Stan's office suite was everything a rich developer's office suite should be. Rachel's decorating influence was everywhere; it looked like a more streamlined business version of their house. I even put a tie back on for the first time since the press conference to visit and sit in his fancy waiting room.
"Mr. Edwards, Detective Williams is here to see you," his assistant told him on the phone. "Yes, I'll tell him," she concluded, hanging up. "You can go back. He says you know the way."
"Yes, I do, thanks," I said, standing and heading down the hall past a few more desks and offices until I walked into his office. The door was open, and Stan was sitting behind his desk. It was all modern lines and chrome and glass and lots of windows. There was a picture of Rachel and Grace on his desk. Sometimes it seemed surreal, like that dream I had when I was a kid about being stranded on the desert island and my place in people's lives being gone when I got back. Another man had a picture of my wife and daughter on his desk. I'm happy with Steve. I was then, am now, always will be, but that still seems weird.
"Rachel brought me a copy of the test results," he said as I closed the door. "I thought that would wrap things up between you and me, except for anything that involves Grace."
"It does," I replied, sitting, uninvited, in one of his uncomfortable and yet visually pleasing visitor chairs. "Where do you stand with Rachel?"
"I thought you were engaged to your partner."
"I am. I'm not trying to get her back, Stan. I'm over that, and it's a closed chapter in my life."
"Well, it's going to be a closed chapter in mine, too, before long. An expensive chapter, but a closed one."
"She screwed around with you behind my back and she thought Grace was mine and didn't bother to mention that, either. I suppose I should be thanking you for insisting on DNA tests."
"You have a chance to get on with your life together and be a full-time father. No custody arguments, no watching some other guy move intoyour life and start parenting your child. You can raise your son and have your family if you can get over yourself. Rachel is Rachel. She's complicated as hell and she always has an agenda."
"You sound like you're still in love with her. If so, she'll be available soon - you can hold off on marrying your partner and she’s all yours."
"I'll always love Rachel because she's Grace's mother. But I'm not in love with her anymore. When she told me she wanted a divorce, and I had to pack my stuff and get out of our house and not see my daughter every day...I'd have done anything to have my life back. It wasn't about my dignity or who was right or wrong. It sucks sharing custody of your kid, Stan. This can go either way for you. Just be sure you're making the decision you want to live with, that you don't mind some other guy coming into the picture and raising your kid while you watch with your nose pressed up against the glass."
He stared at me a long time before he spoke. "Why are you here?"
"Because even though I don't really like you all that much, you're a decent stepfather to Grace and she has two safe, stable homes the way things are now. I love my daughter more than anything, enough to even come in here and try to play marriage counselor. And I know you're not gonna be happy with your decision once you get that divorce. When your marriage fell apart, the first thing you did was come back looking for Rachel. She was in your blood for what, nine years?"
"She's still in my blood. I still love her, and my son and stepdaughter."
"You were split up, Stan. Going through a bad patch in the marriage. You went back to your wife and never told her about Rachel. So what's the difference between what you did and what Rachel did? It was a mistake for both of us. I was living in the past, trying to get back what I lost, and Rachel turned back to me...probably for pretty much the same reason."
"She went back and forth with you. How do I know she won't pull the same stunt with me?"
"You don't." I stood. "Guess it's up to you if it's worth a shot to hold your family together. You've got a chance I didn't have." I paused. I did have it once, but I'd chosen to stay near Steve and stand by him while he was in jail over starting a new life with Rachel. So I guess it was a chance I didn't have back when that's what I thought I wanted, before I met the real love of my life, even if I didn't recognize him as that back then.
"Grace is a wonderful girl, Danny. I hope you know I only want what's best for her. I also know my only role in her life is through Rachel, and back when I was married to Jacqueline, my first wife, all I wanted was a life with Rachel and to have kids with her."
"So go get it."
"It's not that simple."
"Sure it is. Go home." I headed for the door. "Think about your son. This is your last chance to be his full-time father."
With that, I left, not sure if I'd done any good. Or more harm than good. I never wanted to fuck up Rachel's life, or Grace's stability. I'd only wanted the truth. Rachel's secrets had come back to haunt her, and Steve vehemently believed that's what caused her marriage to fall apart, not the fact I had a right to know for sure if Grace and Charles were mine.
Thinking about Steve made me smile, so I stopped at a florist and went in to buy him some flowers. I knew it would freak him out. I wondered if he'd ever gotten flowers before. I'm not sure he'd ever been inside a florist shop, since his idea of romance was getting Catherine a box breakfast at Rainbow or playing foxhole and Navy rations - I wish I had brain cleanser to erase that "I got some last night" discussion from my memory. He was right; he should have dated guys, but then he might have found one before me, so I guess life does have a way of working things out.
"Can I help you?" A little lady with white hair was behind the counter.
"Yes. I need a dozen roses."
"We have plenty of those," she said cheerily. "What color?"
"Red. Gotta be red," I said, smiling. I was already picturing the look on Steve's face when I showed up with a dozen roses for his office.
"Would you like them arranged, in a vase?"
"That's probably a good idea. I don't think he's got any vases at his office."
"How long have you been together?" she asked. I don't know why but for some reason, I always expect little old ladies who look like my grandmother to spontaneously combust when someone talks about same sex couples.
"Four years," I said. "Well, I mean, like this? A few months."
"That took a while, didn't it?" she said mischievously.
"Let's just say I never waited for a girl that long."
"I bet you didn't, handsome," she teased, laughing.
"I don't think anybody ever got him flowers before."
"Men love to get flowers. Women don't often think about that. Of course, owning a flower shop for fifty years makes you think of it more," she said, gathering up twelve choice roses to go in Steve's bouquet. "You can pick a card there if you want to write him a note."
"I'm delivering these personally."
"We'll skip the baby's breath and just use some nice fern in with these. Keep it very manly."
"He's not really the baby's breath type, so that's probably a good plan."
"How about the black, modern-looking vase?" she asked, setting it on the counter top.
"My grandson is gay. He and his husband got married as soon as it was legal in Hawaii."
"That's nice. Steve and I are getting married. We don't have a date set, but neither one of us is going anywhere."
"My brother was gay. Needless to say, he had a lot worse time of it," she said, shaking her head as she arranged the roses and fern in the vase. I was kind of intrigued to watch how quickly and expertly she put them together until they looked like something out of a florist commercial.
"Was he with someone?"
"He was married to my sister-in-law for forty years. She didn't know. Well, he never told her. I think she knew. I'm not sure he ever had a happy day in his life."
"That's sad. Did they have kids?"
"Three, two boys and a girl."
"Then he had some happy days. I have a daughter, and she's the light of my life."
"Silly question, but do you have pictures?" she asked.
"Do I have pictures?" I repeated, taking out my phone.
I'd gotten more than a few looks as I made my way through headquarters to the Five-0 suite. I was grinning like an idiot carrying my big vase full of roses, and I wasn't sure it was possible to be in a better mood. When I reached my destination, Steve was in his office. I didn't see Chin or Kono, but my target was right where I wanted him. He was studying some file on his desk with his usual intensity. So I just blew in the door and destroyed his concentration.
"What's going on?" he asked, looking confused at the flowers. I set them on the desk.
"I love you." I stood there, grinning at him like the lovesick idiot I was.
"I love you, too," he said, smiling faintly, but he still looked puzzled. "Are those for me?" he asked cautiously, as if he feared they really were for someone else and he'd look silly for thinking I'd brought him flowers.
"Only you, Sexy Eyes," I said. Women usually threw their arms around the flower bearer and kissed them at this point. I was hoping it would affect Steve in a similar way. He just stared at the flowers, and then back at me.
"You got me flowers?"
Shit. He hated it and thought it was stupid.
"Why?" he asked, frowning.
"Because I love you and I was driving past a florist."
"If you're embarrassed by them, I'll get rid of them." I reached for the vase but he was out of his chair like a shot.
"No, don't do that. I just...nobody ever got me flowers before."
"I kinda thought so."
"Just for no reason?" he asked, smiling at me in that sweet way of his when all his feelings just hang out in his expression. I see more and more of that Steve the longer we're together. I think that guy had been stuffed down inside him for a while. He's been hurt a lot in his life, and I think that sweet, soft side of him shines through more and more now that he knows I'm not gonna hurt him, and I'm gonna kill any motherfucker who does.
"Because I love you and I wanna take you home and make love to you all night. Good enough?"
"Throw in some Chinese take out and that beats the hell out of most other occasions I can think of."
"You got it, babe," I said, pulling him into my arms.
"I can't believe you got me roses."
"Why not?" I asked, stepping back. I touched his cheek. "You're the love of my life, Steven. I like romancing you." He looked moved by that, and he kissed me. It was a nice one. I was a little out of breath when we were done.
"I suppose we could knock off work early."
"It's only two o'clock," I said, checking my watch.
"Yeah, early," he repeated, kissing me again. The way he was holding me and grinding against me made it obvious that flowers were not only the way to his heart, but the way to a quick hard-on, too. "Where do you think the term 'afternoon delight' came from?"
"We could do it here," I joked.
"You get the blinds on this side, I'll get those - "
"I was kidding! We're not having sex in your office. At least, not during business hours."
"Lock the door and with the blinds shut, who's gonna know?"
"What if Denning drops in? You want to explain to him why we stagger out of here all messed up and smelling like come?"
"If he needs me to explain that to him, he's in trouble." He kissed my neck. "I'm gonna slide my hands under your shirt, so unless you want the blinds open for that, go close the ones on your side."
"It's a glass door. Even if you close all the blinds -"
"Fine, you’re right," he sighed, disappointed, but he kept kissing my neck. "You get me going, Danno," he said, letting me go.
"Hold that thought, and let's go home and pick up where we left off."
"Yeah, let's go home." The way he said it let me know that having that home with me meant as much to him as it meant to me. Everything.
One summer Saturday, just a couple weeks before Gracie’s landmark thirteenth birthday, Steve said he had some things to do, and I took Grace out for the day. I always kind of dread it when she wants to go shopping for something, because I don't have the kind of money Rachel and Stan do, so I'm usually in the unhappy position of either not getting her the thing she wants, or having to get her a cheaper version of it than she's used to. Grace isn't stuck up or superficial, and she's never made me feel like I wasn't just as much her hero or that she loves me less because I don't have a big bank account.
I think she knew, from what she saw online and on the news and heard from her friends that I'd come closer to dying with Harper than I'd let on. The details of the torture he put me through were never really reported in so many words, but enough was discussed about what was found in his "chamber of horrors" on the vacant land he owned that most informed people could put two and two together.
I'd bought her the dress for the father-daughter dance the year before, and I hadn't worried about the price. I'd have sold a spare kidney to get her the one she wanted. I figured my credit card wouldn't exceed its limit even if she hit me with her best shot in the shopping department. She "needed" a new outfit for the big birthday party Rachel was throwing . I knew I'd get to take plenty of pictures like every other obsessed parent with smart phone. That is, if I could get in front of Steve long enough, while he was doing the same thing. We'd both have to compete with Rachel, and Stan if he hadn't left her yet. Grace had a lot of love around her, and I hoped it would stay that way - that the fucked up adults in her life would manage to get along so she could grow up happy.
She asked me to help her pick something out. She's getting old enough that we often don't agree, at least initially, on most clothing choices. And she knows I can't lay out the kind of money for clothes Rachel can. But I almost died not too long before that, and I think for all the sheltering we were all trying to do with her, she knew it, and she was glad I was alive. That put me on top of the world, and I'd have sold my soul to get her whatever she wanted. But it wasn't that she was after. She decided to make it a moment for us, and I was blown away, not for the first time, by how wise my little girl really is. Steve won't call her a child or a little girl. He refers to her as a young lady, usually preceded by adjectives like "bright", "mature", or "insightful." Or, to my delight, "a shorter, female Danny", because she never lets him off the hook for anything either. Their sparring doesn’t rise to anywhere near the level of mine with Steve, but she’s young yet. He has a lot to look forward to from both of us.
While we didn't agree on everything we looked at, we went back and forth until she tried on a pretty black and white print dress with solid black accents that we both agreed was the winner. She’d seemed very set on something black and white, I didn’t know why, but it looked nice on her, so I didn’t give it much thought. Since we were already in Macy's, I told her she really should have new shoes and a new purse to go with it. Judging by the squeal and hug I got, I knew I'd racked up a few extra dad points. She was still carrying little purses, so I could swing a big name one for a special occasion.
I had one more surprise in mind before we hit the food court for lunch. I stopped in front of one of the jewelry stores, and she looked confused.
"Are you looking for something for Grandma's birthday?" she asked.
"No, but I probably should be," I admitted. My mother's birthday was a couple weeks away, close to Grace's, and with everything that was going on, it had slipped my mind. I kept scanning the cases, and she followed me, doing the same. I'd know it when I saw it, the item I was looking for. And then it was there. "What do you think of that necklace?" I asked her, pointing at it. It was white gold, with white and black diamonds, in the shape of a bow. It was cute enough for my little girl but grown up enough for my almost teenage daughter.
"It's beautiful," she said, and I could tell she loved it.
"It would look good with your dress, don't you think?" I asked.
"What?" she asked, looking at me, her eyes wide. I gestured to the nearest salesperson, who approached us. She was a younger woman, in her twenties, pretty, blonde, dressed in a very conservative, professional looking black dress with just the right accents of their expensive jewelry.
"Can I help you?"
"Could we see the bow necklace? My daughter would like to try it on."
"Sure," she replied, smiling, taking the necklace out of the case. I'm not the most skilled necklace fastener on Earth, but I wanted to do it, and I managed. It looked beautiful on Grace. With all the risks I take in my work, if something happened to me, I wanted her to have something special from me that she'd still have even when she was older. Almost dying and leaving her had made an impression on me, too. While a diamond necklace wasn't all that came out of that, it was symbolic of what I'd hoped to achieve in that desperate moment when I wanted to write her a message before I died. If I ever had to leave her too soon, it would be something she could always remember me by.
She looked at it in the mirror. The sales girl was quickly punching numbers into the calculator with their various discounts and incentives. She turned it toward me so I could see the price while Grace was busy looking at the necklace. It was a little steep, but I could manage it.
"It's beautiful, Danno!" Gracie said, excited.
"We'll take it," I said, smiling when Grace hugged me. "Can she wear it?" I asked, and the woman behind the counter smiled.
"Of course. I'll put the box in the bag for you."
We had a late lunch/early dinner in the food court, but Grace spent more time looking at her necklace in the little mirror she carried in her purse than she did eating. The lights in the mall made it sparkle.
"I'm glad you like it, Gracie," I said, smiling as I dug into my Chinese food.
"I love it, Daddy. I'll wear it forever!"
I thought about all the jewelry and outfits and accessories that were in her future, and I smiled.
"Just wear it whenever you want, and think of your old dad when you do," I said. She got up and hugged me. I didn't expect that there in the mall from my composed, soon-to-be teenager.
"I love you, Danno."
"I love you, too, monkey."
"I'm glad you're okay."
"Me, too, Gracie." I had to see you grow up, go on your first date even though I never want you to date anyone until you're forty and even then I won't like it, see you graduate, go to college, become the remarkable woman I know you'll be. "I'm fine, and I'm gonna stay that way," I said as she let go. "And I'll always be here when you need me."
Just then, her phone rang. She answered it with a big grin.
“No, I didn’t forget. We’re going there next. Probably about half an hour,” she said.
“Is that Uncle Steve?” I asked, and she waved me off with a frown. I just stared at her as if to ask, “What did you just do?” I wondered what aliens had taken possession of my moments-earlier sweet, loving daughter. As soon as she finished the call, she turned her attention back to me.
“We have to stop by your place on the way to Uncle Steve’s.”
“That was Uncle Steve?”
“Yeah, but he said not to give you the phone because he was busy and you’d have a bunch of questions.”
“He’s right, I do have a bunch of questions. What are you two up to? It’s not my birthday, so I know it’s not a surprise party.”
“Just trust us,” she said, smiling a little evilly. Now I was really going to go nuts, and the little she-devil my daughter had just turned into, knew it. I had my phone out in an instant, and she put her hand on my wrist to stop me from dialing. “Daddy, come on, Uncle Steve’s got a lot to do and you’re gonna spoil it.”
I sighed, looking at the phone that felt like the potential oracle of wisdom for getting to the bottom of this thing, and then back at Gracie, who looked as if the world depended on my not calling Steve. I relented and put the phone away.
“Do we have time to finish our food?”
“Probably not all of it,” she said, sitting down and digging into her food. “We should leave in about ten minutes.”
“Wow. Okay. Let me have an egg roll for the road then.”
“Uncle Steve was very clear about what time he wants us to do what we’re supposed to do.”
“Uncle Steve usually is. Welcome to my world.”
When we arrived at my rental house, which was almost empty of personal effects and only mine for another week or so, Grace gathered up the shopping bags with her new clothes, shoes, and handbag as we got out of the car.
“You might as well take that stuff to Uncle Steve’s,” I said. “We’ve cleared almost everything out of your room here.”
“Just trust me, Danno,” she said, as if my input was not only unnecessary, but getting on her nerves. Between her and Steve, I would probably never be allowed to make a decision again in my life. I should have been bothered by that, but it was oddly warming, albeit in a slightly unsettling way.
When we walked in the front door, my dress uniform was hung, covered with a plastic garment bag, on the outside of the closet by the door. A Post-It note was attached to it bearing Steve’s handwriting. “Just wear it and don’t interrogate Gracie.”
I thought I had it figured out now. This must be some kind of surprise party to celebrate my promotion. The ceremony was nice; Grace had pinned the new shield on this very uniform a couple weeks earlier, and we’d all gone out for a fancy dinner afterwards - Steve, Grace, and me - but maybe this was a party. It was all I could think of, and it made sense.
It had been a warm day and I was a little sweaty so I decided to take a shower. While I was in the master bathroom, I heard the shower going in the other bathroom, followed by the blow dryer, so I knew Grace was getting ready for this occasion, too, whatever it was. When I walked into the bedroom, there was a small bag from Macy’s on the bed that hadn’t been there before, with a sealed note attached to it. I opened the envelope that had my name on it in Steve’s handwriting.
“Wear this, too. You know what it does to me, and you’re out of it at home.”
I pulled a bottle of Ralph Lauren Polo Red cologne out of the bag. Yeah, that did have a nice aphrodisiac effect on him the last time I’d worn it. Not sure why he wanted to be horny during a party for my promotion, but who was I to deny him - or his sneaky little accomplice - what they asked for?
I emerged from the bedroom about the same time Gracie came out of her room, and I was a little stunned. She looked so grown up in her new dress, wearing her black shoes with the Dad-approved low heels and carrying her small black purse with the big black flower on it she’d chosen. Her hair was swept up and she had on the diamond stud earrings Rachel had gotten for her a year or so earlier and, of course, the new necklace I’d just gotten her at the mall.
“You look really handsome, Daddy,” she said, smiling. I guess I was just staring at her. It was hard to believe I’d had a part in producing such a beautiful girl, or that she was really growing up so fast.
“I would tell you that you look like a princess, but that’s what I told you when you were a little girl,” I said, smiling. “You look beautiful, Gracie. You’ll be the prettiest girl there...at whatever it is we’re going to,” I added, and she beamed at me. “We should probably go. I assume we’re running late according to Uncle Steve’s itinerary.”
“Seventeen minutes,” she said, nodding solemnly.
“He really did give you an itinerary?” I asked, raising my eyebrows. She nodded again. “Dear God,” I muttered.
“We need to go. Uncle Steve said use the lights if you have to. He just called,” she explained.
“That’s nice, but where am I going?”
“To Uncle Steve’s.”
“Where else?” I asked rhetorically, shrugging, as we headed out to the car.
It seemed like there were more cars lining the street just before we got to the house, but not much activity around the house itself. It was dark, so I hadn’t really noticed the make and model of all of them. I knew Chin, Kono, and Max were parked a ways back, because I knew their plate numbers. Max’s yellow Camaro with the “Warp 9" license plate was kind of hard to miss. I’m surprised Steve didn’t make him put a tarp over it or something. I didn’t say anything to Grace; she’d been working so hard to be Steve’s perfect accomplice, and she’d done a great job. I was clueless, and I had no idea just how clueless.
We pulled into the driveway and I told Grace to wait in the car. I got out and went around to the passenger side and opened her door, extending my hand.
“Any guy who doesn’t do this for you, doesn’t get to take you on a second date. When you start dating in twenty or thirty years,” I added, and she laughed, taking my hand and getting out of the car. We went up to the front door and I turned the knob, but it was locked. “Seriously? He’s locking the door on me for my own party?”
“How do you know it’s a party?” Grace asked.
“Gracie, you’ve done an amazing job carrying out all of Uncle Steve’s sneaky little plans, but I know something’s going on,” I said, gesturing at my dress uniform.
“Yes, but you don’t have a clue,” she said, giggling.
“I don’t, huh?”
“Nope,” she said, rocking back on her heels, still grinning at me.
“You and Uncle Steve are a dangerous pair.” I unlocked the door and stuck the keys back in my pocket, and opened it. The house was dark, and no one jumped out and yelled surprise. “You’re sure we’re supposed to be here?”
“I’m sure,” she confirmed, nodding calmly. “Come on, Danno. Don’t turn on any lights.” I knew the layout of the house well enough to know where I was going, even though I couldn’t see a whole lot. Most of the curtains and blinds were closed. We went out on the lanai, and I stopped short when I saw Steve standing there in his white dress uniform. He had the porch lit up brightly so I couldn’t really see much beyond it. He looked so good I couldn’t believe it.
“What are you doing?” I asked, smiling, but confused. He got down on one knee.
“You never gave me another chance to do this right, so now you’re gonna stand there and let me say my piece.” He took my hand. “From the first moment you barged into my life with a gun pointed at me, I knew I always wanted you around.”
“I barged into your life? You were contaminating my crime scene!” I heard some odd sounds that almost sounded like people laughing. I strained my eyes to see beyond the porch into the shadows of the yard. Something was moving out there. I was torn between going for my gun and calling Steve out on what he was really doing.
“Are you gonna let me finish?”
“I’m all ears,” I said.
“You’re my best friend, and I could never tell you how much you and your beautiful daughter have added to my life. I’m so honored to have a chance to be part of her life, too, and to stand by you while we watch her grow up. I love you, Danny. Will you marry me?”
I was choked up. I didn’t want to lose it, especially not in front of the Hawaiian shadow people or whatever was lurking on the lawn. I also didn’t want to treat the beautiful proposal he’d just made with a joke. Even though we were already engaged and if he didn’t know by now that I’d marry him and be here forever, he was never gonna know it.
“I’m counting on it, babe.”
“Will you marry me tonight?” he added, smiling that big smile of his at me. Just then, strings of multi-colored lanterns started lighting up across the entire span of the property, and I could see there was a crowd out there. When I saw my mom and dad, my sisters, and my nephew at the front of that crowd, I almost fainted dead away. I knew no one, including Steve, would let me live that down.
“What have you done?” I asked in a whisper, stunned. Grace was standing nearby, giggling again. “You were in on this,” I accused her affectionately, and Steve confirmed it.
“I couldn’t have pulled any of this off without my co-conspirator. Danny, I need an answer here.”
“Yes, I’ll marry you tonight,” I replied, and that brought a thunderous round of applause from our guests - I estimated there were about fifty or so of them out there on the lantern-lit lawn - and Steve stood up and grabbed me in a hug that was intense and enveloping, even for him. “If you lift me off my feet in front of all these people, I will kill you before the vows ever happen,” I whispered in his ear, and he laughed out loud before pulling back and kissing me.
“Hey, you’re supposed to do that after you get married,” Grace corrected. We parted, both laughing.
We headed out on the lawn so we could mingle with our guests. I still wasn't sure when we were exchanging vows or how this whole event was going to play out, but so far, it was like something out of a fantasy. It was a nice evening with a refreshing breeze coming off the water, the yard looked like something out of a fairy tale with all the colored lanterns and white lights wrapped around the branches of most of the trees. A DJ was playing some subtle instrumental stuff, romantic piano music mostly.
I hugged my mom and dad. I thought it was a little weird Steve had told them without me, but I supposed he didn't have much choice if he was going to surprise me.
"You're okay with this?" I asked them in a hushed voice. Steve and Grace were talking with Mary and Steve's Aunt Deb, who looked remarkably well considering her condition. Even Joanie was dressed in a ruffled dress with a headband that held a big flower.
"It's not like we hadn't figured it out, even before your mother dragged it out of Grace," my dad said.
"Grace told you?" I asked, surprised.
"We were Skyping," my mother said, shrugging. "I just asked her how she felt about you two being together, and she was ecstatic about it and just assumed I knew. It was kind of sneaky but she still doesn't know she spilled the beans, so don't tell her. When Steve got this idea for a surprise wedding, and he was worrying about how to handle things with us, Grace told him we already knew. Don't worry, I told Steve how I found out so he doesn't think you told us without him."
"Dad...I know this isn't what you expected with me - "
"It took a little getting used to, but Grace is over the moon about this, and it's obvious Steve loves her like his own daughter. Looking around at what he did here to make this happen, it's pretty obvious how he feels about you, too, and I think you're overdue to find the kind of happiness I've had with your mother all these years. As long as he's good to you and our granddaughter, he's a welcome addition to the family."
I hugged him again. He didn't seem to mind. Our family is kind of a bunch of huggers at holidays and family gatherings.
"Thanks, Dad." I turned to my sisters and we did a big three-way hug. Emily, my nephew, Eric's mother, looks a lot like my mom - long blonde curls, pretty, with big blue eye and a bright smile. I love her, even if she did lock me in the closet when we were kids. Lisa, the oldest of the bunch of us, looks more like Matty and managed to avert the marriage disasters both Emily and I suffered through. She’s single, a successful ad executive who couldn't understand the lure of marriage and children. Matty couldn't, either, but his reasons for staying unattached were a lot more unsavory than hers.
"He's fucking gorgeous," Lisa whispered in my ear, and I cracked up. She always was the most rebellious of all of us, which was saying something because I liked to think I was a bad ass when I was a teenager. I think everything I tried, Lisa had already done, and probably was better at getting away with it.
"Yeah, I think so, too."
"Any special reason you were holding out on us?" Emily asked as we all parted.
"We weren't together...together until just recently," I said.
"Seriously? It took you that long?" Lisa shook her head. "I'd have been on that a lot sooner," she added, craning her neck to get another look at Steve. "Good thing all your waiting around didn't cost you the farm."
"I thought you were the one who wasn't into marriage," I said.
"Who said anything about marriage?"
"Don't get any ideas. He's mine and I'm not sharing."
"Rachel and Stan aren't here," Emily said. "Things are back to being strained between you guys?" she asked. Emily and Rachel had always hit it off and enjoyed each other's company whenever we all got together. Maybe it was a shared desire to lock me in a dark place for an extended time that brought them together...
"Kind of. It's a long story. I don't want to get into it tonight."
“Good God, before I go home, let’s get a couple bottles of wine and you can tell me what she did this time. I need a new reason to want to wipe that snooty little smirk off her face,” Lisa said.
"I can't get over how grown up Grace looks! She's just lovely, Danny," Emily said.
“That was a delicate subject change, Em,” Lisa said, laughing. “I know you’re a tough guy now, but I didn’t let bullies pick on you when you were little, and I don’t like it any better now,” Lisa said to me, linking her arm through mine. I had called her and unloaded a lot of misery on her when Rachel dumped me the second time to go back to Stan. I wondered if she’d get into a full-on cat fight with her if she knew the latest story. Lisa had actually taught me how to throw a punch and go for the groin before my dad got around to doing it. They were valuable skills for a little kid who’s shorter than everybody else and is the natural target for the bullies. I had her to thank for establishing myself as the meanest little SOB on the playground when it came to some oversized idiot trying to push me around. “Am I going to want to kick her whiny little ass when I hear this one?”
“Probably,” I said, laughing.
“I know how much she’s put you through, kiddo,” she said. “But I also knew when you told me about Steve being in jail, you felt worse about that than anything Rachel could possibly do to you. I just hoped you didn’t get hurt too much by feeling that way about your partner. I’m glad you didn’t.”
“It was worth what it took to get here,” I said, and she hugged me.
“I’m so happy for you,” she said, stepping back. “And you’re right, Em, Gracie is stunning. She looks like her Aunt Lisa,” she said, and we all laughed, but Lisa was right. Grace’s brunette beauty didn’t all come from Rachel. She did bear a pretty good resemblance to Lisa, and she had her strength and her attitude.
"Yeah, she’s a Williams, all right,” I agreed, and nothing made me happier than saying that and knowing it was true in every possible way. “Hey, how's he doing?" I asked Emily about Eric, who was turning his questionable charm on some pretty young woman I didn’t recognize. I hated to tell him, but she was probably the date of one of the cops there, and that wasn’t a good way to have a pleasant evening, hitting on a cop’s girlfriend.
"Getting solid B's, going to his classes," Emily said, smiling. "It's community college so I’m not sure how he’ll do when he transfers to a university next year, but it's a start, and he's doing so much better than before he came out here to visit."
"When I visited for Dad's birthday, he was doing good then, but I wasn't sure if it would last. Just make sure you tell him the gravy train’s cut off unless he goes someplace where he can live at home. If he goes away to a party school, forget it."
"I already thought of that. Let’s just hope he keeps up the good work," she said, crossing her fingers.
Steve and Grace joined us, and we visited for a few minutes. Lisa and Emily had met Steve when they first arrived, and I'd told my family about him over the years, but they both asked a few more questions about his family and his Navy SEAL days, which also piqued my dad's interest. He's always up for a good military story.
Mary, Joanie, and Aunt Deb joined our group, and it was great having my family and Steve's mingled together like that. Steve got me a glass of wine because I hadn't gotten to the bar yet since he'd sprung his surprise. Chin, Kono, and Adam gathered with us, too, and Steve flagged down the photographer he'd hired for the event to come over our way and take some photos. Grace was well ahead of both of them with that idea, taking all sorts of pictures of us with her phone.
"Deb, you look fantastic," I said to her. And she did. She's a classy lady with a huge personality. A little thing like cancer couldn't dampen that.
"Ah, ah, it's Aunt Deb since you're marrying my favorite nephew."
"He's your only nephew."
"Well, that's how he got the title, then," she replied, smiling.
"How are you feeling?" I've never been big on skirting the elephant in the room.
"I have my good days and my not so good days, but overall, not bad. The pipes still work, and I couldn't turn down an invitation to sing at your wedding."
"You're singing for us? That's fantastic!"
"Just one song, but I'll make it a blinger," she said, squeezing my hand.
"I don't doubt it." I watched, stunned, as Kamekona approached the girl Eric had been chatting up and she linked her arm through his. I elbowed Steve. “The big guy’s doing all right for himself,” I whispered.
“She works for one of the shrimp distributors he uses. They’ve been going out a few weeks now.”
“You didn’t think to mention that?” I asked.
“He just told me when I called him about tonight. I’ve been a little busy, Danno,” he replied, grinning. We moved away from the family group so we could have a moment alone.
“This is amazing, babe. I don’t know how you pulled it off, but...” I was kind of at a loss to say anything else.
“It’s not easy surprising a detective, but a Navy SEAL can handle it.”
“Really? You think your covert skills are sharper than mine?”
“Obviously,” he said, gesturing around us.
“Only you would turn a surprise wedding into one-upsmanship.”
“You have other extraordinary skills that make up for it,” he said, sliding his arms around me, looking at me like I was everything in the world.
“I’ll show you,” I joked, kissing him.
“You’ve got the rest of our lives to outdo me on this.”
“Don’t think I won’t try.”
“I’m counting on it,” he replied, kissing me again.
“Should we get started before you two get the honeymoon going out here?” Kono asked. We hadn’t even noticed her approach. Now it was obvious why Grace was so set on a black and white outfit. Kono was wearing something very similar.
“Kono’s standing up for us, with Gracie,” he said.
“What about Chin?” I asked Steve.
“What about him? He’s here.”
“But not standing up for us. His choice or yours?”
“He doesn’t approve of our relationship. You want me to ask him to stand up for us at our wedding? I don’t think so.”
“He never said that,” I argued.
“I’ll leave you two to hash this out. For what it’s worth, Chin’s not expecting to stand up for you guys,” Kono added. “He understands why.”
“This is bullshit.”
“Don’t ‘Danny’ me, this is bullshit, Steven. You guys are gonna settle this now or we’re not doing this tonight.”
“What? You’re not serious!”
“Oh, yeah, I’m serious. We’re family. Ohana. You, me, and Chin, we’re going in the house and we’re gonna have this out. It gets resolved now.”
“I can’t believe you’re doing this,” Steve said, and he looked hurt. Well, that made me feel bad, but this was a situation I couldn’t live with. Chin and Steve were like brothers, and Steve was best man at Chin’s wedding. It made me sick inside and I didn’t want something making me sick inside on the happiest night of my life.
“Kono said you two wanted to talk to me?” Chin approached us.
“Yeah, we’re going inside,” I said, leading the way. I assumed they’d follow, and they did. Once we were inside with the door closed, I looked at the two of them. “Let’s get this settled, because I’m not getting married with a dark cloud hanging over us.”
“Settle what?” Chin asked.
“Oh, my God, you’re worse than he is!” I threw up my hands. I was pissed. This was supposed to be a magical, once in a lifetime night, and those two were gonna play games.
“Danny, I understand why Steve didn’t ask me to be his best man. I was a little uptight with the whole mixing business with romance thing, and I probably could have said it better than I did.”
“See, he’s being reasonable. Now it’s your turn.” I waited and Steve gaped at me.
“To do what?”
“What do you need him to say to get this out of your craw?”
“It’s not in my craw. I just don’t feel the way you want me to feel about having a best man who thinks I should kick you off Five-0.”
“Look, it took some getting used to, okay? But when we were looking for Danny, you held it together and you ran the search and we didn’t do anything differently because it was your life partner instead of your cop partner who was missing. Well, except for ripping your vest off at the scene and kissing the victim, but for the most part...” he concluded, shrugging, smiling a bit.
“I don’t want you to say what you think I want to hear so you can placate Danny and keep the wedding on track,” Steve said.
“I’m not doing that. If you were gonna lose it and be unable to manage a case because of your feelings for Danny, it would have been in that situation. That didn’t happen.” He paused. “It’s not always easy to admit you’ve changed your opinion. Plus, I thought there was a little more time for us to talk, before this just happened all of a sudden, for tonight. I thought it was a nice idea for Kono and Grace to stand up for you guys, and I didn’t see a reason to make this about me.”
“So you’re comfortable now with Danny staying on with Five-0?” Steve asked, looking like he was still a bit skeptical that Chin really meant what he said, that he wasn’t just trying to avoid destroying the wedding.
“Yes, I am. I would be a lot less comfortable with him leaving because then you’d start driving my car every day,” he said, grinning.
“Can you two make up now?” I asked. “It’s getting late and I wanna get married.”
“We’ve got room up front with Kono and Gracie,” Steve said, extending his hand. Chin shook it and they hugged briefly.
“I hate to tell you this, brah, but after tonight, you’re never gonna get your way again,” he stage-whispered to Steve.
“I’ve only occasionally gotten my way over the last four years, only now I get a hell of a lot more fringe benefits for it.”
“Holy shit, I can’t believe you said that,” I replied, laughing, covering my face with one hand.
Once Chin had gone back outside, I looked at Danny and wondered how he really felt about all this. Springing a surprise wedding on him was a risk; I knew he might hate the idea. While it was exceedingly rare for me to have to ask for Danny's opinion, I asked for it then.
"I hope this is really all okay with you," I said, gesturing toward the backyard and all the guests milling around out there.
"Nobody's ever done anything like this for me before. I've had a couple surprise birthday parties in my life, but that was when I was a kid." He smiled at me, one of his wide ones where you can see his teeth. "This is off the charts, man. You had to be planning this for weeks."
"A couple. The first piece kind of fell into place when I found out your mom knew. Grace said something about talking to Clara and how happy she was about it, so I called Clara to find out what was going on, and she said she'd told your dad already. I never would have told them behind your back, Danny."
"I thought that was kind of weird, but if you had, I know you'd have done it with good intentions, given what's going on here."
"I wouldn't get between you and your folks like that. When I talked to Clara, I had the idea to just surprise you with the whole thing, and she loved the idea and said she'd round up the family. She worked with Kamekona on the catering arrangements, Kono found me the DJ, and I gave Gracie the hardest job of all - managing you until everything was in place."
"Oh, managing me was the hardest job?"
"Pretty much. The rest is just making arrangements and some elbow grease."
"It's all amazingly beautiful, Steven." He took my hands. "The music, the lanterns -"
"I did the lanterns myself," I said, smiling. I was proud of myself. The yard looked romantic and magical. I was kind of surprised at how good it turned out.
"You in your dress uniform," he said, still holding my hands. He looked pretty damned edible himself in his dress blues.
"I love you, Danno."
"I know that," he said, looking at our joined hands. "You know what I'm thinking about right now?"
I really hoped it wasn't the day when he thought I'd ask him for a divorce.
"What, mea aloha?"
"That I have everything I ever wanted, and I'm the happiest guy alive."
"What a coincidence," I said, barely able to speak past the lump in my throat. The guy who'd thought about the day his wife was going to dump him on his first wedding day gave me an answer like that one. "I don't think I could tell you how happy you make me, Danny. You and Gracie."
"So how is this operation going down, anyway?" he asked, and I laughed.
"You've seen the archway out there, obviously."
"Yeah, I figured that was there for a reason."
"On my signal, we'll have the right music, the minister will be in position, and Kono and Grace will start our procession."
"On your signal? When does the SWAT Team move in?"
"Only if you try to leave before you marry me, smart ass," I said, sliding my arms around him and pulling him close. "If that happens, I deploy SWAT, SEAL Team 9, and the entire HPD, including the canine tracking units."
"So it's just the marriage version of the first time you recruited me as a partner."
"More or less." I kissed him. "See, I told you we'd get along great," I joked, resting my forehead against his.
"We don't get along at all, but I'm still in love with you."
"I'll take that as a win, then," I said.
"We follow Gracie and Kono, then?"
"Sort of. Clara's gonna to walk up with you and Aunt Deb's gonna to walk up with me."
"That's really nice," he said. I had hoped he'd like the idea. I did. We had about as much of the fragmented and shattered McGarrett family assembled as we were gonna get, blended with the Williams clan all the way from New Jersey. It seemed like we should draw them into the wedding as much as we could. "I'm glad Aunt Deb could make it. She said she was singing."
"After the ceremony, she's going to do one song for us. Danny, she started chemo."
"What? I thought she wasn't going to fight it."
"She said she wanted longer with her family. Mary's trying to talk her into moving out here, moving in with her and Joanie."
"Think she'll do it?"
"I hope so."
"I'll just have to turn my irresistible charm on her and convince her," Danny joked.
"Worked on me, didn't it?"
"I guess it did," he agreed, laughing.
"Danny..." I noticed Rachel at the back door, about to tap on it when I spotted her.
He opened the door, and Rachel stepped in, holding a small wrapped package.
"I thought we should start working on burying the hatchet, for Grace's sake," she said, holding out the box that was wrapped in silver and white paper with a big matching fabric bow that looked like it was professionally done.
"Thanks, Rachel," Danny said, accepting it.
"Whatever you said to Stan, must have worked. We're going to give it another try. He's moving back in."
"I'm glad. You're going to stay?"
"If that's all right with both of you. Otherwise I can just come back and pick up Grace."
"No, you're welcome to stay, Rachel," Steve said. "I think you're right. We need to get things back on an even keel for Grace...and for all of us. It'll be better."
"All right, then. I'll go back out and have a drink with the other guests. I didn't mean to intrude," she said.
"You didn't," Danny said. "Thank you for the gift. I'm glad you and Stan are working things out. I really do want you to be happy, Rachel."
"It's good for us both to be happy, finally, even if we couldn't make that happen with each other."
Danny hugged her, but it was the brief, fleeting embrace you give a friend you wish well. After she went back outside, I was glad to see no trace of sadness or melancholy in Danny. It wasn't because that would have made me jealous - well, maybe a little - but because I was so glad to see him really happy. Happy enough that even Rachel couldn't dampen it.
Still smiling, he said, “I hope Lisa doesn’t shove her into the wedding cake.”
“There’s a danger of that?” I asked, laughing at the mental image. It would almost be worth losing the cake... “Maybe I should say, is there a real chance for that?” I asked hopefully, and he laughed, hard.
“Lisa is my big sister in every sense of the word. Messing with me is the fastest way to shoot to the top of her shit list. She never did care much for Rachel.”
“How about me?”
“You definitely got the stamp of approval,” he said.
"So, you ready to do this thing, Boo Boo?" I asked.
"The first time I got married, I was so nervous I threw up before the ceremony."
"I don't want vomit on my good uniform, Danny. You need to make a pit stop first?"
"No," he replied, laughing.
"Wait, I thought you hadn't puked since 1996," I said, frowning.
"My wedding didn't count. Extenuating circumstances."
"And you complained about going undercover as a defense lawyer."
"I'm not nervous tonight," he said, taking my hand. "I'm gonna put a ring on your finger and then you're mine forever. That doesn't make me nervous, Sexy Eyes. It makes me happy." He paused. "You have rings, right?"
"Yeah, I have rings. Well, Kono has them since she's my best man."
"There's so much wrong with that statement that I don't have time to go into it."
"That's right, you don't. We're late for our own wedding."
"I don't have vows written. Are we doing the traditional ones?"
"Well, yeah, but I thought we could...say something original."
"You probably have notes on neatly printed index cards."
"No, I don't have anything written down. Don't need it."
"I guess I don't have to write that down, either."
"Then we're good."
"Yeah, we're good. Let's do this."
There was something nice and classical coming over the speakers and a light breeze making all those colored lanterns sway a little. I could hear the waves underscoring all of it, see the moonlight on the water just beyond the beach. Gracie started the procession up to where the minister was standing. Kono and Chin followed her. I was up next, with my mom there, linking her arm through mine. I smiled at her.
"You look so handsome," she said. "More important, I've never seen you look so happy."
"I don't think I've ever been this happy," I agreed. She touched my cheek.
"No cold sweat, either," she said, winking at me.
"Showtime," I said, and she laughed, squeezing my arm, as we made our way up front. There were a lot of happy familiar faces on either side of the aisle. We didn't have formal rows of chairs, because as soon as we exchanged our vows, the DJ would be changing the tempo of things so our guests could dance, mingle, and eat more hardily from the buffet.
I waited up front, and then I was watching Steve walking toward me with Aunt Deb on his arm. He wasn't just handsome, he was breathtaking. Steve's gorgeous in a t-shirt and shorts, but in his white uniform, the way he carries himself when he wears it...just...wow. And then he got close enough to me that we were looking right at each other, and his whole expression changed and he smiled at me and looked at me with so much love that it just blew me away.
I know the minister said some things, but it was like I couldn't focus on it. Steve was standing in front of me, we were holding hands, and we were getting married. For some reason, I started thinking about the first time I saw him, our guns pointed at each other, standing in the garage of this house, where we were staring our lives together. I thought he was an arrogant pain in the ass, but even so, there had been some kind of spark there I couldn’t explain.
"I guess I'll go first," Steve said, and I realized I must have missed the cue to say something. The vows we hadn't written. I hoped I could wing it and not embarrass myself, or him. I smiled at him, leaving those two poor clueless guys with their guns pointed at each other in my memories, in the past. I much preferred the way Steve was looking at me now, to how he looked at me then.
"When I came back to Hawaii, it wasn’t for a happy reason. That day I was in the garage, when we met, I just wanted to get to the bottom of my dad’s case and then get out of here again, because it wasn’t home anymore. I know adjusting to this place was hard for you, and getting used to it again was hard for me, too. I grew up here, I love the place and the customs and the people...but after being away, my family gone, I didn’t want to be here, either. I did my best intimidation routine, and you didn’t budge. You stood there with your gun aimed at me, and you didn’t care who I was or what rank I held. I wasn’t leaving with evidence from your crime scene, even if it was my house. I had to accept the offer to form the Five-0 task force just to get around you.”
I laughed at that, and so did most of our guests.
“That’s what made me decide you had to be my partner, because you were so stubborn and you weren’t afraid of the devil himself.”
“You’re putting yourself on par with the devil, now?” I asked, which made Steve laugh.
“That’s not entirely the whole story.” He looked at our joined hands, and talked to them for a moment. “I always thought love at first sight was a whole lot of romantic BS, but I can’t explain it any other way. I didn’t know what it was, but I knew I had to have you in my life. And that’s why, sometimes, you felt like I was intruding on you or snooping on you or sticking my nose in where it didn’t belong.” He looked into my eyes, and his eyes were moist and I hated that we were in front of a crowd. I just wanted to go somewhere private with him and say all these things...tell him how much repair work he’d done on my shattered life in the last four years. “I didn’t know how else to handle what I felt because I didn’t know what it was. I had a sneaky feeling, but the way we met, the fact you were a man...I figured it couldn’t be that. But it was, and you did let me into your life, let me meet and get to know your beautiful daughter. You’re the best friend I ever had, and it was because of you and with you that I built a new life here, and it became home again. We have a future here in the house I grew up in, in a place I love. I think you love it, too, even though you’ll never let me drag that out of you in so many words. If someday, you really can’t stand it anymore, I’ll follow you somewhere else, because you taught me that home isn’t a place, it’s a person. You’re my home, Danny, wherever we are, and I’ll love you for the rest of my life, and whatever comes after, because, make no mistake, whatever or wherever that is? I will hunt you down there, too.”
I struggled with my emotions, and it was all I could do to not just throw my arms around him and hold on and forget everyone else there.
“What you said about feeling something when we met? It’s funny because that’s what I was thinking about when I wasn’t paying attention a few minutes ago,” I admitted, and he smiled, squeezing my hands. “I felt it, too, and I didn’t understand it because I didn’t even like you.” That made him laugh, and I heard laughter from our guests. “It felt weird to have you kind of sticking yourself into my life like you did, but it felt...right, too. When we’d sit and talk about things, the really important things, it was like I’d known you forever, and I told you things I never told anybody else. Still haven’t. I don’t trust people right off, but I trusted you. You treated me like family and you took a whole lot of...pieces and stuck them back together and they turned into something beautiful. This isn’t what I had planned, but it’s more than I ever thought I could have. I guess that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense... I love you, Steven, and I always will. You’ll never have to hunt me down, because I don’t ever want to go where you can’t be with me.”
The minister guided us through the traditional vows. Steve went first, with the minister prompting him here and there like they usually do.
“I, Steve McGarrett, take you, Danny Williams, to be my husband. To have and to hold, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, honor, and cherish,”
“Until death do us part,” the minister concluded, and waited, smiling.
“Let’s just say forever,” Steve said. “That good for you?” he asked me, and I nodded, smiling at him, trying not to blubber like an idiot since my turn was coming. “Forever,” he stated firmly.
I guess I was out of order, since I didn’t wait for the minister. I knew the words. I’d never forget hearing Steve’s voice saying them to me. So I just repeated them, to him.
“I, Danny Williams, take you, Steve McGarrett, to be my husband. To have and to hold, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, honor, and cherish...forever,” I concluded, and his smile widened, though a moment before, I hadn’t thought that was possible. Did I mention how fucking hot he looked in that white dress uniform? I wondered how long we had to stay at the reception before I could rip it off him and make love to him until dawn. It’s weird how hard it is when you see the person you love get emotional not to just do what comes naturally and hold him. I was dying to hold him, kiss him, whisper in his ear the things too personal for other people to hear.
Chin handed Steve the ring, and Steve took my hand. My breath caught in my throat and I must have swayed a little, because Steve had me by both shoulders.
“You okay, Danno?” he whispered.
“Just kind of a big moment,” I said. “Get that ring on me so I can kiss you pretty soon, okay?” I asked, still whispering.
“The impatience, it’s a Jersey thing,” he teased.
“No, it’s a you thing. Never can get enough of you, babe.”
“Are we ready to continue?” the minister asked. He was a friendly-looking older man, and there was no reproach in his voice. He seemed to be getting a kick out of us.
Steve took my hand again and started sliding the ring on my finger.
“With this ring, I thee wed,” he said.
I just stared into his eyes, feeling like everyone else disappeared until Grace tapped my arm and handed me the ring to put on Steve’s finger. They were plain gold bands, just like we’d agreed on. I don’t know why I seemed to be seeing our lives flashing before my eyes, first the past, and now the future. Those rings would witness our life together, still be on our fingers when they were too old and frail to hold guns or duke it out with the bad guys anymore. When we’d been together decades and were more in love that we were at that moment, though I couldn’t figure how you could love someone more and still breathe.
I took the ring and held his hand, and slid it on his finger as I said, “With this ring, I thee wed.”
The minister pronounced us married, and Steve and I fortunately were sharp enough to take our uniform hats off, Steve handing his to Chin while I held mine in the general direction of Grace and she was quick enough to grab it. I could try to describe that kiss, but there aren’t words. It was joy, commitment, passion, love, everything that’s good in the world and more than I ever thought I’d have. People were clapping and cheering, either for the romance of it or to acknowledge our endurance, because it was a long one. I kind of thought maybe they’d all get the idea and have gone home by the time we parted, but they were all still there, clapping and cheering for us. When the kiss was over I held onto Steve in an embrace so tight I’m sure I was wrinkling his pristine uniform.
“I love you, Sexy Eyes,” I said, and I felt the rumble of his laugh.
“I love you, too, Boo Boo.”
“I’m really glad you pushed your way into my life.”
“Me, too,” he said, pulling back a little. We were both misty-eyed and emotional; we’d traveled such a long, difficult road to get here. He touched my cheek and just looked at me for a long moment.
“What? Do I have hat hair now?” I asked, and he laughed.
“No, it’s perfect. I was just wondering how long before I could get you naked and mess it up.”
“There’s that spot behind the bushes...” He laughed out loud then and hugged me again.
We mingled with our guests, and I loved having Danny by my side and knowing we were married. I couldn’t remember ever seeing Danny quite as happy as he was then, all smiles and gestures and animation and energy. I swear if I ever want Danny to shut up, I’ll handcuff his hands behind his back. No need for the gag. I don’t think he’s capable of saying two words without his hands in motion.
I’m so in love with that; with him.
The food was good, the music was good, and the company was great. Our friends and family were there, and it was one of the rare moments when the Williams and the McGarrett clans were actually blended and hanging out together. Mary was talking up a storm with Danny’s sisters, Emily and Lisa, and Joanie was being smothered with attention from them as well as Aunt Deb, who was chattering away with Danny’s parents. I didn’t know how much more time chemo would buy her, but I hoped it was some, and I hoped she would agree to move to Hawaii. Grace was talking with Eric and they were laughing about something under the watchful eye of Rachel, who had a bit of a smile on her face. I couldn’t blame her for watching out for what Eric would tell Grace, being he seemed to be the resident mischief maker of the family.
Adam and Kono were spending time with Chin and his date, Leilani, the nurse he’d met at Halawa. I hoped for his sake that would lead somewhere. Chin liked being married, and I think he’d like to do it again someday. I don’t know if I could survive losing Danny. If I did, I can’t picture ever wanting anyone else. I can’t picture breathing or caring about anything. I admire Chin’s strength; he survived, and he’s gone on with his life. That takes guts.
Having Aunt Deb sing a duet with Nicky Demarco was probably the closest I was gonna come to feeling my dad’s presence there. I don’t know if he could have rejoiced and danced at my wedding to another man. There were so many things I never got to talk to my dad about as a kid growing up, let alone as an adult. I like to think he’d have come around, that he’d have been happy for me, that he’d have come to love Danny like another son. I know they would have liked each other as cops.
In addition to my usual assortment of outdoor furniture, I’d had some tables and chairs set up. Aunt Deb and Nicky had their microphones on mic stands up near the archway where we’d exchanged our vows. Aunt Deb insisted she didn’t need a chair, that the day she couldn’t stand up long enough to belt out a song would truly be among her last.
Danny and I sat at a small table with Adam, Kono, and Grace. I held Danny's hand; I couldn't take my eyes off the shiny gold band on his finger. He looked at me and smiled.
"Over the years, I've learned quite a catalog of music," Aunt Deb said. "So when Steve sprang this wedding on all of us at a moment's notice, I didn't think twice about agreeing to sing. Leave it to my favorite nephew to choose a song I'd never heard before," she said, smiling, and we all laughed. "It's a beautiful song, though, and I think it's perfect for our happy couple. And they do look happy," she said, looking at us. "I've never seen Steve look as happy as he does right now. Actually, I've never seen him look as happy as he does whenever he's around Danny. I know you two will have a long, wonderful life together."
Hearing her talk about a long life for us choked me up; we didn't know how long she'd be with us, but I was trying to take Danny's advice with every chance we had for family time and just enjoy it, make some good memories. When she started singing, though, I couldn't take my eyes off Danny. And I couldn't remember being happier, or more in love with anyone, ever.
I set out on a narrow way many years ago
Hoping I would find true love along the broken road
But I got lost a time or two
Wiped my brow and kept pushing through
I couldn't see how every sign pointed straight to you
Danny smiled and kissed my hand, holding it in both of his. I put my arm around him and we settled against each other, listening as Nicky joined in with Aunt Deb on the chorus.
Every long lost dream led me to where you are
Others who broke my heart, they were like Northern stars
Pointing me on my way into your loving arms
This much I know is true
That God blessed the broken road
That led me straight to you
We were married. Danny was finally mine. I spotted Rachel at another table, sipping a glass of wine. I thought about how much he'd wanted a life with her, and how he almost left Hawaii with her. I touched my forehead against his temple, finding myself grateful that I'd been arrested, falsely accused of murder. If I hadn't, if everything had gone smoothly back then, he'd be living in New Jersey with his family, and I'd be alone.
I think about the years I spent just passing through
I'd like to have the time I lost and give it back to you
But you just smile and take my hand
You've been there you understand
It's all part of a grander plan that is coming true.
I don't know if Danny somehow knew what I was thinking, but he held my hand tighter and smiled at me. In that moment, everything was worth it, whatever it took to get here. I was finally home. We were home.
Now I'm just rolling home
Into my lover's arms
This much I know is true
That God blessed the broken road
That led me straight to you.