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And It's Hard to Dance With a Devil on Your Back

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Arrival


“Drywall, plaster, tape, nails, primer...” Danny listed aloud as he checked over the items stacked in the living room. He was slowly but surely remodeling the large house he'd suddenly become the owner of. He wasn't complaining, it certainly beat the hell out of having to scramble to find a place to live.

~*~

Originally he'd been working in New York, commuting from New Jersey, when his boss had mentioned an opening in Hawaii. He'd balked at first, not wanting uproot and have to go through the aggravation of trying to find his daughter a new school. However, it would turn out that the office he'd be relocating to was on the same island his ex-wife was living on with her new husband, and she was more than willing to do the leg work.

Danny wasn't a prick; he'd won custody because he had a stable job and didn't need to pack up every three months for work. He knew Grace missed her mother, hell, <i>he</i> missed her. Rachel emailed him almost constantly for a week, sending him information about all of the schools in the area, as well as community centers, shopping malls, beaches, and hospitals. He was impressed, told his boss that if the option was still available that he'd take it, and before he knew it their things were in storage and he and Grace were flying in to Honolulu.

They'd stayed with Rachel at first, while Danny had gone house-hunting. He'd known property would be expensive, he just wasn't anticipating by how <i>much</i>. Every house he checked made him more and more depressed; condos weren't much better, and he refused to house his baby girl in a flea-infested rat-trap apartment. He'd sat with Rachel and Stan one night, griping, when Stan suggested renting a house, the way vacationers do.

“What? That's, like, paying rent on a weekly basis.”

“I'm sure if you stated your case about being long-term, they'd work something out,” Stan had replied, thoughtful. “Snow-birds do it all the time here; as soon as November hits whole neighborhoods fill up. Locals own the homes in addition to their own condos, and rent for either half the year or the whole year. The snow-birds are good for it, and the locals can use it as a tax write-off.”

Danny sat quietly, contemplating.

“It isn't like you're a bum, Daniel,” Rachel said. “You have an excellent job with the pay-stubs and references to prove it. Stanley and myself will gladly fill in as personal references, should you need them.”

Moved, Danny agreed, starting fresh in the morning on the hunt, Stan with him while Rachel took Grace clothes shopping.

“What about this one?” Stan said, pointing to an ad in the paper. They were sitting in Danny's rental, finishing coffee, parked to the side of a house Danny didn't like the looks of. “Owned by an older guy, spends the majority of the year in LA... sounds like he's thinking of moving there permanently, but is interested in renting his home.”

“Where is it? Might as well look,” Danny shrugged, putting the car in drive.

~*~

That had been two years ago, meeting with Jack McGarrett at the large, beautiful house with the beach in the backyard. The older man was on in his years, but still sharp – former cop, decent guy, just tired of living alone. Danny didn't blame him; the house was great, but a lot to maintain for just one person. They'd toured the property – which boasted three bedrooms, including a master with an en suite, a half-bath, a full downstairs bathroom, large living room, dining room and kitchen, and a large upper deck as well as a lanai and steps right down to the beach.

Jack had felt for Danny, was willing to let him rent year-round, even cutting the cost down so that he was paying for maintenance instead of Danny.

So when the older man died suddenly of a pulmonary embolism, Danny had been crushed. The phone-call from the daughter – Mary Ann – had been equally as shocking: Jack had left him the house, as well as a small trust towards future repairs. Mary wasn't going to contest the will, and there wasn't anyone else. Danny had never been so thankful in his whole life.

It had been a few months since, and he was ready to start remodeling, making the house his and Grace's, not just a rental. Jack hadn't cared if they painted or anything, but he'd drawn the line at taking down walls and ripping up floors. Danny wasn't going to be doing that – the floors were all gorgeous hardwood, you don't mess with that – but the walls were old and needed to be replastered.

 

Currently, he'd gotten the bedrooms squared away, drywalled, plastered, taped. He'd primed, too, but was waiting to paint because Grace hadn't chosen a color for her bedroom yet. The kitchen and dining room he'd just finished the weekend before, impressed with himself for doing such a good job in such a short amount of time.

The living room, large and open as it was, and with the wall going up the stairs – he was going to do something about those, too – would be the biggest challenge. Ideally he'd have help, but so far he hadn't been able to get someone over. Chin Ho Kelly, who's office was right next to Danny's, had volunteered, but was out of town dealing with a family thing, along with his cousin Kono – who Danny was sure had a crush on him or something – who had also volunteered to help.

He grinned to himself; he'd thought it'd be hard to get to know anyone, what with all the “haole” jokes and jabs he received. Chin had been a friend from the beginning, though, showing him around the new building and introducing him to everyone on their floor. Danny had met Kono one night when a few people from work went out to a bar, and Danny had liked her instantly; she was young, but tough and intelligent and wise beyond her years. Both cousins had taken to him, and for that he was glad. Being wrapped around Grace's little fingers didn't hurt, either.

Sighing, he brushed his hair out of his face and began measuring against a sheet of drywall, wanting to box in closest to the stairs first, when he heard a loud splashing from out back. Halting, Danny stared out in the direction of the lanai before sneaking over, glancing out towards the beach.

All of the properties on his side of the street had ocean views and beach, with the perfect amount of privacy space between. The beach itself turned into inlets, curving in towards each individual property; it wasn't deep enough for a boat or large water-craft, and there was no way a person was making that much commotion.

Easing out onto the lanai and the top step, Danny squinted at the water. It had been overcast all day – not that he minded, he was considerably sunburned, thank you – but that didn't stop the glare on the water. He couldn't see shit, but he also couldn't hear the splashing anymore, either.

“That was weird--” he began, before gasping when he saw what looked like a man struggle to the surface before going under again.

Someone is drowning out there, a panicked voice in the back of Danny's mind said. He tore off towards the water, grateful that he was working in board shorts and a t-shirt and not jeans and sneakers. He got about waist-deep before diving, powerful shoulders propelling him towards the flailing form a few yards out.

He didn't swim often, didn't have the time, but he was good at it, practical in his movements, and quickly reached the struggling form. Going under, Danny opened his eyes and reached out, grabbing just under the man's arms and hauling up, trying to convey with his own body that the guy needed to kick, flap, anything.

Breaking the surface, Danny gasped for air even as he tried to lift the guy high enough to get his face out of the water.

“Work with me here, do you mind?” Danny coughed, water sloshing into his mouth and nose as the man beside him wriggled in panic. “Kick your legs, c'mon.”

Something large and white was dragging behind the guy, and Danny briefly wondered if he was from on base somewhere, maybe doing parachute exercises and got blown off course. A parachute in the water was like a sail in the water: useless. And heavy; Danny kicked harder, a small wave of relief washing over him when the guy started to use his own arms and legs to help out.

When Danny was finally able to stand with his head above the water, he bodily dragged the other guy out of the water, grunting from the exertion. He flopped down onto the sand, trying to get his breathing under control before giving the guy what-for. It wasn't until he rolled his head to get a look at the guy's face that he saw them: it wasn't a parachute strapped to the guy's back, no.

It was a pair of wings.

Danny froze, blood pounding in his ears. Was he hallucinating? Had he inhaled too much paint thinner? Did he fall off the ladder and crack his head?

“You have wings,” he blurted, sitting up and crab-walking away, keeping his eyes on the stranger. “Why, how the fuck do you have wings?

The guy, who was on his belly, made to speak but coughed up a few good lungfuls of water instead, gagging a little. He brought his knees up and pressed his forehead to the sand, coughing slightly. Danny didn't mean to stare, he really didn't, but – wings! And... booty shorts? His eyes felt like they were crossing; the guy definitely wasn't dressed, what he had one definitely did not qualify as clothing.

“Wings, and practically naked. Awesome, and I just pulled you onto my beach. Are you an escaped crazy person? Because that would complete the set.”

“N-not,” the guy gasped, sitting back on his heels. “N-not a... crazy person.”

“No? Then you're some side-show freak act or something, right? Because, uh, wings.”

The guy, more with it now that he wasn't puking up sea water, glared at Danny. “I'll have you know, I am not a freak experiment, a side-show act, or a crazy person.”

“Oh yeah?” Danny asked, tilting his head to the side and narrowing his eyes. “What the fuck are you then?”

“An angel.”

Danny stared, unblinking, for about five minutes before getting up and walking over to the hammock, settling onto it and rocking slightly.

Not only was he hallucinating, but the hallucination – some little particle in his brain – was trying to tell him about angels. Oh, oh boy.

~*~

“I appreciate your help; I've never actually had to come to Earth, and I wasn't anticipating ending up in the ocean,” the guy – angel – was prattling, having come to stand beside Danny's hammock.

Danny was decidedly not looking at him, getting more and more depressed as the guy spoke. This was a persistent hallucination, that was for damn sure.

“You aren't hallucinating!” the guy suddenly yelled, grabbing the side of the hammock and slowing it. “I really am an angel.”

“Ok, ok fine, let's say for the sake of argument that I believe you: why can I see you? If angels walk among us aren't they supposed to be invisible?”

“We don't walk among you,” the guy frowned. “We fly above.”

Danny flapped a hand, as if to say 'details, details.' “I have never heard of someone actually seeing one.”

The guy sighed. “Yeah, well, we exist among you but not on the same plane. The only reason you can see me is... uh... because I, um, I'm human.”

“Human.”

“Yes. My wings will eventually wither and fall off... which I'm actually kind of upset about, I'm really proud of them, I worked really hard to earn them.”

“Will you still be able to do... I dunno, angel things?”

“Like what?”

“Miracles?”

“Only God can--”

“Alright, alright – no offense, but I am the least religious person you're gonna meet. I'd rather not discuss the big guy upstairs if we can manage it, ok?”

The guy wrinkled his nose. “Fine.”

“Do you have a name?” Danny asked, folding his arms over his chest, trying to keep his eyes on the guy's – the angel's – face and not his impressive physique. It was difficult, though, what with the gratuitous nudity and all.

“Um... well, yeah, I have a name, all angels have a name... humans can't actually understand the words of God, though, not when they're spoken. So if I say it to you, I'm not sure how it will sound. Probably like... like...”

“Gibberish,” Danny finished. “You gotta give me something to call you, big boy, try me.”

Sighing, the angel drew himself up to his full height – which was considerable – before speaking. It suddenly felt like a thousand voices were inside Danny's head, all saying the same word and yet, not saying the same word. It was too bright, the noise too loud, and still that word.

It stopped as suddenly as it began, the angel bending low over the hammock, concern on his face. “Are you alright? I told you it wouldn't sound right...”

“S-sounded like 'Steve,'” Danny said, voice shaky as he tried to clear his head.

“Steve? No, it's--”

“No no,” Danny held up his hands, “trust me, Steve works, I think you can deal with that. Especially if you're a human now... you need a human name.”

Steve's shoulder's slumped and he sank to the ground, head in his hands. “Yeah, about that...”

“Were you, uh, were you cast out?” Danny asked, clamoring out of the hammock to sit beside the other man.

“... something like that.”

Danny quirked an eyebrow. “Care to elaborate?”

“Right now? Not so much.”

“Huh. You sound an awful lot like a human already... were you a guardian angel, or something?”

Steve very pointedly does not look at Danny, and the other man has a pretty good idea of where this is going.

“Look, you don't have to tell me anything, I'm sure, uh, the type of business going on upstairs isn't anything I need to know about. Just know, though, that if you do wanna discuss it, you can. Y'know, tell me.”

“I'll try and remember that.”

Danny stood then, grimacing at the slight creak in his knee, offering a hand to Steve. “Let's get you inside, find you something more appropriate to wear. Ever do housework before? I could use a hand.”

They go inside, Steve somewhat clumsily because of his wings – which are gigantic, now that they're dry – and Danny wonders how long it will be before they fall off.

He gives Steve another quick once-over, frowning – Danny's been the same height for most of his life, and what he lacks in stature he makes up for in personality. His clothes, even the ratty stuff he wore for weekend projects, were still not big enough to fit the Abercrombie model he was suddenly stuck with. Telling Steve to stay, he hurried upstairs and rummaged until he found an old pair of board shorts, a pair of his brother's he'd stolen one time.

“Should be about the same size,” Danny muttered, holding them up and squinting at them. “At least they can be adjusted.”

He tossed the shorts to Steve once back downstairs, and Steve just stared at them. Danny made a dressing and undressing motion, eyebrows arched high. Steve frowned before getting the hint and stripping off his... underwear? Whatever they were, Danny flushing before turning away; evidently angels had no shame or something. He peeked once, relieved that Steve had figured out the shorts. He was struggling with the draw-string a little, though, and Danny took pity.

“Here, lemme help,” he offered, standing close and quickly tightening the draw-string and tying it off, so the shorts would stay firmly on the taller man's hips. The shorts came to just above Steve's knees, and Danny grinned; he'd been right on the money. “Ok, my formerly angelic friend, you're going to help me box in this stairwell.”

~*~

While clumsy at first, Steve was a quick study and once he managed to get his wings to stay tucked against his back, they managed to get the entire living room drywalled, Steve holding the panels steady while Danny nailed and screwed them into place. Impressed and even occasionally forgetting that Steve wasn't, in fact, human, they managed to get the entire stairwell boxed, meeting snugly with the blue-board and drywall of the upstairs hall.

It was late by the time they finished, though, and as Danny mopped sweat from his forehead with his t-shirt, he chanced a look at Steve.

“That was some good work there, man, thanks.”

“Oh, you're welcome. Is this your calling?” Steve asked, his skin – tanned, since when do angels have tans? – glowing in the fading light, turning him to gold.

“My... huh? My calling?”

Steve frowned. “Perhaps that isn't the correct word... your profession? Are you a builder?”

Danny's brain suddenly flashed to a scene from '300,' where the king asks his army what their profession is. His brain also stutters, because there are three hundred naked, ripped, attractive men in that movie and none of them compare to the stunning creature currently standing in his living room.

“You're talking about what I do for work? We just call that... work. Or a job, or if you're super lucky, a career. And no, I'm not a builder; my dad did construction, so I sort of grew up with it. I actually sit in an office all day, doing paperwork.”

“What's the difference? Do you work, do you have a job, or do you have a career?” Steve asked, brows furrowing and creating a little 'v'.

“Um... ok, so I go to work at my job, alright? A career... well, artists, singers, actors, they have careers. They wake up in the morning and go do what they love and happen to be lucky enough to make money from it. Those of us performing tasks solely to make money and, therefore, survive, have jobs. I have a job.”

“Why bother if it isn't something you love?”

“Some of us don't have that choice, and besides, it isn't like I hate what I do. It can be very rewarding, actually, it just isn't ideal. But that's enough about that, huh? It's about dinner time, you hungry?”

Steve frowned again, and Danny mentally kicked himself – he should not be finding that as cute as he was. Had he been wrong in assuming that just because Steve sounded like a human, that he also felt like one?

“What's hungry?”

Bingo.

“Eating food, you know? Human beings have to eat to live, as well as drink water. It's fuel, keeps us going... which reminds me, actually: what do you know about human bodily functions?”

Steve flushed, coloring rose-like beneath his golden skin. “Um, just the basic stuff... like evacuating and procreating.”

“Ah. Well, the evacuating can only happen if you eat, and please tell me you can manage that on your own, because I am too old to be potty-training a grown man.”

Steve stared like Danny was suddenly speaking Swahili. Sighing, Danny motioned for Steve to follow him into the kitchen. He told the other man to sit and be began to rummage. He didn't have anything fancy, but he had enough to throw together a quick pasta with tomato sauce and a few meatballs. He busied himself around the kitchen, humming tunelessly as he worked, almost forgetting Steve was even sitting there until the other man would adjust or a wing would rustle.

When the sounds of Steve's stomach grumbling reached Danny's ears, he grinned. The pasta was al dente, the sauce was bubbling away pleasantly, and the meatballs were just about finished. He served up two bowls, finding grated cheese in the fridge and presenting everything to Steve, who just gawked.

“My angelic refugee, allow me to introduce spaghetti and meatballs, with tomato sauce.” He pushed a bowl, fork, and napkin towards Steve before diving in himself. He was a few mouthfuls in when he noticed that Steve was studying his fork with something akin to amazement. It was all Danny could do not to gag from laughing; here was a perfect image from 'Little Mermaid,' when Ariel uses a fork as a hairbrush.

Coughing slightly, he cleared his throat and took up his fork, gesturing for Steve to do the same. “Spaghetti can be tricky; try it like this,” he offered, using exaggerated motions to demonstrate how to twirl the fork in the noodles before lifting them to his mouth. He watched Steve take a bite, felt a wave of satisfaction at the look of delight on Steve's face after that first bite. Steve dove in with abandon after that, even bringing the bowl closer to his face. Chuckling, Danny finished his own spaghetti and watched Steve inhale his portion before eying the pot for another.

“That's all for you, too much and you'll get a bellyache,” Danny said, storing the leftovers in Tupperwares and stashing everything in the fridge, dumping the pots in the sink and drizzling them with soap. “C'mere, I cooked so you can wash; I'll dry.”

Steve didn't know how to do dishes, either, so Danny spent a minute or two showing him. Steve took up any task like it was his last, washing the dishes with a solemn efficiency. Danny was pretty impressed; he'd gotten a brand new dishwasher, but was now wishing he hadn't, if Steve was going to do such a good job. On the tails of that thought came a sour taste in his mouth; Steve might as well have been a child, and Danny would never take advantage of a child.

Standing next to him, Danny took a moment to really size the guy up. He was tall – taller than Danny, anyway, and it wasn't like that was hard to achieve – and lean, with the body of a swimmer or a runner. The wings, tucked as they were against his back, were huge: the tips hung all the way to Steve's calves, the tops well above his head. Frowning, Danny realized that Steve probably wouldn't be able to sleep comfortably, and then shook his head. He was seriously thinking about where an angel would be sleeping, in his house.

He'd lost his mind, he was pretty sure.

“Steve...” he began, drying the last of the dishes and waiting until he had the other man's full attention. “How much longer do you think you'll have those?”

White feathers shivered against Steve's back. “I'm not sure; there really isn't any precedent for this sort of thing. That and, uh, the construct of Time is entirely human – we don't gauge things that way 'upstairs,' as you say.”

“Uh huh. I'm just curious if you'll have them all night, or if they're coming off in the next few hours, because if they aren't, then maybe you'd like to get a last flight in? Or something? Seems like a shame to waste 'em if they're still hanging around.”

Maybe you could take me up with you, Danny didn't say, hoping it wasn't obvious. He watched Steve puzzle it out, following the other man back outside and into the middle of the yard.

“I tried, when I was falling, but it didn't work right. I fear I may be too heavy now.”

“Too heavy? I mean, I know that in order to lift your body weight – wait, you didn't have body weight before, huh? You were probably hollow-boned like a bird or something.”

Steve shrugged. “Perhaps. I just know that I didn't manage to get anywhere.”

“Your wings are huge, though; gotta be big enough to lift you, I'd think.”

Danny watched as Steve extended his wings, feeling more than a little awed at the scope of them; if Steve was six feet or so tall, his wings had to be at <i>least</i> double that on either side, if not more. They were pure white, like snow, the feathers shivering and shimmering in the fading light. The sunset turned the edges red and purple and gold. Steve gleamed like a golden god.

He began to flap, the gusts blowing Danny back a bit. Steve wasn't getting any lift that way, though, and Danny shouted that maybe he should try jumping off the roof or something. Steve liked that idea, climbing up as easily as if he did it every day. Before Danny had a chance to say anything else, Steve was jumping, wings extended. Danny gasped, waiting for the man to plummet a second time; his fear was for naught, though, because Steve was soaring.

Danny watched, squinting up at the quickly darkening sky, grinning fit to split. Steve was laughing, the sound rich and joyful; it was beautiful, like listening to a choir. Danny manfully wiped tears from his eyes.

~*~

Flying as a human turned out to be extremely tiring, and Steve was falling asleep on his feet as Danny muscled him inside. He still had no place to put the man, as the wings were still there and too ungainly to navigate up the stairs to the spare room. Danny snapped his fingers, depositing Steve in the corner of the living room before dashing upstairs to his bedroom. He had an Aerobed in there, a king-sized one, it'd be perfect.

He plugged it in and watched as it inflated, guiding Steve over once it was sturdy enough and prodded the other man until he was laying down.

“This such a strange feeling,” Steve mumbled. “I can barely keep my eyes open.”

“You're ready for sleep,” Danny chuckled, draping a spare blanket over Steve's bottom half. “Humans do that occasionally.”

“Mmph,” Steve grunted, curling his wings around himself as he rolled onto his side. Danny watched him, waiting to see if there'd be anything else, before retiring upstairs. He was positive he wouldn't sleep, too wound up over what he had going on in his living room. Miraculously, he was asleep almost before his head hit the pillow.

 

Education

 

Groaning, Danny scrubbed at his face and glared at the sun filtering into his bedroom. He had another two days off and still had a lot of work to finish. He staggered into the bathroom to take care of a few things before stumbling down the stairs. He stopped short, though, mouth hanging open.

He'd been positive it'd been a dream, especially the sex part – nothing angelic about Steve in his dreams.

Steve was rolled tightly in the blanket, a dusting of feathers around him. The wings themselves were gone, leaving his back smooth and like he'd never had them to begin with. Aside from that, he looked the same, and Danny rubbed at his eyes to double check that he was actually seeing what he thought he was seeing.

Not a dream, he thought, carefully making his way down the rest of the stairs, eyes on Steve the whole while. Holy shit, it wasn't a dream.

Almost on cue, Steve stirred, rolling onto his back and stretching. Danny couldn't help himself, he paused to watch, feeling his mouth go dry as he watched the muscles of Steve's body ripple and play beneath his tanned skin. He moved like a cat, and Danny had to squeeze his eyes shut before clearing his throat loudly.

Good morning, star-shine, the earth says 'hello,'” he called. Steve didn't even jump, just turned towards Danny and grinned, like he was happier than a pig in shit.

Good morning!”

C'mon, you need to brush your teeth and then I'll make breakfast.”

Brush my what?”

Danny sighed, just waiting for Steve to gracefully make his way off the Aerobed – bastard – and follow him into the downstairs bathroom. Danny was especially proud of these renovations, and all the plumbing, actually. Everything was tasteful and modern, spacious but not wastefully so. His en suite was the real gem, but there was no reason for Steve to use that space.

At least, not yet.

Here, like this,” Danny said, taking out a new toothbrush and squeezing some toothpaste onto it. “You put it in your mouth and... brush. Gets rid of any bacteria lingering from the food the night before, and makes your breath smell good.”

Steve got it right in one, and Danny left him to it, hoping he wouldn't have to show Steve how to do any other bathroom things.

He was whisking together a batter for pancakes when Steve strolled into the kitchen. Danny almost dropped the bowl, eyes lingering on Steve's abs. Now that the wings were gone, there was no reason for Steve not to have a shirt on. Setting the bowl aside, Danny popped into the laundry room and found a clean white t-shirt, tossing it in Steve's direction.

Put that on, please.”

More clothing? You know, in heaven, we angels walk about naked all the time. Technically, I shouldn't even know the difference between naked and clothed, but God thought it was a good idea for us to understand why humans dressed and we didn't.”

What, like Adam and Eve, Garden of Eden stuff?” Danny asked, frowning when Steve didn't move to put the shirt on.

Sort of? I know that story, of course, and it's a good one – does an excellent job of explaining why human beings suddenly started covering themselves. Angels are perfect creatures of heaven, and do not know the shame that nakedness often brings.”

That's why you were pretty much x-rated when you crash-landed.”

Steve frowned. “X-rated? What's that mean?”

Uh, nothing, never mind. Just, put the shirt on, ok? It isn't, um, it isn't hygienic to be shirtless in the kitchen.”

Steve studied the shirt for a moment before tugging it on, figuring it out pretty easily. Danny felt better almost immediately, the room suddenly a few degrees cooler than it had been. Finally.

I'm making us pancakes, then we're going to get a few more things done around the house. After that, I need to run some errands; you should probably come, so you don't get into any trouble here while I'm gone,” Danny said, half to Steve and half to himself. Steve nodded along anyway, grinning like that was the greatest thing he'd ever heard.

He ate the pancakes with the same gusto as the spaghetti, and Danny made a mental note to keep an eye on the food in the house; if Steve was going to be with him for a while – and if Danny had his way, the other man would be – he'd soon eat them out of house and home, not to mention gain an unattractive amount of weight. He had Steve assist him in the clean-up, locating a pair of Matt's old flip-flops for Steve to wear. They then boxed in the rest of the living room, Danny marveling at how quickly they were managing it; he had the sneaking suspicion that Steve had some sort of angel magic he wasn't talking about.

Once done, he bundled Steve into the car and drove them into town.

Driving with Steve was a lot like driving with a child, or a Labrador retriever. He wanted to hang out the window – Danny almost had a heart-attack and put a stop to that almost instantly – and gawked at everything.

Earth is so beautiful!” Steve exclaimed, eyes bright as he took in everything around him. Danny chuckled; Grace had been much the same when they'd first landed on Oahu, the colors and shapes of everything new and different and exotic. She'd tried to see everything at once, tripping over her own feet until Danny reminded her that it would still be there in the days to come.

This is just a taste; we're in the state of Hawaii, on the island of Oahu. Not all of earth looks like this, though some of it does.”

What does the rest of earth look like?” Steve asked, all wide eyes and expectant smiles.

Tell you what: we get through what we need to do in town, and when we get back to the house I'll show you.”

That earned a beaming, almost blinding grin from Steve. Nodding to himself, Danny guided them through the hardware store, eying Steve before dragging him into the local Salvation Army. He wasn't sure he could afford spendy duds for Steve, and he wasn't sure he even wanted to, as a well-dressed Steve would probably garner a lot of attention. Really, he just wanted the man to have some essentials.

He held up pairs of shorts and pants to Steve's front, snagging a few packages of Fruit-of-the-Loom t-shirts, socks, and underwear. Frowning, he grabbed a few pairs of board shorts and two pairs of cargo shorts before taking everything up to the counter. The woman there eyed them both before shrugging and beginning to ring them up. Steve stared at everything and everyone, dropping his gaze only when Danny forcefully elbowed him the side.

That done, Danny blew through the supermarket, groaning at the expense. He'd needed to shop anyway, as he needed food for him and Grace, but now he had Steve-the-human-garbage-disposal to feed as well.

It was mid afternoon by the time they got back to the house, and Danny whipped up a quick lunch before ushering Steve into the home-office. Danny never really worked from home, preferring the professional work environment, but had everything set up for home anyway. Well, Chin had set it up for him, laughing good-naturedly at how useless Danny actually was when it came to setting that stuff up.

He directed Steve to sit, getting the computer ready and going to the Discovery Channel's website.

Here,” he said, taking Steve's hand and placing it on the mouse, directing him around. “Watch these, this is a safe way for you to see the rest of earth. When one video ends, just click on the next one, like so. There's a lot, so no need to rush.”

He waited only long enough to make sure Steve had the hang of it, ducking out of the office and back to the kitchen. He stood staring out the window over the sink, watching the sun glint off the water. When had this become his life? More or less adopting a fallen angel like it was something he did all the time? And what was Grace going to think? She would be back that evening, because she had school the next day. Danny scrubbed at his face; there was no good way to explain the sudden presence of a mysterious man in the house to an eight year old, not without telling the truth.

Which will make me sound like a nut case,” Danny muttered, moving to tidy up. He could say Steve was a day-laborer, helping out with getting the house done faster. It wasn't like it was a lie; the amount of work they'd gotten done in two days – not even, day and a half – would have taken Danny at least a week on his own. At this rate, all they had to do was plaster and tape, and then they could paint.

He'd worry about it later, when the time actually came.

~*~

Grace took to Steve immediately, and Danny wasn't as shocked as he thought he'd be. Steve was, after all, an angel, and who do angels care for more than children? That and his general newness made him just as much of a child as she was, causing them to be thick as thieves practically instantly.

Alright you two, we need to have a serious talk,” Danny said, raising his voice over the din of the office. Grace had been showing Steve the wonders of Youtube, watching dozens of Hannah Montana, Justin Bieber, and Selena Gomez videos. The giggling abruptly stopped and Danny waited until Steve and Grace were standing before him, pleased little smiles on each of their faces.

Grace, I'd like to start painting next weekend, I've got a book of swatches for you to look at tonight. Pick out a few you like, we can go to the store and pick up some samples tomorrow after school. Steve and I are going to plaster and tape down here during the day, but since the upstairs is mostly done I'd like to get it out of the way, as well as the kitchen.”

Can I help pick out the other colors, Danno?” Grace asked sweetly, doe eyes bright. Danny groaned inwardly; he hated saying no to her, but if he let her pick the entire house would be following a Hello Kitty color scheme.

Monkey, we talked about this, I've already got colors picked for the main rooms. You get to pick for yours... and hey, how about you pick out the color for the upstairs bathroom, too? It'll mostly be yours.”

What about Steve?” Grace asked, frowning. She took one of Steve's large hands in hers and swung their arms back and forth, grinning up at him. Steve beamed right back at her, delighted.

What about him?”

Does he get to pick out a color for his room?”

Grace, babe... Steve isnt...” Danny trailed off, not missing the twin looks of disappointment on the faces before him. “He's just helping me work on the house, he isn't staying forever,” he made himself say. Really, once Steve got the hang of being human, what would stop him from wanting to leave and meet new people? He could want to find work and do his own thing, in his own space.

The thought made Danny a little sick, and he groaned inwardly at the idea that he was already getting attached to the guy and he'd only known him for two days.

Grace was giving him her saddest puppy dog face; Danny did his best to ignore it and ushered her upstairs, taking the book of paint swatches along. Steve remained where he was, a forlorn expression on his face as Danny and Grace ascended the stairs.

But Daddy, why can't Steve stay forever?” Grace asked, moving where Danny pushed her, getting her into her pajamas. “Don't you like him? I think he's nice.”

He's very nice, Gracie, but he's still kind of a stranger; what did you learn about strangers in school?”

That they can be dangerous.” Her little face was deadly serious.

That's right, they can be very dangerous. And how do we know Steve doesn't have a home already? He just lives very far away, that's why he's staying here for now.”

Grace mulled that over as Danny got her set up in bed and sat beside her, paint swatch book between them. They pored over it for a while, Grace using great care to select her three favorite colors. Danny was only allowing one color in the bedroom, but he was willing to get small sample jars of all three, to test them out. Whichever color she liked second best could be the bathroom color; Grace very seriously told him she'd consider it.

Kissing her goodnight, Danny took the swatch book back and shut all the lights off save the nightlight, quietly going back downstairs. Steve had moved to sit in the kitchen, gazing out the window, elbows resting on the table, chin on his hands.

You don't want me to remain here,” Steve said by way of greeting, turning to look at Danny.

Taken aback by the bluntness of the statement, Danny took a moment to compose himself. “It isn't that, I just... I don't know you. You aren't a bad guy, from what I can tell – how could you be, you're an angel – but you're still a stranger. It isn't like you know me,” he pointed out, sitting across from Steve at the table.

I know enough,” Steve replied, giving Danny an odd look. “I know that you wouldn't have come here, to this beautiful corner of the earth, if it would mean your daughter not having the best you could possibly giver her. I know that you took me in, gave me succor when you didn't have to, saved my life, as fledgling as it may be.”

How...” Danny trailed off, leaning away from the table. “I never told you about any of that...”

Steve shrugged. “It's part of the angel thing; we just know things. For instance, I knew your name before you asked for mine: Daniel Williams, formerly of New Jersey, son of Margaret and Harold Williams, who also begot--”

Ok, I get it, you know my family tree, no need to give me the refresher on the begots,” Danny interrupted, eyes wide. “Wow.”

I know also that you have a kind heart, that you give love away freely, almost too freely, and it often gets you into trouble,” Steve added, the youthfulness of his face belying the wisdom of his eyes. “You were married once, but are not any more. You could have remarried, but have chosen not to, focusing instead on your child. Too much love given away and not enough given back in return,” Steve finished, almost sadly.

I don't want to hear another word out of you about my life, do you understand?” Danny asked, voice calm and quiet; a warning.

Steve regarded him silently before nodding. “I think I will go sleep now,” he said, pushing himself up from the table and going into the living room. Danny listened to him settle on the Aerobed, silently cursing himself for being unnecessarily mean. His divorce with Rachel hadn't been nasty so much as sad, but that didn't mean he wanted to discuss it openly.

First thing after he took Grace to school, he was going to teach Steve manners and etiquette.

~*~

The house smelled strongly of plaster when Danny returned from dropping Grace off; his jaw hit his chest when he walked in and saw the state of the living room. Steve was still finishing up one wall, but had managed to plaster and tape the entire room by himself. He greeted Danny with his customary bright smile, arming plaster dust off his forehead.

“I thought I'd get some of this out of the way,” he offered by way of greeting, coming to stand beside Danny and observe his handiwork. “Does it look alright? I watched a, a video on the Youtube, it showed me how to do it.”

Danny was beyond speech at this point, just turning in a slow circle to take it all in. Steve's work was perfect from what he could tell, and as it was so early, they whole thing would more than likely be dry faster, which meant they could paint faster.

“Wow, Steve, this is—you did all of this yourself? How could you have possibly—I was only gone twenty minutes!”

The only response was a half shrug, a smile still firmly affixed to Steve's face. “I'm an angel, remember?”

“No, you're a human, and human beings can't do this.”

“Still got some of the angel stuff hanging around, I suppose.”

“Well, whatever... thank you. You, uh, you in the mood to paint?” Danny asked, mind racing. He'd been waiting, wanting to get as much done all at once as he could; he already had the paint for every other room besides Grace's and the half-bath.

“I will paint,” Steve said, grinning, body posture telling Danny he only needed to be shown how.

“Ok, let's get crackin' then.”

Danny had chosen soothing, relaxing colors for the inside of the house. They were mostly various shades of blue and gray, warm for all that the colors were cool. The kitchen got a bright shade of blue to compliment the white cabinets – Danny had liked the look of them, though he'd replaced the white counter-tops with slate-gray granite – while the living room would have a more toned down shade. The office and dining room areas were lined up for varying shades of gray, and the living room color would continue up the stairs into the hallway. That was the plan, anyway.

Once Steve had been shown the proper way to paint, he shooed Danny out of the kitchen and made quick work of the space. Between the two of them, they got all of the rooms that were ready downstairs painted. The trim for everything was white, and Danny had to marvel at what a good job Steve was doing; for an angel, he was pretty handy.

That feel-good feeling dissipated once they got upstairs, though. Danny hadn't done his bedroom beyond the trim and moldings, taping those off. His en suite was finished, which he considered a small win, but that win was trampled down by the fact that Steve, the angel formerly known as gibberish, was standing in the middle of his bedroom, awaiting instructions.

“Daniel?” Steve asked, when Danny didn't move from where he'd gotten stuck in the doorway. “It's this room's turn for paint, is it not?” He gestured to the walls, a questioning look on his face.

“Uh, y-yeah, it is... how about this: I'll do this room, and you can finish up the hall. You can even do the guest room, if you want, the paint is already in there.”

Steve smiled and left the room; Danny waited until he heard Steve working before exhaling, closing his eyes.

This was bad, this was very bad. Pushing that thought away for the time being, Danny muscled his bed and furniture into the middle of the room and covered everything with drop cloths. He covered the floor and taped off the windows before attacking the walls. The color for his bedroom was a blue-gray; it had reminded him of early mornings in Jersey, when the fog was still clinging to the trees. It was restful, and that's what he'd wanted; the color also went well with his blue-and-white patchwork quilt, and the natural color of the wood furniture.

Working quickly and efficiently, Danny was just finishing up his first coat when he heard a soft knock on the door-frame. Turning a little too fast and almost tangling his feet in the drop cloth on the floor, Danny muttered a curse before turning his attention to the door way. Steve was watching him a bit apprehensively, paint splattered across his t-shirt, arms, and face.

“I've finished the hall and spare room, Daniel,” he said. “Would you like help finishing in here?”

Danny glanced around the room before shaking his head. “I'm just about done; this paint covers really well, so I doubt we'll even need two coats. Go wash up, I'll meet you downstairs.”

Steve paused in the doorway before nodding and heading back down. Grumbling, Danny finished the wall and surveyed his work, nodding to himself. This house was going to be fucking stunning by the time he was through.

He spent a few minutes making sure all the windows were open upstairs, heading down to the kitchen. Pausing, Danny frowned; Steve was just staring out at the water, still splattered with paint.

“Steve?” he called, slightly concerned. Steve startled, shooting Danny a furtive, almost guilty look. Are angels capable of guilt? Danny wondered briefly.

“You said wash up, but...” he trailed off, flushing slightly. “I'm not quite sure what that means.”

“It means wash the paint off,” Danny replied, moving to stand at the sink, turning on the water and slicking his hands up with the special soap he kept in the cabinet. “Here, see? This soap takes the paint off your skin.” He made exaggerated scrubbing motions, watching Steve's eyes take him in.

Danny drizzled soap onto Steve's hands and watched him scrub at his arms. The paint was a decent brand and came off easily without too much work; Danny was a bit apprehensive about Steve scrubbing his face, though. He said as much, directing Steve to pull a chair over next to the sink. He instructed the other man to sit, lathering up a worn dish-towel. He considered Steve briefly before asking him to close his eyes.

Steve did, allowing himself to be moved by Danny's hands with no prompting whatsoever. Danny couldn't help but marvel at how trusting this man was... which lead to a flush of anger. What if it hadn't been Danny who'd found him? What if it had been someone nasty, someone genuinely terrible? Would they be doing terrible things to Steve, taking advantage of that trust? Danny had no doubt that if provoked, Steve could do some serious damage, but if he didn't really know how to tell what someone's intentions were towards him...

“Daniel?” Steve said, interrupting Danny's internal debate.

“Sorry, sorry, didn't mean to leave you hanging.” Danny moved the warm, soapy towel gently over Steve's skin, the other man completely still. Up this close, Danny could really study Steve's face; how tan he was, that he had laugh-lines around his eyes, that he didn't look quite as young as Danny had originally thought.

The corner of the towel grazed close to one eye, and Steve's eyelids fluttered. Danny gasped slightly, enamored by how long Steve's eyelashes were, dark and fanned out against his cheeks. This man is beautiful, Danny thought, an ache forming in his chest. Beautiful and innocent and alone here. He mentally kicked himself; yeah, he was getting attached to Steve – he hadn't noticed that Steve was getting attached to him and to Grace. It would be cruel, the greatest cruelty to kick Steve out.

I won't then, I'll keep him here as—what, a housemate? The day-laborer story could work, there's stuff to be done to the outside of the house, and the yard, Danny thought, rinsing the towel and wiping away the stray streaks of soap lingering on Steve's skin.

Steve slowly opened his eyes, smiling lazily up at Danny. “Thank you, that felt nice.”

“Yeah? Well, I'm glad it was such a pleasant experience for you,” Danny grinned, flicking Steve's ear playfully before backing away. “Listen, about what I said last night, about you not staying here forever--”

“I can see now that it would be a hardship for you,” Steve cut in, standing and putting the chair back. “When we went to procure food... I don't really understand currency, but I did notice that it seemed to be a lot, more than you'd usually need. I thank you for helping me, but I don't want to be a burden to you.”

“What? No, you aren't—Steve, you aren't a burden. You're doing a great job of helping me work on the house, and believe me, it needs more help on the outside than it does inside. That and... I don't mind the company. Grace obviously likes you... I just think we need to set up some ground rules or something. Especially since I have to go to work tomorrow.”

Something flickered across Steve's features, there and gone before Danny could register it. “Oh?”

“Yeah,” Danny sighed. “It was a long weekend this weekend, a chance to get the rest of this house stuff out of the way. However, the long weekend is over as of tonight, and I – along with everyone else on this island – have to go back to work tomorrow. Grace will be at school, so that leaves you alone.”

“It would be unacceptable for me to join you at work,” Steve said, more of a statement than a question. “It would be more unacceptable for me to join Grace at school.”

“Unfortunately, yes.” Danny found his heart doing funny things at the thought that Steve wanted to be with him, where ever he was. “Although, school would probably be a good thing for you... there's a lot of stuff you know, 'angel things' and whatever, but there's also a lot you don't know, and that can be dangerous for you.” Danny began to pace, running his fingers through his hair.

He stopped short, snapping his fingers. “I have an idea.”

~*~

Jenna Kaye was wary at first, but took the idea pretty quickly. Danny wasn't comfortable leaving Steve alone all day, and just as he wouldn't want Grace sitting in front of a TV or computer doing nothing, he didn't want Steve doing it either. Jenna worked at the same company as Danny as a consultant; she was a contract employee that managed to be on salary – how, Danny had no idea – and she was brilliant. She'd actually tutored some of the other employees' kids, highschool aged all the way up to college seniors.

“Let me make sure I've got this,” she said, walking briskly alongside Danny to the unused conference room down the hall from his office. “You want me to... tutor... your friend? In what?”

“In everything,” Danny replied, pausing outside the door to the conference room. “He's... a little new, you could say. Remember that scene from the Disney Tarzan, when Jane and her father are teaching Tarzan about other human beings?” He tried not to cringe at the fact that just about all of his analogies and metaphors came from Disney movies.

“Uh...” Jenna began, frowning. “Yeah, sure.”

“That's what I need you to do. He can speak perfectly fine, he can grasp basic concepts, he understands right and wrong... he just... there's information that's 'common knowledge' for us, right? Things we just inherently understand? He's missing that.”

Jenna nodded slowly, following Danny into the room. Steve was watching Animal Planet, perched on the table rather than in one of the chairs.

“Daniel! Vast migrations of herd animals!” Steve exclaimed, eyes bright. He looked absolutely thrilled. “Flight patterns of flocks of birds! The food chain! Watering holes! Daniel,” Steve scrambled off the table and got right in Danny's face, almost breathless with anticipation. “Daniel, elephants.”

“Y-yeah? You like the elephants?” Danny asked, giving Jenna a side-long look. “Me too, they're pretty cool.”

“I want to meet one.”

“We'll, um, we'll talk about that later, ok? For now, I want you to hang out with this lovely lady. Her name is Jenna, she's very smart, and she is going to help you understand our world a little better.”

Steve turned his attention to Jenna, giving her one of his thousand-watt smiles. Jenna was smitten instantly, and Danny hoped that wouldn't come back to bite him. Steve started talking a mile a minute about the elephants, and Danny could only shrug at Jenna's helpless expression. He was sure once she got a hold of things and reined Steve in, it'd be easier to start teaching him.

The other part of Danny's plan involved Steve working with Grace on her homework. They communicated easily and Steve was proving to be extremely bright, gobbling up information and facts like candy. He had a thirst for knowledge and loved to learn, ecstatic at the idea of discovering something new. It was incredibly endearing and ridiculously hot, if Danny was being honest with himself. He could spend hours working with Grace, and as much as Danny wanted to let him, Grace did need to sleep so she could function at school the next day. Steve was sated by the fact that he could stay up and read her text books.

It wasn't until late one evening – after Grace had gone to bed, thank heavens – that Danny began to think that maybe he should've thought his plan through better.

“Daniel--” Steve began, marching into the kitchen with a book in hand. Danny raised a hand to him, palm out, a signal to stop. Steve did, waiting.

“I think, at this point, it is safe for you to just call me Danny, alright? We're friends, right?”

“Yes!” Steve grinned, delighted. “Danny it is.”

“What've you got there,” Danny gestured toward the book. “More homework?”

Steve plopped down across the table from Danny, flipping through the book until he found the right page. He spun the book and pushed it closer, so Danny could read it. He squinted, looking at Steve before staring down at the page before him. Oh shit.

“Jenna gave me a few books, including this one; I'm confused here, and I asked Grace, but she said that this is 'for grown-ups' and that I should ask you.” Steve pointed at the page in question.

This book – Danny was going to kill Jenna – dealt with human reproduction, sexuality, anatomy, the gestational period of the human fetus... basically all of the topics Danny had hoped to avoid ever discussing with the formerly-angelic Steve.

“I can't say I'm not a little irritated that you asked Grace first; from now on, anything dealing with sex, boys, et cetera is to be brought to me. Grace is an eight year old girl, and this is none of her business, nor should it be until she's about, ok, forty or so. Understood?” Danny asked, still not looking at Steve.

“Oh... yes, I'm sorry.”

“It's fine, you didn't know. Now you do, though. And really, I wasn't expecting to have to have The Talk with a grown-ass man, but hey, weirder things have happened.” Danny took a deep breath and raised his eyes to meet Steve's. “Lay it on me: what's got you confused.”

Steve shuffled his chair over so he was next to Danny and pointed to a diagram; the page had a two, one of a female's reproductive parts, one of a male's.

“This one I understand...” Steve said, flushing slightly, pointing to the male. “But this one is strange.” He was pointing to the female.

“That is, uh... those are ovaries, and a uterus; Steve, you're a boy, you get the boy stuff? The ovaries and whatnot are girl things. Like, um... oh, my jeez, ok, Jenna? She has this set up. She's a woman, she's got all of this stuff so that, should she ever get married, she is prepared to carry a child.”

Danny waited, watching Steve's eyes as they flicked from the page to Danny's face and back. “A child? What does marriage have to do with that? Why not just ask God to plant the seed?”

“You... you do realize that isn't how that works, right?” Danny asked, slightly incredulous. “I understand the whole miracle thing, I do, but that isn't how babies are made.”

Steve frowned. “Then how?”

“This book explains all that.”

“I don't understand it's words.”

“Jesus Christ,” Danny scrubbed his hands over his face. He could tell even without looking that Steve had affixed him with a disapproving glare.

“Jesus doesn't have anything to do with this,” Steve said, a heavy frown forming between his eyebrows. “Aside from the fact that he was made that way.”

“Jesus is the only one, then, ok? Everyone else: me, Jenna, Chin, Kono, Grace, came about the natural way, with help from two people.”

Steve opened his mouth to say something before snapping it closed, watching as Danny flipped through the book. He found the index, looking for a few diagrams in particular, before flipping back to the corresponding pages.

“Here,” he said, blushing to the roots of his hair. “See? The girl parts and the boy parts come together, it gets messy, and then a, uh, a seed is planted. If things go the way they're 'sposed to, the seed takes and a baby grows.”

There's nothing from Steve, who is staring at the diagrams with a grim expression on his face. Danny isn't sure why, aside from the fact that clearly heaven needs to step up it's Sex-Ed game.

“Does it only work this way?”

“Huh?”

“Man and woman.”

“For the baby to happen? Yeah, that's the only way for human beings. Other animals in nature are more fluid... keep watching Animal Planet, it'll tell you. As far as we're concerned as human beings, the only way to make a baby is with a man and a woman.”

“What about all the other stuff?” Steve asked, frustration evident in his voice.

“Other stuff?” Danny frowned. “What other stuff?”

“Is... is coupling only a man and a woman?” Steve asked then, his voice almost timid.

Danny was sure that in that moment he stopped breathing. His vision blurred around the edges slightly, and he was pretty sure he'd been close to passing out.

“Uh... well--”

“Because TV said that human beings are one of only a few species that couple for the sake of coupling, not just because they need to propagate the species.” This all came out in a rush, and Danny had to take a moment to process.

“The TV says a lot of things, babe.”

“But was that part true?”

“Yeah, human beings have sex for pleasure and for the fun of it. That doesn't necessarily mean they all run around having sex willy-nilly, though. Some do the man-woman thing, some do man-man, some do woman-woman... it gets even more confusing than that, but I don't think you need to concern yourself with gender issues.”

“In heaven,” Steve said, fiddling with the edge of the book and not looking at Danny. “Angels don't have, um... they don't have 'set ups.' They're kind of... sexless.”

“What, like no...” Danny gestured to his groin, and Steve nodded. “Huh. So... wait, how are you a guy? Could you have been a female instead?”

“That happened after I was cast out,” Steve said, an air of misery to his voice. “I didn't have any of this... stuff... until after I left heaven. I don't know it works; like I'd told you before, there isn't any precedent for this sort of thing.”

Danny was suddenly struck with the notion that perhaps this was the angel-turned-human version of going through puberty. If Steve was becoming hormonal...

“This is going to be very awkward for the both of us,” Danny prefaced, turning so he was facing Steve fully. “But have you been feeling anything... weird? Like, say, in the morning when you first wake up? Or maybe when you're sleeping—do you dream?”

“Weird?” Steve pursed his lips. “Is that like strange?”

“Yeah.”

“Do you mean physically?”

“Yeah.”

“Um.”

Steve's sudden blush was enough; Danny was pretty sure Steve had already gone through that part of the book, and so understood that it was something that was going to happen. Taking a deep breath, he pressed on.

“It's ok, that's totally natural – I remember being freaked out at first, too, but then my dad sat me down and explained things, sort of. You're going through puberty, I think, or something like it. I dunno, maybe your body is transitioning from angel to human chemically now that you're settled in physically? Hopefully it won't last too long, since you're technically an adult already.”

“How do humans deal with it?”

“You kind of just... do. It happens to everyone, to all of us. It's a part of growing up, and it happens to both boys and girls. Grace will be doing it in a few years herself, unfortunately for me. It'll stop once your body is done adjusting.”

Steve nodded, oddly solemn. “Thank you for explaining.” He stood, tucking the book under one arm and going back out to the living room. Danny sat with his mouth hanging open, a little taken aback at Steve's sudden departure. He listened for the sounds of Steve getting into bed, exhaling deeply. Standing himself, he wandered out into the now dark living room. He could make out the shape of Steve's body on the Aerobed – it looked huge in the room now, what with the new furniture Danny had bought – and moved until he was standing over the other man's prone form.

“This weekend we'll go and buy you a bedroom set,” he said softly, placing a hand on Steve's shoulder. “The spare room will be <i>your</i> room, that way you can have some privacy.”

He didn't wait for a response, figured he wouldn't get one, and made his way up the stairs and up to bed.

 

Reasons

 

Danny kept a close eye on Steve over the upcoming weeks, monitoring his behavior. Aside from a slightly depressive mood-swing, Steve was moving through his impromptu puberty without a hitch. He'd been delighted to have a chance to have a space of his own; the spare room was just big enough for a double-sized bed, a dresser, and a nightstand. Danny managed to find a small bookcase to match, and as a surprise stashed it in Steve's room, all of his newly acquired books proudly displayed.

Grace had made mention that Steve needed a birthday – they'd long since given up trying to hide the angel thing from her – and Danny had agreed. They chose the day when Steve plummeted into the ocean and Danny found him, finding it to be the most appropriate. Steve was still iffy on how birthdays worked, but went along with it anyway, flushing at all of the attention. It didn't matter that it had only been a few months since he'd arrived. Chin Ho had come to the party, as well as Kono and a handful of other friends. They'd all met Steve on occasion or another, and all of them had brought him something. Danny hadn't told them what Steve actually was, instead sticking to the same story he'd given Jenna. They bought it, or at least pretended to for Steve's sake, and fun was had at the party by all.

It had been Grace who'd blown out the candles, as Steve had been completely unable to grasp the concept of making a wish. He'd laughed and eaten cake with them afterward, though his expression had been slightly guarded.

They remained outside, sitting in a pair of Adirondack chairs, enjoying the quiet once everyone had left. Grace had gone, having a week off from school and spending it with her mother and Stan, leaving Steve and Danny alone. Rachel had been wary of Steve at first, but he was too charming and too sweet to stay away from for long, and eventually she warmed up to him. Something about that panged Danny with jealousy.

What was it like?” he asked, nursing a beer and watching the ocean.

What was what like?” Steve asked back, digging his toes into the cool sand.

You know, heaven and stuff. Being an angel.”

Steve shrugged in the near-darkness. “About how you would expect.”

What I expect is what I've seen in movies: people in white robes, wearing halos and wings, blowing trumpets and napping on clouds.”

That got a laugh out of Steve, the sound no less musical than it had been the very first time. “TV is a terrible liar about some things. Well... we don't wear robes, as I've told you. We don't have halos either, I'm not sure where that one came from... the wings you saw first-hand.”

Trumpets?”

Nope, no trumpets.”

Napping on clouds?”

That would suggest that angels exist on the same plane as humans, which they don't. The cloud thing came about because humans believe heaven existed above them – which it does – and the only way to truly represent that was with cloud imagery.”

So what does it look like, if not clouds?” Danny asked, leaning out from his chair. He was buzzed, definitely feeling good.

Steve was quiet, Danny was sure he could hear him thinking. When the other man didn't say anything for a long while, though, he became concerned.

Steve?”

Hmm?”

You don't remember, do you.”

I—no, I don't. Part of me thinks I should, but part of me realizes that since I'm human now, I have no business remembering a place I'm not supposed to have been yet. I'm sorry, Danny.”

Danny quirked his eyebrows in surprise. “For what? I'm glad you're accepting your life as a person; if that means not remembering what heaven was like, then fine, I can deal with that.”

Steve smiled at him, bright and happy. “I'd much rather be here with you, anyway.”

Me too.”

He hadn't realized how closely they were sitting until their lips met, both of them barely leaning over in their chairs. The first touch was like a shock to Danny's system, and he ached from the sweetness of it. He'd been trying to tell himself it was a phase, that he'd get over it, but he'd known he wouldn't. How could he, when Steve lived in his house? And Steve... his lips were soft and sweet, his kiss tentative and unsure. Danny was fully aware of the fact that Steve was entirely the virgin here, and he refused to do anything to push the other man before he was ready.

Steve seemed to sense this, leaning back abruptly. “I'm so sorry, that wasn't—Danny, I didn't mean--” he babbled, a hand hovering over his mouth, his eyes wide.

Babe, it's ok. I've wanted to, for a while... I just wanted you to be ready, if that's how you felt. I want you to be comfortable.”

Rather than respond, Steve leaned back in and pressed his lips to Danny's, humming into it when Danny's tongue prodded for access. Steve allowed him, surging out of his chair and into Danny's lap, somehow fitting perfectly despite his size. Danny could've kissed Steve for hours, relishing the newness of it all, but his body was no longer designed for necking in a deck chair.

Let's move this inside, huh?” Danny breathed against Steve's lips, feeling the other man nod. They stumbled into the house and up the stairs, quietly making their way into Danny's bedroom. Steve halted when he saw the bed, suddenly nervous. Danny went to him, wrapping him in a tight hug, whispering that they didn't need to do a single thing beyond just lay together, if that's what Steve wanted.

I want everything with you,” Steve whimpered, a sad tinge to his voice. “I'm just not sure--”

We don't need to worry about anything,” Danny murmured, kissing Steve on the cheek and leading him closer to the bed. He removed his own clothes, save for his undershorts, and did the same to Steve, tugging him down beneath the sheets. “I want this with you, too. I never thought I'd want anything with anyone, after Rachel, but... it's different with you. I want to do this right.”

Steve smiled, one of the secret ones, the kind he only ever had for Danny. “Ok.”

They kissed and nuzzled, eventually falling asleep wrapped around each other. Danny was pretty sure it was the happiest he'd ever been.

~*~

The next day is when it all went to shit, or, that's the way it felt. All Danny could think was “nothing gold can stay.”

Steve was definitely gold.

~*~

Danny was an early riser, always had been, but that didn't necessarily mean he needed to bolt right out of bed. Not on the this morning, when he had a warm body snuggled up next to him for the first time in a few years. Steve's weight was solid next to him, curled along his side, legs pulled to his chest and arms wrapped around Danny's middle.

He watched Steve sleep, thinking how most people look different, younger when they're asleep, and that Steve looked the same. Sure, he had a few new lines around his eyes, but Danny liked to think he'd put them there, because he made Steve smile so very much. He leaned in, pressing his lips to Steve's forehead, lingering when he felt the other man stir against him.

G'morning,” Danny rumbled, Steve smiling sleepily at the feeling.

Hi,” he said, slitting his eyes open and gazing up at Danny from where his head rested against the other man's shoulder. Danny smiled, chest full to bursting with affection for this man-child-angel-thing beside him. Steve's eyes rolled closed again, snuggling impossibly closer, humming with satisfaction.

Grace is gone for the whole week,” Danny murmured, rolling so that he and Steve were facing each other. “I always miss her when she isn't here, but maybe you can keep me company.”

Why wouldn't I?” Steve asked, brows furrowing a little. “I'm not going anywhere if you aren't.”

Danny reached out to smooth away the wrinkle in Steve's forehead, leaning in to brush the other man's lips with his own. “I was half kidding, babe, I know you aren't. Maybe we can go do an activity, or something, you can pick.”

Steve sat bolt upright, thousand-watt smile firmly in place; Danny was sure that if Steve were a dog, his tail would be wagging. “Like an educational adventure? Oh, but Jenna's taken me on so many!”

Danny manfully ignored the swell of jealousy in his chest. “There has to be somewhere you haven't gone yet, Steve.”

The other man's brows pulled together in consideration as he thought, tapping absentmindedly on Danny's chest. “I would like to visit the zoo...” he trailed off shyly.

... to see the elephants?” Danny finished, grinning. If he never did anything else, going to the zoo would be entirely worth it for the expression of glee on Steve's face.

They have elephants?!”

Of course they do! Not sure which kind, mind you, since there's more than one type... but if I remember correctly, Grace went for a school trip and she did say there were elephants.”

Steve pounced on Danny, wrapping his long arms around him and squeezing tight. “Oh, thank you!”

Don't mention it,” Danny huffed, “now just let me go before I pass the fuck out.”

Steve let him go, remaining in Danny's space until both of them were properly dressed for a trip to the zoo. He was aware that Jenna sometimes took Steve to see the things – the aquarium, the museum, the library – and he knew Steve didn't hold it against him, but Danny did feel a bit guilty that he wasn't more active in Steve's education. The least he could do was take the guy to the zoo.

After checking the hours of operation, whether or not it was free to park, and how much it was to get in, Danny bundled Steve into the car and off they went. Steve prattled on the entire drive down about the different types of elephants, their varying diets, their sizes. Danny listened with one ear, trying to pay attention to the road.

The Honolulu Zoo wasn't hard to find; Danny wasn't shocked to see it was a bit packed, though. It was a school break, after all. He hoped it wouldn't be so crowded it ruined the experience. Steve was spellbound almost instantly, staring at the sign and all the people. Danny had to bodily drag him to the counter, quickly paying their admission and grabbing a map. Once inside, he could breath a bit better, as people started meandering off to look at the different habitats.

Alrighty, what should we look at first?” he asked, though he was sure he already knew the answer.

Elephants!” Steve almost shouted, bouncing on the balls of his feet. “Danny, let's see the elephants!”

Laughing, Danny looped an arm around Steve's waist, steering him to the right. “Ok, ok, we'll check out the elephants first.” They strolled along, Danny pointing out the various smaller things along the way: flamingos, assorted South American birds, and butterflies. Steve took everything in in a way that made Danny ache. When they reached the elephants, though, Danny's heart almost stopped, thrilled as he was at Steve's obvious joy.

Danny,” he breathed, “look at them.”

The Honolulu Zoo boasted Asian elephants and not the African ones Steve had seen on TV, but it didn't matter. He walked right up to the edge of the enclosure and peered in, grinning. Danny quietly reminded him that he could look but not touch, and Steve kept his hands to himself, glancing over his shoulder periodically to beam in Danny's direction.

After about twenty minutes or so, Danny attempted to get Steve moving to another exhibit, but Steve wouldn't budge. He grasped the other man's elbow and tugged. “C'mon, babe, there's a lot of other animals to look at.”

But I want to stay with the elephants,” Steve pouted, finally backing away. “They look very unhappy in there.”

Well, I'm sure they'd prefer not to have a bunch of people staring at them all day long, but I assume they're well taken care of.”

Pondering this, Steve allowed himself to be lead away towards the other habitats, content once Danny said they could look at the elephants again on the way back. The meandered about, taking their time and pausing to study the wildlife in the enclosures. Steve's child-like delight made Danny happy to just follow him around, he didn't need anything else.

Of course, that's usually when stupid things happen, and if Danny knew anything, it was that stupid things happened often and in large quantities.

Danny, that child is upset,” Steve muttered, a frown on his face. They were sitting on a bench across from a small bird enclosure, just people watching. Danny leaned over and squinted until he focused on what Steve was referring to: a child was throwing a tantrum, kicking and screaming on the ground while the mother tiredly looked on.

Don't worry about it, the kid just wants attention, there isn't anything wrong with him,” Danny said, patting Steve on the knee.

But--”

It isn't our business, ok? Believe me, nothing bothered me more than when people would try and tell me how to parent Grace when she was a baby.”

What if something were actually wrong?”

With that kid? Well, if there were, I think we'd be able to tell.”

I can tell,” Steve said, turning to look Danny in the face. “I'm an angel, Danny – or, well, I was, anyway, but I can still feel things and I am telling you, that child is in danger.”

Danny regarded him quietly, looking back over at the kid, who'd stopped crying. A man had walked over – Danny presumed he was with the woman and the child – and was almost looming over them both. He couldn't make out what was being said, but judging by the woman's posture, it wasn't anything good.

What would you even do?” Danny asked, chewing his bottom lip. “I mean, getting involved would only cause a scene, and if there really isn't anything wrong, we'll look like jerks.”

I can feel it in my heart,” Steve said quietly, and Danny couldn't think of a thing to say. It was another of those moments, where Steve's eyes told the truth of how old he was, and how much he actually knew.

Ok, alright, let's walk over and ask if everything is ok, how's that sound? I'll go with you.”

They both stood, making their way over to the small group. Danny noted that no one else seemed to be phased, found that odd, but continued anyway. If Steve truly felt that strongly, well, there wasn't anything he could do.

Excuse me?” he called, getting the man and the woman's attention. “Everything alright over here? Your boy was making an awful lot of noise--”

What business of it is yours?” the man snarled, turning and puffing himself up. He was large, about Steve's height but broader, thicker with muscle. “Fuck off.”

Now now, no need for that sort of language,” Danny continued pleasantly. “It's just that when a kid acts out like that in public, it's usually for good reason.”

Like because you beat him,” Steve added, quiet enough that only the man and Danny could hear. “And the woman.”

Danny gaped at him with shock; that was <i>not</i> what he'd meant, no way. “Uh, Steve? You can't just--”

But he does,” Steve replied, neatly side-stepping the man and coming around to the child. “See? He has bruises on his ribs and his back.” The boy smiled at Steve, lifting his shirt without being told to reveal the blue-purple-yellow marks beneath.

How dare you--” the man spat, moving to grab at Steve.

It's my fault,” the woman interjected, eyes wild. “He does it to get back at me, it's my fault!”

What? No! No, it isn't your fault, and it's not the kid's fault,” Danny said, anger bubbling up in his chest. “It's this motherfucker's fault, for thinking he's so tough that he can take out his bullshit issues on people smaller than him.”

I'll take some shit out on you,” the man sneered, suddenly in Danny's space, with a hand fisted in Danny's shirt and the other cocked back in a fist. The woman screamed from behind, and a few people gasped. Danny wanted to hope the guy wouldn't punch him out, but all things considered, he wasn't going to bet on it. He was ready to tense up, maybe wiggle or something to get out of the guy's grip, when a bright light suddenly exploded from over the man's shoulder.

Danny was aware of ending up on the ground, was aware that he was yelling about it, and was aware that people were yelling and screaming around him. He was also aware, on some level, that Steve wasn't near him.

Steve wasn't near him because Steve was suddenly ten feet tall, gleaming like polished silver in the sunlight, his skin tinged gold. He was too bright to look at head on, but Danny could still make out the shape of him, the shape of the man dangling from his fist. He looked like a person, he was shaped like one, but Danny was certain he'd never seen a person who looked like that. He could see Steve's wings, spread out in all their glory, and Danny suddenly understood then what he was looking at: this is what an angel truly looked like, not the winged man-creature Danny had pulled from the ocean. That was Steve's newly fledged human form, with the wings as left overs. What he was looking at now was an angel of heaven.

He was the most beautiful and terrifying thing Danny had ever seen.

There was a ringing in his ears – had that been there the whole time? – and his eyes were watering from trying to see what Steve was doing. His eyeballs kept glancing off, like oil on water, and he figured it was because mere mortals weren't actually ever supposed to stare dead-on at angels of heaven.

It took everything he had to turn his back, surveying the panicked people around him. He grabbed the arms of those closest and forced them back and away, shoving and pushing. There was still screaming, and what sounded like gunshots, and oh my dear Lord, Danny thought as he scrambled to get people back, this is our fault, we did this.  He wanted to tell Steve to stop, to put the guy down, to go, but Steve wouldn't have been able to hear him. Danny was hearing now what he'd first registered as ringing: the cacophony of sound from the one time Steve had told Danny his true name.

When he'd pushed as many people as he could, Danny turned and made his way back to Steve and the man now laying at the angel's feet. Holding a hand out in front of his eyes so he wouldn't go blind, Danny tried to see where the light ended and Steve began.

Steve! Stop, you have to stop, you have to leave! They're going to shoot at you!” Danny shouted, the sound lost in the fray. He went to say more, but then everything stopped.

Time stopped.

~*~

Danny was awake but resolutely kept his eyes closed. He was on something soft, something comfortable. He was warm, nothing felt like it hurt, and he was pretty sure he was inside... somewhere. Carefully opening his eyes, he blinked in surprise at his surroundings.

He was on a bed, the biggest bed he'd ever seen, wearing what looked like white pajamas. He matched the space: everything was white, glowing with a soft light.

Am I dead?” he asked the air around him. “Did I die? Because if I did, I'm going to be very, very pissed off.”

You didn't die, Daniel.”

Danny whipped around to see Steve standing a few feet from him, long white pants covering his lower half and wings tucked tightly to his back.

Well that's good to hear—and hey, I thought I told you to call me Danny.”

Steve smiled then, and it was the saddest smile Danny had ever seen. “Because we're friends, yeah, I remember. We need to talk, Daniel, and the things we need to talk about are formal. And for that reason I will call you by your given name.”

Nodding, Danny watched Steve walk toward him and settle beside him on the mattress. He waited, wondering what there was to talk about, especially since he wasn't dead. He was curious about the wings, though, and the whole 'avenging angel' thing that happened at the zoo.

You'd asked me, when we first met, why I'd been cast out,” Steve started, turning his gaze on Danny. “I hadn't wanted to discuss it, because it was still too raw, too painful. I fear that it was a mistake for me not to have told you, though, because if I had, perhaps we wouldn't be here.”

Here, like in this room, or here like knowing each other?” Danny tried for levity, but even to his own ears it sounded forced. Steve just smiled that sad smile.

Angels come into existence with a single purpose. Some of them guard, some of them perform miracles, some of them are warriors of God, and some of them avenge, yes. They know nothing but their purpose, and they perform those tasks until... well, until God says 'enough.' My task, Daniel, was to protect, as a guardian angel. We do not become attached to our charges, because one lifetime for us is millions of lifetimes for you, and we can have many charges. Often it is the same soul in many bodies, but that is neither here not there. The point is, we aren't supposed to get attached... we aren't--” Steve cut himself off, and Danny could see now how tightly the other man was fighting to control his emotions.

Steve--”

We aren't supposed to fall in love with them! I'm not even supposed to know what love is, Daniel, do you understand? And yet there I was, in love with this human being, this tiny life. I did my very best to protect him, but even I could not stop the traitorous ways of those he called 'friends.' They killed him, Daniel! They killed him and I... I could not just let them get away with that, I couldn't. So I went after them.”

You avenged,” Danny said quietly, taking one of Steve's hands in his. “But you aren't supposed to be an avenging angel, you're supposed to protect.”

I am no angel of Death,” Steve agreed sadly. “But I was driven by emotions I felt for a person who wasn't supposed to be aware of my existence. I killed them. All of them. They deserved it, ending his life in the way that they did. And regardless of whether or not God agreed, I went against the cardinal rules of heaven and that could not stand.”

So they kicked you out.”

Yes.”

So... what happened at the zoo, then? I thought you weren't an angel anymore?”

Steve sighed, scrubbing a free hand over his face; Danny resisted the urge to pull him down and kiss him.

Apparently there was more angel left in me than I thought, because I just... when I saw that man and the way he was touching you, when I felt his intent – I couldn't let it happen again, not again, not to you.”

So what I saw was...”

What I truly am,” Steve whispered, head hanging. “Human beings cannot fathom the power of God, nor that of his heavenly creations; that's why it hurt to look at me. And technically, in my true form I should be unable to exist on the earthly plane. I have no idea how that happened.”

You're in big trouble then, is what you're saying,” Danny frowned, taking his hand back and running both of them through his hair. “So, what? You were cast out, then you went into Hulk-mode in the middle of a crowded area... are the angel-police going to arrest you, or something? I'm not trying to make jokes, I honestly want to know.”

I know as much as you do,” Steve shrugged, a wing coming up to curl around Danny's body and pull him close to Steve's side. “What I can tell you is that right now, you are in an... an ambulance, because you blacked out. I'm appearing to you in this way because currently, physically, I'm, uh... indisposed.”

That's just great. They're gonna call my ex-wife and she's going to freak out, which in turn is going to freak Grace out—”

I was worried you were injured,” Steve said timidly. “You hit the ground very hard.”

I appreciate the concern, babe, don't get me wrong. It's just... when you're a live human being, things can get complicated very quickly. And listen, what you did? The reason you were cast out? Is the bravest, most admirable fucking thing I have ever heard.”

Steve startled at that, eyes wide as he met Danny's gaze. “What?”

Fuck the angel code of conduct, fuck the rules. Just because angels 'aren't supposed' to know what love is, doesn't mean it's an impossible thing for you to feel. And just because no other angels – that we know of, anyway – have ever gone 'against task,' doesn't mean it's the wrong thing to do. You did what you thought needed to be done; someone you cared about was taken away from you. That's bad enough, but then when you factor in the issue of protection being your job—Steve, I'm surprised you didn't go postal all over those heavenly bodies.”

That got a quirked smile out of Steve, and the tight bands around Danny's heart loosened.

I wish I could remain here forever, but you're going to be waking up very shortly, so I have to leave you.”

Danny felt panic bloom in his stomach, cold and sharp; nothing gold can stay. “Where are you going?”

I have to answer for what I've done,” Steve said, expression solemn.

That's bullshit!” Danny shouted, his vision getting fuzzy as he felt himself begin to pull toward waking. “You're not an angel anymore! They can't tell you what to do!”

I'm sorry,” Steve said, fading as the edges of Danny's vision grew dark. “I love you.”

Danny came awake with a start, gasping for breath and blinking tears out of his eyes. Rachel was curled up in a chair to the side, snoring lightly, and Danny tried to get a grip. He was sure a nurse would see the change in his vitals and head in soon enough, he wanted to at least be able to compose himself before he had to start answering questions.

 

Verdict

 

There was still a wince every time the doorbell rang, or someone called the house; a sort of Pavlovian reaction after the media frenzy. Danny left the house only when he absolutely had to, aware that reporters and nosy neighbors were always out and about, prowling the street in front of his house.

The 'event' at the zoo had drawn all sorts of attention, a lot of it on Danny, as he'd been the only person to walk toward whatever it had been, instead of away. Folks had taken pictures but got only blurry images, Danny a black smudge in the center of a white light. Apparently angels didn't photograph well.

Danny never mentioned what he'd thought the light was; it wasn't so much that he thought people wouldn't believe him, as that he didn't want to get into how he knew it to be the truth. It wasn't any of their business, as far as he was concerned.

Going to his office had proven to be too much of a chore; his co-workers were being harassed and he had to put his foot down. Chin and Kono still came by often, having cook-outs with Danny and Grace, but it wasn't the same.

Without Steve, it wasn't the same.

It had been weeks, which turned into months, which turned into a full year from the day Steve had fallen into Danny's life. Grace had marked all their birthday's on the calendar, and had asked Danny if they could still celebrate Steve's birthday, even though he wasn't with them.

At first, Danny had wanted to say no, because it hurt. He realized, though, that it would hurt more to act like it was just another day, and so he'd given in. they got a small cake, ordered take-out for the two of them, and blew out Steve's candles. Grace had started crying when Danny went to cut into the cake, so he'd boxed it back up and put it in the fridge, trying not to cry himself.

I want Steve back,” Grace whimpered, knuckling at her eyes. They were still sitting at the table, finishing twin glasses of chocolate milk.

Me too, Monkey,” Danny said, swirling his milk around.

Why did he have to go? He shouldn't have been in trouble for trying to help you.”

Danny sighed; they'd had this conversation in various forms many times over the last few months. “I don't know, babe, I think it's angel business. Even Steve wasn't sure why, he just knew that was how it had to be.”

They didn't have to take him back,” Grace muttered angrily, slamming her little fist on the table. “He was ours! They had their chance, they can't take him back.” She descended into tears, and Danny rounded the table, picking her up and carrying her upstairs. It was getting late, she was tired, it was time for bed. She tried to refuse, but in the end Danny won, tucking her in and kissing her goodnight.

Bypassing the kitchen, he made his way out to the beach, plopping down into one of the Adirondack chairs. The moon was out, glinting off the ocean and making it very bright out, for all that it was late. Danny stared at the stars until his vision blurred; the back of his hand wiping at his eyes revealed that he was crying.

Stupid fucking Steve,” he muttered, standing and stomping down to the water's edge. “Stupid Steve and stupid angels and stupid God.” He kicked at the sand, picking up rocks and chucking them into the ocean, only mildly satisfied by the splashing sounds they made. “I wouldn't be feeling like this if not for him, Grace wouldn't be feeling like this... they had no right!”

He was shouting, probably would wake the neighbors, but he didn't care.

They had no right to take you back; you were ours, they cast you out, there shouldn't be any take backs. I wanna see the fine print, where's the contract, what'd you do with the receipts!” he stomped up and down the shoreline, yelling and spitting and cursing everything. He turned to throw another rock into the ocean when he saw it.

A shooting star, awesome,” Danny quipped. “Maybe I'll make a fucking wish--” he cut himself off, though, because shooting stars don't erratically change course and make way towards the beach. “You have got to be fucking kidding me.”

Danny watched with mild horror as the shooting star – or whatever it was – hurtled toward him. It was getting closer and closer to the surface of the water, and he vaguely wondered if it would splash down before smashing him.

He didn't have to wonder for long, as the object – shining, shimmering like stardust in the moonlight – hit the water, sending spray up and into Danny's face. He wiped at his eyes, stinging a bit from the salt. Whatever it was, it had landed not too far from shore, and he could see something emerge and come toward him.

The beat of his pulse was in his throat, throbbing behind his eyeballs, because seriously? “No way, no, there's no way, I was just kidding about the wishes!” he babbled, taking a step back for every one the form in front of him took forward.

The moon was bright, and the person – definitely a person, naked as the day they were born – came towards. They were glowing, was the thing, though the glow was beginning to fade. Danny stared hard at the face, angry and not, ecstatic and not. It was too good to be true, it had to be--

Danny?” came the voice, the glow gone and the face in focus.

He couldn't breathe, be couldn't move, he just stood there, watching the other man move toward him in hesitant little steps.

Steve.”

His face lit up in that oft-remembered smile, moving faster now until he was wrapped around Danny, soaking wet and laughing. Danny was too stunned to move for a moment, before he threw his arms around Steve and squeezed. He held on tight for a minute before shoving Steve back, the other man falling into the sand.

You fucking asshole! It's been months – months! – and nothing, not a single word, not an appearance in a dream or something, nothing!” Danny put his hands on his hips glaring down at the spluttering, sandy naked man before him. “What have you got to say for yourself?”

I had to have a trial! And I told you, Time is a purely human construct; I didn't realize it had been that long. Danny, I'm sorry, if I could've been back sooner, I would have.”

Uh-huh, right. So now what, you had a trial? What's the decision, then, hmm? What's the verdict?”

Steve stared up at him, flustered, sandy, and soggy, and still the most stunning thing Danny had seen this side of an avenging angel.

The—I've been stripped of all my angel abilities. No more giant avenging crazy person, no more magic. No more getting your home improvement project done super fast.” The last was said with a touch of sadness, like that's all he'd been good for. Danny threw his hands up.

I'm asking if we get to keep you this time, you animal! Do you get to stay with us—with me?”

Standing now, and gingerly stepping forward so that he could touch Danny, Steve bent down so they were eye-to-eye.

I'll stay as long as you'll have me, Danny. I am entirely human now, I have the same natural life-span you do. And I'd... I'd like to spend it with you...” he trailed off, suddenly uncertain, like maybe Danny didn't want this, like maybe Danny didn't want him.

Oh please, fucking yes,” Danny growled, grabbing Steve and kissing him with as much force as he could muster. Steve's knees weakened but he managed to remain standing, wrapping himself around Danny once again and kissing him back.

~*~

Steve suffered through tongue lashings from everyone he and Danny knew, nodding and agreeing and making promises. He loved Danny, he admitted it freely, and he loved Grace, too, and all of the people he'd met since crash landing in Hawaii. He wouldn't trade any of them for anything.

Rachel, having always put a lot of faith in her 'womanly intuition,' offered to take Grace for a week, so that Danny and Steve could have some alone time to “rediscover each other.”

Danny had groaned out loud at that, covering his face with his hands. “You assume we had time to 'discover' before.”

Laughing at him, Rachel wrapped Danny in a hug. “You can make up for lost time now. Go on, enjoy him, now that you have him back.”

He'd never been more thankful to have an ex-wife.

Steve, though walking and talking more like a regular person, was just as green as he'd been the year before. Danny had explained Rachel's intentions, and Steve had flushed all over, slightly shocked. He prattled on about only wanting to do what Danny wanted, and Danny had to remind him that it was Danny who'd been around the block already, not Steve. Caving, Steve agreed that he was ready to take the next step, had been dreaming about it in fact, and wasn't that interesting?

I'm just not sure how it's supposed to work,” Steve said again, the two of them tucked into bed, the TV on but muted. “One of us would have to have--”

Uh-uh, not true, my friend,” Danny interjected, grabbing the remote and shutting the TV off. “It works, because plenty of other male-male couples do it with no complaints. I've done it before myself, a few times.”

Really?”

Mmhm.”

Steve frowned. “I dunno...”

Look, we'll take it slow, ok? You're a virgin, so I'm not going to rush you... you've never had a blowjob before, right?”

A what?” Steve practically squeaked, as Danny's hands were now tugging off the other man's sleep pants and flitting over his exposed groin. Danny had been lightly touching him the whole while, and Steve was already half hard.

I'll just show you,” Danny grinned, winking before dipping his head and licking up the length of Steve's stiffening cock. Steve froze, mouth hanging open as he watched. He understood the basic mechanics of coupling, and he was very aware of the pleasurable aspects beyond merely just trying to create life. It was one thing to understand and entirely another to take part.

D-danny,” Steve panted, arching and grabbing at whatever parts of Danny he could reach. Danny just hummed, sucking on the head of Steve's fully hard dick now. He swirled his tongue around it, occasionally dipping into the slit before bobbing his head down, taking more in. Steve shivered beneath him, keening noises escaping from his throat.

I wanna hear you,” he paused to say, crawling up the length of Steve's body to nip at his neck. “It feels good, right? I wanna know what you like and what you don't like, and how much.” He slithered back down, deep-throating Steve in one smooth motion. Steve bucked up hard, a strangled moan forcing itself from his throat. He'd never felt pleasure before, and his entire body was singing with it. Danny hummed in encouragement, and Steve voiced his pleasure fully then, creating an erotic soundtrack for the motion.

Fisting his own cock, Danny jacked himself while he sucked Steve, groaning around the other man's dick as he did so. He was more actually settled between Steve's legs now, Steve's knees bent and spread wide to make ample room. Sticking a finger in his mouth beside Steve's dick, Danny made sure it was spit-slicked before sliding it out and trailing down the space behind Steve's balls. The other man bucked into the touch, whimpering when the wet finger strayed over the pucker of his asshole.

Again, that—do that again,” Steve whined, practically begging, twisting his fingers in Danny's hair. Not one to deny the man he loved anything, Danny obliged him, rubbing over Steve's hole until it was good and wet.

Hold your knees back for me,” Danny said, voice hoarse with lust. Steve did as he was asked, biting at his bottom lip with apprehension. He moaned, long and loud, at the first touch of Danny's tongue to his hole. Danny didn't give him a chance to get accustomed to any one sensation, prodding with his tongue and then laving over the fluttering muscle, pursing his lips and sucking hard. Steve's hips rocked against Danny's face, nonsense falling from his lips. Leaning up, Danny saw how hard Steve was, how much his cock was dripping. He wasn't too far off himself, and he was pretty sure Steve wouldn't be ready for the main event yet, anyway.

Instead, Danny dove in with fingertips and tongue, rutting against the mattress like a teenager while his other hand loosely grasped Steve's dick in a fist.

Steve was babbling, his breath hitching as his rocking became more erratic. He could feel it, something hot and wet coiling up inside him – Danny flicked his tongue and Steve arched hard, all of it welling up and spilling out of him in a great gush. Kneeling up, Danny suckled the head of Steve's cock, getting the last of it out of him before grinding himself against Steve's hip. It only took a few seconds before he was coming, too, shuddering against Steve's sated body. The two of them lay panting, Danny rolling over after a moment and getting up to get something to clean them off with.

That...” Steve trailed off, a goofy, satisfied look on his face. “That was amazing.”

Danny chuckled. “Why thank you; that's just the beginning, there's plenty more where that came from.”

Steve's lips curled into a wicked smile, and Danny almost did a double take; where'd his innocent angel go? “Oh, I certainly hope so.”

He dove in for a kiss, sucking Danny's tongue and the taste of himself. Danny cleaned them off, touching Steve gently before tucking them under the blankets.

I love you,” Danny said, tucking Steve beneath his chin. “I think I loved you right away.”

I love you, too... and I'm not so sure, I think I was in love with you first.”

Oh yeah?”

Mmhm... let's say I was a bit more... prone... than you were.”

Grinning fit to split, Danny kissed whatever part of Steve he could reach before snuggling down. They could argue about all they wanted, could afford to now, because Steve was his and he was Steve's and neither of them was going anywhere.

 

FIN