Uncle Steve did some pretty stupid stuff sometimes.
Not that she was supposed to say stupid. Mommy was pretty strict about the things she said, mostly because she was supposed to be a lady all the time. Grace had mixed feelings about this, mostly because being ladylike sounded pretty boring – not when being like Uncle Steve and Danno meant beating up the bad guys and saving the world and stuff. When Mommy said ‘lady’, Grace was pretty sure there wasn’t any saving the world involved.
But wait, Kono was a lady and Danno had said that she beat up more bad guys than anyone, even him – so maybe Grace could do both? She decided to place that thought to the side to consider more deeply later. Right now she was thinking about Uncle Steve. Who did some pretty silly things. Danno liked to tell her how silly some of those things were – liked to go on for forever about it, but that was okay because Grace loved hearing about the crazy things her Uncle Steve could do and would do, in order to make sure the world was saved, no matter what.
He also got hurt a lot, which got kind of scary sometimes because Grace hated hospitals and hated waiting and sometimes she wasn’t sure if everyone she loved was going to be okay – but her Danno was always right there with her whenever Uncle Steve did something that got him hurt and he always told her that Uncle Steve had the hardest head in the whole world, so he was going to be okay no matter what. That usually helped.
And sometimes Danny just let Grace hang out with Uncle Steve. Sometimes they’d play on the beach at Uncle Steve’s house, sometimes they’d go swimming, sometimes they’d go surfing – but that was kind of a secret – and sometimes they’d watch movies or play Barbies or climb trees. Uncle Steve was always the best at the cool, fun stuff, not always great at the pretend games – but he tried really hard and Mommy had always said it was the thought that counted.
Grace figured it was because Uncle Steve wasn’t very good at pretending. He smiled when he was happy and frowned when he wasn’t. He made faces when Danno teased him, like Danno teased everyone, and grinned really big whenever he made Grace or Danno laugh. You always knew how Uncle Steve was feeling.
And that’s how Grace knew that Uncle Steve loved her Danno.
Grace didn’t blame him. Her Danno was the absolute best and coolest and funniest and smartest and strongest person that ever lived. It was just really obvious how Uncle Steve felt about him, it was written on his face whenever he looked at him – and if it was that obvious to Grace, she didn’t know why it wasn’t obvious to everyone else – and why Danno hadn’t said it back. If someone as wonderful as Uncle Steve loved you, you had to love them back - it only made sense.
“Why don’t you tell Danno you love him?” Grace finally asked one afternoon when it was just her and Uncle Steve, dipping their heels in the ocean and searching for shells. Danno was back at the house making dinner and Uncle Steve had helped her roll her up jeans the way he had so that they could stick their toes in and not get wet all over right before eating.
Uncle Steve froze and stared at her so long that Grace was scared for a moment that she’d made him angry – but her fear must have shown on her face because a second later, Uncle Steve was crouching down, not caring at the way the water licked at the edges of his pants. “I’m not very good at that kind of stuff Gracie,” Uncle Steve said honestly, like he always did – that’s why Grace liked him so much. He never lied to her.
“It’s easy,” Grace insisted. “I tell him all the time.” Uncle Steve laughed, but it wasn’t a good sound.
“And that’s really good Grace, someone should make sure they tell him that whenever they can, because he deserves to hear it.”
“You should help,” she prodded, because she couldn’t help it, she just couldn’t understand. If Uncle Steve loved Danno then why wasn’t everything perfect? “You should tell him soon.” Uncle Steve looked at her and for the first time, Grace didn’t know what he was feeling. She was pretty sure it wasn’t his fault – it was all right there on his face, it was just for the first time, she didn’t understand what she was seeing.
“I did,” Uncle Steve said quietly. “I told him a couple weeks ago.” Grace brightened.
“That’s good Uncle Steve! Are you guys gonna get married like Mommy and Step-Stan? Now you guys can-”
“Grace,” Uncle Steve said in a tone of voice that Grace didn’t understand, but that made her stop anyway. “Grace, it’s not going to exactly work like that.” Grace stared up at him, still not understanding – but this time at least Uncle Steve’s face made a little more sense. It was sad - and for a second there, Grace realized that maybe everythingwasn’t going to be perfect.
“Oh,” she said quietly, staring down at her feet – but Uncle Steve didn’t let her, he tapped her on her chin so she was looking at him again.
“No matter what Gracie, I love you. You know that right?” Grace nodded and Uncle Steve smiled at her. “C’mere.” And she fell into his arms and hugged him tight – because if her Danno was silly – no, stupid – if her Danno was stupid enough not to love Uncle Steve back, well then, it was Grace’s job to love him enough for the both of them.
“Love you too Uncle Steve,” she said, muffled, into his shirt. Uncle Steve squeezed her back.
“Then that’s all I need,” he murmured against her hair, and they stood like that until Danno called them in for dinner.