Over the three years since they met, Steve has watched Danny gradually relax into island life.
It's happened as his own role in Danny's life has changed – from partner to friend, then roommate, and eventually lover. The two of them have had some debates about causation versus correlation, which usually degenerate into Steve getting blamed for corrupting a true son of New Jersey. Steve just grins unrepentantly before silencing Danny with a kiss.
The shift started with little things, like pidgin and Hawaiian words easing their way into Danny's vocabulary. Then he gave up on those ridiculous ties, though he still insists on wearing button-downs to work instead of T-shirts. He even wears slippahs sometimes, around the house and at the beach, but nothing will convince him to stop calling them 'flip-flops'.
Danny no longer has to be dragged kicking and screaming into the ocean, either. He learned to surf because Grace wanted to, but she left him in her wake long ago. She's eleven now, and a total daredevil out on the waves. Danny holds Kono and Steve responsible, and doesn't hesitate to let them know it: "such bad influences, seriously...I should never have introduced her to you goddamn lunatics". Still, he offers Grace only sympathy and encouragement when she wades ashore after a wipeout.
For all that he's settled in here, there's still a lot of fun and interesting stuff Danny's never done in Hawaii. When he first arrived, he was too cash-strapped and too unhappy to do anything touristy. Then Steve – drawn to Danny like a moth to a fireball – claimed him for the Governor's new taskforce, and they caught case after case for what seemed like weeks and months on end.
But things have calmed down since then. Five-0's on a pretty even keel under Governor Denning, and Steve has accepted the compromises required: there are more rules, yeah, but at least Danny yells at him less often. They've succeeded in shutting down or severely disrupting most of Oahu's organized crime syndicates, and their growing reputation has apparently deterred some offshore operators from setting up shop here.
Five-0 has six permanent members, these days. Kono was re-instated after that mess with IA, Lori stayed on after her profiling skills proved invaluable, and Jenna chose not to return to Langley after her undercover mission against Wo Fat finally succeeded.
Though it took Steve a while to adjust to the expanded team, one advantage is that he and Danny don't run themselves ragged over every single case anymore. They're only on call alternate weekends (synced with Danny's non-custodial time, naturally), unless it's something huge requiring all hands on deck. Chin's more than capable of leading an investigation. In fact, Steve has absolute faith that Chin could take over Five-0 if he and Danny were gone.
So, with this slightly improved work-life balance, Steve has the time and energy to take Danny to more of his favorite places in Hawaii. Initially, he thought of it as showing Danny around his beloved home. When Steve mentioned the plan to Mary, though, she said there was more to it: "you're trying to reconnect with your old bittersweet memories of Mom and Dad, and create new positive ones".
It's unnerving when Mary gets inside his head like that...still, she has a point. Steve and Five-0 have been able to avenge his parents' deaths in some measure, by catching Hiro Noshimuri and Victor Hesse, exposing Governor Jameson's corruption, and bringing down Wo Fat. But the pain of losing them will always remain.
Although Steve doesn't feel haunted, exactly, Mom and Dad have left ghostly impressions all over this island. Retracing his childhood steps with Danny, and often with Grace too, is both an acknowledgement and a kind of exorcism. As in so many other ways, Danny seems to get it without Steve having to explain. When they go to these places, he asks about the past and listens quietly if Steve chooses to talk.
Loving Danny with no hope of reciprocation was awful at the time, but Steve's grateful now for the eighteen months they spent as friends. Rambling conversations during stake-outs, good-natured arguments about every subject under the sun, blazing fights on and off the job...it all paved the way for a mutual understanding most couples take years to achieve.
Danny usually enjoys the trips Steve takes him on, but he balks at the prices of many Hawaiian tourist attractions. Like all couples, they have their sticking points and money is a major one.
They'd come to a compromise, almost two years back, when Danny's apartment was demolished and he moved into Steve's spare room. He gives Steve half the rent he paid at his old place, and diverts the rest into Gracie's college fund. Step-Stan could put her through an Ivy League school right up to PhD level, without ever missing the money, but Danny is too proud to let that happen and Rachel is too smart to even suggest it.
Seeing as he inherited the house mortgage-free, Steve doesn't actually need Danny's rent – anyway, he can live on far less than he earns. He would happily pay for their nice meals, inter-island flights, and other expensive things, but Danny refuses to accept: "we are partners, Steve, and I will not be your kept woman...man...whatever, you know what I mean".
Steve can tell, by now, when Danny is implacable and when he can be swayed. This, apparently, is non-negotiable. So Steve picks and chooses the places he takes Danny, and uses his connections to get discounts and favors.
Today's excursion is courtesy of Dad's old Navy buddy Carlos Reyes, who has been taking tourists out on his glass-bottom boat for the last thirty years. The gruff, weather-beaten man had given fourteen-year-old Steve his first summer job: manning the ticket booth, politely answering dumb questions, and helping out with maintenance.
Steve had spent his wages on a brand new surfboard, which he'd been heartbroken to leave behind when Dad sent him to the mainland. The board still hangs in Steve's garage, waiting for Grace to get big and strong enough to handle it.
It's the off-season right now, and Carlos has shut down his business for a well-earned vacation. It took some begging and some bribery (a bottle of top-shelf scotch), but he agreed to loan Steve his classic old boat for the day. Just as Steve remembered from twenty years earlier, the old guy is fiercely protective of his beloved Sirena. He threatened dire consequences if Steve so much as scratched her paintwork: "I may not have been a SEAL, boy, but I still know plenty of ways to kill a man and make it look like an accident". Steve shook his hand, and took the keys with a grateful grin.
Trying to get Danny out of bed early on a Saturday – "surely a decent sleep-in isn't too much to ask, Steve, for the love of God" – makes arranging the boat trip look easy. Seeing as Steve has usually been for a swim, showered, and had breakfast by the time he wakes Danny up, his sympathy is limited. But he's learned to be patient in the mornings...and to play dirty.
So Steve kisses Danny, leaves a cup of coffee on the dresser by the door, and heads back to the kitchen to pack a picnic lunch for them and Grace. Muffled cursing follows him downstairs, but the coffee trap works and Steve soon hears the shower running.
Only slightly behind schedule, the two of them pull up beside the south coast dock where Carlos keeps his glass-bottom boat. It's an overcast but warm day, and there's barely a ripple on the water. Steve steers the Sirena out across the bay, anchors her near the reef, and cuts the engine.
Almost despite himself, Danny is entranced by the view through the clear hull: "Jesus, there's so many fish down there!" Steve nods, smiling, and sits down beside Danny. They watch the brightly-colored fish darting about, some in big shoals and some weaving a solitary path between the coral branches. A stingray gliding by close to the glass makes Danny recoil instinctively, even though it can't hurt him. Then he leans closer with a grin – "Hey, look, it's our old pal Honu from the petroglyphs" – as a sea turtle paddles past.
Steve makes Danny laugh by imitating the spiel Carlos would give tourists. Both young girls and grown men used to gaze wide-eyed into the water when Carlos casually mentioned seeing mermaids on previous trips. Steve won't try that trick on Grace, though...she's got a great right hook for a fifth grader.
Grace is at her usual Saturday morning ballet lesson right now – one of the refinements Rachel insists on, to counterbalance all the surfing – so they'll pick her up from the dock at eleven. Until then, Steve has Danny all to himself. It's not that he minds spending time with Grace; hell, he loves that kid like she's his own. But he has a plan for today.
Danny looks up from the mesmerizing aquatic scene and catches Steve staring at him. He tilts his head to the side, studying Steve's face in return, then says, "All right, babe. Whatever you've got swirling around in your head, let me hear it."
And Steve could play dumb, could pretend that he hasn't been mentally rehearsing his lines, but there's just no point. Danny already knows that Steve needs some time to work up to important conversations, and obviously he's noticed Steve being a little distracted and distant lately.
Steve can't say it straight out, though, so he starts by laying the groundwork. "Do you like living with me, Danny?"
He doesn't know what Danny was expecting to hear, but from his bemused expression that definitely wasn't it.
"Sure," Danny says, after a short pause. "I mean, you kick like a mule in your sleep, you're obsessed with making me eat healthy food, and you're far too neat. But we've made it work. Why are you asking?"
"Because I like living with you," Steve says simply. "I know it was only meant to be temporary, while you found someplace else, but I don't want you to leave."
Danny spreads his hands wide. "Hey, who said anything about leaving? The temporary thing applied when we were just roommates, each of us convinced that the other was totally straight. Once we got those gaydar glitches fixed and actually talked about our feelings, me moving out just made no sense. So unless you're fumbling your way towards breaking up with me, I've got no plans to be anywhere else."
"No, no," Steve says quickly – God, how is it that Danny can derail his careful conversational plans so easily? "That's not what I'm saying at all."
"Okay," Danny replies, body language relaxing a little, "so what are you saying?"
Steve has parachuted into hostile territory in pitch darkness, and yet asking his partner this question seems far scarier. "Can you see yourself with me, long term?"
Danny leans back a little, blowing out his breath, and stares out across the ocean. He's quiet for what feels like forever, though it's probably a matter of seconds.
Then he looks Steve in the eye and says, "Yeah, I can. I already loved you before we even got together, but I had my doubts that we could survive working and living and sleeping together. It's been eighteen months now and somehow I'm still completely crazy about you, so..." Danny shrugs. "I figure I'm in this for the long haul."
Though Steve had been reasonably hopeful, it's a relief to hear Danny's answer out loud. Now it's his turn to lay it on the line. He takes a deep breath, and says the words that have been running through his mind.
"Danny, I want to spend my life with you. I want my house to be our home, Gracie included. But if Rachel decided to move again and take Grace away, then I would leave Five-0 and follow you back to Jersey, or to England, or anywhere in the world you needed to go. I would quit the Reserves and become a civilian, if that's what it took for us to stay together. You're more important to me than Hawaii, or Five-0, or the Navy. I love you more than I love anything or anyone else, Danny, and I always will."
"Jesus," Danny says faintly after a long silence, his eyes wide. "Steve, that's...that's more than I ever thought I'd hear you say out loud."
"I know I'm not good at this stuff," Steve admits. "But I wanted to tell you how I feel, because I want to tell everyone how I feel."
Danny raises his eyebrows. "What, you mean officially coming out in an interview or something? Most of Oahu knows about us already, babe, so I think that horse has pretty much bolted."
Steve is used to losing control of his conversations with Danny, but it's never frustrated him more. His instinct is just to blurt it out, but he has to do this right. So he slides off his seat onto one knee and clasps Danny's hands in his.
"Danny, I want to stand up in front of everyone we care about, and declare my love for you, and have our relationship legally recognized. Will you enter into a civil union with me?"
Rarely has he seen Danny so still, so shocked. Danny has become scarily good at reading him, but somehow Steve's just blindsided him.
"I'd ask you to marry me, if I could," Steve adds in a nervous rush, when Danny continues to just stare at him. "The Governor told me he plans to push for same-sex marriage, but there's no guarantee the State Legislature will pass it. So a civil union is the best I can offer right now, unless you want to travel to the mainland instead. We could get married in New York, I guess, since that'd make it easier for your family to be present."
"You really want to marry me?" Danny asks. He looks confused and worried now, which isn't exactly an improvement on shock.
"Yeah, Danny – I really do." Steve doesn't quite understand how he messed this whole thing up, but he suppresses his roiling emotions and keeps his voice calm.
"My last attempt was a disaster," Danny points out. "What makes you think we'd do any better?"
The answer is so obvious to Steve, yet Danny genuinely seems to think he's cursed when it comes to commitment.
"Rachel couldn't stand waiting to see if you'd come home every night, but I'm right there beside you every day," Steve explains. "You two had a whirlwind romance; we'd already seen each other at our worst, months before we even kissed. I know you, Danny, and you know me better than anyone. I truly believe we can make it work."
Danny's expression softens, listening to this, and he lifts one hand to touch Steve's cheek.
"The day my divorce came through, I swore I'd never get married again," he says slowly. Rejection – however gentle and regretful – seems inevitable now, and Steve braces himself.
Then Danny starts to smile. "But I guess I didn't rule out a civil union. So...yes, Steve. Yes, I will enter into a civil union with you."
Steve grins, so relieved and pleased that he can't even speak. He leans forward and kisses his partner, his fiancé, who cups Steve's face with both hands and deepens the kiss. It's slow, and tender, and so damn good.
Danny's eyes are shining when he pulls back at last, but Steve's vision is blurred right now so he can't really judge.
"Sorry," Danny says, voice a little hoarse. "That wasn't exactly the ideal response to your very beautiful proposal. You just surprised the hell out of me, is all."
"Hey, I got the answer I wanted," Steve says, pressing his lips to Danny's wrist. "That's what counts, in the end. And since when did we ever do anything the conventional way?"
"True enough." Danny clears his throat. "So where's my ring, huh?"
Steve pokes him in the chest. "Remember the part where I said I knew you? I wouldn't dare pick out jewelry for you, Danny. I wasn't even sure if you'd want a ring, this time around – but if you do, you'll be choosing it."
"Good call," Danny acknowledges. His phone beeps a reminder, then, and he pulls it out. "Hey, it's time to pick Gracie up."
Getting to his feet, Steve goes to haul up the anchor and start the engine. Danny stands beside him at the wheel, arm draped around his waist.
"Shit, how am I going to tell her? 'Hey monkey, Steve and I are getting...'" He stops, and makes a frustrated gesture. "There's not even a verb for this! 'Unionized' is what happens at workplaces, and 'civilly united' just sounds stupid."
"I read that 'getting civilized' is a popular term," Steve offers. "Gay couples are using it on their ceremony invitations."
Danny laughs. "I like that, yeah. I always thought you needed civilizing, anyhow."
"You know, I kinda got that impression," Steve says, guiding the Sirena across the bay. "Being called a 'Neanderthal animal' was a big clue. Plus there was that whole speech about jackals, hyenas, and civilized society, way back on our first day together."
"Wow...it's like this was meant to be," Danny replies, deadpan, and then cracks up. Steve can't help laughing too, so happy that he can't hold it in.
Grace is standing by the ticket booth, bouncing on her toes as she impatiently watches their slow progress towards the dock. Behind her, Stan and Rachel's driver waves to Danny and walks back to the car. It's a relief that Rachel isn't here in person, Steve thinks. He doesn't really want to witness that conversation, though he'll be there if Danny needs the moral support.
"Hey, listen – about telling Grace," Steve begins, but it's too late.
A moment later, Grace calls out across the water, "Steve, did you ask him yet?" He gives her a nod and a grin and she squeals with joy, turning in a circle with her arms outstretched.
Danny turns to stare at Steve, a hilarious stunned look on his face. "Seriously? You told my daughter before you even asked me?"
"Well, yeah," Steve says. "Who else was I going to approach for permission to propose to you?"
"It's like in The Sound of Music, Danno," Grace explains helpfully from the dock. "Captain von Trapp and Fraulein Maria ask his kids if they can get married, remember? Steve called to ask me last night, and I made him promise that he'd be a good husband for you. He said yes, so I said yes!"
"I figured Gracie deserved the power of veto," Steve adds. "I wouldn't have gone ahead without her blessing."
Danny's mouth is still working, soundlessly, as Steve gets the boat securely moored and lifts Grace aboard.
She hugs Steve around the neck and kisses his cheek, and they smile at each other with conspiratorial delight. He lowers her to the deck, and she runs to Danny and flings her arms around him. He swallows hard and holds Grace tight, cheek pressed to her hair, and reaches one hand out to draw Steve into their embrace.
"Thanks, sweetheart, that was real nice of you," Danny tells Grace, then meets Steve's gaze over her head. His eyes are wet, but his smile is wide. "I said yes, too."