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I Won't Last A Day Without You

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I can take all the madness the world has to give
But I won't last a day without you...



"I don't like leaving you like this," Steve said. They were at the gate, waiting for final boarding to be called on Steve's flight. "I can cancel this flight and -"

"The team needs you back home, and I'm just gonna spend another week or so with my folks. Lisa has to be back in New York, and Emily's boss is kind of a dick and doesn't want to give her more time off, so they'll be alone, and it's a little fast for everybody to just be gone."

"Nice thing is, I am the boss, so I can stay if I want to. I want to."

"A week. You can make it a week without me, right?" Danny asked, smiling. For some reason, that made Steve feel worse and the lump in his throat got bigger. He knew it showed on his face because Danny's smile faded and he pulled him close. 

"Not even a day if I had my way," Steve mumbled against his ear. "I love you, Danno."

"I love you, too, babe. I promise, before I leave here, I'll book a flight for one week from today, and then I'll be home." He stepped back. Steve was embarrassed that his eyes were filling up. It was stupid. It was a week. "Hey, I'm gonna be okay, Steven. Then we've got some stuff to work out. Good stuff," he added, smiling at Steve.

"I guess I need to go," Steve said as the boarding of his flight was announced. "Is it okay if I...can I...you know, kiss you goodbye?"

"I'm gonna be hurt if you don't."

They'd never kissed like this before, on the lips, prolonged. A real lover's kiss. Steve pulled Danny close and kissed him, lingering and tasting his mouth, thinking their first real kiss shouldn't be a kiss goodbye. He made himself back away. He felt like someone was taking his heart and pulling it out by the roots, but he moved a little farther away. 

"I'll be fine, babe. Go give the bad guys hell this week and I'll see ya real soon."

"I'll do my best," Steve replied, smiling. "When you get home, we'll talk."

"Better do more than that," Danny said, winking at him as he turned and started walking away. Steve used all his self control not to go after him. Instead, he made himself turn away, too, and head for his plane. At the last minute, he allowed himself one look back. Danny was still standing there, at a distance, as if he expected him to do just that. Danny blew him a kiss, then turned and walked away for real. 

********

Danny found himself back at the airport a week later, boarding his own flight back to Hawaii. The last week had been grueling. He knew he counted a lot on Steve's presence to get him through, but he didn't realize just how much he'd leaned on Steve emotionally until he returned to his parents' house without him and went back to being their support system, with no one bolstering him. Still, the thought of seeing Steve again and picking up where they left off was making him smile. Matt was still dead, Danny still saw Reyes' lifeless face in the occasional nightmare, and his parents were still shattered. None of that was going to magically vanish anytime soon, but it would be bearable eventually. Once he was back with Steve, it would be okay...not okay, really, but manageable.

He knew he'd done a poor job of keeping in touch with Steve during the past week, but once the family had cleared out and gone on with their lives, he'd spent most of his time with his parents until, as he left for the last time, he realized their healing wasn't going to happen in a week or so that he stayed there. He wondered if he moved in with them permanently if it would really change anything. You can't replace one child with another. Just because you have another son doesn't mean you don't grieve the one who died. He had his own place in his parents' hearts, but he couldn't fill Matt's vacancy, too. 

The trip home was long and exhausting, even more so without Steve. They'd have passed the time talking or joking or arguing, but at any rate, it would have been better with him than without him. Most things were. Danny felt every one of his thirty-eight years plus another thirty-eight as he made his way to his car, threw his luggage in the trunk, and started driving toward his house. The closer he got to it, the less he wanted to be there. His last memories were gathering up the money and planning strategy with Steve for their trip to Colombia. 

Now Matty was six feet under and Danny felt like his blood was on his hands as much as Reyes'. He was Matty's big brother, and he'd fallen down on the job protecting him. Unable to go sit in that house and face those memories just yet, he turned around and drove. He wasn't sure where he was going until he got there, but at least it would allow him to put off returning to reality just yet. He parked the car and got out, looking a the sweeping view from Diamond Head Lookout, before he settled himself on the stone wall there to stare out at it. It was unlikely that was going to solve anything, but it was holding the real world at bay a bit longer. He wasn't sure how long he'd been there when he sensed Steve's presence even before he sat down nearby. 

Danny realized just how guilty he was of not keeping in touch with Steve, given how they'd left things, how their feelings for each other had come to the surface. He didn't know what to say, how to handle any of this well. Maybe grief was really going to get the better of him, because he was already fucking up the best thing that ever happened to him.

"Hey," Steve said quietly. 

"Hey." That was eloquent. He couldn't look at Steve. He wanted to grab him and kiss him and never let him go, but after he'd let so many days go by, he wondered if he still had a right to do that. Or if he deserved to be happy when Matty was six feet under because of his piss poor decisions three years ago.

"Your flight landed hours ago. I went by your place, tried calling you a bunch." Steve's tone was calm, neutral. 

Yeah, I'm a fucking asshole who slept in the same bed with you and kissed you in the airport and then dumped you for a week. 

"Yeah, I didn't feel like going home yet, y'know?" Didn't call you either. Do you even still want me like that? I wouldn't blame you if you didn't. If you didn't even look for me like you just did.

"Yeah, I figured. I figured and then I remembered you telling me about this place, that it was a special spot for you. How're your folks holding up?"

Is it possible you love me this much that you come looking for me when I don't call you, and you're not angry? You're not demanding answers about where we stand or why I just...let you down like this? 

"You know, my mom, she's wandering around the house like a zombie. She can' t put two words together. My dad, he's putting on a brave face." It was true, once the hype of family and friends and well wishes subsided, the cold reality of Matt being dead had hit her even harder. If his dad hadn't been retired, it would have been easier for him, but he was, so they just sort of wandered around the house like two zombies. 

"How're you doin'?"

I thought it would be better now. You said it would get better. When does it get better? It still hurts so much I just want to crawl into your arms and cry until I can't do it anymore. 

"I'm all right."

"You know, it's not your fault, Danny."

"I don't know about that." Yes, I do. It's my fault. He was my little brother and I didn't protect him. I let him down and now he's dead. How long before I do that to you? Which would kill me.

"The coroner told us Matt was dead before Marco ever got to the island."

Marco? We're on a first name basis with that piece of shit I flushed down the toilet of life?

"I think about it like this. Three years ago, if I hadn't let my brother get on that plane, now he'd be sitting in jail instead of in the ground." Not sure how I would have done that. If I'd shot him, my parents probably never would have spoken to me again. Matt either. But there had to be a way, and I missed it. I did the wrong thing and now he's dead.

"What are you doing? Don't do that to yourself, man."

"It's the truth." I let him down and he's dead and my parents are destroyed and I don't deserve to be happy when everyone else is dead or miserable because of me.

"What're you gonna do, second guess every decision you made? I did that with my old man, Danny. I did that with Freddie, too. The truth is, I could never have saved either of them. Don't do that to yourself."

Danny wasn't sure how long they sat there in silence before he spoke again. 

"I'm sorry."

"For what?" Steve asked, frowning. 

"For what? I don't answer your calls and then I disappear out here and I start something with you and then I drop it..."

"You're grieving, Danny. There isn't a stopwatch running."

"You're not angry? You should be."

"I should be angry with you because your parents are in anguish, you're blaming yourself for that and everything else, and in the midst of all that, you didn't leave me any dirty messages on my voice mail to tide me over til you got home?"

Danny was stunned to find himself actually laughing at that. 

"I love you. That doesn't go away because it isn't easy or fun." 

Danny looked over at Steve, who was holding out his hand. Danny took it, holding on and just sitting there a few minutes. 

"Nothing life-altering has to happen for us right now, Danno. I love you, and I'm gonna love you next week, next month, next year...though I kind of admit I hope it doesn't take that long for something more to happen with us."

"I don't think it'll be that long," Danny said, chuckling. "I love you, too. Sometimes I just don't feel like I've got the right to be in love and happy and starting something new when..."

"Then let's take it one step at a time, okay? Come stay with me for a while until you're ready to go back to your place." He paused. "Or, you don't have to go back there at all, other than to pack." 

"I'd like that." 

"Then it's settled." Steve stood and waited for Danny to do the same. "Think I could get a hug? I kinda missed you."

"I can do that," Danny said, hugging Steve and holding on, feeling Steve's arms go around him, pulling him close. "I'll follow you," he said, stepping back, gesturing toward his car. 

"Yeah, okay."

When they got to Steve's place, Danny unloaded his luggage and carried it up to Steve's room. It was so much easier coming here than going back to his empty house. 

"Hey, Danno, you up to doin' a little work?" Steve was in the bedroom doorway, his phone in his hand. "Jerry got himself into a mess with his surveillance project."

"I'm afraid to ask."

"He's down at HQ. Car keys?" Steve asked, holding out his hand. 

"You haven't even been with me half an hour and you're after my keys already?" Danny dug them out, nonetheless, and tossed them to Steve, who caught them.

"You have a problem with that, Danno?"

"It's good to be home, that's all," Danny said, chuckling. It was the first time he'd felt a little jolt of happiness since Steve left New Jersey a week earlier. 

********

Steve hadn't really planned for things to unfold the way they did, but working with Danny, just the two of them, on Jerry's latest misadventure, seemed like a good way to break Danny back into the routine. It was a convoluted case to put it mildly, and Jerry had managed to cross paths with some pretty heavy action. It didn't turn out to be an easy day at the office, but they solved it and stopped the movement of all that counterfeit money, not to mention thwarting Farrow's plans to fund the IRA. 

Steve didn't expect them to end up on a freighter full of rusty metal barrels. At first, it didn't seem like Danny was going to react to it at all. Steve opened one of the barrels; they had to know if the money was there, and it was. Suddenly, Danny was hanging over the railing, vomiting violently. One minute, he was next to Steve, sharing the moment of victory at finding all that money, the next, he was throwing up until he was down to dry heaves that were painful for Steve to listen to. He could only imagine what they felt like. 

"Danny." He was at his side in an instant, hand on his back, worried because it seemed for a moment like Danny couldn't stop the heaves and catch his breath. For a few moments, he couldn't, but finally, with both hands on the railing, he pushed himself upright. He was shaking and covered in a sheen of cold sweat. 

"Sorry. Guess I'm not ready to be back on the job again," he croaked. 

"No, I'm sorry, Danno," Steve said, rubbing his back low, just below his vest so he could actually feel the contact. 

"Not sure if I could have thought of this one even in a nightmare. How many fucking barrels are on this boat, anyway?"

"Too many. The Coast Guard's people are all over the place. They can clean this up. Let's go."

"I would if my legs weren't shaking," Danny said, still leaning on the railing.

"Okay, just breathe, buddy. Take it easy." Steve wound an arm around Danny's middle to steady him. "Can you walk if I hold onto you?" 

"Just give me a minute. I don't want all these guys to think I'm a seasick little pussy."

"Danny–"

"Let's go," Danny said after a moment, and Steve could see he was forcing a calm and strength into his movements he didn't really feel, but he managed to walk away from the collection of barrels, and stay on his feet until they got off the freighter and were back in the car, on the way back to headquarters. 

"We can go home. I can call–"

"No, I'm all right. You don't have to babysit me."

"Okay. Danny, I'm sorry. It never occurred to me he'd have the money in..."

"Barrels. They're barrels, Steve. You can say it. I won't self-destruct, I promise." The anger in Danny's voice stung a bit, but Steve understood it. It was that or give in to the grief again, and Steve could understand Danny choosing anger. 

Danny didn't want to see Jerry or deal with Farrow, so Steve dropped him off at the house and returned to headquarters to wrap things up. Danny insisted he'd be fine, but Steve didn't lose any time taking care of things so he could get back home to Danny. When he did get back to the house, Danny was in bed, but he was awake, staring at the ceiling. 

"Ocean noises keeping you up?" Steve said, trying to keep his tone light. 

"Something like that. Everything all set with Farrow?"

"Yeah, Jerry had his moment of victory," Steve said, pulling his shirt over his head and tossing it aside. He kicked off his shoes and took off his pants. "I'm gonna grab a shower."

"Okay," Danny said, sighing. He was shirtless, and Steve wondered what, if anything, he had on under the covers. Steve sat on the side of the bed. 

"You feeling okay now?"

"My stomach's still kind of sour, but I'm okay."

"You need anything?"

"You," he said, smiling faintly, touching Steve's arm. 

"You've got me, Danno." Steve took his hand and held onto it. "I won't be long."

"Good," Danny said, still smiling at him. 

"Sure you feel okay?" Steve asked, feeling Danny's forehead. Then he leaned forward and kissed him there. 

"I feel better now. C'mere. You don't need a shower."

"I kind of do."

"Just get in bed with me."

"Let me hit the head and I'll be right back."

"I'll be here," Danny quipped.

"You better be." Steve heeded the call of nature, washed his hands, and went back into the bedroom. He left his shorts on, glad he made the right call when he lifted the covers to get in and saw that Danny had his on, too. He was barely in the bed when Danny moved closer and ducked under his arm, resting his head on Steve's chest, winding his arm around Steve's middle. "This is nice," Steve said, holding Danny close. "I missed you."

"I missed you, too. Missed this. I didn't sleep much after you left."

"I should have ignored what you told me and stayed there."

"Maybe. I guess I'm not so hot at figuring out what I want these days. But if you'd done that, you wouldn't have solved that old case of your dad's, and I know that means a lot to you."

"Yeah, I was glad I could do that. It was important to my dad, and I think he'd be pleased it was solved. He kept in touch with Ellie all those years..." Steve sighed.

"Should have been you he was spending that time with," Danny said.

"I didn't want to think that, but it kind of hurts. I know why he did it, but he had Mary and me and he was looking for some other guy's kid to be with. Stupid for that to bother me now."

"Your dad did what he thought was best for you guys, and he loved you. You know that. But it's still gotta hurt, and knowing he was kind of playing dad to somebody else...you're not weird because that feels...wrong." Danny was quiet a while. "She grew up pretty, didn't she?"

"Ellie? Yeah, I guess. Why?"

"She likes you."

"I like her. She's a sharp lady, and she's one of the last people who saw my dad before..."

Danny was quiet a while. 

"You don't think I like her like that, do you?"

"Do you?" 

"I like you like that. Besides, I can only manage so many pushy blonds in my life at one time."

"Pushy blond? You're calling me a pushy blond?" 

"You're blond and you're pushy." Steve kissed the top of Danny's head. "And you're mine."

"I guess I am," Danny replied, and Steve could hear a little humor in his voice.

"I haven't slept so great the last week, either. I kind of got used to this." He emphasized the comment by tightening briefly his hold around Danny's shoulders. They'd slept curled up together in Danny's single bed the rest of the time Steve was in New Jersey. It was cramped, too warm, they couldn't really turn over without doing it like synchronized swimmers, and Steve had fallen on the floor twice. But it was still the best few nights of his life. 

"At least you probably won't end up on the floor in this bed."

"Depends on how wild things get, I s'pose," he joked. 

"You...uh...wanna do something?"

"We don't have to, if you're tired or you don't feel good."

"My stomach's a little queasy, but I promise not to throw up on you. There's nothing left."

"The bomb has been disarmed, then," Steve said.

"Something like that."

Suddenly it seemed silly to keep talking about it and not do anything. Steve slid onto his side, pulled Danny closer and kissed him. It wasn't a little kiss, or an innocent one. He kissed him properly, putting everything he had into it, gently prodding until Danny's mouth opened for him and the kiss deepened. Danny upped the ante by grabbing Steve's ass through his shorts and rubbing against him. The sudden stimulation startled Steve out of the kiss, and he returned the favor, grabbing Danny's ass, loving the way it felt in his hands, the way Danny gasped and swore softly as the friction intensified. It had been way too long for both of them. Add to that the fact they were finally touching each other that way, it was like a wildfire with some gasoline being thrown on it for good measure. 

Danny pushed Steve's shorts down, and they momentarily parted to get rid of them. Steve took that opportunity to get rid of Danny's underwear, sending it flying somewhere toward his own. Hands on skin and skin on skin was so much more, so much better, than barriers. Danny was kissing his chest and then licking and sucking at his nipples. He squeezed Danny's ass in response, rubbed harder against him until he felt himself coming. He wanted to prolong this, explore every part of Danny, make it the stuff of love songs and poetry, but there it was. He was gasping and coming and then Danny was coming, too, and it was slick and wet and urgent and just so damn good. 

They lay there a few moments in silence, just holding each other, breathing hard. Steve wound his arms tightly around Danny, smiling when he felt Danny mirror the gesture and hold him just as tightly. 

"Aren't you glad you didn't waste your time in the shower now?" Danny asked, and Steve laughed. "I'll wash your back. Among other things."

"Shit, that felt good," Steve admitted, and Danny laughed. It was a sound he hadn't heard nearly enough lately. He touched Danny's cheek gently, and looked into his eyes there in the shadows. "I love you, Danno." 

"I love you, too, babe."

"You wanna hit the shower?"

"No, but we'll wish we had in the morning."

"Come on. Let's do this," Steve got up, and Danny rolled over lethargically and got out of bed to follow him. Steve turned on the water and let it run until it was a comfortable temperature. They both got in, sharing the warm spray of water, soaping each other up. 

Danny ran both hands over Steve's chest, up to his shoulders, down his arms, and he almost seemed mesmerized by following the contours of Steve's body. Steve let him take the lead, and let the feeling of Danny's strong but gentle hands roaming over his body make his heart sing and his recently satisfied cock spring back to life. 

He touched Danny's chest with soapy hands, then ran them over his pecs, traced his biceps, then back to his chest and belly again, over his hips, where he rested his hands and pulled Danny close so they could kiss again. They were both getting excited, and they used their hands to stroke each other to full hardness again. Danny was a nice handful, sturdy and solid like the rest of him. He hoped there was more than hand jobs and humping in their future, but this was finally Danny, finally The One. Anything he did with Danny seemed ten times more magical than the most exotic or imaginative thing he'd ever done with anyone else. When love and sex collide like that, there's just nothing else that compares. And nobody would ever compare to Danny.

It took a while to make it to their second climax, but they did it, and kissed and caressed each other in that sweet afterglow until they finally decided to turn off the water and dry off. 

"You've got a bruise on your arm, " Danny said, frowning, examining the dark smudge on Steve's forearm. "When did that happen?" 

"I don't know, Danny. Could have been when we jumped out of the helicopter," he said, smiling. 

"I guess." Danny kissed the spot, and the gesture moved Steve deeply. He'd broken bones, been knocked out, been shot, stabbed, slashed, tortured, shocked, strung up...bruises were kind of a dime a dozen, and he didn't even pay attention to them. "Don't like bruises on you, babe, even if you do get a lot of them because you think you're Superman."

"I think I gave up the Superman delusion a while ago. Let's go back to bed, get some sleep. You look tired, Danno."

"Yeah, I'm winding down," he admitted. "Hell of a way to relax," he said, grinning at Steve.

"Beats counting sheep," Steve agreed as they got back into bed, not bothering with underwear this time. Danny curled on his side and Steve spooned around him. The position was even more comfortable now that there was some extra mattress between his ass and the floor. 

"Love you," Danny said through a massive yawn. 

"Love you, too. I'm glad you're home."

"Me, too."

********

Danny woke up to bright sunshine streaming in the windows, and an empty side of the bed. Not happy with that development, he sat up and rubbed his eyes. According to the clock, it was after ten. He noticed a small piece of paper on the night stand with Steve's handwriting. 

Went to get groceries and stop at the bait shop. Figured we could do some fishing later when you wake up. Last night was really nice. Love, S

Danny grinned at that. He did feel better after getting some sleep, not to mention the great way he and Steve had ended the night. After shaving and getting dressed, he decided to go into the office for a while and clean out his e-mail inbox and sort through some of the routine paperwork and assorted junk that always finds its way onto your desk while you're off work.

When he arrived at the office, he was surprised to see Kono there, on her way out as he was on his way in.

"You're back!" she said, stopping to give him a hug. "I'm so sorry, Danny," she said before she let him go. "Are you okay?" He could see that she had tears in her eyes, and that concern meant a lot.

"Thanks, honey. I'm okay. Getting there anyway."

"Probably a silly question to ask how your mom's doing. She's such a sweet lady, I feel so bad for her."

"Not so good. I'll probably try to visit out there again soon, or get them to come out here. I think the change would be good for her. I'm glad now I didn't take Gracie with me. Seeing her grandmother like that would have been hard on her."

"How did she take it?"

"How it happened...it's hard to give her a good explanation of why without going into too much detail. I know she knows there's more to it than I'm telling her. She's at a cheer camp thing this weekend, but when she gets back, I'll have more time to spend with her."

"Don't underestimate Grace, and what she can handle. She's very bright, Danny. When I was her age, I could understand more than people often gave me credit for."

"I know. I guess I want to protect her as long as I can."

"I hear that. So what brings you in here?"

"Steve's out running some errands so I figured I'd catch up on some e-mails." He realized then how "couplish" the answer sounded. "We talked about doing some fishing later, but he had stuff going this morning," he added. He wasn't sure that sounded much better.

"You want some company? I can sort your junk mail," she offered, smiling.

"I'm okay, but I appreciate the offer."

"If there's anything you need, call me, okay?"

"I will," he said, nodding. "Thanks."

"See ya Monday," she said, heading out the door.

"Yeah, see ya," he replied, then headed into his office. 

It was harder to focus than he'd expected, maybe because most of the crap people e-mailed him about seemed so trivial by comparison to what his family was going through that he couldn't really muster a worthwhile response to most of it. He settled for deleting the junk mail and looking for anything directly related to the job he needed to read. His phone pinged that he had a text message.

He picked it up and tapped the notification. There was Steve's smiling face looking back at him in a selfie he'd taken with Eric Dickerson. 

"Eric Dickerson? You've gotta be kidding me. Unbelievable," Danny mumbled, reading Steve's caption, "Look who I met at the bait shop."

Tossing the phone back on the desk, Danny slumped in his chair and sighed. He looked back at the computer, and finally gave up and shut it off. He didn't care about the e-mail, and he was ashamed of himself for being so unreasonably depressed by Steve's picture and text. In comparison to a death in the family, it was pretty fucking minor.

He wondered when he'd get his ability to concentrate back, when he'd further regain his ability to give a shit about the stuff that took up so much of his days most of the time. 

Steve wouldn't see any harm in teasing him with the picture or trying to get a rise out of him. As a matter of fact, he knew Steve was somewhat uneasy around him, waiting for him to be okay. Danny remembered seeing a child at a crime scene once whose mother had been murdered, and the little boy just didn't get it that she was dead. He was desperately trying to get some sign from her that she was okay. That image had stuck with Danny a long time, and it was not unlike the way Steve seemed to watch him hopefully for a sign he was okay, some sign of life, of the old Danny.

Sighing, he stuck his phone in his pocket and decided to give up on staring at the computer. Steve was probably about done with his errands, and sitting around with a couple beers and fishing sounded like a good way to pass the rest of the day. 

********

"I really appreciate this," Steve said, paying for the t-shirt at the bait shop. It was a cheesy looking thing with a giant fish on the front of it, but it was the only item he could find in the shop that Eric Dickerson could sign for Danny. 

"No problem. Sounds like your buddy could use a little cheering up," he said, borrowing a black marker from the older man behind the cash register and signing his name on the shirt. 

"Thanks. He'll really be surprised."

"Nice meeting you, Steve," Eric said, shaking hands with him again.

"Wow, same here. Thanks again for this." 

Steve headed for home, anxious to surprise Danny with the autograph. He was a little surprised there was no reply to the photo. According to his phone, it had been seen shortly after it was sent, but Danny didn't reply to it at all. 

"Hey, Danno! Where are you?" he called out as he opened the front door. He was greeted with a silent, empty house. He went up to the bedroom and found the bed neatly made with a note on it.

Decided to go into the office for a while. Be back later. Fishing sounds good. Love, D

Steve smiled. The little exchange of notes felt very domestic, and Steve found he liked that feeling. Being domestic with Danny felt right. Comfortable and good. He stashed the t-shirt on the closet shelf, figuring he'd surprise Danny with it when he got home. He took a six pack out of the refrigerator and took it and his fishing supplies down to the beach. 

********

Danny pulled up in front of Steve's house and noticed a car there he didn't recognize. He went inside and headed upstairs. He didn't have much of his own stuff there, but he knew Steve had some shorts and enough spare t-shirts that he could borrow something to hang out in for fishing. As he was about to go back downstairs and outside, he heard voices and laughter drifting in the open bedroom window. He looked outside to see where the sounds were coming from, and saw Steve and Ellie Clayton excitedly laughing and working on reeling in a fish. He backed away from the window and leaned against the wall a minute, still hearing the chatting and laughter carried on the breeze.

"You think I like her like that?"

"Do you?" 

"I like you like that." 

Danny was angry at himself because he felt a lump in his throat and tears in his eyes. Fuck this, I'm not some sixteen-year-old girl getting jilted by my boyfriend. We had sex, that doesn't mean anybody's got a ring on anybody's finger. Steve's straight and he just felt sorry for me and made a mistake. He felt too sorry for me and this happened. It's been a while for both of us, and getting close like that...it just happened.

Wiping at his eyes, Danny put what few belongings he'd unpacked back in his bag. He took off Steve's borrowed clothes and put his own back on. He turned over the note he'd written earlier that Steve had obviously read and moved to the dresser. 

Steve–you had company so I went home to give you guys some space. See you at work Monday. Danny.

He left the note on the foot of the bed and went back out to his car, threw his bag in the back seat, and drove toward his house. He didn't want to be there alone, but he didn't want to be a fifth wheel on Steve's weekend, either. Somehow that hurt more than being alone. And why wouldn't Steve be attracted to Ellie Clayton? She was smart, pretty, and she was happy. She wasn't grieving all the time and weepy and depressed and clingy. 

Once he went into his house, a part of him was glad he did. There were no boogeymen lurking in the shadows. This was his turf, no matter how empty it might be, and he wasn't in anyone's way here. He stretched out on the bed and, letting that notion soak in, let go of his emotions. If he cried it out, who was gonna know? The empty room wasn't going to tell on him. So he lay there and just sobbed as hard as he needed to, grieving his dead brother, hurting for his parents' misery, and wallowing in a healthy dose of pity for himself and what a stupid fucking idiot he'd been to think Steve really wanted a future with him as a lover. Steve had a big heart and did love him and they'd crossed a line they had no business crossing. Steve didn't move in and out of sexual relationships quickly or lightly, so it had been a while since he'd been with somebody, and Danny was there and needy and it all just happened. 

Exhaustion and grief finally took their toll and, at some point he couldn't recall later, he fell into a somewhat fitful sleep.

********

"Excuse me a second. I wanna give Danny a call. He should have been home by now," Steve said, not even realizing he'd said "home", referring to his house. When Ellie didn't answer, he realized she was staring at him from the other chair. "Danny's been staying with me since he got back from New Jersey." Then he realized she didn't even know Danny's brother died, that he was still grieving, and she certainly didn't know they were together now. No one knew that yet. 

"You don't have to explain anything to me," she said, but her smile was faint, and a bit confused.

"Danny's brother died recently, and he just got back from spending time with his family after the funeral," he said.

"I'm so sorry to hear that. I would have said something, expressed condolences if I'd known."

"Don't worry about it. You just met him. He wouldn't expect you'd know anything about it." Steve called Danny and waited until voicemail picked up. "Hey, buddy, where are you? Give me a call when you get this message, okay? The fish are biting," he added, smiling at Ellie, who smiled back at him. 

"I should go," she said.

"Don't do anything on my account. Besides, you said my part of the deal was cleaning and cooking that fish. If you want to throw in a couple more of your stash, we can make dinner when Danny gets back. I've got a nice white wine that'll go great with it."

"I appreciate the offer, really, but I have plans. I tell you what. Put a couple of these in your freezer and give me a rain check?"

"I can do that. Besides, then I can tell Danny I caught them, save myself the ribbing I'll get for only catching these pathetic little guys," he said, holding up his bucket that contained a few small fish. 

"Then it's a win all the way around," she said. "I'll call you for that rain check," she said, heading back toward the front of the property, where she was parked. 

"Please do. See you soon, Ellie," he said, and she smiled and waved as she left. 

Steve took the fish in the house and put the two fat ones Ellie had left with him in the freezer. He had enough of his own catch to make Danny and himself a nice little meal with some salad and that good bottle of wine he'd mentioned to Ellie. Puzzled why Danny hadn't come back yet, Steve went upstairs, thinking maybe he'd left a note up there, since that's where Steve had left a note for him. Sure enough, there it was on the bed. He frowned when he read it.

"What the...?" he muttered aloud. Danny flipped out and left because Ellie was there? And he really did leave. His bag was gone, too. Steve thought back on their conversation, when he'd told Danny he didn't like Ellie like that. He'd told Danny that was his place now, that he liked him that way. That was the truth. Ellie was interesting to talk to, and he enjoyed her company, and the connection to his father meant something, but that was it. He couldn't believe Danny would make so much out of it, but then Danny wasn't exactly himself yet. 

Since calling had been unsuccessful, he took the t-shirt off the closet shelf, grabbed his keys, got in the truck, and headed over to Danny's house. There were no lights on, even though twilight was giving way to darkness when he got there. Danny's car was there, so he most likely was, too. Steve approached the door and knocked. After there was no response, he knocked harder. Finally, he used his key and unlocked the door. 

"Danny?" he called out. "Hey, Danno, I'm coming in," he said, going inside the house and closing the door behind him. "Danny?"

"What?" An irritated voice came from the bedroom, so he headed there. Danny was leaning up on one elbow, rubbing his eyes. Steve went to the dresser and turned on a lamp so he could see better. Danny looked horrible. It was obvious he'd fallen asleep on the bed, fully dressed, and by the look of the pillow and his swollen eyes, he'd had a pretty good cry at some point. 

"Why did you take off like that?"

"Seems kind of obvious."

"Because of Ellie?"

"No, because of Eric Dickerson. What the fuck do you think?" 

Danny was squinting and rubbing his temple, like he had a headache. He looked so miserable that Steve couldn't really work up the anger he knew he should feel about the whole thing. He went into the bathroom instead and found a bottle of Advil, got a couple of those and some water, and ran a washcloth under the tap for a couple seconds. 

"Here, take these. They'll help your headache." Steve handed Danny the pills, and he took them with a couple swallows of water, but he was staring at Steve in disbelief. "Your eyes look like they hurt," he said. Danny's eyes were a nasty shade of pink, and puffy. Too much grief and too little sleep. "Lie down and relax, buddy." Danny followed the instruction, still staring at Steve like he'd grown a third eye in the middle of his forehead. "Close your eyes." He folded up the washcloth in a long strip and laid it over Danny's eyes. 

"Why are you doing this? I just told you off."

"Because you need somebody to do it, and you're so fucking ornery that I'm the only one who'd put up with you long enough to help you." 

Danny snorted, but his mouth actually quirked up a bit at one corner. 

"Do you really think I'd make love with you last night and then hop in the sack with Ellie Clayton tonight?" 

"I don't know what I thought," Danny admitted softly. "I don't blame you. Being around somebody who's grieving and depressed gets old after a while. Besides, nobody's got a ring on anybody's finger here, so I don't have a right to tell you who to spend your time with." Danny reached up and moved the cloth so he could look at Steve. Steve took it, and used it to bathe his face gently. 

"I love you, in case you missed that part of the conversation last night."

"No, I remember that. Among other things," Danny said, actually smiling a bit. Steve set the washcloth aside and stretched out on the empty side of the bed. He nudged Danny to roll toward him, so he could rest his head on Steve's chest. Steve wrapped his arms around Danny and held him close. "I remember this, too."

"I took some beer and the fishing supplies down to the beach for us, but you weren't home, and Ellie stopped by so I offered her a beer. We got talking about fishing and she wanted to do that for a while, and that was all there was to it. I called you while she was there, because she caught some nice fish and she told me my payback for causing her problems with trying to get that warrant was to clean and cook them. So I suggested that she stay and the three of us have dinner. She had plans."

Danny actually laughed at that.

"What?"

"Do you blame her? You stop by to, how should I put this? Further your relationship with some guy, and he suggests a nice dinner, just the three of you, with his partner."

"I suppose that sends a certain message, doesn't it?" Steve smiled, kissing Danny's forehead. 

"I'm sorry I acted like a high school girl who just caught her boyfriend under the bleachers with a cheerleader."

Steve laughed out loud at that. "This wouldn't be an anecdote from experience, would it?"

"Uh, kind of, except I was the boyfriend and not the angry high school girl."

"I can completely picture that."

"Thanks a lot, I think." Danny was quiet a moment or two. "I'm sorry."

"You've got nothing to be sorry about, Danno. The last thing I wanted to do was hurt you more."

"When does the getting better part kick in?"

"Soon, buddy, I promise," Steve said softly, rubbing Danny's back and holding him a little tighter. Danny's arm tightened around his middle. 

"I should be doing better than this."

"Why?"

"Why? It's been weeks."

"It'll be okay, Danny. Quit beating yourself up about it."

"What's that?" Danny asked, having spotted the t-shirt Steve had left rolled up on the dresser.

"It's a little something I picked up at the bait shop for you." He got up and grabbed the t-shirt, handing it to Danny who sat up now to look at it. He shook it out.

"You got me Dickerson's autograph?"

"Yeah, I asked him if he'd sign something for you. The t-shirt's pretty god-awful, but I figured you'd probably frame it instead of wear it anyway."

"This is great! I mean, you're right, the shirt's awful but Eric Dickerson's autograph? I'm gonna take this to a framing place and get some kind of thing done with it."

"Sounds like a good project for a Sunday. Let's do that tomorrow."

"Okay. Maybe we can even do a little fishing."

"Danny, you don't have to worry about Ellie. Or anybody else. Okay?"

"For what it's worth, you haven't had much competition for a while now," Danny admitted. 

"I meant what I said before. This whole thing with Matt...there's nothing you could have done better or different."

"I could have stopped him from getting on that plane."

"How? Shot him?"

"In the leg or something I guess."

"Suppose you were upset and your aim wasn't so great and you hit an artery and he bled out? What if he had a gun and returned fire on you?"

"He wouldn't do that."

"No, and you wouldn't shoot your own brother no matter what kind of stupid shit he was doing. Look, I'm not gonna sit here and judge Matt for what he did, so that's not what this is about. But the moment he started doing business with people like Reyes, and then thought he could double-cross him, he sealed his fate. You offered him everything you could, including going back east with him and standing by him through everything. He made a choice, Danny. He was a grown man. I know he was your little brother but he was an adult when he made the choices he made, that led to...to what happened in Colombia. He didn't deserve that by a longshot, but it's not your fault. Right up to the end, you were trying to save him, even if it meant paying off Reyes and risking your own life."

"And yours." Danny sighed, shaking his head. "I never should have involved you in any of that. You could have been killed, and Chin...he had to call in a pretty big marker to come up with that extra money."

"You really think I would have let you go there alone?"

"No, but if I'd just left -"

"Then you'd probably be dead, Reyes would be expanding his business with that nice big pile of money, and your mother could bury both sons. There was no winning this one. Sometimes, the good guys just can't come out on top."

"I'm trying to believe that."

"Is there anything you wouldn't have done to save Matt?"

"Can't think of much," Danny said.

"You did everything and then above and beyond what a lot of people could, or would, have done. It's over, Danny. It's tragic and awful and wrong, but it's done. And it's not your fault. You didn't fail him or your parents. You keep telling me I'm not Superman. Well, you're not either. We're just a couple of flawed human beings running around with some pretty amazing weapons who get caught up in our own mythology every now and then thinking we can save the world."

"Damn, that was deep," Danny said, staring at him. Steve almost expected him to crack a joke about it or smile, but he didn't. "Kind of puts it in perspective, doesn't it? Everything we do..."

"At the end of the day we're only human. I used to think being a SEAL changed that, made me something more than just a man. The training does kind of make you think that way, and you can buy into that mindset, but it's a myth. The things I really want? Like saving my dad or Freddie...or taking away your pain because you don't fucking deserve it? I can't do any of that."

"One of those you're pretty good at. It's not that you can wave a wand and everything's okay again, but...I couldn't have survived this without you. SuperSEAL," he added, grinning.

"I caught some fish, too. Ellie doesn't have dibs on those. Wanna go back to my place and make dinner? I have a good bottle of wine chilling."

"Okay. Let me pack some different stuff. A lot of what was in my bag were dirty socks and underwear from New Jersey. I didn't stop home between the airport and your place."

"You need to do some laundry, Danno?"

"Not right now. I don't like doing laundry so I have lots of socks and underwear."

"Don't wash it, just buy more?"

"I wash it. Just having more of it means longer time between laundry jobs." 

********

Danny was still a little in awe of the fact that Steve had let him off the hook so easily for his snit about Ellie. He also was still a little embarrassed about it, but since Steve seemed to write it off to Danny not being totally himself yet, Danny decided to follow his lead. He was functioning, but he still felt fragile inside, and things that ordinarily wouldn't bother him, did. 

Dinner was a great experience. They worked on preparing it together and ate on the lanai. It was a nice evening with a comfortable breeze and it felt just a little bit like a date, since Steve had dug around in a kitchen cabinet until he found a fat amber-colored glass candle holder for the center of the their table and lit the partially used candle that was still in it. They were drinking good wine, too. Not beer, but nice wine. Definitely like a date.

"It's a nice night," Steve said. "You want to take a walk on the beach after dinner?"

"Sounds nice." Only with Steve did that sound nice. Walking around in the sand in the dark with no clue what kind of creature might have designs on his bare feet was typically not Danny's first choice of activities. But walking under the moonlight with Steve, maybe holding hands? He'd tolerate hot coals for that.

So, after dinner, they headed down to the beach and took a walk there. They hadn't gone four or five steps when Steve reached over and took Danny's hand. Having strong arms to hold him when he was grieving was a blessing and then some, but this little gesture, just for the sake of love and romance and a moonlit night? Danny wasn't sure he could ever remember anything so sweet. Well, except making love with Steve. That was definitely sweeter. And kissing him. Hopefully the hand-holding would lead to more of that. If it didn't it was half his own damn fault, so with that thought, Danny stopped, stepped in front of Steve, took his other hand, and kissed him. And kissed him some more. And urged his lips to part so Danny's tongue could get in there and play with its partner. 

When they parted, Steve gave them time for a couple breaths before he pulled Danny into his arms and kissed him again, one hand on Danny's back, the other sliding down and grabbing his ass. Taking that as an invitation to mirror the gesture, Danny got a nice handful of Steve's ass and used his other hand to keep his taller lover at just the angle he wanted his head and neck to keep kissing until dawn, or they suffocated, whichever came first.

"That wine tastes good on you, babe," Danny said when they took a brief break. "Anything tastes good on you," he added, kissing Steve again.

"Maybe we should head back up to the house," Steve suggested, kissing Danny again, then trailing his lips down Danny's chin and along his neck.

"Yeah, the house would be better, I think," Danny replied, though he caught Steve again for more kisses. The sound of the ocean, the moonlight, the night breeze...with Steve, it was all magical and he wanted to experience it fully. Even the sand between his toes didn't faze him.

Steve finally broke their kiss and put his arm around Danny's shoulders while Danny's arm went around his waist, and they headed back for the house. Steve paused to shut and lock the back door and turn out the lights as they headed for the stairs. Danny checked the front door and turned out the lights in the living room. When he joined Steve to go upstairs, he noticed Steve's little grin.

"What?"

"I really like you being here." He touched Danny's cheek and leaned in for another kiss. 

"Yeah, me, too," Danny agreed, taking Steve's hand as they headed upstairs. It felt good to be domestic with somebody again, doing stupid little things like locking up for the night and turning out lights. Then going upstairs to a shared bed with someone you love. Who loved you.

It didn't take long to pick up where they left off once they reached the bedroom. They didn't bother with lights, but let what glow spilled in the door from the hallway be their illumination. Steve kissed Danny's neck again, started unbuttoning his shirt so he could go lower, then move across his collarbone to his shoulder, pushing the shirt out of the way as he went. Loving the feeling of Steve's lips on his skin, Danny was more than happy to let the shirt fall to the floor, but he wasn't content to leave Steve's polo shirt in place much longer. He grabbed the bottom of it and pulled, grinning when Steve released him long enough to let him pull the shirt over his head and toss it aside. 

Back in each other's arms again, they took their time sharing heated, eager kisses. Danny was startled when Steve maneuvered him to the bed and threw his weight into knocking them both down on it. Steve's hands were on Danny's belt, fumbling with the buckle while he kissed and nibbled at Danny's neck.

"You have some kind of padlock on these, Danno?" Steve asked, finally pulling back to look at what he was doing.

"It's a trick belt to protect my virtue."

"Not tricky enough," he said, finally unbuckling it and unzipping Danny's pants. "Besides, somebody's a little too excited to be virtuous anyway," he joked, sliding his hand inside Danny's underwear to stroke him.

"Not fair," he gasped, going to work on Steve's belt, though his brain was getting foggy and his hands a bit uncoordinated because of that warm hand down his pants. He got Steve's belt and his fly open, but he wanted more than a shared hand job. He pulled at the pants, trying to get them off. 

"Fuck this." Steve said, standing, peeling off his pants and shorts in one quick gesture. Not to be outdone, Danny got out of his own pants and shorts in almost as short a time. Steve was just standing there, looking down at him. "Wow."

"That's the kind of reaction a man likes to get," he said, grinning.

"Yeah, wow about that, too, but...it's all pretty good, Danno."

"You're not too bad yourself, babe. You gonna stand there and build the anticipation or are you gonna let me get my hands on the goodies?"

"You can grab my goodies anytime," he replied, climbing on the bed and then on top of Danny, kissing him, holding him close and turning them until they were on their sides. Danny let his hands roam down to Steve's ass, still a little in awe that they were here, like this, that he could touch Steve anywhere and grab two handfuls of his ass and kiss him like he meant business, rub against him and search his eyes for permission to take what he wanted.

"God, Steven, I want you so bad," he admitted, kissing his way along Steve's jaw, down his long, graceful, perfect neck. 

"What do you want, baby?" Steve asked, his voice low and husky and so sexy that Danny could have probably lost it on that alone, maybe with a couple decent strokes from Steve's hand. 

"I wanna make love to you. Be inside you," he added, just in case "make love" was too vague. 

"I want that, too," Steve said, kissing him again. Danny was a little stunned by that; he'd almost envisioned the two of them arguing about who was going to be on top the way they argued about who was driving. He'd expected Steve would want to "drive his car" here, too. "There's stuff in the drawer."

Danny found condoms but kept rifling the drawer until he found a mostly full tube of KY at the back of it. He was wondering who and how the KY was last used, but he was distracted by Steve holding onto his hips, moving up behind him, kissing his neck. Steve's semi-hard cock was investigating the terrain between Danny's cheeks, and he almost thought Steve had changed his mind about how things were going until Steve kissed him again and moved away, stretching out on his stomach on the bed. 

He lay against Steve's back, kissing his way from Steve's neck down his back, exploring how the contours of muscle and skin felt under his lips.

"Love you so much, babe," he whispered, the words seeming to come out on their own. He didn't plan to say them, to say anything, but the feelings were so intense that he probably couldn't have truly put them in the right words. But he had to try. 

Steve's ass was soft skin and firm muscle, and it kind of made Danny think of the contradiction Steve was himself. He'd had so much training to be a tough guy, and he was, but inside, he was so soft and sweet and just plain good...nothing had touched that or ruined it, and Danny was thankful for that. It meant he had a kind, sweet, beautiful man to love...hopefully forever. He kissed the soft skin there, trailed kisses down to Steve's thighs, then moved back up so he could kiss and lick at the sensitive spot behind Steve's balls. He wasn't sure when he started doing it how he'd feel about putting his mouth there on another man, but he knew if things were reversed, it would send him into orbit. Steve was gripping the sheets, spreading his thighs wider apart, responding in such a wonderful way that Danny knew he'd made the right move. He eased up a bit farther, letting his tongue tease the tight pucker that he wanted so much. And it was tight, like every other muscle on Steve. It was going to take some doing to relax him so it didn't hurt. 

"Oh, God...Danny..."

"Relax, babe. Just wanna make you feel good." He wanted to ask Steve if he'd done this before, but part of him didn't want to hear the answer if it was yes. He wanted so much to be the first, the only one to have Steve like this. He wasn't sure he could handle it if Freddie...or worse, if some asshole like Nick Taylor had been here first. Then used Steve and betrayed him. Still, to do this right, he had to know if Steve was a virgin to it because the last thing he wanted to do was hurt him. "When was the last time-"

"Never," Steve replied, looking over his shoulder. "I've been on top once or twice. With a guy. Back before I was in the SEALs."

"Are you sure - "

"Yeah, real sure, with you," he said, and his sweet little smile melted Danny's heart. Danny moved up and kissed him, settling against his back for a moment, kissing his shoulder. Then he slid back down on the bed and took the little tube with him. He used a little of the gel and eased his finger carefully inside, just the tip. Steve seemed calm and relaxed yet, so Danny got a little more assertive with stretching the tight ring of muscle, though he still kept the motion gentle. 

"You ready to up the ante a little?" he asked, and Steve chuckled. 

"You're already up my ante, Danno. Do your thing."

"I asked for that line, didn't I?"

"Begged for it."

"Let me know if you don't like something I'm doing."

"Have you heard any complaints?"

"Not so far," Danny said, kissing Steve's butt cheek. "But it's not like you exactly complain about pain."

"Yeah, well, no pain here. It's not made out of china, Danny. I don't think you're gonna break it."

"If it's made out of china, I'm not sticking my dick in there." That made Steve laugh, and the little jokes had eased some tension for both of them. Steve seemed more relaxed and Danny was less worried about hurting him. Once Steve was comfortably accepting two fingers moving inside him, Danny was a lot more confident about how things were going, and how they would go. He gently rubbed over Steve's prostate, making him arch his back and gasp a the sudden jolt of sensation. 

"I think you better get in there, Danno," he said, a little breathless, "or I'm gonna finish this party without you."

"That good, huh?"

"Yes, you're an expert. Now quit gloating and fuck me."

"Ever the poet, my lover is."

"Now you sound like Yoda."

"Damn it, McGarrett," Danny complained, laughing.

"Having trouble sealing the deal, Danno?"

"Laughing doesn't help," he said, getting serious again, getting himself ready, making sure he had a good coating of slippery stuff in Steve and on himself. "I love you, babe," he said, wanting this moment to have the seriousness and romance it deserved. He kissed the small of Steve's back, then lined himself up and pushed in gently. Steve tensed up a little, but not for long. He took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Easy, babe," Danny said, "we've got all night."

"I don't think so," Steve said, and they both laughed, though it was a little strained due to their situation. 

"Just breathe in and out, nice and slow."

"Shit, it hurts right now," Steve admitted. "Just...give me a second."

"You know I love you, right?" Danny said, rubbing Steve's back and up his sides. 

"Yeah, I know." 

"Being with you is already so good, babe. Just relax and let me in." 

Steve did relax a bit more, and Danny eased in a bit more, then realized he was all the way in. 

"Is that all of it?" Steve gasped. 

"Gee, thanks, pal."

"Fuck you," Steve replied, laughing. "You know what I meant."

"If you don't stop laughing, I'm gonna come right now."

"Sorry." Steve was silent a moment, and then burst out laughing again. 

"I'm gonna kill you."

"I'm sorry. I'm okay." Steve looked over his shoulder at Danny, and the mischief in his expression was more than Danny could stand, and he was laughing. "That's weird. It's like a vibrator."

"You've had a vibrator in your ass before?"

"No, but if I did, I think that's how it would feel." Steve quieted down, took in a breath. Danny tried pulling back a bit and thrusting gently into Steve. "Yeah, that's good," he said, and Danny could see him relaxing again, his smile faded to a look of contentment rather than humor. 

That was nice, and he was glad Steve was at peace with this, but he definitely wanted more. His next stroke was still gentle but it was firmer. Once he was sure Steve was enjoying himself, he picked up his pace, and the sensations were incredible. It was so hot and tight, so intense, he didn't know how long he could hold out. As they found their shared rhythm, their moans and gasps mingled together and the bed began to make the occasional creak when their motion became more spirited. 

Danny couldn't believe anything could feel so good, that anything could make his spirit soar and his heart, that had felt so heavy for so long, flutter with joy, but making love to Steve was doing just that. He'd never felt so much for one person before. It was love, friendship, passion, and something deep and undefinable that joined them together and made it feel like they shared one soul. He couldn't remember anything ever making him feel more complete than being physically joined with Steve, making love with him like no one else ever had. If he had his way, no one else ever would. 

The climax was amazing, intense, transcending, knowing he was making Steve shout and moan and lose it, feeling that tight passage flexing around him, making him come like never before, his chest against Steve's back, both of them sweaty and overheated and excited and in love. 

They lay there a few moments, breathing hard, still joined. 

"Love you, babe," Danny whispered, feeling like saying something out loud would somehow shatter the moment. For all their laughter and banter, he wanted Steve to know he was serious, that he treasured this as the milestone between them that it was.

"Love you, too, Danno."

Danny reluctantly moved away long enough to break their physical connection because he wanted to hold Steve and look into his eyes. They shifted onto their sides, and Danny was surprised to find he felt closer to Steve than he had before, and after the way Steve had stood by him and supported him through everything that had happened recently, he didn't think that was possible. He wanted to say something, but he couldn't think of words that would capture any of what he felt, so he kissed Steve, and tried to put all the gentleness and affection he could in the touch of their lips and tongues. If one kiss was good, more were better, so that's what they did there in the shadows of the room, the sound of the ocean in the distance seeming more romantic to Danny than annoying. 

"That was beautiful, Steven," Danny whispered. While the humor between them was something he treasured as much as any other part of their relationship, he didn't want any part of this moment to be taken for less than it was, to be made light of. "You're beautiful." And I'm happy for the first time since Reyes showed his slimy face on the island.

"You're the only one..." Steve seemed at a loss for how to say it, so Danny kissed him again because it didn't really have to be said. He understood. 

"You're the only one, too, babe, for so many things."

Steve sighed and his eyes drifted shut, though his arms stayed firmly around Danny, whose arms stayed just as firmly around Steve. He hooked his leg around Steve's and settled in for sleep. A love this perfect didn't need a lot of analysis, and there was no reason to waste the inclination for deep, peaceful sleep. Steve's heart was beating near his ear and Danny could almost feel something broken mending inside him as he dozed, seeing nothing in his dreams but some scattered images of Steve and love and beaches and moonlight. 

********

Steve yawned and opened his eyes. He smiled when he realized the warmth he was wrapped around was Danny. They had shifted around during the night and ended up in what seemed to be their favorite sleeping position, Steve spooned around Danny. The sunlight was spilling through the window and a ray of it was lighting Danny's arm and shoulder, giving his fair skin and the soft hair on his arm a golden cast. Steve couldn't resist it, even though he knew he'd probably wake Danny up. He caressed Danny's shoulder, kissed it, let his hand glide gently down Danny's arm until he covered the back of his hand and entwined their fingers.

"Morning," Danny said, his voice still rough with sleep. He turned his head to look at Steve, smiling. 

"Morning," Steve repeated, giving Danny a big grin, rubbing his thigh against Danny's. Which, of course, brought his morning erection in contact with Danny's ass, not entirely by accident.

"Trying to tell me something, babe?" Danny teased, leaning back into Steve's embrace, pulling Steve's hand up to his mouth and kissing it, then keeping their joined hands up near his heart. 

"Is it working?"

"Yeah, message is coming through loud and clear. I'm right here...we don't need any games. Whatever you need...is okay with me."

"Need you," Steve whispered against his ear, then nibbled on the lobe. 

"If you can find the tube -"

"Done," Steve said, holding it up where Danny could see it. 

"Military efficiency. Very impressive."

"You sure it's okay?"

"I'm sure, babe."

Steve might have located the lube, but he didn't use it right away. He urged Danny to turn on his back, covered him with his own body and kissed him, getting his arms around him and settling into a long, languid session of just kissing him, holding him, nuzzling his neck and whispering in his ear. The first time he made love to Danny this way deserved more than an urgent morning poke. He wanted to ask Danny if he was the first, but he didn't want him to think it mattered if he wasn't, and he didn't want to shatter the mood with making Danny tell him a story. 

Danny's mouth was doing much better things to his right now than talking. 

Steve ran his hands down Danny's sides to his hips, urging sturdy, hair-dusted thighs to wrap around him, indulging in some friction. He wanted Danny to be excited, comfortable, and very clear on just how much he was loved before the main event. With the exception of their badly timed laughter, Danny had made his experience the night before nothing but wonderful. 

He found the lube again, and put some on his finger. He kissed Danny again while he eased his finger gently inside him. He seemed tight, but that wasn't a surprise. Even if he'd done this before, Steve was willing to bet he hadn't done it in a long time. He didn't want to think he'd done it while they'd known each other. If somebody was going to do this to Danny, it should be him. Just him. 

"Whoa, where'd you go?" Danny asked, running a finger between Steve's brows to the bridge of his nose. "Don't give me a face while you're doing me."

"It's not a face."

"Damn it, Steven, you've got your finger up my ass and you're giving me a face. What?"

"I just wondered...you know, like you did, last night..."

"Over twenty years."

"What?"

"You wanted to know when the last time I did this was, right?"

"I didn't want to hurt you. It's kind of an indelicate question..."

"I think we're kinda beyond delicacy in our relationship, babe," Danny said, smiling, touching Steve's cheek affectionately. "You wanna stop doing that for a minute? If we're gonna talk, you know, it's weird with your finger stuck in there."

"Oh, yeah, I guess it would be," Steve agreed, chuckling a little, moving up and settling Danny in his arms. "This better for talking?" he asked, rubbing Danny's back, kissing his forehead.

"Yeah, much." He sighed and Steve felt him relax a bit, but he still seemed tense. "It was Billy."

"Billy? Billy Salwey, your friend who..."

"The one who drowned. You can say it, Steve. It's not like I don't know what happened."

"How old were you?"

"We were sixteen."

"And you had...you did..."

"We had sex. You can say that, too. We were so far in the closet that we were finding next year's Christmas presents, but we fell in love and the hormones were raging, and we tried some things. All he had for lube was some of his mother's hand lotion," Danny added, actually laughing. "White lilac."

"That couldn't have worked very well," Steve said, cringing a bit at the thought of someone sticking scented hand lotion up his ass.

"It didn't, but we told ourselves it did. I loved him, so I figured when we upgraded to real lube, it would be okay." Danny was quiet a few seconds. "That was a couple days before we left for vacation... We shared a room with Matty, so we couldn't really do anything else."

"Why didn't you tell me?"

"How would I have led into that conversation exactly, while we were bobbing around in that dingy?"

"You could have told me you were in love with him. It's not like I would have judged you for it. Obviously."

"I didn't know that then. Not that I thought you'd be hateful about it, but we weren't together that way and I not only stayed out of the ocean, I haven't been with a guy since then. I enjoy women and I've had some good relationships with them, and the sex has been okay."

"I want it to be more than okay, Danno."

"It is." He gave Steve a squeeze. "Last night was...amazing. This morning was starting off pretty good, too."

"Until I brought this up."

"You should know about it. I wasn't trying to keep it from you. I just haven't dredged all that up in years. Even when I told you, I didn't tell you everything."

"That would be hard to get into. I understand. Did anyone know?" Steve was trying to picture how alone Danny must have felt, back then, and in so many situations since. But grieving the death of your first love and pretending he was just your buddy? That was brutal.

"Grandma Jenny knows."

"You told your grandmother?"

"Not exactly. She was with us on that vacation, and she saw Billy and me kissing in the boathouse not too long before we went on that swim. So when she told me she knew he was more to me than a friend, it was a huge relief to have somebody to talk to because she didn't judge me. She's been waiting for me to find another 'nice young man' ever since. That's why she liked you right off, and assumed we were together. She's a lot more frail and forgetful now, but she was only around 70 or so then, and she was pretty wise and not all that easy to shock."

Steve took in a deep breath, but it felt shaky. Danny had suffered so many losses in his life. Billy, Grace Tilwell, Meka, Matt, his marriage to Rachel, his first cop partner going bad and coming after Gracie...being uprooted and moved away from all of his family... 

"I'm sorry, Danny. For all of it." He rested his head against Danny's. 

"It was a long time ago." Danny was quiet a few moments. "Just be careful. Well, careful as you ever are. Sometimes, I'm afraid I'm..."

"What?" 

"I don't wanna say it."

"I'm not superstitious, Danno. Saying something doesn't make it so."

"I feel like I'm jinxed," he said, but it was a whisper Steve had to strain to catch. "And part of me is always afraid it's gonna...catch up with us."

"You know that's not real, right? You've had a string of losses that would shake anybody up, but none of them were your fault, and you're not jinxed, Danny. As a matter of fact, I consider meeting you just about the luckiest day of my life. Okay?"

"Okay," Danny agreed, smiling, snuggling against Steve.

"You've saved my life quite a few times. If that's a jinx, sign me up."

"I don't want to be the reason - "

"You're the reason for a lot of things for me, Danno, and they're all good. And if I manage to get myself killed or something else happens to me, it's not gonna be because of you. None of this other shit was your fault, either."

"Guess I kind of shot the mood, huh?" 

"You could take me to breakfast to make it up to me," Steve joked.

Danny leaned up on his elbow to look at Steve, caressing his chest. "I could probably make it up to you in other ways, too, if you wanna give it another shot."

"Beats the hell out of eggs," Steve replied, pulling Danny on top of him, kissing him, holding him close. Danny's response was enthusiastic, his hands caressing and touching Steve, thrusting against him to get their erections back with a little eager friction. They rolled together until Steve was on top, pulling back a bit to find the little tube again. Picking up where they left off, Steve slid down on the bed, kissing Danny's raised thighs, easing his finger gently inside him, letting him get used to the sensations before starting to carefully probe and stretch. He used a little lube on his other hand and began stroking Danny with it.

"Shit, Steven, you're killing me," he gasped, trying to thrust into Steve's and bear down on his finger at the same time. 

"You're not going to die before I fuck you." Steve grinned when that made Danny laugh.

"Sweet talker," he retorted. Steve eased a second finger in, which was a bit more of a challenge judging by Danny's expression and the way his muscles tensed up. 

"Hey," Steve said gently, kissing Danny's thigh, "we're not responding to a call here, there's no rush. I'm having a good time," he added, grinning. That seemed to make Danny relax even more, and he smiled, looking relieved. "I like touching you. I just want you to feel good, buddy." Steve got a bit more aggressive as Danny relaxed more, and concentrated on stimulating Danny's prostate, hoping he'd like it as much as Steve liked it when Danny did good things to his. 

"Fuck," Danny groaned, his body arching off the mattress. "Come on, do it again."

"You got it, sweetheart."

"Oh, God. If you don't do it soon, I'm gonna finish without you."

"You don't have to tell me twice."

"You SEALs are always prepared, huh?" Danny gasped, watching Steve intently while he got himself ready and moved up closer to Danny. Steve pushed carefully, putting enough pressure behind his movement to push past the tight ring of muscle and enter Danny, who drew in a breath and let it out. 

"Danny...oh, God, this is good. You're amazing, baby," he said, pushing in a little more when he could feel Danny relaxing. "Love you so much," he said as he felt the sensation of being all the way in, working to control his impulse to thrust into that tight, slick channel. More than that, he was inside Danny. 

"I know you're dying, Steven," Danny said, smiling, his voice a little strained. 

"Take your time and breathe, sweetheart." Steve figured if he could endure torture, among other pretty formidable physical challenges, he could keep his impulses in check long enough to avoid hurting Danny. "I want this to be good for you."

"Was it good for you?" he asked, mischief in his eyes.

"Off the fucking charts good."

"Well, then show me what all the hype is about."

Steve started to move, very tentatively and gently at first, taking advantage of their face-to-face position to take Danny in his arms and kiss his lips, his chin, down his neck while they made love. Danny's legs were around him, strong thighs pulling him in as Danny began participating more and more in their shared motion. Steve didn't keep track of all he was saying in Danny's ear. He let himself go and say what he felt; some of it raunchy but most if it romantic and passionate. He hoped it was letting Danny know how much he was loved, though he was beginning to think words would never accomplish that.

Danny's hand was in his hair, his other arm around Steve, holding him close. He was kissing as much as he was being kissed, both of them moaning and gasping as the sensation built. When they came, it was within moments of each other, and Steve regretted the lost connection as soon as he eased out of Danny and lay beside him, gathering him close, unable to remember ever feeling so close to or protective of any other lover in his life. 

"Love you, Danno," he whispered, still a little out of breath and deliciously tired. 

"Love you, too, babe."

"Everything okay?"

"Perfect," Danny said against Steve's chest, right before kissing him there. 

"Nap?"

"Yeah, already half there now," Danny replied, yawning. Danny's leg hooked over his, and Steve could feel his muscles relax as he got ready to doze. "Never gonna let go of you," he mumbled, and Steve urged him to tilt his chin up for a few languid kisses. 

"Don't want you to. Ever." Steve remembered something Danny had said, something about nobody having a ring on anybody' finger, and he wanted to say something romantic and profound about that, but he was following Danny into sleep and the words just didn't come together. He smiled as he drifted. Danny knew everything that mattered anyway; he could say more words to him when they weren't in an afterglow so sweet and perfect.

********

Danny knew when Steve didn't answer his phone as they got closer and closer to the Moreau bust that something was wrong. All Steve planned on doing was running a couple of errands, and for some odd reason, he'd chosen to do so in the Mercury. He'd taken the old car out a few times recently, and Danny had finally made the connection between the time of year and Steve's renewed interest in the car. Between his own grief about Matt and, on the upside, the change in their relationship, Danny hadn't paid as much attention as he felt he should have to Steve's heightened focus on his father's death around the anniversary of it.

When he got the call from HPD that the Mercury was sitting abandoned at an intersection, he felt sick inside. Steve would no more abandon that car anywhere than he would dodge Danny's calls, either personally or on the job. That thought brought a stab of guilt for just how many calls from Steve he'd dodged while he was still in New Jersey. Steve had forgiven that with barely a word; he'd just moved on and written it off to grief and loved Danny anyway. 

As he crouched near the pavement, just feet from the open door of the car with Steve's blood spattered on the door, he pushed the words out.

"Somebody took Steve."

Danny was proud of himself that he kept his cool, worked like a cop should work, led the investigation into Steve's disappearance. He even took a page from Steve's book and just flew with his gut that it was Wo Fat who took him. Steve wasn't an easy target, and whoever took him down had to know what he was doing, and be able to do it at an intersection in broad daylight. That took a special kind of cunning, not to mention just plain nerve and passion for the task. About the only perp he could think of who fit that bill was Steve's arch-nemesis. So at a point, he just put an end to all the speculation and searching through their cases for someone who'd want to get back at him. That could take days, and Steve might not have that long. He might not even have hours. He might already be dead...

No, he's alive. I'd know it if he was dead. I'd have to feel something. I don't believe in all that superstitious hocus-pocus shit, but you can't be that close to someone and not somehow...feel them leaving this earth. But then, I was fool enough to expect Matty to walk out alive instead of getting a barrel of unrecognizable remains.

Steve would say that was hope, not any kind of hunch. And he'd be right. 

Adam was following up on the lead Sang Mihn gave them, but Wo Fat never operated on the radar. He was like a ghost. More like a demon. He just appeared somewhere and wreaked havoc on his victims.

Danny sat in a bathroom stall, fully clothed, elbows on his knees, rubbing his temples. He had a headache that felt more like a brain aneurism than simple stress. This was the only place he could have a moment to himself. And every moment than went by was probably a moment of suffering or danger for Steve. He'd had a similar moment while they were all at the funeral home for Billy all those years ago. He'd ducked into a bathroom stall and cried long and hard for his first love, then blew his nose, washed his face, and went back out to mourn appropriately for the young man everyone thought was his best buddy. 

He gave himself a few moments to let the fear and the rawness of the pain of not having Steve by his side take over. If he gave vent to it for a few minutes, he'd be okay. He could get through the rest of this. And, if Steve was gone...the only reason he wouldn't reach for the reassuring weight of the gun strapped to his side would be Grace. He couldn't make her grow up in the shadow of her fucked up father's suicide, so he'd go on for her, gutted and utterly alone. 

That train of thought made him sit there and cry hard enough to keep his hand over his mouth to muffle the sounds, though he knew the telltale sharp intakes of breath were pretty hard to disguise. Fortunately, by the time someone else came in and was using the facilities, he'd managed to get control of himself. He swiped at his eyes and nose with a wad of toilet paper and sat there a moment until he could walk out composed. 

He stopped at the sink and washed his hands. Nobody was going to be fooled when they took a good look at his bloodshot eyes, but he figured his friends would let him have his dignity and not say anything about it. 

Love you, Danno. It was as if he could hear Steve's voice, like a ghostly whisper in the empty men's room. 

"I'm gonna get you out of this, babe, I promise," he whispered back to the imaginary voice. "Because I don't work anymore without you," he mumbled, fighting another wave of tears. Telling himself he didn't have time for this, that Steve didn't have time for this self-pitying sniveling, he splashed water on his face, dried it off, and headed back out to the Five-0 suite.

********

Steve's mind was unstable and his body was very little better, but he knew enough to know he wasn't going to get away from Wo Fat alive unless he took action, and did it fast. He couldn't tell him what he wanted to know and, at some point, his body was going to rebel against whatever cocktail of poisonous shit was being pumped into him. Or, his body would survive but one too many doses of hallucinogenic drugs in amounts God knows how much above the limits of safety would fry his brain. 

Maybe his brain was already short-circuiting. He had an image in his mind, maybe more so in his heart...an image of Danny, sleeping in his bed, naked, waking slowly and smiling at him while he kissed a path from Danny's shoulder down his arm, running his hand along Danny's side, down his thigh, his skin soft and his body hair silky under his hand and almost glowing gold in the sunshine streaming in the window.

That couldn't be. It had to be a fantasy, but it was a cruel one because there was nothing like the intensity of the love he felt in that moment, how it felt when Danny smiled at him and looked into his eyes, what it felt like when he turned over and they held each other, their lips met, their bodies pressed against each other in the heat of building passion...

Steve blinked and tried to reconcile the image, and the memories he had of meeting and working with the detective who'd saved his father's life. Danny was happily married...wasn't he? Steve was dating Catherine. He tried to conjure a similar image of himself with her, and there were some muddled memories of being with her, sleeping with her, but it seemed distant. Like an old memory that wasn't relevant anymore. 

Whatever it all meant, he had to focus on the task at hand. This was his last chance. He could feel the effects of the torture and the drugs wearing him down. One more go-round, and he'd be unable to free himself or stand any chance of escape. This was it. If holding onto the feelings that filled his heart and soul thinking of waking up with Danny, making love to him in the first light of morning, sustained him for that, then he was going to focus on it, and figure out what it meant later. Even if it meant staying in Hawaii and working out the place Danny really should have in his life. 

********

Danny's heart was pounding hard by the time he made it down those stairs, narrowly missed being gunned down as they entered the basement, and then found himself still leading the charge to find Steve, the path finally cleared. It was too quiet there now in the wake of all that gunfire. When he walked through that door, the silence made sense. Three motionless forms lay on the wet, cold, concrete floor of the room that held the awful signs of a long, unthinkable day of suffering, including the electric baton on the floor, a fallen IV stand, a shattered chair, leather restraints still on Steve's wrists and ankles...observing all that was avoiding the real horror.

One of those motionless forms was Steve. Steve was never motionless in the middle of a situation like this. Even weak and injured, he'd be moving. Unless...unless...Danny worked hard at staying upright. His knees wanted to buckle. He was being bombarded with images of Steve and how they'd started the day. Steve kissing his shoulder and his arm, stroking his side, a warm hand gliding down Danny's hip to his thigh, kissing, holding each other, Steve giving up his morning run so they could make love there in the first light of the sun. 

"Steve?" No, no, no, babe, you can't be dead. I can still feel you in my arms, remember how soft and sweet your lips are, the way you smile at me. "Steve, you all right?" Of course, you're not all right, but you have to be alive. And then Steve jerked and moved around, his eyes glazed and his expression confused. Danny's heart seemed as if it could beat normally again. Steve was alive; anything else was manageable. 

As Danny and Chin got him sitting up, Danny couldn't stop himself from babbling the same question at Steve, asking if he was all right, until he got some affirmative response. Steve looked afraid and confused, he was wet, clammy, shivering, bleeding from wounds on his head and his shoulder. His chest and stomach bore the telltale blisters from the contact of the baton. When his eyes finally settled on Danny, focused on him, his words hurt Danny's heart.

"Where's my father? Where's my father? I wanna see my dad. I wanna see my dad," he repeated, sounding like the words were an effort. And he sounded afraid, like a little boy who wanted his father. Danny wasn't sure it would have been more difficult to physically pierce Steve in some way than it was to have to be the one to say those words. 

"Buddy, your dad died four years ago, okay?" 

Steve stared at Danny a moment, as if it was too much for him to process. Danny could only whisper that same phrase.

"Are you all right? You all right?" He tried to make the words a comfort as well as a question. He just wanted to take Steve in his arms and hold him, but Chin and Kono and Grover were around them, hanging on Steve's every breath, too, and he knew as much as Steve loved their friends and colleagues, he wouldn't want to give in to his grief there, to be more weakened and vulnerable than he already was. He needed some dignity, and Danny knew he'd be fighting hard to feel some of that, after being found confused and injured and unable to move under his own power. There was grief and confusion about his father, but Steve seemed to be searching Danny's eyes for something else, to be trying to resolve some other thing that had him troubled.

"Yeah. Yeah," he muttered, nodding. Then his expression faltered and he broke down for the barest few moments before pulling it back, forcing composure back into his features. Danny wanted to hold him, to shield him from the concerned looks of their team, to let him grieve the way Steve had let him have his moment...more than one moment...where he'd just held Danny and let him cry it out. 

But that's not what Steve needed him to do. He wanted to be strong, and Danny fought the urge to do more than reassure him he was all right, to keep up what he hoped was a reassuring hand on Steve's neck without overwhelming him with more contact. This wasn't about what Danny needed, it was about Steve, and how he wanted to play this. It was obvious he'd had no control over so much of what he'd suffered through, but he deserved to control things now. 

"Let's go," Steve said, and Danny was all for that. He and Chin got Steve on his feet and started walking him out of there. He stopped for one long, last look at his dead nemesis. Danny had the unsettling urge to drive a stake through Wo Fat's heart, cut off his head, and burn the body, the way horror movie vampire hunters extinguished the undead from coming back, once and for all. He looked at Steve, and ached at the raw pain in his eyes before he muttered a second, "Let's go" that got them moving again. 

There was an ambulance on the scene, so Danny and Chin guided Steve in that direction until EMT's met them halfway with a gurney. As they eased Steve down on it, and the EMT's hastily covered him since he was shivering even in the mild air of a Hawaiian evening, Steve got a surprisingly strong grip on Danny's arm that was almost painful. 

"I'm goin' with you, buddy," Danny said, assuming Steve didn't want him to leave his side. He didn't, but there was something else.

"Don't let her take me," he choked out. "She...gives me the stuff..." he told Danny, as if he were confiding something horrible to him that the EMT's shouldn't hear, even though they were right there. Danny remembered then that the third body in the room was that of an attractive African American woman. One of the EMT's looked to be quite a bit younger than the dead woman, but with her hair pulled back, she did bear some resemblance to one of Steve's torturers. 

"It's not her, babe," Danny said, gently, covering Steve's hand where it was still clutching his arm. "You got away. That woman, the one who hurt you, she's dead. We're going to the hospital. This lady is one of your EMT's."

"My name is Crystal," she said, giving Steve a chance to really look at her. "That's my partner, Joe," she said, pointing at the other EMT, a middle aged man who was a native Hawaiian. "We're going to take you to the hospital, honey. Your friend can come with you."

Steve stared at her, like he couldn't process most of what she was telling him, but he nodded. 

"He's been injected with stuff...it looks like they had an IV in him. I just don't want to startle him with more needles. One of the people who had him looked a little like you."

"I understand. We might have to start him on fluids depending on the instructions from the ER doc, but we'll go real slow and tell you what we're doing, every step of the way, okay?" Crystal asked. 

"Sounds good."

"We'll follow you," Grover said, and Danny handed him his car keys before walking alongside Steve's gurney until they loaded him into the ambulance. Danny got in and got situated up near his head, trying to stay out of Crystal's way as she worked. Steve looked exhausted, but he didn't take his eyes off Danny, or release the grip he had on his hand. 

"I bet you'd like to get these things off," Crystal said of the leather restraints that were still on Steve's wrists and ankles. "How in the world did you get out of whatever this was? These things are on here," she said to Steve, who smiled faintly and forced out a few raspy words.

"Broke the chair," he replied. 

"Now that's a man of action," she teased, and Steve smiled just a bit more. "Kind of had to think outside the box on that one, huh?" she added, and her kidding seemed to put Steve more at ease. Crystal and Danny both worked on removing the straps. "Do you need these for evidence?" she asked Danny. 

"Not your first time at the crime scene rodeo, huh?" 

"Nope. I'll bag 'em."

"Trust me, babe, close your eyes and rest. I'm right here." Danny rested his free hand on Steve's head, very lightly, hoping to comfort him enough to relax him. Steve was still staring at him with that questioning look, like there was still something about Danny he couldn't quite figure out. Not thinking Steve would be too concerned about revealing their relationship to the EMT's, he leaned over and kissed Steve's forehead. There was the barest hint of a smile on Steve's face as he finally gave in to the exhaustion and the relief of being safe and let his eyes drift shut. 

The rest of the ambulance ride was uneventful, but as soon as the gurney was moving down the hall in the emergency area, Steve got agitated to the point of being terrified, trying to tell Danny something about a white room and that the gas came through the vents. Danny finally stopped the moving gurney much to the consternation of the medical staff. 

"Steven, look at me." He leaned down close to Steve. "We're in the hospital, that's why you're seeing so much white everywhere. There's nothing in the vents here...it's not the same white room, okay?"

"I tried to cover the vents, but it's too much. It knocks me out, Danny, and then I see things..."

"We need to keep moving," one of the ER nurses said sharply.

"We're not going anywhere until he's calm. You don't want to try treating him if he panics," Danny shot back.

"We'll go in here and I'll call Dr. Hooper," she said to the assistant who was helping push the gurney. They took what was presumably a shorter journey into a closer exam room. Danny remembered hearing a number called out for where they were headed, and this number was much lower. He wasn't sure who Dr. Hooper was or what he was going to do about the situation, but he was prepared to protect Steve from anything and everything that might terrify him more. "You'll need to wait in the waiting area," she said to Danny. 

"That's not happening, so work around me."

"We've gotta get out of here," Steve said, raising up on his elbows. Before the nurse could reach over to encourage him to lie down again, Danny blocked her move. 

"Give us a minute."

She gave him a skeptical look and then stepped back, though neither she nor the nurse assistant left the exam room.

"Steve, we're in the hospital, buddy. That's why everything seems so white."

"I can't take anymore, Danny," he whispered, then he slumped back on the gurney. "You've gotta get me out of here. I can't take anymore."

"I know, babe. I know." Danny stroked his hair and leaned in close. "You have to trust me, okay? I won't let anything happen to you. I'm gonna be right here, right by you. We're in a safe place, and the people here are medical people. Nurses, doctors, people who are gonna get you patched up so I can take you home. Okay?"

"You're gonna take me home?" Steve asked, looking at Danny almost pleadingly. 

"As soon as we get an okay from a doctor, you bet."

"Danny...are we...did we...?"

"Yeah, we sure are. And we sure did...quite a few times," he replied, going with his gut on what Steve was asking about. For the first time, Steve smiled wide enough to irritate his split lip, and even let out a little laugh, that cost him kind of an ugly coughing jag. "Just relax and let me take the wheel for a while. You don't need to drive all the time, babe." He kissed Steve lightly on the mouth. "I love you."

"You love me like that...it wasn't my imagination..." Steve almost said it to himself more than to Danny. Then he seemed to remember he should answer what Danny had said. "I love you, too."

********

Things were starting to come into clearer focus, though there were still times he felt confused. Steve held onto Danny's hand and kept his eyes on him as much as possible through his time in the ER. He was finally relaxing into the idea that he wasn't going to wake up again in that white room with its poison gas, dark figure, and images of his past. Everything was white here, but Danny wouldn't let go of his hand no matter what, and he knew he was safe. He was cleaned up, freed of his remaining soggy clothes and even the hospital gown felt good by comparison. He could have done without all the needles for blood work and the IV in his arm, but he wasn't feeling sick or more confused because of those pokes, so he coped with it. 

By the time they sent him down for a CT scan of his chest, where they wouldn't allow Danny immediately by his side, he was calm enough to handle it on his own. The doctor said there was some fluid in his lungs after listening to his chest with the stethoscope, and the CT scan would tell him how to address that. Steve hoped whatever remedy the doctor had in mind was an outpatient one. All he wanted was to go home and curl up with Danny. Now that he knew the beautiful images he thought could be hallucinations were, in fact, real memories, he wanted to immerse himself back in that part of his life. 

********

While Steve was getting his scan, Danny went into the men's room for a long-needed break. He washed his hands and splashed water on his face, and then he stood there with his face dripping and the water dripping off his hands and he started shaking. It was violent and he couldn't seem to control it. He could picture Steve being tortured with water, choking, terrified, unable to breathe. This was no little bit of water, either. There was a fucking bucket there, and knowing Wo Fat, he'd not only tortured Steve but done it to excess. He'd shot him up with God-knows-what kind of cocktail of drugs, terrorized him and shocked him and nearly drowned him. 

He fought hard to get control of himself. Steve would be done in radiology soon, and he wanted to be there. He also knew Chin, Kono, and Grover were waiting in the emergency area for him to update them. He took in a few deep breaths and wiped the water off his hands and face that hadn't dried on its own. Taking out his cell phone in one of the few spots he could use it in the hospital, he called Chin.

"How's Steve?" Chin said right away.

"They're doing all kinds of tox screens to figure out what he was shot up with, and he's in radiology right now for a CT scan on his chest. The doctor thought he heard some fluid when he listened to his breathing with the stethoscope."

"I guess that's not too surprising...the water boarding."

"Yeah." Danny couldn't say anything else. His stomach twisted and his heart was broken. Knowing Steve had been tortured or hurt before was always hard; now it was unbearable.

"How's Steve doing?"

"He's more lucid. He still seems a little fuzzy, but he's more oriented to reality, I think. He's calmed down a lot."

"You think they'll keep him overnight?"

"I'd be surprised if they released him tonight. They don't have all the blood work back yet and his heart rate and blood pressure are elevated. If you guys wanna go home, it's okay. I'm gonna stay with him, so if somebody can park my car for me so I can take him home tomorrow when they spring him, that would be great."

"He's probably not up to visitors tonight, huh?"

"I can ask him when his scan's done."

"If you're with him, that's probably keeping him relaxed. We'll stop by once he's settled at home, or if they keep him longer, we can come tomorrow."

"Okay. I know he'll be glad to see you guys-"

"After he's gotten some rest, he'll be a lot gladder, probably," Chin quipped. 

"Yeah, he's pretty exhausted."

"Call if you need anything."

"Will do. Thanks."

"You okay?" Chin asked.

"Me?" Danny thought about the fact that Steve had cheated death one more time and, by all indications, would survive this, and amidst all of it, still loved Danny as much as ever and remembered the turn in their relationship. "Yeah, I'm good," he said, finding himself smiling a little. 

By the time he got back to the waiting area for radiology, Steve was being wheeled out from his scan. He let out a couple nasty sounding coughs before holding his hand out toward Danny, who took it right away.

"Everything all right?" he asked the nursing assistant who was wheeling the gurney. She was a young woman with long blonde hair pulled back in a pony tail. Her name badge read, "Brittany."

"Are you family?" she asked. 

"He's my partner," Steve said, squeezing Danny's hand. Danny thought he noticed a bit of disappointment flash across her pretty features. He couldn't blame her. If somebody wheeled Steve into his life one dreary routine night on the job, he'd prefer to find out he was unattached, too. "I've got fluid in my lung."

"Are you in pain, babe?" Danny asked, covering their joined hands with his other hand. 

"Getting a little uncomfortable," he said before coughing again.

"What are they gonna do for him?" he asked. 

"The doctor will see you soon and explain everything. He's reviewing the scans right now," Brittany replied as she left the room.

"They'll probably have to drain it," Steve said, his eyes drooping shut again. "I remember choking once really bad, so I think some of it went down the wrong way."

Danny stroked Steve's hair and kissed his cheek. "Try to get some rest, babe. I'm right here."

"I wanna go home," he mumbled, though he sounded like he was almost asleep. His breathing didn't sound right; it was worse than before, and he did cough periodically. 

"Soon, buddy."

Steve didn't say anything else, but he kept a tight grip on Danny's hand. Danny could imagine he was afraid of letting go of reality and surrendering to sleep when he'd come to so many times to such awful circumstances.

The ER doctor who had examined Steve and ordered the CT scan of his chest joined them in the room again. He was a dark-haired man about their age with dark framed glasses and an easy going manner. His name badge on the lab coat he was wearing now read "Michael Hooper, M.D." So, that was Dr. Hooper. 

"We've got a significant build up of fluid in your left lung, Commander," he said as Steve opened droopy eyes while he listened. 

"What do you do for that?" Danny asked.

"It's called thoracentesis. We insert a small tube in through your back and draw out the fluid. It sounds a lot worse than it is. There's a little discomfort, but I'll give you a local so you won't feel most of it. You might feel a drawing sensation while we get the fluid, but breathing ought to get easier, and we'll get rid of that cough."

"Is it a safe procedure?"

"No procedure is without risks, but it's not considered a high risk or complex procedure. It's not uncommon in water boarding situations for the patient to aspirate their own vomit, and that's why I'm especially concerned to draw the fluid out because I suspect that's what happened. The inflammation combined with his elevated blood pressure and heart rate is a good indicator this was a pretty bad round of it, vs. a minor one- or two-time thing with a little water."

"You sound like you know what you're talking about," Steve said, followed by another cough. 

"I was a medic at Abu Ghraib," he explained. "I've seen the whole gamut, and I know you had a rough time of it, Commander."

"If you're going to stick a tube in my lung, you can call me Steve," he said, and the doctor laughed. 

"I appreciate that, sir. Steve, I mean. Navy SEAL. Man, those guys are bad ass," he said, and Steve sort of laughed, bringing on more coughing.

"You have no idea," Danny quipped. "Can I stay with him while you do it?"

"Sure. He'll be sitting up, leaning on a table, so you can sit across from him and that way you'll be out of our way but you can still be close. You'll need to suit up, wear gloves. It's minimal risk that you'd contaminate anything, but I like to err on the side of sterile. I'll send a nurse in to get you set up."

"When can I go home?" Steve asked.

"If everything looks good in the morning, I'll spring you at the end of my shift. With all the chemicals that were introduced in your system and having this procedure, I want you here a few more hours for observation. We'll also get you on an antibiotic just to prevent any infection in your lung. Someone's with you at home?" the doctor asked.

"I will be," Danny said, touching Steve's shoulder.

It wasn't long after the doctor left that a nurse came in and started setting up for the procedure. It wasn't a complicated process. Steve sat on the side of the gurney and leaned on a pillow on top of a table in front of him. Danny suited up as he'd been told with a protective gown, mask, and surgical gloves and sat across from Steve, who was getting more of a kick out his outfit than he was paying attention to what the nurse and doctor were up to. Even being dubbed "Dr. Danny" didn't bother him. He was relieved to see a little of Steve's humor coming back. 

He held Steve's hands across the little table and talked with him while the fluid was drained. Steve had a few moments of discomfort here and there, and a little coughing once the process was over, but Danny was relieved it wasn't a more arduous an experience for him. Finally, they settled Steve in a private room, a recommendation from the doctor based on all Steve had been through, to allow him some undisturbed rest. 

Until all the toxicology results were back, the doctor preferred not to mix in any powerful painkillers or sedatives and, even in his still groggy state, Steve seemed more than happy to comply with that. He wasn't coughing, his breathing was easy and normal, and he was more and more coherent and alert with each passing hour. 

"You might as well take a little nap, buddy," Danny said, sitting on the side of Steve's bed. "You must be exhausted," he added, hoping Steve could feel even half the love and concern he felt from the tone of his voice, or the touch of his hand on Steve's cheek. 

"I'm tired," Steve admitted, turning his head a bit to lean into Danny's touch. "Man, I had some weird dreams."

"The doctor's still sorting out all the shit you were shot up with."

"You were wearing a Hawaiian shirt," he said, smiling at Danny.

"That wasn't a dream, babe. That was nightmare." Danny wasn't sure what amused him more: the image of himself in a Hawaiian shirt, or the fact that Steve had dreamed about him in one. That Steve had dreamed about his wardrobe at all.

"Maybe for you. I thought you looked good in it." Steve looked troubled a moment, then reached up and touched Danny's cheek. "You were happy."

"I am happy," Danny said, catching his hand, kissing it, kissing the raw area around his wrist. "I'm happy with you."

"When I was on the phone with Victor Hesse, and I heard the shot, you answered the phone...and then...you put my dad on." He stared at Danny a moment and then looked away, his expression faltering like it had when Danny first had to remind him his father was dead. They were alone now, and Danny pressed the button to raise the head of the bed and then pulled Steve into his arms. 

"Let it out, babe. It's just you and me here."

"It's stupid. It's been four years."

"It's okay, buddy. It's like reliving it all again. I understand."

"Good, because I don't," Steve mumbled miserably against Danny's shoulder, then gave into his grief and let the tears come without holding them in any longer.

"I've got you, babe. It's gonna be okay." Danny paused. He was a little comforted when he was grieving and Steve would say "it's okay", but yet at the same time, part of him wanted to scream out that nothing would ever be okay again. "I know it won't be okay, really, but it'll get easier again." 

"Everything was different. He was alive. I talked to him, got home and saw him..."

"It's awful that you went through that, but in a way...you got to see your dad again."

"But it wasn't real."

"Maybe not, but wasn't it really good while it was happening?"

"Yeah, it was," Steve admitted. He seemed to calm down a lot at that thought, though Danny kept him held close and kissed his cheek. 

"I just want my dad back."

"I know you do," Danny said sympathetically. 

"Like you want Matty back."

"Yeah, like that," Danny agreed, working hard not to lose it and start crying with Steve. Between almost losing him, his own grief, and Steve's pain...knowing what kind of torture he'd been through on top of the psychological trauma of being shot up with all those drugs...but this wasn't about him. It was about Steve and being strong for him. About doing for him what he'd done for Danny when he showed up in New Jersey in his airport-bought winter jacket with his suit bag, after traveling thousands of miles just to be there to take care of Danny when he needed him so much, when he needed him more than Danny realized himself. "I love you a lot. You know that, right?"

"I know," Steve replied quietly, tightening his hold on Danny. "I love you, too."

"We're all fucked up now, but we'll get each other put back together."

"You think?" he asked with a watery little laugh.

"I think," Danny said, stroking Steve's hair, "there's nothing we can't handle as long as we're together. If I lost you...I wouldn't come back from that one."

"Same here," Steve admitted softly, his voice still strained. 

"Lie back and rest, babe. I'm not going anywhere," Danny said, encouraging Steve to lie down while he pushed the button to put the head of the bed down a little. Steve shifted over as far as he could to one side. 

"Think you can fit?" he asked. Danny would have made that work if he'd had to cut off a limb. "You're looking pretty tired yourself, Danno."

He was exhausted, and sleeping next to Steve was about the best thing he could think of. He wasn't sure he'd have closed his eyes at all if he couldn't reassure himself that Steve was indeed alive and safe, and he didn't think Steve would have much better luck confronting the demons that might still lurk in the corners of his mind without something...someone...to hold onto. 

"I could use some shut-eye," Danny replied, toeing off his shoes and easing into the tight space. Steve shifted onto his side and Danny eased up close behind him, wrapping his arm around Steve's middle and resting his head against the back of Steve's shoulder. As they fell silent, Danny swallowed several times and willed his breathing steady. Steve covered his hand where it rested on Steve's middle. 

"We're okay, Danno," he said, squeezing Danny's hand. 

"Sorry," Danny muttered, sniffling a couple times against Steve's shoulder.

"Are you wiping your nose on my gown?"

"It's not like you're gonna wear it again, so what do you care?"

"You wiped your nose on me? Seriously?" 

"That's not the most significant body fluid I've swapped with you in the last couple weeks, Steven."

Steve was quiet a moment.

"You've got me on that one."

"Long as I've got you, that's all I care," Danny said, squeezing Steve gently, settling against him and letting his eyes drift shut. 

"Always," Steve said through a yawn before he dozed off to sleep.