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Happiness is Homemade

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It's not even 6am on Friday morning, and the Waikiki Town Center is already teeming with people. Danny shoulders his way through the crowd, grumbling under his breath about sweaty tourists, and natives that should know better, and stupid festivals nobody needs set right in the middle of the year for no good reason whatsoever. By the time he gets to Amazing Grace, Kono is waiting outside, sucking down a Starbucks Frappuccino like it's her last meal.

"Morning, boss!" she chirps, and Danny laments that it's kind of disgusting how damn awake some people have the gall to be this early in the morning.

"Morning," Danny grumbles, fighting with the keys and the lock and his damn life, it feels like. "Fire up the ovens, will you? Let's get those scones baking, and set up the croissants."

"Sure thing," Kono smiles, shimmying her way inside the door and over the shop counter.

Danny busies himself lifting the blinds and snapping the lights on, so the dim shop floods with warm light that glints off the still-empty glass cases. How could he have forgotten about the damned festival?!

Fair enough, it brings him business, and he can’t complain about that, but everything else, everything else, from the smell of sweat some tourists carry into the shop to the detritus they leave all over the front step to their stupid accents when they try to talk Pidgin, giggling amongst themselves and thinking they’re so clever, that’s what Danny hates. Because he has to laugh along and clean up after them and pretend he doesn’t mind. It amuses Kono to no end, because she is evil and the more miserable Danny is, the happier she gets.

Speaking of the devil, she bounds into the shop from the back and sits herself on top of the counter as Danny sweeps the displays, throwing her a look.

“Don’t you have things to do?”

“Nah, everything is started up and I put the first load of croissants in. Need you for the scones, you know I can’t do them.”

“Did you check the cakes?”

“Yes, Danny, and no, the fridges didn’t break down during the night. You’re so paranoid.”

“Hey, it happened once.”

Danny will always remember the flood of melted cream and chocolate when they’d walked in the kitchen, following a night with a power cut and backup generators not kicking in. The clench of his heart around the thought of all that money wasted, when they're barely hanging by their fingertips as it is, well. He's not looking forward to reliving it.

They say the first year of opening a business is the worst. Danny sure hopes so, because at this point he simply cannot imagine what could be worse than this. They are slowly but surely clawing their way into being known, creating a loyal customer base, but it's so hard for a haole to get a foot on the local business ladder. The centuries of self-containment that are typical for the Hawaiian mentality, they infuse the way people think, 'keep it amongst ourselves'. Danny can understand it, but that doesn't mean that he isn't constantly living in fear of finally going under.

Not that he shows it, of course. He has an impressionable daughter and a young co-worker who looks to him for reassurance. Of course he couldn't possibly say it.

The fact that Rachel, of all people, knows exactly what he's trying to hide, probably says a lot about the state of his marriage -- namely, its disintegration.

Kono grins at him from her perch on the counter, swinging her legs like a five-year-old with nothing to do. Danny scowls and throws the dishcloth he's been using at her.

"Make yourself useful and set up the front, will you? People are going to start knocking the damned door down any minute now."

As if hearing him, a tourist tries to come into the shop, jangling the handle when he finds it locked.

"We're not opened yet," Danny yells, exaggeratedly shaping the words. The tourist blinks at him and makes 'coming in' motions with his fingers.

Danny sighs. "You deal with him," he tells Kono, ignoring her affronted expression. "I've the scones to see to."

He escapes into the back, making a pointed detour to grab his still half-full cup of coffee. It's too early to deal with this shit.

He hides in the back of the bakery until it's gone 8am and he's on his third take-away coffee, thanks to Kono, who really is an angel in disguise -- when she's not trying to turn his hair gray. For the thousandth time this year he reminds himself that they could really do with installing a coffee machine in the shop -- eke out a few more dollars and compete with the nearby Starbucks for business. He resigns himself to having a talk with the bank this week for a small loan to buy one. Besides, the amount of cash both him and Kono are spending at Starbucks -- the thing should pay for itself within the month.

He's feeling somewhat approaching human by the time he's run out of things to knead, shape, spoon into tins and bake. The second batch of muffins for the morning is done, and tasting delicious, if he says so himself. He lines them up on a tray and carries them out into the shop. When Kono sees they're the triple chocolate version Danny has patented, the noise she makes is vaguely pornographic. The teenage boys jostling at the front of the shop stop in their tracks and stare. Danny feels like thumping the lot of them on the back of their heads.

She’s good for business, Kono, that’s for sure, Danny can’t deny that when she’s manning the cash register, they get more teens and single dads and random pervs coming in and buying the most random thing they can think of on the spot, just so she’d smile at them and chit chat for a minute. When Danny’s behind the counter the kids tend to either not be bothered, or be scared. So as much as Danny wants to knock them into each other, he can’t really complain, and even when he wants to grumble at Kono forever because she eats half of the raspberry cupcakes tray every time Danny makes a new batch, she’s good to him and to the bakery.

They only open once the displays are set up with cakes and pastries and baked goods and the whole store smells incredible, fruits and chocolate and freshly baked bread. Danny takes one critical look before nodding, walking to the door as Kono hops over the counter.

“I’ll take the first shift, Boss!”

“Well, seeing the people loitering, yeah, you are. I got to make a start on that red velvet cake for the Anawole wedding anyway.”

Danny opens the bakery and flips the sign to ‘open’ on the door, one of the only things, along with his special recipes, that he brought from New Jersey. His mother had been a little teary when she’d given it to him, a family heirloom, she’d called it. Stereotypical melodramatic Williams women theatricals, his father had called it, albeit fondly. Damn, Danny misses them.

He escapes to the kitchen again when the group of teenagers erupts in the shop, talking loudly and throwing what they probably think are charming smiles at Kono. Leaving the door open, Danny can hear, through the course of the morning, their usual clients coming for their loaf of bread and their croissants, and a lot of carnival goers getting themselves a snack. They’re out of muffins by half past eleven, which is very good news, and Danny’s smiling as he prepares the sandwiches they sell through the lunch rush, turning to Kono as he stacks them in the display next to the register.

“Is Chin coming for his lunch today?”

“No idea. Hope so, he promised me he’d lend me his copy of I am legend and I don’t want to have to go to his house to get it, because then he’ll rope me into cooking dinner for him and Steve, and Steve eats more than I have ever seen anyone eat, even if it’s all healthy shit.”

“You mean he eats more than you?”

Kono kicks him and laughs at the same time, a kind of multitasking that would be irritating if she wasn’t so endearing.

“Who’s Steve, anyway?”

“Oh, he’s Chin’s new roomie. They’re old friends, went to high school together. He teaches at Kukui Intermediate now.”

“Now? What did he do before?”

“Navy.”

"And they let him teach impressionable kids?"

Kono laughs. "Relax, he's harmless. Hey, I bet Grace has him for her Science class!"

Danny pales. "Oh my god, what does he teach?"

"Um. Chemistry?" Kono says, eyeing him like he's mad.

"They let a Navy officer. Teach Chemistry. In middle school."

Kono shuffles her feet a bit. "Actually, he used to be in the SEALs."

Danny's jaw drops and his hands migrate to his slicked-back hair before he forces himself to let go. "Grace has a Chemistry teacher who is a SEAL."

"Um. Was a SEAL?" Kono tries, looking like she wishes she never opened her mouth.

"Oh my god. I have to get Grace out of there right now."

"Oh for god's sake," Kono huffs. "You are overreacting, drama queen. Steve is a perfectly nice guy."

"I'm not concerned about 'nice', I'm concerned about 'explosions'," Danny grumbles, but deflates a little.

Kono rolls her eyes at him and busies herself with the glass cases, lining up the sandwiches. "Ask Grace about him the next time you see her," she suggests, knowing it'd be the only way for Danny to calm down.

Danny huffs, makes a face at her and goes to make a start on the raspberry pink frosting the wedding party wants for the cake. He plans a five-tiered vanilla sponge with raspberry mocha filling, decorated with dark chocolate and a smattering of fresh raspberries. It'll be colorful and fresh and youthful, and Danny is very much looking forward to it after years of plain white wedding cakes.

He loses himself in the making of the cake, seeing it all done up in his head, tall and majestic and beautiful. He hears the bell announcing people walking in and out of the bakery chiming regularly, Kono’s enthusiastic voice loud and cheerful. Danny adds small sugar flowers along the first and third tiers of the cake after some consideration, painting them dark red and green with food colorants, with careful precision. He knows he’s got flour on his face and mocha stains all over his apron, but hey, it’s worth it - the cake will look absolutely amazing.

He finds himself smiling when the sound system installed in the bakery suddenly starts blaring out a random Avril Lavigne song, one of Kono’s guilty little pleasures she likes to indulge in when the flow of customers is slow. He can’t mistake her excited squeal the next time the bell chimes, though.

“Hey, cuz!”

Danny taps his hands against the apron to clear most of the flour and chocolate powder, dusting his fingers before stepping out of the kitchen, greeted by the sight of Kono half hanging over the counter to hug Chin. It takes Danny a whole second to realize Chin is not alone, but after that, he cannot take his eyes off the tall, handsome man standing next to Chin, leaning against the glass case displaying the croissants, bread rolls and sandwiches.

“Hey, hey, don’t do that!”

The three of them turn to Danny, looking surprised for a second before Kono slides off the counter, Chin starts smiling, and the other guy just doesn’t move, stays right where he is, leaving all sorts of elbow and forearm prints over Danny’s carefully cleaned glass case.

“Howzit, Danny?”

“Chin, does your friend here has trouble hearing? I said don’t do that, off my display, come on!”

“It’s a wonder we have any customers, Boss.”

Danny glares at her, at the aurally-challenged guy, and stomps off to the back room. He reappears a moment later, a cloth in one hand and bottle of glass-cleaning liquid in the other. He doesn't appreciate the bemused looks the three share when he walks up to the guy and raises an expectant eyebrow.

"Move," he growls, crossing his arms over his chest.

The guy raises an eyebrow back, and doesn't.

Danny huffs. "Move, please. Some of us have jobs to do, princess. Come on, chop-chop."

The guy straightens with exaggerated nonchalance, and takes a sliding step away from the case.

"Be my guest," he says; and his voice, kind of rumbling but husky, the things it's doing to Danny's person, it should be illegal.

The fact that it makes him want to lean into the man's chest and listen to him speak for hours only makes Danny scowl more.

"You know, I know a guy who does great display cases," Tall, Dark And A Pain In Danny's Ass says after a moment.

"Huh?" Danny asks distractedly. The man's grinning at him, kind of dry, a twist of the lips. "Wait, are you suggesting there's something wrong with mine?" Danny demands.

The guy smirks some more. "Nah, brah. Only you're going to wear them out if you keep polishing them like that."

Danny is suddenly aware that he's been wiping the glass for something like five minutes straight. He steps away hurriedly.

The annoyingly persistent guy ignores his glare yet again. "Steve McGarrett," he says, sticking a huge hand out.

"Oh my god, you're the crazy SEAL?" Danny blurts, and immediately scowls again at the blush he can feel rising up his neck.

The guy looks taken aback for a moment before letting out a bark of laughter. The way it transforms his face is... something.

"Well, I don't know about that," he drawls.

Danny huffs in irritation, and takes the hand still pointing towards his stomach. It's firm, and warm, and kind of soothing. These are not thoughts he should be having about a guy he's only just met.

"Kono was telling me about you this morning. Apparently you teach my daughter Chemistry."

McGarrett stares at him for a moment, eyes narrowed and contemplative. "Alright," he says at last, "I give. Which one is she?"

"Grace Williams. She's a 3rd grader at Kukui Intermediate."

McGarrett grins. "You're Grace's dad? Okay, yeah, I can see it now."

“What is that supposed to mean?”

Steve puts his hands up in a ‘I’m innocent, please don’t hit me’ kind of gesture, which looks vaguely menacing when he’s the one doing it -- but Danny doesn’t back down, tilting his chin up defiantly, his hands full of cleaning product and rag.

“Nothing, just - she’s got your wits. She’s very quick, that kid.”

“That she is.” Danny takes a step back, not quite sure if he should feel offended by McGarrett's comment or not. He decides he doesn’t have time for this and turns around, only to witness a giggling Kono trying to keep her laughter to herself, and Chin leaning against the counter, apparently unimpressed.

“When you two are done flirting, can we get some food?”

“Fl- we were not flirting, Chin Ho Kelly, what is the matter with you? I cannot believe either of you are actually teaching my daughter things.”

“You have to admit it was a little bit flirty.”

Danny blinks at Steve over his shoulder, taking in his slightly embarrassed look that still manages to look completely unashamed. His eyes are gleaming in the light streaming through the big bay windows, and Danny tries not to stare.

“Are you serious right now, all of you? I - okay, you know what? Nevermind. Kono, please go on doing what you’re paid for. I have a wedding cake to finish.”

There's an eager sound behind him, and he turns again to see McGarrett looking intrigued.

"Cake?" he asks, sounding hopeful.

"This is a bakery," Danny reminds him dryly.

"What kind?" McGarrett wants to know.

"Raspberry and mocha."

"Wow."

"No, you can't have any," Danny tells him, ignoring the way McGarrett's face turns despondent. His lower lip is poking out. He's pouting, god, how is this guy real? "It's for a wedding," Danny insists.

He doesn’t stop pouting. He doesn’t even stop, and Danny wants to punch him, very very hard, right there on the jaw. Only he doesn’t, because Steve is a potential customer and Danny just can’t punch potential customers, even if they’re really irritating. The fact that it’d be a shame to mess such a pretty face doesn’t even cross Danny’s mind, for real.

“I might have possibly made a few muffins I planned on giving Gracie with the rest of the batter for the cake. Would you like one, Steve?”

McGarrett’s face, honest to God, lights up like a Christmas tree on the day; Kono laughs and Chin shakes his head with a grin, and Danny realizes right here, right now, that he’s probably a little fucked.

“Aw, Boss has a heart!”

“Not helping, Kono.”

“I would love a muffin, Danny.”

Danny takes a deep breath and then nods, turning on his heels and stalking to the back room, taking a minute to himself, leaning against a counter and taking long, deep breaths. What just happened, right now? Who is this guy, Chin’s buddy, taking Danny’s bakery by storm and getting his way with pouts and little looks? Danny has a daughter, damnit, he’s used to puppy eyes and pouts and sulking, and yet he just completely caved in front of a 6’-something ex-Navy SEAL? Seriously?

Danny grabs one of the 6 muffins he did with the remaining batter, and contemplates throwing it against the wall, going back to the main room and turning Steve away, but it's not happening. Instead, he wraps the muffin in an Amazing Grace-stamped grease paper and walks out of the back room with his head held high. If he's going to be whipped, at least he doesn't have to show it.

Steve's eyes, this is not even real life, and his smile, and the look on his face, Danny wants whoever made him in the first place to take him back, please, Danny is not equipped for handling this.

He hands him the muffin box anyway. Steve takes it like it's made of glass, precious, and puts it on the counter to take the muffin out. When he bites into it, the sound he makes, Danny feels like someone just punched him in the gut. He hasn't heard a sound like that even from people in his bed, this just isn't happening, Danny did not sign up for this when he got out of bed this morning. He tries to shift surreptitiously behind the waist-high counter, avoiding Chin and Kono's eyes for all he's worth.

"Oh my god," Steve says, his eyes rolling into the back of his head, eyelashes fluttering in bliss. "Oh my god, Danny, how is this real? Who makes cakes like this? What did you put in it, and am I going to wake up at 3 in the morning craving it?" His voice gets drowned out by another bite, demolishing a third of the muffin in one go.

Jesus fucking Christ. Who talks like that??

"Damn straight," Danny says, trying not to choke. "You're partaking of some genuine New Jersey goodness right there, my friend. You'd be forgiven if you're not up to handling the sheer awesomeness." He can't help preening a little.

Steve eyes the remainder of the muffin suspiciously, then shrugs and stuffs it in his mouth.

"I don't even care," he says, still chewing. "If I have to come in every morning for a box-full of these, I will. It's a sacrifice I'm willing to make."

Danny watches him carefully for any sign of sarcasm, but finds none.

"Seriously? You think I should add these to the menu?"

Steve looks at him like Danny's killed his puppy.

"You mean these aren't on the menu already?" he asks, voice thick with affronted disbelief.

"Uh, not as such," Danny admits.

Steve looks appalled. "You have the business sense of a snail, don't you?"

Danny bristles. "Hey. You're talking to a bona fide New Jersey Cake Boss here, pal. Don't go disrespecting my shop!"

Steve makes 'calm down' motions with both hands. "Look, that didn't come out right, okay? All I'm saying is, if you've got more stuff like this that you aren't selling yet, you might want to think about fixing that asap. Hey, maybe something with pineapple?"

“I have a lot of recipes I can’t put on the everyday menu, it’s not like I own a three stories store, here, if you haven’t realized. And I do have something with pineapple,” Danny points to the display in the window for one of the most renowned cakes made in New Jersey. “Pineapple upside down cake, right here.”

Steve makes a little face, halfway between impressed, and ‘this is not a muffin I don’t really give a shit’. The urge to punch him comes back full force, and, wait, where are Chin and Kono?

Frowning, Danny looks around Steve to see them outside, holding coffees and apparently waiting patiently for Danny and Steve to be done with whatever they’re doing. What the actual fuck, they left the bakery and Danny didn’t even hear the bell, what is wrong with him?

“Okay, do you want a sandwich for your lunch, Steve, or was the muffin enough? Because I have a job to go back to, and so do you, I believe. My daughter will not learn Chemistry by herself.”

“Actually, I’ve been thinking about using food to teach 3rd graders a few things.”

Steve has a look on his face, something a little excited, a little childish, that tells Danny a lot about how much he’s actually enjoying his job; and okay, okay Danny doesn’t want Gracie to explode during Chem but he’s always thought passionate teachers were the best kind, so he can’t really begrudge the man his admiration.

“Now that’s nice. Sandwich?”

“Tuna and sweetcorn on brown bread, please.”

Danny sorts Steve’s sandwich out, ignoring the stupid looks and grimaces and kissy faces Kono is throwing at him through the window. Really, honestly, how is this his life, and why are these the people he has to deal with?

He rattles out the price for the sandwich, only looking up at Steve when he doesn’t move.

“What about the muffin?”

“You were the first one to taste it, I can’t make you pay for it. You were like a guinea pig for that one.”

Steve grins. "I wouldn't mind being a guinea pig for you again," he says.

Is it just Danny's imagination, or do Steve's cheeks look a little pink? Nah. Probably just the light.

"Be careful what you wish for, my friend," Danny says, grinning dangerously. "I may have you try all kinds of stuff for me."

Steve stares at him.

"I'm just saying," Danny adds when Steve doesn't say anything. "It could be horrible. Like pineapple on pizza. It could be very, very wrong, and you'd have no choice but to eat it so we know for sure."

Steve opens his mouth and closes it again, looking like someone's just smacked him with a wet towel.

"Pineapple on pizza is great," is what he comes up with in the end.

It's Danny's turn to stare.

"What," he demands, "is wrong with you? Pineapple on pizza?! Even I couldn't come up with anything worse than that! It's an abomination unto the taste buds!"

Steve frowns. "It's my favourite kind," he says plaintively.

Danny scowls. "Oh my god, and I'm supposed to listen to you telling me to put things on the menu? I'd go bust in a week!"

"I did grow up here, though," Steve points out defensively. "I know what the locals like."

Danny considers this. "You may have a point," he concedes grudgingly. God knows he doesn't seem to be doing all that well by himself. As it is, he's barely competing with Starbucks.

Steve beams at him, though he still looks a little cautious when he hands Danny the money for his lunch. "Thanks," he says. "I can honestly say it's been the most interesting lunch break I've had in years." He sounds earnest, so much so that Danny relents enough to smile back.

There's a knock on the window. Danny turns to see Chin tap at his watch in exasperation.

"Is that the time?" Steve frets, checking his own. "We're going to be late for class!" He looks endearingly lost as he stuffs his wallet back in his pocket and grabs the sandwich. "See you later, Danny!"

"Yeah," Danny echoes, "see you later."

It takes Chin and Steve making a swift exit, and Kono walking back inside the bakery and offering Danny a now lukewarm coffee for Danny to look away from where Steve was a minute ago.

“I knew you’d like him!”

Danny refrains himself from flipping Kono off, but he definitely grumbles all the way back to the kitchen. He still has a wedding cake to finish.

---

Steve is pushing a little balled-up piece of paper along the table, waiting a little forlornly for Chin to be done with his shower. Since coming back to Hawai'i to stop trying to evade his family, he’s spent so much time with Chin it’s a little scary - Steve needs more friends, if not some hobbies. Maybe he should take up cooking, seriously.

The thought makes him look up from the piece of paper, watching out the window for the ocean, far enough that he can’t hear the waves breaking. Cooking leads him to baking leads him to Danny. Short and stocky and loud-mouthed Danny, 'maker of the most amazing muffin Steve has ever tasted' Danny. Seriously, that cake was out of this world, so good Steve can still taste it now when he thinks about it. And he’s happy with that, not wishing it’s Danny he could taste.

Chin appears in the living room in jeans and a Henley - the man seriously never wears anything else - his hair wet, and his phone stuck to his ear.

“Yeah, okay. No, we’re both here. Alright, see you in a minute.”

He hangs up, throws his phone on the couch and sits by it.

“Kono’s on her way.”

Kono. Kono leads to Danny. Six degrees of separation suddenly became one and Steve can’t help but feel a little troubled, and yet when he thinks about Danny telling him off and giving him cake and smiling at him, it makes Steve grin to himself.

A huff of amusement comes from the sofa, and Steve lifts his eyes to see Chin smirking at him. Steve lifts an eyebrow in question.

"Oh, you really wanna play it that way, brah?" Chin asks dryly.

"Chin, I've no idea what you're talking about."

Chin purses his lips. "So that stupid smile on your face when I mentioned Kono, that has nothing to do with today, is that what you're trying to tell me? Steve, I deal with kids all day long. What makes you think your antics are going to fly by me?"

Steve sags in his seat.

"It was really good cake, that's all," he mumbles.

"Uh-huh," Chin says. "You smile like that over cake, I don't wanna know what you do with it, okay?"

"Chin, for fuck's sake," Steve says, affronted.

"Hey, just sayin', brah. I sure ain't thinking about cake when I smile like that."

Steve wrinkles his nose.

"Nah, coz. You think about Malia when you smile like that, all smitten and stuff," Kono says, slamming the door shut behind her. "Hey, Steve, howzit? Thinking about the boss, were you?"

Steve does flush this time. "No," he says, and even he knows that sounds pathetically weak.

"You got a crush on my boss!" Kono accuses gleefully.

"It was really good cake, okay?" Steve insists.

"I don't wanna know," Kono says, making it sound so dirty that Steve has no choice but to jump up and grab her in a headlock.

"Hey, gerroff me, you overgrown sea mammal!" Kono yelps, squirming until she plants a vicious elbow in Steve's stomach. Steve grunts and his hold loosens enough for Kono to slip under it.

"Serves you right," she says unrepentantly, heading for the kitchen and sticking her head in the fridge.

"You are horrible," Steve complains. "I don't know why I put up with you."

"Because I cook you delicious food, even if you are a health freak. And I'm your inside man on the job to get you laid with my boss."

"Hey," Steve protests.

"Don't even try, brah, I saw the way you were eye-humping him today," she says, no-nonsense.

Steve blows out a sigh and throws himself on the sofa, planting his feet in Chin's lap.

"Why won't anybody believe me about the cake?" he whines.

"Maybe when you stop using it as an excuse to talk about Danny, we will," Chin says mercilessly.

"I hate you all," Steve groans, throwing a hand over his face.

“You love us really. And I brought you something.”

Steve looks over at Kono again, trying not to match the gleefully amused look on her face. He has the worst friends in the world, that is a fact.

“You did?”

She plops a brown paper bag in front of Steve, the kind that you get in grocery stores, unmarked or anything. It could be anything, and suddenly Steve is afraid to open it, for all he knows it could be something alive in there. Steve’s not very good with animals.

“What is it?”

“Just open it, will you? I hope your fridge is stocked because I brought nothing with me, and I have no cash.”

Steve stops paying attention to the cousins at that point, focusing on the bag in front of him as he opens it and pulls out a cake box. His stomach flutters, and fuck, he clamps down on the feelings. He is a Navy SEAL, he’s not some teenager with a crush, especially not on someone he just met and who yelled at him. Although that was amusing.

He opens the box to discover it’s a slice of that pineapple upside-down cake, the glaze over the large rings of pineapple glistening with the last rays of the sun. Steve licks his lips, the shadow of a smile he can’t contain appearing on his face.

“Boss said that I am to make sure you eat all of it before making a single remark. His words.”

“I wish it’d been another one of these muffins instead.”

“Eh, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it, Steve. Danny’s seriously a wizard or something, when it comes to baking.”

Steve gives her a pointed look.

“You know it’s all just chemistry and science, right?”

Kono throws her oh yeah? look and disappears for half a second, comes back with a cake fork, handing it to Steve. Both she and Chin look at him as if he’s some kind of lab rat, and it reminds Steve of Danny and his guinea pig comment, and all the things Steve wouldn’t mind being a guinea pig for Danny for. Most include some kind of nakedness.

He digs the fork on the cake, the pineapple giving easily and the sponge cake coming along, springing back to its full height, glaze running down the side of Steve’s fork. The sugar sticks to his lips when he takes the forkful in his mouth, and he wraps his tongue around the piece of pineapple as the cake base melts against his taste buds, sweet and tasting of vanilla. Steve struggles not to close his eyes and tip his head back in delight, the sharpness of the pineapple contrasting deliciously with the sweetness of the sponge cake, but when he meets Kono’s eyes, he can’t stop his smile, and she grins in triumph.

“Told you! A wizard.”

"Does he have some kind of special training?" Steve wonders.

"Nah. Family business, he said. Apparently his family have had a bakery in New Jersey for almost a hundred years, and it passed from father to son. Except now that Danny's left, he said it went to his sister, Carlotta."

"So all of it, he learned it from his dad?"

"And his mom. Won't share any of the recipes," Kono complains. "Family secret, he said."

"Huh," Steve grunts, digging into the cake for another forkful. "So how come he's here in Hawai'i, anyway?"

Kono shares a look with Chin. Chin shrugs.

"He followed his ex-wife when she brought Grace here," Kono says. "Apparently their marriage didn't end well."

"Wow."

"Yeah. Sucks, I guess, but Danny's the kind of guy who wouldn't let his daughter be taken from him that easily."

"So is that why he's so--" Steve stops.

Kono bares her teeth in a grin. "Oh, do go on," she purrs.

"Prickly, I was going to say," Steve says with a show of dignity. "He seemed kind of touchy."

For reasons he doesn't understand, both Chin and Kono burst out laughing at that.

"Oh, brah, you've no idea," Chin says, wiping at his eyes. Kono nods, even though she's still jerking with giggles herself.

"Can't wait to find out," Steve murmurs to himself, and stuffs another forkful of heaven in his mouth.

---

Night falls quickly in Hawai’i, something Danny is still not really used to. He can still taste long, slow evenings with New York's skyline catching the dying light, looking about to burst into flames.

Here, the sun disappears so fast Danny barely has time to see it, even when he’s waiting for it. It’s another one of these things that make living in Hawai’i so different and, in some aspects, interesting. It doesn’t make Danny miss New Jersey less, though.

It’s been a long day at Amazing Grace, the kind where both Danny and Kono have too much time on their hands and not enough customers. Danny ended up sending Kono home before she drove him insane, and he spent most of the afternoon on his own in the store, rearranging stands and mostly just hoping every man or woman walking past the bakery would walk in.

But they don’t, and when the clock on the wall tells him it’s past four, Danny starts packing up, pulling trays of sandwiches and cookies and muffins back into the kitchen, delicately placing cakes back into the fridges. He’s about to check the bread rolls, the thought of chucking them breaking his heart, when the door bell chimes and Danny looks up, startled.

Of all the people Danny could have expected, Steve is definitely not one of them. Yet here he is, hands in the pockets of his jeans and wearing a simple white t-shirt that has no right to look this good. Tattoos are peeking out from under the short sleeves of the shirt, making Danny’s brain supply him with really unhelpful images of himself licking said tattoos.

This is so not happening. Straightening up, Danny wipes his hands on his apron and gives Steve his best customer-oriented smile, determined to be professional.

“Can I help you?”

Steve frowns. "Uh, you don't remember me? I was here the other day--"

"I only wish I didn't," Danny grumbles. "Of course I remember you, Mr SEAL."

Steve's face clears. "Oh. I thought--never mind. Uh, I was in the neighbourhood, and I thought I'd drop in," he says, sounding more unsure by the word.

"You were in the neighbourhood? What--what kind of line is that, 'you were'--this place isn't remotely on your way."

"Is too," Steve insists. "I had to stop by the coffee shop and get some fresh Kona. Thought I'd come in and see if you had any more of those muffins, but if you'd rather I left--"

"No," Danny cuts him off, hating himself. "No, don't leave." He sighs. "Sorry. It's been a long day, but I shouldn't be picking on you just because. Come on, get in here. Let me just lock the door."

"Closing already?" Steve asks, bemused.

"Yeah. It's been very slow, and I don't expect anyone else to come in this late." He walks to the door with a heavy step and throws the lock, flips over the 'Closed' sign.

When he turns, he sees Steve eyeing the half-full glass cases. He feels embarrassment burn deep in his belly, but hell, he doesn't have anything to be embarrassed about in front of Steve. Slow day, that's all. Maybe if he just repeats it to himself enough, it'll be true.

He walks past Steve and leads the way into the kitchen, mostly clean but for one messy counter where Danny's been experimenting ever since that first time Steve walked into his shop.

"You still up for that tester position?" Danny asks challengingly, waving an arm at the baking pan cooling off to the side. "Only I made these mocha chocolate cupcakes, and I've been having trouble picking the frosting."

Steve's eyes light up. "Yeah," he breathes, looking thrilled.

"Honestly, I don't know how you keep in shape, the amount of sugar you eat," Danny muses.

Steve looks guilty. "Uh," he says, looking away. "I don't normally. I mean, I prefer wholemeal flour to white, and brown sugar when I take any, and you know, oats make a perfect addition to cakes and muffins, they're much healthier that way and have a nice chewy texture..." he trails off at the look on horror on Danny's face.

"You would besmirch my bakery with wholemeal flour? Oats?" Danny splutters

"Hey, I'm just saying. Some people prefer healthier options."

"If you're such an ingredients Nazi, what are you doing here?" Danny demands.

Steve's eyes flicker towards the cupcakes. Danny grins.

"Can't keep away, huh?" he gloats. "No, it's okay, perfectly understandable, once you've tasted of the Williams magic, you're ruined for life. I should probably have warned you."

Steve is looking at him funny again, but Danny decides to graciously ignore it.

"All right, McGarrett. Option one: milk chocolate frosting. Option two: cappuccino frosting. Option three: cookies and cream frosting."

Steve's eyes look so huge they're about to pop out of his head, but Danny can't resist getting a last dig in, a final hit, so to speak.

"But of course, they are made with pure refined white flour, and although the cupcakes have brown sugar, the frosting is white. So if you aren't comfortable with that..." Danny lets himself drift off smugly.

Steve gives him the stink-eye. "Give me the cupcakes," he growls. "Right now."

Danny dry-swallows at the tone of Steve’s voice, something very close to a full body shiver making its way up his spine. Danny doesn’t want to find Steve so fucking endearing and attractive, but when he sounds like this, well. Danny’s only human.

He takes a step back, unable to help the way he licks his lips as he looks at Steve, his eyes flashing with things Danny cannot explain nor decipher - thankfully. He grabs the first cupcake next to him, with the cookies and cream frosting, and resists breaking off a piece for himself, or to possibly hand feed Steve. No, he keeps his composure and hands the cake to Steve. Doesn't mean he managest to look away when Steve bites into it.

Nobody should look this good while eating, there is something completely unnatural about it, Steve has to be some kind of alien that gets off on human food or something like that, because the way he looks and the way he sounds, it’s just not right, especially considering what it does to Danny.

Just his luck that he’d meet someone that looks this good, to the point where Danny’s old, forgotten memories of what lust feels like suddenly wake up and start nudging all over his brain like on fucking casino night; it also has to be someone that has a sweet tooth the size of Texas and a fondness for Danny’s creations.

“Mmm. S’good.”

“Yeah, I know that. Chocolate frosting?”

Steve swallows and Danny definitely doesn’t look at his Adam’s Apple bob up and down.

“Shouldn’t I get some kind of palate cleanser in between?”

“Are you serious right now? Where do you think we are, the Four Seasons? I’m demoting you back to customer if you keep on being this difficult, McGarrett.”

“No, no, it’s just - thought I’d be able to judge best that way! So I’d tell you what I honestly thought worked the best and not make a harsh decision.”

“Babe, we’re talking about frosting.”

Steve stops, his hand mid-way to putting the rest of the first cupcake on the counter, and he blinks at Danny, his eyebrow slowly arching. He’s about to open his mouth when Danny flails a hand between the two of them.

“It’s a New Jersey thing. Come on, chocolate frosting, if you please?”

Danny thrusts the cupcake in Steve’s hands, and resolutely turns away from the man, focusing on cleaning up random pots and bowls he’s left lying around the kitchen. He’s elbow deep trying to get dried bright pink strawberry cream out of a bowl when Steve makes a little noise, and Danny turns around.

“Yes?”

“Is that the cappuccino one?”

Steve point to a third cupcake, and Danny nods, watches as Steve lifts it and takes a bite, chewing slowly, carefully. His eyelids flutter, and a soft sound falls out of his throat, an ever-so-faint hum of pleasure that goes to Danny's cock in a way that nothing has for at least two years, maybe longer. Danny forces himself to stop staring at the guy with his mouth open when Steve's eyes open again -- but the look in them, it's so intense, Danny has to swallow past his suddenly dry throat.

"This one," Steve rumbles, licking his lips until they're pink and wet and shiny. "Oh my god, Danny, this one." He picks at the frosting-covered top, breaks off a huge piece and slides it into his mouth, letting out a sigh of satisfaction.

Danny turns around quickly, eyes boring down into the wet bowl he'd been washing. He scrubs furiously until the strawberry cream finally gives, pealing off the sides in thick clumps.

"You're quite a neat freak, aren't you?" Steve comments from beside him. Danny looks up to find him watching Danny's hands. "I mean, the way you scrub things, it's like they refused to cooperate and must be punished."

Danny huffs a laugh despite himself. There's a crumb sticking to the corner of Steve's mouth that Danny wants to lick away. He picks up the next dirty bowl and gives it the same treatment.

"They won't clean themselves, you know," he grumbles. "If you want me to make a whole batch of those cupcakes tomorrow, I'm going to need clean cutlery."

Steve smiles, a small thing that barely lifts a corner of his mouth. Before Danny works out what's what, Steve has fetched a kitchen towel and started drying the pieces Danny just washed, stacking them up neatly on the counter to the side. They work in silence like that for a little while, and the rhythm is so soothing that Danny is actually surprised to find the sink empty, and all the dirty dishes clean and ready to be put away.

"Does this count as working toward my dinner?" Steve wants to know.

Danny can't help but grin at the plaintive tone.

"God, you're insatiable. Fine, hand me that spatula."

Steve does, and the way their fingers brush would mean a whole lot in any kind of self-respecting romantic movie, but here there are no sparks, just Danny holding onto the spatula like a lifeline.

“So, before I start on some more -- cappuccino, you’re sure?”

“Perfectly sure.”

Danny nods then, and sets to work, adding sugar and coffee and cream and mixing it all together until it’s exactly the texture he wants. He dips his little finger in the icing, taking a taste, letting the soft, almost sweet coffee taste take over his palate.

“Yeah, think it works best. It cuts the sharpness of the coffee in the cake, but isn’t too sweet that it covers the taste of the chocolate either.”

Steve nods, looking enthralled by the movements of Danny’s hand as he keeps on mixing the icing to keep it smooth and glossy. He looks like he’s trying to remember everything that Danny’s doing when he packs it inside a frosting bag.

“I’m not giving you my recipes, Steve, but you know what? I’ll make you a deal, like I do with Grace--”

“You’re offering me a deal like you do with your daughter?”

Danny holds up a finger.

“Don’t interrupt. If you promise not to try, ever, to steal my recipes, you can do the frosting yourself. You can put as much of it as you want on the cupcakes.”

Steve grins and nods, and how could he really be mocking Danny for offering a deal he offers a 9-year-old on a weekly basis (if she cleans up, if she behaves in front of customers) when he looks just about 5 himself right now?

Five minutes later, Steve has frosting running down his fingers as he tries to decorate the cupcakes with funny faces and stupid patterns before actually finishing the job, and he’s poking his tongue out the corner of his mouth, and Danny tries really, really hard not to be completely endeared, or to reach out, grab Steve’s hand and suck his fingers clean.

By the time Steve is done, the cupcakes are dwarfed by the mountain of icing on top of each one, almost covering the whole space inside the box. Danny eyes them suspiciously, thus not immediately realising that a) there's only a little bit more frosting remaining inside the bowl, and b) he is now wearing some of it, a huge dollop over his nose. Steve looks delighted with himself.

Danny narrows his eyes. "You really wanna do that, McGarrett? You wanna pick a fight with a baker? You sure?"

Steve smirks smugly, and he's so obviously thinking that there's nothing much Danny can do to him that it makes Danny see red. He reaches behind himself and picks up the frosting bag. Seconds later, Steve is wearing a thick streak of chocolate frosting over his face, running from his eyebrow to his chin. He's going cross-eyed trying to follow it.

Danny wiggles his eyebrows in challenge.

It's half an hour later, and the formerly pristine kitchen is an unholy mess. There are flour and broken eggs congealing on the floor, stripes of multi-coloured frosting criss-crossing the counters, powder sugar everywhere, and sprinkles covering every available surface and most of Danny's ruined hair. Steve looks unrepentant and victorious, even though he also looks incredibly stupid with his t-shirt covered in egg yolk and his face wearing a fine layer of flour. His grin is pure glee, however, and that more than anything stops Danny from wringing his neck where he stands.

Danny himself has vanilla essence in his fucking pants, he is going to murder this maniac, who pours vanilla down another man's pants, for fuck's sake?? He takes in the state of his kitchen, now that he can think again, and he wants to fucking cry.

He starts laughing instead. A small chuckle at first, then a snort, and then guffaws are bursting out of his mouth, until he's hanging on to Steve so he doesn't slip and fall face-first in the mess. It takes him a moment to realise that Steve's shoulders are shaking too, and he looks up through tears of mirth to find Steve looking down at him, huge smile brightening the entire room, and such a warm look in his eyes that Danny feels something stutter in his chest.

The next moment Steve is lying flat on his back, looking shocked. Danny smirks smugly over him, looking down into his startled eyes. Danny's from New Jersey, for god's sake. Jersey fights dirty.

Steve's eyebrows scrunch together; there's a swooping feeling in Danny's stomach, and when he blinks his eyes open again, he's sprawled on the floor right next to Steve, hand covered in a smear of strawberry jam which he promptly spreads all over Steve's chest.

Steve starts laughing again. Danny tries to look pissed for about three seconds, after which he decides, fuck it, and joins in. When the laughter dies down, they just lie there, filthy and panting and quiet, Danny’s hand still on Steve’s chest. He stares up at the ceiling, trying his best to ignore how warm and alive Steve feels next to him, against him. Instead, he tries to think about Rachel and how food fights with her had been fun at the beginning, before they became fodder for harsher fights, those with the biting words they actually meant, flour flying around them but not taking the words away.

Danny knows it means nothing; his mother has spent long enough telling him that it doesn’t mean anything, that his relationship with Rachel is his relationship with Rachel, not with anyone else, and it doesn’t have to tip over to the rest of his life. But thinking about relationships and Steve at the same time feels weird - they barely know each other, and it’s not because Danny would jump his bones in a second that it means he wants anything else. The man’s really irritating, after all.

Danny turns his head to see Steve looking at him, this intense stare of his focused solely on Danny himself, and, okay, again, Danny’s only human. Even through the flour and the frosting and the egg yolk, Steve is fucking breathtaking, and Danny needs to take a step back, right now.

He sits up suddenly, taking deep breaths before standing up and going straight for the broom and bucket. Steve follows, straightening up and looking down at himself, as if he gets that Danny feels uncomfortable right now, and needs a minute to compose himself.

“Please tell me you’ve got a shower?”

Danny feels a little satisfied when he shakes his head.

“It can be a new version of the walk of shame.”

Steve raises an eyebrow at that, looking unimpressed as he tries to get rid of most of the disgusting mess on his shirt.

“If I have to do a walk of shame, I’d like to at least get something out of it.”

Danny mock-frowns. "Are you saying that you got nothing out of it? Well then, I guess Grace will have six cappuccino-frosted muffins to enjoy tonight--"

Steve looks terrified. "No, wait, I didn't mean it!" he yelps. Danny smothers a chuckle, and Steve looks disgruntled. "That wasn't fair," he complains.

"Never said it was, babe," Danny says smugly.

"I kind of hate you," Steve says.

"No you don't," Danny returns happily, starting the long and arduous task of getting the kitchen cleaned and ready for tomorrow.

To his surprise, Steve grabs a mop and gets stuck right in beside him.

"You don't have to," Danny says tentatively.

"Shut up," Steve replies mildly, and proceeds to ignore him until the floor is mostly clean.

Danny watches him surreptitiously. Steve looks content to be working through his evening, an open, happy look on his face that Danny knows hasn't been on his own in far too long. He loses himself in the repetitive task, sweeping and mopping and brushing and scraping until the place is more or less the way it was before Steve came in and brought mayhem with him.

The last thing that Danny cleans is his face, and he washes his hands as far up as he can reach without stripping. He washes the soles of his shoes, too, makes Steve do the same before wiping the floor one last time. Steve waits for him patiently by the door.

"You could--" Danny starts, but Steve cuts him off.

"Stop trying to throw me out of your shop. I'm not going, you can't make me," he says mulishly, clutching at his box of muffins like it's the last thing between him and starvation.

Danny huffs a laugh. "You're such a goof," he tells Steve fondly, and okay, this, this is not right. He hates the guy, remember, Steve is irritating and childish and lest Danny forgets, he poured vanilla essence down Danny's pants, this isn't just something a guy forgives.

So no. Steve isn't a goof, he's a frosting-addicted maniac, okay, he is a menace to all bakery goods everywhere. He must run or swim ten miles a day to keep in the shape he's in.

Oats. Seriously, he must think Danny is stupid or something.

They make it outside around the same time as the sun starts to disappear behind the tall buildings surrounding the shopping center. Danny looks at the two of them, and fights a blush over his face, because they look filthy, with their messy clothes and ruined hair and sweaty faces, they look a fright, they look like they've just had sex, if he's honest.

Anyway.

"Need a lift?" he asks Steve grudgingly. Steve nods, looking relieved.

It’s probably the worst idea he’s ever had, and his car will also need a thorough wash after this, but he feels bad and there’s something nagging at the back of his mind, telling him he doesn’t really want this moment to end. So he nods, too, checks he’s got all the keys he needs and his wallet before locking the bakery and sliding the gate down in front of it.

Once the shop is locked, Danny motions for Steve to follow him to the car park, digging his hands in his pockets, just shy of really, terribly awkward. Danny’s legs are sticky because of vanilla essence, and God he wants a shower.

“So, Kono told me you moved here for Gracie?”

“I did. Rachel got re-married and Stan needed to move here for work, so I didn’t really have a choice.”

“How much do you see her?”

“Twice a week.”

“So you moved, from New Jersey to Oahu, for 48 hours a week with your daughter?”

Danny throws a sideways look to Steve.

“Doesn’t sound worth it to you?”

Steve takes a moment too long to reply, and Danny looks down at his feet covered by battered Converse. He’s tried to explain before, tried to explain it to Rachel, of all peoples, and if she can understand, it’s only because she knows Grace and how amazing she is.

“Look, she’s my daughter. She means the world to me, and I’d sell the bakery and uproot in a heartbeat, all over again, if I had to. My family back home, they’re fine, they don’t need me around. Someone’s got to keep Gracie happy and make sure she's well, and I don’t trust Stan one bit. I mean, he’s fine for spoiling her, and looking stern behind Rachel, but he’s not her father. I am. And I’m not letting any small time, or big time, estate agent take this away from me.”

Danny realizes he’s ranting just a second too late, and well, maybe Steve isn’t ready for all that, but it’s part of Danny, so he guesses if Steve is to stick around he should probably know about it. He had the hands flailing around along with it, the whole package for an audience of one. By this time they're half-way across town to Steve's flat, driving in uneasy silence now that Danny's canned it at last. When Danny looks over at Steve, though, he sees him sporting a serious, earnest expression.

“I get it. I wanted to say that, before you started rambling. I get it, Danny.”

“Do you have kids?”

“No.”

“Then how?”

“I moved back here, transferred to the Reserves and became a teacher, Danny. You know why? Because my dad had a stroke. And I thought I was going to lose him. So when I say I get it, I really do get it.”

Danny feels like a dick. "Oh," he says lamely. "I'm really sorry to hear that."

"No, it's okay. I didn't tell you to make you feel bad. I just wanted to show you that I do understand. She's your daughter. It's as simple as that."

Steve looks earnest, a little sad and kind of soft around the edges. Danny looks at him longer than is strictly advisable, and has to whip his head to watch the road when there's a blare of a horn right behind him.

"Thank you," Danny says quietly.

Steve doesn't reply, but when Danny looks at him again his face is serene where he looks out of the window at the houses whizzing past. It drains the tensions from Danny's shoulders, and he becomes aware just how much he enjoys Steve sitting next to him in the Camaro, warm and smelling faintly of strawberry jam and melted chocolate. He wouldn't mind ending his day like this every day.

They pull up in front of Steve and Chin's house not long afterwards. Steve makes no move to get out; instead, he looks at Danny imploringly.

"Will you come inside with me?" he asks.

"Why on earth would you want me to do that?" Danny says, bewildered.

Steve slants his eyes at the house, at the light shining out of the windows overlooking the street. Danny looks up, too, and then back down. A flash of red catches his eye.

"Is that Kono's Chevy?"

"Uh. Yes?"

"Oh my god," Danny laughs, "you want me to come in so you can use me as a buffer, don't you?"

"They are vicious," Steve complains, looking down at himself despondently. He seems upset that the stains haven't miraculously disappeared in the past two minutes.

There's the sound of a window swinging open above them.

"Boss, is that you?" Kono yells.

"I guess it's a moot point, then," Danny grumbles.

The looks on Chin and Kono's faces are priceless.

"What the hell?" Chin says, eyeing the mess that is Danny's pants.

"I never knew you had it in you, boss," Kono giggles, looking delighted.

"All right, all right, enough from the two of you," Danny says when Steve just stands there looking uncomfortable. "You sound like you've never seen a food fight before."

"Are you sure it wasn't food s--"

"Finish that sentence, Kalakaua, and you can scrub out the whole front of the shop tomorrow morning," Danny growls. He has no idea why he's feeling so damn protective over Steve, the sheepish hulk of muscle looming over them at his side, but the thing is, he does.

"Aw, boss," she wheedles.

Steve stops looking sheepish and starts grinning. "Oh my god, Kono, he's got you house-trained! I never thought I'd see the day!"

"Zip it, McGarrett, or I'm--you know what? I'm gonna do it anyway. This is just too good to pass," she says, whips out her phone and takes a photo of the two of them before either can blink.

"What the fuck?" Steve frowns.

Kono's fingers fly over the keyboard before she hits 'send' triumphantly. There's a moment of expectant silence, and then Steve's phone starts blaring Pink's Trouble.

"Aw, hell no," Steve groans, fishing his own phone gingerly out of his messed-up cargo pants. "You sent that to Mary?"

Kono's smirk is truly a thing of evil.

---

Steve manages about 7 seconds on the wave before he’s thrown under, the ocean rumbling in his ears and muting everything else for a moment, pushing and pulling Steve this way and that, as if he’s a rag doll. He lets it happen, enjoys the strength of the waves trying to shape his body into something completely different.

When he swims to shore with his board under his arm, Kono laughing is the first thing he notices. She’s standing next to her own board, in one of those ridiculously skimpy bikinis she owns, wet hair sticking to the sides of her face as she laughs her ass off at Steve - the beach is deserted enough that only he could be the target of her mocking cackles.

“Hey, Kalakaua, not all of us were professionals! I haven’t surfed in ages.”

“You capsized worse than Danny, though!”

She’s talking through little pig-like snorts that are entirely too amusing for someone as old as Steve is, but never mind, he’s still way too entertained by the noises she makes. But then he gets what she’s saying, and his brain short-circuits.

“Danny surfs?”

Kono sobers up a little, sitting down and offering a towel to Steve, who takes it gratefully and sits next to her, sand sticking to his wet legs.

“He’s learning, yeah. For Grace.”

“For Grace?”

“She wants to learn herself, and she wants to do it with Danny, so I’m trying to teach him basics so he can surf along with her.”

“That’s sweet of you.”

Kono shrugs, her mouth twisted for a second before she pushes her hair off her face.

“Yeah, well. He’s actually not bad, and, you know. He treats me good. He’s a good friend.”

"I'm sure he is," Steve says. "Kinda cranky, though. I can't imagine he's easy to work for."

"Well, yeah. He's got pretty exacting standards, that's for sure. But he's only been here two months, and he's been fighting tooth and nail to make the bakery a success ever since we opened. It's not been easy for him. Not a day goes by that someone makes a not-so-quiet haole remark, and I know it bothers him, even if he doesn't say anything about it. Me? I can cope with a grumpy boss. I can't cope with Danny losing what little he's managed to get back for himself. So yeah. He's my friend."

"Huh," Steve says thoughtfully. He'd never even considered what it must be like for Danny, day in day out, trying so hard and never knowing whether he'd be able to keep it. Steve has been used to taking these things for granted - money, food, a job to go back to, every day he wanted it -- that now, thinking about Danny and how he could lose everything that allows him to stay here and see his daughter and keep a roof over both their heads, Steve can’t believe how unfair it is.

“Is it that hard? I mean, at the bakery?”

“We make ends meet, that’s what matters.”

Steve almost protests, almost shakes his head and tells her that no, no it’s not what matters, barely making it through every month is not enough; but it’s not the mentality of the island, and Kono would probably find a million ways of telling Steve just how wrong he is. It’s not that he wants them to become filthy rich and open multiple franchises, if that’s not what they want, either. He just wants them to be comfortable. He wants Danny to be able to dare changing his menu around for more trying recipes because money’s secure enough.

So instead of saying all that, he just stares ahead, the wind coming from the ocean blowing his hair dry, feeling it curl at the nape of his neck.

“Are you thinking about my boss surfing, Steve?”

Kono’s words pierce through Steve’s cloud of thoughts, and he blinks, shaking them away. He wasn’t, but now he has the image of Danny in a wetsuit sticking to the sides of his brain.

“Huh? Oh. No.” He avoids Kono's eyes.

Kono watches him for a minute before looking back at the ocean. "You like him, don't you?"

Steve considers denying anything and everything automatically -- and if it had been a year ago, he would have. Back on base, when his career had depended on hiding who he was, he'd have spun a tall tale about prime blackmail material and such. Here, though, alone but for Kono on a deserted beach, with the waves breaking over the sand and the wind blowing in his hair? He can afford a little trust.

"Yeah," he says simply. "Yeah, I do. I don't think he likes me much, though."

Kono snorts behind her hand. "Trust me, he does. I've never seen him look so relaxed as he did after that food orgy thing you two got into. I still maintain that it was some bizarre fetish the two of you share."

"Shut up you," Steve mock-scowls at her. "He yells at me all the time. I can't do anything right with that guy."

"Here's a tip," Kono says helpfully. "Boss yells at you? Everything's fine and dandy. Ranting? Arm-waving? He's happy as a clam. He goes quiet on you? Run for the hills. Trust me on that; it's knowledge gained from trial and error."

Steve thinks about this. "So what you're saying is, when he yells at me, he's happy? That's kind of screwed up."

Kono shrugs. "Works for Danny. You'll learn to live with it."

To his surprise, Steve discovers that yeah. He'd like to.

He's feeling pretty wrung out when he gets back to his and Chin's place, sand in places it should really never get, hair plastered to his head and shorts sticking to his legs from the salt. The shower is the best thing he's seen all day.

Since it's Saturday, he plans to throw a steak on the grill and call his mom afterwards, catch up on the week that's just passed. When his phone rings and his mom's face flashes on the display, he's not expecting it, but he's not exactly surprised.

"Hey, Mom," he says when he picks up. "Howzit?"

"Hey, kiddo," his mom says fondly. "You clean and decent this time?"

Steve frowns. "What are you talking about?"

His mom's voice is brimming with mirth when she speaks again. "Oh, nothing. It's just that a little birdie sent me a very interesting picture of you the other day."

Steve sighs wearily. "Mary," he huffs."I swear, she's such a pain in my ass."

"Language," his mom berates with a laugh. "Don't be mad at her. It cheered us up so very much."

Steve presses his lips together peevishly. "Thanks ever so."

His mom's laughter trails off, but Steve can still hear the smile in her voice when she says, "Seriously, though. Care to set the record straight? Could it be you've gone out and found yourself a life?"

"Mom," Steve complains.

"Who was the man in the picture with you?" she wants to know, ignoring him.

Steve resigns himself to the inevitable. "That's Danny Williams. He's Kono's boss. Owns a bakery in Waikiki Town Centre."

"Bakery, huh? I guess that explains the mess."

"Yeah, we got a little carried away. Seriously, Mom, he makes the best cakes. Not that there's anything wrong with yours, but his are incredible, I swear he puts something illegal in them. Nothing should taste that good."

"Sounds fascinating," his mom says, in that tone that tells Steve she means something completely different. Steve sighs away from the phone, stepping out onto the balcony to check out the sunset.

“It’s not like that, Mom.”

“I didn’t say a word, Steve.”

“You said enough.”

“Sweetheart, I’m just saying, you look happy in this picture. And, well, since you came home, you haven’t had that many opportunities to look happy.”

They’re not people of many words, the McGarretts. It’s all very much to the point, straightforward, which makes Danny’s ranting and talking himself stupid another complete change from what Steve is used to -- his family, the Navy. And his mother, she fits that criteria perfectly, her words soft and gentle, but no fussing around to try and poke answers out of Steve.

“I’m settling here. I feel like I’m finding my place, you know? And Danny’s the same. He moved here recently to be able to still see his daughter, so he’s trying to find his place, too. But we’re friends, that’s all.”

“Well, friends are good, Steve. Chin is a lovely man, but he’s got Malia and a wedding to plan, he can’t spend all his free time with you.”

“Yes Mom, I know. I don’t force him to spend time with me, you know.”

“Steve, you sound like a petulant child. You weren’t one when you were younger, you’re not going to start now, are you?”

Steve sits at the garden table, his feet over the opposite chair, shaking his head even though his mother can’t see him. It’s a habit.

“Sorry.”

“You should bring this Danny boy along with you for dinner one of these days. He can even bring a cake, if he wants. You know I wouldn’t mind.”

Steve stills at that, not quite sure if his mother really means it as a friend thing - Steve had lots of friends coming over the house all the time when he was a teenager, for his mom’s home-cooked meals and the private piece of beach, or if she plans to grill Danny about his sexual orientation or something to that effect. His mother can be quite cunning.

“I’ll ask him.”

“Okay, sweetheart. I’d like to meet him, he sounds like fun.”

“He’s loud and abrasive and rude, Mom. He’s not gentleman of the year.”

“Bring him for dinner and I’ll be the judge of that. I’ll do that baked salmon you like.”

Steve sighs, knowing he's lost that round. "How's Dad?" he asks, changing the subject not all that gracefully.

'Your Dad's fine. Getting on my nerves now that he's retired -- I keep finding model car parts all over the house. He almost had another stroke when I hoovered some of them up while I wasn't paying attention," she grumbles.

"Let him enjoy his retirement, Mom. At least he isn't hiding out in the garage every spare moment."

"Only because I make sure to poke him out of there when it's time for lunch."

Steve huffs a laugh; he can just imagine how much his dad is loving that.

"I'll come round next Sunday," he promises. "And yes, before you remind me, I'll ask Danny if he wants to come."

Now he just has to figure out how to do that without Danny's eyebrows making a bid for freedom, he thinks as he says goodbye to his mom.

---

It's Tuesday when Rachel calls him in a rush of words and excuses.

"Please, Danny, it's an emergency, the company's shares have fallen 12 points, I really have to take that meeting--"

"Ugh, spare me," Danny grumbles. "Of course I'll pick Grace up. Might have been nice to have more warning, but whatever."

"I just said it was an emergency, Daniel, no need to rub it in," Rachel snaps, peeved.

"Yeah, okay. I know. Sorry. It's been a bit of a fucked-up day. I'll be there at 2pm."

"Thanks."

"Yeah. Bye."

Danny hangs up, rubbing a hand over his forehead. "Kono, can you--"

"Yeah, Danny, sure," Kono cuts him off. "Sorry, I couldn't help but overhear. I'll close up too, if you like."

Danny sighs. "What would I do without you," he says, smiling at her wearily.

"No problem, brah," Kono says happily. She clasps a hand over his shoulder before going to the back, leaving Danny to man the front. He’s got a few hours before having to pick up his daughter, but now he’s got a genuine smile on his face when he welcomes customers inside, the prospect of seeing his little girl soon making him walk around with a spring to his step.

He leaves just after lunch time, knowing the rush of traffic at that time of day will slow him down. He still gets to the Grace’s school early, and waits for the bell to ring, leaning back on the hood of the Camaro. It’s a nice day - even Danny has to accept that, with bright sunshine and a touch of wind that plays through Danny’s hair like a kid in a playground.

It’s barely a few seconds after the bell rings that kids start swarming out of the huge wooden doors and racing down the steps. Danny waits for Grace to find him, checking Kono hasn’t called or texted some kind of emergency in the bakery.

“Danno!”

It’s loud enough to make Danny grin, and he goes down on one knee to welcome his daughter’s hug, kissing her hair lightly.

“Hey, monkey! Had a good day?”

She nods, her chin digging into his shoulder as he straightens up, holding her over his hip. He’s not going to be able to do this without her writhing away or complaining soon, so for now, he makes the most of every cuddle Grace allows him to have.

“Yes! We made cakes in Chemistry!”

“You - you did?”

“Mr. McGarrett says that cooking and baking is basic chemistry and we can learn a lot from it, so we made a sponge cake while he explained how the yeast reacted to the heat and made the cake grow bigger in the oven. So I told him you make cakes like that all the time! But yours are better.”

“I’m glad you think so, sweetheart. Ready to go? Do you have a lot of homework?”

She’s about to answer when there’s a shout for Grace coming from the doors, making both Williams turn around.

“Grace! Wait up!”

A tall man holding a plastic bag is now running towards them, pushing his square, black-rimmed glasses up his long nose. Danny lets Grace back on the ground when she squirms a little, opening her backpack to check her belongings right away.

“Who’s that?”

“That’s Mr. McGarrett, Danno. I think I forgot my book.”

Danny stops dead in his tracks, giving the man another, more thorough look, and now he’s close enough that Danny can see it, recognize him under the glasses. He looks different - his hair combed, clean-shaven, wearing a proper shirt with the buttons closed, black slacks, and, more importantly, those glasses, transforming his face completely. He looks softer with them on, his eyes less clouded by dark memories he probably can’t talk about, and Danny finds that he likes the look.

“Grace, here, your book, you’ll need it for your homework.” He looks back up when Grace takes the book, buries his hands in his pockets, and Danny is pretty sure that is a blush creeping up his cheeks. Fuck, he really shouldn’t be this endearing. “Hi, Danny.”

“Do you know my Daddy, Mr. McGarrett?”

Grace looks between the two of them, a confused little scrunch at the bridge of her nose. Steve crouches to be at her height.

“Yes, I do. I like his cakes.”

That’s a loaded statement if Danny ever heard one, but he manages not to reply anything, biting his lip so hard he’s about to make it bleed. He leaves a hand on the top of Grace’s head, keeping a point of contact between the two of them, reluctant to let go.

“Oh, you went to the bakery? It’s named after me!”

Steve mimes shock. "Is that right? How could I not have realised? Obviously it's named after you!"

Grace giggles, and Steve smiles at her fondly. It opens his face even more, and now he looks nothing like a Navy SEAL Commander, more like the high school geek that is nevertheless strangely attractive. Danny kind of wants to debauch him really, really bad.

Steve pushes his glasses up his nose again and straightens reluctantly. "I'd best let you go."

"Danno, I'm hungry. Can we go get a burger?"

"A burger?"

"Uh-huh. With fries."

"Oh, well, if it's with fries..." Danny trails off, watching Steve take a step back, a strange, wistful expression on his face. "You should come with us," Danny blurts at him. "I mean, if you're done with the day, you'd be welcome to join us."

It's almost painful to see how happy that simple request makes Steve, and Danny feels it like a punch in the gut when that happiness drains away from his face and Steve says, "No, I couldn't, it's your time with Grace."

Danny looks down at Grace. Grace looks back at him.

"You should totally come, Mr McGarrett! We can show you this really awesome place we found last week! It has the hugest cheeseburgers you've ever seen!" Grace pipes up.

Steve looks torn.

"Are you sure you wouldn't mind?"

"Hey, my daughter asked you to lunch with us. You'd better go get your stuff," Danny says, mock-severe.

Steve grins again, and it's like the sun peeking out from behind the clouds.

"Okay! Yeah, that'd be great! Let me just go and--won't be long!"

He sprints back inside. Danny maybe watches him a little longer than is proper.

"That was a nice thing we did, Danno," Grace tells him, sounding so very grown up that Danny has to scoot down again just to remind himself she's still his little girl.

"Why do you say that, sweetheart?"

"Mr McGarrett looks kind of lonely sometimes. When Mom is late and I have to wait for her to pick me up, I see him driving home, and he looks so sad."

Danny's heart squeezes in his chest. It's... probably inadvisable to be getting so attached to someone at this stage of his life, when he can barely see anything beyond the job and Grace. Still, though. It's not like his heart has ever listened.

Steve runs back out, looking a lot more like Steve at that point. The glasses have sadly gone, and his hair is a lot more ruffled, probably in an attempt to shuck that geeky look. His shirt is unbuttoned at the throat, letting a patch of skin peek out. He looks good enough to eat.

"Okay, I'm ready," he says when he reaches them, ever-so-slightly breathless, and Danny's brain immediately conjures other times when Steve could sound like that, that Danny could make him sound like that.

"All right, then, let's go," he says, voice a little rough. He can feel Steve's eyes on him as he leads the way to the car, and has to suppress the urge to run a hand down his tie, make sure he's looking as good as possible.

To his surprise, Steve climbs in the back of the Camaro without a single complaint, cramming his long, long legs across the seat to make them fit. Danny really should stop thinking about those legs. Really. Steve grins at him in the review mirror when Danny climbs in, and he can only hope that the flash of heat he's feeling isn't too obvious in his eyes.

He doesn’t really know what he’s got himself into, but with Grace chatting excitedly about burgers and cakes and Chemistry, Steve listening and replying and making her think, too, well, Danny can only let his heart leap in his throat. He’s not afraid, and maybe that’s what scares him the most.

---

The common room is full up to the brink with teachers mingling during the kids’ morning break, some yearning for their coffee as if it’s some kind of magic elixir that will get them to face the children more easily. Steve walks in with the box of cupcakes and croissants he bought from Danny and cuts through the crowd, offering smiles and hellos before leaving the box on the table next to the coffee-maker, the best place for it to get demolished as fast as possible.

“Oh, what’s that, McGarrett? Did you bake us something?”

It’s a little dig from one of the PE teachers, one of the people that Steve barely talks to, that think fat and gay jokes are the height of good form. There aren’t a lot of them around, but there's already too many for Steve.

“I wish I could bake that good, Howard. They come from a bakery I go to.”

Already a few of the girls are looming around, smiling appreciatively at Steve and the cakes, and Steve grins back, cracking up the charm as high as possible.

“There are butter croissants and three raspberry cupcakes, three white chocolate and cherry, and three peaches and cream ones.”

"My god, Steve, are you planning to kill us? How could one possibly choose?" Ailani says. She's the English teacher, and very susceptible to such offerings.

"It isn't easy," Steve says with the conviction of one who has had to try and make that choice far too often. He is extremely reluctant to share out the delicious treats, but it's all for a greater cause.

Mariah, the Maths teacher, at last dares to reach for a raspberry cupcake, breaking off a piece and popping it in her mouth. Straight away there's the vaguely pornographic sound Steve has had to get used to around Danny's baking.

"Oh my god," Mariah says, mouth still full, eyeing Steve with something akin to true love. "Where did you find these, McGarrett, and how come I don't know about it?"

Steve feels relief slither down his spine. He'd known, of course he'd known the cakes would be a success; they're Danny's after all, but he hadn't thought it would be this easy to land in a plug.

"Bakery's called Amazing Grace, only been open a couple months. About half-way down on the left in Waikiki Town Center."

Stuart, the Geography teacher who had tentatively snagged a croissant, looks at Steve with shining eyes. "Steve, you are a life saver! Mabel has been wracking her brain where to get last minute sweets from for Gary's birthday thing at Kukui Elementary! Let me just..." he whips out his phone and hits speed dial, taking another giant bite of the pastry as he slips out of the door. "Honey? About the cakes, yeah, grab a pen."

Steve feels a warm glow of satisfaction as one by one his colleagues dip into the sweets and proclaim Danny's genius. Even the horrible PE teacher condescends to try a bite, and can't stop his grunt of appreciation. After all the locusts have been, a single peaches-and-cream cupcake sits lonely in the corner of the box. Steve takes mercy on it.

The bell rings as he's swiping frosting from the corner of his mouth, and he has to rush to make his class in time.

It's Friday, and he has yet to pick up the balls to relay his mom's invitation for Danny to come to lunch. He's had ample opportunity -- there's been the lunch with Grace, which had been wonderful on a level Steve is trying very hard not to think about, and this morning when he'd swung by and picked up the treats (although Danny had been grumpy as a stepped-on snake for some reason), and yet he's still date-less for Sunday lunch... And he did not just think of Danny as his date. Oh, god, this is worse than he thought.

He just has to bite the bullet. For fuck's sake, he's the veteran of hundreds of missions and campaigns, most with a 50/50 survival ratio, and what, he can't ask a guy to lunch with his family? He's appalled with himself.

So once the last bell rings for the day, and he's seen all the kids out, he changes into the clothes he'd remembered to bring this time, makes a futile attempt at fixing his hair, gives it up as a bad job, and jumps in his truck. When he gets to the bakery, he's thrilled to see the line sneaking all the way out of the door. He'd had no idea it would work so quickly -- it must be the added word of mouth from Stuart's son's primary school.

He pokes his head through the door, setting the bell jangling. Kono looks unspeakably relieved to see him.

"Steve! Help!" she yelps, struggling to handle the register and fill the boxes with pastries at the same time.

Steve doesn't even think; he sneaks behind the counter, snaps on a pair of plastic gloves and pops the next cardboard box into shape. The look she sends him is pure gratitude.

"Danny can't get them out of the oven fast enough! What did you do?"

"Me? Nothing!" Steve says innocently.

Kono's not buying it. "Don't give me that. I saw that look in your eyes this morning, mister."

Steve shrugs. "I may have handed out some free pastries at work," he allows. Kono looks gleeful.

"I knew that if people only gave them a try, they'd love them!" she says, handing over a box stuffed with the cappuccino-frosted mocha muffins that started the whole thing over to the lady at the till with a smile. The lady smiles back in thanks and scuttles away, already breaking off a piece for herself.

Kono and Steve settle into a rhythm, with him filling up the boxes with the orders she gets. Danny appears with a new tray of pastries after a while, stopping dead in his tracks for a minute when he sees Steve behind the counter. He looks tired, but there’s a smile on his face, something grateful in the glint of his eyes. Steve smiles, nods, and then turns back to the boxes of pastries.

It’s been a while since he’s been around someone that doesn’t need words for Steve to understand him. Danny talks a lot, granted, but he still can make himself perfectly clear to Steve with a few looks and the way his mouth twists. And Steve’s always thought he was good at hiding himself and his feelings, but it was obvious Danny could read him like an open book; yet somehow, the thought doesn’t make Steve freeze inside. He’s spent such a long time denying himself all these feelings and desires, for the sake of his country and his duty -- and he doesn’t have to anymore, but it still felt strange and foreign.

It takes a while for the line of people to dry up, and after they get the last order done and the man out of the door with half a muffin in his mouth, Kono flops down on top of the counter with a long sigh.

“Oh my God, that was insane!”

Steve bites the inside of his lip as he snaps off the gloves, walking back to the front and looking at the mostly empty glass cases and displays. He feels warm and happy, if a little bit afraid of what Danny’s going to say now that they’re alone.

“Kono, can you start cleaning up in the kitchen? I’ll do the front.”

Kono pushes herself up at Danny’s words when he appears at the kitchen door. He’s not looking at Steve, not until Kono’s gone into the kitchen with a silent nod. Soon, music fills the bakery, mixing with Kono’s happy, if mostly off-key, singing. Steve’s eyes dart from the kitchen door to Danny, who’s flipping the sign to ‘closed’.

“So what did you do?”

“Just bought some pastries to work this morning. Then Stuart was calling his wife who needed treats, and from there, I don’t know.”

“We’ve barely had a minute since lunch time, which is crazy and I’m absolutely exhausted, but, um. Thank you. For spreading the word.”

Is that a blush? Yeah, it’s definitely a blush on Danny’s cheeks, and it makes Steve grin like a loon as he takes a few steps towards Danny, his hands in his pockets.

“You’re welcome. Would you like to make it up to me?”

Danny’s smile fades and his look turns wary as he raises an eyebrow.

“Really? Really, Steve, you get me a few customers and you think I’ll just do anything you want? I’m not that kind of guy, okay, I’m not going to lie on my back for you just because you were nice to me once, that’s just not my style. You can have free muffins and shit, but that’s it, okay, we’re not in the animal kingdom and it’s not an eye for an eye, okay.”

Danny is growing agitated, and Steve is just more and more amused by the obvious misinterpretation.

“I was just wondering if you’d come for dinner at my parents' on Sunday? My Mom, she saw the picture of us, the one of the food fight, and now she’s decided she wants to meet you.”

"...Oh." It takes Danny a moment, and yep, Danny's cheeks are properly flaming now. "Um. Sorry."

"I'm not that kind of guy either, Danny," Steve adds quietly. "When and if it happens, I want it to happen because you want it, too, not because I coerced you into it."

Danny's looking more and more embarrassed, and Steve wishes he'd just shut up, but he hadn't realised how much he needed to get those words out until they're pouring out of his mouth.

A few moments pass, each more awkward than the one before as Danny pretends not to watch Steve through his eyelashes.

"Your Mom, huh?" he says at last, starting to smile.

It's Steve's turn to look away. "Yeah. My Mom's got her mind set on it, and once that happens there's no budging. You don't have to, of course, if you don't want you, but, uh. I'd really like it if you would."

Oh god. Why is it so hard to get these words out, when before the others were fighting to get out of his mouth? How is that fair?!

Danny watches him, and there's a curl at the corner of his mouth. "Wow. You're coming on a bit heavy for a first date," he smirks.

Steve flushes. "It's not a first date," he mumbles, wishing he could stop his treacherous heart from giving it all away so quickly. Danny looks taken aback, and then highly amused.

"So what you're saying is, this has been your idea of courting? Food fights and spreading the word and taste-testing my fare and coming to lunch with my daughter?"

Steve doesn't think he could get more red at this point. "Er... Is there a right answer to this?"

Danny laughs, properly this time. "Not really, no," he admits, still grinning. "All right, SuperSEAL. I'll come home with you to meet your parents."

Steve considers whining, but he doesn't think he'd be helping himself any. He glares at Danny, who's wearing such a smug expression Steve wants to do quite ungentleman-like things to it.

"I'll pick you up at 5," Steve grumbles, but he doesn't refuse the box of muffins Danny hands him as thanks for the help.

---

Danny is a wreck of doubts and indecision as he waits for Steve's truck horn to blare outside his apartment, any minute now. He'd tried on and discarded six shirts and two pairs of slacks before settling on a white shirt with thin pale blue pinstripes, a darker blue tie that Rachel said brought out his eyes, and a pair of loose black semi-formal slacks.

He looks at himself in the mirror and suppresses the urge to get changed again. It isn't even a date, Steve said so -- except it so is, come on, Danny isn't stupid. He checks his hair over again, sliding a stray strand into place and locking it there with a touch more hair gel.

Oh god, he's meeting Steve's parents. How much more cliche could he get? Nothing’s happened, they’ve never done anything; they’ve only met a couple of weeks ago for goodness' sake, and yet he’s meeting Steve’s parents, like a boyfriend after a few months of dating, like someone Steve is utterly comfortable with. Danny finds himself smiling at the thought, through his stupid teenager nerves. The knock on his door startles him - he was expecting the sound of a car honking, not for Steve to actually get out of the car to greet him. It feels more and more like a date, especially when Danny opens the door to reveal Steve wearing slacks and a shirt himself, no tie, not that Danny is surprised.

“Hey.”

“Hi. Please don’t tell me I look good or something.”

Steve smiles, crooked and amused, a little teasing.

“Okay. You do, though.”

“Shut up. Let’s go.”

Danny punches Steve’s shoulder lightly and pushes past him, but he’s still smiling like an idiot and he really feels like they’re going for a burger and a movie, and that maybe if Steve pays for his dinner Danny will let him grope him a little in the dark of the theater. They’re not, they’re adults and they haven’t even kissed, yet they’re going to Steve’s parents' house, which is ridiculously backwards, but not really scary.

The drive is mostly silent, Danny focusing on clamping down his nerves to be the charming man he can be and impress Steve’s parents as much as he can. If Steve is anything like them, Danny might very well be doomed, but Danny has to try.

“Here we go!”

Danny looks up when Steve turns into a driveway, showing a nice beach-type house of a very decent size. It’s got a homely feel, with a bench on the front porch and swabs of paint, whites and yellows, not far from the door.

“Planning on repainting?”

“Yeah, maybe. I need to find some time so I can help out my Dad with it, but my Mom is always indecisive when it comes to colors, so it’ll be another few months, probably. They’re going on a cruise for their 40th wedding anniversary in a month, I’m thinking of doing it then and surprising them.”

"You are such a good son," Danny says with a grin, chuckling at the way Steve makes a face.

They step out of Steve's truck and the heat hits Danny square between the eyes. 5.30pm and it's still baking hot. He longs for Jersey's mild evenings so much at this time of day.

They walk to the front door, where Steve knocks perfunctorily before he pushes the door open and leads the way inside. The house's interior makes the same impression as the exterior -- nice. Well cared for. Tidy, clean, obviously a woman's touch on the furnishings.

"Mom, we're here!" Steve yells, making his way down a hallway that leads to the house's kitchen. "They must be outside if they can't hear us."

'Outside' is a lovely, spacious lana'i that houses a pretty massive grill, a set table with five places, and bottles of beer and wine chilling in an industrial-sized cooler. Steve snags two and offers Danny one by the sweating neck. Danny takes it gratefully, popping the cap and taking a deep swig. He almost chokes on it when someone clears their throat behind him. He swallows quickly and spins round, coming face to face with a tall blonde woman with Steve's nose and lips and high forehead.

"Hi, boys," she says happily, dumping the enormous salad bowl Danny had last spotted in the kitchen by the wine cooler. She wipes her hands on a worn "does not cook well with others"-stamped apron and offers Danny one of them.

"I'm Linda. You must be the Danny I've been hearing so much about!"

"Pleased to meet you, Linda," Danny says politely, and can't help wonder what exactly she'd heard.

Then again, hadn't Steve said that she'd seen that picture of them that Kono snapped? He feels a flush rise up his neck and ruthlessly stamps it back down.

Linda grins slyly. She’s beautiful, in a way Danny wouldn’t have thought. He’d imagined her maybe local, definitely darker than she actually is, and less devious than she looks. He’s about to say something to maybe save himself when she steps away from him and goes to give Steve a big hug, which, Danny observes, Steve gives back with a grin and a lot of enthusiasm, making Danny wonder how it feels to be in Steve’s arms - no, not thinking of this right now, no way.

“Where’s Dad?”

Linda disentangles herself from her son and looks at the pair of them for a moment before answering the question, looking like she’s judging how good they look together. Danny has to stop blushing, seriously.

“He went to Kai's to get some fresh salmon, he’ll be here in a minute. How are you doing, boys?”

“Good, fine. Yourself?”

“Oh I’m perfect, thank you. So, I’ve been told you own a bakery? I should swing by some day, see what you’re feeding my son.”

“Just very homely, healthy things, ma’am.”

Steve snorts, earning himself a dark look from Danny.

“Please, call me Linda. Healthy things, hmm?”

“That’s totally untrue, Mom. It’s full of carbs and sugar.”

“No one is forcing you to eat 12 of them every time you come around, Steve.”

Steve scowls. "Well, it's not like I can not eat any, they're too good--" he stops, obviously realising that he's only digging himself in deeper. Linda's smile is full of teeth.

"You must be good, Danny! I don't remember Steve ever eating more than two or three of mine."

Danny flushes a little with pleasure. Knowing Steve enjoys his cakes so much gives him a warm glow of satisfaction.

"When you come in, I'll give you one of each of the cakes Steve likes most," Danny promises. "And you can judge for yourself."

"I'd like that," she replies, and her smile is much softer this time.

Danny wishes he'd thought of bringing in something for them, for desert, maybe, but he'd just been so nervous already, he hadn't wanted to add to it by feeding Steve's family his cakes on top of meeting them for the first time.

Steve bumps his shoulder when he's been quiet for too long, and takes a swig of his beer. Linda looks away, smiling to herself.

"Oh my god, I need a beer," comes from inside the house, which moments later spits out a blonde woman just a smidgen shorter than Danny. She's frowning, looks a little red in the face, and her damp hair is plastered to her forehead. "Car's A/C broke again. Hey, guys."

She hugs Linda, exchanging kisses, and then she stomps over to Steve, tugs him down by the front of his shirt and kisses his cheek, too. Steve looks resigned, like he's used to this.

"Hey, Mare," he says. "Meet Danny."

"Ah, the baker. Good to meet you. I'm the fun McGarrett," she says, shaking Danny's hand firmly. There's something light and playful about her that reminds Danny of his sister Jackie, the baby of the Williams family. She's got the same toughness, too, Danny can see it in her eyes.

"I don't doubt it," Danny says, grinning at the pout on Steve's face.

"Brought any of those orgasm-inducing cakes of yours?"

"Mary," Steve groans.

Danny's grin widens. "Actually, no. Your brother didn't say, so I didn't think you'd want me to."

"Here's a tip. Cakes? Always a good idea in this house."

"Well," Danny muses, scratching at the underside of his chin, "If you've got some ingredients, I could whip up something now."

Linda and Mary's eyes light up like they're kids at Christmas morning.

"Would you?" Mary asks, but Linda interferes.

"Danny's a guest in our house. He shouldn't have to work for his dinner."

"Honestly, I'd love to. Unless there's anything else for desert?"

Linda looks shifty. "Uh, I was kind of hoping you'd bring something," she says sheepishly.

"Then it's settled. Anyway, Mr McGarrett's not here yet, we can't start without him."

"Yes, I wonder where he got to," Linda says, frowning.

"He probably got to talking with Joe at the store," Steve shrugs.

Linda looks resigned. "I bet that's it. And for goodness' sake, call him John, Danny, he'll start moaning about turning 65 again if you say 'Mr McGarrett' at him."

"Duly noted. Okay then. Lead the way."

Luckily, Linda has a pound of strawberries in her fridge, and Danny whips up a strawberry summer cake in something like fifteen minutes. It's easy when he has this many assistants around, ready with whatever he might need and discreetly wiping away stray drool when he isn't looking. He pushes the cake in the oven just when there's a roar of an engine outside, getting closer before it cuts off.

"Jesus, he took out the Marquis again?" Steve groans.

"Well, he fixed it and everything. If I say anything about not driving it, he might just divorce me," Linda grumbles, and Steve grins, wrapping an arm around her shoulders. He looks more and more comfortable with his family and Danny breathing the same air, something Danny is immensely thankful for, especially with the head of the family now walking inside the house.

Danny wouldn’t admit to anyone that he’s most anxious about meeting Papa McGarrett, but he definitely is, wondering if the man is as goofy as his son, or if he’s more like Rachel’s dad had been when they’d first met - cold and judging.

“Something smells good in here!” Mr McGarrett - John, Danny reminds himself - walks inside the kitchen, wearing a light button down shirt and shorts. He smiles when he sees Steve, going over to clap his shoulder and pull him into a one-arm hug. “Hey, son.”

“Dad, hey. Meet Danny Williams. He’s the one that made the house smell so nice.”

Steve motions to Danny, who makes the most awkward wave before shaking John’s hand, nodding his head.

“Oh, you’re the baker, yeah? John McGarrett. Nice to meet you, son.”

“Nice to meet you, sir.”

John McGarrett is not as tall as Steve, but he’s got the same sort of hard face that smooths over when he smiles, and kind eyes, too. His salt-and-pepper hair is telling Danny just exactly how Steve will age, and it makes Danny smile to think of it; thinking, too, that he would not mind finding out for himself.

“So what have you done for the house to smell like actual summer?”

“Strawberry cake, sir. John.”

Danny flushes and Mary chuckles, patting his back in passing. She feels like the kind of girl that would back him up in arguments with Steve, just to spite her brother, but then would teach Grace how to put on too much makeup, which is a blessing and a curse at the same time.

“Okay, people, let’s move this back to the lana’i, shall we? This kitchen is too small for this many people and I still got things to do. John honey, did you get me my salmon?”

“Of course. I’ll fire up the grill. Any beers left?”

“Dad, you have no faith.”

Mary wraps herself around her dad, grinning when he grumbles, and the two of them make their way out after John drops a bag on the kitchen table. Danny checks the cake once more before nodding to himself. It’s rising nicely, the smell of strawberries filling up the air. It better be the best Danny’s ever made, because he might not say, but he’s trying to impress, here.

“Okay, it should be ready in about half an hour or so. I can come back and check -”

“It’s okay, I can do that. Thank you so much for doing it, though. Can’t wait to try it,” Linda says.

Danny likes the McGarretts. They're loud and rowdy and boisterous, and they don't mince their words -- if they have something to say, you'll know about it. It reminds Danny of his own family, even if the McGarretts don't talk a mile a minute like his folks tend to. But the warmth and caring is unmistakable, and just as with the Williamses, it defines everything the McGarretts do.

Every now and again, Steve would glance at him, wanting to share a joke, or an eye roll, or a long-suffering look. Danny feels more welcomed than he has ever been on this island; he's looking forward to getting to know all these people better.

...As what, though? Steve hasn't said a word about any perceived relationship -- neither friend nor more, certainly not lover or anything so defined. Yet Danny can't pretend that they're 'just friends' -- because 'friends' don't look at each other like Steve is looking at him, don't invade each other's personal space like the two of them tend to, don't get their mothers throwing sly looks at the both of them like Linda's doing. Danny feels like he's been accepted without question, for all that he is, just because Steve had brought Danny home with him. Even Mary is treating him like her brother's plus one, albeit one that can take a ribbing when she feels one is due.

Papa McGarrett is the most curious of the lot of them. While no one's questioned Danny's presence, John has actively taken to him -- Danny has found himself in a conversation about the Jets, about Jersey food, about the Jersey shore vs. the Hawaiian beaches, about Danny's goddamn dog he used to have as a boy, it's uncanny how much information John has ferreted out of Danny without even trying. He remembers Steve telling him his dad's a cop, so Danny can't say he's been blindsided with no warning.

The food's delicious, the salmon only barely grilled until it's still juicy and fresh; the salad is crunchy and just-shredded, and the cake turns out beautifully. It's a major hit, and between the five of them the pan doesn't last more than twenty minutes. Steve takes three helpings, throwing his mom a sheepish look when he asks for the third, but Linda's too busy licking her fork to mind him much.

All in all, Danny thinks when Steve drops him off home, it went a lot better than expected. Steve's eyes linger on Danny when he climbs out of the truck, and Danny can't help the vague feeling of disappointment in his gut when that's all he gets at the end of the night. He doesn't want to think about that too much -- he's worried what he might come up with if he does.

---

Steve has no idea how time went by so quickly, but between work and surfing with Kono and finding a gym in which he can spar with people his equal and regularly going to the bakery - more for his shot of Danny than his desire for cake - a month has passed, and the event Danny has been preparing for the past two weeks is upon them.

Steve contemplates his wardrobe, cocking his head to the side as he bites his lip, wondering what one wears to cake-tasting nights. It’s like a wine-tasting, or a cheese-tasting, Danny had explained, only with cake, and, if they did things right and people showed up, it could establish Amazing Grace as the up-and-coming bakery not to be missed.

Steve’s only coming for moral support, being an already more than loyal customer, and he’s bringing along a few teachers that he’s wooed with boxes of baked goods from Danny’s oven. He’s still determined to make the bakery, and by extension Danny, as successful as can be, and maybe these are only small gestures, but he knows Danny appreciates them.

Grabbing a plain white button down, Steve shrugs it on as he reflects on the evolution of his relationship with Danny in the past month. To be honest, he thinks as he buttons the shirt and then does up the cuffs, the relationship hasn’t changed much. They’re comfortable around each other, tease and argue and laugh and poke and mock and it works, that way; they’re friends, and they’re skirting around the issue that they both want more without doing anything about it, besides driving Chin and Kono mad.

Steve might be completely stupid when it comes to Danny, he has realized that, but he wouldn’t change the way Danny makes him feel for the world. For once he feels free and alive and, more to the point, allowed to feel this way.

Picking out a vest instead of a tie, Steve finishes dressing and checks himself in the mirror, deciding the sober look is good enough - he’s not even certain that it’s formal wear. It’ll do anyway, because after making sure his hair is just messed up enough, Steve checks the time and, fuck, he’ll be late if he lingers much longer.

He parks by the entrance to Waikiki Town Center, making it just in time to meet up with Ailani and Mariah, who are waiting impatiently for him to catch up.

"Where's Alan?"

"Not here yet, but god, I can't wait for him. Let's just go in and he'll find us," Ailani says, taking Steve's arm and tugging him inside. Steve goes happily -- it's not like he wants to wait for Alan to turn up at last; he'd only invited the guy because he was friends with Mariah and he'd overheard them talking. Alan is not the nicest person on record, and Steve only hopes he doesn't make a fuss.

The bakery, when they get to it, is heaving. There are people everywhere, and Steve is impressed and gratified to see that everyone is dressed up very nicely indeed, and Steve himself fits right in. He spots Kono by the back wall and heads over, leaving his colleagues to flit over to a side table laden with cake samples.

Kono grins at him when she sees him, eyes sliding up and down his body and fixing on the vest.

"Wow, I see you've pulled out all the stops," she says, sounding surprised.

Steve tries not to look embarrassed, but he's kind of pleased Kono thinks so -- because if she does, maybe Danny would think so, too.

"Where's the boss?"

"Oh, he's schmoozing clients over that-a-way." She waves towards the far corner of the room.

She looks busy with all the people wanting to talk about ingredients, so Steve leaves her to it, snagging a piece of double chocolate cake for himself to keep him going until he can fight his way through the crowd to Danny's side. He passes Alan on his way, and to his relief he's chatting animatedly with a few of the other people converging on the strawberry and cream cakes, a smear of frosting on the side of his mouth. He's happy, then, at least.

There's a line three-deep in front of the counter where Danny presides, handing out variations of his raspberry fondant wedding cake -- with different-flavoured fondant, and mocha ganache, and vanilla or chocolate sponge. The people trying the different kinds have blissed-out looks on their faces, which really tells Steve everything he needs to know about how successful the venture is.

Danny finishes serving the lady currently at the end of the queue, and looks up to see who's next. His eyes fall on Steve and Steve watches Danny's mouth fall open, eyes following the line of his shirt and vest and slacks down to his shoes. Danny swallows, blinking a couple of times, and reverses the path until his gaze is on Steve's face once again.

"Hi," Steve says when Danny remains silent for longer than it normally takes him to speak. Steve wonders whether he should take it as a good sign or not.

"Steve," Danny says after clearing his throat.

“Last time I checked, it was my name, yes. What’s wrong, D?”

Danny blinks, and Steve tries his best not to grin too much. He didn’t even think of it when he first put on the vest, put it seems to have a very interesting effect on Danny, whose eyes are incessantly moving between Steve’s chest and his face. Then, Danny’s face grows stormy, and he starts waving a finger in Steve’s face.

“You - you did this on purpose, didn’t you, oh my God, tonight of all night, Steve, couldn’t you dress like a normal human being instead of walking in here dressed like some kind of Greek god, seriously, what is wrong with you? I need your support, not to be distracted all the time!”

Steve refrains from grabbing Danny’s finger and twisting his wrist, doing something very SEAL-like that would humiliate Danny and probably make him hate Steve. Instead, he takes a step back, squares up his shoulders, and grins. Danny thinks he looks like a Greek god.

“You think I look like a Greek god?”

Danny huffs, looking down and away, swapping a plate of empty samples on top of the display case with a full one. People are not really paying attention to them.

“So infuriating. I don’t even know why I like your company, you’re so. Just. Tonight isn’t about you, okay? Tonight is about Amazing Grace. But now - Christ.”

Steve leans over the counter, close enough that he can look into Danny’s eyes and try to decipher what the swirls of blue and silver in his eyes mean. Danny swallows thickly, the line of his lips thin and exasperated.

“Now what?”

Steve’s stomach bottoms out, the feeling that if he leaned just a little closer right now he could get exactly what he’s been wanting for longer than a month overwhelming him. He doesn’t move, though, the knowledge that they’re very much in public and there’s many people he knows mingling around wrapping itself around his desire for Danny and keeping it in check.

“Now - nothing. Steve, I. There are people I haven’t talked to yet.”

Steve straightens up, the moment gone as quickly as it came. He nods, somewhat uneasily, and buries his hands in his pockets.

“Yeah, of course. Hey, if you need my help at any point, just ask, okay?”

Danny nods, apparently a little too fazed to make some kind of joke about just needing Steve not to eat all of his cakes or something like that. Instead, he slips from behind the counter and into the crowd, leaving Steve there, feeling a little stunned and not quite sure of his footing.

He doesn't like it.

He'd thought they were getting closer to something new, an edge they were about to tip over, and while, yeah, he's definitely flattered that Danny thinks Steve looks so good he's distracting him, the flat-out rejection still stings.

He strolls around the shop a little listlessly, feeling a knot of disappointment in his stomach that refuses to go away, no matter how much he berates himself for wanting more from Danny tonight of all nights. The man's busy; the future of his shop is at stake, of course he's going to want to focus on that, and Steve's the worst kind of selfish asshole for wishing he wasn't quite so focused.

He's loitering by the back counter, the one with the door out to the kitchen, when Danny hurries past him again.

"Steve, great. Will you give me a hand with something?" he says in a rush, looking frazzled.

"Yeah, sure, Danny," Steve says immediately, following after him.

The kitchen is mostly dark, a single light over the stove left on to guide people's way. It's also empty but for dozens of bare trays.

"What--"

Steve doesn't finish. He can't finish, because in the blink of an eye he's pressed against the wall to the side of the door, Danny's hands burning a path up his arms and over his shoulders, tugging him down into a very enthusiastic kiss. Steve doesn't even pretend to hesitate -- he's pulling Danny closer, spreading his legs and loosening his knees so they're mostly of a height and Danny won't get a crick in his neck -- because the way he's devouring Steve's mouth, Steve feels taken, possessed, held there by his want and Danny's both.

"I swear to god, you'll be the death of me," Danny mumbles against Steve's lips when he pulls back. "Skulking around the shop with that look on your face, what were you even thinking, that I didn't want to drag you out here and rip that vest open with my teeth the moment I saw you? Christ, you're high maintenance."

Steve presses a kiss to the corner of Danny's mouth, unable to stop touching him everywhere now that he's allowed.

"I'm sorry for distracting you," he says, voice raspy.

"No you're not," Danny tells him, indulgent, pressing a kiss to the side of Steve's neck.

"Okay, maybe not so much," Steve allows, tugging Danny closer again.

"Danny, where the hell are you, there's people waiting--oh. Oh, you guys, I'm sorry, you know what? You stay where you are, I'll try and see to it on my own--"

"Stop being smug, Kono, it doesn't suit you," Danny says, cutting her off. He steps away from Steve, who whines in disappointment but manfully resists yanking Danny back.

"Well, if you're sure," Kono says slyly. "Probably best, seeing as one of the people asking for you is Linda McGarrett," she adds over her shoulder before she lets the door swing shut behind her.

Steve groans, with feeling. Of course it would be his mother interrupting them, it’s not a first - Steve will never forget his teenage years and the multiple not-so-sneaky appearances of his mother when he was on dates. In his bedroom. When his parents were supposed to be at work. She’s an artful woman, he has to give her that.

Danny takes a breath, pets Steve’s forearms for a second before pulling back completely, running his hands over the sides of his hair and pushing it back in place in a way that makes Steve desperately want to mess it up again. Fuck, they finally kissed, and Danny initiated it, and Steve can’t even bask in the afterglow with Danny pressed against him.

“Um, okay. I’m going to go and talk to your mother, then.”

“Yeah.”

“Yeah, okay. I’ll. I’ll talk to you later.”

Steve doesn’t plan on doing much talking, later, if he’s got any say in this. But after he’s made his way back to the party, his mother is not long to find him, and an hour later she’s pleading for a ride home because she walked in from work and now she’s tired and would like to rest her feet, 'and please Steve can you drive me home?'

Steve is too much of a good son to say no, and he drives her home, grabs a beer with his father when he gets to the family house. He sends Danny a text trying to explain just how much of a cockblock his mother is, in nicer words, before crashing in the guest room, his jaw clenched with the effort of refraining himself from rutting against the sheets with the taste of Danny at the back of his throat.

---

The wedding venue is absolutely beautiful, and yet Danny barely has time to look around, too busy carrying in the cake, still in its separate parts, to build later, after the ceremony. Being a guest and the cake maker for a wedding is more stress than Danny needs, but he wouldn’t have said no to making Chin and Malia’s wedding cake in a million years.

He throws a look outside the kitchen window, wiping sweat off his forehead with the hem of his dirty t-shirt, and he spots Steve before he spots anyone else, taller than almost everyone, looking at his most dapper in his dress blues. It’s too hot for dress blues, but Steve looks comfortable and happy and so gorgeous in them that Danny feels light-headed for a moment.

The frustrating part of this whole relationship thing going on with Steve is that, after their first kiss in the bakery, they’ve gone back to their usual thing, flirting and arguing over nothing and everything, but they’ve not kissed again, and definitely not done anything more, either. And, okay, Danny wants to, he really does, but he made the first step and he’s waiting on Steve to make the next one now, he can’t do everything, he’s got a life to live.

He sees Grace bounding around in a flowery dress with colorful ribbons in her hair. She looks happy, and it makes Danny’s heart soar - after all of it, not wanting to move to Hawai’i and struggling with the bakery, his little girl is happy, and he couldn’t wish for more. And she’s here, giggling at something Chin just told her; and Stan is here, too, because Rachel and Malia became friends, one weird afternoon when they met in the bakery, and suddenly Rachel was shopping for dresses with Malia and helping her choose floral arrangements, because Malia liked her classy understated style, or so she told Chin, who relayed the news with a shrug.

So Danny’s little dysfunctional family is here, and so is Steve, and Kono, and teachers and doctors and even Kamekona, the shave ice stand guy that loves his iced biscuits more than anything else in the world. They’re all there and Danny, stupidly, looking at them through the window like this, Danny feels like he belongs.

Malia's nowhere to be seen, too busy getting dressed and pampered and no doubt freaking out that every single thing that could go wrong will go wrong. Danny remembers Rachel calling him that one time on the night before their wedding, babbling incoherently about how she thought she was maybe pregnant and oh my god, Danny, is this the best time for a wedding, and wouldn't it be better if they rescheduled, or better still, eloped, and Danny had had to talk her down for half an hour before she'd calmed and told him her mother was driving her up the wall, and she'd just freaked out a little.

They'd laughed about it the next day, and the ceremony had gone flawlessly, and even Mrs Fitzpatrick had behaved herself apart from a haughty sniff at the flowers Rachel had chosen, that both Rachel and Danny had chosen to ignore. But sometimes Danny remembers that night, in his darker moments, and wonders. About maybe how things may have gone differently, if he hadn't done what he had, hadn't said the right thing -- was it even the right thing, really?

There's a reason Danny's faintly apprehensive at weddings. With his experience, can you blame him? He realizes he's looking for a distraction, any distraction from thinking about Steve and what he wants to do to him, standing there in that uniform, laughing at something Chin said and looking so handsome that it physically hurts to watch him and not press him against something and kiss him within an inch of sanity.

"Hey, Danny," Malia says behind him, and he turns quickly to see her walk inside the room.

"Aren't you supposed to be getting ready?" he blurts.

Malia waves a dismissive hand. "Oh, no. I'm not worried. I'm as ready as can be."

Danny takes a better look at her, and she's right -- her dress is simple, her hair is not much different from how she usually wears it, her make-up is lovely if understated, and she looks radiant, so effervescently happy that no one who sees her could help smiling back.

"You look fantastic," Danny tells her earnestly. The smile she bestows on him makes her glow from the inside.

"Thanks, sweetheart. Now tell me about my cake."

Danny grins. "It'll be the best thing I've ever done," he promises. Malia grins, a little devious, and walks closer to him, looking around the kitchen, and Danny almost slaps her hand when she reaches for the bowl of frosting he made earlier for last minute decorations, but it’s her wedding, he’d let her have the whole of it if she wanted to.

“There is a tier fruitcake, a tier chocolate sponge, and a tier Victoria sponge. All of your favorites, right? Chin made me a list.”

“You mean it’s three cakes in one?”

“Basically, yes.”

She squeals, biting her lip happily before looking out the window and seeing Chin and Steve and Rachel and Grace and Kamekona and Kono mingling, drinking colorful cocktails and laughing together. The ceremony will start soon.

“Nice day for a wedding.”

“Hmm. You should go and get changed, Danny. I would like to see you in a suit, for one, and I’m sure Steve would, too.”

“Wh- never mind, I don’t even need to know. I’m sure Chin told you all you need to know about this.”

She shrugs, looking so delicate, just like Rachel had on their wedding day. And now he finds himself wanting the complete opposite, it doesn’t make sense really. Not that it’s ever been a question, he’s always been bi without an issue with it, but he didn’t think he’d go from Rachel to someone like Steve.

“He’s told me enough, I guess. Hey, Steve is a good man.”

“Yeah, well, so am I; it’s his turn.”

“Oh, are we back in third grade now?”

Danny has the decency to blush. He looks away and grins, stealing another glance at Steve and his uniform. Next thing he knows, Malia is standing right next to him.

“I’m just saying. If you want it, you should go for it. There is no right or wrong here.”

"I just... He hasn't said a thing, Malia. I kissed him, and then his mom needed him, and he's just acting like it never happened. Oh, he's not pulled away," he adds when he sees Malia's face. "But he's reverted back to how it was before, where it's safe. And I don't know that I can put myself out on a limb again."

Malia looks at him for a moment, then looks back at Steve.

"What you have to understand is that Steve spent most of his adult life in the Navy. He got into Annapolis when he was eighteen, and you know what they're like with regards to same-sex relationships. I think he's retreated back to where it's safe not because he doesn't want you, this, but because he's worried that he wants it too much. If there's anything I know about Steve, it's that when he's made up his mind, he's all in. And maybe you need to think about what you want out of this relationship before you push him to commit."

Danny's a little taken aback. He's never thought of it that way before; suddenly all of Steve's little side looks make a lot more sense. And he's got to be honest -- he hasn't really been sure where this thing between them is going. The fact is, the two of them work better than anyone else in Danny's life fits him. And when Danny thinks about it now, the idea that if, tomorrow, one of the two of them was to walk away from this -- well, missing Steve would be like a physical ache, a phantom limb.

So apparently Danny's a bit more invested in this than he thought.

Steve looks up, then, and sees Danny and Malia stand shoulder to shoulder in the window. His face splits in a smile so warm and happy that Danny has trouble breathing for a second. Steve's looking at him like there's no one else in the world for him right at this moment; even Malia is relegated to the side as Steve watches him, content to wait for Danny to join him. Danny realises with a start that Steve's been patiently waiting for the okay, more than the kiss, the permission to be Danny's partner, at Danny's side for as long as Danny will have him. It squeezes his heart a little to see that decision, that Steve will wait for as long as it takes.

"I'd better go get changed," Danny says without looking away from Steve. He manages to look away only when Malia drapes a hand over his shoulder, and he shakes himself out of it.

“I’ll get Kono after the ceremony and we’ll assemble the cake. You go and get ready to get married. And, um. Thank you.”

Malia smiles and pulls him into a hug, slow and easy. She smells of flowers and sunshine, of comfort, and Danny is certain that she’ll make a terrific mother some day. He pulls away reluctantly, kissing her cheek before he steps out of the large kitchen, seeing the reception staff coming in from another door to start prepping. He gets changed in his car, replacing his dirty shirt with a white button down and looping his black tie around his neck with practiced efficiency.

He forgoes the jacket, leaving it in the car. He joins the others mingling around with a grin on his face, getting himself a big hug from his daughter when she runs to him.

“Hey, monkey!”

“Hi Danno. Is the cake ready?”

“Almost. You can come help later, if you wear an apron. If you stain your dress your mom will kill me.”

“Okay!”

She gives him a grin when she pulls away from him, grabbing his hand and leading him to his ex-wife. He greets Rachel and Stan before going to Chin, giving him a big hug and his congratulations. There are a million family members around but he doesn’t know any of them, so Danny just focuses on on the people he knows, hugging and smiling and greeting, just enjoying the warm sunshine and the atmosphere, the buzzing electricity in the air.

He ends up looking at Chin and Kono, side by side with Steve, their arms brushing. Danny resists wrapping his own around Steve.

“Hey.”

“Hi. How’s the cake doing?”

“It’ll be perfect. You, um. You really know how to wear a uniform, Steve.”

He sees Steve looking down at himself.

“I do? Is that a compliment? It’s kinda hard to tell.”

Danny can only laugh, laying a hand on Steve’s forearm.

“It is. You look. You look even better than you did in that vest at the cake-tasting.”

“Oh. The Greek god thing, huh.”

Danny mock-scowls at him. Steve's got this smirk on his lips, kind of smug and kind of pleased and Danny pretty much wants to kiss it off his face.

"Shut up," he grumbles, knocking his shoulder into Steve's. "Jesus. See if I ever pay you a compliment again."

Steve's smirk only widens. "You love me," he says happily. It says something about Danny's recent realisations that he doesn't say anything back.

Steve does a double-take when Danny stays silent, a cautious look of hope in his eyes. Danny smiles at him tentatively and can't really look away -- until he hears a smothered snort next to him and tears his eyes off Steve to see Kono and Chin both looking studiously away, fighting grins. Danny tries not to flush; how many years has it been since he was caught making eyes at anyone? This is downright embarrassing.

It's not long before the ceremony commences. It's short and sweet, the guests standing witness as Chin and Malia take to the front, holding each other's hands and receiving the minister's blessing. And just like that they're married, for better or for worse, to stand at each other's side forever.

Danny's a little hazy on the ceremony itself, blocking it intentionally, because Rachel is standing not three feet away from him and it's still too fresh, too raw, the way those vows had broken down between them. He sincerely hopes it never happens for those two newlyweds.

After the vows Chin and Malia stand to the side, receiving congratulations. Meanwhile, Danny and Kono slip away to make their own preparations. The kitchens at the house are teeming with people busy plating the horse d'oeuvres and main courses, but a corner has been set aside for the bakers. Kono fetches the long aprons that cover their clothes to protect them from wayward frosting while Danny takes out the three different bases, two of each to make six. Another box full of carefully-lined up sugar flowers follows, pink roses in various stages of blooming and white orchids. Kono fetches the two giant bowls of frosting and two spatulas, and they set to work.

It's easy, when the sponges were baked this morning and have now cooled, to frost them quickly and efficiently. Rachel brings Grace just as Danny's setting the empty bowls aside, and she gets an apron of her own. When the six tiers are assembled, she starts handing Danny the flowers, and he fixes the roses and leaves onto the side while Kono melts some brown sugar in a pot on the stove and drizzles the liquid onto baking paper, spreading it so it forms honey-coloured ribbons. Once Danny's done with the roses, he moves on to the orchids, adding them in between the roses around each tier. Then he takes the spun sugar and winds it around the structure, until it highlights the blossoms. Finally, he adds chocolate wands here and there, to break up the composition and make the eye wonder on each separate part of it.

The finished result is, if he says so himself, truly lovely. It matches Malia's serene presence to Chin's energy, makes a harmony of two parts forming a whole. Kono and Grace stand back with Danny, looking the cake over dispassionately.

"That's pretty damn awesome," Kono declares.

"It's beautiful, Daddy," Grace pipes up, eyes huge and shining.

"It is, isn't it?" Danny says, and shares high fives with his helpers.

By the time they come back out, the first course is long over and the guests are well into the mains. Grace holds Danny's hand as he leads her back to Rachel's side; Danny discreetly wipes a small streak of frosting from her cheek, from when she'd 'helped' clean the bowls.

He gets some food in between courses, wolfing down roast chicken and rice, the different flavors exploding all over his taste buds almost too quickly, and he wishes he had more time to appreciate it, but soon enough he’s going to have to supervise the waiters bringing in the cake since there is no way he’s letting them ruin it.

“Hungry, are you?”

“You have no idea. While you were mingling and getting drunk on Champagne, I was slaving away in the kitchen.”

Steve reaches out, brushes a thumb down Danny’s jaw, making him close his mouth with a click, the touch igniting sparks all over his skin. Their eyes meet, and Danny thinks, for a second, that this is it, this is Steve diving in, but then Steve’s thumb is gone and the touch is only a ghost over Danny’s jaw.

“You had a bit of sugar there.”

Steve licks his thumb clean and Danny’s eyes flick between Steve’s eyes and his mouth, his stomach twisting a million times over.

“Thanks.”

Steve just nods, his eyes dark and unreadable. Danny’s startled out of the moment when someone coughs next to them, and he turns to see Kono looking impressively unimpressed.

“When you two are done eye-making love, Danny, we need to get going, they’re ready to serve the cake.”

Danny observes the flush creeping up Steve’s neck and then stands up, wanting to shake Kono a little for being mean to them and not letting time stand still for a while. He can never catch a break.

“Okay, okay.”

They both scamper back to the kitchen, and once the cake is on a tray, ready to be presented exactly how Danny wants it to be, and everything is in place, Danny gives the signal to roll it out. Both he and Kono stand back as the ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhhs’ of the crowd explode all over, Malia’s excited squeal and clapping topping it all off. Danny grins at Kono, wrapping an arm around her waist and pulling her in.

“You did good. Thanks, Kono.”

She leans her head on his shoulder and he kisses the top of her head lightly, still looking at the people now gathered around the cake, getting themselves ready for Chin and Malia to cut it.

“We did good. You’re welcome, Boss.”

“Danny, Kono! Come here!”

They walk over, to the crowd's applause after Malia calls to them, and Danny accepts her hug happily, holding her tight for a moment and dismissing her thanks with a waved hand and a smile.

“Just make sure I get a piece of the chocolate one, yeah?”

Malia grins and nods. “Of course.”

She and Chin set out to cut the cake, and soon enough the whole party is enjoying Danny’s dessert. He listens to the comments and little noises around him, a gush of pride filling his chest up. Steve comes back to sit next to him a little bit later, all three different cakes on his plate. He gives Danny a sheepish look and a grin.

“It just all looked too delicious.”

"This isn't exactly a surprise," Danny says dryly. "Well, at least you can tell me if I did a good job on all three."

"You always do a good job, Danny," Steve says, stuffing a forkful of the strawberries and cream cake into his mouth. Danny flushes with pleasure -- no matter how many times Steve says it, how much evidence he supplies that he loves Danny's cakes, it's always gratifying to see.

Steve breaks off a piece of the chocolate cake, levers it onto his fork and offers it to Danny. Danny leans closer, opening his mouth, and Steve edges the morsel inside, watching Danny's mouth close around the tines with heavy eyelids, unbearably erotic. Danny pulls off the fork, holding Steve's gaze; Steve makes a small sound like he can't help himself, doesn't care who hears him. And damn if Steve isn't right -- it tastes delicious, made even more so by the person feeding it to him.

Steve's own lips press together, and he sneaks a tongue out to wet them; it mirrors the one Danny uses to gather a slick of frosting off his top lip. It's kind of a little bit intoxicating, watching Steve watch him, seeing what Danny can do to him with nothing more than a look.

"Seriously," Kono says from behind them. "Get. A. Room."

"Do you wanna?" Steve says, watching Danny, cake forgotten on the plate at the table. He looks about to burst, eyes scared and excited at the same time, hands closed into fists over his lap as he leans close to Danny, apparently done with keeping up appearances.

Danny looks at him like he's stupid. "Yes!"

Unfortunately, they can't just sneak out. Danny has to tell Rachel and Grace at least, and Steve -- well, who knew about Steve. The thing is, Steve is waiting for him by the edge of the garden, looking unbearably handsome in that uniform, patient as a rock if you didn't look at his hands clasping and unclasping by his sides. He tries to hide them behind his back, but it only makes his arms bunch more in his sleeves. Danny wants to climb him where he stands.

Rachel is--let's just say smugness is a good look on her, much as Danny doesn't like to admit it. But she's encouraging, and at this point it's really all Danny needs, the one final push. He strides over to where Steve stands, passing him and pulling him into his wake.

"Let's take the Camaro," Danny says roughly. "It's faster."

"I'll drive," Steve states, wiggling his fingers for the car keys. "I know all the shortcuts."

Danny surrenders them gracefully, climbing into the passenger seat, practically vibrating with anticipation. Finally, god, finally he's going to get his hands on those muscles, have those long, long legs wrapped around his waist, flip them over until Steve's on top and Danny can grab his ass and pull--

His phone rings. Danny groans, because, oh god, he knows that ringtone. Why, why, fuck, life's just messing with Danny now, it must be. He considers ignoring it, but Ma Williams doesn't take kindly to her children dodging her calls.

“I am truly, very sorry about this, Steve.”

Steve looks curious, but Danny’s about to lose the call so he can’t add more to it. He closes his eyes as he hits 'answer'.

“Hey, Ma.”

“Danny, sweetheart! How are you today?”

“I’m fine, Mom. How are you?”

“Oh, very well. Your dad and I just landed in Honolulu!”

Danny chokes on his next breath. He coughs and sputters a little, throwing an alarmed look to Steve, who’s looking back worriedly. He mouths, everything okay?, and Danny shakes his head helplessly.

“You did! Did I forget a really important phone call where you told me you were coming? Because I don’t recall it, and I usually have a great memory, so I must have had some kind of blackout and I probably should see a doctor for that.”

“No, honey, no blackout. God, you’re as dramatic as your father. It was a surprise! Don’t tell Gracie, okay? We can make it a birthday present. Can you come pick us up? Also, oh. We have booked a hotel, but only from tomorrow night.”

Danny feels honestly sick. He hasn’t got laid in a year, in more than a year, and finally, finally tonight he was about to get some, with a man that makes Danny’s mouth positively water, and this has to happen? His parents invading his space and his small apartment and his life for the next few days, if not longer?

Fuck, Danny loves his family, he does, but right now he wants nothing less than to send them straight to hell. He wants Steve naked, sweaty, wrapped all around him, his mouth driving him crazy and his fingernails marking his hips with half-moons. He doesn’t want his mother’s overbearing concerns and his dad's rants. He adores them, loves being taken care of by his mom and shooting the shit with his dad, but on his own terms.

He has never liked surprises. Running a hand over his face, Danny bites down on the sigh threatening to escape. Steve parks in front of his house, and fuck, fuck, fuck it all.

“Yes, yes of course I can come and pick you up. My bed’s not the best but it’ll do for one night. I’ll be there, um. As soon as I can. Give me about half an hour.”

“Sure, sweetie. We’ll see you soon.”

It takes about fifteen minutes to get to the airport from Steve’s, but Danny is giving himself the time to taste Steve long enough that he won’t forget it too quickly. He can see, from the tense set of Steve’s shoulders, that he’s not fooling himself.

“You gotta go.”

“Yeah. I swear to God, Steve, I don’t want to, but my parents have just landed here on O’ahu. What am I supposed to do?”

“It’s fine. I get it.”

“Raincheck? I’d really like a raincheck, babe.”

Steve turns to look at Danny, his eyes shining bright in the semi-darkness. Danny cocks his head to the side, feeling like cursing the whole world because he wants to climb Steve so much and he can’t, once again he’s deprived of the right, and it’s just unfair.

“Fuck yes, Danny, raincheck, definitely.”

Steve lunges, framing Danny’s face with his giant hands, warm and callused and perfect against Danny’s skin as they kiss, a lot more desperate than it should be. Steve is wearing all the layers of this beautiful uniform and Danny wants to peel it off him, he really, really does, why did his parents think it was a good idea to come now?

Danny groans into Steve’s mouth, chasing the taste of him with his tongue, letting it mix with chocolate and Champagne and strawberries, all those things added to Steve so intoxicating Danny feels like he’s drowning, scrambling for purchase on the leather seat, his fingers digging in as he pulls himself forward and grabs Steve’s wrist with his free hand, letting out small keening noises he didn’t even know he could make.

When he pulls away, Steve only goes so he can trail wet, open-mouthed kisses down Danny’s jaw to his neck, and Danny tilts his head back, his hand sliding up along Steve’s arm to his chest, fisting in the lapel of his jacket, a point to anchor himself because he’s light-headed already and he’s growing harder by the second. He’ll never manage to not drag Steve inside the house if they go on, or just get off here in the Camaro that he’s supposed to drive to the airport to pick up his parents.

Steve’s stubble burns in the best of ways against Danny’s skin, but Danny pushes him away with some willpower he didn’t know he possessed, looking at Steve looking at him, eyes heavy and his mouth looking desperately inviting, red and swollen from Danny's kisses.

“You need to get out of this car right now, Steve, or I swear I will not be held responsible for my actions and my parents will be really really mad at me. Trust me, you do not want Ma Williams to be mad at you, she’s vicious.”

He’s breathing a little hard, but then so is Steve, Danny notices.

“Fuck, Danny -”

Danny clamps a hand on Steve’s mouth, shaking his head.

“You get out of the car, go home and get some sleep. Raincheck, Steve, I swear you have no idea of all the things I want to do to you.”

“Okay. Okay.”

Steve’s voice is raspy and hard-edged, and it takes Danny all that he’s made of not to reach out when Steve opens the car door, stepping out. He’s hard, too, it’s obvious to Danny when he watches Steve straighten himself up once outside the car, and fuck, it’s just so really, truly not fair. Danny slides into the passenger seat with a heavy sigh.

“I’ll, huh. See you soon.”

“Yes. You will.”

---

Steve puts his truck into park and slides out, eyeing the Waikiki Town Center entrance apprehensively. He hasn't seen Danny since he begged off the other night; hasn't heard from him, either.

Well. He doesn't know how to explain that text message he got a few hours after Danny left. He's maybe saved it on his phone, and he's only re-read it about thirty times. He tries to be alone when he does, because thirty times or not, it still makes him as hot under the collar as that first time. Danny's not one for elaborate flirting and seduction, but Steve is surprised to find that straightforward apparently does it for him much better.

Anyway, how else is he supposed to take that? 'I've got my other hand on my cock right now and I'm thinking of you as I stroke myself' -- not all that many interpretations. Really. And Steve's really not thinking about that right now, no sir. He'd tried responding, but after the third time nothing more than a keysmash had come out, he'd given up. Thinking of Danny, splayed across his bed, one hand on his phone and the other fisted around his cock, face flushed and a little sweaty, it's not really conductive to coherence.

'Focus, McGarrett.' He's not here for that right now, anyway -- he's got a mission. Yes. Something legitimate he could go and ask Danny. He's not here because he's been thinking of pressing him to the wall of the kitchen and sliding to his knees and opening his slacks and...

Fuck. Steve's maybe a little distracted right now. He pulls his pants up a little and walks purposefully through the entrance to the shopping center, making his way to Amazing Grace. The bakery is busy, like it always is these days; when Steve pushes through the door, he walks straight into an argument of lemon vs. lime for a batch of Key Lime cheesecake.

"Lime is less sharp, more tangy," Kono tries.

"But lemon is more fragrant," the matronly customer insists.

"Not necessarily. Depends what you like best."

The customer sniffs, looking unconvinced.

"Look," Kono says, "here's a slice of Key Lime cheesecake made with lime. If you don't like it, the boss will make you one with lemon. He won't like it, but he'll do it."

The customer takes the plate and fork Kono offers, cuts off a small piece and sniffs it cautiously. She shrugs and pops the forkful in her mouth. Her eyes widen and then fall closed, and Steve is convinced he's just seen Danny's magic work again.

"Okay, I'll admit it isn't terrible," the lady says, but she's already cutting off another piece, so Steve thinks she won't cause any more fuss.

"Hey, Steve. He's out back," Kono says without waiting for Steve to ask.

"Thanks."

Kono gives him a knowing smile and then turns her attention back on her customer, who’s quickly polished off the slice of cheesecake. Steve walks into the kitchen to the sound of her admitting she likes it, and will buy it as it is.

Danny has his back turned away when Steve walks in, using an electric whisk to mix egg whites, from what Steve can tell by the discarded egg yolks and shells in a nearby bowl. The whisk is loud, so Steve waits at the door for Danny to be finished, making the most of the moment just looking at Danny, at his perfectly formed ass molded into tight dark jeans and at Danny’s trim waist, accentuated by the apron tied around it. Steve’s eyes travel higher, along the strong lines of his back, his shirt stretching tight over his broad shoulders. Steve wants to grab him and touch all of that again, have Danny panting and pliant and willing under him, over him, all around him.

He clears his throat, trying to focus and stop imagining Danny naked, his skin glistening with oil or butter or whatever that would have fallen from the counter, and the whisk stops, Danny turning around.

“Oh! Oh, hi.”

Oh, God, Steve needs to get back on track. Okay, he’s got something to ask, a reason to be here, he needs to stop blushing, now.

“Hi.”

To Steve’s relief, Danny looks slightly embarrassed.

“How are you?”

“Good! Good, I’m good. I wanted to ask you something.”

“Me too, actually. You never replied to my text.”

Okay, that is not going to help the flushing. Steve looks down for a second, trying not to chuckle or stutter or say something completely stupid, and then forces his eyes to meet Danny’s again, taking a few steps inside the kitchen, closer to Danny.

“I just didn’t know what to say. I wanted to, Danny, but I’m not as poetic as you are.”

Danny snorts, turning the bowl full of peaked egg whites over his hand to make sure they’re as he wants them, and then starts lobing them on an oven tray. Watching him work is enthralling; Steve has never been enthralled by cooking, but it’s all about the way Danny’s muscles shift under his skin, and how he pokes his tongue out, and how he tastes everything he makes.

“Next time, just reply to me, okay? You could give a guy doubts.”

“God, no, Danny - I really do. Want you. Don’t have doubts about that.”

“I don’t. For now. What was it that you wanted to ask me?”

“What? Oh! Oh, so the school is letting me take the kids out on a school trip, and I thought, maybe. If you were okay with it, I could bring them...here? A real life ‘cooking is chemistry’ lesson. They’d like it more than some museum of engineering.”

Danny thinks about it, stopping in his meringue-making and pursing his lips. "That's actually not a bad idea," he says.

"No need to sound so surprised," Steve tells him dryly.

Danny rolls his eyes. "You know what I mean. All right, that would be fantastic. When do you think you think you might bring them over?"

"I was thinking next Friday," Steve says. That way their parents could come pick them up from here."

Danny looks at him, unabashed warmth in his gaze. "How fortunate," he deadpans. Steve grins.

"How was your parents' stay?" he asks -- now that he looks closer, beyond the perfectly fitted jeans and tight shirt, Danny looks tired, dark bags under his eyes, moving a little slower than usual.

Danny groans, sagging against the counter. "Oh my god, it was terrible. They are the bane of my existence. I barely slept the entire time they were here."

Steve makes a face. "Sorry to hear that."

"Oh, Grace loved it," Danny tells him, waving a hand. "Grandma and Grandpa visiting for her birthday? She had a blast. Knocked herself out with all the running and screaming and excitement."

"Sounds fun," Steve grins.

“Oh yeah, mock all you want. I’ll have you know my parents are not all to blame, okay? You are, too.”

Steve’s face falls and he blinks, confused.

“Me? What have I done?”

“Going to bed while horny does not help sleep, Steve. And since -” Danny stops, pushes the tray of meringues into the nearest oven, and turns back to his bowls and pots, dipping a finger in the rest of sugary egg whites. He doesn’t have to finish that sentence; Steve has not been able to stop thinking about that night after the wedding, either. “Since, you know. I’ve been horny.”

Danny finishes his sentence by licking his finger clean and Steve groans, completely helpless before the more-than-obvious come-on. He steps forward, and Danny’s reaction to the move is to get his hands fisted in the soft cotton of Steve’s shirt, looking up at him with wide eyes, his lips parted.

Steve doesn’t even hesitate, leans down, fingers hooking in the belt loops at the back of Danny’s jeans, pulling him in as their mouths meet, nothing sweet about this kiss but the taste of Danny’s lips, sugary from the food he’s been sampling. Steve runs his tongue along them, wanting to taste all of what Danny’s been nibbling through the day, coffee and chocolate and vanilla and berries and bananas and pineapples and almonds, Steve wants it all. Danny opens his mouth under the assault of Steve’s unashamedly welcoming. The sound he makes is close to a mewl and it makes Steve growl, wanting more, more more more.

But then Danny’s pushing him away, breathing hard and resting his forehead against Steve’s collarbone.

“Can’t, Steve - Kono. She’ll interrupt, she always interrupts, and I just. No. Next time I’m getting myself in such a situation I want us to have no interruptions.”

Steve whines a little in dismay. "That might take ages!" he says, wishing he didn't sound so pathetic.

Danny pulls back to look him in the eye. "Steven. Imagine I've got my hand down your pants. I'm doing a little exploring, you know, I'm all for the hands-on approach, I like to know what I've got on my hands, if you like; so I'm just familiarising myself with the territory."

Steve's hips buck into Danny's; he's panting, there's no air in this room, and when did the A/C cut off?

Danny's not done. "So we're, you know, reconnoitering, or whatever you SEAL types like to call it, the situation, and bang goes the door, and Kono pokes her head into the room, and I have to go home hard again, alone. I've been all nice and sweet to you, you know, I've been making an effort. But if that happens again, Steven, you're going to get it. Okay? Consider yourself warned."

Steve has a little trouble thinking right now; or, he's having trouble thinking of anything else but Danny's hands on his cock, so it takes him a moment to process what else Danny's saying.

"Wait, wait. You mean this isn't getting it now? You mean there's worse?"

"Keep leaving me turned-on and stranded, and you'll find out."

Danny raises his eyebrows at him, practically daring him to try it. Steve is sorely tempted, but just then there's a bang from outside the door and he remembers just how close Kono really is.

They stay quiet for a few moments, each leaning on the opposite side of the counter to the other, trying to compose themselves. Steve fishes for a distraction.

"So. The baking lesson?"

Danny smooths a hand down his shirt .

"Yes, that would be great. Friday, you said?"

"Friday. Couple days yet to prep! And, um. Maybe after the kids are gone, you and me could..."

"Yes?" Danny drawls, a sly smirk lurking in the corner of his mouth.

"Uh. Not make any plans, because they'll get fucked up again?"

"Best idea you've had all week."

---

Danny turns on the lights in the kitchen, the bright glare of the artificial overhead lights making him squint a little as he takes in the state of the place. It’s not so bad for a mid-week morning, just a few pots and pans and oven trays lying around on the large wooden island, looking just like the one in the family bakery back in Jersey. Danny runs his fingers along the side of it, feeling the ridges and burns deeply set into the wood, and smiles, going to get the different ingredients he needs to make bread dough.

He’s in the middle of mixing the ingredients together when Kono bounces in, her hair looking wet. She’s holding two coffees and wearing a large smile that makes Danny grin as well. He feels like he’s got many reasons to smile these days.

“Morning, Boss!”

“Hey, Kono. Thanks for the coffee.”

“You’re welcome. What do you need me to do?”

“If you can start another batch of dough, I’m gonna have to start kneading that one. Or there’s a few cakes that needs doing so they can be cool by opening. Been to the beach already?”

Kono ties up her hair and shrugs an apron on before she grabs a bowl and start mixing flour and yeast and oats, adding water.

“Yeah, I have. Got a swim and a few waves in. Night surfing is so much fun. boss, you should try it!”

“Please, please don’t mention this to Grace, ever. I can hardly deal with her surfing at all.”

“Well, you should take some comfort in the fact that you’re getting better than she is?”

“Please do not tell her that, either.”

"Wouldn't dream of it," Kono says gently, pressing the button on the food mixer. "So, you looking forward to today? All those kids running around messing up your kitchen and trying to get Steve to blow something up?"

Danny scrunches his nose. "Okay, I like kids, I do, but what you're describing is actually terrifying."

Kono snorts. "You knew that's what would happen! Damn, Danny, you're so whipped!"

"What do you mean?"

Kono looks at him like he's been hit on the head. "You didn't even think about that when Steve asked you, did you? You just said 'yes', because it was him asking!"

Danny opens his mouth. He closes it. "Oh my god," he says faintly.

Kono looks gleeful. "Oh, Boss! You're so cute!" she crows.

"Shut up," Danny growls, kneading the innocent dough extra-hard.

"I think it's adorable," Kono opines.

"I don't remember asking you, Kalakaua, unless it was about setting up the bread dough!"

"You don't scare me, Williams. I'm the best thing that happened to you since you moved. Well, apart from Steve, of course."

"Him? The best thing? The guy who leaves me high and dry more often than not?"

"Grumble all you want. You know that no one actually believes you when you complain about him?"

"He is a menace, I've always said so."

"Yeah, but he's a sexy menace, isn't he, Boss? I see the way you look at him, there's no use denying it."

"A menace," Danny repeats mulishly, pounding at the soon-to-be bread. "With his legs and his shoulders and his arms and his tattoos and his stupid face--"

"I think that dough's been kneaded into submission, Danny," Kono says, amusement lurking in her voice even if she isn't brave enough to outright laugh at him. "Here, have a go at the next one."

Danny glares at her but swaps the loads while Kono sets the other one to rise.

“So, what I gather is that you two crazy kids haven’t yet sealed the deal, right?”

Danny throws Kono a death glare, enough to make her smile knowingly as she sets to work on the vanilla-flavored mixture for the Victoria sponge Rachel gave him the recipe to when they were still married.

“Not that this is any of your business, Kono, but no.”

“But you’re together, right? I did catch you just post-making out on our cake-tasting night?”

Danny flails his hands around him, sending flour flying.

“I don’t know, okay? We’re not making plans, because plans get screwed up very very hard, and I’m starting to feel like the whole fucking Universe is against us, and maybe it’s a sign, right? Maybe everything is telling us that we should not have sex, and that if we do there will be floods and planes crashing and forest fires and I don’t know, Godzilla or something. I don’t know what we are, Kono, I just don’t. And I’m pretty sure that even if we do manage to get there and I finally get to see him naked, it won’t make things much clearer.”

“Do you want to be with him?”

“Do I want - yes, okay, yes, of course I do! The man’s a trial and he can’t keep his hands to himself and he wears glasses and vests and dress blues at the most inopportune times, and he’s annoying and smug and I want to punch him from time to time, but God, yes, I want to be with him.”

Kono raises an eyebrow, her face alternating between confusion and amusement. Danny can’t blame her. Fuck, he always rants more when he’s frustrated.

“Well then, make it simple, Boss. You know, talk to him.”

“Why do I always have to do everything?”

Kono chuckles indulgently.

“Because Steve has trouble expressing himself. He’s spent way too long being trained not to feel anything, Danny, and now he’s got you in his life and let me tell you, with all the love and respect I feel for you, you are a handful. And you wear everything on your sleeve and he’s not used to that, okay? It’s not easy for him, but I swear I’ve never seen him try as hard as he has since he met you.”

The way she talks, and explains Steve out to Danny, reminds him of his conversation with Malia at the wedding, and how stupid and helpless he’d felt, how he’d wanted to hold Steve and tell him yes, tell him he’s all in, too, even if he’s not really all that smart about it. And now Kono is telling him the same thing, with different words maybe, but the same soft tone that means she’s not judging, merely trying to help.

Danny sighs, pushing his knuckles in the dough, folding it and repeating the motion, the movements rhythmical and soothing.

“Fine, fine, I get it. What you’re saying is that the goof is emotionally constipated, right?”

Kono laughs, open-mouth, her head tilted back. She’s so beautiful in that moment Danny’s heart twists.

“Yeah, Boss. That’s what I’m saying.”

Danny huffs. This isn't exactly news to him, but the fact that he knows that and he's still happy to put up with the guy says a lot about what Danny's not admitting to feeling.

They don't talk much after that, falling into a routine they're comfortable with, that's familiar and soothing. Soon enough sweet smells fill the bakery, and Kono starts hefting trays full of muffins and cupcakes out to the front of the shop. Bread rolls follow, even the special rye bread with extra oats that Danny's started to make at some point after Steve blundered his way into the bakery. And he's really not at all thinking about the fact that half the bread rolls and scones he dishes out are multi-grain, and that they're their bestseller, because that would just mean Steve is winning, and Danny is never giving him that much ammunition, no matter how happy it would make him.

The clock ticks over to noon before either of them realises; the first inkling Danny gets of the time is the tinkle of the bell and the marked increase of noise out front. He finishes hurriedly scrubbing the pots from this morning clean, wipes his hands on a dish cloth and makes his way out of the kitchen.

There are little people everywhere. Danny forgets sometimes how big Grace's year really is; his little girl is lost in the crowd of waist-high nippers -- until she isn't, until she's wading her way through and jumping in his arms.

"Danno!"

"Hey, monkey," he says, bending down to kiss her. She pulls back after only a moment, already on the path of growing up and wanting to seem cool. Danny's heart lurches a little.

"You wanna show everyone the way to the kitchen?" he says, and she nods excitedly.

While she yells for the horde of kids to follow her, Danny looks around for the one person standing out from the average height of the majority. To his surprise, there's two.

"Hey, Chin! I didn't expect to see you here, my friend!"

"Not disappointed, I hope?" Chin says mildly.

"Are you mad? No! The more people here to wrangle the kids, the better!"

His eyes stray to Steve, leaning on the very same glass display as the first time Danny had seen him. It kind of makes his heart swell a little.

“You, don’t do that.”

Steve grins, playing with the pair of sunglasses he’s taken off after walking into the bakery. He looks mind-blowingly good and damn, it’s a shame there are this many little people around, because Danny is as horny as can be - he’s starting to wonder if it’s not a setting he’ll always have on when Steve is around.

Steve casually moves closer, his eyes brightly lit, mischievous, and Danny can only shake his head.

“Hey, Danny. Or should it be Danno?”

Danny holds up a finger, not really angry but he’s good at pretending, and these days rants have been triggered way too easily. Steve’s playing with fire and he knows it.

“Don’t you dare. This is not something you get to call me, ever, as endearing as you are. It’s a nickname my daughter has given me and she is the only one allowed to use it, so just don’t. Come on, now, you’ve got a class to teach, McGarrett.”

“Aw, but Danno...”

Chin chuckles, but quickly motions to the kitchen when Danny throws him a look.

“I’ll go and help Kono out with the munchkins.”

When they’re alone, Danny flips the sign to ‘closed’ at the door, narrowing his eyes at Steve.

“I am way too wound up for this, babe, seriously. If you don’t stop teasing, I will go down on you right here, and I do not want to do that right now because it’s bright daylight and my daughter is in the next room and, just. Stop, okay? Stop being so charming and attractive when there’s a room full of 9 year-olds right there.”

Danny motions for the door to the kitchen, and looks at how Steve dry-swallows, looking more serious, now.

“Danny, fuck -”

“In a few hours, you can be as cute and stupid and goofy as you want, okay? In a few hours you can tease me and mock me and everything else, please do everything else, too, but right now, I beg of you to just. Keep your distance.”

Steve goes from dark-eyed and smoldering to dismayed really fast.

"Danny, no! Man, come on! You've totally jinxed it, you realise! Now something horrible will happen and I'm gonna get called in because the school is burning down or my Mom's decided it's the perfect time to go shopping, or something equally stupid."

A shiver of foreboding rolls down Danny's spine, but he forces himself to dismiss it. It's ridiculous.

"You're ridiculous," he says, but he's not sounding half as convinced as he tries for. Oh god, let him be ridiculous, please, what do you want from them, for real.

Steve looks pained, arousal pretty much entirely dampened. Danny grimaces and tries not to look guilty. God, his life, how is this even real -- living in fear of superstitions because he's so hard-up that he's started to think the universe hates him.

"Mr McGarrett, Danno, come on!" Grace calls from the kitchen, poking her head out between the two wings of the door.

Steve gives Danny a speaking look, See? Danny scowls at him.

"Shut up," he mutters as he marches to the kitchen.

For the first time in his life, Danny is grateful that he only has the one kid. Because this lot, okay, there's something like several hundred of them, there must be, no fifty kids can make this much of a mess. And they are completely uncontrollable -- the second Danny turns his back, a handful of flour is lobbed at someone across the isle, who retaliates by escalating the fight to eggs. Twice Chin and Steve manage to avert disaster, but by the third time there's no stopping them. It makes Danny think of that night when he and Steve had that food fight, but that was pathetically tame when compared to this, this frenzied warfare. There are teams, for god's sake, although by the end they have devolved to the kids vs the four adults, and the adults are losing woefully.

It ends when basically all of the bakery’s supplies Danny and Kono had laid out are either on the floor, on human beings, or splattered over the walls. Danny can see some cake batter dripping from the ceiling, even, and that is going to be a bitch to clean up, why did he ever think this was a good idea to host in a food preparation area, he doesn’t have a single clue anymore. But the kids are happy, laughing and singing and clapping, even though they’re absolutely filthy and Danny can only imagine the complaints the school is going to get from parents. He supposes it doesn’t really matter at this point.

Steve has dutifully followed Danny’s plea of keeping his distances, putting the kitchen island between the two of them as much as possible, but now he’s leaning against a cooker next to Danny, a drop of bright red food coloring rolling down his temple to lose itself in his stubble, and Danny clenches his teeth not to grab him and lick it off.

Steve finishes with some sort of conclusion to the kids, but nobody’s really paying attention, and Steve doesn’t really looks like he cares, either. Danny bursts out laughing when he spots Kono swiping egg yolk off her face with a mild look of disgust, all the while Chin is doing his best to brush at the large chocolate stain he’s got on his front. Danny himself can feel crushed bananas at the small of his back, utterly uncomfortable and sticky, but at least this time there is no vanilla essence down his pants.

Slowly but surely, the adults get the kids to clean up some, their faces and hair when possible, as parents start to trickle in and get their spawns back. Danny had a good time, but he’s definitely not unhappy to see them all leave one by one. Rachel shows up in the middle of a group of parents and merely raises an eyebrow at the state of both daughter and father, assessing their identical sheepish looks.

“Looks like this was a fun field trip.”

“The best~, Mommy!”

“Hm, yes, I’m sure. Come on, let’s go get you in the bath, now. Thanks for doing this, Daniel.”

“I had fun. You’re welcome.”

“Do say hello to Mr McGarrett for me.”

“Will do.”

She nods and smiles, taking Grace’s backpack in one hand and Grace’s little fingers in the other. For a minute, Danny wishes she would stay, that they’d have a chance to have a longer conversation, not just two minutes while they pass Grace from one to the other, but then, he spots Steve at the corner of his eye, and he wants everybody to be gone, already.

It takes another hour for all the kids to be gone, and Chin and Kono linger long enough to clean up most of the mess in the kitchen, but then disappear as quickly as possible, probably feeling the tension in the air. Danny's been dodging Steve's eyes all the while, fearing his reaction before everyone had left -- because the fact is that he would not be able to help it. He knows what Steve's mouth tastes like now, when it's not smeared with strawberries, imagines that the streak of butter down his arm would not disguise the salty flavour of his skin. And all this, it's really doing nothing for Danny's self-control.

As soon as the door is closed behind the last kid ('Thank you, Mr Williams!) and Kono and Chin have made their graceful exit, Danny throws the lock and flips off all the lights at the front of the shop, hoping beyond hope that this at least would go according to plan. Because he's fed up with waiting, his blood burns in his body, and all he wants is to kiss Steve until he's breathless and panting beneath him.

Steve is still in the kitchen, wiping down the last of the counters, strong, toned arms pushing the rag over the stainless steel. He's facing away from Danny, circling to get at the far side, and he leans forward until his mouthwatering ass is in the air, like it's waiting for Danny to come over and bite into it. Danny watches some more, eyes trailing over the luscious curves of his back, the way it flows down into sturdy thighs that would feel so amazing wrapped around Danny's hips.

He strides forward at last, because he wants to touch, so much, he's desperate for it. He slides his hand over a firm cheek and squeezes a little; Steve slams forward, a startled groan falling from his lips. Danny squeezes harder and Steve shivers, pushing back into Danny's grip. He starts to stand, but Danny's not having that -- he presses a hand down on the small of Steve's back, keeping him in place while he bends down and kisses the spot of skin bared by Steve's shirt riding up. He noses at the waistband of his pants, flicking his tongue under it ever so slightly. The sound Steve makes should be illegal, and it sets Danny on fire.

"Danny," Steve groans pleadingly, jerking when the tip of Danny's tongue slips into the top of the cleft of his ass.

Danny takes mercy on him -- also, he can't undo Steve's pants from that position, and he wants them off, right the fuck now. He flips Steve over; Steve is pliant and loose in his arms, allowing himself to be moved -- right until the second he isn't. Danny finds himself hoisted up and spun around, until he's sitting on top of the counter, flushed and dizzy, and Steve is crowding his way between Danny's spread thighs. His leg brushes against Danny's cock, hard and swollen inside his slacks, and it's Danny's turn at incoherence. He fists his hands in the hem of Steve's shirt and tugs it up frantically -- damn finesse, damn waiting, damn stupid romantic notions of doing this in a bed for the first time; Danny will take what he can get, right here, right now. There will be time aplenty for romance later.

He rips Steve's shirt off over his head and throws it somewhere behind his shoulder, uncaring where it lands. Steve nudges his face up with his cheek and fits their lips together, kisses Danny like he's starving and nothing Danny could ever bake for him would be as good as the taste of Danny's mouth under his.

Danny forces his mouth away after a while, ignoring Steve’s whine as he kisses a path down Steve’s cheek, jaw, neck, along to his shoulder, finally getting his eyes and lips level with one of Steve’s shoulder tattoos. His fingers traces along the muscles and the design of the tattoo - he doesn’t get it but right now it doesn’t matter. He kisses the contours and runs his tongue over small parts of it, feeling the hairs on Steve’s arms stand on end.

“Danny...”

“Hmm?”

“Do you really want to tease right now?”

Danny pulls away, his eyes darting between Steve’s other tattoo and his eyes.

“Yes, Steve, yes, I really want to tease right now. Do you know how long I’ve wanted to do just this? A long time, okay, I’ve been wanting to finally get to taste your tattoos for a long time and I don’t care that it’s stupid and cliche. Let me do this and afterwards, I promise you, I swear I’ll get my hands down your pants, okay?”

Steve's eyes roll a little, but his eyelashes are fluttering and Danny doesn't think he really minds. He kisses the tattoo on the other side, presses his lips against the warm skin and catalogues the texture, the way Steve's skin feels against his mouth. His tongue darts out and flicks against it; Steve sways closer, pressing his cock into Danny's inner thigh. It's hot, and hard, and Danny slides his hips sideways until the bulges in their pants are lined up, and oh, yes, that's what he had been after all this time, all the sleepless nights imagining this and more, all the inescapable flushes when he'd been caught fantasizing about it in public. Steve's arms close around his back, his palms slide down to press Danny against him, and okay, enough is enough.

He takes care of the button of Steve's pants with a flick of his fingers, lowers the zip, twists one hand under the flap, knuckles brushing Steve's stomach all the way down until Steve's cock is sliding against his wrist, his thumb. He twists his hand and reaches for him, weathers the torrent of twitches this unleashes, the way Steve's hips slam into his, the way Steve groans and buries his head in the crook of Danny's neck. Danny’s stomach twists violently, almost painfully, but it’s such a relief to feel Steve’s cock against his hand, curved into his palm, that Danny welcomes all the sensations, takes all of them, how violent they are, how strongly they wash over him.

Steve lets out a strangled noise, and when Danny tightens his hold and twists his wrist, Steve bites into his neck, sucking hard, making Danny gasp. Okay, they definitely wasted enough time if they have both reverted to touch-starved teenagers, because Steve is giving him a hickey, and Danny hasn’t had a hickey since he was 15 and this is just ridiculous, yet he pushes into Steve’s hold all the same.

“Oh fuck, Jesus, Steve, we - I - shit.”

Steve lets go with a wet, obscene sound, and looks at Danny with one of these smug looks he’s got, the one that says ‘I’ve got you here and I know it’, and Danny doesn’t even have the strength to want to punch it off his face.

“You’re incoherent.”

“I’m not, shut up, hey look I can take my hand away now, do we really have to have this talk right this moment?”

“I just wanted to point it out, is all.”

Danny takes a deep breath, and then twists his hand again, moving up along Steve’s cock until his thumb is pressing against the slit, watching with rapt attention how Steve moans and how his eyes flutter close.

“Now who’s incoherent?”

Steve just thrusts his hips into Danny’s hand as a reply, digging his fingers in Danny’s thigh. And of course, of course it's now that his phone starts ringing. Danny mutters a curse, kissing along Steve’s jaw.

“Don’t answer it. Don’t answer it, please.”

"'S Mary," Steve slurs, drunk on pleasure and sensation. He buries his hand in Danny's hair and tugs him off reluctantly. "Two seconds, I swear."

Danny slumps against him, defeated, as Steve fishes for his phone in pockets gone slack from his pants being opened. He takes his hand out of Steve's pants and Steve whimpers, trying to press close enough to keep Danny there. He straightens a little when he thumbs 'answer', but his hand is still sifting through the strands at the back of Danny's head even as he brings the phone to his ear.

"Really not the best time, Mare," he says, sounding peeved.

Then he stills, straightening even further. "What? When?"

Danny pushes away from Steve's chest as Steve tenses.

"I'll be right over," Steve growls. Danny doesn't even have the energy to be angry, he's that worried.

"What's happened?" he asks the second Steve hangs up.

"Mary's been in a car accident. Some asshole ran a Stop sign and plowed into the side of her Toyota."

"Is she okay?" Danny demands, all thoughts of sex forgotten.

"She's broken her wrist trying to get away from the door caving in, but yeah, other than that and a couple of bruises, she says she's fine. Car's so much scrap metal, though. I--Danny, I have to go."

"Of course you have to go," Danny says. "Do you want me to come with you?"

"No," Steve says; his hand has resumed stroking the back of Danny's head, and Danny wants to sink into the comfort. "No, I just want to make sure she's okay for myself. I'm sorry," he adds tentatively, his little finger rubbing against the skin at the nape of Danny's neck.

Danny sighs heavily. "You were right," he says, trying to lighten the mood. "I jinxed it."

Steve huffs before pulling away reluctantly. He brushes a warm kiss over Danny's lips; it's far too brief, but no less sweeter for it. "Next time, I'm kidnapping you," he grumbles even as he puts his clothes to rights.

"I'll hold you to that," Danny says, following suit.

He walks Steve to the door and flips the lock open. Steve steals another quick kiss before he's out, loping quickly towards the parking lot. Danny watches after him wistfully.

"Next time, I'm kidnapping you." Well. Steve might be onto something here.

---

“Here you go.”

Steve hands a beer to his father, sitting next to him on the lana’i. Their last evening in before they take off for their cruise, his parents asked him and his sister to come for dinner. Mary already left, begging off coffee because of some party, broken wrist be damned, and with his mother busy packing a few last things and making sure they’re all prepared, it’s Steve and his father on their own to watch the sun go down, setting the ocean alight.

“Thanks. How’s life, son?”

Steve takes a deep breath, trying his best not to explode into words of frustration and need and Danny, all around Danny, always coming back to Danny these days. They’ve barely had a minute to say hello and goodbye lately, days since the cooking field trip, and it’s just not fair, it really isn’t.

“It’s - busy, to say the least.”

“You sound displeased. I’d think someone like you would be happy to be busy.”

“Yeah, I am. It’s just. I...haven’t got to see Danny much.”

He knows it’ll come to this conversation, so better bite the bullet now. It’s not like his parents haven’t gathered what’s going on between the two of them anyway.

“Ah.”

“Yeah.”

Steve looks sideways at his dad, watching him drink some more of his beer.

“How’s that going?”

“Well, that’s the thing. We barely see each other so I have no idea, Dad. I just don’t know where we’re going. I know where I want to go, but then we don’t get a minute to ourselves and we always get interrupted and it’s like, we’re stuck in this vicious circle where every time we’re taking a step forward, someone or something stops us. Fuck, he’s starting to rub off on me.”

Tangents and rants aren’t really Steve’s style; Danny is definitely taking his toll on him, it’s obvious. John chuckles quietly into his beer bottle.

“You need to make time for these things, Steve, or they’ll slip away from you.”

“Well, if I could go on a cruise every weekend, I would...but Danny works so much. Every day, Dad, every goddamn day.”

"He takes pride in his job, son. You can't hold that against him."

"I know, and I'm not. I guess I'm just fed up of being relegated to the back seat."

His father eyes him shrewdly. "You don't really think you're not important to Danny, do you? Because that boy only has eyes for you, no matter when we see him. And you're no better. You two remind me of your Mom and me. When we first met, I couldn't look away from her, and the glances she'd throw me..."

"Dad," Steve complains at the way his father is mooning at the house.

"What, you think you look different from a distance? Think again, sunshine."

Steve considers this. It doesn't scare him in the slightest, which is probably more worrying than if he was scared he's falling too deep, wanting too much. Because it's not that Danny isn't willing to give it -- he is. It makes Steve all warm inside, every time he thinks of the way Danny whined and groaned whenever they'd had to stop what they were doing.

He huffs a sigh. He doesn't want to talk about it more, because it only drives in the fact that Danny isn't his, yet, and for some reason he craves the acknowledgement, freely given, from Danny's lips and body to Steve's.

He wants to know that they’re doing this, that Danny is into this relationship as much as Steve is, but those are words he’s afraid to say and he’s sure actions can speak louder anyway. He just wants to be able to tell people, if he wants to, that yes, he is with Danny and yes, it is serious and they’re not fucking around, just each other. Steve is there, definitely, besides the whole 'fucking' thing, obviously. And it’s driving him crazy.

“You’re in the honeymoon phase, son. And when life gets in the way, I get that it’s frustrating. You should try and clear some time for you two, so you can work some stuff out, for a start.”

“That’d mean get Danny to close for a day or two, or get Kono to work double shifts.”

“Well, you’ve been telling us how well the bakery is doing lately. Maybe Danny can afford to only open for half a day this weekend? This way Kono does only one shift.”

Steve thinks about that. He likes it. "I'll talk to him about it. Maybe he'll agree for the weekend after? It's probably too soon to ask him about this weekend."

John shrugs. "At this stage, I don't think a week's all that big a delay."

"Yeah," Steve says sourly. It's not like they haven't been forced to wait for months already. "Anyway. What time do you leave tomorrow?" Not his smoothest change of subject, but the thought grates enough for Steve to want to avoid it.

John groans. "Too damn early," he grumbles. "We have to be at the port at 6.30am."

Steve whistles through his teeth. His dad hates early mornings. His mom, on the other hand, has been an early riser all her life. It probably says something about the strength of their marriage that they've learned to live around it.

"Still, though. A week away, just the two of you. You can't tell me you aren't looking forward to it."

"Oh, for sure. It's not just you young kids that want your time together."

"Please do not elaborate."

John chuckles to himself, watching the ocean. It's calm, peaceful. Maybe Steve can get Danny to come down here while his parents are away. They could bring Grace, too -- she'd love it.

Yeah. Sounds like a plan.

---

Danny has had enough. He just has, okay, it’s been almost two weeks since he got to see Steve for more than 5 minutes, let alone in private, so really, he’s had enough, and he’s about to burst, and he needs this.

It doesn’t take long for him to get his plan worked out. He gets a little apartment-type place rented for the weekend at the North Shore, as far away from Honolulu as he can find, and tells Kono they’ll be closed from Saturday afternoon to Monday morning. If she wants to come in, she’s more than welcome to, but she can’t expect him, because he will not be available. She gives him a wide eyed, surprised look, but nods quickly, not making a sound. He’s too wound up and tired and frustrated and he’d just yell at her, so it’s a good thing she doesn’t protest.

Then it’s just a matter of preparations. The apartment he’s booked - on the internet, with help from Grace - is close to the beach and nice and airy, not that Danny expects them to spend much time outside the bedroom. He goes groceries shopping for basic supplies, lube, condoms, fresh fruit and cereal, coffee and milk, beer and some steaks and frozen fries, ketchup, bacon and eggs and a bag of bagels. It doesn’t matter if Steve complains about the lack of vegetables, he’ll have to work with what Danny’s got and that is it, they’re not leaving the apartment for the weekend, seriously, no way.

When he gets to Steve’s on Saturday morning, there is no one there and no, no, that is not happening, they cannot be this unlucky. Danny takes out his phone and contemplates calling Steve right away, but then changes his mind. It takes three rings for Chin to pick up.

“Hey brah, howzit?”

“Hey Chin - look, I don’t want to keep you long, I’m sure you’re busy. You got any idea where Steve is?”

“Yeah, sure, he said he was doing something for his parents, repainting or something.”

Danny bites his lip, suddenly remembering Steve talking about doing the paint job on the outside of the family home while his parents were away.

“Oh, yeah, that’s right! Thanks, Chin.”

“You’re welcome. Is everything okay?”

God, if Chin can hear the tension stringing Danny’s body so tight through the phone, it’s bad. Bad bad bad.

“Everything’s fine. Gotta go. Give my love to Malia!”

“Will do.”

Danny hangs up and starts the car right away, driving through the city to the McGarretts' home, trying his best not to run every red light and curse every slow driver on the road. When he gets there, the sight of Steve, up on a ladder in a white wifebeater and battered jeans, painting the side of the house a pale yellow, makes Danny’s heart skip a beat. Or three.

Steve turns at the sound of the Camaro pulling up. His face, red and flushed with the heat and exertion, lights up when he sees Danny get out.

"Hey, D!" he yells cheerfully.

"Hey yourself. Are you almost done? I was thinking we could go get lunch, maybe?"

Steve eyes the front of the house, done but for the last corner at the bottom. "Well, that's the last of it now, and then it's done. So yeah, definitely, if you can stick around for twenty minutes or so--and if you give me a hand, we could get it done even faster."

Danny doesn't even hesitate -- he's striding over and grabbing a brush before Steve finishes speaking. Steve's brows furrow at his eagerness.

"What's up with you?" he asks.

"Nothing. I'm just really hungry. Where's the paint?"

Between the two of them, it takes less than ten minutes to finish the last of the side. Steve tosses the brush inside the paint tray, satisfaction etched all over his face.

"Looks nice," Danny says, forcing himself to sound casual.

"Dad will be pissed that I did it all without him, but we want him to take it easy now that he's retired. I think it's nice, too."

Danny drops his own brush, unclenching impatient fingers from the handle.

"So, lunch?"

"Sure. Let me just get changed."

Danny wants to snap at him not to bother, that he won't be wearing clothes for very long anyway, if Danny has anything to say about it. But he doesn't want to spoil the surprise; he wants to see Steve's face when he pushes him inside the apartment and locks the door behind them.

He waits by the car, resisting the urge to fiddle, because it would just make him more irritated. Steve jogs out, finally, a simple white T-shirt tugged over loose, threadbare jeans. He looks delectable. He tries to steal the keys from Danny, but Danny's not having it, pushing and prodding him into the passenger seat while he near runs for the driver's. The car peels off with a squeal of tires, nose pointing towards the North Shore. Steve seems content to let Danny drive in peace, doesn't even ask where they're going, but looks out of the window happily. His knee is almost nudging the gear shaft; Danny has to clench his hands on the wheel to not palm it possessively. Knowing where they're headed, what he's about to do to this infuriating, desirable, gorgeous man, it's setting his blood on fire. It's actually worse than knowing they might be interrupted at any moment, because they're not there yet and Danny can't touch him already.

When they’re out of downtown Honolulu Steve frowns, turning towards Danny to raise an eyebrow at him. Danny keeps his eyes firmly on the road after acknowledging Steve’s move, not wanting to spoil the surprise.

“Where are we going?”

“You’ll see. Hey, how about you turn your phone off?”

Steve makes a noise, something Danny’s not quite sure of, but he can’t take his eyes off the road, no way, if he does then he’ll stop the car right here on the side of the road and the rest be damned.

“Why?”

“Just do it, Steve. Please.”

“Is yours off?”

“It will be soon.”

“I can grab it for you, turn it off.”

There’s something devious in Steve’s tone, and Danny clenches his teeth.

“No, no. You can’t - look, we’re going somewhere, let’s get there, okay? Won’t be much longer.”

“Considering the speed you’re driving at, I believe you on that one.”

Danny doesn’t answer, and they lapse into silence again. He can feel how curious Steve is, though, hear and sense him shifting constantly in his seat, looking around the scenery to try and determine where they’re going. Danny keeps his jaw locked and his eyes on the road, and it takes 20 more minutes but finally they arrive to a cluster of little bungalows overlooking the ocean. Danny parks the car in front of number 5, feeling the keys he’s grabbed for the renting agency the day before digging into his thigh.

“Okay, we’re here.”

“I’m confused, Danny.”

Danny grabs his phone and turns it off, before looking at Steve.

“Is your phone off?”

“Yes, but -”

“I’m kidnapping you for the weekend. I have rented this place, and we’re going to go in and I am going to get you naked and we’re going to finally have two days to ourselves with no distractions. I have food and supplies in the boot, and our phones are off, and just - no distractions, Steve, no one to interrupt and to ruin it.”

Steve gapes at him, pupils thoroughly dilated just from that, Jesus. Danny's been hard ever since they passed the five mile marker, ever since Steve offered to to turn his phone off for him, so hard his cock is going to bear the edge of his inseam digging into it, he's sure. He looks at Steve, begs him with his eyes even as his mouth runs away from him, because if Steve backs off now, well. He doesn't think they could salvage the fall out.

Steve's stare lasts just long enough for Danny to start to worry he's overdone it, even though he was sure he couldn't have read Steve wrong, not now. Then Steve turns, clicks the door open and jumps out of the car, heading for the boot. He slams it open, grabs as many bags as he can carry and heads for the front door, bouncing with impatience. Danny watches the muscles bunch in his arms from the weight, watches his jeans tighten around the crotch, watches sweat trickle down Steve's neck while he stands there and waits, and fuck if it doesn't make Danny's knees go soft.

He gets with it, jumps out and hurries to the door, fitting the key inside with fingers shaking ever so faintly. Steve brushes past him while Danny runs back to the car, grabs the two remaining bags, thumbs the alarm and jogs back inside, slamming the door shut with his hip. Steve has found his way into the kitchen and is shoving food and beer inside with both hands. He grabs the bags from Danny and doesn't even look inside, just sticks both of them into the fridge and slams the door shut.

The two of them stare at each other, standing in the kitchen, need running like a current through them, so strong that Danny literally does not know where he wants to touch Steve most, and so can't actually touch him at all.

Steve looks back, eyes locked on Danny's mouth. He wets his lower lip with the tip of his tongue.

It's like a dam breaking loose. Danny surges forward, slams him back against the counter, takes his mouth like it's the one thing keeping him sane, mashes their lips together and grabs the back of Steve's head, pulling it to the side until he can pry his lips open and lick his way inside. Steve doesn't need to be prompted -- he goes pliant against Danny, lets him in, lets Danny take him if that's what Danny needs. His hands are fisted at Danny's hips, and he opens them, pulling him closer. Danny slips a thigh between his legs, feels all that muscle surround him, and it's actually difficult to breathe, he wants this so much.

All his plans have been thrown out of the window. There's a bed just two rooms away, a big double bed that Danny had specifically asked for, but he'll be damned if they're going to make it there -- this time. Right now moving is not an option, moving away from Steve a fate worse than death. He slips his free hand under Steve's T-shirt, touches hot, sweaty skin, feels the way Steve arches into him to the soles of his feet. His hand migrates up Steve's back, tracing muscles, the sharp, defined stretch of his spine, and he wants.

Steve slides a long, firm thigh over the back of Danny's leg, opening himself further to Danny's body, pulls him into the space between his legs even as his hand closes on one side of Danny's ass, tugging. Danny groans into the kiss when their cocks slide together, off-centre, just a tease that nevertheless manages to nearly liquefy his bones. He ruts against Steve helplessly, mindlessly, needing to be closer.

Steve bites down on Danny’s bottom lip before he breaks off the kiss, tilting his head back as he lets out a small, desperate wanton noise, enough to make Danny’s stomach roll with lust. He trails his lips along Steve’s upper chest as he tries to breathe, cotton under his tongue and the smell of Steve invading his senses, sweat and musk and paint and leather and washing powder. Danny tugs Steve’s shirt up and up, and Steve obeys the silent plea willingly, raising his arms over his head and finishing the job, throwing his shirt somewhere behind Danny - not that he cares.

Danny noses along Steve’s pecs, flicks his tongue against a nipple, earning himself a sharp pull on his hair and a hiss, Steve’s hips jerking into Danny’s - okay, Danny notes, sensitive nipples, he can definitely work with that. They’re both obviously so wired that anything can send them over the edge - Danny is afraid for a second that Steve will realize too quickly how teeth digging into his hipbones sends Danny reeling right away.

But considering how this first round is probably going to end, Danny doesn’t worry for too long - something tells him neither of them are going to take their sweet time for exploration right now. They have at least 36 hours to get there, though, and Danny has many plans involving Steve naked, once they’re over the need, once they can afford to take their time.

Steve moves again, licking a drop of sweat off Danny’s temple as he grabs the sides of Danny’s shirt and pulls, not bothering with undoing buttons, and under other circumstances Danny would probably yell at him, but as it is, Danny can only arch into the touch as buttons go flying all over the kitchen and Steve trails his fingertips along Danny’s chest, down his stomach, his breath sharp and shallow near Danny’s ear.

“Fuck, Danny -”

Danny bites down on Steve’s chest, close to his left nipple, afraid that words could spoil it, afraid that, if they talk now, they’ll find a way to fuck it up, jinx it again. Steve gasps but it doesn’t sound like pain and that’s good enough for Danny, who busies himself with getting Steve’s jeans open, and fuck, the bastard is going commando. Danny’s mouth positively waters when his hand closes around Steve’s cock, hard and leaking and making Steve jerk again, his knuckles white where he’s holding on to the kitchen counter. Danny wants to taste him so much it’s overtaking everything else in his brain, doubts and fears and frustration, and so he goes for it, kissing his way down Steve’s stomach, feeling it being sucked in sharply when he nips at Steve’s belly button. Danny runs his hands along Steve’s jean-clad thighs when he’s on one knee in front of him, facing his cock.

He licks the underside from base to tip, and Steve lets out a strangled noise, muffled, and when Danny looks up he sees Steve biting on his knuckles, goosebumps rising all over his skin.

"Don't do that," he growls. Steve looks dazed, a question in his eyes, teeth still closed around his knuckle. "I want to hear you. There's no one in this house, the closest neighbour is across the yard, so give it to me."

Steve whimpers, but removes his hand from his mouth. The next sound fills the air with desperation; Danny stares up into Steve's half-lidded eyes as he takes him back inside his mouth. He doesn’t allow Steve to move, keeps his hands on Steve’s hips, pressing him hard against the counter top. For a moment, if only just a moment, Danny wants to feel in control, wants Steve to lose it, just because of Danny and his mouth.

Danny goes for it, sucking in earnest, cheeks hollowed when he takes Steve’s cock as deep as he can inside his mouth. He can’t stop thinking - no phones to start ringing, nobody to come knocking at the door, just the two of them and whatever they want to do to each other at the tip of their fingers. Steve lets out a deep groan, and when Danny flicks his eyes up along Steve’s chest, all the way up to his face, his eyes, he sees how dark they are. Danny looks at Steve’s features, the flush of his cheeks and the way he’s biting his lip, looking at Danny with such intensity Danny’s cock jumps in his pants. He’s going to come without even getting Steve’s hands on him if they go on like this, and that - that isn’t fair.

He pulls his mouth away from Steve’s cock with an obscene, wet sound, and Steve whines a little but Danny - Danny’s losing his goddamn mind.

“Touch me, Steve. Please. You have to - fuck, please.”

Steve practically falls to his knees at that, cradling Danny’s face with one hand as he kisses him, his free hand working the button of Danny’s slacks open, the zipper down, tugging and pushing and pulling until Danny’s cock is out of his pants and boxers.

The rush of air over his unbearably sensitised skin is borderline painful, but somehow Steve's hand around it makes it better. He squeezes gently and Danny moans, squeezes harder and Danny sways closer, pressing his forehead to Steve's neck in a bid to hold himself together. His own hand is twisting its way down Steve's body, following the muscles of his stomach, dipping lower until he's curling his fingers around Steve's cock. Now it's both of them groaning, both of them pushing closer, both of them frantic with need.

"Danny... Danny," Steve keeps saying, like Danny's name is the only thing keeping him sane.

Danny can't actually speak -- he can only pant breathlessly against Steve's neck, feel his breath bounce off the wet skin, and the next thing he knows he's latched his mouth over Steve's pulse point and sucking, like he can't get enough. Steve actually yelps at that, and Danny feels the twitching of Steve's cock in his hand, the way it swells and grows impossibly harder -- and then there's wetness everywhere, sliding over his fingers and staining every scrap of clothing they've still got on. Steve sags against him, sucking in air, hand gone slack around Danny as he sinks into the afterglow; it feels like every muscle of Steve's body has gone slack and useless.

Danny can barely stand it. He wraps his wet hand over Steve's, gives him a hint, squeezes both their fingers over his shaft until it's familiar pressure with unfamiliar hands, so fucking good, and the way Steve is mouthing at his neck, wet lips dragging over skin that twitches from the smallest touch; Steve's hand suddenly tightens and twists, and it's game over for Danny, too.

He comes to sprawled over Steve, loose and sated to his very bones. While he's been drifting, Steve has somehow maneuvered them across the floor, so Steve's head is by the counter and his feet are by the fridge, taking up all the free space on the kitchen floor. Danny's lying on top of him, one leg thrown between Steve's, arm slung over Steve's waist as he pillows his head on Steve's surprisingly comfortable bicep.

"Fuck me," Danny manages, voice rough and wrecked with the sounds torn out of him.

"In a bit," Steve says comfortably, sounding happy and relaxed and almost zen.

Danny pushes his head off its resting place with some effort, and braces it on his hand. Steve is smiling, almost like he can't help himself; his lips are red and rubbed raw by Danny's stubble, his hair is an absolute mess, yet his eyes are languid and thoroughly, disgustingly smug when he peeks at Danny through his lashes.

"What are you so happy about?" Danny drawls.

Steve's smile grows until it's so goofy Danny kind of wants to smack his own forehead in despair. He's thinking--no, decided to have sex with that man, regularly and for the foreseeable future. Ergo, who's the bigger goof here?

"Nothin'," Steve slurs, a walking--lying--advert for post-coital bliss. "It's just, we're here, Danny. We made it."

“You realize it’s not only about sex, right?”

Steve’s smile fades a little, a confused look appearing on his face. This moment, right there, this face on Steve and the two of them sprawled over the kitchen floor in some rented apartment on the North Shore, that exact moment in space and time, Danny realizes that he’s totally, utterly and helplessly in love with the biggest dork the universe has ever created. And there’s nothing he can, or would, do about it, either.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, babe, that I would never have felt this frustrated and hard up the second you walked into the bakery for the past two weeks if it was only about the sex. I’m cool about sex, okay, I don’t need it like I need air, and I can live without it easily, I have for a long time, alright, it’s fine. But you, you and you puppy-dog eyes and your stupid remarks about whole grain and oats and shit, and the way you are with Gracie and with your parents, and your dress blues and how infuriatingly good-looking you are, and how you make me laugh and listen to me, you just. What I’m trying to say is that I kinda love you, you know, and you never made the first moves so I thought you didn’t really care, but then people told me that you’re not good with words and stuff. So I’m telling you now, so at least you know, even if you can’t say it back or something.”

“You kinda love me?”

Steve is smiling again, grin back in full force, and Danny punches his shoulder with the small amount of strength he’s still got left in him.

“Fuck you, McGarrett, it’s not that easy for me, either.”

Steve just settles Danny more comfortably on top of him. "So," he says conversationally. Danny goes on full alert, because that tone, Steve's about to say something that Danny will have to kill him for. "You wanna talk about your feelings now?"

Danny's going to get up, fetch the butter knife, and stab him to death. Any minute now.

"I am swiftly re-evaluating my decision to have sex with you until the day I die," he says levelly, trying not to feel so very comfortable where he lies.

Steve stares at him, eyes soft and fond. "That may be the sweetest thing you've ever said to me," he says.

Danny rolls his eyes in exasperation and sinks back down on top of him. "I honestly don't know why I put up with you sometimes," he grumbles.

Steve presses a kiss to the top of his head. Danny tries to find it disgustingly sappy and completely fails.

"For the record," Steve says against Danny's forehead, which is pressed to Steve's chin, "I would really love having sex with you until the day you die."

Danny hides his smile against Steve's neck. "So I've finally hit on a way to let you talk about your feelings, sailor?"

Steve sticks his finger in Danny's ribs instead of a reply, thus discovering one of the most viciously protected secrets of all time -- Danny Williams is ticklish.

Steve McGarrett is a world-class menace, Danny's always said so. Danny kicks him, trying to gain some leverage to push himself off Steve's religiously sculpted body, but Steve's got him held down, those ridiculously long arms pinning Danny to his chest while Steve uses those stupid legs that go for miles to flip them, so that Danny's back is now in cruel contact with the cold floor, and Steve is sprawled smugly all over him.

"I hate you so much," Danny grumbles.

Steve's grin turns manic. "No you don't. You love me!"

"Don't think that means you can get away with shit like that."

"Oh, don't pout, I mean, it's cute and everything, but--no, actually, it does kind of look good on you."

"Hate. You."

Danny isn't pouting. No, really. He's contemplating his next move. Unfortunately, and rather impressively considering his age, his cock thinks his next move should be to spread his legs and give in, like Steve's won him or something, and should now exercise his claim, which is so patently stupid Danny kind of wants to smack himself. As it happens, though, Steve's looking down at him with those eyes of his again, dark and intent, and he thinks Steve might be on the same wavelength here.

“Are we about to have hate sex then? Because from what I gather, sex is where we’re headed right now.”

To prove his point, he rolls his hips into Danny’s, and Danny fights the urge to close his eyes and moan, hold onto Steve and bruise him.

“Maybe. Don’t grin like that, it’s not funny.”

“It is, though. I think -”

“Don’t lie.”

“You’re hilarious. Anyway, bedroom, Danny. There’s one in this place, right? Because, I mean, I’d really like to fuck you, but I’d really like not to fuck you on the kitchen floor.”

“Oh, now you want to be a romantic? Of course there’s a bedroom in this place, do you think I’d book us some place to have wild gay sex in, in which there is no bedroom? It’s just - over there.”

Danny waves a hand towards the general direction of the bedroom, and then suddenly Steve is off him, getting back to his feet in a graceful, cat-like fashion, which is mildly irritating and a little hypnotizing at the same time. Danny follows a little more slowly, and whatever clothes they had left are shed right here, before Danny leads Steve to the bedroom, their fingers entwined.

The sheets are white - Danny’s not quite sure that’s a good idea but he promises himself to get them washed before they leave the apartment, he’s polite like that, he can’t really help himself, but the most important is that the mattress is soft and bouncy, feeling like heaven and Danny lies on top of the covers, burying his nose in the fresh small of the sheets for a moment. He feels the large bed dip and looks over his shoulder to see Steve watching him, eyes hungry.

“What?”

“What 'what', are you kidding me? Have you seen yourself?”

“Well, I don’t make a habit of looking at my own ass, I’ll admit.”

“Maybe you should.”

Danny can’t help his chuckles, turning to rest on his stomach on the bed, trying not to rub too much against the sheets but allowing himself tiny little thrusts of his hips, not enough - definitely not enough when Steve is right here and could be touching Danny, but some friction anyway. Steve’s eyes flick down to take in how Danny’s hips move a fraction, rhythmically, and he reaches out, curling a hand around Danny’s ribs and pressing his lips just above the curve of Danny’s ass, feather-like. He kisses his way up, slowly, making Danny pant against his forearm, and when Steve reaches his ear, he flicks his tongue against the earlobe, teeth tugging on it for a second.

“For the record, about what we were talking about earlier, it’s not because I don’t say it or show it that I don’t feel it. I’m working on it, okay? It’s definitely not only about sex, Danny.”

Danny turns his head towards Steve’s, their eyes meeting for a second.

“I know. But thank you, anyway. For saying that.”

"I just want to make sure you know it," Steve says a little anxiously.

Danny hasn't felt this prone to extremely sappy thoughts for some years now. Yet there's something about Steve that makes Danny want to hug the stuffing out of him, while at the same time do some horribly depraved things to him. It's a strange combination, but it works for him.

Steve lowers himself carefully over Danny's back, and the wet head of his cock drags against Danny's crack, teasing and promising in equal measures. Danny loses track of his thoughts. Steve is kissing the back of his neck, chest rubbing gently against Danny's back, curls of hair teasing his skin.

"Nnngh," he says, which is not really what he meant to say, but that's the risk one runs at trying to talk when Steve McGarrett is in full-out sexing mode. "There was lube and condoms in those bags. Did you take them out?"

Steve stops kissing him. Danny does not like this new development.

"I didn't find any lube or condoms in the bags I took in."

"Must have been in the bags I carried," Danny says.

Behind him, there is a suspicious bout of silence.

"Steve?"

"Uh. Just, um. Give me a second."

The delicious weight lifts off Danny's back; he feels its loss keenly. He turns his head to see Steve stride out of the room. It's a nice view, firm, tempting ass swaying with every movement of his hips, muscles shifting under his skin. He's around the corner before Danny can tear his eyes off it, and it's not until then that Danny realises he's resumed circling his hips into the mattress. He forces himself to stop.

Thirty seconds pass, then a minute. "What the hell are you doing out there, McGarrett?" he yells impatiently, turning to lie on his back.

Steve pads back into the room after another thirty seconds or so, carrying a familiar tube and a large cardboard box. They look--strange.

'What kept you?' Danny intends to say, but, well, an aroused Steve McGarrett walking towards you kind of tends to sap every thought from your head, he discovers.

Steve nears the bed, stopping a step or two away. Danny drags his eyes up from Steve's gorgeous, flushed cock, over his chest to his face. Steve looks sheepish.

"What?"

Steve throws the lube and condoms onto Danny's chest.

Danny yelps, twitching until he swipes them off onto the sheets. "What did you do?"

"Well, you walked in, and I couldn't wait, so I took the bags you held and I--"

"--put them in the fridge," Danny finishes with him, recollection dawning. "Oh my god, we fail so bad at actually having sex."

Something changes behind Steve's eyes, something looking very much like a challenge being accepted. It sends a thrill down Danny's spine.

"Now why would you say that?" Steve drawls, sinking his knees onto the mattress and crawling until he's settled himself between Danny's legs that have fallen open. "We're just getting started."

Danny looks up at Steve, seriously, his body goes on for miles and miles, so much skin that Danny wants to touch and lick and kiss and bite, and yeah, he’s drawing a blank, here, no reply coming to him. He just looks at Steve with wide eyes and his mouth open, his fingers closing and opening over the sheets, unable to find a single thing to say, and fuck, he hates being speechless. He admits it might not be so bad when he’s got Steve over him like this, there have been worse situations in which to be speechless.

Steve cocks his head to the side for a moment, genuinely looking worried when Danny doesn’t reply.

“Danny?”

Danny waves a hand between the two of them, reaching out and curling it around Steve’s arm, pulling him forward.

“Yes, yes, okay, let’s not just get started anymore, let’s do something about it, please.”

Steve’s back to grinning, and Danny wonders how he’s managed not to lump him over the head yet.

“I thought you were okay without sex?”

“Yeah, I’m okay without it when there’s not a 6'1'' ex-SuperSEAL naked and sweaty and gorgeous on top of me, alright? Also, said ex-SuperSEAL is also super hard, so really, we ought to do something about it. Enough of this playing around, Steven, we’ve waited long enough.”

Danny isn’t speechless anymore, which is good, because fuck, he’s good with words and he needs them, especially against people like Steve, who have all the charm and the hot genes and everything when Danny’s just - Danny. Not that he thinks he’s bad-looking, or not charming, he knows he’s both, but next to someone like McGarrett, very few men can compete.

Which is not the point. The point is, Danny’s relieved to find his words back, to look at Steve’s face change with the flow of his sentences. There’s something terribly endearing about Steve when he’s listening to Danny, with all of his attention and focus on Danny and his words. It makes Danny flush with pleasure to realize just how attentive to him Steve is.

“Okay, so. You’re okay with me - with me fucking you, right?”

“Steven, babe, Jesus Christ yes, it’s fine, I will not have a big gay freak-out on you, I want this, I want you. And I’m 34, please stop thinking I am a blushing virgin. Do you really think I wouldn’t have freaked out already if I’d never done this before?”

"I don't mean that. I mean--I'd like to, but you can fuck me, it's all right if you'd rather--"

"Steve. Read my lips. Get your cock inside my ass right this minute."

Steve swallows, looking down into Danny's determined eyes. "Okay," he breathes, reaching for the unfortunate tube of slick.

He rolls it between his hands, trying to warm it, but only succeeds in making his hands cold, Danny finds out when he reaches for it.

"Let's try with a smaller amount," he says, flicks the cap and squeezes out a gloopy dollop into Steve's palm.

Steve stares at it for a moment before he rubs it between his fingers.

"I think it's working," he says, and Danny can see it is -- the goo starts turning more to liquid the longer Steve works it.

"Try it out."

"It's still cold, though."

"It'll get warmer once it's inside me."

Steve shivers at that and rolls on his side, bracing himself on an elbow. He reaches between Danny's legs, and Danny lifts them to his chest, spreads them as wide as they'll go. The first touch of Steve's fingers is cool and Danny flinches a little, but levels Steve a look when he starts to pull his hand away.

"Don't you dare move unless it's to push in," he warns.

Steve's lips quirk a little at the corner and his hand is back, working a single digit inside Danny's body. Danny clenches around it before he forces himself to relax. Steve sinks in easily, and Danny doesn't even try to hold his groan in. Steve shivers again, Danny can feel it against his leg, the minute twitches of Steve's side against him. Steve's mouth has fallen open, his tongue sticking out at the corner in concentration, and Danny wants desperately to suck it into his mouth. They'll be plenty of time for that later.

"More," he grunts after a few minutes.

Steve complies immediately this time, pressing a second finger in. It's delicious, the now-warm lube contrasting with the still-cool one on Steve's other finger. The two digits slide around together, one warm and one cold, and when both knuckles press against Danny's prostate his back comes arching off the bed.

"Yes," he hisses between his teeth, trying to fuck himself on them, relishing the small burn as muscles long fallen into disregard are stretched open once again.

Steve grunts, wrapping his free hand over Danny's hips to keep him still. Danny pays it no heed, twisting down onto the delicious intrusion.

"Get on with it," he barks, thrusting down hard. "One more."

Steve pulls his hand away enough to add more lube, and Danny whines with need. Then he's back, cool once more; the shift in temperatures is driving Danny insane, teasing sensitive nerve endings into a frenzy. It’s been so long since he’s found himself in this position, but right now he can’t remember why, sparks of pleasure exploding all over his body, nerve-endings alight with every single touch of Steve's. His own hands are not idle, either, traveling along Steve’s chest and shoulder and face, fingers brushing along Steve’s lips to feel the tip of his tongue, moving up to feel the lines of his face.

By the time Steve pulls his fingers out of Danny, Danny is panting and way too hot, his skin constricting him, not allowing enough space for the dizzying bliss mixed with intensifying frustration that he’s feeling. His cock is painfully hard and leaking over his stomach, left untouched by Steve, which is both for the best and completely unfair. Danny manages not to whine, though, clenching his jaw as he looks at Steve rolling a condom over his cock. He hisses, and Danny grimaces.

“Cold?”

“Fuck. It’s awful.”

“C’mere.”

With fingers curled around Steve’s shoulder, Danny pulls him down, kisses him - slow and languid this time, wanting Steve to forget about the disagreeable sensation, focus on the good. He wraps his legs around Steve’s hips, and when Steve pulls away, his eyes telling Danny way too many things Steve doesn’t really know how to express in words, Danny smiles.

“C’mon, babe.”

He stops himself before he says take me, or have me, or even worse, make love to me, refusing to humiliate himself that way. He’s not really giving himself up right now; he’s given himself up to Steve a long time ago really, but he’s still got his pride, okay, he’s not going to admit it.

Steve slowly, carefully starts pushing his cock inside, stopping regularly to blow out loud breaths of air, and Danny is quite content with knowing he’s not the only one on the very edge of falling into something he’ll never get back up from. Steve is mumbling incoherently in the crook of Danny’s neck, prayers and Danny’s name and curses all mixed together nonsensically, completely endearing, and when he’s buried as far as he can go inside Danny, he stills, breathing slowly. Danny feels light-headed, his muscles squeezing around Steve, and he’s feeling so full because Steve’s so big, and it’s perfect and it feels amazing, it does, but it’ll be even better once Steve starts moving.

“Okay, babe?”

“Need a moment.”

Danny twitches a little around the intrusion; he's not trying to hurry Steve along, honestly, he just can't help himself. He loves the feel of a cock stretching him wide, always has, and it's been so long, and it's just so good he can't help his hips canting into it under Steve's weight.

"God," he grunts, feeling Steve slip an impossible fraction deeper.

"Jesus fuck," Steve gasps into his neck, breathless.

Finally, finally he starts moving, back and forth a little, gentle thrusts, working Danny loose around him. Danny throws his head back against the pillow, squeezing his eyes shut at the exquisite burn of his muscles being stretched. It’s the kind of overwhelming sensation Danny thrives for and never really gets, never really got, even when he was a kid getting into trouble in the streets of Weehawken. Even the rush of adrenaline is different, stronger, more intense with Steve moving inside him, over him, with his eyes closed tight in concentration and his jaw slack with pleasure.

When Steve hits his prostate after a sudden stronger thrust, Danny cries out, his fingers slipping against Steve’s skin as he scrambles for purchase, needing something to hold onto and not quite managing. One of his hands falls to Steve’s thigh, feeling the muscles under the silky smooth skin, and Steve moans low in his throat when Danny drags his hand up over Steve’s ass, groping for a moment. His own hips are moving in sync with Steve’s, the two of them pushing and pulling together, making their way quickly towards the edge.

Steve feels so good - Danny is a little delirious with sensations, bliss coursing through his veins like a drug, each of Steve’s thrusts a new, fresh hit, and Danny never wants to come down from the high, ever. He holds onto Steve, his head tilted back, pushed into the sheets as he moans and cries out Steve’s name, feeling Steve’s rhythm increase unsteadily, as if he’s losing it, too, pressing his grunts and curses and pleas into Danny’s skin.

His blood feels like it's burning through his body, centered on the delirious heat in his cock. He needs to be touched, needs it so much he's keening with it, and Steve's too far gone to be of any help. So Danny worms his hand between their bodies, going for it himself. The first touch of it bows his back, hips sinking down harder onto Steve, drawing him deeper. He clenches around him, and Steve moans desperately as Danny's palm stripes his cock, so fast it's almost a blur of motion. It's too much, too much, oh god, Danny can't hold it in any longer, just, he needs it right now--

It feels like his skin is exploding, flaying off with the force of his climax. His legs, wound around Steve's hips to keep him open wider, contract viciously, so much so that Steve can only move in increments, in and out with barely a twitch of his hips as Danny's muscles pulse his release around him. Steve groans desperately, shoving himself inside as fast as he can before letting out a stuttered, hoarse yell as he empties himself inside Danny, holding on for dear life.

Danny doesn't think he could move if the house was coming down over them. Steve's panting on top of him, mouthing weakly at his neck. They manage to move a little after a while, enough for Steve to dispose of the condom and for Danny to curl into Steve’s body, Steve’s face still buried in Danny’s neck.

“Still with me?”

“Mmh. Not going anywhere.”

Danny nods with the muffled, tender words that Steve presses into the curve of his neck. His smile might be a little goofy, but he honestly, really doesn’t care. He’s got this, he’s got this for the foreseeable future, and he’s not about to let go. Sure, they’ll keep on arguing and teasing each other, and probably Danny will want to punch Steve in the mouth every now and again, but so what.

“Oh, shit!”

Steve blinks his eyes open, looking up with a worried twist to his mouth after Danny’s sudden exclamation.

“What? What’s wrong? Are you okay?”

“I forgot to bring flour. I wanted to make pancakes. I make really good pancakes, Steven.”

“I’m sure. I can go out to the store later. When I can walk.”

Danny tries his best not to whine, because he really wanted them to hole themselves up in this place for the whole weekend and not have to feel the sun on their skin for any moment. Well, he didn’t fool himself that Steve wouldn’t go for a swim in the morning, but he could sleep through that. He just fails at being ready for anything.

“I didn’t - oh, fine. We’ll need sugar, too, anyway. And vanilla extract.”

“Should I get pen and paper?”

“Shut up.”

Steve grins, turning over on his back and stretching lazily, an overgrown cat with golden skin catching in the afternoon sun coming through the window. Danny cannot help how he reaches out and runs his fingers along Steve’s stomach to the dip of his hipbone, feeling Steve watch him.

“I’m going to have to up my workout regime.”

“Why?”

“Because I’m planning on keeping you around, and if I keep you around then there will always be mouth-watering cakes and pastries in my reach. If I get fat you won’t want me anymore.”

Steve has to be joking. Danny really hopes Steve is joking, because that is just ridiculous, and not just because he’s not the kind to ever let himself go enough to become fat. He could be as big as Kamekona is nowadays, it wouldn’t make Danny change his mind. The fact that Danny knows it wouldn’t happen anyway - Steve is too much of a health freak, let’s be honest, Danny’s going to have to adapt - is not the issue, though. Who knew an ex-Navy SEAL with the body of a Greek God could be self-conscious?

“You, you are a goof. I’m not kidding, babe, you’re the goofiest person I have ever met - if you get fat I won’t want you anymore, what, are you kidding me?”

Steve shoots him a quick look under his eyelashes. No, seriously. Danny sighs. His life, what is it even these days.

"I will still want you when you're 80 and gray and can't get it up anymore. What's an imperfect body compared to that, you idiot?"

Steve smiles, this sweet, slightly surprised smile, like it's more than he ever expected. It's charming and frustrating at the same time -- but if Danny wasn't willing to put in a little effort, he wouldn't be contemplating tying his life to this ridiculous man.

Steve shifts onto his side, facing Danny. His hand is ruffling the damp hair on Danny's chest, stroking the skin underneath. Danny is maybe a little in heaven.

And then of course Steve has to open his big damn mouth.

"Was that your screwed-up version of a marriage proposal?"

Danny's eyes bug out a little. Steve doesn't look freaked-out or anything, merely curious and patiently waiting for the answer. And really, what is Danny going to do with him?

"When I propose to you, you infuriating man, you will know about it, okay?"

"Hmm," Steve says, lips twitching. "Duly noted. I'll have to think of something to say back."

"You'll have to think?"

"Well, being married to you won't be all sunshine and roses. For one thing, I might have to start running 15 miles instead of the 10 I was thinking about. For another, you are just a little ray of sunshine on Monday mornings, and I will have to learn to get out of bed in a hurry."

Danny scowls ominously.

"Any other deterrents to marrying me?" he snaps.

"Deterrents? I didn't say they were deterrents. I'll just have to think of ways of adapting to them, is all."

"Why do I even find you attractive, Jesus fucking Christ. You are an asshole."

"See? Already we're learning new things about each other."

There really is no other course of action. Danny reaches behind Steve's head, tugs away his pillow and bashes him over the head with it. Steve dodges, giggling like a little kid, latches onto Danny's stomach and blows a raspberry onto the skin.

"It's like being with an overgrown 6-year-old," Danny whines, trying to smack him away. Steve just clings harder.

Eventually they separate, and even get out of bed. The beers are cold from the time spent in the fridge, and the drink feels heavenly sliding down Danny's throat. Steve's leaning onto his back, chin hooked over Danny's shoulder as he watches Danny study the contents of the fridge and cupboards for tonight's meal in lieu of pancakes, at least until they obtain the ingredients -- because they're both starving. Steve never got the lunch Danny promised him, and Danny hadn't been able to eat anything that morning from the buzz of anticipation in his gut.

There is steak, which is the easiest thing to make, at least when one throws it at Steve to manage. Meanwhile Danny gets the bag of french fries out and spills half of it on a baking tray, ready to slip into the oven when it heats.

"Salad?"

"Yeah."

They work together so seamlessly that it's a while before Danny realises they have slipped into a comfortable silence only broken by random comments on the state of the meal and what's on TV tonight. It's so soothing, natural, like they've been cooking together for years instead of hours. Steve passes him a spoon without Danny having to ask, and Danny's already handing him plates for the steaks a mere second after Steve opens his mouth to ask for them. They sit at the table, a huge bowl of crisp salad and cherry tomatoes hogging the middle, steak and fries piled onto the plates, beers at hand.

Dinner, overall, is a quiet affair. They talk about work and Grace and make plans for the three of them when she’s next staying with Danny. And afterwards, when the dishes are done and drying, they settle in front of a classic game found on a random channel, and Danny yells and grumbles and Steve laughs and mocks, and yeah. Yeah, Danny can definitely see this, for the rest of his life.

---

Epilogue

Steve looks at his reflection in the mirror, tilting his head to the side as he pulls on the sleeves of his shirt, holds onto the cufflinks for a moment. They’re his dad's, white gold and beautiful, simple, like the rest of the suit. He’s decided against the dress blues, wanting to look less like a commanding officer of the Navy today, and more like the man he is these days - a middle-school teacher. He looks at himself in the mirror -- he looks calm, not at all like the nervous wreck he feels inside.

It's not like he's nervous about marrying Danny. He's more nervous about Danny deciding he's not ready to tie himself to the 'menace' he persists in calling Steve, that he'll think better of taking all of Steve's neuroses and insecurities on, that he'd much rather find a nice lady to be a good second mom to Gracie.

All of which is perfectly ridiculous, he knows. He knows Danny loves him, that he would smack Steve in the head so hard if he had even an inkling of what Steve was thinking. And really, all Steve has to do is think about all the moments they've shared throughout the last year and a half since Danny's not-marriage proposal, the lazy weekends and frantic workdays and that hellish two months when Danny was planning the expansion of Amazing Grace to take over the space next door and turn it into an in-house cafe, not to mention the two months after that when they were putting it all in place. If they had survived that intact, still together, still unable to imagine their lives without the other in them, Steve knows full well they can take on anything and win.

Doesn't make that twisting, tight feeling in his stomach disappear. He wants this, wants to marry Danny so much he's twitchy with it, already anticipating sliding that ring onto Danny's finger, claiming him as his for the world to know. It's the only thing that would assuage the gaping need inside him at this point. He wonders if that's what Chin felt, almost two years ago now, when he married Malia in this very place; this need to make her his, to know he can keep her, barring any major screw-ups on his part.

It’s now or never - Danny will never propose again if Steve doesn’t get his ass in gear and double-time it out to the aisle. They’re walking up together, with Gracie between them, and Danny is rarely late so Steve better get a move-on. One last look in the mirror tells him he looks the part, and then he’s off.

He’s got to cross the kitchen to get to the garden entrance, and he finds Kono there, already busy with the cake she’s been asked to make for them. It’s the first one Danny’s letting her do all on her own, and the flush to her cheeks when Danny had given her a proud sort of Daddy look and told her she was in charge for his own wedding was embedded in Steve’s mind. There really wasn’t any better way for Danny to tell her how he trusted her and believed she was great at baking than this.

“Hey, you.”

Steve slides up to her side, kissing her temple lightly. She smiles at him and reaches out to straighten his tie, but Steve moves out of the way of her fingers, covered in dough.

“Maybe you should get moving, ceremony’s about to start.”

“Yeah, well, you too, Kono.”

“I’m not the one getting married, Steve. Boss will have your head if you make him think you’ve changed your mind.”

“I have no doubt he will. Don’t be late, okay? This is important.”

“Don’t use your teacher voice on me, I’ll be there in a minute. Go on now, Danny is already outside.”

Steve’s stomach drops at this comment, not in fear, but in anticipation, excitement for what’s about to happen. They’re doing this - Steve can still remember Danny’s real proposal, not the one they joked about all the time, the ‘fake’ one as Danny called it. No, for the real one, Steve had definitely known what was happening. The beach at night, the genuine look in Danny’s eyes, the seriousness of his words. To this day, Steve still believes firmly that it hadn’t been planned, but Danny keeps on telling him it had been, of course it had been prepared.

Steve smiles to himself as he leaves Kono’s side and walks outside, immediately greeted by the sun and the sound of the waves not far off, a good breeze helping him gather his thoughts. His family’s here, along with Danny’s, and Rachel and Stan, Chin and Malia, the rest of their friends scattered around. They don’t have a big wedding party, and that’s exactly how Steve wants it - he can’t even imagine inviting some of his Navy buddies - as much as he loves them, they’d ruin the event and drive Danny up the wall.

And speaking of Danny, he’s sitting near the aisle with Grace by his side, checking if the flowers in her hair are holding well enough as they talk. Steve smiles at people around but doesn’t stop until he’s reached the pair, laying a hand on Danny’s shoulder.

"Hi," he says, smiling down helplessly at him -- he can't not smile when he looks at Danny, no matter how much he's pissing him off at the time.

"Hi yourself," Danny says, grinning up at him.

"I'm gonna talk to Grandma," Grace decides, throwing them a look and skipping away up the isle where Mr and Mrs Williams are being regaled by his dad and Mary. Alice, Danny's younger sister, is chatting to Steve's mom, while Matty, Danny's brother, is talking to Chin. They have their heads together, and Steve feels a shiver of foreboding when he sees them.

"Stop frowning, your face will stick that way," Danny murmurs, coaxing Steve to sit down next to him.

"You always say that."

"Because you frown far too much."

"I do not."

"You're doing it now."

Steve wrinkles his nose at Danny, who is smiling so widely his teeth are showing in a flash of white on his tanned face.

"I just want everyone to have a good time," Steve grumbles.

"And does it look to you like they aren't?" Danny asks, waving a hand around at the laughing, chatting people milling around.

"No," Steve replies grudgingly, grabbing Danny's hand and playing with his fingers. "Your folks and mine seem to be getting along."

Danny looks like he's considering his next words carefully, but then shrugs. "You'll find out soon enough anyway. Mom and Linda have been emailing back and forth for months now, apparently. Alice said she caught Mom laughing at her computer once too often and she cornered her, and then Mom copped to everything. So I think this is more like a reunion than a first meeting for the lot of them."

Steve feels stunned--and then realises he doesn't know why he even bothers. Of course his mom would have taken it upon herself to break the ice.

"Huh," he says.

Danny looks at him suspiciously. "I notice you're not looking particularly surprised."

"It's Mom," Steve says with a shrug, like it explains everything -- which it does, really. "Pity Jenny couldn't make it."

"Well, having your first baby a month ago isn't really conductive to attending your brother's wedding across the country. It's okay, Mom will show her the pictures and Alice will tell her all the gossip."

"Speaking of," Steve says, and points discreetly to where Alice is now involved in what looks like a fascinating conversation with Max, the Biology teacher.

Danny's face clouds, and looks like it will start thundering any moment now. Steve can't help but laugh.

"She's a grown woman, Danny," he mocks, Danny's exact words when a few months back Steve had found out about Mary's boyfriend, a police officer by the name of Joseph.

Danny bares his teeth at him, not looking amused. Steve bumps his shoulder, good humour restored. He slides a hand on Danny’s thigh, resting there.

“You look good.”

“Glad you think so; I did dress up mostly for you, you know.”

“Oh, you did? Really?”

Danny leans into Steve for a moment, his forehead against Steve’s cheek.

“Yeah, really. Lord knows why, but I’m marrying you.”

“Hey, you’re the one that asked.”

“True. We should get going.”

They should - by then, everybody’s mostly seated and waiting, the official at the top of the isle standing there ready with papers and everything. Steve nods, kisses Danny’s temple lightly before moving, standing up and offering Danny a hand. They get themselves ready when Grace comes bounding towards them, grabs a hand on each side of her, and here they go.

The music they walk down the isle to is not the usual nuptial march but a brass band’s rendition of Where Angels Fear To Tread, which Kono had chosen with an ironic smile on her lips and they’d decided to go with it, damn her, they could take on a joke. Gracie gives them both a kiss when they get to the official, going to sit by her mother on the first row of seats, next to her grand-parents, Steve’s family on the other side.

“We’re gathered here today, to celebrate the union of Daniel Williams and Steven McGarrett.”

Steve zones out as the official makes his introduction speech - it’s something he’d read over to make sure it wasn’t offensive to anyone, and didn’t make any mention of God or something like that. It’s a wedding up to the point where it’s not, where it’s not in a Church and it’s a civil partnership, for those too scared to call it what it actually is.

The people there with them don't seem to care that there's a distinction, and neither does Danny. He watches his partner, in all senses of the word, watches the rare serene look on his face, the way his eyes soften when the official mentions the 'to have and to hold' part before answering with a simple 'I do'.

Steve doesn't even hear the question, too busy looking down at Danny while he speaks his own 'I do', yes, yes to everything, he doesn't even care what the question is, when it comes to Danny it will always be 'yes'.

"I now proclaim you spouses for life," the official says, and the benches behind them erupt with people cheering and clapping and shouting congratulations.

Danny's eyes are smiling when Steve leans down to kiss him, and he can't believe they're there, that Danny's ring is on Steve's finger, that Danny wears his own, that they belong to each other 'officially', not just because of the way they feel. A sharp spark of possessiveness lights Steve's gut when their lips touch, and it's a struggle not to kiss Danny wildly, as dirty as he can make it, to claim him completely, just like Danny has claimed him.

"Alright, alright, plenty of time for that later, now can we get to the booze and the cake?" Mary yells next to them, grabbing each of them by the arm and tugging them back up the isle, where people are waiting to offer their congratulations. She smacks a big kiss onto Danny's cheek before she lets him go.

"Now you're my bro, too," she says. "That gives me pestering rights right there."

"Oh god," Danny groans. Steve smirks, because Danny's reluctance couldn't be further from the truth. Danny and Mary are way too close for Steve’s liking, in a way - too easy for them to plot anything and everything against Steve. That was how Steve ended up dressed as Frank-N-Furter for Halloween last year.

To be fair, Danny had revealed himself to be wearing Rocky’s little gold shorts, later that night, when they were in the privacy of their bedroom. Steve bites his lip, remembering what he’d done to said shorts. Danny and Mary might have too many ideas on how to torture Steve, but he could give back as good as he got, and Danny could not deny how happy he was to have a sisterly figure here in Hawai’i.

After the ceremony, they all gather for drinks and food, Steve and Danny at a table surrounded by their immediate family. Since the number of guests is small, they managed to keep the tables close and everybody can hear everybody from where they’re sitting, in an unconventional, typically Danny-and-Steve way. So is the food, a mix of Hawaiian and New Jersey specialties that don’t go together, but somehow they make it work, and at the very least it gets everyone talking.

Not as much as the cake does, though. Danny hasn't seen it, because Kono had insisted and he had benevolently agreed. Steve hasn't seen it, either, but looking at it now he suspects Chin and Malia and Mary and a few of their other friends have seen it, or at least participated in the concept design, because this.

Steve loves it. He loves it more than any cake he has ever seen, because this cake is him and Danny in a nutshell. It's a three-tiered chocolate cake, but there all conventionality ends, because the decorations are nothing short of ingenious. The top and bottom tiers are etched with chemistry equations, only some of the symbols are replaced by big red hearts. The middle tier is the best one, though, in Steve's opinion -- on one side there's the recipe for the cake's base, and on the other, in big, child-like letters, are the words 'Our normal approach is useless here'. It's possibly the most apt thing any of them could have used -- because it is. Steve and Danny, there's no logic to them, there's no reason why the two of them should work like they do, but the simple truth is that they do, they work, against logic and common sense and any and all laws of the universe Steve cares to mention.

Kono is looking proud, standing behind the cart in her turquoise gown, a smile splitting her face in two. Around them, everyone is applauding, and Mary and Chin are snapping photos of everyone and the cake and Danny and Steve's beams like it's the last chance they'll ever get. It's loud, and irreverent, and silly, and Steve cannot imagine what he's done to earn all this happiness, but he's damned if he's giving any of it back.

"Shall we?" Danny says, catching his hand and wrapping it against his right, holding the knife to cut the first piece.

"Yes," Steve says simply, yes, always, yes.

They bring the knife down, fingers entwined.

 

END