The scenery blurs by as Danny takes them away from the airport and Steve is bone tired.
Steve goes over the events of the past 36 hours and feels numb. His eyes are heavy and his clothes feel stale; has he changed his shirt at all? The warmth of Doris’… mom’s… hug has fades and a minute shiver slithers up and down his spine. Danny’s dark tidings throughout the day taste bitter at the back of his throat, like the time that a medic fed Steve coal.
He glances at Danny and the blue and pink striped shirt he’s wearing, the button at the top always straining maddeningly. Steve’s mouth waters and he doesn’t even try to stop himself from reaching over.
“What the hell, Steve? I am driving here! This is not the time to start molesting my person; there is something very wrong with you. I could have crashed into oncoming coconut groves!”
“Oncoming coconut groves? Really, Danno?”
“Don’t argue. Damn it, you popped my shirt open.”
“That button was trying to escape. I was just helping it.”
Danny gives him a side glance, his eyes scrunching up in a way Steve’s seen more often lately and he doesn't like it. Doesn't like the pinched look and the crow’s feet that pull at Danny’s eyes, rather than the upturned laugh lines that give his face its character.
“Helping it? What, you’re identifying so hard with Grace you’ve now regressed to her age as well?”
The words are salt on a bloody wound; the sting is deep in his chest. “Fuck you, Danny.”
“No no, fuck you!” Danny turns the wheel and the car jerks to a stop. The seatbelt digging into Steve’s shoulder and stomach, and Steve stares at him as their bodies settle. Danny turns his body towards him. “You think this is easy? You – “ He stops abruptly, and Steve hears Danny’s harsh breaths as he clutches the steering wheel with one hand and scrubs his face with the other.
Steve feels a twinge of guilt at appreciating the line of Danny’s arm in that shirt, though the words Danny flung at him still smart. “I what, Danny? I don’t understand because I’m not a father?”
“Jesus.” Danny actually looks up at the ceiling of the car before glaring back at Steve. “You wanna vent, fine, vent, I can take it, but do not pretend you’re talking about anything other than yourself and your issues with what appears to be every parental figure in your life!”
Steve’s legs tense, the muscles spasming under his skin and Steve isn’t sure how Danny managed to turn the conversation around like that. Danny manages to laser point onto every pushable button Steve has. “It’s not about that.”
Danny heaves a heavy sigh and rubs his hands on his pants. “Could have fooled me, babe.”
Steve licks his upper lip, tastes his skin and the prickle of his hair. He scrubs his face with both hands and grits his teeth. His words stick to the roof of his mouth, like peanut butter.
“Your dentist bill must be astronomical,” Danny says and Steve is grateful for the opening.
“You know our dental is covered,” he replies and turns back to Danny, whose face is still scrunched, but softer around the edges. He glances down. Danny didn’t bother to close the button he popped open and the fur on his chest is tantalizing and distracting.
“My eyes are up here, buddy.”
When he returns Danny’s gaze, his eyes are like water. “It’s not about that,” Steve repeats.
He can see Danny replay the conversation in his head. “Then what is it about?”
Steve swallows stiffly and bites the bullet. “You’d ‘rather get kicked in the face’, Danno?”
Danny’s eyebrows shoot up to his hairline and his mouth hangs open for a split second. “What? What the hell are you talking about? I have lost all thread of this conversation!”
“I heard what you said to my mother.”
“You mean when she cast her puritanical value judgments on my sex life and my parenting skills, which is fucking rich coming from her –“
“Danny!” The yell reverberates inside the car. Danny shakes his head at him, the exasperation rolling off him like a river. Steve snaps his mouth shut, the clang of his teeth as audible as the shout was.
“She has no right to you, Steve.” Steve’s heartbeat is loud in his ears, sweat gathers at his hairline and he chokes on instinctive denial. “And she certainly has no right to me, ‘call me mom’, my ass. She has no idea who you are, or what we have, she has no right to start digging into our life like that. None.”
Danny is ruthless. The conflicting truths of what his mom told him and what Danny says feel like forceps digging into his brain. He closes his eyes and rubs his temples. “Danny,” he croaks and then all he hears the soft sound of Danny’s nails tapping on the window.
Steve clears his throat. “We’re not bad, the two of us, together.”
Danny glares at him. “When we are together.”
“Damn it, Danny –“
“What am I supposed to say, huh? I never know if you’re coming or going and now you want to talk about marriage? There’s something wrong with you.” He knows what Danny means when he says that and his heart twists a bit at the sentiment, though he’s not sure if that’s just a Pavlovian reaction to the words, because Danny seems serious this time.
“I didn’t know marriage was off the table.”
“You’re demented. This look like Massachusetts to you?”
Steve snorts. “Give me a break, Danno. You said a ‘a kick to the face’”
“Hey, the trampling of my civil rights is a pretty big kick to the –“
“Bullshit! I know you!”
“You know me? Be more vague, Steven. I dare you.” Danny’s whole body is a continuous motion machine.
When a truck drives by its lights shine through the window onto Danny and once again, Steve can’t help himself, he’s irresistible. He unbuckles his belt, clutches the v of Danny’s shirt and catches his mouth with his.
Danny huffs at him for moment, before he lets Steve in, opening his mouth minutely, their tongues touching lightly, and Steve realizes that they haven’t kissed since before he left for Japan with Joe. He deepens the kiss and feels Danny breathe him in and grab the fabric of his shirt.
Breathing becomes an issue and Steve’s heart is racing when he pulls back and looks at Danny, who is pinker than he was before, strands of his hair escaping its meticulous shape.
“I don’t want to get married,” Danny says, his breath ghosting over Steve’s mouth.
Steve tightens his grip on Danny and Danny holds onto Steve’s wrists where they press into his chest. The car is cramped and dark, the air between them heavy. “Danny?”
“Is this something you’ve actually contemplated, really?”
Steve pulls his wrists out of Danny’s grasp and takes Danny’s hand between his. Danny places his other hand on top of Steve’s.
“It… it was never really an option before.”
Danny’s hand tightens over Steve’s. Danny’s chest heaves with a sigh and his eyes look like they’re about to overflow. Steve doesn’t know how Danny survives like this, his heart open and bleeding all the time, exposed to the harsh elements of the world. "Babe, I love you, I love what we have and I love what you give me. Can you honestly say you want a rubber stamp on this?"
Danny’s bluntness isn’t a surprise. "It's not just a rubber stamp, Danny, and you know it."
"No, it isn't. But what I want is you and this." Danny gestures between them. "I don't want bureaucracy meddling, or anyone passing judgment.”
"Danno - "
"I don't need or want other people approving or disapproving of us, okay. Your mother made it perfectly clear what she thought about the milk and the cow and the ‘healthy relationship’ bullshit."
“This isn’t about Doris,” Steve grinds out. He breathes through the stinging sensation in his nose.
“Pull the other one, Steve.” Danny removes his other hand from the pile and Steve doesn’t expect the feeling of loss to fill his chest, or the elation at Danny putting a hand on his thigh, his thumb stroking a wrinkle of his pants. “Beyond the fact that marriage for the likes of us is on shaky grounds at the moment, what we have isn’t marriage material.”
Steve swallows down the hot ball of anger that coalesces inside him. “’The likes of us’? What the hell?”
Danny cups his jaw, and the heat inside Steve boils down for a moment. “That doesn’t mean it isn’t genuine, or that I’m any less committed to you.”
Steve grips Danny’s wrist. “If that’s how you feel, why not get married?” he asks.
Danny strokes his chin with his thumb. “Steve, can you seriously promise me forever?”
Steve’s heart twists in his chest, and the breath rattles out of him. “Danny…”
“Because I can’t, babe. I can’t give you something I never had to begin with.” The warmth of Danny’s hand on Steve’s face is soothing, and he closes his eyes. Danny pulls him over, hugging his head to his sternum and Danny’s heartbeat echoes in his ear.
Danny’s hand strokes the nape of Steve’s neck, and Steve opens his eyes, sees inside Danny’s shirt and allows himself to admire the contours of Danny’s chest. Steve’s hand wanders.
Danny shivers as his thumb nail catches a nipple and he’s gently shoved out of Danny’s space. “This is neither the time nor the place,” Danny says.
Steve leans forward and catches Danny’s lips again, a gentler kiss than before and says against his mouth, “Take me home, Danno.”
- The End