For the first time in almost 20 years, Steve calls in sick.
He’s not, but that doesn’t really matter, given recent events. It’s not every day that you have to bring back the decayed remains of a past lover from enemy territory, after all.
The flight from Seoul is long, longer than he remembers – and Steve had a lot of time to think on the way. Normally he would lament the fact that he never developed the ability to sleep on planes, but he can’t begrudge his inability to drop off at any given moment this time, because every time he closes his eyes he’s back in that village, armed with an M16 and the knowledge that if things went belly-up, no one was coming to get them.
It had all happened so fast that he’d never even seen Freddie get hit and suddenly there was so much blood and Steve felt like his heart was trying to beat its way out of his chest as though it could somehow give Freddie enough life to get them both back to base. That maybe, if it beat just hard enough, it could keep Freddie’s heart going until someone could patch him up.
“Do the job!”
“My job is not leaving anybody behind!”
In the end, all Steve could do was wrap a hand around the back of Freddie’s neck and rest his forehead against his partner’s. All Steve could think was that he never got to tell him, well, anything he’d ever wanted to. The risk of someone overhearing had been too high, and the only time they’d ever been away from base had been spent running missions, and there’d just never been time. In their line of work, it was stupid to even contemplate living with the expectation of multiple chances, but he’d always hoped that there would be. He’d always hoped.
“Look at me, hoss. I’m not going anywhere.”
And he hadn’t. Freddie died right there, in that exact spot, and the last thing he had heard was gunfire and the sound of Steve driving away in a rusted out truck.
“Don’t let this be for nothing.”
Steve walked around that camp for weeks afterward, struggling to compartmentalize when all he saw in a sea of cammies was Freddie’s stupid, handsome face, alive and smiling without a care in the world. When he got orders to move out with Anton Hesse, he dove into planning and didn’t come up for air until they were set to leave.
Steve lost his dad a few days later, the package Freddie had died helping him retrieve was also dead, and all he could think was that, in the end, it really hadn’t been worth anything at all. So when Governor Jameson offered him the job to run her task force, he took it. He transferred to the Reserves and buried himself in manhunt after manhunt. He was...well, he wasn’t okay, but he was managing, and the never-ending criminal circus that was Hawai’i never gave him a moment to stop and actually consider all the things he was avoiding. There was Victor Hesse, then Wo Fat, fucking Internal Affairs, the Yakuza, Frank Delano, and Wo Fat again, and before he knew it, three years had gone by, and then he hopped on a plane to Korea, and then...
...and then Steve called in sick.
It’s 10am and he knows it’s only a matter of time before Danny shows up with orders from Chin and Kono to make sure he’s okay, so Steve reaches for the good scotch he keeps hidden in the cabinet above the refrigerator and gets to work.
He hasn’t eaten yet today, so it’s not long before his head is swimming, stuck in that wonderful, warm place where the world is just half a second behind him. The thought sours his mood, though, almost as quickly as it’d come, and isn’t that a kick in the ass? All he’d ever wanted was for everything to go faster; Annapolis, training, everything he’d done to become a SEAL, climbing the ranks at a record pace. The time between missions had been the worst - not enough time to care about exploring the area he found himself in, but not a small enough window to let him avoid everything he’d been running from for nearly two decades. He loved his life in the military and he knows that, but he resents himself for letting the military become his only life.
Life as a SEAL had given him many things: a purpose, the chance to travel, to experience the world and its varied people and cultures, a family when he’d believed he didn’t have one to go home to. All of these things were - are - good, but the military also stole so much from his life: the chance to share his whole self, to ask out one of the boys in his class because Steve thought he was cute. The chance to know for sure that his feelings for Catherine had been real, or if he was just reluctant to let go of his safety net, someone who did know him, who loved and accepted him, and who he would probably hurt someday because he just couldn’t be sure. The military had shaped so much of his life that even after three years of being in the reserves, of being a man of the law and adjusting to civilian life, hadn’t broken him of his carefully cultivated routines.
Even in his late 30s, you could set your clock by his daily life. Wake up at 0500, swim two miles, or run on the beach if the water was too cold that morning - because he has that choice now - showered and out the door by 0630, ready to spend however long it takes at work to get the job done, and maybe grab a beer with the team if he feels up to it. Wash, rinse, repeat.
Everything he does serves a purpose, the objective to always get in and out with minimal mess and maximum functionality, and if things get messy, well, collateral damage isn’t always unavoidable. It’s all about expediency, about the fastest and most efficient way to complete the objective. Buy five packs of the same shirts in the same colors, cargo pants in different colors for a little variation, but not so much that you prevent yourself from getting out the door as fast as you can when needed.
Since Steve never does things by halves, it kind of figured that he’d just...dive in, where Danny is concerned, and honestly, that thought alone was reason enough for the good scotch.
They’ve been dancing around this thing for months, anyway. He’s done a lot of reflecting today, and if there’s one thing he’s learned, it’s that hoping you’ll have the time to tell someone you love them doesn’t mean that the opportunity is guaranteed.
He’s pleasantly buzzed by the time Danny comes waltzing through the front door, talking a mile a minute, ranting about how they never get to take any time off but Steve - the captain of the damn team - just gets to call in whenever he wants, no questions asked, just a get well wish and a have a nice day. Steve knows it’s all crap, that Danny’s doing it all for his benefit, trying to maintain some level of normalcy between them, and Steve smiles absently. Danny knowing him this well is just one of a thousand reasons why Steve fell for him so hard.
When his yelling doesn’t get a reaction out of Steve his partner sighs, sets the six pack of beer down on the coffee table, and drops himself onto the couch beside Steve. He doesn’t talk, doesn’t ask Steve to either, just sits with him in silence while Steve collects his thoughts and Danny, he supposes, figures out the best way to approach him. Danny is a lot of things, Steve knows, but patient is not one of them.
“You wanna talk?”
The question seems to open the floodgates, because the words just kind of tumble out and suddenly Steve is confessing to everything he was never allowed to say.
He admits to Danny that he and Freddie had been more than just brothers in arms, and leaving him behind after that mission had broken him in more ways than one. He talks about how he wasn’t able to grieve like he wanted. Yes, he was visibly upset after returning from North Korea after the op went bad, but everyone wrote that off as a commander losing his second in command, and let that be that. But Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was still on the books, and Steve could never tell anyone how he’d loved Freddie in a way that would have cost them everything; the Navy would have taken away Steve’s career without batting an eyelash, would have erased all of Freddie’s struggles and commendations to get to where he was before he’d died fighting for a country that wouldn’t have stood beside him if they’d known what went on behind closed doors.
He’s never hated the Navy, but they made him wish he could.
Steve admits that he got really good at shutting down his feelings after that, drowning himself in hours-long workouts and mission planning, sleeping and eating and going about his day on muscle memory alone. The only thing that kept him going was the memory of Freddie, and the promise they’d made to each other to keep going if anything ever happened.
Freddie was the only man Steve had ever been with, and if he’s honest, Freddie was the only man he’d ever wanted enough to run the risk of getting caught. Steve’s not gay, has always known that, but he’s not exactly straight, either. When Steve loves, he does it with his entire being, all-in, eyes wide open, and he’s never passed up a chance to have that, no matter who the person was.
This is the first time he’s admitted the whole truth, though, and it’s scarier than any classified op he’d ever run in his entire career. Danny asks him why not sooner, after the repeal, and Steve just sighs and says that keeping secrets is a hard habit to shake when it meant the difference between an award-filled career and being kicked out and sent home like your contributions suddenly meant nothing.
There’s a long pause, and for one sick moment, Steve worries that Danny is just going to stand up, walk out the door, and never come back.
“You know what else is hard to shake?” Danny asks, leaning closer. Steve shakes his head. “Me.”
Steve’s heart hammers in his chest, but he meets Danny halfway before he can give it any thought.
Sex with Freddie had always been quick and dirty, with the exception of the one time they were on leave together, so Steve never got to explore anything more than what could be reached right then and there. There had never been time to get to know each other more intimately, at least physically speaking, than “hey, I like that dick touching thing, we should touch dicks more often.” There’d just never been time, and Steve probably regrets that most of all.
Danny has Steve pinned to the wall at the base of the stairs, plundering Steve’s mouth, the slip-slide of wet skin and the clicking of teeth the only noise to break the silence of the late Tuesday morning. Steve leans back, arms above his head in invitation, the rustle of his shirt hitting the ground followed by the hitch in Danny’s breathing.
Steve has considered every possible avenue that had the potential to lead them to this moment: an anger-fueled fuck after a hard case; a desperate need to feel pulses beating beneath skin after one of them nearly dies, again; or a mutual decision to acknowledge the elephant in the room and act on it. This has happened in his head in any number of ways, but never like this. This is so much better, because this is real.
When he and Danny make it to the bedroom, Steve’s nervous. Not because he doesn’t know what to expect, because he does, but because he wants to do things differently. He doesn’t want this to be like it was with Freddie. What they had was special and important, and he’ll always treasure it, but he’s been gone for years and Steve wants to create something new with Danny, something all their own. He refuses to hide in the shadows, forced to be ashamed of the person he loves and, more importantly, the person he is. He won’t do that to Danny, and he’s done doing it to himself. So, he asks Danny to do the one thing Freddie never did.
“Fuck me,” he groans into the shell of Danny’s ear. “Any way you want, just...please.”
It feels like it takes days, weeks, but Danny finally gets Steve stripped down to just his boxers. If this were happening at any other point Steve would complain that he’s nearly naked while Danny’s fully clothed, but Danny’s tie gives Steve something to hold on to, a tether that keeps him grounded to the present instead of drowning in the past.
“You with me, babe?” Danny murmurs. Steve exhales loudly and nods. A shiver runs down his spine when he feels Danny smile against the sensitive skin behind his ear.
“Get on the bed,” Danny says, and Steve does. He doesn’t want to argue today.
Steve crawls up the bed until he reaches the headboard. Unsure of how Danny wants him, he turns his head so that he’s looking at him, this man who is now standing at the foot of the bed, white button down shirt completely undone, the planes of his chest on full display, and Steve’s fingers itch to run through the layer of blonde hair covering Danny’s skin. Danny must notice, because his smile widens slowly, his grin mischievous as he motions for Steve to turn onto his back.
Steve straightens out the sheets as much as possible before spreading himself out across the mattress, grinning back at Danny when he sees the other man’s fingers twitch. He knows what kind of picture he’s painting, all tanned skin against dark blue sheets, legs spread and arms tucked behind his head. He’s an open invitation, sealed with a smile, waiting for Danny to accept.
He doesn’t have to wait long.
Danny climbs on the bed and slowly crawls over Steve’s body until his knees are resting against Steve’s hips. He doesn’t settle himself back, though, avoiding Steve’s groin altogether. Steve groans, moves to grab Danny’s hips and pull him down, but Danny grabs his wrists and pins them to the bed instead, clicking his tongue.
“You want me to fuck you,” Danny says, leaning down until his nose bumps against Steve’s. “We do it my way.”
That...should not be as hot as it is, but that doesn’t stop Steve from keeping his hands in place while Danny runs teasing fingers up and down Steve’s arms. Goosebumps break out across his skin as Danny laces his fingers with Steve’s and leans in for a kiss.
They spend long minutes just kissing, becoming familiar with how the other operates, and Steve learns that Danny’s breath hitches when you bite his lower lip, and Danny uses his newfound knowledge of Steve’s love for wet, messy kisses to his advantage, stopping just short of fucking Steve’s mouth with his tongue, and it’s so, so good. Steve’s hands stay in place, grip tightening and loosening in time with the intensity of their kisses, but his hips continue to seek out that delicious friction his cock so badly needs.
Steve groans when Danny pulls back and moves on to Steve’s neck, kissing and biting at the curve of his shoulder while moving his hips up and away from Steve’s. Danny’s always played dirty no matter the game, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he does the same in bed. Steve can feel a bruise blooming under the skin of his neck, right where Danny bit down just hard enough to pull Steve back out of his head, and Steve grins, biting his own lip. There’s no way Danny knows what a turn-on it is for Steve to be marked, but he’s looking forward to explaining it, at some point in the future, in explicit detail.
Danny’s exploration moves south to Steve’s chest, peppering kisses across his collarbone and licking over the tattoos around Steve’s nipples.
“These,” Danny grunts, circling the art with his fingers. “Do you know how long I’ve wanted to get my mouth on these?”
Steve smiles, resting his head back against his pillow. “Why don’t you show me?”
Danny bites down on Steve’s nipple just this side of too hard, and Steve is pretty sure that, at least for him, coherency is on its way out the door. Before he even realizes Danny’s left arm had moved, a hand is rubbing Steve’s cock through the cotton of his boxers, punching the air right out of Steve’s lungs. Steve hasn’t been touched like this in so long, rough hands working him to complete hardness in what feels like record time, and he whimpers with the need for more.
“Fuck, Steve, you should see yourself. So beautiful like this, all spread out for me, doing whatever I say and just taking it,” Danny says, teasing the skin right above the waistband of Steve’s boxers. “I’m gonna take my time with you someday. Really take you apart piece by piece, make you scream. Make you come so hard the only thing you can remember is my name.”
Steve whimpers again. Danny grins, a wicked gleam in his eye when Steve looks up at him.
“The question is, Steve,’ Danny says, slowly sliding his way down Steve’s body until his head is level with Steve’s hips. “Is whether you wanna fuck my hand...or my mouth.”
“Hnng,” Steve groans, completely at a loss for words.
“Good enough for me,” Danny replies, before pulling Steve’s boxers down and swallowing his dick in one go.
“Fuck!” Steve shouts, hips coming up off the bed. Danny hasn’t looked away from him, not once, hell bent on watching Steve’s every expression, even with most of Steve’s cock in his throat. Danny hums around his mouthful, bobbing up and down with one hand wrapped around the base while the thumb of his other hand gently massages the patch of skin behind Steve’s balls. It’s overwhelming, watching Danny do this without a hint of shame, and Steve wants nothing more than to come in the wet heat of Danny’s mouth, but Danny stops, pulling away and blowing cool air against the tip of Steve’s cock. It makes him shiver, and it distracts him just long enough that Danny has time to get the upper hand and roll Steve over onto his stomach.
Danny sits back on Steve’s thighs, hands resting against Steve’s lower back while he waits for Steve’s breathing to slow down. He rubs gentle hands over Steve’s back, pressing into the muscle of his shoulders as he massages out the tension Steve always seems to hold there. Steve settles back into his body bit by bit, relaxing under Danny’s ministrations, breathing in time with Danny’s hands sweeping up and down his ribs. He feels like he could fall asleep right here, orgasm or not, content to give himself over to Danny, just for a little bit.
But Danny’s hands disappear, and Steve spends long seconds wondering why everything stopped, when the bed shifts around him and Danny presses a gentle kiss to the base of Steve’s neck. Steve hums to himself, blood simmering under his skin as Danny kisses his way down Steve’s spine, slow and methodical, removing Steve’s boxers along the way.
Steve is caught off guard when Danny pulls his cheeks apart and keeps going. Nobody’s ever done this to him before, but he’s always wondered what it would be like. At the first pass of Danny’s tongue over his hole, Steve’s hands clamp down on his pillow like they’re holding on for dear life.
Danny rims him like he kisses: all tongue, a hint of teeth, and plenty of finesse. He spends long minutes alternating between his mouth and his hand, working Steve loose with his tongue and testing resistance with his fingers, slowly working Steve into a sloppy, gasping mess, and Steve never wants it to end. His ass is tender, skin sensitive and probably red from Danny’s stubble, and Steve wants more. He pushes back against Danny’s tongue, muttering a litany of “fuck” and “more” and “please” that has Danny approaching his task with renewed vigor. Steve’s sure he can’t come from this alone, but the sounds Danny is making behind him - like he’s never tasted anything so good - makes him wish that he could.
“Danny,” Steve gasps, reaching back to get Danny’s attention. “Danny, now.”
“I suppose,” Danny sighs, pressing one last kiss to Steve’s ass before climbing up Steve’s body and moving him onto his back. Steve closes his eyes and breathes, tries to steady his racing heart as he hears Danny taking off his shirt.
Steve has to take a second to just look, to take in the fact that this is real, that Danny is real, that Steve gets to keep this for as long as Danny allows. To a certain extent, Steve is all too aware of the effect he has on Danny, but Steve will never be able to articulate exactly how deep his feelings for Danny run, how Danny’s presence has sunk into his skin, his home, his life, how Steve never wants it to go away.
He hears a quiet thump as Danny drops his jeans and briefs to the floor before he joins Steve on the bed, the soft swoosh of skin on sheets surrounding them as he settles himself between Steve’s spread legs and leans in to kiss him, soft and slow. He hears the drawer of the nightstand open and shut, hears Danny drop something next to them before sliding his hands underneath Steve’s back, rubbing his hands over Steve’s shoulders as he settles in. He moves his hands down until he has a firm grip on Steve’s ass, and pulls him so that there’s no space left between them.
They stay like that, kissing and grinding, barely stopping long enough to breathe, and Steve thinks he could be content to do just this, shut out the world and lay here in the quiet with Danny for the rest of his life. Eventually, though, his lips feel sore and chapped, mouth nearly bone dry, and he has to pull away. He’s met with the image of Danny smiling lazily, bathed in the afternoon sunlight filtering in through the window, and Steve wants to kiss every inch of him, plans to spend hours doing it someday soon.
Before he can ask, Steve pulls the lube out of the pile of sheets and puts it in Danny’s hand.
“You sure?” he asks.
Steve simply smiles fondly, the one he gives Danny when he’s quietly judging him for asking a question he already knows the answer to, presses a barely-there kiss against the stubble of his jaw, leaning in to brush his nose against Danny’s.
It’s not perfect – Danny gets a little enthusiastic with the lube, staining the sheets beyond repair, and Steve nearly knees him in the face when Danny reaches for him while his hand is still cold, but it feels right. It’s all slippery fingers and whispered words and choked out moans, Danny’s hands all over Steve’s skin. He listens to Steve’s body, uses slow and easy presses of fingers as he does his best to make sure Steve feels as little pain as possible. He pulls out when Steve taps his shoulder, uses the excess lube on himself before sliding up Steve’s body and lining up but not pressing in, giving Steve one more chance to back out. Steve nods again, and that settles it.
Danny can obviously sense Steve’s discomfort when he starts to slide inside, so he goes slowly, so slow that it feels like an eternity before he bottoms out. He waits for what feels like hours, waits for Steve to do something, anything that tells Danny he can move. Steve is a sweaty, gasping mess beneath him, heart filled to bursting with the love he feels for Danny in this moment, and this is the best he’s felt in years. Danny waits, waits until Steve opens his eyes, until brown meets blue, and Steve shifts one more time, wrapping his legs around Danny’s waist and his arms around Danny’s neck, burying one hand in Danny’s hair, and moves.
Steve doesn’t expect to enjoy it so much, but he does. He really, really does. He never wants this to end, wants Danny in his bed and heart and body for as long as he can get him. It continues for long, drawn-out minutes, the steady back and forth of Danny’s hips, Steve’s staccato breathing as Danny hits that place inside him, only losing eye contact long enough to kiss, Danny who has one hand gently pulling on Steve’s hair and the other wrapped around his shoulder from underneath, their foreheads pressed together.
Steve, who Danny would argue has communication issues the likes of which he’s never seen before, lets his body speak for him, lets his reactions tell Danny how to angle his hips, to speed up or slow down, where else he wants Danny to touch him.
Steve is silent up until Danny reaches down between them and takes him in hand, moving up and down slowly in counterpoint to his hips. Steve has been on edge for so long that it only takes a handful of strokes before he comes, moaning low and long, head thrown back in Danny’s pillow, neck exposed and back bowed. He clenches around Danny, arms wrapped tight around his shoulders as he rides it out. It seems to go on forever, gentle bursts of heat radiating out from underneath his skin, waves that start low in his gut and work their way through his body, stealing the air from his lungs.
Danny follows shortly after, teeth biting into the curve where neck meets shoulder as the aftershocks of Steve’s release wring Danny’s own from him, pulse after pulse of pleasure that leaves his vision blurry around the edges. Danny collapses on top of Steve, sticky hot and panting and content.
They lay like that as they come down, Steve humming in content as he gently cards his fingers through Danny’s hair as they hold each other, Danny relaxed and happy in the cradle of Steve’s body. Danny waits until the last possible moment before pulling out, wanting to stay connected to Steve for as long as possible, only moving far enough to barely avoid landing on him when his arms give out and he falls on the mattress. He throws an arm over Steve’s sweat-slick chest, too tired to try to move it anywhere else, and sighs happily.
“You know what I’m gonna have a hard time shaking?” he asks, nuzzling the skin behind Steve’s ear.
“What’s that, babe?”