Danny walked in to his drab apartment and flipped on the light, tossing his car keys in a dish near the door. He smiled when he really stopped to notice it. Grace had proudly presented him with it when she was in the first grade, the product of an art class project. It was lopsided, the color was a weird mottled pink and purple that hadn’t quite come together just right in the finishing process, but seeing it always cheered him up.
He shouldn’t have needed cheering up. He’d spent a wonderful evening with Grace at the father-daughter dance. She looked beautiful and she was thrilled with her dress and even his dancing skills. And, shortly before that, he’d cheated death. He and Steve had both cheated it. That bomb could have just as easily gone off and they’d both be spread all over the street. Max would have a two-person jigsaw puzzle to put together.
He took a step back and reached for his gun when he saw a tall figure standing in his living room.
“Whoa, Danny, it’s me,” Steve said quickly.
“What the...are you trying to get killed?”
“I’m sorry. I should have said something sooner.”
“Where have you been? Some kind of fancy fundraiser or something you didn’t mention?” Danny asked. Steve looked good. He looked more than good. He was devastating in his dress blues.
“You look nice,” Steve said, gesturing in his direction.
“Thanks. I guess that means you approve of my wardrobe choice for the dance.”
“Did you take pictures?”
“You have to ask?” Danny replied, laughing, pulling out his phone and finding the beginning of the pictures he’d taken. Most of them were of Grace, a couple of them included her friends she wanted pictures with, and there were a couple of the two of them together they’d gotten others to snap for them.
“She looked beautiful, Danny. Hard to believe she’s growing up so fast.”
“Yeah, I know. Don’t say that,” Danny said, smiling. “I mean, I don’t mind as long as she’s only dancing with me. It’s when she starts hanging out with other guys that we’re gonna have problems.”
“Hold onto your hat, buddy. She’s gonna be branching out before too much longer.”
“So what’s with the monkey suit? Not that you don’t clean up nice,” Danny added.
“Thanks. I wore it for you.”
“Excuse me?” Danny asked, frowning as he took two beers out of the refrigerator. While he’d been taking the beverages out, Steve had turned on the stereo. The first strains of Nat King Cole’s Unforgettable was playing. He liked old standards as much as the next guy, but this was getting...strange.
“I spent some time thinking.” He took the bottle of beer Danny handed him, but he set it down on the coffee table. “You can go ahead and laugh at this if you want, but all I kept coming back to when I thought of you at that dance was that I’d like to dance with you, too.”
“You want to what with me?” Danny asked, raising his eyebrows.
“It’s okay. This was a bad idea. Keep the CD...I think Sinatra’s on it somewhere.” Steve headed for the door.
“Wait a second!” Danny grabbed his arm. “You’re gonna have to slow down a little and let me catch up. Whatever’s going on with you, you said you’ve been thinking about it...well, give me a chance. This is the first I heard of it.”
“Just forget it and let me get my foot out of my mouth with a little dignity, okay?” Steve asked, his hand on the doorknob.
“A minute ago you wanted to dance with me, and now you can’t get away from me fast enough. Which one is it?”
“What do you think?”
“I think you’re crazy, but that’s nothing new. And I kind of think I wouldn’t mind...dancing with you, either.”
“I’m glad to know you could tolerate the idea.”
“Hey, everybody likes to get in line to tell me what a crappy dancer I am, you included. This kind of threw me.”
“I was teasing you, Danno.”
“So the offer’s off, now?”
“No, it still stands, if you’re interested,” he said, turning to face Danny. It touched Danny’s heart that for all that Steve had faced in his life and his career, there was actually fear in his eyes at this moment. Danny’s feelings and his responses were so important that Steve was actually afraid of what they would be.
"Can you start that song again? I like it."
"Sure," Steve said, seeming relieved to have something useful to do to break the tension. He moved the CD back to the beginning. Danny moved closer, letting Steve position himself to lead. He wasn't sure he'd always let Steve have his way and lead when they danced, but since it was his idea and he'd obviously died a thousand deaths with jitters over it, Danny decided to let this part go smoothly.
You're already thinking this is going to be a thing that happens more than once?
If he was going to do this, he was going to let himself go into it full on. As they started to sway to the music, he held Steve close and put his head on Steve's shoulder. He felt the answering press of Steve's arm around him, felt Steve's cheek against his hair. They stayed that way a while, just being close. Danny wondered if Steve could possibly know just how right this felt, and that Danny had never dared let his mind stray this far, to think about what it would be like if their relationship went that way.
He had to smile at the Sinatra song that came next.
I practice every day to find some clever lines to say
To make the meaning come through
But then I think I'll wait until the evening gets late and I'm alone with you
The time is right, your cologne fills my head, the stars get red and, oh, the night's so blue
And then I go and spoil it all by saying something stupid like "I love you"
He hoped the choice of that song wasn't accidental; that it was Steve's somewhat passive-aggressive way of saying the words, testing them, before he had to risk an outright declaration. It wasn't like they hadn't both said it, and didn't mean it, but then they weren't dancing together at the time.
"Steve?" he said softly.
"If you want to say something stupid, you can give it a shot anytime."
"What do you think my odds are of it working?" Steve pulled back so they could look at each other. Just then, Sinatra started in on an up-tempo version of The Way You Look Tonight. Danny wasn't sure if it was even conscious on his part or just feeling the music, but he started moving with the new rhythm, and Steve got this big smile on his face and went with it. Before he knew it, they were dancing to the music, cracking each other up when Steve decided he should spin Danny at least once under his arm.
"They're pretty damn good," Danny said, grinning. The next song that played seemed like it was written for them.
Why do I do just as you say, why must I just give you your way
Why do I sigh, why don't I try to forget
It must have been that something lovers call fate
Kept me saying: "I have to wait"
I saw them all, just couldn't fall - 'til we met
It had to be you, it had to be you
"So that's what's wrong with me, huh? Why I put up with all your crazy stunts?" Danny teased.
"You...? No way, Danno. It's me. I'm the one on the tough end of that situation," Steve argued.
I wandered around, and finally found the somebody who
Could make me be true, and could make me be blue
And even be glad, just to be sad - thinking of you
"I can see how you might pine for me in stoical silence," Danny quipped as they went back to their slower pace, dancing close.
"I'm stoically pining for you? Been reading too many Harlequin romances in your spare time, buddy?"
Some others I've seen, might never be mean
Might never be cross, or try to be boss, but they wouldn't do
For nobody else gave me a thrill - with all your faults, I love you still
It had to be you, wonderful you, it had to be you
"No, now see, that's me, and all the stuff I put up with because I love you."
"So what are all these faults you overlook?" Steve joked, holding Danny close, keeping them swaying. They were moving to the music, the stress not just gone, but obliterated. Danny couldn't remember having this much fun dancing with anyone else besides Grace, and that was a happy proud dad moment, not a moment so romantic and sweet and full of promise like this one. Steve's rhythm faltered and they were suddenly still. "Because you what?"
Danny toyed with giving Steve a hard time, making him say what he came there to say, but he looked so hopeful and like he was so in love with Danny at that moment that Danny let him off the hook.
"I love you. You heard me."
"I love you, too...but not like we've said it before. Like this." With that, Steve kissed him. It was typical of Steve - action without hesitation, just striding in where angels fear to tread. But it was a soft, sweet kiss with just the barest hint of tongue. Danny responded to him immediately. This wasn't a time to hesitate, and Steve's lips against his felt too good to deny. When they parted, Steve smiled, and let out an almost audible sigh of relief. "I figured we'd either end up doing that, or I'd have managed to mess up the best relationship I ever had."
"You brought a CD with a bunch of Sinatra songs on it, so you had to know you were on the right track there. But what made you start off with Unforgettable?"
"You're gonna laugh."
"Try me." Danny touched Steve's cheek. He had the rest of their lives to tease him mercilessly for all kinds of things, but never now, or for this.
"We were in the car...on a long drive to go interview that witness in the Feldman case, and you were looking for something on the radio and you stopped on a station that had old standards on it. You said you liked that song, we both agreed we did...you sang along with it."
"I'm not sure you were even thinking about it, and it wasn't very loud, but you were singing along with it, and...I liked your voice."
"Really you were singing, or really that I liked it?"
"Well, either one, but you liked my singing?"
"You have a nice singing voice. I never forgot it. So I guess that makes it..."
"Unforgettable," Danny said, chuckling. Steve laughed softly then, too. "Maybe you oughtta play it one more time." Steve set the CD back to the beginning.
As they swayed to the music, Danny sang along with the lyrics, holding Steve close again. He could feel Steve relaxing against him, just holding him the way you hold a lover you know is yours. He knew someday, when they were both old and gray, this would remain one of the most unforgettable moments of their crazy, unpredictable romance.