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Whoo Loves You?

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It all started with a pink owl. 

I was feeling a little melancholy about how fast Grace is growing up, and missing the days when Valentine’s Day meant some goofy stuffed animal with a heart or a pink bow on it or something. Now it was much more transactional. I had a Bath & Body Works gift card and a greeting card that would embarrass her because it gushed about how proud I was and how amazing she was...you know the drill. I am proud and she isamazing, and I got all misty in the greeting card store picking it out.

I was on my way out when I saw it. Hands down, it was the dumbest looking stuffed animal I’d ever seen. It was supposed to be an owl, but it was mostly pink with pink glittery eyes and pink wings and a white belly and red beak. Embroidered in red on its belly was “Whoo Loves You?”

So I had my sappy dad moment of remembering the days when Grace would have been delighted with it and added it to the absurd collection of stuffed critters on her bed. And then I had an idea, and it was just too good to resist. I went back to the counter and bought it.

An hour or so later, it was sitting on Steve’s desk, right in the middle. I know there are security cameras all over the office suite, but I also know where all their intentional blind spots are. None of us want continuous footage of ourselves sitting in our offices, blowing our noses, eating our lunches, making phone calls, or adjusting ourselves as the day wears on.

Don’t feign shock about any of that, because we all know what we do in our offices when no one’s watching. I didn’t even mention the gross things.

The owl sat happily on Steve’s desk, a couple days before Valentine’s Day, waiting for him to come back from working out. He’s got this energy level about him after he works out that’s pretty....uh...hot. I bet he has great sex after a workout. I mean if he has a partner. And he’s not at work. At work, he’s all fresh and showered and cologned and proper, but it’s like his adrenaline is still pumping. When we’ve gotten a call in a situation like that, he’s even more gung-ho and nuts than usual.

When he came into the office, I was innocently typing away on my computer, finishing up a report on a witness interview I’d done while SuperSEAL was pumping iron, trying to dismiss that image from mind...Steve, sweaty, muscles straining... Fuck. I ran my hand over my face and tried to focus on pretending I was looking at the computer but surreptitiously watching him discover the owl on his desk. I knew he’d suspect me - not because he thought I wanted to give him Valentine love animals, but because he’d figure I could outwit the security cameras, and would have the most motive to want to yank his chain with a prank.

I’ve rarely seen Steve at a loss for what to do about something. He was totally thrown by the owl. He stood there and stared at it, not like a live grenade or a bomb or something - he knows how to handle those. He had no fucking clue what to do about that ghastly little stuffed pink thing sitting defiantly in the middle of his pristine, masculine desk. 

He finally picked it up and looked it over, like he thought examining it was going to tell him more than just looking at it. Then he did the damnedest thing. He sniffed it. He literally smelled the thing in a few places. Then he squeezed it and gave it some kind of digital exam that would have been painful and humiliating if it was a person. Finally, he just looked at it, and then this big goofy grin spread over his face and he set it against his desk lamp, so it was right there, staring him in the face, while he sat down and made phone calls. Every now and then, he’d look at it and he’d sort of grin a little. 

It was that grin that got me in trouble. There’s a little kid that still lives in Steve. He’s buried under a lot of layers of shit - trauma, military training, general bad-assery. But he’s there, and he’s the core of Steve’s soul. He’s sweet and trusting and still finds magic in the dumbest little things. Like an idiotic pink owl on his desk.

Steve didn’t ask me about the owl. In fact, he didn’t mention it at all. At first, I thought it was a mental torture trick. He really figured it was me so he was going to psych me out by not mentioning it. See if I’d crack, or bring it up first. I didn’t have a reason to go into his office that day, so there was no occasion for me to see it or bring it up in conversation. Then, I began to wonder if he was playing along. Which would mean he was waiting for more from his secret admirer.

But if he was playing along with me and he thought I was the admirer, did that mean hewanted romantic little gifts from me? The crash was going to be fucking awful if I was wrong, but if I had him figured out, wow... I sat back in my chair and let that thought sink in, then I looked across the hall. He was on the phone with someone, writing something down, and he didn’t even spare me a glance. 

That’s right, play it cool, babe. I think I’ve got your number now.

Nothing was said about the owl exactly, but later that day, when we were in the car, the not-so-subtle probing questions began.

“You didn’t see anybody go into my office before I got in, did you?”

“Just Kono dropping off the information on Feldman’s financials.” Your move.

“Kono?”

“Yeah, didn’t you find the file there?”

“It was there. Anyone else?”

“No. Why? Someone steal some of your ammo or something?”

“Somebody left something on my desk.”

“Like what?” 

“Nothing serious. It was obviously just a joke.”

“What was it?” I’m dying to hear how you describe that thing.

“It was...like a Valentine thing. Gag gift, I guess,” he said, shooting a pointed look in my direction, just briefly taking his eyes off the road. 

“Must’ve been a sex toy or something, since you won’t tell me what it was,” I said.

“It wasn’t a sex toy. That’s sick.”

“Why is it sick? You don’t like sex toys? What are you now, a vice cop?”

“You play with sex toys?” he asked, his eyes off the road now long enough to draw a couple of blaring horns to get him back in the appropriate lane of traffic.

“Not by myself, no.” Really not with anyone else, either, but I’d have admitted to dressing up like a French maid right about then just to freak him out like that. 

“With somebody else?” he asked, still sounding shocked to the point of being horrified...or aroused, I’m not sure which one was giving him aneurysm face at the moment, but I hadn’t had this much fun since the first time I took the new Camaro out on the back roads and actually drove it myself to see how fast it would go.

“Don’t you think that’s a little personal?”

He looked like a deer in the headlights for a moment, and then he turned back to watching the road. 

“You’re right. Forget it. What you and Amber do for fun is none of my business.”

“Who said anything about Amber?”

“You’re seeing someone else?”

“Not yet, but I’ve got my eye on somebody.”

“Really? Who?”

“Someone connected to work, so I don’t really want to say anything just yet.”

“You think I’m gonna go tell her, whoever it is?”

“It’s not a her.”

“WHAT?” 

There was a squeal of tires as he barely missed plowing into the rear end of the car ahead of us at the stop light. There’s something sexual in that statement, but I didn’t have time to sort that all out right then. 

“I should have known you’d be all hung up about it.”

“I’m not all hung up. I’m just...surprised.” 

He was fucking freaked out. His hands were clutching the wheel, he was staring fixedly out the windshield now, and I thought I detected a fine sheen of sweat on that perfect forehead of his. I’d either just destroyed our relationship or I’d made the first move on him. I wasn’t sure which it was yet.

“I’ll let you know if I ask him out or not.”

“Yeah, okay,” he said, and he sounded actually kind of sad. He really didn’t put together the stuffed owl with me suddenly revealing I was interested in a guy connected to work? I’ve seen Steve’s disappointed face. He thought I was interested in some other guy at work and he was disappointed.

The next gift was gonna have to be better than a stuffed owl.

********

The next gift I planted for Steve was a lot nicer and more romantic. I was putting him through the paces, after all, so he deserved something for his trouble. I was still a little stunned he hadn’t put the fact I was interested in a male co-worker together with the fact he had a secret admirer. I’d spent more than awhile awake, staring at the ceiling, trying to decided if he was yanking my chain now, and he really had it all figured out. 

Anyway, gift number two was cologne. Really good stuff. The expensive stuff you get robbed for when you buy it last minute at the counter in the fancy department store instead of planning ahead and buying it online for half the price. Steve never smells like he’s been marinated in the stuff, but he always smells good. So I picked something I thought would smell good on him, that I couldn’t remember seeing at his place, put it in a red foil gift bag with a big heart embossed on it, stuck a pouf of tissue paper in it, and then put it in a plain paper bag and sealed it, and hired a messenger service to deliver it. I knew he’d interrogate the delivery person, but I told the company that under no circumstances was their delivery person to tell the recipient that information. Hopefully they wouldn’t share my name with the actual delivery person so that any form of torture Steve might use wouldn’t break him. 

It was all a moot point because it was sitting on his desk when we got back to the office from a long, tiring day. The delivery person had obviously done his or her job and made a clean getaway. Chin, Kono, and Grover had been out with us on the drug bust we'd just completed, so I knew security was in for a vigorous questioning. When I went into my office, I did my best to covertly watch Steve. The bag was sitting in the middle of his desk, where the owl had been originally. The owl in all its pink absurdity was still sitting against his desk lamp. 

Then he just pushed it aside and sat back in his chair and rubbed his forehead like he had a headache. He probably did after getting his head sort of bounced off a wall while he was fighting with one of the perps. It was a classic "you should see the other guy" situation - the perp was in the ER - but Steve still looked miserable. Willing to risk missing him opening the bag, which he seemed disinclined to do, I went down to the vending room and got some ice in a sandwich bag and returned with it to Steve's office.

"How's the head?" I asked, approaching his desk.

"I'll live. What's that?" he asked, gesturing at the ice.

"Put this on the back of your head." I held it out toward him.

"I'm okay, thanks." He didn't take the ice bag. 

"Don't be so stubborn." I walked around behind his chair and held the ice on the spot I figured took the worst hit. "What's in the bag?" I asked casually.

"It was here when I got here. I haven't opened it yet."

"Maybe it's from your secret admirer," I said, still holding the ice in place.

"Yeah, maybe." He reached back and took over holding the ice.

"Who do you think it is?"

"I don't know," he said. He couldn't have sounded more bored if he tried. "Who cares? It's a joke anyway."

"Why do you say that? I mean, yeah, that owl's a little hokey, but so is Valentine's Day."

"Think about it, Danny. Whoever put this stuff in here knows when I'm not in the office and can get access to the office suite. That's pretty much one of the team, so it's Chin, Kono, or Grover...maybe Jerry if he has help...waiting to get a big laugh on Valentine's Day." 

I felt like an asshole. He sounded like some combination of hurt and disappointed and defeated. You wouldn't expect a guy like Steve to ever be lonely or insecure when it comes to love or finding someone to be with, but he'd been through a lot in the last year or so, and maybe he was a little more fragile inside than I'd anticipated. 

"At least open it. Maybe it's something nice," I said.

"Okay," he agreed, pulling the bag toward him and opening the top of it. He took out the gift bag, pulled out the tissue, and took out the cologne. There was a little note card attached to it. "This is going to smell great on you," he read. 

"That's nice stuff," I commented. 

"Yeah, it is." He cast a glance around the office. No one else seemed to be watching us. Kono was in her office, but she was on the phone and not looking our way. Grover was over at HPD talking with one of his old buddies on the SWAT Team, and Chin was at the computer running checks on a couple of the guys we’d rounded up in the drug bust.

“Kind of expensive for a joke.”

“I s’pose.” He put it back in the bag and set it aside. “You make your big date yet? The clock’s ticking, pal.”

“Not yet. I’m not even sure he’s interested in guys.”

“I’ve known you for four years and I didn’t know you were.”

“It’s not guys. It’s him. He’s different.”

“You aren’t gay then?”

“No. I was married.”

“You wouldn’t be the first gay man who ever was.”

“I haven’t dated guys before, but he’s different. Special.” Let me get out my baseball bat and hit you over the head with the hint, genius.

Steve stood up and tossed the ice bag in the trash as he headed for the door. 

“Well, he’s a lucky guy, Danno. I hope it works out,” he said, leaving me standing there, leaving his Valentine gifts, not bothering to tell me where he was going. 

“Everything okay?” Kono asked, sticking her head in the door. 

“I guess. He just left...not sure where he’s going.”

“It’s almost six. I’m gonna head out myself pretty soon.” She paused, like she wanted to say something else but wasn’t sure how.

“What?”

“How long are you going to wait before you come clean about that?” she asked, gesturing at the owl and the cologne. “I hate to tell you this, brah, but I think he’s going to be kind of hurt when he finds out it’s a joke.”

“What makes you say that?” I didn’t even bother denying it was me. It was kind of a relief that someone had it figured out.

“Danny, there’s a pink owl with pink glittery eyes still sitting in the middle of his desk. For a little while after he got it, he was all smiles, and then something changed and all of a sudden he’s sullen and back in the dumps again. He hasn’t been the same since everything that happened with Wo Fat...thinking his dad was alive again. Just don’t string him along too much longer or make fun of him too much when you spring the joke.”

“I guess you’re right. I thought he’d figure out I was behind it, or that I was bluffing.”

“About what?” she asked, frowning.

“I told him there was a guy connected to work I wanted to date.”

“That’s pretty cold, even for man-teasing,” she said, shaking her head. “Ouch.”

“Why would he care about that?”

“You have to ask?” She looked at her watch. “I gotta go. I’m meeting Adam for dinner.”

“Yeah, okay. See you tomorrow.” 

********

On the way home from work, I kept thinking about what Kono said. It was nothing I didn’t already know. We’d both had an awful year: me dealing with Matty’s death, Steve dealing with his father’s death all over again, not to mention getting over the last torture session with Wo Fat. The thing is, I wasn’t so sure he had gotten over it. He seemed more introverted and moody than usual, like he’d never shaken off the funk from that trauma. Sometimes I worried that the drugs had affected him permanently, because he didn’t seem the same. But then maybe we’d all just come to count too heavily on Steve going through awful things and picking up where he left off like nothing happened. 

I made a U-turn in the middle of rush hour traffic that would have curled Steve’s hair and sped back in the opposite direction. Enough was enough.

********

I didn’t know how long I sat in the living room just staring into space. I know the shadows were getting longer and the room getting dimmer, my bottle of beer had given up on sweating and was now just sort of room temperature swill. 

Danny was interested in some guy and it wasn’t me. Danny could be interested in a guy, but apparently, not in me. I wondered if Grace could actually wallow in such a pathetic session of unrequited love self-pity at her age as I was doing now. I kept going over in my mind all the little things he’d said or done over the years that made me think maybe someday we’d have a chance, but there were just as many things that made me think we didn’t. Danny had been so in love with Rachel for so long, then he was so awkward and nerdy around Gabby that it seemed obvious he had a thing for her...what the hell was I supposed to think? Not once had he shown any interest in guys. 

Not once did he show any interest in me.

Maybe that wasn’t fair. Danny hugged me easily, he took care of me when I was sick or hurt enough that I couldn’t take care of myself, and he sat up with me at night and kept me calm while the drugs worked their way through my system after the whole Wo Fat thing. I had some pretty freaky dreams and he was always there, even when I tried not to let on that I needed him or wanted him there. Danny loved me. I knew that. He’s the best friend I ever had, the only one who never lies to me or screws me over or leaves me. 

I just never thought...I loved him practically at first sight. But there was no reason to think...

I got up and took the beer to the kitchen and set it on the counter. It seemed wasteful to throw it out, but I didn’t want it, and it was flat and room temperature. So I left it there and decided to go out for a run. Maybe it would clear my head. If not, it might be the last straw in a long day that would tire me out enough to go to bed and forget the whole fucking mess until morning. Until I’d have to go back to work and hear about the guy Danny asked out for Valentine’s Day who wasn’t me.

********

I rarely knocked or rang the bell at Steve’s place, but sometimes he actually locked his front door now, so I had no choice. This was one of those nights. I rang the bell, waited, knocked, rang it again, but he wasn’t answering. That worried me a little since his truck was out front. Shifting the box I was carrying to my left arm, I dug in my pocket for my keys and used his house key to open the door. The house was mostly dark except for a dim light in the kitchen. 

“Steve? Hey, Steve, you home?” I hollered, belatedly thinking that I was being as stupid as most people who go into someone’s house to check on them because they’re worried. Typically if you’ve been murdered or otherwise rendered helpless, you don’t answer. You also don’t answer if you’re not there. 

I set the box on the couch and took a walk through the house, but there was no sign of him anywhere. He wasn’t outside, either. 

I dialed his cell and waited a few seconds until I got a response.

“Yeah, Danny,” he said, but he sounded out of breath.

“Where are you?”

“I went out for a run,” he replied. “Did we catch a case?”

“No, I’m at your place. I didn’t see you anywhere...I got worried...your truck’s out front.”

“Yeah, well, I’m fine. I’ll be back in about ten or fifteen minutes. Everything okay?”

“Yeah, sure. I’ll hang around.”

“Okay. See ya in a few,” he said, breaking the connection. 

This was even better. I had time to set things up. 

********

I’d almost overdone it on the run, but it had its desired effect. I was tired and ready to call it a night by the time I got back to the house. I went into the kitchen to get a bottle of water out of the fridge and called out to Danny. The house was dim and silent, almost like he’d left again. It had taken me a little over twenty minutes to get home since I slowed down on that final leg of the journey, but I didn’t think he’d be that impatient he wouldn’t wait an extra five minutes. 

“Hey, Danno, where are you?” I hollered as I walked into the living room. I froze when I saw a vase with roses in it sitting on my coffee table. There were four large red roses in the vase, and a card propped up against it. 

I opened the card, thinking I was kind of pathetic because my heart was pounding and my hands weren’t too steady. If this was a joke, it was gonna kill me. The card was white with a big red metallic heart on it. I opened it, and all that was inside was Danny’s writing, no corny pre-printed verse.

Steve,
One rose for every year we’ve been together. Busy Saturday night? Because it’s only you, babe. If the answer is yes, join me upstairs.
Love,
Danny
(The one WHOO loves you...)


I'd suspected him at first, but he'd done a pretty convincing acting job to deflect me, and when he went off on that whole thing about this other guy at work he was interested in? I lost it. It was a blatant clue that he was interested in me, but the idea that he was interested in another guy that way made me see red like never before. I didn’t say much about it, but I’m not sure I could have handled seeing some other guy touch him the way I wanted to touch him without taking that guy’s head off. The whole thought of it obliterated my higher thinking skills until I found myself fighting off fantasies of beating the shit out of some faceless love interest of his and dragging Danny back to my cave.

I was torn between having everything I wanted and wanting to make him pay for putting me through two days of pure hell. 

Then I thought about what could be waiting for me upstairs, and the last two days seemed pretty unimportant by comparison. I took the steps two at a time until I made it to the bathroom. It was lit by enough candles to burn the house down, but that’s not what got my attention. Danny was standing there, towel wrapped low around his hips - and I mean low - I could see the promise of what lay beneath the towel. He was holding another rose. He held it out toward me.

“This one is for our fifth year, because it’s gonna be better than the last four put together,” he said. I took the rose.

“So I’m the guy at work you were interested in?” I asked.

“About that...I was just yanking your chain--”

“Good,” I said, taking him by the shoulders and pulling him against me, “because I don’t share, and if another guy messes with you, I’m gonna mess with him. In bad ways.”

“Neanderthal animal,” Danny replied, laughing softly.

“Don’t forget it,” I added, and then I kissed him. There was a good four years’ worth of pent up sexual frustration in that kiss, along with a nice dose of love and longing and thinking he could never be mine. And now he was and I was kissing him and he was kissing back...I was never gonna let him go. My hands were roaming all over him, finally following the curve of his back to his ridiculously perfect ass, feeling the towel fall away and getting my hands full of him. He had one hand up my back and another down my shorts and we were doing this awkward mating dance that was some combination of humping and caressing until we almost fell over. 

He pulled my t-shirt over my head and I kicked off my shoes and took off my shorts. Then we were back at it, hands everywhere, until he pulled back to take a breath. He looked so fucking good there in the gold light of the candles...

He turned on the water in the shower, and I followed him under the spray. I’d have followed him anywhere right about then. But he was slowing things down. I was out of breath - more than I had been running - overheated, and getting hard. 

“Cool your jets, babe. We’re gonna take our time, do this the right way.”

“There was something wrong with that?” I asked, sliding my hand down and cupping his balls. 

“Shit,” he muttered, his forehead landing somewhere on my shoulder. And then it occurred to me what had been wrong with that we were doing. What we were doing now. I eased off working him over with my hand and looked into his eyes. 

“I love you, Danno,” I said, and I put all the emotion I could into those words. As much as I wanted my hands on every part of him, wanted to have wild, hot sex with him until we couldn’t do it anymore...I wanted him to know how much I loved him. Because all that desire was all about that. I wanted to do all that with him because I loved him and I knew how much he loved me. I knew when we were old and bent and frail and taking sponge baths together, he’d still love me like that and when I looked into those blue eyes of his, I’d still see it there. 

“I love you, Steven.” He kissed my chest, right over my heart. I touched the back of his head, kissed the top of it, held him close, kissed his cheek, his jaw, his neck, his shoulder... When our lips met again it was gentle, deep, prolonged...his tongue against mine, unhurried, passionate but not urgent because we had each other, finally, and there was no reason not to savor the perfection of that. 

“Tell me you’re mine, Danny,” I whispered in his ear. I didn’t mean to say it but there it was. If he wasn’t mine for sure, forever...I couldn’t live like that. 

“I’m yours, babe, always,” he whispered back, kissing me again. 

“Come on, let’s move on to the bed,” I said, catching his eyes and then we both smiled, like we were sharing a secret. It was a secret now, personal, intimate, just the two of us. But I wanted the whole package with Danny. I wanted to marry him, mix all our stuff up together, and live with him forever, until I died. I didn’t want to miss a minute of him. A minute that could be “us.”

He had candles in the bedroom, too. I guess he brought them with him, because God knows I didn’t have that many candles in my house during the last hurricane. It was romantic and magical and I wanted to tell him that, but somehow I just couldn’t find the words. Maybe talking about something as mundane as candles was beyond my grasp at the moment. There were rose petals on the bed. Once in a while my finger would brush over one, but I wanted to tell him that I’d rather touch his skin, feel my thumb rub over nipple and make it hard, than feel a thousand rose petals. He was lying there on his back, I was on top of him, kissing him, caressing him, tasting him, and he was letting me do it. 

I pressed my face into the curve of his neck and inhaled. I kissed my way down his chest until I took one of his nipples in my mouth and sucked it. I knew I’d remember his gasp and the touch of his hand on the back of my head for the rest of my life. I wanted him so bad...wanted to slip inside him and make love to him. His legs were around me, and we were working up some good friction, but that was so much, so soon... Still, I wanted him like I’d never wanted anyone else, ever, and while I kissed my way down his hairy belly to his navel and teased him with my tongue, I let my fingers stray up his hip and around on his butt until I could get them in his crack, tease him more assertively with my finger. 

If he didn’t want me there, he was doing a good job of faking me out. His head was back on the pillow, his eyes were closed, his lips parted while he moaned softly and bore down on my finger until it slipped a little inside. 

“I want to make love to you, baby,” I whispered in his ear, keeping my finger where it was.

“Sure hope so,” he replied, grinning at me, pulling me down for kisses, one hand in my hair, the other running up my back in a caress that gave me chills. And then it ran back down my back until he grabbed my ass.

I hoped there was something usable in my night stand drawer. It wasn’t like my sex life was the stuff of legends lately. There was some KY buried at the back of the drawer along with a few condoms. The last time I’d used the KY, ironically, I was thinking about Danny and trying to make myself happy. Now here we were, and I didn’t really know how to make him comfortable. I wasn’t very experienced with going in the back door, and the last thing I wanted to do was hurt him. 

I knew he needed to be slicked up pretty good in there, and stretched out a bit, so I worked on that. I took my time, getting him nice and slippery, trying to get him used to my finger. He was making some good little noises, kissing me and nibbling at my neck and my ear, so I kept doing what I was doing, then added another finger in there, and started really working on him so he’d be ready for me. I was about as hard as I could be without coming, so all I had to do was get myself ready without triggering the fireworks before I was even inside him. 

“Relax, babe,” he said, sounding a little amused. I realized then I was concentrating so hard I was frowning, my brows drawn together in intense focus.

“I don’t want to hurt you,” I said honestly. 

“You’re not gonna do that.” He kissed me. “Put your raincoat on before you finish without me,” he joked, and I laughed. “We’re just gonna make love and it’s gonna be fine, so relax, okay?”

“Yeah, okay,” I agreed, kissing him, holding him in my arms again, feeling all the beautiful sensations of his body against mine. 

I got myself ready and used plenty of slippery stuff, and lined myself up with his center. I gently pushed in, and it felt tight and slick and amazing. I gasped, I couldn’t help that. It was taking everything I had not to push in more, but I had to let him breathe and adjust. Then I eased in some more and he groaned a bit, but he didn’t sound too unhappy with how things were going. 

“It’s okay, babe, want you in there,” he managed, though he sounded strained. I eased in the rest of the way, and we lay there together, joined, as close as two humans can get. I didn’t think I could love Danny any more than I did before, but somehow, I did. 

I moved slowly, gently and, at first, he just stayed still and let me do it. I knew he was really adjusting, really feeling good, when he started moving with me, and we found our rhythm. I didn’t have to think about it and worry about it anymore. We just moved together, and the feeling was incredible. Every time he made a sound of pleasure, I fell in love with him more. I kissed him, touched him, held him close and made love to him like I’d never made love to anyone else. I felt every stroke in my heart and my soul, every move mattered, and we worked our way up to an amazing, intense conclusion that had us both shouting, gasping, swearing, kissing, and finally lying there, spent, exhausted, and wrapped around each other. 

I didn’t want to give up and ease out of him, but I finally did. It wasn’t so bad; once I did that, it was easier to hold him close and wrap my leg around his and kiss him and run my fingers into his hair and feel his heart beat against mine. 

He reached up and touched my face, his fingertips lightly skimming my cheek. 

"Everything okay?" I asked him, kissing him again. I couldn't get enough of being able to do that whenever I felt like it. Danny kissed like he did everything else, with passion and energy and flair. 

"Yeah, it's all good," he said, kissing me back. "So what're we gonna do for Valentine's Day?" he asked, grinning. "Gonna be kind of hard to top this."

"Let's go out someplace really nice. Tablecloths and candles," I said. "Get all dressed up." I kissed him some more. "So we can come home and take it all off."

"Sounds nice." 

"I want all that with you, Danny." 

"So does that mean you're gonna be my Valentine?"

"That's what it means, sweetheart." I kissed him again. 

"I was thinking for maybe the next fifty years or so," he said, nuzzling and kissing my neck, his hand slipping around my hip and over my ass. 

"At least that long," I agreed. 

We spent the rest of the night sealing the deal.

********