectacular downpour and coming home drenched.

The shower washes it all away, and he does his shoulder exercises, the stretches burning a lot less than they had the day before. The sun is peeking out from behind the clouds when he drives to the pier, and the water is glittering when he walks its length to Mamo's.

Chin's already inside when Steve lets himself in. "Hey, brah."

"Hey."

"Looks like the weather is letting up in time for people to come enjoy themselves."

"It better." Steve smiles. "Kono says hi, by the way."

"You two out surfing?"

"Yep." He sketches a wave as he makes his way to the back, dropping his bag in the dressing room. Mamo is in his little office at the far end of the hall, so Steve knocks on the door before stepping inside. "Hey."

"Stevie!" Mamo slides his chair back and gestures for Steve to sit down as well. "Coffee?"

"Please." Steve takes the mug with a smile and sits. "How are things?"

"Holding their own, holding their own."

"Yeah?" Steve takes a sip of coffee, watches Mamo's face carefully.

"Would I lie to you? It's not great, not what it used to be, but we're keeping our head above water."

Steve nods. "Okay."

"You're helping, you know, bringing in the customers." Mamo grins. "They can't resist you."

Steve feels colour spread on his cheeks, when he's not normally shy about this job. "Thanks, Mamo."

He laughs and punches Steve's arm, and Steve grins back, drinking his coffee.

"Any trouble with the cops?"

Mamo shakes his head. "Haven't seen them since the last time."

"Good. I'm going to go get ready. Thanks for the kona, brah."

--

He's midway through his first set when he spots him, sitting at a corner table in the back, not close to the stage like most customers. It's the slicked back blond hair that gives him away, making Steve blink even as he doesn't miss a step.

The guy's eyes are fixed on Steve, watching him, a beer bottle untouched at his hand. Steve forces himself to look away from that gaze, to pay attention to the customers who are holding out cash and buying themselves some attention, but every time he looks up, Williams is still there.

When he comes off the stage he rushes himself through a shower, gets dressed and heads back into the club. Mamo catches his eyes from behind the crowd waiting at the bar, and Steve jerks his head in Williams' direction before heading over there.

"Detective," he says, sliding into the booth, "back with more questions?"

The blue eyes blink at him, startled, and the beer bottle on the table is now half empty. "No." Williams shifts in his seat. "Just checking out the show."

"Really?" Steve raises an eyebrow. "You don't seem the type."

"How do you know what type I am?" Williams shoots back.

Steve doesn't trust the guy as far as he can throw him. "You gave me a pretty good idea of it Wednesday."

"I-- I what?" Williams sputters. "We had one conversation, a conversation that you seemed to take the wrong way, my friend, and that's it, all right. I was doing my job."

"Are you doing your job now?"

Williams leans back. "Anyone ever tell you you have a suspicious mind?"

Steve grins. "Lots of people. Now answer the question."

"I already did. I'm not here professionally."

Steve narrows his eyes. "If this is some kind of harassment or shakedown, I've got news for you: it's not going to happen, okay?"

Williams' eyes flash, and he sits up straighter. "You got any trouble with cops around here?"

Steve blinks, shakes it off. "Not yet."

"Very funny."

Steve gives him a look. "I'm telling you that if you don't back off, you're gonna find out exactly how much we don't like you people around here."

"Us people?" Williams raises both eyebrows, looks torn between amusement and anger. He waves a hand at Steve's face. "Us people? What does that mean? Cops?"

"Straight guys who want to pick a fight." Steve leans in closer. "We're not an easy target and we're not gonna run scared."

"Whoa, whoa, you think-- No, my friend." Williams shakes his head. "That's real cute and I get where you're coming from, but no. I'm here as a paying customer, and I'm about to start wondering where I can complain to management about their performers."

"Fuck off," Steve shoots back.

"You're a lot more attractive when you're up on that stage." Williams smiles. "Look, I'll leave if you ask me to, but if you're this way with everyone who comes to see you I'm amazed you still have a job."

"I'm only this way with people I don't trust."

"Yeah." Williams sighs and drains his beer bottle. "So, it was nice seeing you again and all, but I think I'll take your hostility and make my way out the door. Maybe next time I see you, you'll have gotten out of bed on the right side."

He digs out a wallet and leaves a bill on the table, slips out of the booth and makes his way through the crowd. Steve watches him go, wondering how much trouble this guy's going to be.

--

"That cop giving you a hard time?" Mamo asks as Steve is finished with his last number and taking the makeup off his shoulder.

Steve shrugs. "I don't know, Mamo. He says he wasn't, but I don't trust him."

"I'll tell Chin to keep an eye out, yeah?"

"Sure." Steve rubs some life back into his shoulder, stretches it carefully. He catches Mamo's eyes in the mirror. "If you're going to ask me to cover a weekend shift, I'm going to have to turn you down."

"Don't worry about it, brah." Mamo's hand lands on his good shoulder. "Not a problem."

He nods, shoves down the anger he feels ruthlessly, and plasters a smile on his face. "See you Tuesday, then."

"Have a good weekend, Stevie."

--

He spends the weekend relaxing, going for a swim to exercise his shoulder and to feel water around him again. It's second nature, easy like breathing, and when the next week dawns and he scrapes together the money for his rent, he feels less bitter about it all. There are times in life to worry about the credit card bill, and times when you just have to let it go.

When he goes into work, Chin stops him at the door. "That cop was in here, brah. He was looking for you."

"Oh, great." He's either picking himself up a stalker or they've got bigger trouble than that. "He give you a hard time?"

"Nah, just sat in the corner, drank a beer. Cindy says he asked after you, and when she told him you weren't working, he left."

Steve sighs. "Okay, thanks, man."

Chin claps him on the shoulder. "I've got your back, yeah?"

"I know, I appreciate it." He heads inside, drops off his bag and heads to Mamo's office, where he helps himself to a cup of coffee while Mamo is on the phone with a supplier.

"Chin filled me in," Steve says when Mamo puts the horn down.

"It doesn't have to mean anything," Mamo says, leaning back. "You've had fans before, nothing unusual there."

Steve smiles wryly. "They weren't cops."

"True." Mamo looks at him for a moment. "Do you want me to bar him?"

Steve runs a hand through his hair and shakes his head. "I can handle it. We can't throw out every guy I don't like the look of."

"You don't get nervous quickly, but no."

Steve bites his lip. "You calling me paranoid?"

Mamo puts a hand on his arm. "Steve, if this guy sets off your radar, I'm not going to argue with you."

"Thanks, I appreciate that." He leans back, rubs a hand over his face.

"Everything okay, Steve?"

He sighs. "Yeah, it's good, Mamo. Nothing I can't handle, okay?"

Mamo smiles. "You need to get out more."

"If that's a subtle way of telling me to get laid--"

Mamo holds up a hand, dirty grin on his face. "Of course not."

"Ass." But as he walks back to the dressing room, he has a smile on his face.

--

Williams is sitting in the same corner booth as before, and Steve studiously ignores him as he performs. But it needles him, and he can't help having just that much bigger a smile for the people close to the stage, feels Williams' gaze on him the whole time.

It's like the guy doesn't look away, doesn't blink, he just sits there and watches. They have their share of slightly less savoury characters that choose booths to jerk off under the table, and fine, Steve doesn't care what gets people's rocks off, but this is different.

He has no time to turn it over in his head; a group of slightly drunk young women are tipping good money and he makes sure to give them good value for it. Their screams carry over the loud music and he can feel hands on his skin, on his ass, and he's fine with it; it's part of the deal as long as no one makes a grab for anything.

In between two songs, one of the women leans in. "My friend's getting married," she says, pointing to one of the other girls, who giggles and blushes.

"Oh yeah?" Steve says with an easy grin, turning to her. "Go you. Last night of freedom?"

She giggles again. "Something like that."

He leans over the stage and kisses her cheek. "Congratulations. He's a lucky guy."

There's lots of blushes and giggles as he gets back on his feet for the second track, and more screams as he blows her a kiss. When he looks up, Danny Williams is suddenly gone.

--

He's back like clockwork on Friday night, strolls in just after Steve's first set, takes a seat in the same corner booth. Steve feels those eyes on him the entire way through his second set. Williams stays there, fends off a pass by another customer, and nurses his single bottle of beer.

Steve watches him from the corridor, finally has had enough, and walks over, sliding into the booth. "Hi."

Williams gives him an overly bright grin. "Hey, it's you again."

"Yep, me again. What the fuck are you doing here?"

Williams looks around the club. "Does this place have a rule against paying customers or something? Or is it just you? Because no one else seems to mind me being here."

"No one else," Steve says slowly, "seems to be getting your attention the way I do."

Williams gestures at him, muscles moving under his button down shirt. "Okay, I sort of get the paranoia, I mean, your line of work is not-- but you've got to be used to people looking at you, right?"

"My line of work is what?" Steve demands.

Williams rolls his eyes. "That's what he focuses on. I was going to say," he says slowly, clear blue gaze meeting Steve's, "it's not conducive to a sense of personal safety, but I thought you might be insulted."

Steve bristles at that. "Fuck you."

"Try another line."

"People tell me you only show up the nights I'm working. Excuse me if that makes me paranoid."

Williams leans back. "I like you."

"No," Steve corrects, "you like what I do."

Williams thinks this over. "Yeah, okay, I like watching you take your clothes off. You look good naked. You must have heard that before."

Yes, Steve's heard it before. He rolls his eyes. "Yeah, but--"

"Look," Williams says at the same time, "I get this makes me a bit pathetic, okay? So go ahead and judge me for it, I'll be over here in the corner."

Steve shakes his head, not sure what to say to that.

"I could spin a whole yarn about desiring the unattainable and the taboo factor of naked bodies, but it's nothing you don't know already, and it's not the whole truth, in any case."

"Now you lost me."

"Funny, you didn't strike me as stupid." Williams empties his bottle. "I've got to go. It was nice talking to you."

Before Steve realises what's happened, there's a twenty dollar bill on the table and Williams has left.

--

He's there again the next week. Sitting in the corner, nursing one bottle of beer, watching Steve's second set with the sort of attention Steve tends to reserve for shooting a gun. He's unavoidable, his blond hair and blue eyes and the tie he never seems to go without. Steve catches him just as he's getting up to leave.

"What's with you?"

Williams looks him up and down. "I could ask you the same question."

"I work here," Steve replies.

It gets him a quirky smile. "Yes, you do. And fine work it is, too. Now if you'll excuse me, I was just leaving. It's that thing you're so fond of me doing."

Steve ignores that. "You sit here, have one beer, then what? Go home to your doting wife?"

"A lesser man," Williams says slowly, "might be offended that you think so little of me. I, on the other hand, am going to magnanimously overlook that insult, and insist on leaving."

Steve steps aside. "Fine, go. I'm sure the show got you hard enough to fuck her tonight."

Williams turns to him with a growl, and Steve's ready for him, has been waiting for this since they met, wants to take this guy down a notch, badly. He's bracing himself, nearly lashes out when someone pulls him back, stepping in front of him. Chin clears his throat, facing Williams. "I think you were leaving?"

Williams stands there a second longer, his eyes on Steve, and Steve is meeting that gaze head on. "I was," Williams says at long last, and steps back, turns around and heads for the exit.

Chin turns to Steve. "What the hell, brah?" Steve doesn't answer him, heads towards the back, Chin on his heels. "I was talking to you! What the fuck just happened?"

"He got on my nerves, okay?" Steve slams the palm of his right hand flat into the wall, feels it jar all the way up his shoulder. The pain feels good. "He sits there and he stares and he doesn't do anything. The guy's an asshole, Chin, come on."

"That doesn't mean you can provoke him." Chin looks at him, searching. "You okay, Steve?"

He answers through gritted teeth. "I'm fine."

The door opens and Mamo comes in. Chin catches it before it swings shut and slips back out into the club. Steve meets Mamo's eyes. "Sorry."

Mamo only looks at him. "What's going on, Stevie?"

He shakes his head. "That guy just pisses me off."

"He's still a paying customer," Mamo reminds him. "And you're better than this."

"Yeah." He sighs. "Okay, I'm sorry, yeah? It won't happen again."

"Okay." Mamo squeezes his arm. "Go get some rest, Steve."

He nods, heads down the corridor to the dressing room, feels suddenly like he could sleep for a year.

--

On Wednesday, Williams is blessedly absent, and Steve wonders if this means he finally got the message, but on Friday, he's back in his corner, drinking a bottle of beer, eyes fixed on the stage. Steve studiously ignores him, spends time on a group of frat boys who tip well and seem to be enjoying themselves, until Steve has to avoid a few wandering hands.

Chin hovers nearby, and Steve catches his eye, sees Chin have a murmured word or two with them between songs, can see the steely warning in Chin's eyes, and the calm nod he gives Steve after. He nods back, is pleased to find it had the desired effect, and it pushes Danny Williams from his mind until the final song, when he sees Williams' fixed blue gaze again, unwavering.

Even Steve acknowledges the guy is handsome, doesn't get why he spends his time staring at him. Williams fends off the odd admirer, doesn't seem to want to engage with anyone. Just sits there, and stares at him. It's unnerving and annoying, and Steve resolves to put it out of his mind. Don't trouble trouble.

When he's done counting the cash, later, he realises he's going to be short if he goes on like this, counting on next week's money to pay last month's bills. He showers and dresses, goes back out with a smile on his face, and sure enough, one of the frat boys sidles up next to him no less than ten minutes after he sits down at the bar.

"Yo, man."

Steve gives him a smile, watches the kid being dazzled. "Hi."

"You're, um, Steve, right?"

"Yes." He holds out a hand. "And who are you?"

The kid smiles nervously. "I'm Jake. My friends and I are from Boston."

"Hello, Jake from Boston. First time in Hawaii?"

A quick nod. "Yeah." He shifts in place. "So, um, you're pretty good."

Steve suppresses the urge to lean in and tell the kid it's okay. "Thanks. I'm glad you enjoyed the show."

"I don't suppose..." Jake's voice trails off and he blushes.

Steve leans forward and runs a finger over the boy's arm. "Suppose what?"

"That you might, um, wanna go show me the sights, or something. Sometime."

He's really too young and inexperienced for this place, but he's also clearly got money, that much Steve knows from how he and his friends were stuffing bills down his waistband earlier. "I can be persuaded to a lot of things."

"Persua--" The blush deepens. "Oh. Oh, um, okay."

"Yeah?"

Jake shifts in his seat again. "Should I ask how much?"

"You could." Steve smiles at him. "Fifty, right here, right now, if you want."

He swallows, but he's had enough to drink that the appeal takes the upper hand. He nods too quickly. "I, uh, okay." He digs in his pocket for money, hands over a bill.

Steve makes it disappear and tugs on Jake's hand. "Come on."

The boy follows, bouncing on the balls of his feet, eyes darting around when they get to the back room. "Uh," he says, then closes his mouth.

He watches warily as Steve brings out a condom, and Steve crowds him against the wall. "Hey."

Jake doesn't reply, suddenly surges forward and kisses him. It's sloppy and inexpert, and Steve cups his cheek, tries to gentle the onslaught. He pulls back slowly, looks into Jake's eyes. "I'm gonna blow you, that okay?"

A soft groan and an eager nod are the reply. Steve sinks down to his knees, unzips and unbuckles, and slides the condom on. Jake bucks into his hand, fully hard already, and this isn't going to last long. He slides his mouth down over the latex, presses his tongue against the underside, and a hand lands in his hair, gripping hard.

It's not comfortable but he can make do, takes in as much as he can, and he has to use his arm to press Jake back against the wall, keeping him from choking him. Still, Jake's unrelenting grip on his hair forces him to take the kid pretty deep and he blinks away moisture. He pulls back, tongues the head, and the kid slams back in, twice more, before coming hard.

Steve tugs himself free, sits back on his heels for a second, head down to make the watering of his eyes go away before he looks up and gets up off the floor.

Jake's leaning against the wall, looking spent, cock still hanging half hard out of his pants. Steve reaches out to tuck him back in, and gets shoved away. "Don't touch me!"

Whoa. He holds up a hand. "Okay."

Jake strips the condom, drops it on the floor without tying it off, and zips up. The look in his eyes is suddenly less bashful innocence and a lot more casual contempt, and okay, having had Steve on his knees is apparently enough to flip a switch. This is exactly what Steve needed today.

He makes sure to inject enough steel in his voice as he says, "Let's go."

"Fuck you."

"Yeah, not going to happen." He grabs Jake's arm to get him to move, and is ready for the half-swing of the boy's fist. He uses the momentum against him, spins him around to press his arm up his back. "Don't be stupid," he says in Jake's ear. "You got what you paid for. Now go." He shoves the kid into the corridor and is relieved when he doesn't pick another fight, but goes meekly back into the club.

He leans against the doorway for a second, rubs his shoulder absently, before heading back to dispose of the condom.

When he pokes his head out to see if Jake and his friends are still there or if they've left, he finds Danny Williams staring straight at him from his corner booth. The frown on his face betrays exactly how he feels about what Steve just did, and Steve glares back at him. Let Danny Williams think what he must, it's not like Steve cares about his opinion. And if it turns him off Steve altogether, well, all the better.

--

He doesn't have time left to sit and relax; by the time he's back in his dressing room, it's time to get ready for his third set and he shoves down everything, reapplies makeup, picks the right outfit, stretches his shoulder and tries to get himself in the right mood for the slower, more sensuous tone of his final act.

When he comes out, Danny Williams isn't there. A few regulars have straggled in, there's a group of women that have taken the frat boys' table, and the smiles on their faces are enough to make Steve forget about the earlier part of the evening, to make him smile back and do his job well.

--

Danny Williams doesn't show for a week, and Steve can relax, except it doesn't really stop him checking the corner booth and finding it empty or occupied by someone else. He resolves to push it out of his mind, goes surfing with Kono again, pours his energy into work and exercise.

The corner booth stays empty, and Steve continues to ignore it.

--

He's back when Steve thinks he won't show any more, sliding into the corner booth just as Steve has started his second set, eyes on the stage. It's so familiar he almost foregoes his irritation, then feels Williams' eyes on him again, the whole way through, and the annoyance burns its way up the back of his neck.

After his set, he can't help but stop by. "Back again?"

Williams looks up with an angelic smile on his face. "Hello again. Should I leave now to satisfy your paranoia, or is this just a social visit and can I stay?"

Steve's hackles are up at his tone. "I'm getting used to you. Kind of like furniture."

"You try to wound me," Williams replies. "That hurts, you know that?"

"Yeah." Steve smirks at him. "So where were you last week?"

That gets him a raise of expressive eyebrows. "Does that mean you care?"

"No," Steve replies curtly.

"Okay." Williams gestures to the bench opposite him. "Sit down, I'll tell you all about it."

Steve wants to resist, but in the end, he sits down anyway. "All right."

There's something like surprise in Williams' eyes, but he doesn't comment. "I had the late shift. There, that's your answer. I had to miss your otherwise stellar performances because I, sadly, am bound to shift work in my job."

In a flash, Steve wonders what Williams would look like late at night, tired and worn around the edges, his careful blond hair messed up and the lines around his eyes stronger. He stamps on the thought hard and fast, and covers it by clearing his throat.

"So you missed me, huh?"

"I did not miss you," Steve snaps, pointing a finger at his face. "I merely..."

"Yes?" He wants to smack that patient smirk off the guy's face.

"I was merely wondering about your wellbeing."

"Aw, he cares." Williams holds up a hand. "No, don't say anything, I know your stunted emotional growth doesn't allow you to admit it, but it's enough for me to know it's there."

"Fuck you," Steve says easily, and stands. "I've got to go."

"Wow, did you just manage to have a conversation with me without asking me to leave? I'm touched, babe."

The term of endearment makes Steve's hackles rise. "I'm not your babe, sweetheart."

"It's not sweetheart," Williams shoots back, "it's Danny."

"Well, fuck off, Danny." Steve turns on his heel and leaves the guy behind.

--

The credit card statement lands on his doormat, and he knows it's trouble as soon as he sees the balance, counts the sixty dollars left in his wallet, and check his bank account to see how far he's gotten with scraping his rent together.

It's a bleak scenario.

He stops off at Mamo's office the next day. "Hey, you got any extra shifts for me?"

Mamo gives him a look. "Money troubles?"

"It's tight," Steve admits, sitting down in the extra chair. "If you don't have anything, it's cool, Mamo, I just--"

"I'll have a look," Mamo cuts him off, and his hand on Steve's arm is almost too much. He's glad when Mamo pulls away to reach for the scheduling book, and Steve leans forward to put his elbows on his knees.

"I can't get ahead of the game," he finds himself saying without meaning to. He presses his palms into his eyes. "Fuck."

Mamo's voice is warm. "We'll figure something out, Stevie."

He thinks about working extra shifts, about how well his shoulder will hold up, if the money is worth it, and sighs. A hand lands on his back.

"Hey, you'd tell me if it was too much, right?"

He looks up. "I can handle it."

"I could lend you something."

Steve shakes his head. "Beginning of the end, you know that."

Mamo nods. "I'd hate to see you back where you were when you first started. Your shoulder, back then..."

"It's a lot better now." Steve tries to force a smile. "Can you help me out or not?"

"I'm short a man Saturday night, I was gonna ask Jason, but you can have it if you want."

Steve sighs again. Saturday nights mean four sets, not three, and he knows it's hard for him to keep up with that. "Yeah, I'll take it." He bites his lip, but pushes through. "Write me down for it."

Mamo looks at him assessingly for a second, but he pencils Steve in.

--

Monday morning first thing he's in Greg's office, the burning pain in his shoulder a companion since he woke up Sunday.

Greg pokes and prods, finally pronounces, "You overdid it, Steve."

"I know. Can you fix it?"

Greg shakes his head. "I can try. You'll have to do your best to give it some rest, though."

Steve nods. "I know, I know. I just need-- need to catch a break, I guess."

"Yeah. Lie down."

He does as he's told, relaxes as best he can through the treatment, worry gnawing at his side. He leaves with another appointment for Friday, and goes home to fall into bed, desperate to escape the world for a bit.

--

He drags himself through his shift, and it's noticeable in the amount of money he makes. At the end of his second set, all he wants to do is take painkillers and a sleeping pill and go to bed, and his third set seems like an expanse too great to get through.

He takes the painkillers, curls up on the cot and waits for them to kick in. He has to make it through this week, just make it to the weekend so he can crash and rest up for a few days.

Danny Williams, who never stays for the third set, today does, sitting in his corner booth. Steve meets his familiar gaze, gets a soft smile, and instead of irritating it's a strange sort of lifeline, because he doesn't even like the guy, and yet he keeps returning to it.

He has to look away, focus on something else, on paying customers and bringing in the dollars that'll cover his rent check. When he leaves the stage, Danny's still there, eyes on Steve.

--

He rushes through his shower and getting dressed, walks back out into the club to find Danny Williams in the process of settling his tab, and Steve stows his bag behind the bar and heads over just as Cindy wishes him a good night.

"Hey."

Danny turns around. "Oh, hey, there."

"You're here late," Steve comments.

"Yeah." Danny runs a hand over his hair and smiles sheepishly. "I, uh, couldn't seem to tear myself away tonight."

Steve grimaces. "Wasn't my best night, you should have picked another."

"I noticed." But there's nothing negative in his voice and he adds softly, "You okay?"

Steve ignores the urge to rub his shoulder. "I'm fine."

Danny narrows his eyes, but lets it pass. "Can I buy you a drink?"

An hour ago, all he wanted to do was go to bed, but right now, conversation and company are preferably to being alone and worried in the dark. "Sure."

"Orange juice, right?"

It's uncomfortable to be made aware of how much Danny's watched him, and he winces. "Yeah."

"Why don't you sit down, I'll go get the drinks." There's a quick hand gesture, and Steve slides into the booth, gratefully sinking into the cushions. Danny's back quickly, setting the glass down in front him. "Thanks."

Danny sits down across from him, a bottle of beer in his hand. "So, what did I do that makes it bearable for you to have a conversation with me?"

Steve bristles. "Who says it's bearable?"

Danny smiles indulgently, making Steve hate him a little. "Well, I don't see you running for the door."

Steve quirks a smile in spite of how he feels. "Okay, yeah."

"That's it? I've gotten used to spicier conversational comebacks from you, babe."

"I told you, I'm not your--"

"Yeah, I know, I know," Danny interrupts, hand waving again. "I'm from New Jersey, babe, it's nothing personal. You ask that cute waitress of yours, she'll tell you I'm this way with everyone."

Steve's eyes slide to Cindy, he feels an irrational stab of jealousy and, proving that he's too tired to be here, the words slip out of his mouth. "You put the moves on her, too?"

"Did I--?" Danny shakes his head, voice incredulous. "No, I didn't. Take that frown off your pretty face, I did not make a move on the waitress in the gay club, jesus."

Steve rubs a hand over his face, and jerks in surprise when a strong hand wraps around his wrist and tugs it away.

"Hey," Danny says, and his voice is softer now, in a different register that hits spots in Steve's chest he doesn't want to think about, "what's up with you today? Don't think I didn't notice you were miserable up there."

He pulls his hand out of Danny's grasp. "I'm fine."

"Note to self, don't be nice. Okay, got that. I won't do it again."

Steve bristles at that, can't believe suddenly that he's here and trying to talk to the guy. "Fuck off, okay? Just forget about it."

He's halfway out of his seat when Danny says, "Hey, hold up, don't run from me. Finish your juice, come on."

There's something persuasive about those blue eyes, and Steve is too tired to resist, sits back down. "Okay."

"Excellent. I won't needle you again." He takes a swig of his bottle of beer. "So, I'd never seen you do a late night show before. Is nice, babe."

Steve can't help smiling at that. "You like?"

"What's not to like?" Danny grins, making him look boyish all of a sudden. "I love watching you move, I think my attendance here makes that no secret, but that slow thing you do... nice."

"There's more where that came from," Steve says, wondering if he's stupid enough to offer this, stupid enough to want this a bit more than he should. "There could be, I mean."

Danny frowns. "You do private performances?"

"Yeah, or something more." He looks Danny straight in the eye, knows that he knows already what it is Steve does.

"Stop," Danny says, holding up a hand. "I'm a vice detective. And even if I wasn't, just because I like aesthetics doesn't mean I like to fuck you because your economical situation leaves you no other options. I'm not that guy, babe."

Steve takes the punch and rolls with it, comes up fighting. "So you're too good for this now?"

"Fuck you," Danny says, calm. "I like you, I like to look at you, there's no crime in that. But I'm not paying to fuck you, not now, not ever. If you end up in my bed, that'd be great, but it'll be because we both want to be there."

"You don't get to decide what it is I want," Steve shoots back.

Danny taps his finger on the table, his voice low now. "No, but I get to decide what it is I want."

Steve is too tired for this after all, too tired for this conversation and for the sting of it. He stands, leaving his juice half drunk on the table. "Go to hell, Danny."

--

He goes home to stand under the shower and pretend he doesn't feel like crap, works his way through stretches that make him bite his cheek to keep from making a sound. He studiously doesn't think about needing to go back to work the next day, knows he has to push through it no matter what.

He also doesn't think about Danny Williams, Danny Williams' hard eyes, Danny Williams' voice when he decided to grow a conscience all of a sudden.

He falls into bed, tosses and turns, doesn't find sleep until the sun peeks out from the horizon.

--

He goes through Wednesday in a haze of pain, Danny absent from his corner booth, and when he finds himself curled up in the dressing room, trying to somehow find the power to get ready for his third set, he knows something's got to give.

Kai finds him, takes a look at him. "You okay, Steve?"

He sits up, winces, tries to nod. "Can you-- Is Mamo around?"

"He is, I'll get him." Kai slips out again, door closing softly behind him and Steve lets his head fall back against the wall.

Mamo comes in a few minutes later. "Stevie?"

"I thought I could do this, Mamo, but I--" He meets Mamo's eyes, forces himself to face his failure. "I can't do it, man, I can barely lift my arm, it's not--"

"Hey." Mamo sits down in front of him. "Go home, it's okay."

"I know I asked you for the extra shift," Steve says, shaking his head, "I'm sorry, I thought I could--"

Mamo squeezes his arm. "Go home. It doesn't matter."

It matters, Steve wants to say, but he swallows the words, nods. "I'm sorry," he offers, and Mamo smiles sadly. "Don't worry about it, brah. Go."

Steve goes.

--

He sucks it up on Thursday, goes to the local clinic, lets them prod and poke and take x-rays before pronouncing an inflammation. "What do you do?" the young doctor asks.

Steve sighs. "I'm a dancer."

"You'll have to take some time off work," she replies, writing out a prescription.

"Not gonna happen." He takes the piece of paper from her. "I don't work, I don't get paid."

She shakes her head with a shrug. "It's your shoulder. Try to at least give it some rest. No other exercise, nothing too strenuous. See a physical therapist."

Nothing he hasn't heard before, and the doctor's resigned sigh follows him out the door.

--

The prescription anti-inflammatories make him sick, but he's been here before, too, so he dutifully takes them and tries not to throw them back up. He misses his Friday shift, spends the weekend in bed until the doorbell rings on Sunday.

He presses the buzzer, waits the required ten minutes till whoever it is has climbed up all the flights of stairs, and opens the door to find Kono on the other side, a white plastic bag in her hand.

"Hi, brah," she says with a sunny smile, "you gonna invite me in?"

Steve steps aside to let her pass. She walks past him and puts the bag on the kitchen counter.

"So, here's the deal," she says. "First off, you could say hello. Second, you look like crap. Third, Chin told me what's going on, and I hazarded a guess that they put you on the same shit they put me on when I blew out my knee, so I brought you some food that worked for me. You don't want it, I won't be insulted."

Steve can't help but smile at that. "Thanks, Kono. And hi."

"Hi." She grins, unpacking food containers. The smells are not immediately turning his stomach, which makes him hopeful. "You want some?"

"Yeah." He grabs some plates and forks, and takes a careful poke at one or two different things. It's Asian food, not too spicy, but salty and rich in flavours. Before too long, he finds himself going back for seconds while they sit on the sofa watching surfing competitions on tv.

When there's an ad break on, Kono says, "How bad is it, this time?"

Steve shrugs, stops and forcibly relaxes his shoulder. He pokes at his food. "They said it's not too bad. Mild inflammation."

"Hurts like hell, huh?"

"Yeah." He leans his head back against the couch. "I don't have time to be sick."

Kono looks at him for a moment, then bursts out laughing. "No one has time to be sick, brah."

Steve laughs as well. "Yeah, okay."

She shifts. "You gonna manage?"

"I'll have to."

"Not an answer to my question."

Steve sits up straighter. "What do you want to hear? That I'm broke? Yeah, I'm broke. And this way, I'm never not gonna be broke, but I don't do charity."

She punches his arm lightly, mindful. "Did you hear me offer, asshole? No. Stop feeling fucking sorry for yourself."

"I'm not--"

"Yeah, you are." She brushes her hair from her face. "Take a few days, rest up, try again."

He rubs a hand over his face. "Okay, you have a point."

"Find something you like. Or someone." She smiles. "Chin told me you have an admirer."

"Danny fucking Williams. Yeah, not going to happen." At her glance, he elaborates, "He turned me down."

"Wow, you had a rough week. Look on the bright side; it can't get worse."

Steve stares at her for a few seconds before throwing a carrot stick at her.

--

He's back on Tuesday, the pain in his shoulder manageable. He adjusts his routine, tries to keep as much pressure off the shoulder as he can, and pulls himself through his shift. If he's not looking at Danny Williams, not noticing that blond head in the corner, who's the wiser?

Whatever their conversation the week before, Danny's back Wednesday, like clockwork, and Steve can't avoid him, can't avoid those blue eyes and their silent stare. It bristles, gets under his skin until he can't help himself, heads back out between sets and sits down in Danny's booth.

"Oh, hello," Danny says with a smile. "Nice to see you again."

"Enjoy the show?" Steve asks, quirking an eyebrow.

"I liked it." Danny takes a sip of his beer. "I heard you were sick."

"All better now," Steve replies with a smile. "Thank you for caring."

Danny shrugs. "I was disappointed, babe, when you weren't here."

Steve frowns. "That's a really creepy thing to say."

"And there I thought you could take it."

Steve leans back. "What you dish out? Yeah, I can take it."

"Are we on that again?"

"On what?"

"You know on what." Danny points a finger at him. "You're very beautiful, I do not deny this, but there are some things I don't do."

Steve bites his lip, lets the sting pass, says instead, "What do you do?"

Danny frowns. "What is this, you coyly asking me if I'm queer? Yeah, babe, I fuck guys. I also fuck girls, and contrary to what you implied in the past, right now I'm not fucking anyone. Happy?"

Steve squashes the hollow feeling rising up in his chest. "So you're bi?"

"Yeah, if you must give it a name." Danny's irritated now, voice rising. "Are you one of those purists who doesn't believe in us?"

"I'm not anything." Steve finds his own anger rising in response. "What makes you think you know shit about me?"

"I know about as much about you as you do about me; your favourite beverage, your profession, and that you're a pain in the ass. The only thing I don't know is if you're gay or straight or somewhere in between."

"Gay," Steve replies.

Danny makes a gesture. "Glad we cleared that up."

Steve shrugs, stops himself. "I know you're from New Jersey."

"Yeah, half this island does. Usually before I open my mouth."

"So what's a haole cop from Jersey doing in Honolulu?"

Danny runs a hand over his hair. "Okay, so, once upon a time in New Jersey, two people got married and had a kid. And I don't know, maybe we were wrong for each other or maybe we stopped being right for each other, but she couldn't hack being married to me and she left." He sighs, suddenly looking human and tired and Steve almost wants to reach out to touch him, covers it by drinking a bit of juice. "She left and she found someone else and the guy fucking moves here, so I follow, because whatever else, it's my kid and I love her and I want to see her more than twice a year on school holidays."

"Okay." Steve isn't sure what to say. "That's--"

"Yeah, you tell me what that is." Danny waves his hands around. "I land on this hellhole that's obsessed with pineapples and related foods that are not in any food group I know, and everyone speaks a different language that they insist on calling English and snigger behind my back."

"Danny--"

There's no getting a word in edgewise; Danny points a finger in his face. "Don't Danny me. It's true, you people hate outsiders and so my life is now reduced to staring at strippers because for some fucking stupid reason, I can't stay away from you and your tattoos and your should-be-illegal moves."

Steve can't help but smile, amused.

"Don't think that makes me happy," Danny adds, running out of steam, "I know what this makes me, coming here every night, looking at you."

"What does it make you, Danny?" Steve asks softly.

"Not a lot of steps above a lowlife."

He thinks about that for a second. "What does that make me?"

"Ah, babe," Danny says, voice suddenly rich and warm, "I don't judge how you make your money."

"But you won't fuck me."

"That still on your mind? I'll fuck you, babe, I'll fuck you six ways from Sunday if you'd ask, if you wanted me to, but I won't pay for the pleasure."

Steve drains the last of his juice and stands. "Have a good night, Danny."

"Hey! Steve!" Danny calls after him, but he ignores it.