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Lemonade

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It’s Saturday morning, they are eating breakfast and not only is her dad’s phone on the table but he has checked it. Three times. Grace hasn’t even finished her first bowl of cereal yet. Last night after he picked her up from school, he’d seemed happy to see her like usual but by the time they got to his new apartment and were eating homemade pizza and watching hockey, he seemed...off.

Extra quiet in a way he rarely is.

She had chalked it up to him being tired and asked about his week at work. But he had said it was a slow one, that Uncle Steve hadn’t done anything too crazy all week. And really that answered her next question because sometimes Uncle Steve makes Dad worry like he worries about her. He’d distracted her, she can admit that now looking back at his question about school and her favorite class, got her to ramble about all the new things they’re doing in science labs.

She watches her dad check his phone again, sigh, and put it down and decides she’s going to need more help to figure out what’s wrong. Kono would help, but if Danno isn’t talking to Grace about it, it might be something he doesn’t want everyone to know. That leaves Uncle Steve.

Plan forming in her mind, she finishes her cereal, carries her bowl to the sink to be rinsed and innocently asks, “Is Uncle Steve busy today?”

***

Honestly, on Grace weekends, Steve still hasn’t figured out a rhyme or reason behind the ones Danno decides to share with him. At one point he thought it was based on how the week was, if Steve needed distraction from it. But even that wasn’t a discernible pattern after a while.

And this one, well, he’s noticed Danny hasn’t been himself for the last two and a half weeks. He’d been prepared to wait it out, confident that Danny would come to him when he was ready. But as Danny listlessly meanders up to the house, trailing behind Grace, Steve wonders if he didn’t leave it too long.

He tries to get a smile from Danny, offering one in greeting even as he listens to Grace talk about the science experiments they did at school in the last week. But Danny just walks in and heads to the kitchen. Steve lets him go and walks with a chattering Grace to the living room and plops down on the couch with her. He’s even more surprised when Danny walks through a minute later holding a glass of ice water and walks straight through to the lanai.

Grace peers around Steve, watching her dad go out into the sunshine and then she’s grabbing Steve’s arm, her brow pinched with concern.

“Something's going on with Danno, Uncle Steve,” she confides seriously.

“I’ve been waiting for him to talk to me about it but he just hasn’t,” Steve replies quietly, nodding in agreement.

“He keeps checking his phone and sighing,” she tells him, eyes wide and worried.

They sit there for a minute together, looking out the window at Danny, who has made his way down to the sand voluntarily and is sitting in one of Steve’s adirondack chairs. Steve considers his options, they could both go out there and make him talk. Between the two of them, and their sad eyes, Danny would crack in no time.

But he knows his friend would not want to waste time on a Grace weekend talking about his own problems. No, he needs to address this but not now. Not with Grace in earshot. Plan decided he pulls Grace into him in a side hug and looks down at her with as encouraging a smile he can manage.

“I’ll talk to him. For now, let’s go cheer him up.”

***

Steve isn’t sure if Danny knows what’s coming or not. He knows that he and Grace were not subtle in their attempts to cheer Danny up the last day and a half. They made lunch together yesterday, spent the afternoon at the aquarium - no sand or sunburn involved - and then went to Danny’s favorite Italian restaurant on the island, Cecelia’s, for supper. Steve even paid for their meals before Danny could with an appropriately timed ‘bathroom’ run.

And after an impromptu sleepover at Steve’s house, they spent Sunday morning baking muffins and helping Grace with a homework assignment before lunch and then taking her back to Rachel after. So he knows he hasn’t really hidden his efforts to make his partner happier. But he doesn’t know if Danny has figured out the why behind it.

And as they settle into the lounge chairs on Steve’s lanai with fresh lemonade after supper, Steve is undecided if he wants to shatter the quiet peace they’ve been in.

“You’re staring,” Danny says, eyes on the waves coming up to meet the shoreline.

“You’re...distracted,” Steve tries, but doesn’t like how it fits. Sure distraction is part of it but the more he watched Danny in the last 48 hours the more he has seen beneath the surface of Danny’s lifeless demeanor of the last two weeks.

Danny huffs but doesn’t deny it, taking a swig of his lemonade like he wishes it were something stronger.

“Yeah, well,” he starts and Steve waits him out. For a minute.

“Danny,” he offers gently, “there are no ‘your problems’ in this friendship, right? How can I help if you won’t tell me what’s going on?”

Danny laughs humorlessly again and finally looks at Steve.

“That’s the problem, nothing’s going on. I didn’t even have time to maybe, maybe get your help with relationship trouble - which with your history what help could you really be,” he asks but he’s smiling, albeit a little sadly, so Steve doesn’t take it too hard. Danny isn’t wrong; Steve’s relationship history is pretty limited. “- before the relationship was over and I just,” Danny continues before sighing. “It was the first time I’d defined something with someone after Rachel. And I thought things were fine! But then out of the blue they said it wasn’t working for them anymore and just left,” Danny runs a hand through his hair as he hangs his head.  

“That doesn’t sound like it’s on you, Danny,” Steve tries to reassure even though he doesn’t know the details of this apparent relationship. His mind is spinning to be completely honest. How had he not noticed that Danny was seeing someone? And it hasn’t escaped Steve’s notice that Danny hasn’t used a name or pronoun in his whole explanation. “You just said it was the other person who wasn’t into it, that’s their problem not yours.”

Danny snorts and leans back into the chair again, looking up at the sky, avoiding Steve’s gaze.

“You have to say that, you’re my partner. Besides, they said more than that - I thought I’d give you the abridged version. Not make this night any more of a downer than it already is.”

Steve thinks on that. The “more than that” was something he’d kind of assumed but his mind goes to what this person could have done or said. He knows his partner has a few perceived flaws that Steve would be hard pressed to ever consider negatives. Except maybe his preference for New Jersey.

“How did I not know you were seeing someone?” Steve asks quietly, more to himself than anything. He’s expecting a rant on privacy and that Danny’s private life is not Steve’s to control.

Instead Danny replies, “It was a secret, h- they didn’t want people to know.”

Oh.

Steve must make a face because Danny finally turns in the chair, putting his feet on the ground again, straightens his spine and gives Steve a steely look.

“He. He didn’t want people to know,” Danny corrects and Steve desperately tries to rearrange his face into something understanding. Hoping like hell it doesn’t come across as pity or judgement.

“You did?” Steve asks, still quiet, careful.

“I didn’t care,” Danny answers, tone sure before the tension in his spine releases and he’s bent over at the waist, elbows resting on his knees as he puts his head in his hands. “I just really liked him.”

Steve quickly turns to mirror his friend’s position, reaching out a hand to squeeze at Danny’s shoulder, waiting for the other man to look up at him. Steve tries to ignore the glistening in Danny’s eyes as he meets them.

“Thank you for trusting me with this,” he says, first and foremost and gets a narrowed eyed stare in return.

“That sounds rehearsed. SEAL sensitivity training?” Danny asks pointedly and Steve deserves that. There are a lot of stereotypes that go along with being not only military but also special forces. Don’t Ask Don’t Tell didn’t do anything to help with a lot of them. But Steve shakes his head, tightening his grip on Danny’s shoulder before letting his hand fall away.

“I wasn’t always an officer Danny. I was- I ended up being a confidant to a few service men and women I served with. Word got around,” he shrugs, “You are not the first person to come out to me. What do you identify as?”

Danny’s giving him a bewildered look, one that tells Steve that Danny’s world has tilted on its axis a little just like Steve’s has.  

“Bisexual,” Danny answers quietly and Steve tries again to nod encouragingly.

“Me too,” he offers easily, letting that information settle for a moment before he changes the subject back to the breakup.

“Look, Danny, whatever this guy said, or reasons he gave, you have to know you deserve better. You’re a great guy, a better father, and if this guy didn’t realize what he had while he had you, well. Like I said, that’s on him and it’s his loss. And yeah I’m saying this because I’m your friend but that doesn’t make any of it untrue, okay?”

Danny’s looking at him but the confusion in his eyes is gone, and there’s a little more energy behind them now too.

“Well now, who am I to argue with that?”

Steve grins sharply.

“Do my ears deceive me or did you just say I was right? Under no coercion or duress? Are you sure you’re okay?”

Danny laughs for the first time in the whole conversation and pushes at Steve’s shoulder as he stands up.

“Don’t get used to it. Remember, I’m only agreeing with you in your opinion that I am awesome.”

Steve watches Danny as he takes their glasses back into the kitchen. Awesome, yeah, that’s putting it pretty mildly as far as he’s concerned.

***

It’s a random Monday, it’s their week with Grace and she’s down by the water. Homework is done and supper has been eaten and Steve is on his way to go swim with her for a little while before she has to go to bed. But first, he stops and puts the tray he’d put together while Danny was in the shower this morning, on the table next to where Danny is currently sitting. He smiles as he watches Danny turn and look at the array of items with confusion.

“What’s all this, babe?” he asks as Steve comes around and places a quick peck on Danny’s lips.

“Happy anniversary,” he says in the space between them before standing upright again, hands in the pockets of the hoodie he’s wearing. His words have only further confused his partner, which is all the more amusing.

“Anniversary? Babe, our anniversary isn’t for another 3 months,” Danny argues and Steve’s insides flutter at the mention of it. He’s already got big plans. Externally, he shakes his head.

“Not that anniversary,” he offers and Danny huffs but looks over the tray’s contents again. There’s lemonade, admission tickets to the aquarium and a gift card to Cecelia’s. Steve watches as it adds up in Danny’s mind just what happened on this day a year ago.

“You’re a goof,” he replies fondly, rolling his eyes before he stands and wraps his arms around Steve’s waist. “Why do you remember the day I came out to you specifically, Steven?”

Steve brings one hand up to straighten Danny’s hair lightly and splays the other on Danny’s back.

“It’s an important milestone,” Steve argues, “it’s also when I gave up any hope of getting over my feelings for you and started focusing on making sure you knew about them instead.”

“Hmm, yes I remember. It’s when you started letting me drive my car every Tuesday and Thursday and stopped jumping off literal roofs quite as often,” Danny teases and Steve leans down to kiss him again.

“I also helped you come out to Grace. And then we both came out to Chin and Kono. And you stopped looking sadly at your phone all the time.”

“Hey, I had just been dumped. The dumpee is allowed time to mope,” Danny replies defensively and holds Steve at arms length.

“That is true,” Steve allows before stepping forward again, into those arms that hold him so well. “Glad we haven’t had to go through that again though,” he says softly and Danny melts into him a little further.

“Yeah, me too.”

***