“Excuse me,” Danny says.
He flaps a hand at Steve. “So we are kinda “surfing buddies” now?”
He hates the look in Steve’s eyes, the raised eyebrow and quirked mouth, making the contempt clear and present, like the face of a watch. “You sensitive right now?”
Danny wants to smack him hard across the face. But instead he bites his lip and wraps his hands around the coffee mug, saying, “Yeah, a little bit.”
A lot, actually. And again, Steve gives him a dubious look before walking out of the dining room and Danny has had enough.
“Would you mind, please, not walking out in the middle of a conversation?” Danny calls after Steve’s retreating back.
Steve freezes and turns around, crossing his hands over his chest; there’s a belligerent frown embedded between his eyebrows. “I thought we were done.”
Danny feels a headache build; he raises hand and rubs his forehead. He peers up at Steve through his fingers. “Oh, you did? What gave you that idea, the start of a conversation?”
Steve rolls his eyes. “Do you have a point?”
“Yeah, jerk, I do. Is it too much to ask that you at least be honest?”
Steve’s eyes narrow, anger blazing in their depths. “I’ve never lied about this, Danny.”
Danny lays his hands flat on the table, away from his mug, the hair and anything else he can potentially destroy. “You are lying right now. “Surfing buddies”? Are you fucking kidding?”
“Excuse me for not wanting to give intimate details about my life to my little sister!” Steve snaps, gripping the back of a chair, his knuckles white and coiled as he towers over the table.
Danny can hear the rush of blood in his ears, like a faraway drum beat. He takes one last chug of the coffee and places the mug back on the table, harder than he intended, and the bang is loud in the room. He wants to wring Steve’s neck.
“Intimate details.” He twirls his finger in the air. “That’s a lovely euphemism, truly, Steven, because acknowledging the fact that we’re a couple is the same as telling her our favourite position when we fuck?”
Steve is definitely looming now. “What we have is private and –“
Danny’s whole body tenses, he feels the tendons in his neck pull at his shoulders as he glares at Steve. “No! you can’t hide behind that, Steve, you can’t, I won’t let you. I won’t let this be a dirty little secret.”
Steve’s nostrils flares and the anger wafts off him like steam after a hot shower. “You won’t “let me”? What are you going to do, make an announcement, Danny?”
Danny hears the anxiety under the aggressive disparagement and rubs his hands over his face, takes a deep breath. It does nothing to calm him, the air shudders out of him, and he wants to shake Steve.
He drops his hands and takes Steve’s forearm; he can feel how rigid Steve is, keeping himself rooted in place and it scares him sometimes, how much Steve keeps inside. “Christ. No, Steve, it doesn’t have to be an announcement, but you’re demanding we keep this classified, which I realize is your regular MO.” He huffs out a breath. “For fuck’s sake, Steve, can’t you see what keeping it under wraps means?”
Danny sees Steve bite the inside of his lip and braces himself. “It’s not anyone’s business but our own, Danny. What’s wrong with that?”
Danny smoothes his hand down Steve’s forearm and take a hold of his wrist instead. He can feel the pulse beneath the skin and Danny’s chest aches, but he does his best not to grind his teeth into powder. “It’s called a double standard, Steven.”
Steve rubs his chin and Danny, gullible moron that he is, just want to kiss that spot and breathe in the fresh-shower scent. “It’s different. We work together, it’s ina-“
He lets go of Steve, stares up at him and his knuckles feel itchy and tight. “Yes, I know! It’s inappropriate and illegal and morally questionable, but that isn’t the reason, that’s an excuse. And it’s convenient for you to hide behind rather than own up to what we are,” Danny hisses, as the edges of his vision turn red and hazy. He considers finding a big ass dictionary, find the phrase “double standard” and push Steve’s nose in it.
“What difference does it make what we call it?” Steve actually means it, and Danny would laugh at how ridiculous this conversation is if it didn’t make him want to break the mug over Steve’s head.
“Don’t turn this around, you had a chance here to tell your sister, your family, about the fact that you are in a relationship. With me. You didn’t, you deflected, you lied by omission and don’t give me that face, you know that’s what went down in this instance and I’m sick and tired of letting this slide!”
“So, what, Danny, you want to go out there and hold hands while we chase criminals across the islands?” Steve put his hands on his hips. “Huh? Because that will give us a whole lot of credibility.”
“You motherfucker, you know that isn’t what I saying. Look, you want to wander around in your precious little closet and wave your dick around in some kind of charade of machismo, that isn’t my problem, but we have a thing going here, whatever you want to call it, it’s sure as hell more than “surfing buddies” and you being ashamed of it is not healthy and frankly, insulting.”
Steve is looking at him as though he’s grown a pair of antlers on the other head that popped out of his shoulders and Danny almost feels sorry for him. Almost.
“I, this, it’s… it’s not the same, Danny!”
Danny waves a hand in Steve’s face, and pushes past him. “Yeah, Steve, I know you think that, but it hurts that you do.” He looks back and sees Steve rub his hands over his face, and he looks gloomy in the light streaming through the windows.
“Danny, telling people, telling Mary… it’s opening a can of worms.” His voice is rough, like it was him who was just yelling his frustration at a stubborn ass with a complex.
“You ever think it could be like shedding a load?” Steve turns at that, his eyes soft and bemused, and Danny sees the tension coiling his limbs. Danny swallows the lump in his throat and takes Steve’s hands in his; they’re big and the skin is rough, calloused, but the veins are soft and smooth on the back of them and Danny strokes them with his thumbs.
He sighs and says, “I don’t like shame, babe.”
Steve removes his hands from Danny’s grip and walks out of the dining room, leaving Danny bereft and cold in the afternoon glare.
- The End