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I.N.C.

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A great photograph is a full expression of what one feels about what is being photographed in the deepest sense, and is, thereby, a true expression of what one feels about life in its entirety. ~Ansel Adams

 

After eating far too many delicious shrimp provided by Steve’s large friend Kamekona, they borrowed the sailing yacht belonging to Steve’s friend. Danny agreed that the boat would make a good dressing room, enough cabins below available for the models to change.

“Who is this friend that can afford a boat like this?” Danny asked as Steve steered out toward the reef.

“Name’s Stan Edwards. He’s in real estate…construction. Something that makes him an obscene amount of money,” Steve said.

“It would take an obscene amount to afford this yacht,” Danny agreed. “And I’ve been with you all morning. You didn’t call and ask if you could take it.”

“I don’t need to call and ask when I already have a key,” Steve pointed out.

Why do you have a key?”

“You always this nosey?” Steve asked in return.

“I’m an investigator. What do you think investigators do if not ask question?” Danny asked, a hint of laughter in his voice.

“There is that,” Steve agreed, slowing the boat when they reached the graceful, rugged black rocks arching out of the water.

“This is…magnificent,” Danny said, awed by the sight before them. “Amazing.”

Steve nodded, looking up at the reef. “It’s even more beautiful below the surface.”

“I don’t know if the models will be scuba divers,” Danny said. “But it would be an incredible opportunity.”

“If you had one that was, you could shoot her below the surface,” Steve agreed. “Do you dive?”

“I can. I haven’t in a while. Not much diving water in Manhattan.”

“I don’t guess there would be,” Steve agreed. “I can give you the refresher course if you want to do an underwater shoot.”

“How long would that take?” Danny asked as he took some preliminary photos of the reef.

“How long has it been since your last dive?” Steve asked, watching Danny work. He seemed to be one with the camera, using it as his eyes. These were not tourist photos he was taken. He was in some indefinable way capturing the reefs.

“Mmmm… two years,” Danny said.

“Then it would only take a couple of hours,” Steve said.

“When could we do that?” Danny asked.

“You can come to my house,” Steve said.

“You have a dive pool at your house?”

“Of course not. But I do live on the ocean,” Steve explained.

“You live on the ocean,” Danny repeated, studying Steve. “Right on the ocean.”

“We’re in Hawaii. Why is the idea of living on the ocean foreign to you?” Steve asked, concentration in the furrows of his brow.

“It’s not foreign to me. But it is unbelievably expensive. Not that it’s any of my business.”

“Ahh…” Steve said. “My house was built by my grandfather. Back when almost anyone could afford ocean front property.”

“Your grandfather,” Danny repeated.

“He was stationed at Pearl. He died on the Arizona,” Steve said.

“Oh,” Danny said, feeling a sudden wash of sadness. “I’m sorry.”

“It was a long time ago,” Steve said. But Danny knew he wasn’t dismissing his grandfather’s heroic death. He was acknowledging that time moved on in its own way.

“All right. I’ll rent scuba gear and you can make sure I won’t drown.”

“There’s a place right down the dock that rents gear,” Steve said. “Come to my house tomorrow morning. I’ll make pancakes then we’ll go swimming.”

“Sounds good,” Danny agreed. “And I’ll ask the modeling agency to include at least one scuba diver.”

“Do you have an underwater camera?” Steve asked. He reached into the cooler they had brought with them, taking out two beers and extending one to Danny.

“I do,” Danny agreed. “I figured Hawaii would be the perfect place to use it.”

“Makes sense,” Steve agreed.

“This business about the SEALs,” Danny said, breaking the easy silence that had fallen between them. “It’s very….”

“It is,” Steve said, agreeing with the unspoken ending of Danny’s sentence. “What are you going to do to find the one who’s doing it?”

“I hope talking to the ME will help, with your contact at HPD, and the Naval investigator.”

“I hope so,” Steve agreed. “I’ll call first thing tomorrow. Hopefully we’ll be able to meet with them after your diving lesson.”

Danny agreed with the wisdom of the plan, also agreeing he was ready to return to shore.

“Where else do you want to see?” Steve asked as they left the boat to the hands of the yacht club attendants.

“Somewhere for a sunset shoot. Although I’d imagine anywhere on the island would be perfect,” Danny had to admit.

“How about on the yacht itself? They’ll already be on it. Then you can have open sky or the beach as a background.”

Danny stopped. Steve kept walking. When he realized Danny was no longer at his side, he turned to retrace his steps. “What?” Steve asked, looking down to study the expression on Danny’s face.

“You…” Danny said, shaking his head to clear the buzzing. “You are a natural at this. Who would have thought a SEAL would have an artistic temperament?”

Steve shrugged, a pleased smile threatening to take over his face. “SEALs are adaptive if nothing else.”

“So I see,” Danny agreed.

They went the rest of the way to the scuba rental place in silence, each wrapped in their own thoughts. Danny wondered if he would ever stop being surprised by the depths of his new friend.

Steve was wondering if his new friend could possibly be more. He felt a connection to Danny that was unprecedented. Even for having known him such a brief amount of time, Steve could see a possible future that included Danny. He had to take a deep breath to quell the sensations threatening to overcome him. It was ridiculous, he chided himself. You barely know him. And he’s from New York. You aren’t leaving Hawaii. You think he’ll leave Manhattan? Steve frowned at the negativity of his inner voice. He felt a real affinity with Danny. It was rare and to be cherished, regardless of those nay-saying inner voices.

They entered the ramshackle building that looked in danger of being blown apart in any wind stronger than a breeze, to be greeted by an Hawaiian of indeterminate age. He was smiling at Steve in a friendly, paternal way, one that spoke of much history between them.

“Stevie,” the man said in cheerful greeting. He rounded the counter to hug Steve, Steve smiling at the embrace. “Where have you been?”

“You know,” Steve said with an off-hand wave. “Around.”

Around he says. You’ve been home six weeks and just now you come to see Mamo.”

“I’m sorry,” Steve said. “Mamo, this is Danny. Danny, this is Mamo.”

“It’s nice to meet you,” Danny said with a smile for the taller man.

Mamo studied Danny before turning his all-knowing eyes on Steve. He focused back on Danny, holding out a hand. “Any friend of Stevie is a friend of mine.”

Danny nodded, trying not to laugh at the implication of the older man’s words. So it was obvious to everyone, the underlying something that connected him and Steve.

“We need to rent scuba gear, Uncle,” Steve said.

“Of course. Of course,” Mamo agreed. “You certified?”

“I am,” Danny said. “I don’t have my certification on me.”

Mamo waved it off. “I’d check on-line but your word is good with me. You need a mask and flippers?”

“I do,” Danny agreed.

“Right,” Mamo said, turning to go into the back of the shop. The area was curtained off, his voice still clear. “Come.”

Steve led the way into the back. There were shelves of gear and rows of tanks. Mamo held a blue mask and flippers out to Danny, certain they would fit.

“You have to purchase the breather,” Mamo said, handing two to Danny.

“That’s fine,” Danny agreed, having no desire to potentially share spit with strangers.

“Two tanks?” Mamo asked.

“For now,” Steve agreed. “Danny’s here on a photo shoot. He may need more later this week.”

“That’s good,” Mamo said. “Call and let me know. I’ll set them aside. I’m not here – Stevie has the key.”

“Thank you,” Danny said, looking up at Steve who shrugged. Danny wondered if Steve had a key to the entire island. It certainly seemed that way.

Danny gave Mamo his credit card, asking that he keep the number on file. That way if they did rent additional equipment, Danny would know it had been charged.

“I’ll email all the receipts,” Mamo assured him as he returned the card.

“That’ll be handy,” Danny agreed. “Thanks for your help.”

They carried the tanks and gear to the truck, Steve securing the oxygen in the back with bungee cords.

“If you haven’t seen him since you got back, why do you have a key to his shop?” Danny asked as Steve drove them away from the docks.

“I’ve always had a key,” Steve said, shrugging. “He gave it to Dad.”

“I see,” Danny said, looking out his window. “Where to now?”

“It’s almost 5:30. You want to come to my house? I can grill us some steaks.”

Danny turned to look at Steve who glanced over at him with a smile. It was an open, sunny smile, one Danny wanted to photograph and cherish. But he wasn’t sure the essence of that smile could be captured on film.

“Well?” Steve prompted, turning back to the business of driving through rush hour traffic.

“I’d like that,” Danny agreed. “I’d like that a lot. Then I’ll know where you live. For tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow,” Steve said. And there was that smile again.

“I need to meet with the modeling agency. I was planning to do that tomorrow afternoon. Do you want to come?” Danny asked. It seemed so natural for Steve to come with him, he had almost forgotten to even mention it.

“Sure,” Steve said. “Will there be a lot of scantily clad models around?”

“Not tomorrow,” Danny told him. “We’ll be in an office building. Not on a beach surrounded by swimsuits.”

Steve shrugged at that, making Danny laugh. “I’ll survive the disappointment.”

Danny laughed again, the feeling as natural and welcome as it was unexpected.

~0~

Danny declared the steaks the best he’d ever had, the company making them even more delicious. That last he kept to himself but had a feeling that Steve felt the same.

“It’s late. I need to get going,” Danny said when the sun had been down for some time.

“It’s not even 10:00 yet,” Steve said.

“In New York, it’s almost 4 a.m.,” Danny reminded him with a yawn.

“True that,” Steve had to agree. “You could spend the night.”

Danny turned to look at him, the moon barely illuminating them. Steve was gazing out over the ocean, his body relaxed and easy. “Babe,” Danny said.

“Too soon?” Steve asked with a charming smile that the dimness did nothing to hide.

“Maybe a little?” Danny replied. “Doesn’t it seem…fast to you?”

“In the Navy, fast was the one of the only ways we had to do it,” Steve admitted.

“I can understand that,” Danny agreed. “I’m going to the hotel tonight. Tomorrow night…”

“Tomorrow night?” Steve asked. He sounded hopeful and…happy. It was a good sound from him.

“We’ll see what tomorrow brings,” Danny said, standing up. “You have to take me to the hotel.”

“You better drive yourself,” Steve said, digging out his keys. “I had more beer than you.”

“All right,” Danny agreed, taking the keys. “I’ll be here tomorrow at 8.”

“Roger that,” Steve said. “I’ll have the coffee made and the pancakes mixed.”

“I’m counting on it,” Danny said. He gave into impulse and kissed Steve on the top of his head before going back through the house and out to the truck.

Steve turned to watch him leave, smiling still when Danny was out of his sight. He liked being with Danny, more than he had like being with anyone for a long time. He was disappointed that Danny wasn’t spending the night but knew the answer wasn’t no. It was not yet. Steve understood. Maybe they were considering going too fast but he knew a sure thing when he found it. And he was certain he and Danny were destined to be.

Steve cleaned up the remaining dishes and food from their dinner, making sure everything was in order before going up to his bedroom. Sleep came more easily than it had recently. He had a feeling of contentment, and of being settled – two sensations he’d been lacking as of his transfer to the reserves.