Step 1: Introduce yourself
Steve settled at the bar and nodded to the bartender. The kid was new, not the usual guy Steve was used to seeing.
“Beer,” he said, “whatever’s on tap.”
It had been a long few days, and now that the adrenaline was winding down he was beginning to feel the aches and pains that came with tackling bad guys and dodging bullets. Insane antics, Danny had called them, several times over the last few days. Now he just needed to let off some steam, lose a little control, before he could sort himself out again.
Steve glanced down the bar, instinctively taking in any possible threats and looking at the prospects. His gaze swept over the cute blond a few seats down from him. She was high maintenance, though, from the arrogant tilt of her chin, and looking for more than he was offering. There was a brunette a little further down who had potential. Steve smiled at her, testing the waters, satisfied when she sent a hooded, sultry look back at him as she flicked her hair over her shoulder. The movement drew his gaze past her, to the man at the end of the bar.
He was tall, tanned and extremely handsome, even with the shadows in his eyes and the defeated slope of his shoulders. Steve knew it was a bad idea, that this man was as deeply wounded as he was. The man’s gaze met his and heat flared between them. Of course, Steve had never let a potential volatile situation deter him from his goal and he was still running on the high that he didn’t have to hide doing this now. He took a long pull of his beer and jerked his head to the back door. The man raised an eyebrow then shrugged and rose to follow him. The man’s movements were both purposeful and graceful, and Steve grew more confident with his choice.
“Marine?” the man asked as Steve opened the door and gestured him through.
Steve wasn’t too surprised that the man had him pegged as military. The second thing Steve had noticed, after the attractiveness, was that he’d had training. Not military, but definitely something, probably law enforcement.
“SEAL,” he replied. Some kind of tension seemed to unwind in the other man and his eyes danced with humor that made him look lighter, freer.
“Come on, sailor-boy,” he said, cheeky grin quirking his mouth in a way that Steve found very distracting. The man paused, smile slipping as he gave Steve a piercing look. “Are you building a boat in your basement?”
“No,” Steve answered, wondering if maybe he should have gone with the pretty brunette.
“No. Just a ‘74 Mercury Marquis.”
The man’s smile returned, slow and sure and he hooked his finger in Steve’s belt and pulled him closer. Steve’s hands went to the man’s belt, deftly working to undo the buckle. Something came loose and Steve was surprised to find a knife in his hands.
The man’s smile was rueful and tinged with grief. “Old habits die hard.”
Steve knew all about raw nerves, so he smiled himself, bright and charming.
“That the only concealed weapon you carrying?” he asked, which startled a laugh from the other man.
“Guess you’ll have to do a thorough search to find out.”
Steve was more than willing to comply with that.
The other man paused before finally settling on “Tony”. It even sounded like it might even be his real name. Steve eased a thigh between Tony’s and pressed forward, crowding Tony against the wall.
“Nice to meet you, Tony.”
Step 2: Get to know him better
Steve glanced surreptitiously to the doorway. It was still too early for the others to arrive, but he didn’t really want anyone surprising him when what he was doing wasn’t strictly legal. Still, there was something off about Tony, something dark and dangerous in his past, that Steve couldn’t risk not exploring. There was a lot more to Tony than met the eye, and even if that was usually the case with one-night stands, Steve couldn’t ignore it because he’d had enough enemies catching him off guard recently. Especially ones masquerading as friends.
He brought up the information on the display and couldn’t help the blink that betrayed his surprise. Ex-cop, ex-special agent, commendations galore, and a recommendation from the Secretary of the Navy. What was a city cop and D.C. agent, who should be well on his way to the top, doing unemployed in Hawaii? Steve would suspect burnout, but as haunted and frayed around the edges as Tony was, he didn’t have that utterly desperate, hopeless quality of most burnouts.
Tony was a mystery and Steve hated mysteries, at least ones he didn’t have the answers to. So he was just going to have to solve this one.
Step 3: Take him somewhere special
They were investigating a high profile murder when Steve got another opportunity to see Tony, even if it wasn’t exactly how he’d planned it.
Their suspect had used the opportunity to point the finger at the unemployed haole who’d taken up residence in a reasonably well-to-do neighbourhood, insinuating that he was clearly up to something bad. Steve didn’t believe it for a moment, but Danny insisted that they followed up all possible leads and Steve really just wanted another chance to try to unravel the mystery of Tony DiNozzo.
“Mr DiNozzo,” Steve greeted as he sat across the interrogation room table.
“Usually people who know me as well as you do, Commander, call me Tony,” he said, meeting Steve’s gaze steadily. Steve kept his expression blank, he had a role to play after all, but he couldn’t help but be a little amused that Tony had researched him as well, and from the way Tony smirked he was sure the man read his reaction clearly.
“So, Tony, how many times have you been investigated for murder now? Twice?” Steve asked, leaning forward.
“Three times, actually. Although, from where this looks to be going, I suppose I should make that four,” Tony said, matching his posture.
“But never charged.”
“What can I say, I’m completely innocent.” There was definitely a teasing light in Tony’s eyes now.
“Or just very, very good.”
Tony’s smirk widened.
“You’d be a better judge of that, I’m sure.”
“What brought you to Hawaii?” Steve asked, changing the topic, because now all he could think about was what happened in the alley and exactly how good Tony really was.
“Sun, sand, surf, hot babes, what’s not to like.” Tony’s smile was charming, but something had closed off in his eyes. There was a story there, about why he left NCIS, and why he chose Hawaii, but Steve knew he wasn’t likely to get that story now. Certainly not in an interrogation room, where Steve was supposed to have the power and authority. “Well, except for the occasional accusation of murder, but I got those when it was cold, grey and snowing, too.”
“And how are you supporting your love of sun, sand, surf and hot babes?”
“I’ve always depended on the kindness of strangers,” Tony said, with a truly terrible southern accent, before he turned serious again. “So, tell me Commander, who is it I’m supposed to have killed?”
Steve ignored that question. He may not be a cop, but it was common sense that you didn’t give suspects more information than you needed them to know, even if Tony wasn’t really a suspect as far as Steve was concerned.
“Where were you on Tuesday night?”
Tony shrugged, a deliberately nonchalant act as he stared Steve right in the eyes.
“I went out for a drink. The charges will be on my credit card.”
“Is there anyone who can corroborate your presence there?”
Tony shrugged again.
“The bartender, maybe. I met someone there the other night that I was hoping to bump into again.”
Steve couldn’t help but grin.
“You in the habit of picking up strangers in bars?” To an outsider, it might have seemed a question relevant to the investigation, but Steve was extremely interested in the answer for his own purposes.
“Only the interesting ones.”
“What can I say? I’m a sucker for tall brunettes with mysterious pasts.”
“Something we have in common then.”
They looked at each other for a long moment, the beginnings of plans taking root. Steve stood and held out a hand for Tony to shake. If their hands lingered overly long, neither acknowledged it.
“That should be all for now. I’ll contact you if I have any further questions.”
“You do that.”
Steve definitely planned to.
Step 4: Show the depth of your commitment
It had taken two long months before it got to the point where Tony didn’t rabbit at the thought of spending the night. Steve knew there was something there, something about his partners leaving him hanging that meant Tony was even more emotionally reserved than he was, so he decided to be the ninja SEAL the team said he was.
He started small, with changes that were barely noticeable on their own; the information for Tony’s favourite takeout pizza stuck on the fridge, the expensive brand of coffee he drank tucked away in the cupboard for the rare occasions he wanted coffee, a six-pack of his beer in the fridge, Tony’s brand of shampoo next to Steve’s in the shower, and his hair gel on the bathroom counter.
By about the second or third new addition, Tony started sending Steve calculating looks, but neither of them broached the subject openly.
Steve cleared out a drawer. Only when Tony became comfortable with the situation again, and Tony didn’t put anything into it, but sometimes, when Tony’s clothes got mixed in with his in the laundry, Steve would put them in the drawer. He was inordinately pleased when they remained there until Tony had need of them again.
The extra toothbrush he put in the bathroom got used as well, though Tony eyed him warily for days afterwards.
Finally, Steve left a set of keys for his house at Tony’s place. Tony didn’t make use of them, but he didn’t return them either, and after a few weeks they were quietly added to Tony’s key ring.
At the end of a long weekend where they barely left the bed and they were exhausted and sweaty, but satiated, Steve couldn’t help but look over to Tony, sprawled out next to him, and marvel.
“Stay,” Steve said, and it could have meant stay right where he was, stay the night because Tony still didn’t always, or move in and never leave. Tony was silent long enough to make Steve anxious that even that open inquiry had been too much.
“Yeah,” Tony said, voice a little rough. “Okay.”
When some of Tony’s clothes showed up in his wardrobe and the pile of DVDs next to the TV grew large enough that Steve considered buying an entertainment center, Steve couldn’t stop grinning all day.
Step 5: Introduce him to the family
Steve glared at Danny as the doctor poked and prodded at the wound on his shoulder. Danny glared back from the doorway, arms folded. Steve knew that as soon as Kono and Chin secured the crime scene, they’d be hovering too.
“It’s just a graze,” Steve insisted.
“There is a hole, made by a bullet, in your arm. That is not the definition of graze I’m familiar with.”
Steve rolled his eyes and turned to see what the doctor was doing when a familiar voice cut through the noise of the ER.
“I’m looking for Lieutenant Commander Steve McGarrett,” Tony said. A nurse must have directed him because he showed up behind Danny, who blocked the doorway and looked up at Tony suspiciously. Tony paid him no mind as he looked in on Steve.
“Hey,” Tony said, relief easing the tension in his frame. “I heard you got shot.”
“It’s just a graze.” Steve repeated.
“Sure,” Tony said with a snort.
Tony fingers brushed his arm where Steve knew he had a nasty scar, and though they’d been very careful about not dredging up memories attached to scars, Steve was suddenly curious about the story behind that one.
“Another one of your SEAL buddies?” Danny asked, still eyeing Tony suspiciously. Steve hesitated, not entirely sure how to define what they were.
“No. We’ve been seeing each other.”
Steve paused, letting the feeling of those words sink in. He’d never been able to admit to a relationship to a man before, not if he wanted to stay in the SEALs, but now he was free to say whatever he wanted. Danny raised an eyebrow, and his suspicion eased just a little, but not much.
“That should do it,” the doctor said, pressing a waterproof bandage over the wound. He quickly packed things up and disappeared.
“Navy?” Danny asked, obviously thinking of Caroline and Steve was embarrassed that he’d worked through almost all branches of the Navy, but especially that Danny was calling him on it. Steve was glad and a little surprised, though he probably shouldn’t be, about how easily Danny was taking it.
“Ex-NCIS,” Tony volunteered as he moved to Steve’s side.
“Like CSI but for the Navy,” Steve said, grinning at Tony’s huff of annoyance. Tony crossed his arms across his chest and for the first time Steve realized Tony was wearing one of Steve’s shirts. He must have been getting ready for bed when he heard about the shooting. It settled all kinds of possessive, insistent parts of Steve that he tried to ignore.
“Yeah, yeah,” Tony said. “Keep it up sailor-boy and I won’t cook for you.”
“That might be a good thing after the last time.” Although, to be fair, it had been Steve who distracted Tony, which caused the meal to burn. Danny opened his mouth, probably to say something highly inappropriate, but was interrupted by the arrival of Kono and Chin.
It didn’t show on his face, but Steve could tell Tony was anxious about meeting Steve’s full team, especially now that he was no longer worried about what state Steve was in. He settled a hand on Tony’s hip and pulled him a little closer. Chin remained impassive and Kono’s cheery grin actually scared Steve a little.
“This is Tony. He has the full array of sports channels,” Steve said quickly, deciding for once that discretion was the better part of valour. “And a 50 inch plasma TV.”
Kono’s grin widened impossibly and she stalked forward, slipping her arm in Tony’s. Chin rolled his eyes and Danny buried his face in his hands. Steve shrugged and smiled his most innocent smile at Tony’s look of betrayal.
“Excellent, there’s a competition I wanted to watch this weekend. Pizza, your place, Saturday at 5:00,” she said, not even leaving an opening for his disagreement.
“I’ll bring beer,” Steve offered.
“You so owe me,” Tony murmured. Steve smirked.
“I’ll make it up to you, promise.”
“Oh,” Tony said, giving Steve his own smirk, “you don’t even know.”
Steve grinned at Danny’s pained expression and thought the only thing he was missing was his sister and little Grace.