My second meeting with Denning was a lot less stressful than the first, but I think he was still taken aback when I stated directly that if Danny and I were not going to be together in Five-0, I’d be leaving as well. He still stuck to his guns that we’d have to solve the honeymooner case (that title eventually was picked up by the media, no surprise there), but I wasn’t sure he’d be prepared to disband Five-0 entirely or put it under new leadership. Maybe I was just too full of myself to think I was the only logical choice to lead it.
I was still trying to gauge Chin’s reaction to the news. Kono, Max, and Kamekona were happy for us and ready to dance at our wedding as soon as we figured out where and when. Rachel seemed to blame me for derailing her second chance with Danny, but Grace was thrilled for us. She had already texted us photos of tuxedos she thought we’d look good in. She has good taste, so as long as they didn’t cost more than my truck, I was fine with taking one of her suggestions. Her tastes were tending to be shaped by her stepfather’s income, which I know at times makes Danny feel like he's struggling to keep up with the right labels and upscale shopping experiences Grace will only get more accustomed to as she gets older.
Chin doesn’t have a hateful or bigoted bone in his body. He’s a quiet guy a lot of the time, so I chalked it up to him just not being the squeal-and-hug type, and hoped he was okay with it. He didn’t have anything more to say about it that afternoon while we worked on structuring the back stories and identities of the couple Danny and I would pretend to be.
Danny left to go pick up Grace from school since Rachel had a conflict, and while Kono was arranging for all our fake paperwork and ID’s, I had a few minutes to talk to Chin. I went into his office and sat down.
“You okay with this?” I asked.
“With what?” I knew he knew, and I’m sure he knew that I knew that he knew. I’ve always wanted to say something like that and have it make sense.
“Danny and me.”
“I didn’t think that was up for a vote.”
“It’s not, but I was hoping you’d be happy for us.”
“But nothing. I’m happy for you both.”
He sat back in his chair and sighed. “But I think it’s a bad idea for Five-0. There’s a reason law enforcement keeps married couples apart on the job. How are you going to feel when you dispatch the team in several different directions during an operation, and the best idea is to send Danny into the highest risk situation?”
“The same as I’ve felt doing that for the last few years. I hate it. It makes me sick inside. When he’s gotten hurt or been put at risk, I don’t like it. I never have. I’ve been in love with Danny for a long time. I don’t love him more now than I did before. I’m not crazy about sending anyone I care about into harm’s way, but that’s the job. By that logic, I’d have to kick you and Kono off the team, too, because you’re my friends. Because we’re ohana.”
“I think you’re in a bit of denial, brah. It’s a different relationship. I love my cousin, but I can work with her as a cop. I could have never worked with Malia that way.”
“Malia wasn’t a cop. If I don’t work with Danny, he’s going to be doing the same work somewhere else, with someone else I don’t know, and probably don’t trust as much, having his back. That’s on me to work out, and I hope you trust me not to do something that would endanger the team.”
“I just think your perspective may be a little off on this one, and that’s understandable, because it’s about your significant other. Danny’s not your buddy anymore. He’s going to be your spouse. If you don’t think that’s a big change in your relationship, maybe you’re not really ready to face the life change you’re making. You’re getting married. Trust me, that changes things.”
“It would mean a lot to me to have your support personally. It’s essential that we can work together professionally. You need to tell me which part of that you have a problem with.”
“Nobody likes to hear an honest answer when it has to do with someone they’re in love with. I just don’t think this is a good idea for Five-0. That doesn’t mean I’m disloyal or that I won’t always back you up.”
“You didn’t raise this objection when I brought Catherine in.”
“You didn’t ask me.”
“You weren’t in favor of that, either? How many of my decisions for this team have you thought were bad decisions?”
“A few here and there. You’re the boss. I respect your leadership. I don’t have to always agree with you. And this time, I don’t. That doesn’t change my friendship with you, or with Danny, or the fact that I will continue to back either one of you up in any situation that calls for it.”
“You just don’t think Danny should be part of the team anymore.”
“I think it’s unfortunate that there are two conflicting roles here for Danny, but I don’t think trying to make both of them work is the right decision. If he’s going to be your husband, he shouldn’t be your partner. That’s my opinion. You’ve found a way to get around that, and you’re satisfied with that outcome, so be it.”
“Wow.” I couldn’t think of a more profound response. I ran my hand over my face and tried to absorb the whole notion that we didn’t really have the full support of one of the people I just assumed would be in our corner.
“Steve, look, you know I’m still planning to dance at your wedding, and I wish you and Danny nothing but the best. I hope the way you’re going about this will work. I will always have your back, and Danny’s, on the street and as a friend.”
“Thanks, that’s good to know.” I stood up. “I should get going,” I said, looking at my watch. I had plans for that evening, and even this wasn’t going to screw them up. “Thanks for your honesty. It’s good to know where we stand.”
“We stand in the same place we did yesterday. We’re all part of this team, and we back each other up.”
“Right. See you tomorrow,” I concluded, leaving his office. If I’d stayed another minute, I wouldn’t have controlled my reaction quite as well. I was angry, I felt betrayed. He didn’t say anything hostile, but I still felt like there was a knife between my shoulder blades. I was prepared for everything from a lack of support to outright disgust from outsiders and strangers, depending on the situation. I know that same sex couples still don’t have it easy, but not too many things that are worth doing are all that easy. Life isn’t easy. Love isn’t, either, no matter who you’re in it with. I had foolishly expected our little inner circle to be our refuge. I knew we’d have battles to fight outside that circle, but with people like Chin? I didn’t see it coming.
Seems I never see it coming from the people I love and trust. And then, all of a sudden, the knife’s in my back and I realize I didn’t even suspect it until it was too late. You’d think experience would have taught me not to leave my back unguarded with people, but it hasn’t. Danny says that’s one of the things he loves about me. I feel like it’s a fucking weakness I can’t overcome.
Danny. God, I really needed to see him right then. I hoped everything went smoothly with dropping Grace off to Rachel and Stan. I love Gracie and I was anxious for us to have another family day together, but I really wanted a little down time with Danny. I figured I’d cheer myself up planning that time.
When I got home, I put some good wine in an ice bucket and set it between the two chairs on the beach, picked out some romantic music for the stereo, and put together an hors d’eouvres tray of cut up cheese, crackers, and sausage. I had a couple nice steaks in the fridge we could put on the grill, and I put together vegetable shish kebabs to go with them. I’m no chef, but I can throw together a nice meal when I have to.
I put the good tablecloth on the table, and put candles in the candle holders. They were a little uneven and not new, but I figured Danny would forgive me for that. Besides, if the evening went well, by the time they burned down to nothing, we’d be doing something we didn’t need light for. My phone rang, and I smiled when I saw it was Danny.
“Hey, where are you?”
“I’m at my place with Grace. Rachel was running late so I brought Gracie over here to pack up some stuff in her room. I figured I’d put it in the room she picked out upstairs when I get home.”
Grace had chosen the room she had stayed in before when she visited me as the one she wanted to fix up as her own. I had a couple spare bedrooms upstairs; this was the one that was Mary’s when she lived there. It had a nice view of the ocean, access to the balcony, and a big closet. I had a feeling the third amenity was the most necessary.
“Tell her to be thinking what color she wants it. We’ll pick out paint this weekend.”
“She’s already got color charts from about three different places and is looking at all the colors Rachel wouldn’t let her paint her room at home.”
“Hey, I told her she could have any color she wanted. I stand by that.”
“I’ll remind you of that. I should be there about seven.”
“We can have a glass of wine and watch the sunset.”
“Wine? Fancy,” he joked.
“Nothing’s too good for you, Boo Boo,” I teased, and he laughed.
“See ya at seven, Sexy Eyes.”
I really like my house, I always have. I liked it growing up, and I like it now. There was a while, though, after my dad’s death, before Danny and I were together...it could feel awfully depressing when night started to fall and the shadows came, and I could picture the blood all over the study, hear the gunshot that ended my dad’s life echo in my head, or when I’d think about him sitting Mary and me down and telling us Mom was dead.
With Danny and Grace, it was home again. I had someone I loved by my side, and I inherited a beautiful, amazing, smart daughter that Danny trusted me to help raise. That happiness seemed to help me remember some of the other happiness from the past that was there in that house. My mom and her silly magic tricks, things my dad and I did together, family dinners. My life wasn’t always miserable and dark, and being with Danny, being happy reminded me of that.
I wondered how all that would survive if we got the wrong results back from the DNA test.
I dismissed that demon. I’d only rushed into getting that test to put Danny’s mind at ease. There was nothing to really fear there. At least, that’s what I was going to adopt as my official theory until something happened to prove me wrong.
The doorbell rang about seven, and I frowned. I had the music going, the wine was chilling. Danny had a key, and even when he didn’t he rarely used the bell anyway if the door was unlocked.
“Now you finally learn to use the bell?” I asked jokingly as I opened the door without looking first to see who was on the other side. I felt gut-punched to see Catherine standing there, wearing jeans and a black t-shirt. She looked a bit more haggard and thinner than when she’d left, but otherwise, she seemed fine. It took her seconds to notice the dim lighting and the music.
“Surprise,” she said, though it was flat and not without sarcasm. “She already comes in without knocking and you’ve done all this,” she said, gesturing at the romantic setting. I’d never been big on doing things like that when I was with her, and I’m sure that wasn’t lost on her, either.
“Cath,” I said stupidly. Then I hugged her, but it was more the kind of hug you give a friend you’re glad to see, that you’re glad they’re all right, than a passionate reunion with a lover. I was glad she was safe, but if I could have picked out one more fucking way the day could get more stressful, I’m not sure I could have even anticipated this one. “Come in,” I ushered her in, and then saw she had a bag with her. And the awkwardness of the moment just kept ramping up... I figured I could offer her the guest room Grace hadn’t claimed yet. That would make her feel good.
“I should have called, obviously.” She looked around. “I guess I shouldn’t have felt bad about leaving you alone.”
“It’s not what you think.”
“I don’t think you have mood lighting and romantic music for dinner with Danny, so what is it?”
Before I could answer, Danny pulled up in the driveway. “Speak of the devil. I’m sure your new girlfriend won’t mind a threesome.”
“There’s no new girlfriend,” I said.
“Catherine?” Danny walked in the door, looking almost as stunned as I had been. “Welcome home,” he said, hugging her. She half-heartedly returned it and I wondered if there was anything he could have said that wouldn’t have made things worse. He did the best he could with a no-win situation.
“Thank you,” she said, looking back and forth between us. “Oh, my God.”
“Cath, I -"
"You're with Danny. Oh my God, how did I not see this?" She shook her head with a humorless smile. “It was right in front of my face and I didn’t see it.”
"Because it wasn't happening when I was with you," I said.
“Steve never cheated on you, Catherine. You have to believe that,” Danny said. “We weren’t involved that way when you were here.”
“Maybe not the sex,” she paused to hold up her hand, “and I don’t want details on the when and where, but everything else...I always felt like there was that piece missing between us. Something standing in our way. This makes perfect sense. It all does.”
“Did you find Najib?” I asked. I did care if she was able to rescue him, help his family. After all, that was what had sent us there in the first place.
“He’s with his family and they were relocated to another village, somewhere they should be safe.”
“That’s great. How did you pull that off?” Danny asked. I knew he still bristled at what she’d gotten me into, and I’m sure he was wondering if she could manage that alone, why she’d dragged me into it at all. It was my idea to go along with her, but I think she knew me well enough to know I wouldn't let her go alone when she brought it up to me in the first place. Two heads are generally better than one on a mission like that, so I could understand it.
“I still have connections there. Once I was able to get deeper in, and could reach them personally, I was able to shake loose some intel about where Najib and some other children were being held, and get some help to reunite him with his family. It’s not the same as it is here. You can’t just shoot an e-mail to these people. Some of them don’t have access to those communications and, if they did, they couldn’t trust those channels.”
I could see Danny’s spine stiffen a bit because there was a definite condescension in her tone, as if he wouldn’t understand that having just been there himself. Still, he let it go, with a brief glance at me.
“Where are you staying?” I asked.
“Well, I was thinking I’d be staying here, but I have some other friends I think I’ll drop in on. I haven’t had a chance to talk to my landlord. Maybe I’ll just head over there and see if the key still works.”
“You could still stay with us,” I offered. “I’ve got room...” It was as awkward and unpleasant as I’d expected, offering my former girlfriend the guest room because Danny was clearly going to be sleeping with me in the master bedroom.
“Yeah, that’s a nice offer, but I don’t think so,” she said, heading for the door. “You look well, Steve. I’m glad you’re all right,” she said, pausing at the door.
“I’m glad you’re back, safe.”
“Oh, here.” She dug in the front pocket of her bag and pulled out her Five-0 badge and handed it to me. “Under the circumstances, I think I should probably look for a different job.”
“I’m not firing you, Cath.”
“I know you aren’t, but I think it’s best that I move on. Good luck to you both,” she said.
“Where are you going to go?” I asked. I wasn’t sure how Danny would feel about the fact I still cared where she went or what she did. I had a feeling he’d handle it.
“I don’t know yet. I have some friends on the Mainland, in California. I may stay with them a while and see what opportunities come up. It’s a little soon to figure all that out,” she said. “Half an hour ago, I thought I knew where I was going and what I was doing. Goodbye, Steve.” She glanced toward Danny, who was standing a bit behind me, letting me handle the situation as I saw fit. “Danny,” she said, managing a civil expression, but I knew she was hurt and angry.
“Does she have a car here?” I asked Danny.
“Not that I saw. You want to drive her somewhere? It’s okay if you do.”
“Hang on a minute.” I hurried out the door and caught her at the front gate. “Cath, I can drive you someplace.”
“Thanks, but it’s a nice evening and I’ll call a cab.”
“That’s silly. Let me just drop you off somewhere.”
“You better get back inside to Danny.”
“It was his idea. Look, Cath, neither one of us wants to see you hurt by this. I’m sorry that you are. Just let me drop you off wherever you’re headed.”
“All right. Just take me to the Hilton.”
“I thought you were going to stay with friends.”
“It’s getting late and I really just want to relax. I’ll get in touch with them tomorrow.”
It was a strained silence most of the way to the Hilton. I asked about her flight, how she got out of the country, and her explanation took up some of the ride. When I pulled up outside the hotel, I touched her arm before she got out.
“Cath, I did love you. I do love you. I just thought you should know that.”
“You love me? Who do you want to be with, then? Because it looks like you’re right where you want to be. Finally.”
“I am. Danny’s the person I want to share my life with. But I’ll always love you, and I hope you find the right guy, one who deserves you.”
“Thank you for not suggesting we can still be friends. That would have been pushing it.” She paused with her hand on the door handle. “He blames me for you getting hurt over there, you know that, right?”
“Why would you say that?”
“Because I know Danny well enough to know that he was being polite to me for your sake, but he could barely keep his mouth shut. He was almost vibrating in place. I do blame myself for it, too. I should have never involved you. It was my battle.”
“You know I didn’t feel that way. I wanted to help you.”
“I know. The children never would have been rescued if those men weren’t distracted by you. They have you to thank for saving their lives. I should go,” she said, and then she leaned over and kissed my cheek quickly. “Take care of yourself, Steve.” She got out of the truck and headed into the hotel. I didn’t exactly feel sad to see her walk away, because the relationship we had was over. Maybe it’s just because I’ve been through so many endings and goodbyes in my life that they’re starting to hurt more.
I took out my phone and called Danny.
“Hey, where are you?” he asked, but his tone was kind.
“I’m coming home, mea aloha.”
“I’ll be right here waiting, babe.”
It wasn’t long after Steve called that I saw the headlights of his truck as he pulled into the driveway. I was really floored by all the preparations he’d made for the evening. There were good steaks and shish kebabs waiting to go on the grill, wine that looked pretty expensive chilling in an ice bucket by the beach chairs, romantic music playing on the stereo, dimmed lights, and candles on the table, which was set with nice dishes and what looked like a fancier tablecloth than usual. The candles were different heights and looked like something people bought at the dollar store when they were stocking up for hurricane season. It was obvious Steve didn’t do romance and candles too often, which made it even more meaningful to me that he’d done it for us.
As soon as he walked in, I was there to greet him. I didn’t know how seeing Catherine again, so unexpectedly, would affect his mood. When he saw me, his face lit up and he pulled me into a hug and just held onto me for a long time.
“Sorry I kept you waiting so long,” he said, loosening his hold, though he left his arms around me enough to keep me close. I’d have hung around a few hundred years for that hug, so it was no problem.
“I wish we could have told her a different way, and I’m sorry she got hurt by it...but yeah, everything’s more than okay.” He kissed me, a nice, long one that went on and on because neither one of us was in the mood to stop. When we finally did, there was something I just had to say.
“I love you an awful lot, babe. Just so you know.” I pulled him close this time and gave him a good squeeze. I know seeing Catherine again, finishing that chapter, had to bring up a lot of stuff for him, even if he was at peace with his decision.
“I know. Not many people have flown to the other side of the world just to visit me in the hospital.” I knew that he knew that was kind of an understatement of why I went to Afghanistan, but I understood what he meant.
“It was worth every mile,” I replied, touching his cheek, remembering how battered and wounded it had been, and so happy it was back to normal now. “And, if you ever leave me again and go that far away to do something dangerous, I will mobilize the entire fucking military andhunt you down. Clear?”
“Crystal,” he replied, laughing. Steve should always be happy so he smiles and laughs a lot. He’s such a good guy that he deserves that, and he’s off-the-charts beautiful when he smiles.
“I went down to the beach and got the wine. I checked the bucket for crabs, since you set it on the sand.”
“Crabs? You thought there would be some kind of killer crab lurking in our ice bucket?”
“There’s live...stuff running around in the sand, Steve,” I reasoned as we released each other and went to sit on the couch and pour ourselves glasses of wine. He put his arm behind me on the couch, and I relaxed against his side, my head on his shoulder.
“I’ve never found a crab in my ice bucket.”
“That’s probably just dumb luck,” I replied. I wondered if there were scorpions out there, too. Suddenly, I was glad we were indoors. I didn’t ask him about the scorpions. I was taking enough heat about the crabs. “This is nice,” I said, gesturing at the room. The music was still playing, the lights were still dim, and we were sipping really good wine.
“I don’t know if we’ll get a chance to go on an actual date before we go undercover. Probably better that we don’t, since we don’t want to risk the killer recognizing us from somewhere else, if he’s staking out gay couples. I didn’t want our first romantic evening to be under surveillance.”
“That’s really sweet,” I said, smiling.
“I don’t want anything between us to not...feel special because of this case. All the firsts with you matter to me, Danny.”
I didn’t answer him in words. I just snuggled closer against him and when his arm came more tightly around my shoulders, and I knew I didn’t have to. No one ever treated me the way he does. I don’t mean I never had good times or that every moment of my love life was miserable, but my marriage ended badly and I just never seemed to be the guy anybody was that crazy about. Rachel was at first, but the novelty wore off pretty fast. Steve knew me better than anybody, and he still loved me like that.
“Come on.” He stood up and held out his hand.
“Dim lights and music. What does that make you think of?”
“I like your answer better, but the one I was looking for was dancing.”
“You wanna dance with me?” I asked, smiling.
“Yes, but let’s not rule anything out.”
We’d done it any number of different ways, but we’d never danced together. It shouldn’t have surprised me that we’d fumble around trying to figure out who was gonna lead. After a couple times our arms went the wrong way, we just stood there a moment and looked at each other, starting to laugh.
“I’m taller, I should lead.”
“That’s not how it works. Do you have any idea how many women are taller than me in heels? I guarantee, they have never led when we danced.”
“I thought the lack of boobs and the five o’clock shadow would give you the idea that you’re not dancing with a woman.”
“I get that but what does height have to do with anything?”
“You let me lead now, I’ll let you lead upstairs.”
Once we were in each other's arms, I forgot why it mattered who was leading. It had been a while since I'd been out dancing, and I realized then that I missed it. We weren't just standing there swaying, either. Steve is a good dancer, and he was keeping us moving a bit. We danced to a couple old standards, but I pulled back enough to look at him like he was crazy for choosing the song that came on next.
"Just shut up and dance with me. Listen to the words, Danno," he said, his voice a whisper against my ear. The song did have a great slow, sexy beat for dancing.
I find I spend my time
Waiting on your call,
How can I tell you, babe
My back's against the wall
I need you by my side
To tell me it's alright,
'Cause I don't think I can take anymore
He was holding me closer than he had before, and our joined hands were held close against his chest. I knew the words meant something to him, and I did listen to them, and they expressed need and longing, and I wondered how long he'd had these feelings for me. I'd loved him for a long time, and been in love with him for a while. What I was hearing in the song were some of the emotions I'd seen in his eyes over the years, sometimes fleeting, sometimes so fast that I found myself questioning if I'd actually seen them at all.
Is this love that I'm feeling,
Is this the love, that I've been searching for
Is this love or am I dreaming,
This must be love,
'Cause it's really got a hold on me,
A hold on me...
"It's got one hell of a hold on me, too, babe," I whispered in his ear, and he smiled, like I'd just told him the best secret ever.
I can't stop the feeling
I've been this way before
But with you I've found the key
To open any door
I can feel my love for you
Grow stronger day by day,
And I can't wait to see you again
So I can hold you in my arms
Is this love that I'm feeling...
"I love you more than anything, mea aloha. Don't ever forget that."
"I love you too, and I don't forget anything about you. I'll always be here, with you, babe. I promise."
All of a sudden, the whole tone of the music changed and an electric guitar sliced through the soft, romantic mood, and the singer was shouting "In the still of the night I hear the wolf howl, honey, sniffin' around your door..."
"Shit." Steve stopped dancing and started laughing. "Sorry about that. I thought I programmed everything right."
"Now let's not shut the door on anything." I put my hands on his hips and started moving us to the new beat. It was faster, but it was definitely sexy. I never realized how sex-laden Whitesnake's music was, but man, they were the make-out kings of the hair metal generation. I think that venerated classic, “Slide It In” was one of theirs, too. Maybe Steve’s music choices are better than people give him credit for.
Now I just wanna get close to you
An' taste your love so sweet
And I just wanna make love to you
Feel your body heat...
"I'll change it," he said, still laughing, and even though I couldn't see it very well in the dim light, I could feel warmth in the cheek that was near mine. I was sorry I couldn’t see the slight pinkness in his cheeks.
"Kinda sexy. We could leave the food in the fridge and cook out later. This song kind of makes me want to rip your clothes off and have my way with you."
"In that case," he spared and arm from our embrace to grab the stereo remote and crank up the volume. "I'm all yours, Danno."
By the time they were back to singing about body heat, I had Steve on the couch, and our clothes were being yanked off with a haste that put the beat of the music to shame. The music did change again, and it was back to slow and romantic. That was fine with me, because even though we'd gotten to where we were with passion and laughter, I wanted to really make love to him there in the shadows, take my time, make him feel all the love I had for him.
I kissed him, kissed his face, kissed his chin, kissed that long, perfect neck of his until I followed the flow of it into his shoulders. He had one hand in my hair and the other was caressing my shoulder and back. I made him gasp when I sucked on his nipple. So I kissed it and moved to the other one.
I love it when he says my name like that when we were making love. It's a sigh, a breath, a whisper of love that melts my heart. I kissed my way down his chest to his navel, then moved lower, kissing that sensitive skin until I took him in my mouth, sucking him, tasting him, trying to think of every way I could use my tongue to make him crazy, to show him how much I loved him. He was moaning, broken, beautiful little sounds of pleasure that I loved to know I was causing. When he came, he called out my name, and as soon as it was over, I held him, running my fingers into his soft hair, telling him how much I loved him, that he made me so happy, that I wanted to be with him like this forever.
He wanted to return the favor, but I told him to just use his hand. I was close, and I wanted us to stay all wrapped around each other. His hand on me felt great, and he put a kind of gentleness and love into even that simple act that made me feel like the most loved guy on the planet.
We drifted in and out like that for a while, listening to love songs and just being together. We kissed a little more, made out a bit. After a while, we put on robes and took our food out to the grill just outside the lanai. It was a beautiful night, mild and a little breezy. We could hear the ocean and see the moonlight on the water. All the things about Hawaii that seemed mundane or even annoying to me before seemed magical with him. While we waited for the steaks and kebabs to grill, and danced on the lanai to music that wafted out from the house, I couldn't remember anything so perfect.
We ate dinner inside, since he'd set a nice table, and we wanted to have our candlelight meal. I lit the candles while he served the food. It was a great dinner, and we talked about where we should go on our honeymoon when the case was over. There were times he looked a little distracted, and I knew something was bothering him.
“Out with it,” I finally said, and looked at me, puzzled. “Something’s bothering you.”
“Chin doesn’t think us being involved and being together at Five-0 is a good idea.”
“He told you that?”
“Yeah, this afternoon.”
“I knew he seemed a little quiet at lunch, but he’s kind of a quiet guy, so I didn’t read too much into it. Wow, didn’t see that coming.”
“Almost my exact words,” Steve replied, smiling, though it wasn’t a happy smile. “I kind of thought he’d be my best man. Since I’m marrying you, so you can’t do it,” he added, nudging me with his knee under the table.
“Matt was my best man. The marriage went down the crapper and Matt’s a fugitive now, so I wouldn’t hang too much importance on the whole best man thing.”
“Guess I’ll have to go out like that guy in the movie and try to find one,” he said, but his joking tone fell flat. We’d watched Paul Rudd go out on a quest for a best man in I Love You, Man a few months before. We’d laughed at it, smug in the notion we had that base covered should the need arise. I would definitely rather have Steve marrying me than standing up for me, but still, we were finding ourselves in a dilemma not unlike the one in the comedy.
“Ah, fuck it. We’ll have Gracie and Kono stand up for us and screw any other asshole who doesn’t want to support us,” I said.
“Kamekona’s going to be crushed if he’s not in the wedding party, you know that, right?”
“Don’t forget Max.”
“Who do you think he meant when he said people he knew already thought we were a couple?”
“That bothers you, doesn’t it?” I asked, smiling.
“No, not at all,” he said, defensively.
“I didn’t mean that someone thought we were a couple. I mean, it’s gonna kill you until you find out who it is because you can’t stand not knowing everything.”
“That’s not fair. Besides, curiosity is the mark of a good detective. Detective,” he added.
“No, not knowing is a lack of control issue, and you, my friend, are still a control freak. I love you anyway, but still.”
“I’m not a control freak. I don’t know why you keep calling me that.”
“What was the whole ‘I should lead because I’m taller thing’ then?”
“I am taller.”
“So if I went out with a six-foot tall woman, I should let her lead when we go dancing?”
“I’m six-two,” he corrected.
“That’s not the point.”
“Don’t shave two inches off me, Danno.”
“I would never dream of shaving two inches off you anyplace,” I replied, reaching over and squeezing his thigh.
“That’s a relief,” he said. “I have dessert.”
“I hope you’re serving it upstairs.”
“I think this’ll be worth staying downstairs for, just a little longer,” he said, getting up and heading to the kitchen. I was bracing myself for some kind of pineapple surprise. People in tropical places eat way too much fruit. There’s nothing more disappointing for dessert than fruit. Unless it’s baked in a pie with a blob of whipped cream on top. When he returned to the table, and set it in front of me, I damn near fainted. It was a fat cannoli with the cream erupting out the end, sprinkled with chocolate chips and powdered sugar.
“I love cannoli!” I said, and I guess the shock in my voice is what made him smile like he did.
“I can’t very well romance a hot Irish-Italian guy from Jersey with some pineapple rings, can I?”
“Very hot. What did you call it? Incendiary?” I asked.
“If we’re both incendiary, what does that mean when we get together?”
“We shouldn’t fuck under the smoke alarms,” he said through a mouthful.
I laughed at that, enough to almost choke on my first bite of dessert, which was amazing.
“I’m sorry about Chin,” I said, still chewing. I knew it still bothered him. He and Chin had been friends for years, and Chin was his dad’s partner. It had to cut deep, and it made me sick inside that our relationship was costing him that.
“Me, too. He said it’s not personal. He just doesn’t think it’s right for Five-0, for the same reason most agencies split up married or involved couples.”
“Hey, if you’re going out there to do the crazy shit you do, nobody else is gonna have your back but me. Or you’re going to quit and take up accounting or something. Or stay home and be a house husband, where you’re safe.”
“As long as you’re being reasonable about it,” he said, laughing. “I said the same thing about you. Not that you should be a house husband, but you know, about the back up.”
“Do you think he’s right?”
“No, I don’t think he’s right,” he shot back.
“I wasn’t accusing you, babe. I just wondered if you were worried about it at all.”
“No, I’m not. If you’re gonna get shot at, I’m gonna be your back up. And if somebody’s shooting at me, I want you covering me. Maybe there are reasons it’s not ideal for people who love each other to be law enforcement partners, but I’ve loved you for a long time. I didn’t just start loving you when our relationship changed, and we’ve been a pretty solid team all along.”
“I feel the same way.”
“Then we can just move on. Fortunately, Chin’s not in charge, and we have the potential to deliver something Denning wants, so we’ll focus on that.”
“You think he’ll come around?”
“I don’t know. Maybe he can separate supporting us personally or professionally, but I can’t. I just wasn’t prepared for it. I thought Chin and Kono would be on our side.”
“Sounds like he is, just not on the job.”
“Yeah, well, it feels like a fucking knife in my back, and I’m running out of room back there for too many more,” he said, and there was a mixture of anger and sadness in his voice. He had a right to be fed up, but he rarely complained about the string of losses and betrayals he'd handled over the years. “You and me against the world, huh?” he said, taking my hand.
“Always. But we’ve got a little ohana to fall back on. We’ll be okay.”
“I wonder why Rachel ever let you go? Not that I’m not happy she did.”
“Look at where she’s living. She upgraded.”
“Fuck that.” He looked at our joined hands. “I’d give everything I had just to make love to you one more time.”
I stood up and tugged on his hand until he stood with me, and I wrapped my arms around him and held on. He hugged me back, tight. I wondered what I did to deserve him. Finally something else right, I guess, like whatever I did to deserve Gracie.
“Fortunately, all you have to do is come upstairs with me,” I said, leading him toward the stairs.
We took our time holding each other and kissing, some of the urgency gone since this was our second round. He’d said something about me “leading” upstairs when we were dancing, but he seemed to have forgotten about that as he used some kind of modified SEAL combat move to flip us around so I was under him. I wasn’t really fighting it. I didn’t care who did what. It was all Steve and it was all love so it was all good in my book.
I swear he’s the best kisser in the world, and he spends some time on it. A lot of time on my mouth, but a lot of time in other places, too. By the time he slid inside me, I’m not sure I could have waited for it a lot longer without losing it before the main event. I can’t believe I was ever unsure about this, afraid of it even. His body was pressed against me, he was holding me, and the way he was moving was slow and deep, like he had all night to do this, like I was all that mattered to him.
My legs were around his hips, keeping him close, and I was running my hands over that smooth expanse of his back, feeling his muscles move and flex with our lovemaking. One of my hands made it up to his hair, and there was enough of it to get my fingers in now. I liked that he was growing it out a bit just for me, because that’s how I liked it.
He was getting a little more urgent with his movements, and the way he felt inside me was incredible. I came, shouting and gasping and arching into him while he was thrusting into me. He wasn’t really shouting, but he was saying things in my ear, lots of love words. He called me baby when he came, and my heart danced at that. I was sorry when he eased out of me. It was over, but I wanted him with me, part of me, forever.
“I love you, Danno,” he said, looking in my eyes as we were lying there in the shadows, our faces so close I could feel his breath when he spoke.
“I love you, too, babe.” I kissed him and touched his cheek.
“I owe you a lead,” he said, with a big, wide smile.
“I wasn’t really counting, but I’ll keep that in mind.”
“You can lead next time we’re dancing.”
“Oh, wait a minute. I’m not so sure I’m gonna settle for that.”
“I thought you weren’t counting?” he replied, laughing, kissing me again.
“I wasn’t, but I’m no sucker, either.”
“Actually, you’re a pretty good sucker.”
“I guess under the circumstances that’s a compliment.”
“It’s high praise.”
I fell asleep in his arms, unable to remember another time in my life when I felt so loved.
"Jeff Martelli, originally from New York, and I'm a lawyer? Really?" Danny and I were sitting in my office, looking over the folders containing our undercover identities and back stories.
"An Italian guy from the East Coast," I said, grinning. "A little bit of typecasting."
"But a lawyer?"
"You're a criminal lawyer," I explained. It was a cover he could easily pull off. Cops know enough about the law to talk about it like lawyers, even if they're typically on the other side of it. Danny's a damn good cop and he's smart.
"Yeah, but I'm defending the scum I'm getting off the streets.
"No, Jeff's defending the scum that diligent, hard-working law enforcement officials like us are risking our lives to apprehend. Could be worse. You could be undercover as one of the bad guys."
"I am undercover as one of the bad guys. I'm just one of the bad guys who get paid and don't go to jail. So what's your cover story?"
"Brian Sanders. I'm a private investigator from the Big Apple. Apparently I've worked on some of your higher profile cases and that's how we met."
"You worked for me, huh?" Danny had this smug little grin on his face. I could see he was starting to warm to our cover story.
"Don't get used to it, but yes."
"I'm successful. I have quite a bit of money. Are you sure you're not a fortune hunter after me for my wealth?"
"I'm sure. It's your amazing body and your legendary sexual stamina."
"My legendary stamina? I wasn't the one this morning who said, 'one more time, baby, we've got ten minutes'."
"I knocked it out in seven, so what's your point?"
"You knocked it out? You call making love with me 'knocking it out'?" He was joking, so I didn't worry about it. Making love with him is everything that's right in the world, whether we're doing it with music and candles or scratching a morning itch with a quick and dirty hand job.
"I call it incendiary," I replied, and he laughed. It was becoming one of our favorite intentionally overused words.
"I thought maybe we'd get to be a porn star and a sex therapist, or something fun."
"Sounds like the set up for a bad adult film."
"Yeah, but think about how much fun it would have been maintaining our cover." Danny paused.
"You're gonna have to talk to him sometime," he said, nodding toward the computer command center where Chin and Kono were reviewing something on the monitor.
"I'm not avoiding him." It was an outright lie. I was spending a lot more time poring over this fairly simple undercover profile, shut in my office with Danny, than it really warranted. Danny just gave me a look and went back to reading the story of Jeff Martelli's life.
"How do you feel about what he said?" I asked, tossing Brian's life story on my desk.
"He didn't say it to me, so I don't know how I feel about it until I talk to him. I feel bad that his reaction hurt you, or made you feel betrayed. For that reason, it pisses me off."
"But you're okay with him being against you staying on the task force because we're involved?"
"No, I'm not okay with it, but he's been a cop a long time, and his father before him, and not letting couples work together is a pretty established law enforcement principle. If what he's feeling is some kind of disgust about us being together, that's different than him having concerns from a professional standpoint." He stood up and tossed his folder on top of mine. "I think it's time he says his piece to my face."
"Danny, I can fight my own battles."
"So can I, and if we followed his view of how things should be resolved, I'm the one who'd be out of a job, so I think he owes it to me to say it to me directly."
Danny was already on his way out the door of the office before I could say anything else. He never made it to where Chin and Kono were standing, because Max walked in, carrying an envelope. I was out of my chair in an instant, around the desk and next to Danny.
"I have your test results," he said, holding out the envelope. Danny stared at it like it was a live snake, almost visibly recoiling from it.
"Thanks, Max," I said, taking it from him.
"At least now I know why there were two DNA profiles from the cheek swab," he added, with a knowing grin.
Danny looked sick. He looked gray. People sometimes go pale with stress, but he didn't just go pale. He looked nauseous, and I had a feeling he was going to break his no-vomit record that he set in 1996. I put my arm around him.
"Thanks, Max," I said again. "We appreciate the rush job on this."
"Of course. Anytime," he said, looking at Danny, then back at me. "I should go." He hurried out of the office and back down the hall. I knew Chin and Kono were watching us.
"I can't open that," Danny said.
"Let's go," I said, leading him out of the office. "We'll be back in a few," I called out to Chin and Kono. I didn't want Danny to have to react to the results in front of anyone else if the results were the ones we feared most. I steered him out to the car and we got in, and I drove us to a spot overlooking the beach that was quiet, where we had a little privacy. I got out of the car, and he followed me. There was a low wall separating the road from the slope of ground that led down to the beach, and we sat on it.
We sat there for several seconds in silence.
"As long as you don't open that, she's still mine," he said. I looked at the envelope in my hands.
"She'll always be your daughter, Danny. A piece of paper doesn't erase that."
"Just read it and tell me what it says, okay?" he asked.
"Whatever it says, it'll be okay. We'll find a way to make it okay." I reached over and took his hand. "She's our daughter, Danny. We’re ohana,no matter what. It'll be okay."
"Okay," he said, but his little smile was forced and he had a painful grip on my hand. I gently slid my hand out of his so I could open the envelope. I was as afraid as he was to unfold the piece of paper inside. Not because it changed anything about how I felt about Grace, or that I wasn't ready to help him fight for his custody rights no matter what it said. I was afraid of what the contents would do to Danny.
I finally unfolded the report and as I did, he looked away and covered his face with both hands, elbows on his knees.
I was so relieved by what I saw on that paper that I almost fainted myself.
"Everything's okay, Dad. She's yours."
"Oh my God," he gasped, and then he was up and I was up and we were hugging, and I was so fucking happy for him, for us, for Grace, that I lifted him off his feet and spun him around. Danny's a solid armload to swing around like that. It's nothing like swinging a woman around, but I couldn't help it. He was laughing and when I let go of him, he grabbed the paper out of my hands and read it for himself. He was crying, too, and I realized my face was a little damp. "It's almost like the day she was born, all over again," he said, wiping at his eyes.
"I'm sorry you ever had to worry about this, Danno," I said, touching his face, leaning in to kiss him. It was one hell of a kiss. He grabbed me in his arms, and his response to the kiss took my breath away. I might have spun him around in my arms, but he was spinning my world around pretty good by the time that kiss was over. Again, I wondered how anyone who ever had him could ever let him go. I never planned to, and I have the training to track someone down to the ends of the Earth if necessary. He was never going to get away from me. I hoped he never wanted to. I suppose if he did, I'd let him go, but only about as willingly as I'd cut my own heart out.
"I wanna go get Gracie and take her out for lunch. It's almost her lunchtime. Think we can put off the case another hour or so?"
"I think you have enough of an in with the boss that we can swing that."
"I always say, if you're gonna be late back from lunch, take the boss along," he joked.
We picked Grace up from school and took her to a burger place nearby. She had fun with the unscheduled outing, and I had fun watching Danny just radiate pure joy every second we were with her.
"Did you like the tux pictures I texted you?" she asked as we were finishing our food.
"They were great," I said. "What would you think if I wore my dress uniform instead of a tux?" I asked.
"The dark one or the white one?"
"Which one do you think I should wear?"
"The white one. Then Danno can wear his dress blues and you won't be dressed exactly alike."
"She's got a point there," I said to Danny. I could have explained all the things that were wrong with that statement, but to a twelve-year-old girl, I suppose two dark dress uniforms probably didn't look all that different from each other. "How do you feel about the uniforms?"
"You look great in your dress uniforms, babe. How could I object to that?"
"It's a wedding. I suppose somebody oughtta wear white," I said, and Danny and Grace both laughed at that.
When we dropped Grace off at school, Danny gave her one of those embarrassing parent hugs when she got out of the car. I was impressed with her, again, because she didn’t wriggle out of it or show it if she was embarrassed by the display of affection in front of her school. She's a wise kid, and it will be one sorry guy who ever tries to put one over on her someday. Once he'd let her out of the death grip, she looked at him, worried.
"Are you okay, Danno?" she asked, frowning.
"I'm just great, monkey. Just miss you sometimes," he said, smiling at her.
"School will be out soon," she said, and her attempt to cheer Danny up moved us both.
"You're right, it will. We'll make some plans next weekend."
"When are you gonna set the wedding date? You have to plan ahead for these things and make reservations for stuff."
"You heard the lady, Danno. We better set a date."
"When she's right, she's right," Danny agreed.
There wasn't much that could dampen my good mood after we dropped Grace back off at school. The only thing better would have been to go home with Steve and work off some of that positive energy in a more interesting way than going back to work. Man cannot live by sex alone (though it would be a hell of a good time trying), so back to work we went. After the time we'd spent learning our own cover stories, our next bit of research was learning everything we could about the two couples who had been targeted. After all, we had to distinguish ourselves enough from any other gay couple who might happen to be our competition for the killer's attention, and there could be some tidbits in the victim profiles that would help us do that.
What a happy thought.
If we were lucky, some maniac who likes to torture guys and cut their family jewels off would notice us and target one of us. That would be my luck. Finally get in a relationship with someone who doesn't bust my balls and then end up getting them cut off.
Knowing Gracie was mine put my mind at ease in a way I couldn’t even describe, but something else was nagging me now. If Rachel really questioned that fact, and was drawing parallels between my relationship with Grace and Stan’s questionable paternity of Charles, that meant she’d been cheating on me about the time Grace was conceived.
I felt like a fucking chump, because I never saw that one coming. Rachel and I always had a turbulent relationship, but I thought we’d had a stretch of it that was pretty damn good. Apparently not as good as I thought.
“As my grandmother used to say, you’ve got a face like a storm cloud, Danno,” Steve said as he walked into my office. “Ready to trade yet?”
“What?” I looked up at him stupidly, then back at the folder in my hands. He was studying the first couple and I had been staring at the file on Fredericks and D’Angelo. “Not quite.”
“What’s wrong?” He tossed the file on the desk. It was a non-verbal cue to get the lead out and do my homework. He can still be the boss when he has to be. For some reason, I find that really sexy. Not like I want him to tie me up or something, but that whole take charge thing can be hot. Under torture, I will never tell him that.
“I never suspected Rachel of cheating on me.”
“Don’t beat yourself up. It’s not like I always see it coming before something lousy happens.”
“I worked a lot of nights...I thought she understood that, was okay with it.”
“When we were doing surveillance from their house, she was worried about you being over in the neighbors’ house. She even mentioned something about worrying about you on the job, back when you were married.”
“Rachel’s a thorny, complicated woman, I’ll give you that, but she loved you, at least at some point.”
“She was worried about me when I was in that house?” I asked, and I guess I did sound pleased. I’m not sure why it mattered, but it was kind of nice to hear, since it seemed like we spent most of our time hurting each other as much as possible, battling over Grace when it shouldn’t have been any battle at all. Loving Grace was something we’d always have in common, no matter how much we fought with each other. Then I saw a flash of something in Steve’s eyes that looked like jealousy, or maybe a bit of hurt, and I wanted to stab myself in the throat with the letter opener on my desk for being so fucking stupid.
“Yeah, that’s why she cracked Stan’s fancy car up ramming it into their gate. You need to focus, Danny. We got good news, so now we need to get rolling on this case.” He turned to walk out of the office.
“Hey, wait a minute. What’s with you all of a sudden?”
“What’s with me is that we have a job to do. Now you’ve got two files to get through and I have to wait until you’re done so I can get what I have to do, done. We don’t have time to sit around revisiting the past.”
“Steve, wait a minute,” I said, but he was out the door and across the hall in his own office before I could say anything else. I tried to cultivate the “Fuck you then” response that bubbled up, but I also couldn’t help feeling like I’d just slapped him in the face with acting like it mattered to me that Rachel fretted over my safety on a case years ago. That she still mattered to me. That her potential infidelity was keeping me stewing all day. Steve lets things go so much easier than I do. Maybe he’s had to in order to stay sane. Maybe it’s a SEAL thing, I don’t know.
Maybe Chin had a point. I was sitting here now, distracted because Steve was obviously upset, and the other thing on my mind was confronting Chin about how he felt about us, about me still being here when I was sleeping with the boss. The last thing on my mind were the two files in front of me or getting into character for a case.
Of course, Steve could be a couple yards away, or he could be a couple continents away and I wouldn’t feel any different. I didn’t realize I was staring him down, my chin resting on my palm, until he looked up and stared back at me. I know he was bristly and he was in boss mode, and that he’d acted that way because I hurt him by acting like I still had a thing for Rachel, still cared what she thought of me or how she felt about me. Maybe his feelings were a little more fragile than I thought when it came to falling in love, trusting someone. He always seems so confident.
I signed “I Love You” to him, like I had when he was being airlifted out of the jungle that day with his broken arm. I hoped he really saw me this time, and took it for what it was worth.
He kept staring a minute, then he looked down, smiling, and when he looked back up, he signed it back to me. Then he reached into his desk, pulled out a pencil, a piece of tape, and then took a tissue out of the box on the desk. He taped the tissue to the pencil and waved the white flag at me. I laughed, and so did he.
I took out my phone and texted him. I’d have said more but he’d have gotten bored waiting for it, since I’m so slow texting.
It’s you, babe. Just you. Always.
I watched him pull out his phone and read it. He smiled, and his thumbs were in motion. My phone pinged.
Want to dance with you again. Busy tonight?
I knew immediately how to respond to that.
Only if I get to lead.
He read it and laughed. Then replied,
It’s a date, Boob.
I slumped back in my chair, laughing. Another text followed.
Fink auto correct.
FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK auto correct. BOO BOO. DAMN IT.
We were both laughing now, and suddenly noticed that Kono was in the hall, between our two offices, laughing her head off at both of us.
“I don’t even wanna know!” she said, shaking her head, going to her own office.
To Be Continued...