Steve felt the weight of everything settle onto his shoulders. His life. His responsibilities. His duty to his country and to his team. To the friends he has.
Danny, who was smiling as he helped Gabby and Grace finish out their shell-created butterfly there on the beach. Danny, who was so nervous to introduce the two ladies now in his life. To bring this new love of his in the form of a beautiful, smart, kind woman, into the private world of Danno and Danno's Grace.
It was a world Steve had felt so privileged to be allowed into, when he had first understood where the word 'Danno' came from as Danny reluctantly explained. When he had first gotten to meet the pretty little girl with a killer smile who laughed and joked with them at the football game like she'd known them her whole life.
As slowly, Danny had allowed Grace to be around the team more, around Steve more. As once, when Danny had to appear in court and Grace was sick with the flu, and the Edwards' were in Maui, Danny had trusted Steven J. McGarrett, a man he accused of every type of crazy there was, to look after the feverish little angel while he was gone.
Steve had held her through the shivers, covered her with a blanket, fallen asleep on the couch with her stretched out on top of him and nestled into his embrace. Steve remembered Danny returning, remembered waking to find him standing over them with a soft, indescribable look on his face. For a fraction of a second, Danny's blue eyes had been unguarded and Steve had felt his heartbeat racing as Danny simply looked at the picture his daughter and his partner presented.
But then Danny had touched Grace's forehead, whispered that her fever had broken, and gone to make some homemade soup for her that she could have when she woke. And later, Danny had said thank you, Danny had said, "No, really, I mean it. You're really good with her," and that'd been it. No more said of the matter, nothing about what that look in Danny's eyes had been.
But now it wasn't just Steve who was special in Grace and Danny's world. Now there was Gabby, and she was good, good for Danny…good for Grace. Danny needed a stabilizing force in his life, and Gabby seemed to be doing the job perfectly. God knew Steve was about as stable as a roadside bomb in Afghanistan, but Danny was a family man, and he needed a family or, it seemed, he didn't feel complete, couldn't keep himself from going off-kilter.
He stared out the window, beer held in his hand, as Danny got to his feet, took his shoes and socks off and rolled up his pantlegs. Grace and Gabby removed their shoes, and Grace got in between Danny and Gabby, grabbed their hands. They walked slowly into the waves lapping at the shore, talking among themselves.
He saw the way Danny looked at Gabby, then down at Grace. Yes, Steve had pushed Danny to ask Gabby out, because he knew deep down it was what Danny needed and wanted. Was pretty sure Danny didn't swing both ways like Steve himself did…not that they'd ever discussed their sexual orientation.
He'd never seen Danny as tongue-tied as he'd been in front of Dr. Asano, and recognized it for what it was. He hadn't lied when he'd told Danny he just wanted him to be happy. Had meant every word and still did. He wanted himself to be happy, too, but there was no way that was going to happen unless by some miracle Danny dropped Gabby, came running to Steve and confessed it was Steve he loved, that he always had and that he always would.
But they were work partners, and they were best friends, and Danny was moving past Rachel, which could only be good no matter who he did it with. He seemed happy with Gabby. Seemed comfortable enough with her after three months of them dating to finally bring her and Grace together.
They walked a little ways down the beach. Steve felt, more than heard, someone lean close to him. "You okay?" Chin, always concerned about everyone else. Always there like a solid rock.
Steve nodded once, tore his gaze away from watching a happy family being slowly formed on the beach. Glanced at Chin, then focused on his beer.
"You know, it's not too late to tell him," Chin said so quietly that Steve knew it was only meant for him to hear.
Steve looked up, watched Danny take both of Gabby's hands, lean in and kiss her softly on the lips. Saw Grace giggle as the adults parted, each taking one of her hands again, the three of them continuing on down the beach.
"Yeah," Steve whispered, "it is."
All he wanted was for Danny to be happy. And, it seemed, Danny was.
But how can they make a happy family when I'm standing here alone? Steve thought, hated himself for it as he got to his feet. "Later, guys," he said, then turned and headed for the exit.
He had almost reached his truck when he heard a voice…a voice he loved…call out his name. He turned to find a barefoot Danny jogging across the parking lot in his direction with his shoes hanging from two fingers of his left hand. Gabby and Grace remained standing on the front walk, talking with each other as Danny reached Steve.
"You didn't even say goodbye to Grace," Danny said. God, the look on his face…so, so happy.
"I didn't want to interrupt," Steve replied honestly, waving his hand in the girls' direction. "Looks like they've hit it off."
"Yeah," Danny said, turning to look over his shoulder, waving when his ladies waved at him, both with huge smiles on their faces. "Yeah, Grace seems to like her. I gotta tell you," he continued, turning back to face Steve, "I was really worried about tonight."
"Yeah, I know." Steve gave him a half-grin. "It was a little funny."
"Oh, shut up," Danny replied. "But thank you."
"For what?" Steve asked, genuinely wondering.
"For being here with us. For helping me get to this point." Danny looked up at him. "Just…thanks."
Steve nodded. "See you Monday." He turned to unlock his truck door.
Steve froze with his hand on the door, but only momentarily. "Yeah, just a little beat. Have a good weekend with them."
"I will," Danny replied.
Steve got into his truck, smiled at his partner as he started it, put it in gear and drove away. It wasn't lost on him that Danny stayed in that same spot watching him until Steve couldn't see him in the rearview mirror anymore.
It also wasn't lost on him how much his heart was breaking right now.
Tonight was simply proof that Steve wasn't meant to be part of a happy family, and never had been.
Well, if nothing else, he still had Danny, Chin and Kono as ohana. And really, as long as Danny stayed alive for Grace and now Gabby, and as long as Danny stayed happy, Steve would force that to be enough.
Because really, there was nothing else he could do.
Two-thirty in the morning found Steve sleeping…or, more accurately, trying to sleep…in his room. For the ten millionth time he turned to his left, fluffed the pillow, flopped onto his back, beat his pillow, turned to his right side, huffed out a long sigh and then sat up, swinging his legs over the side of the bed.
He heard the car pulling into the driveway and knew immediately who it was. Wearing nothing but his pajama bottoms, he got to his feet and moved out of his room to the top of the stairs even as the car's engine was cut. He heard its door close a few second later. Heard keys jingling, then one key being inserted into the deadbolt lock of his front door. A second key attacked the lock in the knob and then the door opened.
Danny walked in, hair more mussed than usual, wearing only a pair of jean shorts and a faded Newark PD tee shirt, a pair of slippers on his feet. The man closed the door behind him, turned off the alarm that was beeping for attention, tossed his keys on the table.
Danny turned, looked up, saw Steve standing there. Steve looked down at him, not moving a muscle. "I couldn't sleep," Danny said, taking a couple steps toward the staircase.
"What about Gabby?" Steve asked, perplexed. "And Grace, I thought you had her the whole weekend."
"I did," Danny replied, shoving his hands into his pockets. "Gabby went home around ten, at which point my daughter proceeded to interrogate me."
"Interrogate you," Steve repeated.
"Yeah," Danny nodded, rocking back and forth from the balls of his feet to his heels over and over again. He looked away, eyes scanning the darkened house. "First, she wanted to know if Gabby was joining Five-0."
"Mmhm. When I told her Gabby wasn't joining Five-0 because she worked in a museum and wasn't a police officer, then Grace asked why she'd been invited to dinner with the rest of our ohana."
Steve moved a couple steps down, intrigued. "And what did you tell her?"
"Well, I told her it was because I was hoping maybe Gabby could join Grace's ohana, and Grace went quiet for a while. Finally I asked her if anything was wrong, I asked her, "Didn't you like Gabby?" and she nodded, said she did like her, very much, and that they'd had fun together."
"Well, that's good, Danny," Steve said, looking down at his bare toes where they hung over the edge of the step.
"Yes, of course it's good, but then Grace interrupted me, which I must say she doesn't do very often, Steven, and she said to me, "Daddy, you're not planning to marry her, are you?""
Steve's head snapped up, eyes riveted to Danny's face. Danny was watching him closely, watching him with that calculating look he so often saw Danny using on witnesses or while they were questioning suspects.
"So here I am, sputtering around words like a complete imbecile, then I finally manage to tell my daughter that I hadn't even considered marriage yet because Gabby and I had only been seeing each other for three months. Would you like to know precisely what Grace then said to me?"
Steve walked down two more steps, stopped, nodded.
Danny smiled up at him, still rocking back and forth on his feet, still with his hands shoved in his pockets. "She says to me, "Oh, good, Danno, but I don't think you should see Gabby anymore.""
Steve's eyes widened. "I thought she said she liked her."
"Oh, she does. And when I said that to her, she rolled her eyes like I was the biggest idiot on the planet, and said, "I do, Danno, but she's no Uncle Steve." Yes, that is what my daughter said to me."
Steve felt his face get hot, wondered holy shit, did Gracie somehow know how I feel about her dad, oh my God, no. "She, uh," Steve started…faltered… "She does know it's not the same thing, right?"
"Well, funny you should ask me that, because I actually asked her that same question, and that is when my Grace says to me, "It should be, Danno. He really loves you." So you see, now, why I'm here rather than home asleep in my own nice, comfortable bed with my daughter sleeping in the room across the hall in her nice, comfortable bed."
"Where is she?" Steve asked, choosing to focus on that rather than what Danny had just told him because he couldn't allow himself to think along those lines, wouldn't put himself out there by telling Danny that what Grace said was true, not when it would just get Steve's heart broken even more.
"I took her back home. She and I had a few words after she dropped that little bombshell on me, and she got mad at me. Can you imagine? My little girl was angry with me, Steve, because she said I was breaking your heart, asked why I couldn't tell that from your face, and then ordered me to stop doing so immediately and rectify the situation by taking her home and getting myself to Steve's house. So…" Danny pulled his hands from his pockets, spread them in front of himself, shrugged. "Here I am."
"She said the word 'rectify'?" Steve asked because he was pretty certain he had to have heard it all wrong and he just couldn't…Danny would only try to say he was sorry that Steve the Moron had fallen in love with him, say it was proof that Steve was certifiable, that even though Grace was right about Steve's feelings that Danny didn't do men, didn't do work partners, didn't do Steve. Danny was only here to discuss this, lance the wound so that Steve could slowly bleed out until it didn't hurt anymore, that was all.
"Everything I just told you and you choose to focus on my daughter's expansive vocabulary?" Danny asked incredulously. "Seriously?"
"Well, what else do you want me to focus on?" Steve sniped, felt a scowl pucker his eyebrows.
"Oh, I don't know," Danny said with an exaggerated set of whirling gestures around his head and chest, "maybe on the fact that my daughter said you'd make me happier than Gabby or her own mother, for one. Or maybe on the fact that she told me you love me, and she didn't mean like brothers, she made that crystal clear."
Steve met Danny's eyes, as he stood there halfway down the staircase. Danny moved forward until his toes were touching the bottom step.
"Or perhaps you might want to validate whether or not my daughter was just blowing smoke up my ass because she's crushing on you by, I don't know, telling me with your words if the fact that you're head over heels in love with me is the reason you looked like your fucking dog died in the parking lot earlier tonight?"
Steve could do nothing but stare. He opened his mouth, but he couldn't make himself say the thing he'd been hiding so deeply for the better part of a year now.
Danny shook his head. "You remember when you almost went over the cliff out there at that petroglyph site?"
Steve nodded slowly.
"You remember what I did when you were getting choppered outta there?"
Steve closed his eyes. He remembered it all too well, but then nothing had happened after that. Nothing had been different between them. Danny had made no further moves and Steve hadn't known if he should, because losing Danny as his Five-0 partner and friend was too great a price for thinking a heat-of-the-moment air heart meant more than just that Danny was glad his best friend hadn't bought the farm.
"I remember," Steve replied, reopening his eyes. And there…that look Danny had on his face…it was the same look he'd given Steve the night Steve had cradled a virus-laden little girl in his arms on his couch.
"And what, you didn't think I meant it?"
Steve shook his head a little, maybe trying to clear it, maybe saying 'no,' maybe just not able to get past what he'd already convinced himself was a future without Danny in his arms or his bed.
Danny closed his eyes. "I like Gabby. I care about her. But Grace is right about one thing." He reopened his eyes. "She's no you."
Steve moved the rest of the way down the staircase slowly as Danny backed up to give him room. "Danno, what…" Steve's hand came up, hovered in the space between them. "What are you saying?"
"I gotta do all the work here?" Danny asked, but there was nothing in his voice that suggested anger or impatience or annoyance. "I gotta know if Grace was right when she said you loved me. I gotta know now, Steve, or I can't step one way or the other."
And Steve, he wasn't so good all the time with words, but here was Danny standing right here in his living room at two-something in the morning, and Danny was asking because Grace had told him, and Grace wasn't a liar, and Steve wanted to prove that, so he said, "Yeah," and then took a deep breath, eyes never leaving Danny's. "Yeah, she was right."
Danny's eyes got big. His lips parted, mouth forming a small o. "You love me," he whispered. "Like…like a lover."
"Like a soulmate," Steve corrected, feeling bolder by the second when Danny not only didn't turn and run from the house like his ass was on fire, but even took half a step closer. That half a step brought Danny's face right into alignment with Steve's hand, still hanging there in the air. Steve brought that hand around to the back of Danny's head, felt like every cell of his body was suddenly alive and on fire as he touched Danny's hair, cradled his head.
Danny's face wore disbelief in big pink neon letters. "A soulmate," he repeated, voice barely a whisper as Steve leaned forward, ducking his head until he could feel Danny's every exhalation against his lips.
"Yes, Danny," Steve replied. "A soulmate." And then he moved the last inch until their lips were melded together. Steve's left hand found Danny's shoulder, ran slowly down the length of his arm, snaked around his back and pulled Danny's body completely flush with his own.
Danny moaned, hands coming alive, plastering themselves to Steve's bare back, fingertips digging into his ribs. His lips moved, his mouth opened and their tongues met in slowly moving circles round and round each other, tasting, giving, taking, feeling.
Then Steve backed away, because he wasn't going to do this thing where they hopped into bed and there was Buyer's Remorse in the morning and their partnership and friendship was suddenly fucked up beyond repair. He was going to do this right, and he wasn't going to take any guff from Danny about it, either.
Because Danny was here.
Danny had kissed him back.
And Steve was going to buy Grace a pony for her next birthday, because he would have none of this if it hadn't been for a child who was smarter than a lifelong Navy man and a lifelong cop combined.
"I want to take you on a date," Steve said.
"You already have," Danny replied and Steve, hand still holding Danny's head, frowned. "Goof. The hike with the dead body? The ride in your piece-of-shit Marquis that ended with me sweaty."
"I like you sweaty," Steve interrupted, getting an eyeroll from Danny.
"Surfing? And how many times have we been to lunch or dinner together? McGarrett, if my daughter is to be believed, and I believe that she is, we've been dating since a month after we met!"
Steve stopped. Thought. Still didn't let go of Danny's head.
"So since it took you one year and five months to get to first base with me, I would suggest maybe we can forego the pleasantries and steal second and third now, what do you say?"
Steve's breath hitched. "You swing both ways?"
"No," Danny replied honestly. "But I do swing your way. At least, I think I do." He looked down between them, and Steve only then realized that not only was he rock-hard, which was painfully obvious while wearing nothing but pajama bottoms, but that Danny was sporting a nice, long shape in the front of his jean shorts.
"But I…I want do this right, Danny," Steve said, completely unprepared for this moment, not knowing what to do because, "I don't want to screw this up. I can't lose you, even if it means you remain nothing more than my best friend."
And Danny's hands moved from Steve's back, up around his arms until they were holding Steve's face, thumbs rubbing over his stubbled cheeks. "You won't," he said. "I never thought you'd...I didn't know I could have this." He huffed out a small breath. "You aren't the only one in love, you know."
He leaned up, and Steve leaned down, and this time when their lips met, Steve had no intention of stopping at first base.
Maybe there was a happy family in his future after all.
And as nice as Gabby was, he couldn't, right now, with Danny's tongue mapping every inch of his mouth, really bring himself to worry about her at all.
When more than a handful of minutes had passed, Steve finally backed away from the kiss, turned, slid his hand down Danny's arm to intertwine their fingers, and began leading Danny up the stairs.
"Do you know what one thing it was Grace said to me that really made me realize I needed to know for myself if she was right?" Danny asked, tugging a little on Steve's hand as they reached the top of the stairs.
"What?" Steve asked, turning and taking Danny's other hand in his.
"She said she loved you like another father."
Steve felt emotion well up inside him so fiercely that tears sprang to his eyes. He whooshed out a breath, lunged forward and wrapped his arms around his partner, burying his face in the crook of Danny's neck.
Danny's arms came around Steve, and he could feel the wetness of Danny's tears on his own bare shoulder.
And in that quiet moment at the top of a staircase that'd borne witness to so much heartache in its lifetime, Steve knew that he would have a happy family, now and forever. That this house would never have a pall of sadness cast over it again. Because Steve was no longer standing off to the side watching Danny and Grace become a family with someone else. He was standing with Danny and Grace.
And it was everything to him.
They parted. Steve turned, led Danny to his room. Pulled him inside. Closed the door.
It was everything.