Stepping into the bedroom, Danny let out a sigh of relief and closed the door behind him as quietly as possible, though he knew it was useless. After years of relying on it, Steve could always recognize the sound of Danny's cane from a mile away. Not that it really mattered that much... they had this thing, this incredibly strong bond that allowed them to be in perfect sync, always conscious of one another’s presence. From that very first moment they saw each other in that old garage so full of ghosts, they were connected soul deep.
Resting his weight on the cane for a few seconds and silently cursing the damn stairs of his partner’s house, Danny gave himself a moment to recover his strength, so low these days. His old bones were aching, and his hands shaky, but none of that mattered anymore. It was just the two of them now, finally their time.
Steve was lying on the bed, motionless, staring up at the ceiling. Under the fading light of the sunset, Steve's hair looked darker than it really was, making him look younger. There was no mistaking the wrinkles on in his face … or expression lines, as Steve called them. Danny liked to think that he was partly responsible for at least a few of them, the ones that showed up when his friend laughed. Over the years, ranting had become a sport of Olympic proportions to Danny, just so he could see another blindingly bright smile appear on that beautiful face.
The last stroke had been devastating. The right side of Steve's body was paralyzed, preventing him from being able to perform even the simplest of tasks. He had developed aphasia, which was basically the doctor's fancy way of saying that Steve had lost the ability to move his speech-related muscles to talk properly.
Steve, the control freak, had lost control of his own body. Talk about terrifying. He would never walk, talk or laugh again. They all knew it. And as the doctor had reminded them, he would never see another sunrise either.
The clock was ticking and every move of the big hand brought them closer to the inevitable. Things were finally coming to an end.
Danny couldn't help but reflect back on their life "together". It had been a good life, though not without flaws, but at the end of the day he could say he was happy, though not exactly content. They were best friends, partners and family. They stayed together through all the ups and downs in their lives. It was always Danny and Steve no matter what. Whatever life threw at them they were always there for each other. When Steve finally worked up the nerve to marry Cath, Danny was his best man. Danny had been in the waiting room when Jack was born, the first to congratulate Steve on becoming a father. Steve had been the one standing next to Danny when he married Gabby (making silly faces at Grace during the entire ceremony). They had shared tears together when Matt was murdered and again years later when Chin had passed.
Through the open window, the warm Hawaiian breeze carried in the salty scent of the ocean, a strange comfort. Danny took a deep breath, needing the moment of calm it provided.
Danny did the only thing he could think of: putting one foot in front of the other, he crossed the room until he was standing on the left side of the bed, his friend’s good side. Without a word, he sat, feeling the mattress sag under his weight.
Danny took Steve's hand in his, wanting to feel the closeness. With the weight of Steve's hand in his, he turned it over. Noticing old scars that had never faded, freckles from countless days spent out in the sun, to the constant wrinkles.
Danny waited, though he still wasn't sure what for. His heart ached for Steve to acknowledge him in any way, but deep down, he knew what his friend was doing. Steve had said goodbye to his wife, his son and his friends, he accepted that. What he couldn’t do was say goodbye to Danny. Steve truly believed that things between them were coming to an end, and that, more than anything else, was scaring him. Honestly, McGarrett couldn’t be more wrong. Danny needed to make him see, to make him understand that Steve was going nowhere without him.
Then, because the silence was suffocating him, he started to ramble.
-Not that this is making a real difference, you know? Talking has always been my job here; you can just admit it -
Danny took the tissue from the night stand and gently cleaned the saliva dripping from his friend’s mouth – We can do this all night long, babe. I’m not going anywhere - He couldn’t help but run his fingers through Steve's gray hair.
It had long been a running joke, that Steve was the cause of all of Danny's grey hairs, but now they both were on an equal playing field. Danny let his hands rest in Steve's hair, enjoying the closeness. How many times, had he dreamed, hoped and yearned, for McGarrett and him to be like this together.
-Really Steve, you’re not gonna look at me? Don't play dumb, I know you're not deaf. We have known each other for 54 years, McGarrett… I think I deserve better than this -
Steve's eyes stayed focused on the ceiling, but when Danny next looked over those ridiculously long eyelashes, they were splashed with tears.
-Please babe, I need you to look at me – he pleaded.
Danny struggled to keep his voice steady, but he knew it was a losing battle. There were so many things that he had to tell Steve, that he needed McGarrett to understand.
-Ok, if that’s how you want to play this, then fine… you stubborn bastard -
He kicked his shoes off one by one, threw the cane to the floor and slowly lay down next to Steve.
-You always have to do things the hard way, don’t you? But you see, the thing is, partner, that you seem to have forgotten who you’re talking to here -
Turning onto his side, Danny settled carefully beside Steve. He wrapped his arms around him and waited. Predictably, he felt the shrug of tension taking over Steve’s body, a clear indicator that his friend was indeed scared shitless. Well, Danny wasn’t going to allow that, not now. He rested his head in the hollow of Steve’s shoulder, breathing in his scent and feeling his heartbeat.
-It’s OK babe, it’s ok. Nobody’s gonna come, I promise. It's only the two of us now – He whispered in his ear, appeasing him – and I believe that after so many years, we’ve earned the right, don’t you think?-
Under him, Steve’s body was still rigid, Danny picked up his right hand and began to massage the palm with his thumb.
- We're just hugging. Friends do that. We've done this before, remember? So many times -
Slowly, gradually, Steve seemed to be relaxing in Danny's arms. He gave an almost imperceptible nod and Danny would have missed it if he hadn't been paying such close attention. With a small sigh, Steve let the remaining tension escape his body and he moved his head so his face rested against Danny's soft hair.
-Babe, we… we’ve always… what I’m trying to say here is… shit - He pressed his lips softly against Steve’s neck, trying to calm his own nerves, to gather the courage to put into words the things they never had the guts to say to each other before - Just when I need to talk, the words don’t seem to come up right. I bet you never thought this day would come, did you? -
-What I need to say, what I need you to know… is that you’re my home Steve. Ever since the moment you decided to drag me into this partnership, you have always been my home. I was…When we met, I was so lost, so angry. I had no reason to live other than Grace, nothing to look forward to. I was drowning. And then you came along, you know? Wearing your heart on your sleeve, with all your craziness and caring and... and somehow I found myself feeling a little less empty than before -
-You forced me to feel again. To live again. To love again -
Danny looked up and found Steve watching him. It almost felt like he was looking straight into Danny's soul. Trying to convey with his eyes what his mouth could no longer say. Danny was so overwhelmed by the moment, he couldn't speak. So they just lay there, looking at each other for what seemed like an eternity.
-I love you, Steven -
An anguished sob escaped Steve's throat upon hearing those words. Danny's eyes were filled with tears as well, but he didn't dare blink, afraid of losing the connection. Softly, Danny caressed Steve's cheek.
-You don’t need to say it, because I know. I know that you love me too, ok? I‘ve always known...-
The sad look in Steve’s eyes broke Danny’s heart into a million pieces.
-I don’t regret the decisions we’ve made, I swear. We had a good life babe. We were happy. We both have wonderful families that we love deeply. But God knows I’ve asked myself many times: what if? What if we had a chance to make it work and we missed it? What if -
-But what if we blew things up? I would’ve lost the best friend I’ve ever had. My partner. I just… I couldn’t live without you Steve. I just couldn’t do it -
Danny burrowed his face in Steve’s neck, deeply inhaling his familiar scent. He slipped his free arm across Steve’s chest, hugging him tightly.
-Maybe we should’ve been braver, but I couldn’t risk it -
They stayed like that for what seemed like hours, finding comfort in each other’s arms, feeling like they were right where they belonged.
Lying so close to Steve, Danny could sense a change coming over him. His breathing seemed to slow down and when Danny looked up into his eyes, it seemed as if Steve was looking off into the distance. When Danny grabbed hold of his hand, he felt that it was ice cold to the touch.
A sob escaped his lips, raw despair growing in his chest. Not yet, not yet, was all Danny could think. He still had things to say, things Steve needed to hear before he went. An urgency came over Danny and he spoke quickly, trying to get it all out before it was too late.
-Listen to me Steven, because I want you to know something, ok? Wherever you’re going, I’ll follow you. Do you understand? I’ll be right behind you, you’ll see. That’s what partners do. Do you hear me? You don’t need to worry babe. I won’t let you go, I promise... I won’t let you go -
-You’re mine Steve, you always were. I’m going with you. I promise, babe. You will never be alone -
And as Steve expelled his last breath, Danny cupped his face between his hands and kissed him sweetly, as hot tears poured from his eyes and fell onto Steve's cheeks.
Peaceful, they look so peaceful, was all Gabby could think of when she found them a few hours later, Danny’s head resting above Steve’s heart, both spirits long gone. A bittersweet smile graced her face when she stepped out of the bedroom and closed the door behind her.
“A soul mate is someone who has the locks to fit our keys and the keys to fit our locks. When we feel safe enough to open the locks, our truest selves step out and we can be completely and honestly who we are; we can be loved for who we are and also for whom we’re pretending to be. Each of us unveils the best part of one another. With that one person, we’re safe, with that one person, we’re whole.”