"What... the hell... is the matter with you?" Danny fumed.
"He's just a kid," Steve replied, unfazed.
"No, he's not 'just a kid.' He's a kid with a gun, okay?"
"What, did you want me to book him, Danno?"
"You think that's funny?"
Steve turned away, trying not to look as amused as he was, when movement caught his attention. Eyes narrowed, Danny had stepped deep into Steve's space, their chests almost touching in a way eerily similar to the time they'd come to blows while working Steve's father's case. Steve was quiet as he studied the furious man a few inches below. There was the same barely-restrained fury bubbling from Danny, the kind that would lead to an early death or a stress-induced blackout, but there was more than that. There was an unfamiliar tension around Danny's eyes, a deep wrinkle forming between his brows, and his expression was closer to grief or pain than anger.
Before Steve could ask what was really going on, though, Danny spoke again. "Let me break it down for you, okay? Kids with guns kill innocent people and cops. All right, that kid? Maybe he's going to finish a math assignment, but more likely, he's looking for another gun so he can shoot someone. Why? Because you conveniently decided just to forget about the law!"
"He's angry because somebody came along and killed a member of his family today, and he feels like if he doesn't do something about it, nobody will... so lets prove him wrong." Steve replied, empathy running high as he walked away. He called over his shoulder, "Come on. We've got a job to do."
"There's something wrong with you, you know that, right?" Danny muttered after him, but Steve had already moved far enough away for plausible deniability of having heard him.
With the case still hot, Steve got caught up in solving it, forgetting all about Danny's anguished expression.
Then he'd found that though the case was over, Danny's custody problems weren't, so Steve had spoken to the governor, had wondered aloud about what would happen to the effectiveness of the taskforce she'd started if one of the members' minds was constantly on his further restricted visitation rights, then sat back and let her do what had been owed: someone on Danny's side.
He hadn't expected Danny to come out and ask him about it or to feel as proud as he had when the other man had thanked him. The conversation that had followed had even earned him one of Danny's bright smiles, and he hadn't been able to help himself.
"Maybe you're not as alone around here as you think, Danno."
The look Danny gave him wasn't what Steve had expected. It was almost happy, and that, the rarity of it, reminded him of the look he'd seen on Danny's face at the beginning of the case.
"Hey, Danno? What was it about that kid and the gun that had you so worked up? It was more than just the kid having one, wasn't it?"
The smile slipped off Danny's face as though made of oil, and that was enough to convince Steve that there was definitely more than just a cop's distaste for illegal guns.
"I, uh, it's nothing."
"That's complete shit, Danny."
"No, it's not." Were he a dog, Danny's hackles would have been up.
"Yes, it is, and you know it. Come on. What was it?"
"Listen to me, Steven. Nothing. Happened. All right? All right. Now drop it."
"No can do, Danno." Steve shook his head and frowned, trying to make Danny see how earnest he was. "You can trust me. You know that, right? If it was a mistake you made, or-"
"It was my little brother!" Danny exploded, grabbing Steve's shirt with both hands. "One of those 'just a kid's filled my baby brother with holes, and there wasn't anything I could do," he hissed. "The little scumbag even shot at the guys who'd been trying to save him, and you know what? They could have saved him. He would've had scars, but only one of the slugs got at anything vital, but because that kid kept shooting at the guys who only wanted to save the kid he'd shot, my little brother died."
Body trembling, Danny let go, but his hands remained pressed against Steve, who caught the shine of tears before Danny's head drooped.
"He was seven years old, seven. It was his first day of second grade, and some trigger-happy sixteen year old who wanted to make a point to some guys put him in the morgue." Rallying, Danny straightened, his hands slipping into his pockets. "And that, Steven, is why the law isn't something you sometimes follow and sometimes don't. You see a kid with a gun, you take it. If he has it legally- which that kid definitely did not- you give it back. If not, you take it and bust him, because when you mess up, there are consequences. Without them, you get the kind of person who shoots a seven year old, gets two years of juvee, then walks free."
"Is that what happened to the guy who shot your brother?" Steve asked softly.
"Yeah, it was. It was his first offense- no one counted possession and intent to distribute, apparently- and his attorney had the jury convinced that the kid was just nervous. He convinced twelve rational people that putting four holes in Josh and firing at the first responders was nerves."
Laughing bitterly, Danny shook his head.
"You know what's funny? Two years after he got out, he shot and killed a cashier. If he'd been charged as an adult for shooting and killing that one little kid two years earlier, he still would've been incarcerated and that guy would be alive."
"Danny-" Steve tried, not knowing what to say but knowing he had to say something.
"What? You asked, Steve, so I told you. And now I just want to go home and take a shower."
"You, uh, you sure? Chin and Kono are watching movies or something. You could stay?" Steve asked hopefully.
"No, I'd really prefer a shower right now. Tell them I'll see them tomorrow and good job for me," Danny said as he walked away.
Steve found that he couldn't concentrate, despite Chin and Kono's company and the videos from Kukui.
A few hours later, he found himself in bed, unable to sleep because images of a young Danny- first dressed for his brother's funeral, then standing in court as the verdict was called- kept finding their way into his head.
Deciding a drive would clear his mind, he didn't realize where he was going until he wound up outside Danny's apartment. The thought of going in occurred to him, but he didn't think that Danny would want his company. He would have turned around and gone home, too, if one of the lights hadn't flickered on, but that was enough.
He jogged up and knocked on the door, unsure of what he'd say until Danny was standing before him.
"You look like shit," both said.
Danny scowled. "Why are you not at home, sleeping?"
"Why aren't you asleep?" Steve countered.
"Because you dredged up some painful memories."
Steve looked away. "I didn't mean to. I just wanted to know..."
Danny sighed. "Of course you did..." Shaking his head, he stepped back inside. "Come in. I was about to put some tea on. Do you want some?"
"Tea? I didn't take you for a tea-drinker, Daniel."
"Yeah, well, maybe you don't know me as well as you think." Before Steve had to think of a reply, Danny waved a hand at him. "Forget about it. I'm just tired; I haven't slept yet."
"No, you're right. I really am sorry, Danno."
Snorting in a way that was almost fond, if sad, Danny asked, "So do you want some?"
"No, but thanks."
They wound up sitting on Danny's sofa-bed- which was still in its sofa form, Steve noted- Danny holding a mug of hot tea and Steve looking at his hands. There was an uncomfortable silence between them, or so it felt to Steve. There weren't a lot of silences where Danny was concerned, so he wasn't sure what was comfortable and what wasn't.
He was still trying to think of something to say when Danny spoke up, his eyes on his tea.
"I'd been gone for a little over a month because I was eighteen and had gotten accepted to a local community college and only spoken to Josh- Joshua, because Ma wanted us to have Biblical names- on the phone a couple of times. He and I were close, even though he was ten years younger. The last call was the night before he got shot, and he'd spent the entire time tripping over questions about college and excitement about second grade. He was happy because this girl he had a crush on was going to be in his class." He looked at Steve, not bothering to hide his tears or the catch in his voice. "You know what's funny? That little girl, she came up to me at the beginning of his memorial service, asked if I was the Danny Josh was always talking about, and when I said I was, she took my hand and said that she loved my brother and would it be okay if she sat with me. We spent the entire time crying and passing tissues to each other."
"Danny, you don't have to tell me. I can-"
"Yes, I do, because if I just let you go around, ignoring the laws you like for people you like, then you won't think about what those innocent people might do. Kids with guns don't just sit there and polish them; they use them. And maybe if I tell you how much it hurt to bury my little brother, maybe you'll think before you let some scared, angry kid keep his piece. Do you understand?"
"I'm not going to-"
"Do you... understand?"
"Yes, I understand."
"Good. Now run along. You are absolved of guilt, and we've got work tomorrow." Danny waved at him, and Steve might have gone, regardless that his guilt was absolutely not absolved, had he not seen the tremor in Danny's hand where it clutched his mug.
"I can't do that, Danny. I can't leave you here by yourself, not in the state you're in."
"State? What state? I am perfectly fine!"
"No, you aren't. You're shaking so hard your tea's about to fall out, you obviously weren't actually trying to sleep because your bed's still a sofa and I can see in your face that you aren't really going to try to sleep."
"It is true, and we both know it. Just like I know the look on your face."
"There's no look!" Danny protested, getting to his feet.
"Come off it, Danno!" Steve said, getting up as well.
"No, I will not, 'Come off it, Danno!'"
"What, you think suddenly using manners is going to change my mind? It's time for you to go, Steve."
"I'm serious. Please don't kick me out, Danny. I really do know the face you're making."
"Oh, really? I'm making a face? What face is that? The face of Danny Williams not making a face?" For all his pitch was rising, Danny's voice was muted, almost strained.
"It's the face that says that you're in pain and there's no one you think you can share it with."
"Yeah?" Danny asked incredulously, though he walked to the door and opened it, gesturing out, mug long since abandoned on the floor. "How do you figure?"
"Because," Steve walked over to stand before him, "it's the same face I've seen every night since my father died."
"...You should go," Danny whispered, gaze averted once more.
"No," Steve took a step closer, "I shouldn't," and put his hands on Danny's shoulders.
Danny shifted, uncomfortable and still avoiding his partner's gaze, but Steve gripped him harder, half ready to shake a response from him like a dog with a toy.
Curious and a bit uneasy, Steve looked down, eyes mapping out the blond's familiar face. He examined Danny's wrinkles, still deep as valleys; his stubble, just as scratchy-looking; his eyes, averted and half-closed, as though he were trying to hide something, and the set of his lips, loose and almost forgotten.
"Hey, D?" he asked, nervous about the lack of movement, of mouth or body, coming from his partner.
Danny shook his head.
"You've really got me worried here, man. You're never this quiet." Steve tried, hoping to lighten the mood.
Instead, he felt Danny's entire body sag against him and his mind came to a decision he hadn't known it had been trying to make.
Sliding closer, he dragged a hand from Danny's shoulder to his neck, leaned in and kissed him, as softly as he could.
He'd been wondering about it for a while, had given a lot of thought to kissing Danny. He'd always pictured himself grabbing Danny's face after one of the thousand-watt smiles he'd give whenever something made him truly happy, but he'd never thought beyond actually pressing their lips together. Somehow, though, he'd always gotten the feeling that Danny wouldn't stop smiling.
With Danny- warm and solid Danny, whose mouth ran too quickly and his temper too hot for where he lived- now caught between the wall and him, Steve started to wonder if he'd made a mistake. There weren't any smiles, no pleased wrinkles at the side of Danny's eyes, just a ragged man who'd been suddenly reminded of his little brother's violent death.
The reminder of the dead child was enough to make him pull away, mind halfway to his truck, only to be pulled back to where he was right then by a tiny noise. It was so small he wasn't sure he'd actually heard it until he took a step back and heard it again, only louder. Lost somewhere between a mewl and a groan, it made his lips vibrate, which was how he realized the noise was coming from Danny.
Steve had been so caught up in remembering his daydreams and panicking about making a mistake that he'd completely overlooked reality, but once pulled into it, he was happy to stay.
Eyes open and drooping, Danny had shuffled close enough to wriggle against his chest, his arms bent so he could clutch the back of Steve's t-shirt just over his shoulder blades, his body a pleasant kind of warm, like a sunset. A few, small shivers ran down his body, but they only made him snuggle closer, and though his face was less than an inch away from Steve's, his small smile was bright enough that his entire face let Steve know he hadn't made a mistake.
...except that he had.
"If you do that again, I promise I'll answer all your questions."
"But you're grieving and I can't-"
Stepping back, Danny threw on a belligerent expression and pulled away, but he was a moment too slow. The tired, mournful set his face had taken beat him and wasn't willing to let go.
He mumbled something at the wall behind Steve's head.
"I'm sorry?" Steve asked, genuinely unable to understand him.
"Nothing," came the hasty reply as Danny stepped to the side, taking his soft heat with him.
Steve went with him.
"No, it wasn't nothing. What did you say?"
Again, Danny mumbled something into the space between his lips and Steve's ears.
"You know I can't understand that. If you can mutter it, you can say it."
"All right!" Danny snapped, genuinely angry. "I said that I've been grieving for almost twenty years and that it's lonely!" His voice dropped. "And maybe I don't do lonely so well. Maybe I let feeling bad ruin one relationship and don't want it to happen a second time."
"What, Rachel? How did-"
"Are you really going to fixate on my ex-wife right now?"
Steve cocked his head, giving Danny a hard look. For all the shorter man looked as if he'd been run over, or at least hadn't slept in a week, he didn't seem irrational- at least not more than an emotional Danny got- so Steve made his decision, and if he and Danny regret it tomorrow, then that would be for tomorrow.
Leaning over, he pressed his lips against Danny's again and felt himself smile when Danny's warm body sidled close once more.
Eyes fluttering open, he started to check his partner's face, just to be sure-
"If you aren't back to kissing me in two seconds, I'm throwing you out," Danny's voice called, slightly muffled though it was by Steve's lower lip.
Humming happily, Steve went back to kissing him, not pressing forward or trying to up the ante, just wrapping his lips around Danny's the way his body was trying to cover the shorter one. He wanted the kiss to remain sweet and chaste; the idea of sex after talking about dead people and the faces the bereaved make wasn't one that held any appeal.
Not that it kept his hands from running up and down Danny's body, figuring out where each dip in each muscle was and where Danny was broad and where he was thin, as he pressed soft, happy kiss after soft, happy kiss to Danny's smiling lips.
There would come a time when exhaustion would urge them into bed, both content to hold onto each other and fall asleep, and there would be a few times when both would wake up, either from a nightmare of a death he couldn't prevent or from the man next to him having one. Neither would talk, though, because both knew that losing a father and losing a brother, though painful enough to kill parts of them, were two very different things. Still, they could cling and kiss, and there would be strong bodies crammed together on a too-small sofa-bed designed for drunken slumber to remind them that one death does not a man destroy.
Morning would arrive, and neither would turn to the other and think, "I can't." They would kiss and cling, and, if their phones stayed silent- which they would- they'd ask questions.
Some would be easy.
"What was his favorite color?"
Some would be hard.
"How did you survive?"
All of them would be necessary, and all of them would, word by whispered word, brick up their broken houses and create a warm place where, if the guilt and the regret grew too heavy, they could escape for long, smiling kisses and beds that were wide and soft and bathed in morning sunlight.
Eventually, they would get there, but right then, Steve and Danny were happy to lean against the wall and try not to be the first to pull away.