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The Broken Road, Chapter Nine

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It was a beautiful morning, and I could actually get used to Hawaii, living in a place like this, stretched out in a chaise lounge with a view of the ocean, enjoying the breeze. Steve's house definitely was a far cry different than even my best rental housing had been. If not for the phone call I was fielding, I would have been completely relaxed.

"Mom, I'm really fine," I said for what seemed like the tenth time in as many seconds. My mother wasn't convinced I was fine since she'd caught some footage from the press conference on one of the news networks. When I saw it myself, I understood. I looked pale and shaky, even to me. A couple of commentators had mentioned that, and thought it was so moving that Steve, as the head of the unit, had shown such compassion in taking my hand as a show of support.

Really? That's what they thought? It was a show of support, but Steve didn't hold hands with other guys. If he ever does, he's gonna see how I get when I'm really jealous.

"What did that awful man really do to you? You can tell me, Danny."

"He was just trying to scare me mostly. The actual physical damage was pretty minimal. I was banged up a little and really tired."

"I'm your mother. I thought you knew by now you couldn't lie to me."

"I'm not lying." 

"Yes, you are," Steve said as he arrived on the balcony with breakfast. Nothing like being served breakfast by Steve wearing nothing but his swim trunks and a smile. He set the tray down on the nearby table. "Give me the phone."

"What? Why? What are you gonna tell her?"

"Danny, what's going on?" Mom asked.

"Just let me talk to her."

"Don't freak her out," I said, covering the phone before handing it to him.

"Hi, Clara, it's Steve...I'm fine, thanks...I don't want you to worry about Danny...He had a rough go of it but thankfully he wasn't with that nut long, and he got a clean bill of health from the doctor the same night...No, nothing like what happened with the other victims...He's staying with me, and I'm making sure he gets plenty of rest...You're welcome, but you don't have to thank me. It's really good having him here." Steve winked at me. "I'll put Danny back on. Really, Clara, don't worry about him. He's doing okay and I'm right here with him. As a matter of fact, we're going to have breakfast on the balcony and then maybe lie around by the beach for a while...Okay, you too. Here's Danny." He handed me the phone. "Mothers always trust me," he whispered.

"Their mistake," I replied, and he grinned wickedly, leaning down and kissing me before I finished my phone call.

“How’s Clara doing, anyway?” he asked after I'd set the phone aside, handing me a plate with a hearty serving of pancakes and syrup on it. 

“Looks great, babe,” I said, finding that after about twelve hours of solid sleep followed by a shower with Steve and a massage, I really had my appetite back. “She’s fine. She said you were so sweet and I was lucky to have you looking out for me. I agreed,” I said, and he laughed.

“I knew I liked your mom for a reason.”

“I'm sure she's got us figured out by now. I just wonder what my dad's gonna think.”

“You seem worried about how he'll react to it. Do you really think he'll be upset?” Steve asked, sitting on the lower half of my lounge chair, digging into his breafast.

“I don’t know. I just hope he's okay with it.”

“Me, too, Danno,” he said, patting my leg. I sat there and watched him, soaking up how glad I was to be there with him, to be alive and whole and around to raise my daughter and have a beautiful life with the man I loved. He looked up from his pancakes, which is saying something because the only thing Steve focuses more intensely on than his job (and me), is food. He does like to eat. He watched me for a minute, concerned. “Are you okay?”

“I’m great. Probably the luckiest guy alive.” That made him smile one of his big, sappy, in love with me smiles. Then he went back to the pancakes. “I’m going over to Rachel's later and drop off a copy of the DNA results.”

“Why?”

“Because I want to know who she was sleeping with that she thought was Grace’s father.”

“Maybe no one. She could have just been trying to scare you off about Charles.”

“Yeah, maybe, but I still want that test done, and I want her to know that she can stop playing games with me about Grace.”

“You want me to come with you?”

“I do, but I think that’ll just escalate things with her. I’ll handle it.”

“Okay.”

“But I’ll probably be tense when I get home. I might need another massage,” I added, eating more of the pancakes but keeping my eyes on Steve. 

“Probably followed by sex, to relax you so you can sleep.”

“Yeah, that, too. Sorry to put you out like this.”

“It’s hell, but I’ll manage,” he responded, grinning at me around a mouthful of pancakes.

********

I rang the doorbell and waited for Rachel, or her housekeeper, to answer. Grace was in school, and I hoped Stan was doing whatever it was Stan did all day at his office. I wanted some privacy for this conversation. Rachel opened the door. 

"Danny, this is a surprise."

"I need to talk to you."

"Come in," she said, stepping aside and closing the door after I entered. "What's wrong?"

"I have something you should see." I took a copy of the DNA test results out of my pocket and unfolded it, handing it to her. 

"What is this?” she asked, scanning the information. I suppose all the "subject 1" and "subject 2" terminology didn't make it immediately clear what it was about.

"Steve and I had a DNA test run on Grace."

"Why would you do that?" she asked angrily, pinning me with a confused look.

"Those results prove she's my biological daughter." 

"Oh, my God," she muttered, walking into the living room and sitting on the edge of a chair. 

"Wait, you really didn't think she was mine, is that it?"

"You don't understand--"

"Then explain it to me, because you're right, I don't understand."

"I did what I thought was best for Grace."

"Don't you mean what was best for you?"

"You were so absorbed with your job and your partner, you barely had time for me. For us. I was alone a lot of the time, Danny. I met someone, but it didn't work out. He was married and he went back to his wife. Then I found out I was pregnant, and it just seemed like making a go of our marriage and having a stable home for Grace was the right thing to do."

"Who was it? Your boss? That guy from back home your mother thought you should have married? Who was it, Rachel?" I knew my voice was rising, and I stopped myself, taking in a deep breath. 

"Please, Danny, don't do this."

"Don't do what? Ask who it was you thought was Grace's father all these years?"

"You're not going to be happy when you find out."

"Unlike now? You think I'm happy now? Did you ever even care about me?"

"Of course, I did! I should be asking you that question. You were so tied up in your job you barely knew I was there."

"I'm a cop, Rachel. It's what I do. It's not nine to five, and you knew that when we got married. I'd just gotten promoted to detective and I was trying to make a name for myself - because that's how you move up, and get better pay so you can make a better life for your family." I paused again, trying to stay calm. It was ancient history, I was with Steve, and Grace was my daughter. As long as I had Steve and Grace, what could this do to me?

It still fucking hurt to think I was just a sucker, a patsy...that I never meant to her anything like what I thought I did. I'd wasted so much timehurting about the divorce, loving her so much when she was just using me.

"Why does it matter who it was? You have your proof, so you should be happy now."

"This is so messed up. You let me raise Grace all these years like she's mine, and it's just a happy fucking accident that she is! Then you tell me you’re pregnant with my child, again, but then suddenly Charles isn't mine, and you wonder why I don't believe you? And for the record, it does matter to me who you were screwing around with when we were married."

"I suppose you're going to tell me now that nothing happened between you and your partner, Grace? You were so infatuated with her it was a little hard to take as your wife."

"Don't do that. Don't blame this on her. I never laid a hand on her, and she was good cop, a professional, and she was my friend. Apparently the only one I had, since my wife was cheating on me."

"I was second fiddle to Grace, and then I was second fiddle to Steve. So don't be so high and mighty with me because I fell in love with someone else."

"I don't know where the hell you get this from. I admitted to you I had feelings for Steve, but I didn't have those kind of feelings for Grace. She was my friend, my partner...I loved her but it wasn't like that, and you know it. I never would have two-timed either you or Steve by having something going with both of you at once. That’s obviously not a problem for you."

"For a long time I felt guilty for having an affair. It's why I let you name my daughter after another woman. You turned her into a living memorial to your dead partner and I let you do it because I felt guilty for cheating on you!"

"That's how you feel about Grace, about how we named her?"

"You named her, Danny. I knew I could fight you but you were so grief-stricken about your partner that I wasn't sure our marriage would survive it if I did.”

"I thought you were supportive of me, that you understood that watching my best friend being shot to death in front of me was kind of a hard thing to go through! The day Grace was killed was the worst day and the best day of my life, that's why it seemed symbolic, meaningful, to name our daughter after her because knowing I was going to be a father got me through that. You said you understood. If you didn't want that, I wouldn't have forced it."

"What have you solved by dragging all this out in to the light? I told you at the outset to leave this alone, because nobody was going to be better off for it."

"Who was he?" I asked again. She wasn't going to dodge that question. If she wouldn't tell me, I'd find out.

"Stan. I thought Stan was Grace's father," she said quietly. I was completely thrown, and lost.

"How would that be possible?"

She looked up at me like she thought I was dense. I'd seen that look enough when we were married, and I still didn't like it.

"You had an affair with Stan while we were married? You knew him then?"

"Yes, I knew him then." She stood up and started pacing. "Our PR firm handled a fairly complex job for his company, and I spent a lot of time with him."

"A guy whose company is in Hawaii got his PR done in Jersey?"

"No, his father’s business is in New York and Stan hadn’t branched out on his own yet. His father was a friend of our CEO, and so their company came to us to handle a PR situation for them."

"PR situation? Stan seems to have a lot of 'situations' with his work, doesn't he?" I shot back.

"That's not fair. You know Stan's a good man, and you said yourself that the mess he got into here, that you helped him with, wasn't his fault."

I bit my tongue. I wanted to sink Stan right then. It would have made me feel good to tell Rachel he got himself into it trying to grease the wheels for one of his projects, that she and Grace were put in that kind of danger and it was Stan’s fault. If I destroyed her life, I also messed with Grace’s life, and I wasn’t going to do that lightly just to make myself feel better.

"Stan was married back then?" I asked.

"Yes, he was. I found out I was pregnant and I was going to tell him, because I thought we were going to be together. Then he said he couldn't leave his wife because she battled with depression, and he was afraid what a divorce would do to her. Her younger brother committed suicide, and I think there were other mental health issues in her family..." 

"Lucky for you good old sucker Danny was still around for you to fall back on."

"I knew you'd be a good father to Grace, and I was right about that."

"Until you got your chance to be with Stan."

"I didn't think that would ever happen. We went our separate ways and went on with our lives. Then, I heard from Stan one day out of the blue. His wife had left him, and he wanted to see me again. I refused at first, but he tried a few more times, and when we were together again, it just felt right. You and I weren't really happy, Danny. We were arguing all the time, and you know it wasn't all that good between us by that point."

"I loved you, Rachel. We were a family. We had problems, but everybody does. You used me for eight years and then you tossed me out like last week's garbage when you got a better offer." I gestured around me. "A way better offer."

"Do you really believe this had anything to do with money?"

"I'm a little bit thrown by this whole thing. All I know is that I was never good enough for you, whether it was the house we lived in, my job, or me."

"Stan and I just...we fit, Danny. We had a lot in common right from the start. He’s well-traveled and cultured and we had so much to talk about...things just took off from there. And I thought he was Grace's father."

"All this time, you've tried so hard to keep me at arm's length, to find reasons to fight me about visitation and custody. You've treated me like the dirty beggar at the palace gates since I got to Hawaii. You worked so hard to shake me, to get me out of Grace's life, and now it all fits. I was always good to Gracie, you know how much I love her...I never understood why you were so fucking hard on me all the time about trying to see her and be part of her life. You moved about as far away as you could, and you never thought I'd follow you, did you?"

"Stan's business was out here when we...met up again. He'd moved out here while he was still married. I didn't move on purpose to get away from you. It's where Stan's life was--"

"It never occurred to you to ask him to move to where your life was, though, did it? You just took everything I had, including my daughter and even my goddamned dog and left me there with nothing so you could move out here and live in a mansion with the man you really wanted and the daughter you thought was his. Well, surprise! Grace is my daughter, and I want a DNA test just in case you made another mistake. Because if Charles is my son, you're not going to shut me out of his life!"

"Rachel, what's going on here?" Stan stood in the doorway of the living room. "Rachel, answer me, what is he talking about?"

"Oh, my God," she muttered, covering her mouth. "Stan, I can explain," she said, approaching him.

"I'm not sure you have to. I can only think of one reason you'd need a DNA test on Charles," he said, looking from her to me, and back again.

"We were separated. I thought our marriage was over," she protested.

"That wasn't my idea. You were the one who wanted time apart." He shook his head. "That was why, so you could give it another go with your ex?"

"Charles is your son," she told him, touching his arm. 

"But you slept with Danny while we were split up. That's why you were going back to New Jersey...you were all going to go there together. You stood right here and lied to me. You told me nothing happened between you two."

"I should have told you but I couldn't see the point in it. It was over, and we were going to restart our life together--"

"Based on a lie? And you covered for her," he said, turning toward me.

"It's not like you and me are drinking buddies. Why would I tell you anything? That was Rachel's call, not mine."

"What about Grace? You told me she wasn't mine. Did you lie about that, too?"

"I just brought Rachel a copy of the DNA test Steve and I had done on Grace. She's mine. Now the only question left is who Charles' father is. And by the way, you never mentioned that you slept with my wife back in Jersey before Grace was born, so don't ever bring up to me anything to do with me not telling you about my relationship with Rachel. You two screwed around behind my back and then she used me for years to cover it up and raise a child she didn't believe was mine."

"You thought Grace was mine? And you didn't tell me? When I asked you, when I found out you even had a child that was the right age to maybe be mine, you said she was Danny's."

"She is!"

"But you didn't think that, did you? You're unbelievable," he concluded, storming out of the room and up the stairs. 

"Stan, wait, we need to talk about this," she called after him. Then she looked at me with that fiery anger in her eyes that can just about fry you where you stand. "Why did you do this? What have you solved?"

"I wasn't trying to solve anything, other than figuring out who exactly fathered your children, since you don't seem to do very well keeping track of that."

I was kind of surprised when she slapped me, but I shouldn't have been. She'd done it before when things got heated enough and I said something she didn't like. Then she fled up the stairs calling to Stan. I wonder if she ever slapped Stan? Probably not. After all, she actually wanted him around. I was just her stooge.

I left the house realizing I'd never really stood a chance with her. I wasn't cultured and well-traveled, and I sure as hell wasn't rich. I was just a poor dumb schmuck who loved her and wanted a family with her. Once, a long time ago. As I got in the car, wincing a little as my clothes rubbed over some raw spots and my knee protested the twist it took, that seemed like another lifetime. How I could have ever wanted to leave my relationship with Steve to go back home with her left me confused. He loved me more as a friend than she ever loved me as her husband. I guess since the divorce hurt me so much, I built the marriage up into this fantasy in my head that was so fucking far off from reality that it was delusional. I was angry at myself for feeling bad, for letting her hurt me when what she did was so marginal to my life and my happiness now. I just couldn’t help it, and part of the drive home was tough because my eyes were blurry and my stupid nose was running.

Not very cultured and well-traveled of me.

********

I was fixing hot dogs on the grill when I heard Danny come out on the lanai. He must have changed when he got home, because he was wearing blue shorts and a pale blue tank shirt that was about the same color as his eyes. He looked tired, even from the distance where I stood. He seemed to be leaning heavily on the cane, and the gouges and burn marks on his skin still made me flinch, thinking of how he'd come by them. 

"You getting hungry?" I hollered to him as he made his way across the grass to where I stood by the grill.

"Yeah, I guess it's about lunchtime, isn't it?" He walked up to me and put his arms around me and held on. "I love you."

"I love you, too, Danno." I hugged him back. I knew things didn't go well at Rachel's, because even though we're not stingy with hugs or professions of love, there was something different in the way he held me and in the tone of his voice. I just held him for a while, rubbing his back in a spot I knew wasn't sore. "Rough time at Rachel's?" I asked. 

"Yeah." It was a strained little word I almost didn't hear.

"It's okay, mea aloha. You're home now." 

"You better check your dogs," he said, pulling back. 

"What the fuck...?" I took a hold of his chin and turned his face slightly to the side. There was a red area on his cheek. "What's that?"

"I made an unchivalrous remark about Rachel's track record with knowing the paternity of her children. She wasn't pleased."

"So she hit you?"

"It was just a slap, babe. Nothing serious. Took my mind off my knee for a minute," he quipped.

"She had no right to do that."

"There's a lot to it...she didn't think Grace was mine, so the results were a shock for her."

"Come on, sit down." I steered him toward the lawn chairs where I had planned we'd sit to have lunch. "I'll grab the dogs off the grill." I took the tongs and tossed them one by one onto a plate and then put another plate over them. I had a couple beers sitting on the table between the chairs, and he opened one and took a long draw on it. "Tell me what happened," I said, sitting across from him. He told me the whole painful thing, trying to keep his tone light, like it didn't bother him as much as it did. I don't know if that was bravado or if he thought I'd be offended that something Rachel said or did could still hurt him. I know that's partially my fault, because it did sort of sting when he seemed to still care what she thought of him or how she felt, and I didn't exactly handle it well before.

"The worst part of it is, how is she gonna feel about Gracie now? All this time, she thought Grace was Stan's daughter. I guess she doesn't really look like me, so I can see how Rachel talked herself into that."

"Anybody who knows Grace at all would see you in her all the time. She might look more like Rachel, but she's her father's daughter."

"You think?" he asked, smiling. "I kinda do, too, but sometimes I feel like that's wishful thinking. I sure didn't get her grades in school. "

"She's strong, feels passionately about things, and she's deeply loyal. She's you, Danno. That's why I never really thought the DNA test would come back any other way than it did."

"I hate that this is going to create a bunch of turmoil for her, too. God knows what Rachel's gonna do if she breaks up with Stan now."

"She's not leaving here with Grace. We stopped it once, we'll stop it again." I took his hand and laced our fingers together. 

"I know it shouldn't matter to me anymore how she felt about me. I feel like such a fucking idiot. Of course, I’m not cultured and well-traveled, so I guess ‘idiot’ isn’t a big step away from that."

“She said that?”

“She was pointing out why she and Stan fit so well together, even when she was married to me. He was ‘cultured and well-traveled’.” Danny made quote marks in the air with his fingers. “I suppose that was refreshing compared to being stuck with a stupid cop who thought saving up to take her and Gracie to Disney World was a big deal.”

I knelt on the grass in front of him and rested my hands on his thighs. 

"I don't know why Rachel did what she did, or how anybody could have you and want somebody else."

"For what it's worth, babe, I'm all yours. You're stuck with me for the long haul."

"Better be," I said, hugging him. Of all the people I'd lost in the last several years, and all the ups and downs I'd been through, Danny was always there, like no one else in my life ever was. "Love you, baby," I said against his ear before kissing my way down his neck. I moved back long enough to hike his tank shirt up so I could kiss his chest and down to his belly.

"Uh, Steve, we're in the yard," he said, as I loosened the drawstring on his shorts so I could move them down to take him in my mouth. I released him long enough to answer. 

"So what? It's our yard, isn't it? Nobody can see us back here."

"Unless they come around from the front."

"Then they should have called first." With that, I went back at it, and he leaned back in the chair, groaning and shifting his legs farther apart to accommodate me there. I held his balls and rolled them gently in my hand, using my other hand to rub over his chest, paying plenty of attention to his nipples.

"Shit, Steven, you're killing me," he gasped, grabbing the arms of the chair. 

I thought of pausing to make some witty remark, but I was enjoying too much having him in my mouth, making him crazy, showing him how much I loved him and wanted him. And, there was the added sexiness of doing it in the yard, spur of the moment. It took a while to get him fully hard because I'd kind of sprung this on him with no warning, but that was half the fun. I could take my time, use every trick in the book on him. He had no idea what I had in mind for us. I had lube in my pocket, and there was a nice little clump of bushes that created a private enough spot we could do it right there and not be seen unless someone knew where to look. I released him and he looked at me like he was considering killing me.

"You can't leave me there."

I grabbed the large beach towel off the empty chair where I'd been sitting and pulled him up by the hand. 

"Thought you might like to finish up doing something nice for me."

"We. Are. In. The. Yard." 

"Bushes," I said, pulling him along with me. "Come on, Danno, fuck me behind the bushes."

"Shit." 

"I'll take that as a yes." 

I kept moving forward, and in moments we were in the little niche of shrubbery that was a total blind spot from the house. I threw the towel down and pulled my shorts off, tossing them aside. Danny struggled a little with his knee to get down on the ground, something I had sort of forgotten when I came up with this idea. I was thinking down and dirty on all fours, but that would have put too much strain on his knee. We ended up with me on my stomach on the towel, him lying on top of me, kissing and sucking on my neck while he eased me open with his fingers. He seemed to have forgotten his inhibitions about being "in the yard", so I guess the bushes were an adequate barrier for his sense of propriety.

I forgot about bushes, yards, propriety, and pretty much everything but my ass and his dick moving in and out of it. I could grab onto the towel here and there, and I occasionally found myself trying to hold onto the grass, but that didn't work out too well. We were both breathing hard, moving fast, and beyond any hope of coherent speech. All we managed were some curses, growls, gasps and shouts until he came, pumping me with his hand to get me to the finish line while he still had some life left in him. When it was over, we lay there in a sweaty, spent heap. 

"The hot dogs are probably cold," he said, flopping onto his back. "Ouch. Damn it."

"What?"

"Nothing. I hit my scraped up shoulder on the bush," he said.

"Let me look."

"It's fine. Don't wanna waste the afterglow on first aid," he said, taking me in his arms once I started moving and remembering I wasn't dead. I felt worn out in a good way, like I could sleep for a week there with him behind the shrubs, still in our tank shirts, shorts missing. I take that back. I spotted his hanging on the edge of one of the shrubs. Mine were under me and graced with my essence all over them. 

"When we get up, I'll go get the first aid kit. That shoulder was just healing up." I traced the healing scrape on his temple. "How do you feel?"

"Pretty damn good right now," he replied, and I laughed. "Still got some aches and pains, and all the burns and the scrapes still hurt when stuff rubs against them, but considering how the other victims ended up, I'm not complaining."

"It's okay if you do. You'd be entitled."

"Yeah, right, coming from Mr. Stoicism," he teased, kissing me. "I remember you hanging upside down from those rocks with your arm shattered and a big bump on your head, telling me you were all right."

"Everything's relative, Danny. For having been hit with a boulder and shattering my arm, I was all right compared to the alternative, which would have been my brains pasted to the rock."

"Thanks for that image." He kissed the top of my head. "You given any more thought to that idea of becoming a house husband after we get married?"

"Not a one," I replied, laughing.

"You could spend your days grilling my meals and thinking of ways to satisfy me."

"I do that anyway, while also keeping the State of Hawaii safe from crime and terrorism."

"You're very talented. I commend you."

"Thank you. It's about time. Only took four fucking years, but finally, some credit."

"If I gave you credit, your head would be so big I'd have to ride in the back seat."

"So you're keeping me humble?"

"That's not possible, but I keep trying."

********

After we ate our meal outside, Steve talked me into a nap. He was right, I was more tired than I thought, and I realized I just wasn’t a hundred percent yet. That was probably why the whole thing with Rachel hurt me like it did. Doing battle with her has always been unpleasant; getting put down or screwed over by her isn’t my favorite thing, either, but it usually doesn’t reduce me to tears or even really hit home anymore. There’s a nice layer of scar tissue that’s built up over time, and usually it’s enough to deflect her best shots.

And, truthfully? It’s damn nice not to spend all my time in a relationship feeling like my partner is doing me a favor. Steve’s happy to have me and loves me the way I am, and that’s a great feeling. 

I was drifting, not really asleep but just totally relaxed with my guard down. I was laid out on my belly on the bed, and Steve was sitting there giving me a back rub that felt better than sex, because sex would have required some effort on my part. It had to be like making his way through a minefield back there, since the scrapes and burns wouldn’t feel very good being rubbed over, but he seemed to find the clear spots and make them count to loosen up my muscles and get me relaxed. He wasn’t talking, he was just touching me, letting me rest. 

I was beginning to get used to the sounds of the ocean, to be able to sleep through it. Sometimes, it was a comforting reminder that I wasn’t in a cage in a garage out in the sticks, about to be killed. I needed reminders of that when I slept, because sometimes when I’d lose my grip on things and slip off toward sleep, I’d jerk out of that sleep suddenly, expecting to find myself back there. The biggest reminder was Steve, who can get by on a very small amount of sleep, but seemed to realize I needed him nearby to really unwind and rest. I hadn’t had claustrophobia nightmares since I was a kid, but I was having them now, and I was almost more afraid of that feeling of waking up and not being able to breathe than I was of the dream itself. 

Steve told me that would get better, that I’d be okay again. I just had to take it on faith that he was right, because I didn’t see that happening and I hated being weak and scared. He'd seemed to get over having nightmares and occasional anxiety attacks after Afghanistan, but then, he was Steve McGarrett. He got over things; he was just that strong. I wasn't so sure about myself.

He seemed to be done massaging, and the next thing I felt was the warmth of him next to me in the bed. I shifted on my side and he spooned around me, holding me close. 

“If you get restless, I’ll wake you,” he whispered in my ear. It was a little unsettling that he’d read my mind that way, but at the same time, it made me feel incredibly safe. He was going to protect me even in my dreams.

“You’re still gonna marry me, right?” I mumbled, and he chuckled at that, kissing my shoulder, then my neck, then he nipped at my ear.

“I kind of have to make an honest man out of you after all the wanton sex we’ve been having.”

“Oh, right.” I yawned. “Love you, babe.”

“Love you, too, Danno. Always will.”

I fell asleep then, and didn’t wake up until near dawn. The only enclosure I felt or dreamed about were Steve’s arms around me. Maybe I really could be okay again.

********

Danny seemed to bounce back from his ugly encounter with Rachel pretty well. In fact, he called her the next day to ask her how she wanted to handle the DNA test on Charles. While he didn't specifically ask me to be around for that conversation, he made the call sitting at the kitchen table, so I took the unspoken invitation to stick around for moral support, working on making our lunch while he talked to her. It was surprisingly uneventful, and she agreed to let him handle having it done, and said she'd provide whatever samples he needed. 

When he ended the call, he sat there for a minute in silence. Danny is rarely silent, so I knew he was mulling something over.

"Sounds like she agreed to the test," I said, setting a sandwich in front of him. 

"She said Stan wants a divorce."

"I can't say I'm surprised." I sat down with my own plate, and a bag of potato chips. Danny had gotten me hooked on the salt and vinegar ones since one day in the car when he’d had mercy on me and given me his chips when we got stuck watching a suspect all afternoon and I didn’t bring lunch. After the obligatory lecture, of course, on “didn’t they teach you in the Boy Scouts to always come prepared and now you’re eating half my lunch.” Danny would take a bullet for me but he won’t share his lunch without giving me grief.

"I didn't want to make that happen. At least, not anymore. It wouldn't have hurt my feelings any a few years back, but now... Stan's a fucking asshole who slept with my wife while we were married and his business ethics are dicey, but he's been a decent stepfather to Grace. He's not a pervert and he does love her. She has a good life and a lot of bad stuff happens to kids whose mothers are dating. I don't know that Rachel and Stan splitting up is a positive thing for her."

We had a few bites of lunch in silence, even though Danny was mostly picking at his. 

"We could sue for full custody if you're worried about her."

"You'd do that? I mean, full custody is another whole way of life than shared custody."

"I love Grace, and I love you. I know you'd love being a full-time dad."

"More than anything, but pulling Grace away from her mother probably isn't the best strategy right now. I know how close my mom and my sisters always were.” 

“Losing my mother was hard on Mary. I think it’s why she’s struggled to focus and get her life on track.”

“Wasn’t any picnic for you, either,” he said, looking me in the eyes. 

“Mothers are important to kids, and losing them isn’t easy, whether it’s divorce, death, whatever.” I looked away, back at my sandwich. When I was a kid, I couldn’t help it if my mother betrayed me. As an adult, I’d walked right back into it and now she was in the wind again. Even when she was here, she never leveled with me about anything.

“Whatever is sometimes the hardest, isn't it?" he asked, touching my arm. 

"It would have been nice to have my mother here when we got married. But as long as you're there, the base is covered."

"I don't think your mother likes me too much."

"What makes you say that?" 

"Oh, I don't know," he replied, laughing. "I don't remember us ever really having a friendly conversation."

"You didn't spend a lot of time around her. She just doesn't know you all that well. Besides, I was with Catherine when my mother was around, so she was focused on her. I'm not sure if she saw her as an ally or the competition," I added, snorting.

"Rachel's mother couldn't stand me, either."

"You didn't like her too much."

"No, you're right, the dislike was mutual. She comes to visit Rachel and Stan and stays for a month at a time."

"When you live in a mansion, you can pretty much stand anybody as a house guest. Lots of places to escape from them."

"Yeah, true," he replied, laughing. He knew there was more to it than that, and so did I, but I was tired of watching him feel bad. "I've been thinking...would you mind much if we didn't go on another trip someplace? My knee's still screwed up, and just hanging out here with you is kind of nice."

"That sounds great to me, too. We'll find something to do to entertain ourselves." 

"I'm sure," he said, laughing.

"Besides that."

********

I could get used to just hanging out with Steve. We did a lot of relaxing things like sitting around outside and talking about the meaning of life, taking gentle swims that were good for my knee, and watching cheesy movies on TV. Those days were therapeutic for me. I could feel a sense of my old self coming back, the turmoil and panic that had been inside me since the whole ordeal with Harper were wearing off. Now I understood why the trip to the cabin had been so good for Steve. I kind of knew, but there's nothing like experiencing something yourself to "get it." He took care of my physical hurts and he was there for me for all the emotional ones, too. He didn't make me feel weak or silly for being afraid or even waking up screaming which, thankfully, I wasn't doing much anymore. 

My knee kept getting better until one morning I actually forgot my cane and went halfway downstairs before I remembered to hold onto the railing and go slow. I credit hours of massage, swim therapy, rest, and a lot of love for that speedy recovery. Steve still retrieved the cane from upstairs and made me use it if we were going to be doing a lot of walking, but like my fucked up head, my fucked up knee was getting better, too. Physical therapy hadn't done this well for me before, and when I said that to Steve, he said we'd just have to make time to keep it up even after we were back at work. 

Steve McGarrett was actually going to slow down his power swimming and adjust his sleep pattern so he could swim with me, massage my knee and leg muscles, and further adjust his own insane antics so he could gradually break me back in to full active duty on the job. We'd loved each other a long time, but it was different loving each other this way. It was better. We could still take pieces out of each other in a good sparring session, but we knew we'd get over it making out on the couch in front of the TV later. I knew he meant it when we went back on the job and he let Chin and Kono beat us to some of the more physically demanding calls. There were times I had to sit something out while he did this thing, but we’d been through that before a few years ago when I hurt my knee. It was getting stronger; I’d be at full speed before much longer.

Since we didn’t run Charles’ DNA test through Max, but rather through a private lab, it took a couple weeks for the results to come back. I was getting my mail at Steve’s place by then. My rental house was only going to be mine a short time longer, and that was only because my landlord was being an asshole about letting me out of the lease and making me pay additional months after I’d already moved out. After all the crap I’d been through in the last few months, it wasn’t worth too much grief. 

I pulled the envelope with the lab’s return address out of the pile of mail I took from the box. It was a Thursday morning; we’d been out all night on a case and by noon, we were getting ready to go into headquarters. Steve was making a couple phone calls and paying few bills at the desk in his dad’s office, and I went out to get the mail. So there I stood on the porch, looking at the second envelope from a lab within the last couple months that could change my life. I knew I didn’t want to open it alone, so I went inside and sat on the edge of the desk where Steve was finishing things up on his laptop.

“Lab results,” I said, holding up the envelope. I’d gone through the painful revelation that Stan Junior wasn’t going to be Danny Junior a long time ago. With everything that happened, knowing Rachel wasn’t sure, it had dredged up a lot of feelings I’d laid to rest back then. I guess that’s why my hands shook a little as I opened it. Steve reached over and gripped my wrist.

“Are you okay?” he asked. We both knew I wasn’t, but at least I could handle opening the envelope without having a meltdown. 

“Yeah. Now I just wanna know.” That wasn’t entirely true. I wanted him to be mine. I didn’t have much of a relationship with Grace’s little half brother, but for a while I’d thought he was mine when Rachel was pregnant, and I was there when he was born, so I felt a tie. “Here goes,” I said, forcing a smile I didn’t feel. Steve looked more worried than I did, and I loved him for that.

I opened the envelope and took out the sheet of paper. There it was in black and white. It wasn’t a match. Charles wasn’t my son. I tried to tell Steve but I couldn’t get the words out, so I handed him the paper. It hit me harder than I thought it would. Maybe I was hoping more than I should have been. I’d tried not to, to continue thinking of him as Stan’s kid until something else was proven, but sometimes I’d catch myself thinking about how I’d feel if he was mine, how it would be to have a son and be part of his life. 

“I’m sorry, Danno,” Steve said softly, standing and laying the paper on the desk. He gathered me up in one of those big, warm hugs of his and I tried not to lose it, but I did. Maybe it was because it opened an old wound that was so deep and painful that I tried to never poke it, or maybe because he’d been in jail when Rachel had dropped the bomb on me the first time and, not having a job at that time I had to show up for, and Steve not around, I’d spent a few days so dead drunk I couldn’t move, just mourning the misery and loss of any kind of happiness in my life and wondering if I should eat my gun. Then I thought about Steve rotting in jail and that if I blew my head off, not only would he be even more miserable than he was, but there was a danger other people on the outside might forget about him eventually if he was convicted. I knew I’d be there forever, trying to get him free, and if not, we’d be looking through the glass at each other as old men, somehow having made our way through life like that. I’d managed to tell myself in my booze-infused condition that Grace was better off with Rachel and her rich husband, but thankfully I got my head out of my ass where that was concerned, too. 

So I showered (I hadn’t done that for two or three days, either), shaved, drank a lot of coffee, cleaned up my apartment and got back on my horse and didn’t look back. Then Steve got out of jail, and I felt like I could live again. Having him back was so good that it helped me sort of patch that wound enough to get by. But it was apparently still there under the surface, because I was bawling on his shoulder, holding onto him so hard I was clutching his t-shirt in fistfuls. 

“I know it hurts, buddy. It’s okay. I’m here, Boo Boo,” he added, and it almost made me laugh. There’s no other man on Earth I’d let get away with calling me that. I didn’t even let him do it at first, but when he said it right at that moment, it not only made me smile a little when I didn’t think I could, but it did soothe the pain in a way I couldn’t have imagined a goofy little love name could. 

“I tried not to get my hopes up,” I mumbled. It sounded sad and pathetic, but it was true. I knew I shouldn’t count on this, or start thinking about it, but I had, even more than I realized. 

“You’re only human, Danny.”

I guess I took that as license to just stand there and blubber on his shoulder. It was more than the DNA test. It took me back to a time when I thought I might lose him forever, when he was locked in that cesspool and I couldn’t have his back. When my hopes of being a husband and father were harpooned in one painful revelation and I was so fucking alone. Years I’d been with Rachel that I thought she wanted to be there, with me, she really wanted Stan instead. While I knew she still loved Grace, she didn’t want her to be my daughter. She wanted her to be Stan’s. I didn’t want that to still hurt but it did. 

Eventually I exhausted myself, and the reality of the present was taking over for the miserable wallow of the past. Not only was Steve back in my life, but we were together now in a way I never thought was possible. There was no glass between us, and no one else between us anymore. We'd beaten some insane odds to get where we were, to have this life and this love together. Suddenly, it seemed even more insane to waste being close to him like this on tears and misery over the past. I moved away from his shoulder and took his face in my hands so I could hold him where I wanted him and kiss him breathless. He responded with his usual quick reflexes, one hand on the buttons of my shirt, and the other one, big surprise, in my hair, keeping my head where he wanted it. 

We had to separate a moment because I was pulling his t-shirt over his head, so he made the most of the opportunity to yank my shirt off me at the same time. 

"Upstairs," he said against my mouth before we kissed again.

"Love you, babe," I gasped before I went back to kissing him, grabbing his ass, and thrusting against him. It was love and lust and need and...and knowing that making love with him would take the pain away, blast it into a million pieces because having him like this raised me above all of it. 

I didn't think we'd make it upstairs, and I didn't care. I pulled him by the arm toward the nearest couch and we fell on it, kissing and caressing and unzipping until we were naked there, legs tangling so we could get some good friction going. He was on top of me, and Steve's not a little guy...anywhere. I felt covered and sheltered and surrounded by him, and I couldn't get enough of it. It was a little frustrating not doing more, just rubbing off on each other, but that made it last longer, and we made good use of the time kissing, licking, and nibbling whatever we could reach. 

"We've got some whipped cream in the fridge," he joked.

"Asshole," I replied, laughing.

"You're not squirting it up there."

"Don't want to squirt it anywhere," I said, breathless. God, he's the best kisser ever. "Rather taste you."

"You got me, Boo Boo." He pulled back and smiled at me, touching my face. I don't think anybody ever looked at me like that before, like I was their everything. "You'll always have me."

"Then I can handle pretty much anything, Sexy Eyes," I replied, laying my hand on his heart. He kissed me again, and we gave up on words for a while. It felt good when we came, it always does, but as good as that felt, the time we spent lying there together, holding each other, breathing almost in unison like a single body, was just as sweet, maybe sweeter. 

"I'm sorry about the test, Danny."

"Me, too. I kind of got carried away with all the 'what ifs', thinking about what we'd do if he was mine."

"You're a great father. Any kid would be lucky to have you."

"Thanks." I smiled. Being a good father was the most important thing in the world to me, along with being a good partner and, before much longer, a good husband. "I got thinking of some old sad stuff...no reason to go there anymore."

"Sometimes I can't believe you love me like you do," he said, kissing me again. 

"With all my heart, babe. Always." The words came out in a whisper. He smiled at me, and hugged me even tighter. My face was in the warm curve of his neck, and I felt his heart beating next to mine. I wondered if I could take it now if something bad happened to him, if someone did the awful things to him he'd been through in the last couple years now that we were like this. 

If they did, I'd have to stand it, because he'd need me, and I plan to always be there for him, no matter what. Steve's got such a good heart; he only deserves the love and loyalty and sweetness he gives to the people he loves, to come back to him times about a hundred. I am up to that challenge.

To be continued...