There were a lot of ways Danny had pictured this going: the judge deciding to give full custody to Rachel; the judge deciding to give full custody to Danny; the judge ruling in favour of a complicated custody agreement involving reciprocal vacations and half of Danny's income being spent on airfare. The night before the hearing, he'd lain awake and stared at the cracks in the ceiling and imagined shared custody based on the lunar cycle, or the judge being interrupted halfway through by a Martian invasion. With his luck, you never knew.
As active as Danny's imagination was, however, as strong as all his fears could be at the thoughts of his little girl being taken away from him again, he'd forgotten to factor in one very important element: Steve.
The courtroom was mostly empty for the hearing. Stan and Rachel were already in Nevada, looking at the condo Stan's company had arranged for him; Grace was in school, because everyone had agreed that there was no need for her to be there unless it was absolutely necessary. It was just Danny in his best suit and carefully knotted tie, watching as the judge read over the paperwork, hoping that he had a good shot. He had a steady job with an income that was reasonable, if unspectacular; the new place he'd rented was small but clean and in a good neighbourhood; Grace was happy and settled in her school. Danny knew that Rachel and Stan loved her, knew that they'd be able to find her a school just as nice in Vegas, but this promotion of Stan's was going to have them moving every six months or so. Noises had been made about the possibility of boarding school. Danny was Grace's dad, and he loved her, and that should be worth more than any fancy boarding school, no matter if it taught elocution and horse riding lessons.
The judge paged through the files, taking notes as she went, before she started to ask some questions about Danny's support network. "With the majority of your family on the East Coast," she said, looking at Danny over the rims of her glasses, "and all of Mrs Edwards' in England, what contingency plans do you have in place in case of emergency? A child's stability depends on more than just a parent's income."
And Danny had this one prepped, okay, he was ready and able to answer it—he had a whole list of bullet-pointed and carefully coloured points sitting on the table in front of him—but in the moment he took to collect his thoughts, he heard someone behind him stand and say, "Ma'am, may I be allowed to speak?"
Danny turned slowly to see Steve, standing there in his full dress blues, hat tucked under his arm and looking as if he'd been spit-shined. "Steven," Danny hissed under his breath, but Steve ignored him, keeping his gaze trained on the judge and his back rigid.
The judge arched her eyebrows and said, "And you are?"
"Lieutenant Commander Steven McGarrett, ma'am. I know that you weren't expecting any witnesses here today, but I'd appreciate if you could give me a chance to speak, in my capacity as Daniel's partner."
Danny was willing to bet that the judge was in some way related to Chin, judging by the longsuffering look she cast at Steve before she said, "Proceed."
And okay, so Danny had been about ready to have a stroke at first, but it turned out that Steve wasn't so bad at this sort of thing: Danny supposed a lot of it came from the pretty blatant way he had to massage the truth in most of his reports, because the picture he painted of Danny was of a model father who had sacrificed a lot for his child and who had an active and generous group of friends.
"I see," the judge said, pursing her lips as she made yet more notes on the page in front of her. Then she took off her glasses and peered intently at Steve. "Are you married, Commander?"
Steve blinked. "No, ma'am."
"Well, I have no problem with Grace being primarily raised by a same-sex couple," the judge said. "In fact, I'm reassured by the presence of a second caregiver in the home. But I do have a preference for couples who are married or in a civil partnership. It shows commitment, and it clarifies several legal issues."
Danny had his mouth open to say, "Work partner, he's my work partner, why does everyone always think that we're—" but for the first time in his life, probably (call his ma, call Rachel, call his old Lieu back in Newark), someone was faster at talking than he was.
"Actually, ma'am, we'd planned on getting married next week," Steve said.
Danny let out a funny wheezing noise and Steve, the asshole, beamed like he'd just done something admirable. Danny was all set to rip Steve a new one and explain to the judge that Steve had been concussed a lot and didn't have much of a baseline for understanding human behaviour to begin with, she'd have to excuse him, when the judge nodded decisively.
"Well, I think I've heard everything I need to come to a conclusion," she said. "I'm granting primary custody of Grace to you, Mr Williams. Mrs Edwards will have visitation rights for three weeks each summer and two weeks each winter, and will pay child support at the agreed rate. This is of course pending confirmation of your marriage and will be revisited one year from now." The judge nodded at them both again, gathered up her papers, and left the room.
Danny sat there, gaping, and reconsidered whether or not he really had had that stroke.
"I don't see what the issue is," Steve said as they walked back towards the parking ramp. His tone was mild, reasonable, as if they were discussing his decision to order the turkey sandwich instead of the chicken.
Danny, on the other hand, was still having trouble expressing himself in complete and grammatical sentences. "I…" he began. "You… what even… it would serve you right if I just… what were you…"
"It was a logical decision, Danno," Steve said, interrupting him.
"You just proposed to me!" Danny said, flinging his arms wide, and startling a group of lawyers walking past them. He turned and stood in front of Steve, blocking the way to the stairwell that led up to their respective vehicles, prodding him in the chest with one irate finger. "Out of the blue, with no warning, in front of a family court judge! Tell me how that's logical, huh?"
"It gets you Grace," Steve said simply.
Danny stared up at him, and there was part of him that wanted to scream, or to punch something, but he had nothing in the face of Steve's steady earnestness. He felt himself deflate a little, scrubbed a hand over his face. "Okay," he said, "okay, we are going to talk about this. That I'm not going to have this out with you right here, right now, in public, this doesn't mean you've won, you got that? This is just me saying that I need to be drinking beer while I explain to you all the ways in which this is wrong and you're certifiable, okay?"
"Okay, Danno," Steve said, and Danny threw up his hands and stomped off towards the car.
"Let's try this again," Danny said. They were sitting at their usual spot in Steve's garden, on the chairs down by the shore. The sun was sinking towards the horizon and the tide was pushing steadily higher up the little rocky beach. Steve had taken a six-pack from the fridge and Danny had ordered takeout because no matter what face Steve might make at the prospect of MSG and carbohydrates, Danny was going to need some orange chicken to get through this. "Start at the beginning, where you tell me why you thought that saying 'yeah, your honour, we're getting hitched' was preferable to 'I'm sorry, I was unclear, we're work partners of the platonic nature'."
Steve sighed and poked at his rice with his chopsticks, staring down at the container in his hand as if it might give him some advice. "Danno—"
Danny held up a hand. "No Danno-ing me. Just talk."
"Look," Steve said, "it was a spur of the moment thing, okay? I didn't plan on doing anything."
Danny looked him up and down sceptically, cocking an eyebrow. Steve had long since changed out of his dress blues, but Danny hoped the implication was clear.
"I swear, man," Steve said, setting his rice down on the rickety card table between them. "I showed up because I wanted you to know I had your back, okay? I wore my blues because I knew this was important to you."
"Okay," Danny said, taking another swig of his beer. "But that doesn't tell me why you thought it was a good idea to promise a judge that we're on the verge of tying the knot."
Steve rubbed at the nape of his neck. "It was a tactical decision. Got us our objective with the minimum of fuss, and it's a plausible scenario."
"Plausible?" Danny said, spitting out each consonant as if it had personally offended him.
"We've known one another for a while, we hang out a lot," Steve said, "plus you're a cop and I'm Navy, makes sense that we wouldn't be up front about stuff like this."
"Where by 'stuff like this'," Danny said, deadpan, "you mean our secret gay love affair?"
Steve folded his arms. "Exactly."
Danny sighed and knocked back the last of his beer. "Okay," he said eventually, "so we get hitched, we sign on the dotted line, you say we get our objective. Which is what, precisely?"
"You get to keep Grace. You know I'd do anything to help you keep her," Steve said softly.
And yeah, Danny did know that—he'd watched Steve run himself ragged, over and over, to help keep Danny's little girl safe, because there was nothing that Steve wouldn't do for his family. For some reason Danny still didn't understand, Steve had redrawn his boundaries to make it so that Danny and Grace were included in that category the very first week they met.
"Yeah, but you can help me lots of ways that don't mean you've got to be fake married to me!" Danny said, "For what, at least a year, maybe, if we want to keep this judge happy and satisfied that you didn't just perjure yourself in—"
Steve made a face. How a guy that good-looking could pull faces that goofy, Danny would never know. "That wasn't sworn testimony."
He had a good handle on how it was Steve could bug the crap out of him sometimes, though. "And still not dealing with the main point, Steven," Danny said, throwing up his hands, "which is this. You do all this for me, and why? What do you get out of this? What makes this anything other than me and my problems barging into your life for a whole year, huh?"
And then Steve's face did one of those complicated things that Danny never could quite defend himself against, just like he never could quite decipher the expression: soft and fond but still somehow guarded. "I get to help."
For a long time afterwards, Danny told himself that because it was late, and he was tired, and because he had the prospect of waking up every morning for the first time in years and knowing that his little girl was safe asleep down the hallway—because of all those reasons, Danny sighed and cast his eyes up to heaven and said, "Okay, fine. I'll do it."
"Knew you'd see sense, Danny," Steve said, passing him over another beer. His smile was big and delighted, the way it always was when he got his own way.
Danny sighed again, heavily, and toasted Steve. "Trust you to badger someone into marrying him. Just for this, by the way, you get to tell Kono and Chin what's going on. No way I'm going to face down a Kono Kalakaua who's in search of all the gossip."
Steve winced. "By myself?"
"Oh yeah," Danny said firmly. "Plus remember what happened the last time Chin got inspired to fire up Photoshop?" Not to mention that Danny was going to have to figure out a way of gently explaining to Grace that her Danno liked boys now, just like her mom's sister liked girls, and doing the same to Rachel in a way that didn't deteriorate into a snide pissing match.
If you looked at it that way, Steve had the easier task. Almost.
It was Steve's turn to sigh. "Aww jeez."
Danny grinned and slouched down a little further in his chair. "Just easing you into married life, my friend."
A little after five the following morning, Danny's phone buzzed with an incoming text.
And then another.
Danny groaned, burying his head under his pillow in the hope that Kono wouldn't be tenacious about this. It was a pretty futile hope, he knew this, he'd been around Kono for more than five minutes, but he'd been banking on getting the patented Kalakaua interrogation routine after the sun had come up and he was significantly more caffeinated.
When she started calling him, he gave in, reached out from beneath the covers and scrabbled to retrieve the phone from his bedside table. "What?" Danny said, because surely his best defence was a good, blustery offence, "What, what, what, seriously, what cannot wait about this? What?"
"Secret love affair?" Kono said. In the background, Danny could hear the boom and roar of the ocean, the yells of other early morning surfers, a muffled voice that had to be Steve. "Are you kidding me, Danny?"
"What?" Danny said, sitting up and running a hand through his hair. Sure, Steve's cover story was hardly an airtight plan that would stand up to serious investigation, but it wasn't all that ridiculous. He'd been pretty sure that Kono and Chin would go along with it—hell, an overdeveloped sense of loyalty had made all four of them do a hell of a lot worse.
"Secret?" Kono hissed, with every sign of severe exasperation, and then hung up on him.
Danny blinked down at the phone before getting up and ready for the day. His confusion lasted all the way through his shower, his bowl of oatmeal and half of his first cup of coffee, until he realised that Kono hadn't been expressing outrage at a shoddy cover story—Steve hadn't told her the truth.
"Christ," Danny said, and had to swallow some ibuprofen with the rest of his coffee to ward off the worst of the resulting headache.
He headed into the office, and made distracted small talk with Chin—who had several recommendations for florists and caterers and no way was Danny going to go there, no way—and much more, uh, substantial talk with Kono until Steve showed up.
Danny marched across the room, grabbed Steve by the worn cotton of his t-shirt, and made a beeline for Danny's office. Once inside, he closed the door and pulled the blinds shut against Chin's amused stare. Probably, Danny thought, he was convinced that Steve and Danny were about to get it on right there on top of the desk, and hey, that was a train of thought Danny couldn't explore any further, not and be able to hold a rational conversation. A rational conversation that began with him spreading his arms wide and declaring, "What the actual fuck, Steve?"
Steve had the nerve to look bemused, the fucker, as he stood there and sipped from his travel mug of tea. "I don't know what you're talking about."
Danny folded his arms. "When I tasked you with telling Kono and Chin, what I meant for you was to tell Kono and Chin! Not to spin them some tale about how we've been having some torrid affair—"
"Torrid," Steve mouthed, with every sign of amusement.
"—Do not mock my vocabulary, you asshole, because that is the word that was used! And it's only a step from there to tawdry because Kono, it turns out, Kono is wounded that I didn't confide my feelings in her before! She's wounded because, to quote her"—Danny pointed out in the general direction of the office—"'everyone knew you and the boss were doing it, brah. No need to keep it a secret.' Are you honestly telling me you don't see the problem here?"
Steve scratched at a patch of dark stubble. "Yeah. Probably need to work on team communication some."
Danny stared at him in utter, speechless exasperation for a long moment. "No, you—what happened to telling them what's actually going on here, huh?"
"Makes more sense not to from a tactical perspective," Steve said, before draining the last of his tea. "Plausible deniability, much better plan of attack."
"You," Danny said slowly, "are touched in the head."
Steve looked smug.
"Wait," Danny said that evening. He'd been just about to turn off his computer and head home for the night, maybe have a well-deserved Longboard or three to help him ignore how his life was turning out so surreal it was like one of those paintings with the melted clocks, when Steve marched into his office and silently handed over an envelope. Danny pulled it open to find a sheaf of papers inside. "Hold on," he said. "Before you say anything, I have two questions, here, which I want you to answer succinctly, okay?"
"Yes, Danny," Steve said.
"First," Danny said, holding up an index finger. "When you told the judge that we're getting married next week, did you already have this planned?" He brandished the marriage license at Steve. "Because this is backdated, Steven."
"Nah," Steve said, and shrugged. "I called in a favour to get it, got it backdated some, because of—"
"Plausible deniability, yeah, yeah, I got it," Danny said. "But second, and I think this is really key, here"—he stabbed a finger at the bottom of the page—"did you forge my signature on our marriage license?"
Steve looked confused, like he honestly didn't see the issue here. "It was more expedient to—"
"You don't get expert at forging my signature through expediency, Steve! This is something that takes practice!"
Steve shifted from foot to foot. "A well-prepared team leader plans for any contingencies which may befall his team."
"Oh my god," Danny said in dawning horror. "You have a lock box somewhere, don't you, with fake passports for all of us?"
Steve looked decidedly shifty.
"Oh my god," Danny said again.
On the plus side, if they were aiming to be convincing about this to anyone who might be suspicious, Steve had the whole 'driving Danny crazy' aspect of marriage down pat.
Danny, of course, had to explain things to Grace and Rachel. Things with Rachel went both better and worse than he'd expected—she didn't yell, didn't reveal any sudden, unexpected streak of prejudice or threaten to use Danny's supposedly newfound bisexuality against him in a renewed custody battle. She just stood there in the foyer, surrounded by half-packed boxes, and looked at him with a steady, assessing gaze which reminded Danny that her day job was forensic accounting.
"Well," she said when Danny finished speaking. "Congratulations are in order, then. Though I'm just glad that you and Commander McGarrett have finally come to an agreement. I suppose he always was the more level-headed of the two of you."
Danny was so distracted by her referring to Steve, of all people, as level-headed, that he didn't notice that 'finally' part until a lot later.
Grace took it much more in her stride. Danny supposed when you were ten and most of your knowledge of marriage came from Disney movies, the idea of a spur-of-the-moment wedding didn't seem that far-fetched. The lack of talking chipmunks or magical spells was probably more perturbing to her than the fact that her dad was suddenly marrying another guy.
"I know it's probably a lot to take in, Monkey," Danny said. They were sitting on one of the sofas in the living room, while Rachel made tea. "And if you have questions, or if it makes you sad, that's okay. Me and your mom, we still love you, and me getting married to Steve doesn't change that, okay?"
"Yeah," Grace said and shrugged. "I know you love me, Danno. And I like Uncle Steve. He gives good hugs and he helps keep you safe when you're at work. And he likes you lots, too."
"That is very true," Danny said. Well, to be fair sometimes Steve was really good at getting them into trouble, but he also had a pretty solid track record of getting them all out of said trouble mostly unscathed. And he probably was the best friend Danny had in the world: the one who knew him best and accepted him with that weird, McGarrettish unflappability of his. Danny reached out and hugged Grace, pressing a kiss to the crown of her head and feeling a faint pang at the realisation that every day she got a little taller, every day got a little closer to the point where he wouldn't be able to do this any more. "How'd you get so smart, huh?"
Grace hugged him back and said, "Can you have an ice-cream cake at your wedding?"
Danny laughed, and kissed her hair again. "I'll see what we can do."
Danny hadn't really ever imagined what it would be like to get married again. Thought about being in another relationship, sure; dreamed some nights about Gabby's soft curves, when they were still together, or indulged in idle daydreams about women he glimpsed at the beach, about the hot secretary at Grace's school. But none of those fantasies had ever gotten as far as him making vows to another person, and definitely not like this: not with Steve facing him; not with what felt like almost everyone he cared about crammed into this tiny, overheated room, watching him and Steve stand in front of a judge.
When he'd first landed in Honolulu, Danny'd never thought he'd get to have friendships again like the ones he'd left behind—but here he was, in a whole room full of people who'd scrambled to be present at short notice because this was supposed to be a day for Danny to be happy, and they wanted to share in that. Chin and Malia, their fingers laced together; Kono, leaning into Charlie Fong; Max and Lori; Catherine and Kamekona and Jenna, Mary and Mamo, Amy and Duke and Toast. His parents and sisters were watching over a Skype connection that Max had rigged up, Grace was sitting in the front row, beaming and wearing a hurriedly purchased flower girl dress, and Kamekona had promised an extra-large serving of his famous shrimp wedding surprise (on the house, bruddah) for the reception.
It was all a little overwhelming, was Danny's point, all of these people here for them, all of these people whom Danny was lying to, even if it was for the best of reasons. It made him hesitate a little, when it came to his "I do", especially when Steve was looking at him like that—looking at him like Danny hung the moon. The worst of it was that the lie seemed to come so easy to the both of them.
After a moment, the judge raised an eyebrow at him, and Danny flushed a little and said, "Hey, sorry, nerves. Yes. Yes, I do."
The openly delighted look on Steve's face made the next part even easier, and Danny surged forward to press a kiss to Steve's lips.
It was a toss-up as to whether Kono or Mary wolf-whistled the loudest.
There wasn't really much discussion about where they were going to live. The lease on Danny's apartment was up in a couple of weeks, and Steve owned his house outright; it was in a good neighbourhood and close to Gracie's school. There was the spare room for Grace to commandeer, plenty of room for her toys and her schoolbooks, and space in Steve's closet for Danny's clothes, even if he bitched plenty when he carried in the box of Danny's ties.
"You hardly even wear them anymore," Steve said. "It's a waste of space."
"Ah, ah," Danny said, busy putting his socks and underwear into the drawer that Steve had set aside for him. "First rule of marriage. What's yours is mine and what's mine is… mine. The ties stay, no argument."
Steve grumbled but put the ties into the closet before he went back out to the truck to fetch in the last few boxes. Danny snagged his toiletry bag and went to put his stuff in the bathroom, arranging his hair gel next to Steve's soap—it was the kind that smelled so harsh Danny thought it could also do double-duty stripping paint from the sides of ships.
When he re-emerged, it was to find Steve staring at the bed with an odd expression on his face, and they hadn't discussed this part—for some reason, Danny hadn't thought through this part at all. Of course there were only two functioning bedrooms here, Steve's old bedroom having long since been turned into a sort of holding space for surfboards and so on, and Grace would naturally get the spare bedroom. Which left this one bedroom, and a little girl who thought that her Danno and Steve were married just like her Mom and Stan were.
Which meant sharing a bed.
"I, uh… When Grace isn't here," Danny said, "I'll take the couch, of course, that's no big deal. I figured when she's here, I can just use a sleeping bag or something." He gestured at the floor, trying his best to work up some enthusiasm for the idea. The flooring was all good, solid Hawaiian hardwood and the thoughts of lying on it to sleep, even with the benefit of a well-padded sleeping bag, made Danny's back give out a twinge of protest.
Steve just stared at him. "What are you talking about?"
"The sleeping arrangements," Danny said, squinting at him. "I thought that was pretty obvious from, you know, my use of the term 'sleeping bag.'"
"There's a perfectly good bed right here," Steve said, pointing at it.
"Yes," Danny said, folding his arms. "I'm aware. Your bed."
"What did you just say about what's mine being yours, huh?"
"That was concerning the topic of neckties, Steven, which is entirely—"
"It's a large bed, Danny, it's designed to take more than one person. I'll take one side, you take the other. I've bunked up in worse conditions before."
Danny looked down at the bed, trying to imagine his head next to Steve's on the pillows. "I don't know that we'd—"
Steve folded his arms. "Don't make me joke about you being the little spoon. Because I will go there, I will."
"Jeez, fine," Danny said. "Fine. But I get the right-hand side, and if you poke me with your cold toes in the middle of the night, I will smother you, I swear."
Apart from that, they hadn't really discussed the details much: everything fell into an unspoken rhythm with an ease that would have frightened him if he'd let himself think about it. They'd kissed at the wedding, sure, but after that point there was no more physical contact between them save the amount Danny had grown used to—hands touching forearms or shoulders to get someone's attention, Steve's hand against the small of Danny's back sometimes to steer him, Danny tugging at Steve's shirt to make a point. The only difference was that now when Steve touched Danny, it was with a hand that bore a plain gold band on one finger. Steve had his bank account and Danny had his, Steve had his side of the bed and Danny had his, Steve made breakfast in the mornings and Danny was in charge of dinner. It was almost entirely unnegotiated, but it worked.
Which in retrospect, Danny admitted, should have been a warning sign.
Mary stayed on for a couple of weeks after the wedding, renting a vacation place from some cousin of Kamekona's and claiming that she was owed time off at work. From the way Steve's jaw went a little tight when she said that, Danny was pretty sure that wasn't the whole story—Danny would have been very surprised if there really was a job in LA for Mary to go back to. Stubbornness was a patented McGarrett trait—Danny was convinced that if you stuck Steve's genes under a microscope, you'd find they all had a set jawline and a habit of ignoring best practice guidelines for DNA, though honestly, you'd never know it from looking at the guy because he'd won all the genetic lotteries. Said stubbornness just manifested a little differently in the two of them: Steve was all go-go-go tenacity, the kind of bulldog grit you needed to get through something like BUD/S training; Mary was more my-way-or-the-highway, willing to walk if things weren't what she wanted them to be.
Of course, Danny reflected one evening towards the end of her stay, Mary was perfectly capable of focusing when she had a bee in her metaphorical bonnet.
Case in point: he was standing in the kitchen, chopping tomatoes and onions, trying to get the major prep work out of the way before Steve and Grace got back from the store. Mary was leaning against the kitchen cabinets and watching him steadily, a beer in her hand and an odd look on her face.
"You know," Danny said conversationally, after five minutes of being subjected to what McGarretts thought was subtlety, "I hear if you take a picture, it lasts longer."
Mary took another swig of her beer. "Probably I should have said this before you guys got hitched, but if you hurt my brother," she said evenly, "I will hurt you, just so we're clear about this."
Very carefully, Danny put his knife down and turned to look at her. "Excuse me?"
"Don't get me wrong," Mary said, "You're a nice guy, Danny. Steve's clearly happy when he's around you, and for what it's worth, I like you. Even with those ties and the hair."
"Yes," Danny said, "those are words of true affection you're speaking right there."
"But," Mary continued, as if he hadn't said anything, "Steve's been hurt a lot these past few years. I don't want to see him get hurt again, and he's gone all in here."
"Yeah," Danny said softly, thinking of all the things that Steve had done for him without ever asking for something in return—all the way back to that first week, when Steve had turned up all bruises and bandages and bashful smiles, with an over-the-top gift for Danny and his little girl. "Yeah, I know."
"And I know how he gets hurt," Mary said, putting down her beer and folding her arms, "because I've hurt him myself. But I'm his sister, so I'm allowed to be a hypocrite about this, okay?"
Danny shrugged. "I've got family, I get it. But…" He paused for a moment, trying to work out how to phrase things. He didn't want to outright lie to Mary, but he knew he couldn't tell her the full truth, either—whatever her good points, discretion wasn't one of them. He settled for getting as close as he could. "Steve's my best friend, okay? And he drives me nuts, sometimes, and we're never going to see eye to eye on everything, but…" He shrugged again, a little helplessly this time. "You get right down to it, he's my best friend, and I'm never going to set out to hurt him, all right? And if I do, you know where I live."
Mary grinned. "That's true."
And then Danny heard the rumble of the truck's engine outside, and everything was bustle and chaos, people carrying food and silverware out to the lanai, music on the radio and the sun setting over the water and every time Danny looked up, it seemed, Steve grinning at him, happy, happy.
They had the crap teased out of them for a week or two at work, until Kono and Chin got it out of their systems.
"Seriously?" Danny said on his first day back after his honeymoon. (To put it another way, the two days he and Steve had spent sitting around the house, pretending to be having lots of newly wed sex. Point of fact, they'd actually spent two days working through the backlog of stuff that Steve had on his DVR and cleaning out the guttering, until Steve got bored enough that he pre-emptively had them start back ten days early.) He was standing in the door of his office, staring at his desk in slack-jawed amazement. It was decorated with confetti, shaving foam, streamers, photos of him and Steve, the works. "Kono Kalakaua, you are an evil woman."
"What?" Kono said. "I know the car's more traditional, but the bossman would kill us if we did your car. You know how he is about what he drives."
"Plus," Chin said, passing by, "I'm pretty sure Steve's got that thing booby trapped."
"No more grenades in my car!" Danny yelled. "I have had this discussion already, many times!"
"If it makes you feel better," Kono said, "I covered one of the walls in Steve's office with New Jersey State Tourism Board brochures."
Danny paused and contemplated that image. "You know, it sort of does. Although please, never get it into your head to start a coup, you'd be way too good at it."
Steve had a meeting with the governor, Danny did some paperwork, and altogether they had about an hour to ease back into life as HPD's newest married couple before everything took a definitive turn for the crazy. Not to get Danny wrong, it was definitely a good thing that they finally had a solid lead on the gang that was stealing decommissioned weaponry from Hickam and hawking it to the highest bidder. He just really wished it hadn't come in the form of some guy standing in front of the governor's mansion, wielding an RPG while completely and unmistakably stoned out of his tiny little mind.
"I just want you to know," Danny said, later, when they were trying to get handcuffs on the guy and to put him into one of the cruisers, "that nothing like this ever happened to me in Jersey, ever. Ever. An entire career and not once did I encounter a guy whose reaction to getting high was to threaten state property with explosive warheads."
Steve was sweating and filthy and had a vicious-looking scrape running the length of his left forearm. He was also grinning, so chalk something else up in the category of "Things Danny Didn't Get for Five Hundred."
Danny sighed. "Please don't tell me you enjoyed that, you man-beast," he said. "Rappelling from a building is no one's idea of a fun morning, it's not."
"It was more—"
"Expedient, yeah, yeah, I got it," Danny said, huffing as they finally got the door closed on the perp. The guy had evidently switched focus from rampant destruction to the musical portion of the morning, and was crooning some Paul Simon. Danny did not understand his life.
"Come here," he said, reaching out and snagging Steve's wrist in one hand. Up close, that scrape looked really nasty, red-raw against Steve's tanned, warm skin. Danny bet there was already something festering inside it. "We need something for that. Hey," he said, raising his voice, "Lopez, you got any antiseptic in your car?"
Lopez paused in the middle of taking a witness statement, rolled her eyes extravagantly (one of the reasons Danny liked her, that and her residual Brooklyn accent), and rummaged in the glove compartment of her car for a bottle of Bactine. "Here," she said, "and you should know I'm only being nice to you because it's still your honeymoon period, Williams. After this, you mother-hen him on your own time."
"That is total slander," Danny said, spraying the stuff liberally over Steve's arm. The perp was still loudly advising the world that there were fifty ways to leave your lover. "Stop making faces, you big baby, if your arm falls off I'd have a one-armed husband and then where would I be, huh?"
Steve wrinkled his nose. "I'm pretty sure I know a limerick about a one-armed guy."
"Of course you do," Danny said, "see previous debates about you being a Neanderthal. Don't poke it, I'll put a bandaid on it when we get back to the Five-Oh."
"Ugh," Lopez said, taking the bottle back from him. "The worst part is when you two get all smooshy."
"I'm not a man of smoosh!" Danny said indignantly, but he realised that neither the grin on Steve's face, nor the fact that Danny was still holding Steve's arm, really helped his case.
The first time he got a bill addressed to "Mr Daniel Williams-McGarrett", Danny just about hit the roof. He spent thirty minutes on hold, listening to a crackly rendition of what sounded like "Aloha 'Oe" played on panpipes, just so he could give the utility company a piece of his mind.
"I don't get why you're so worked up about it," Steve said. He was sprawled out on the couch with a novel while Danny paced back and forth. "I mean, we are married."
"Because it's presumptuous, that's why! Why do they get to decide what I call myself, huh, just because I'm in a marriage of convenience, huh? Why do—hello? Hello? Son of a bitch, they hung up on me!"
He angrily stabbed at the redial button, while Steve snickered behind his book.
Of course, as Danny pointed out with no small amount of glee a few weeks later, it was somehow an entirely different matter when Steve got a letter addressed to Mrs Steven J. Williams.
"This is different!" Steve said, brandishing the letter.
"Yes dear," Danny said dryly.
There was six weeks or so between the wedding and the time that Rachel and Stan actually left the island, which Danny thought was actually a pretty good thing. It gave Grace time to adjust to one big change before another happened, and all things considered, Danny was glad to have Steve there with him during the tearful exchange of goodbyes between Grace, Rachel, Stan and Charlie at the airport. It made Danny feel like he'd been punched in the chest a little, watching Rachel press one last kiss to Grace's hair before she walked through security—made him feel all over again the sense of how wrong everything had gone, even though the two of them had always tried their hardest to make things right.
Danny soothed Grace's tears on the way home with the promise of ice cream and the reassurance that yes, there would be regular Skype sessions with her mom and Charlie; yes, she could email her mom as much as she wanted. He felt like the world's worst shit, good intentions be damned, and when they got back home he locked himself in the bathroom for a good ten minutes, gripping the edge of the sink and focusing on his breathing, avoiding his own reflection in the mirror.
"Do not fuck this up, Williams," he told himself, splashing cold water on his face before heading back downstairs.
He found Steve and Grace sitting at the table in the dining room, several large sheets of paper spread between them, using what looked like Crayola's entire product line. Grace was still a little sniffly, but she was drawing with determined focus while Steve applied colour where and when directed. Danny stood and watched them for a moment, until he caught Steve's eye and nodded in the direction of the kitchen.
"What're you two doing?" he asked, closing the kitchen door over just a little. The rarely used hinges squeaked.
"Drawing," Steve said, pouring himself a glass of water. "Talking some."
"Thank you for that," Danny said, "My training as a detective didn't let me get that far. Specifics, Steven, please. Is she… is—"
Steve shrugged. "I asked her to redesign her bedroom. I figured if she's going to be here a while, she can repaint it whatever colour she wants, maybe get some new furniture. Mary's old bed is probably on its last legs."
"That's…" Danny blinked. "That's very nice of you, but honestly, you don't have to do that. You've done enough for the two of us already." If not for Steve, it would have been Danny hugging Grace goodbye at the airport, and Danny already owed Steve more than he could repay in a lifetime.
Steve shrugged again and stared down at his water glass as if it held the mysteries of the universe. There was a patch of stubble at his jawline that he must have missed while shaving, which wasn't like Steve; he might not have been vain about how he looked, but Steve was usually pretty careful about his personal grooming. He looked tired; but then, Danny remembered, Steve's routine had been changing an awful lot lately. "I remember what it was like, when Dad deployed. Distraction was good. Feeling safe was good."
Danny had a flash of a much younger Steve, the same age as Grace was now, brown hair flopping into his eyes and watching while his father headed off for months at a time. He had absolutely no idea what he could say to make things better, nothing that wouldn't sound false and trite, so he settled for saying, "You realise you have invited so much pink into your house, right? It's going to look like Barbie puked up in there."
Steve grinned at him. "I had an inkling, yeah."
The strange thing—and there were lots of strange things in Danny's life, don't get him wrong, for this to stand out, it had to be up there—was how not strange this whole thing was. Sometimes he went whole days without remembering that he'd entered into a fake marriage with his straight best friend in order to persuade the State of Hawaii that he should get custody of his daughter. There was probably some psychological term for it, how he and Steve had barged into one another's lives and set up home there with only the kind of residual discomfort that came from, say, watching your partner throw a suspect to a bunch of sharks.
Danny could have gone to a therapist and asked, but he had this sneaky feeling that the question would only get him a pitying look.
It took them three separate trips to Lowe's and a whole weekend, but they got Grace's bedroom redecorated. She had decided to forego her usual pink-on-pink colour scheme: instead, Grace wanted cream walls decorated with multi-coloured polka dots. It was a lot more work than painting everything one solid colour, but Steve didn't demur. In fact, he made it his mission to paint each one with geometrical precision. Danny didn't think he'd seen anyone use a compass since middle school, but Steve had clearly never lost the knack.
"Steve the Science Guy, huh?" Danny said, which made Steve laugh to himself.
While the walls slowly filled up with blue and purple and yellow and pink dots, Danny put together the new bed and the bookcase and Grace directed proceedings with measured imperiousness. She instructed Steve on where to place each circle, and Steve listened to her very carefully, as if a ten-year-old's opinion on the appropriate placement of the next pink circle was worthy of his full focus. It made Danny's chest ache with something watching them. Melancholy, maybe—a vague kind of longing where he wasn't quite sure what he wanted, or if he'd ever get it.
"Thanks," Danny said that evening. They were in the kitchen, tidying up after dinner—amazing how good simple pasta and meat sauce tasted when you'd worked hard for it—and talking softly for fear of waking up Grace. They'd moved a mattress out into the living room for her, to sleep on while the paint fumes cleared out of her room, and she was already sacked out.
Steve looked over at him. "For doing the dishes?"
Danny flicked him with the end of his dishcloth. "Do not be obtuse with me, Steven. For doing that for Grace. That was a lot of trouble to go to for her sake. I know she appreciates it, and I do too."
Steve ducked his head and scrubbed at a pot with renewed vigour. There was an expression on his face that Danny couldn't quite make out, though he thought Steve looked mostly pleased. "Not being obtuse, Danno. I was… I'm glad."
"Well," Danny said, "okay," and then he badgered Steve into having some coco puffs while they sat out on the lanai with some beers.
Danny didn't like Wednesdays in general. They were too far away from either weekend—he had whole head of steam built up about the frustrations of the job and no prospect of an imminent lie in to soothe him. All of which meant that he was feeling a little cranky as he went through the photos of possible suspects in the RICO case. Danny stared at the security camera still of Stacey Larsen, wondering if a five foot nothing manicurist originally from Poughkeepsie could also be a figure in an up-and-coming drug cartel, and then his phone rang.
So did Chin's. And Kono's. One of the landlines rang, even—and that was enough to have the three of them exchanging the wary, silent looks of the imminently screwed before they answered.
Danny had no idea who was speaking to Chin or Kono, but he had Duke Lukela on the other end of the line. Duke's usual placidity was clearly shaken: an explosion at the docks, a massive fire, and someone had reported seeing Steve running towards the location just before the blast.
"We don't know he was caught up in it," Duke was saying. Danny could barely hear him over the terrible roaring in his ears. His hands were shaking. "No need to panic just yet, but you guys should probably get down here."
"Yeah," Danny said, politely, measuredly, "We'll be sure to do that," before ending the call. He stood and stared at the phone in his hand for a long moment before throwing it at the computer console hard enough that the casing cracked. "That asshole," he said, sounding over-loud even to his own ears, "what is he—we said no rushing in before we were certain about the—"
"Danny." Kono's hand was gentle against his shoulder. "Come on. You can yell at him later. We need to go now."
The docks smelled like charred wood and burned fuel, and the smoke coiled thick in the back of Danny's throat, making him choke. He counted at least five separate engines, fire crews fighting to get the blaze under control. "Jesus," he said, waving a hand in a futile attempt to clear the air, "this looks like an outtake from Apocalypse Now. What the hell happened?"
Chin walked over from where he'd been conferring with one of the forensic techs. "Looks like it was a deliberate explosion. A witness saw someone running from a yacht that was moored here. It blew up a couple of moments later."
Kono was snapping on a pair of latex gloves, surveying the scene with keen eyes. "Any word on Steve?"
Chin shook his head. "Still not answering his phone, but no one's seen him."
"Probably," Danny said grimly, "we should just head for the centre of the blast, look there."
And because Danny had probably done something in a past life to deeply mess with his karma, they did find Steve not so far away from the boat that had blown up: he'd been thrown clear and landed behind a stack of precast concrete pilings, shielded from the fire. One of the medics told Danny that that was what probably saved his life, even as she and Kono gently stopped him from getting any closer. They wouldn't let Danny kneel beside him, talk to him, no matter how much he begged them. Steve was bloody, and burnt, and Danny wanted to punch something because the whole point of partnership was that this shit didn't happen.
They did let him ride in the ambulance on the way to the hospital, walk beside the gurney all the way to the exam room, but then that was as far as he could go, even with a wedding band and a badge.
"Please," Danny said, "please," and he didn't even know what he was asking.
"We'll do everything we can for him, Detective," one of the nurses said firmly. "But you have to stay here," and the doors swung closed behind her.
Chin coaxed him into a nearby waiting room and fed him terrible hospital coffee. It was acidic and too hot, burning as it went down, but it gave Danny something to focus on while Kono charmed information out of the nurses. She was able to feign composure much better than Danny was.
"Okay," she said when she came back, sitting beside Danny and resting one hand on his forearm. "It's not as bad as they thought. He did puncture his left lung in two places, but they're small punctures, and the lung didn't collapse, which was what they were really worried about. They're keeping an eye on things but they don't think he'll need surgery." Kono took a breath. "Cracked collar bone, three cracked ribs and some broken fingers. He's got second-degree burns to his left shoulder and side where he took the force of the blast, and there's some shrapnel they're still picking out. They think he must have been knocked out when he landed; he hasn't woken up yet, but they said that's to be expected."
Danny stared at the paper cup in his hands. He was starting to feel like he had a whole new set of apologies to make to Rachel, if this was what it was like, being the one who had to sit and wait. "When can we see him?"
Kono made an apologetic face. "Not for a while. They're still working on him."
"Probably better that he's out while they're doing that," Chin said.
"Yeah," Danny said. "I, uh…" He looked up at the wall, where the clock said that it was just after one thirty. Grace would be getting out from school soon to an empty house, and there was no point in disrupting her schedule. "I should go," he said, sounding distant even to his own ears. "I should meet Gracie from the bus."
"Danny," Chin said, brow furrowed. "I can go, or Malia's shift should be finishing soon, you can—"
"No, no, it's—they're still working on him," Danny said, gesturing vaguely in the direction of the exam room. "It's fine, it'll be fine."
Kono folded her arms. "I'll go with you, but I'm driving."
"Thank you, but I'm perfectly capable of driving myself."
Kono held up her car keys, arching an eyebrow. The expression warred with her look of soft sympathy. "In what car, brah? You left yours back at the docks."
"Ah," Danny said, and gave in.
Danny let himself in to an unusually quiet house. There were no sounds aside from the distant, muffled roar of the surf and the low hum of the fridge. If he'd been coming home to his old apartment, the silence wouldn't have registered. He'd been slowly growing accustomed to his solitude before Steve showed up in his life and gave him a new badge, a new way of living—used to walking through the door and not hearing the sound of his own voice until he headed back into the precinct the next morning, not unless he ordered takeout from the little Thai place down the street.
It wasn't like Steve had a penchant for throwing raves or anything, and Grace was mellow in a way she didn't get from either of her parents, but Danny had become used to coming home to sound: Steve on the phone to his sister, Grace watching that Hannah Montana show, Steve humming along with the radio while he made terrible lentil things for dinner. Danny had relearned what it was to expect companionship in the evening, to have someone to talk to while you put on a load of laundry, or to be a comfortable warmth next to you on the couch when you watched the game.
Danny stood there in the middle of the living room and slowly counted the number of times he'd just thought of this place not as Steve's house or the place he was living right now but as home. His home had become where Steve was, because Steve was... He squeezed his eyes shut. "Fuck."
"Danny?" Kono called from the doorway. "You okay?"
"I'm good," he said, and this was just typical, Steve getting him so turned around that Danny had no idea if that was a lie or not. "I'm—I just realised something. I've got to go back to the hospital. You think you could wait here until Grace gets home and then bring her over to the hospital? I'll pay for cab fare, I—"
Kono held up a hand. "Just go, brah. We'll be fine." **********
One of the nurses at the station pointed him in the direction of the private room where they'd put Steve. She looked only vaguely familiar, but Danny knew she must have helped patch one of them up before, because she looked not the least bit surprised at his expression, or the fact that Danny couldn't stop pacing even as he asked how Steve was.
"Commander McGarrett's going to be just fine," she said soothingly, leading Danny down the hallway. "Sore for a while, and you'll need to be vigilant about changing the dressings to make sure nothing gets infected, but he'll be just fine."
Because Danny's Ma had raised him right, he said, "Thank you, I appreciate it," and smiled at her, even though the expression felt false and unnatural on his face. That was probably the kind of thing she dealt with every day, though—worried spouses—because she just patted him gently on the arm, told him that visiting hours would be over soon but that she might just be looking the other way if he decided to stay a little longer.
Danny thanked her again and then let himself into Steve's room. One dubious perk about being a member of Five-Oh—sure, they got hurt all the damn time, but at least their health insurance was good. It was quiet in there, dim with the curtains drawn, and Steve was asleep, chest rising and falling easily beneath the white sheets. It was typical, Danny thought, how the sight of Steve could ease something in him and key him up, all at once. There were scratches and abrasions on Steve's face and forearms, big square, white bandages covering part of his chest and the top of his left arm. He looked like crap and Danny still wanted to kiss him: wanted to crawl up on the bed beside him, press close all along Steve's side and just hold on. He was in so much trouble.
"What am I gonna do with you, huh?" Danny said softly.
Steve didn't answer, because god forbid he should make Danny's life easy, here.
"Fine," Danny mumbled, "Have it your way." He pulled a chair over to within easy reach of the bed, and he sat down, and he waited. **********
Unlike what he thought about the goof lying in the bed next to him, the one who was starting to come around just as Danny hit send on his heartfelt 'thank you' text.
Steve squinted up at him, swallowed, made to sit up and then subsided against the pillows as if even he knew that had been a bad idea. "Hey, Danno," he mumbled.
Danny stuck his phone back in his pocket and folded his arms. "Do not, do not, even think about 'hey, Danno'-ing me, okay? What the hell were you thinking, you over-sized man-child?"
Steve blinked at him until Danny had mercy and poured him a glass of ice water from the pitcher on the nightstand. He let Steve take it with his uninjured arm, watched him drink it down greedily, and then took the empty glass back. "Thanks," Steve rasped.
"Your gratitude is noted," Danny said, "but not explanatory. Have we not had these conversations several times, Steven? About running headlong into the extremely dangerous scenarios when you've got backup that's a phone call and fifteen minutes away, huh?"
Steve cleared his throat, looked away, poked gingerly at some of the bandages on his side until Danny smacked his hands away. "Expediency. Gets you the shortest route to what you want."
"No," Danny said, shaking his head, because if Steve had been thirty seconds faster, a hundred yards closer, he probably wouldn't have made it; if he'd been thrown to the left instead of the right, he probably wouldn't have made it. Danny would be picking out a coffin right now. The thought was like a punch in the gut, a physical ache that made Danny suck in a tremulous breath. "No. You know what gets you the actual shortest route, the one that gets you your perp and a conviction without anyone getting blown up? Police procedure."
After that, the conversation went along its well-worn path: Steve was convinced he was right and unconcerned about the fact that he'd been blown up; he urged Danny to head back to the Five-O straightaway to start tracking down the suspects he'd seen at the docks. Danny convinced that he was right, and at the moment much interested in the fact that Steve had punctured his lungs than in facial recognition software. The nurse poked her head in around the door to remind them that other people were trying to sleep and that their fighting wasn't conducive to that; Steve and Danny explained that they weren't fighting, just talking; she looked confused; Danny was reminded all over again that nothing about their relationship could really be classed as normal.
That was even truer now, when Danny felt so unsettled every time he looked at Steve, as if he was seeing him for the first time, the line of his jaw and the dark scattering of hair across his chest and his long, strong fingers. He channelled his confusion into irritation, told Steve to lie down and rest or else, because this guy: he'd done so much to help Danny, he did so much every single day, self-care be damned, and it just wouldn't be fair of Danny to ask for more. **********
"You hurt your lungs, Uncle Steve! They're very important. Tommy's mom has asthma and she has to be very careful and do everything the doctor says."
Danny was both impressed at how very skilled Grace was at twisting Steve around her little finger, and worried. God only knew what she was going to do with Danny when she hit her teens. He'd probably need to take out an extra line of credit. Still, he couldn't quibble with it when it was getting such good results.
Steve spent a lot of time napping out on the lanai the first few days after he got home, like if he soaked up enough sun, it'd make his ribs knit together faster, the pink skin on his arms and chest heal that little bit quicker. Who knew, maybe that was how he worked; maybe that was how the McGarrett Energiser Bunny batteries got recharged. It wasn't as if the man wasn't incomprehensible in at least three-dozen other ways. Danny stuck to making him soup and sandwiches and tea, Grace carrying the tray out to him with careful, measured steps.
Danny monitored from the dining room, making sure that she got out there okay, grinning when she arranged the tray precisely on the low table and then badgered Steve into eating it all up. "Protein is very important, Uncle Steve," she said solemnly. "We need you to get better, okay?" She leaned in and pressed a careful kiss to Steve's cheek before bounding back inside and resuming her umpteenth re-read of Harry Potter and the Amazing Whatever.
Grace didn't see the look she left behind on Steve's face, but Danny did: soft and stunned and glad—as if her affection was an unhoped-for gift. Danny curled his hands into loose fists against the sudden impulse to just go out there blurt out every stupid word that was battering around inside of his skull. He had no idea how he'd been able to ignore all those urges for so long; he had no idea what to do.
Of course, Danny thought as he went back into the kitchen to make his own lunch, denial had been working well for him. For a really long time, now that he was aware of it: months, at least, maybe even this whole time. "You, my friend," he murmured to himself, "are a world-class idiot."
Studied denial didn't make sharing a bed any less awkward. At least the painkillers Steve were on made him sleep deeply enough that he didn't notice how Danny now tended to sleep flat on his back on one side of the bed, instead of his usual any-which-way sprawl. And that was good, because Danny didn't know how he'd answer if Steve asked—how he'd be able to lie about the fact that distance was his one good defence against the urge to touch, to run his hand over all that sleep-warm skin. Instead he lay there and stared at the ceiling, turning the wedding band around and around on his finger and thinking of all the ways in which it didn't give him permission to reach out.
It was a Sunday and another picture-postcard day: soft breezes, warm sunshine, flowers blooming bright in the garden. Danny dropped Grace off at one of her friend's houses—a birthday party and jeez, just hearing the excited shrieks from the safety of his car was enough to make Danny very glad that he wasn't hosting it—before heading back home. He padded around back, planning to make his way into the kitchen, draw up a list of what they needed for the coming week before going back out to Target, but stopped short when he caught sight of Steve.
Steve was standing out back near the beach, hands in the pockets of his shorts, staring out to sea, and Danny had long since let himself realise that Steve was an attractive man, okay, but that was nothing compared to the sudden, gut-deep rush of arousal that hit him at that moment: as if all his defences had crumbled without warning, a sandcastle facing an irresistible tide. He stood and watched Steve watch the surf for a long moment, thinking about the things he'd be willing to give up if there were ever a chance that Steve would— Wait.
"Wait," he said to himself, then louder, "Hold on just a minute here." Some detective he was. He marched across the lawn, yelling, "Wait just a goddamn minute."
Steve turned around, startled. "Danny?"
Danny poked Steve in the chest. "I cannot fucking believe you!"
Steve blinked at him. "Is this about the laundry thing still? Because I swear, I didn't see that red t-shirt before I—"
Danny cut him off with an impatient gesture. "You told me that you ran towards that explosion because of expediency. Because it was the shortest route to getting what you wanted."
Steve was looking at him with an expression on his face like he was having to work really hard to translate what Danny was saying. "Yes?"
"Expedient," Danny said. "You said the exact same thing when you sprang your whole marriage of convenience idea on me, even though there's no way in hell that any rational person would think that was the most efficient way for me to get custody. No one. Which leads me to this question, Steven, here is this notion that has just struck me. What exactly was it most expedient for?"
Danny watched in fascination as Steve fidgeted. Had he ever seen Steve fidget?
"I don't," Steve began. "I didn't… Look, Danny, you shouldn't feel obliged to do anything just because I have, have feelings, okay?" He licked his lips, closed his eyes for a moment. "I never wanted to pressure you, I just thought if… it'd get you what you wanted most, and for a while I'd get to pretend I had something I wanted. I didn't plan it, it just happened. And I know it was wrong, but…" He trailed off, shrugging.
Danny stared at him. "You," he said flatly, "are damaged."
"Yeah," Steve said, shifting from foot to foot. "I know, I know but honestly there's no—look, I can talk to the Governor, get you transferred back to HPD, okay? If this is too uncomfortable, you don't have to—"
"No," Danny said, "Not about that, would you shut up about that already? I'm talking about the fact that you decided to go about things this way, and what, never say anything? Suffer in silence? For fuck's sake, you asshole, I went along with your hare-brained idea, what does that tell you?"
Steve stared at him. "But I'm in love with you," he said slowly, "and you're straight."
Danny stared back for a long moment before saying, very slowly and with what he thought was a great deal of patience, "Listen very carefully to me, because I'm going to say this only once."
Danny waited until he could just about see the impatient "What?" forming on Steve's lips before he reached up, grabbed Steve by the nape of the neck and pulled him down into a kiss. For a moment, Steve didn't respond; Danny could feel the way the muscles in his shoulders tensed in shock. But that was only for a moment—Steve, it turned out, really had been holding himself back for a very long time, because when he let out all that pent up emotional whatever, it was Hurricane McGarrett ahoy, kissing Danny back fiercely and oh hey, hands on Danny's ass, Danny was surprisingly okay with that.
"Okay," Steve said when the kiss finally ended. He was panting a little, which made Danny all kinds of smug. "I'm listening."
"You're an idiot," Danny said, winding his arms around Steve's waist, "but you're a lucky idiot, because I'm pretty sure I'm in love with you too."
Steve blinked at him. "You never said—"
"Pfft," Danny said. "So maybe it took me until it was you versus an exploding boat to realise it—and this is not an endorsement of that kind of behaviour, Steve, I mean it—but let's use our hindsight here. You and me, babe, we've always been heading for this. Mutually. Why do you think no one else batted an eyelid when we were one step above eloping to Vegas, huh?"
"Well, I figured that they didn't want to be rude," Steve said dubiously.
That made Danny laugh so hard he had to rest his head on Steve's shoulder. When he could speak, he said, "We are idiots. Luckily, we are idiots who are going to get a second chance at this whole starting as they mean to go on thing. Come on." He took Steve by the hand and started to tug him towards the house.
"Grace won't be back til at least seven," Danny said determinedly as he marched up the steps onto the lanai, "and you never got me a honeymoon."
"Well," Danny said, tugging Steve inexorably on through the dining room, across the living room, towards the stairs, "I figure this marriage has to get consummated at some point."
"Are you— Danny, wait." Steve stopped at the top of the stairs, turning Danny around to face him. "Are you sure about this?" He cast a quick, anxious look over Danny's shoulder at the bedroom. "This is a big step. If we do this, I don't… I don't think I could go back to just friends afterwards."
Danny stood and looked up at him. In the dim light of the landing, Steve's face was shadowed, his eyes big and blue. It rocked Danny a little, knowing that Steve had been right there beside him, without expectation, all this time, because he cared that much about Danny—because Danny was enough. When was the last time Danny had meant that much to someone?
"It's become pretty clear to me since I moved here," Danny said, choosing his words with care, "That there were several things I needed to… re-evaluate about my life, okay? And lately it feels like each new thing, it leads me on to the next one, and mostly that's been pretty good." He thought of how hard he'd pushed against change when he'd moved here: how much he'd tried to stay living in Jersey even while walking down the streets of Honolulu. Then Danny had walked into the garage here and yelled at Steve, and Steve had yelled right back, and nothing had been the same since. And it turned out that Danny had liked that change—at least when it didn't involve spam musubi, or pineapple on everything. "Mostly all those new things, they keep leading me back to you, so."
Danny looked down at where Steve's hand was still held in his. In this light, he couldn't see their wedding rings, but he knew they were there: a warm and constant weight. "I can't promise that I won't fuck this up somehow. But if I don't try this right now, with you, I'll be fucking up even more, okay?" He looked up at Steve. "So if you can—"
The rest of Danny's words were swallowed up by Steve kissing him: fierce and focused, pressing Danny up against the bedroom door and then through it, tugging at Danny's shirt and undoing his jeans.
Danny laughed, shakily, when Steve pulled away far enough to grab at the hem of his t-shirt and pull it over his head. "So I take it that's a—"
"Yes," Steve hissed, "yes, yes, Danny—" And then they were kissing again, sloppy kisses, short and sweet as they tried to stay close even while they fumbled their way out of their clothes.
Danny had never been with a guy before—he wasn't sure how much a couple of hesitant, awkward make-outs with his Intro to Bio study partner his sophomore year of college counted—and maybe he should have felt weirder about this than he did. Maybe it should have felt odd to find a hard chest beneath the palm of his hand, to feel the scratch and scrape of Steve's stubble against his, but instead it was just a turn on. Steve pushed him back against the bed and Danny went willingly, let Steve settle himself on top of him. Danny ran his hands over Steve's shoulders, his arms, the slowly fading burn marks that had taken an irregular bite out of one of Steve's tats.
"So you should know," Danny said, struggling to maintain focus enough to speak despite the fact that Steve's hardening cock was pressed against his thigh. "I don't exactly have much experience here, but I am, uh, willing."
Steve made a show of looking down between their bodies, to where Danny's own cock was curving hard against his belly. "Uh huh," he said wryly.
"Shut up and kiss me," Danny said, rolling his eyes.
Steve did, shifting closer as he did so, making his cock rub against Danny's. The sensation made Danny startle a little, and he laughed at himself, laughed into the kiss, using his hands on Steve's back to pull him closer. So many things Danny never knew he wanted to hold this close to him: the fond expression in Steve's eyes, the freckles scattered along his collarbones, the thin scars that marred his tan here and there.
Steve's kisses had turned measured, studied. It was like he'd somehow figured out all the best ways to drive Danny crazy in five minutes flat. He nipped at Danny's lower lip before taking the kiss even slower, hotter, pushing his tongue into Danny's mouth and making low, helpless noises that had Danny's skin prickling with answering heat.
"Steve," Danny murmured, spreading his legs and urging Steve nearer. There was a part of him that felt a little rush of shame at that, at how much he was delighting in the feeling of Steve pressing him down against the mattress—this wasn't something that a strong guy from Jersey did. But screw that—screw him, Danny thought, feeling oddly giddy, that would be more appropriate—because Steve, it turned out, had been waiting for him all this time and how could Danny not offer him everything in gratitude for doing that?
Besides, it felt good—felt good to have Steve work one hand down along his body, rubbing warm circles into his belly. It felt just as good to touch back, to run his hands over the sharp wings of Steve's shoulder blades, along the flexing length of his spine; to hear the way Steve moaned when Danny palmed his ass. Danny might not have much experience at this, at being with a guy, with the possibility of getting fucked and liking it, but this was Steve: if Danny could trust anyone to make it good, to show him what to do, it was Steve.
For a long time, Danny felt loose and lazy with Steve's touches, Steve's kisses, rolling his hips up every now and then to press closer. But then the slow-building heat in his belly flared up all of a sudden, greedy and impatient and demanding more, and it made Danny feel brave, reckless. He coaxed Steve onto his side and then hesitated. "Lube?"
"Top drawer of the nightstand," Steve said. He sounded a little hoarse, his lips swollen from Danny's kisses, and god, that was a good look on him. Danny might not ever want him to look any other way.
Danny found the lube and laid back down beside Steve, face-to-face and so close that Danny could feel the heat rising off Steve's body. He poured some lube into his hand and said, "You tell me what you like, okay?"
Steve nodded jerkily, then bit his lip at the sensation when Danny reached down between them and closed his hand around Steve's cock. "I like that," Steve whispered, as if he was confiding some huge state secret.
Danny grinned. "I do appreciate constructive criticism," he said in a confiding tone. The high colour in Steve's face was encouraging, as was the way Steve's hips arched in time with Danny's strokes. "What about this?" he asked, tightening his stroke a little, speeding up some. "This good?"
"Fuck," Steve said. He rolled from his side onto his back, legs moving restlessly against the sheets, head arching back against the pillows as if his body didn't know what to do with what it was feeling. "Jesus, Danny."
Danny kneeled up to watch him, fascinated at the picture Steve made spread out like that, long limbs and sweat on his forehead, blue eyes gone dark with pleasure. "Can you come just from this, do you think?" Steve swallowed, made a convulsive noise in the back of his throat, and that was encouragement enough for Danny to slow his strokes, made them deliberate and steady. He rubbed the head of Steve's cock with the pad of his thumb and said, "Or you want to teach me how to suck you off, huh? Because I'd do that for you, Steve—I'd get down on my knees for you and I think I'd like it. I think I'd love it."
Steve came with a sharp, wordless shout, shuddering so hard that the bedframe shook from the force of it.
Danny couldn't remember the last time he'd seen something that hot. He took himself in hand, stroking himself as he knelt over Steve. There was no way he was going to last long, not when the whole room smelled of sweat and sex and Steve's come—and then Steve opened his eyes and looked up at him and said, "Come on me, Danno," and that was it, that was all she wrote. Danny's come striped Steve's belly, mingling with Steve's own, and the pleasure that flooded through him was intense and bright, warming him like island sunshine.
Denial, Danny decided, panting, had been a really fucking stupid policy.
When he felt like he could work his limbs again, Danny moved to brace himself over Steve on all fours, leaning down to kiss him. Steve put up with that for a good ten seconds before he made an impatient noise and tugged Danny down against him, smearing sweat and come between their bellies. It was exactly the kind of thing that would normally drive Danny crazy, but now he just grinned. "Properly consummated now, huh?"
"I think so," Steve said, mock thoughtful, "but it's taken a while. We could probably do a second round, just to be sure."
"Well," Danny said, deadpan, "in the interests of legal propriety," and then they were laughing and kissing, curled up together in the middle of their bed, in their house, and Danny's heart felt fit to burst from happiness.
"It occurs to me," Danny said. They were in the garden. Steve was poking at the slabs of steak and sweet-marinated kalbi on the grill; Danny was sitting and drinking a beer, having long since realised that trying to offer an opinion about the correct way to grill a steak was a short-cut to a very heated discussion with Steve. Probably not the best thing to happen on his baby girl's birthday, not when the lawn was crowded with half a dozen of Grace's friends and all the members of Danny and Steve's patchwork family. Even his Ma was there, flown in special for the occasion, paddling her feet in the water while she chatted with Rachel.
"What does?" Steve said. He was frowning down his nose at the meat as if it had personally offended him; Chin, sitting a little bit away at the picnic table, was doing a pretty poor job at hiding his amusement.
"Well," Danny said, scratching at the weekend stubble on his jaw, "I probably owe you an apology for saying you didn't tell Kono and the others the truth, way back."
"Oh?" Steve looked over at him and grinned, that shy, pleased grin that always seemed just a little out of place on a guy who could be so intimidating when he wanted to be.
"Uh huh," Danny said. "I mean, we got married for all the right reasons, after all. Maybe we just didn't know it at that time."
Steve cleared his throat pointedly.
"Okay," Danny said, "I didn't know it at the time. You were just being a self-sacrificing goof."
"If you say so, Danno," Steve said, leaning in to brush his lips against Danny's.
Danny grinned up at him. "I do."
"You're an old married couple, guys," Kono said, coming around the corner of the lanai. She had what looked like a big bowl of pasta salad in one hand and was leading a sheepish and slightly rumpled-looking Charlie Fong by the other. "Save that stuff for later."
"Okay," Danny said, leaning back in his chair and taking another swallow of his beer. He grinned up at Steve. "Pretty sure I can do that." He could save this all for later, and for a long time after that.