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Fantasy Fiction

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It was all Google's fault.

He was actually looking up stand mixers, of all things, trying to decide if investing in one would be worth it. But he accidentally typed two ns into the little bar, and before he could go back and erase it the browser popped up with a suggestion.

Stanny - 5-0 task force

Danny's knee-jerk reaction was to wonder if it had something to do with Rachel's now ex-husband, but that didn't make any sense. He knew there were a couple of social media accounts that called themselves "5-0 spotters," but he was sure none of them could connect him to Stan. Then he remembered Grace saying something about how "stanning" was a new word for being a fan of something, and he decided maybe it meant that the team had a fan club of some kind.

Correction - Steve probably had a fan club. Which meant Danny could at least have the joy of harassing him about it.

He clicked on the suggestion, and a set of search results popped up. At the very top was an opinion piece by someone named Michelle Stanny, but the one right underneath that was called 5-0 Central. He clicked on the link, and up popped a banner with pictures of the team from various articles and the occasional TV news spot. Beneath that was the site name and a description.

Dedicated to RPF fanfic and art for the bravest, sexiest crime-solving team outside of a television show - Hawaii's very own 5-0 task force! Everything from McWilliams/Stanny to McTega/Sterry welcome.

He knew what art meant - he imagined swooning teenagers drawing Steve's pecs and biceps - but he'd never heard of RPF before. Thankfully, he wasn't the technological luddite some people accused him of being, so he opened another window and Googled it.

Real person fiction or real people fiction is a genre of writing similar to fan fiction, but featuring celebrities or other real people.

So... detective stories? Maybe with a heavy dose of Steve randomly being shirtless for no reason. That wasn't so bad, even though he sure all the writers forgot he even existed. If they didn't, they probably made him the bumbling sidekick.

The idea annoyed him just enough that he went back to the original site to take a closer look at it. He found a categories list further down the page, with a number next to each link in parentheses. The top category said Family/General, which had the number 157 next to it. Next was Steve McGarrett/Danny Williams, with the number 845 next to it. Deciding that this must be the collection of stories that focused the most on the two of them, he clicked the link.

Later, Danny would rank this among the top 10 stupidest things he'd ever done in his life. Because when the list of stories popped up, each of them with descriptions underneath, they were not at all what he'd expected.

Room With A View by KonoRoxx
Steve McGarrett/Danny Williams, Kono Kalekua, PWP, voyeurism
Steve and Danny have a little fun in Steve's office after everyone else has gone home. At least, that's what they think.

what becomes of the brokenhearted by MrsMcGarrett221
Steve McGarrett/Danny Williams, Steve McGarrett/Junior Reigns, angst, jealousy, I won't tag for infidelity, you'll have to read to find out if it happens
Danny notices Steve's attentions turning to Junior Reigns, the hot new member of the team. Can he win back Steve's love before it's too late?

Tripping for You by McWilliams_forever5
Steve McGarrett/Danny Williams, Tani Rey/Junior Reigns, Chin Ho Kelly/Lou Grover, combo team, high school au, fluff, humor, hurt/comfort
New student Danny Williams tries out for the football team in order to impress star quarterback Steve McGarrett. Unfortunately, things don't work out the way

It's Getting Hot In Here by xteamsexyx
Steve McGarrett/Danny Williams, Steve/McGarrett/Chin Ho Kelley, Danny Williams/Kono Kalekua, please don't make me tag all the ships, original team, team orgy, so much PWP
It's the hottest summer on record in Hawaii, but the 5-0 task force is about to make things even hotter.

Always by SteveDanny4ever
Steve McGarrett/Danny Williams, angst, feels, I'm serious about the angst, I sobbed as I wrote this, deathbed confessions, I should probably apologize.
Steve didn't want to die. But if he had to go, he would rather it be in Danny's arms than anywhere else in the world.

Danny finally tore his eyes away from the screen at that point, squeezing his eyes shut as if that would be enough to erase all the images pouring into his mind. He knew it should have been the orgy that made him run away screaming -- kissing Kono would be like kissing his sister -- but he was gut-twistingly certain he'd had nightmares that looked looked almost exactly like that last story.

Still, it was clear that the people writing this RPF stuff were a bunch of lunatics who thought that the team spent their days having sex and soap opera-style dramatics instead of, you know, doing actual police work. If Danny had a brain in his head, he would run away screaming and try like hell to forget that dozens if not hundreds of people in this deranged collection of islands spent their free time picturing him and Steve having sex. He himself had spent years carefully not picturing him and Steve having sex, and he was not going to break his extremely impressive track record for a story that had Kono watching them through blinds they'd apparently been too damn stupid to close.

Decision made, he opened his eyes prepared to close out of the browser window like a sane and rational person. As he started to, his gaze fell on the story located a few down from the dying Steve story that would never again be discussed.

Movie Night by 5-0defender
Steve McGarrett/Danny Williams, fluff, domestic, established relationship
Romance movies are easier to deal with when you have the love of your life by your side.

Danny hesitated, trying hard to ignore the tugging in his chest. It was completely coincidental that the story reminded him of the time they almost got kicked out of what was supposed to have been a double-date to the movies. Or the time when they'd snuggled on the damn couch while watching "The Notebook," cuddling up while Steve's actual girlfriend had been on the opposite end of the couch. It was probably just a whole "action men hate romance movies" cliche. It would be terribly written, and he would most definitely hate it.

Danny clicked on the link and started to read.

When you loved someone, you made sacrifices for them.

Both Danny and Steve loved Danny's daughter Teilor enough that they sacrificed for her every movie night, watching the romances she wanted instead of the dozens of other possibilities. Danny had always watched these kind of movies with Teilor, but it was easier now that he could watch them pressed up against Steve on the couch. His head was tucked up against Steve's shoulder, Teilor draped along his other side, and he'd positioned the popcorn bowl just right so that all three of them could reach it.

He complained, because that was what he did, but Danny would watch the Weather Channel 24 hours a day if it meant he could stay here snuggled up to the two most important people in his world.

It went on like that for about a thousand more words, full of snark about the predictability of romance movies and teasing little comments that showed their affection for each other just as much as the touches did.

When he was finished, Danny had to actually touch his cheeks to make sure he wasn't crying for the first time in decades. Not that the story was a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but it had felt like something that could actually happen. Like in a world out there where Danny was braver, and Steve was less straight, he could be having nights that looked like that story every single damn day of the week.

He clicked on the author's name, found out that they'd written five other stories, and read all of them. They were much the same as the first one had been, little domestic moments full of dialogue that sounded like things they would actually say. He had kids in all of them, though their names and ages were always different, and there were a few other little things that were different. Mostly, though, they all felt more like reality than fantasy.

Except that wasn't true, of course. They were just as much fantasy as anyone else's on the website, except this time they were Danny's fantasy instead of some sex-crazed teenager. Snippets of his perfect life, written by a complete stranger and spread out on the Internet for everyone to see.

Once he started reading the oldest of the stories, however, he realized he might have been wrong about a part of it. In the story, he-- Danny, the completely fake Danny that had nothing whatsoever to do with him, and Steve were having a teasing conversation about how they'd first gotten together.

Danny put his arms around Steve. "How was I to know punching you in the face was the secret button to shut off RoboSEAL?"

Steve grinned. "Maybe I just decided I wanted you to talk me to death instead."

Danny's brain seized on the lines like it would break a case wide open. The punching story had never come up in any media about the team, even that stupid behind-the-scenes show. Unless they'd been standing in the crowd at that exact moment, before 5-0 had ever become 5-0, there was no reason for some random person on the Internet to know anything about it. And even if someone on the HPD went home from work that day and told their spouse that the haole hauled off and punched the SEAL, there was no reason for anyone who didn't know them to remember that fact long enough to stick into a story they'd written six years later.

Which meant only one thing. The person who'd written the damn stories actually knew them.

Chapter Text

By the next morning, he had something that vaguely resembled a plan.

That plan had exactly two bullet points. The first one, in its entirety, was 1) Talk to Jerry. If anyone on the team knew about something like this rpf stuff, it would be Jerry. And if he somehow turned out to be 5-0defender for some brain-breaking reason, Danny was utterly confident in his ability to threaten Jerry enough to make him take it all down.

If Jerry didn't turn out to be the person behind the fic, it was on to option 2) Tell the rest of the team about the fic and watch their reactions. He knew none of them would actually admit to writing the fanfiction, but he was sure he'd be able to figure it out based on the reaction they gave him. He was a fucking detective, after all, and none of them were fantastic liars.

(The one person who would be exempt from this round-about interrogation was Steve. Ideally, Steve would never know about any of this. More importantly, Danny would never have to know about Steve's reaction to any of this.)

000

He didn't have the mental energy for subtlety the moment, and even if he did it would be most wasted on Jerry. So, once he cornered him alone, he just flat-out asked him. "So, how long have you known that people are writing fanfiction about the team?"

Jerry winced in the exact same way his mother once had when she'd forgotten to tell him she'd broken the stove. "Awhile?"

Of course he had. "And you didn't think to oh, I don't know, maybe I should mention the team orgies to someone?"

Now he had the grace to look guilty. "Steve said it was best you didn't know. You don't spend much time on the Internet, and I think we were both kind of hoping you'd never find out."

Danny's gut twisted. Of course Steve knew. He probably thought it was funny. "Well, now that I do know, any advice on how to literally scrub that information from my brain? Any of those brain-wiping devices out there actually work?"

That made Jerry look sympathetic, which in this instance was somehow deeply alarming. "Having fanfiction written about you really isn't as weird as it might seem. Fan works of any kind are a sign of deep emotional investment, and so the fact that you guys have enough to fill a website is really just a sign of how much you mean to everyone on the island."

"You're on there, too!" Danny accused, on the off chance that fact had somehow escaped Jerry. "People write about you having sex with Steve!"

Jerry just looked dismissive. "Maybe, but it's by far the least popular pairing on the website. I mean, it's got like half the number of stories Kono/Chin does, mostly because there's this whole group of people who don't seem to know they're actually related. And they don't come even close to being the most popular ship on the website, which is..." The words trailed off as comprehension slowly dawned. "Ah. That."

Danny's eyes narrowed. "Yes. That."

Jerry hesitated, fumbling around for something useful (or at least non-inflammatory) to say. Finally, he brightened. "You know, you should really try the general fic section. They've got a really great AU in there where we're all pirates, and there's this..."

Danny left before Jerry could finish the recommendation.

000

The next person he managed to corner was Lou. Danny knew he wasn't actually responsible for the stories – if nothing else, it wasn't his style at all – but there was always a chance he knew something.

As soon as he said the word "fanfiction," however, Lou held up his hands in a "cease and desist" gesture. "I don't want to know. Sane folks stay away from that stuff."

Well, he knew that now. "You're not even a little bit curious? People are writing stories about us! Sex—"

Lou held up a warning finger, cutting him off. "I am dead serious about not wanting to know, and as much as I love you I will sit on you in order to make sure I remain in blissful ignorance. My daughter tried to explain to me one day what fanfiction writers do to those One Direction kids, and that's a part of my brain I can never get back."

Danny dropped into a chair. "So you don't know, don't want to know, and aren't going to help me find out."

Now that the threat of unwanted information was over, Lou's expression turned kind. "Believe me, brother, you don't want to know either. You may think you do, but finding out who's writing this stuff isn't going to make it go away. It's just going to give you more details you're going to end up wishing you didn't have."

000

If it had been about any of the other fic on that stupid site, Lou might actually have been right. Finding out who wrote the weird sex fic would probably just lead to him plotting his vengeance against some 15 year old girl, and that never worked out well for anybody. Even if he got the site shut down, he was sure it would just pop up somewhere else.

But in the case of 5-0defender, he had to know. This person was writing down his most secret dreams, and he had to know if whoever it was had somehow read it off his face. If they had, that meant other people could.

That meant Steve could.

So he kept looking. Tani was the next person he caught alone, but she was even more dismissive about it than Jerry had been. "Yeah, it's a thing teenagers do when they're into famous people. And you have to admit – you, Steve, and Junior are all way hotter than your average cop. It makes sense they'd want to fantasize about you, too."

"You're in there too, you know." He pointed a warning finger. "I didn't look at much of it, but I'm sure you're in at least one of the orgies."

Tani wrinkled her nose. "I guess I should be grateful I'm not standing aside filming it or something, but I hope that at least one of them has me doing something more interesting." Her expression brightened. "Maybe I'm someone's lesbian awakening."

Danny's chest was tight, and the frustration in his voice had too much underneath it for his peace of mind. "It's really just that easy for you. People are fantasizing about you having sex with your be— your friends, and you don't even care."

Sudden understanding lit her eyes. "There's stuff about you and Steve, isn't there?" The way her voice had gentled was a million times worse than sarcasm or mockery would have been. "Is it really any worse than all the married jokes you get from people?"

Yes, it was, mostly because the jokes didn't make him picture it. It was basic human nature to be an asshole, and with the jokes he was able to ignore them or give as good as he got. He didn't have to read a hundred words about how perfectly his and Steve's hands fit together, written with so much detail he couldn't stop seeing it. No matter how much it made him ache, the image was in his head forever now.

But he couldn't actually tell her any of that, so he just glared. "If you ever write fanfiction about me, I swear I'll figure out a way to legally kill you."

She laughed. "Oh no. If I ever write 5-0 fanfiction, it's going to be about Idris Elba coming out to Hawaii and me saving him from something." She waggled her eyebrows. "And then he thanks me. Personally."

Well, at least that was some comfort.

000

Junior, it turned out, was the only one who had no idea what fanfiction was. "People are writing stories about the team?" He leaned forward, far too damn interested. "Am I in them? Do I get any cool fight scenes?"

By this point, Danny's already thin patience was a small, shredded pile of fibers that had just been lit on fire. "In the ones I looked at," he snapped, "you were too busy having sex with Steve."

Junior's expression went through all the stages of grief in about 10 seconds, finally settling on amused resignation. "Well, I hope I at least took him to dinner first. I don't want people to think I'm not a gentleman."

Danny's only response was to stalk out of Junior's office, hating absolutely everyone.

000

Because the universe waits for moments like this, Steve put the perfect cap on the entire day by asking about it on the way back from talking to a lead. "So... I talked to Jerry earlier today."

Danny closed his eyes, bracing himself for the worst. "I hope you're about to tell me something that has to do with the case, because that is the only conversation you could have possibly had with Jerry that I have any interest in right now."

There was a pause from Steve's side of the car. "Look, I'm sorry I didn't tell you, but this is basically the reason I did it." His tone was exactly the same as it was when they argued about stupid things like the inherent evil of pineapple. Things that didn't matter. "I knew you'd get upset, and there was a good chance you'd never find out on your own."

"We can all see how spectacularly well that plan worked out, can't we?" Danny muttered, forcing himself to open his eyes and deal with the problem. "So you're fine with it, I take it? People writing about Junior and Jerry throwing themselves at you?"

There was a pause. "You know you can't take that seriously, right?" There was something slightly off about Steve's voice, but Danny was too miserable to parse out what it was. "And there's some stuff out there that's actually kind of interesting. There's this one where we're all pirates—"

"Jerry mentioned it." Danny rubbed a hand across his mouth. "I missed that one, though. I was too busy scrolling through all the ones where they wrote about us having sex."

Another, longer pause. When Danny finally made himself look over at his partner, Steve's face was doing that whole thing where he tried to figure out a suitably heroic response but couldn't seem to find it. Danny knew he should probably be grateful – Steve knew how genuinely upset he was, and was trying like hell to be kind about it. "Is it really any different than the marriage jokes?" he asked finally, something weirdly young in his voice. "I know this is more... detailed than the jokes, but we've been dealing with this for years."

Danny's chest twisted. Steve wasn't bothered at all by the stories, clearly seeing all of it as just some weird thing the Internet did. He'd probably scrolled right past 5-0defender's stories without reading them, not noticing the quiet little moments in the middle of the splashier nonsense around it.

Danny had been dealing with this for years, but not in the way Steve was talking about. Not in a way Steve could even understand, clearly.

He closed his eyes again, leaning back against the seat. "You're right," he said quietly. "I don't know what I was thinking."

Chapter Text

Steve, of course, did not accept this as an answer, and kept trying to harass the real reason he was bothered out of him. But Danny's mother was the undisputed Harassment Champion of North America (with Rachel being a near runner-up), and if he could shut down enough that they couldn't break through he could sure as hell manage it with Steve.

When the end of the day finally came, though, it was almost a relief. He went home, hugged his kids, and started throwing together a quick red sauce for dinner. It was the closest thing he had to actual meditation, the simmering of the tomatoes and the balancing of the spices enough to consume all his focus if he wanted it to.

Or at least almost all of it. It wasn't long before Grace was standing in the doorway to the kitchen, a familiar enough presence he waved her closer without even looking up. "Come on. You can help me chop the garlic."

There was far too long a pause. "Actually, Danno, I... kind of need to talk to you about something first."

Danny went absolutely still. Every parent knew that tone. It was the "I need bail money" tone. The "your car is now at the bottom of a lake" tone. Even if you were lucky enough to have never actually heard your child sound like that, knowledge of what it meant was encoded into your DNA the first time they put the kid into your arms.

Carefully, Danny moved the pan and switched off the burner. When he turned around, Grace had her arms folded tight across her chest and couldn't quite meet his eyes.

Shit. This was going to be bad. "It's okay, Monkey." He'd had years of practice projecting calm stability when he didn't feel it. "Whatever it is, you can tell me."

Grace rubbed her hands up and down her arms like she was cold. "So, um." She took a deep breath, finally meeting his eyes as everything poured out of her. "I kind of left my laptop at Mom's, and there's this bio paper due Friday so I went right to your computer to start working on it as soon as I got home. But when I opened the browser to start researching, I kind of...." words failed her briefly, enough that it took her a few seconds to finish the sentence. "I noticed 5-0 Central was one of the recently visited sites."

Alarms started blaring in the back of Danny's head, distant but growing closer by the second. "You know about the site?" he managed.

Grace looked more miserable than he'd ever seen her. "I'm on the site." She swallowed. "My screen name is 5-0defender."

He'd felt punches that hadn't hit this hard. Danny braced himself against the counter, holding on white-knuckled to keep his knees from buckling. Everything inside him was a solid mass of ache, a blur he was pretty sure was going to become a hell of a lot worse when he could pick it all apart.

And to top it all off, he suddenly realized, he should have fucking seen it.

"I always had kids," he breathed, kicking himself for not seeing it sooner. "In all the stories, my kids were always right there." Either just a daughter, or a son and a daughter. Always.

He hadn't questioned it. Hadn't even fucking thought about it, really, because his kids were as much a part of him as his arms or legs. Of course they'd be there.

Grace had started talking again, whatever she saw in his face making the explanation rush out of her. "One of my friends told me about the site a few years ago, and I looked through it mostly to see if I needed to protect you from it. But even in the stories where they didn't get really weird, they wrote you guys so wrong!" There was genuine distress in her voice, like there always was when she saw some injustice in the world she couldn't immediately fix. "No one ever said anything about how much of a dork Uncle Steve really is, or how nice you really are, or that you love him so much it hurts you sometimes..."

If this was what a heart attack felt like, he absolutely did not recommend the experience. "Okay," he rasped, more to get her to stop talking than anything else. He was dangerously close to crying right now, and that was the last thing this situation needed. "Thank you for telling me."

The words did nothing to ease Grace, who still looked as wrecked as Danny felt. "I'm so sorry, Danno." Her voice cracked. "At first I just did it so there'd be something on there that was right, but once I was done I..." The words faltered. "We're all together a lot, anyway, and I didn't have to change very much from what really happened, and..." She swallowed, eyes . "It was nice, imagining what it would be like if Uncle Steve really was my stepdad. I liked seeing you so happy."

There was only one possible response to that. "You make me happy, Monkey." His voice was still rough, but he held his arms out wide. "You and Charlie. You're all I need."

With what sounded suspiciously close to a sob, Grace crossed the distance between them. "You make me happy, too," she whispered, voice wet as they wrapped their arms around each other. "But we're even happier in the stories."

Since there was no possible response that didn't involve crying, Danny just held her tighter.

000

They recovered. Charlie came in and hugged them both, distressed that they were both so clearly distressed, and so he and Grace both pulled it together and all three of them helped finish dinner. By the time they started eating, everything was easier.

By the time both kids had made it into bed, Danny realized that something had eased inside him as well. It wasn't exactly comforting, knowing you were pining so hard your kid could see it all over your face, but he'd rather it be her a thousand times over than some random cop who watched them from a distance. Grace, he knew, would keep his secrets. He could make peace with that.

It was enough that later, when Steve showed up at his door with a six-pack of Longboards and a worried expression on his face, it was just tiring rather than being the worst thing in the world. "I promise you the freakout has passed," Danny said by way of greeting, stepping aside to let Steve in. A late-night sanity check meant he definitely wouldn't leave until he knew Danny was at least functional again, but he was going to damn well keep the explanations to a minimum. "The serial interrogation of our co-workers has officially ended."

Steve didn't sit down, studying Danny's face as if he could read the secrets of the universe in it. After a few seconds, his worry seemed to actually deepen slightly. "You're still upset, though," he said finally. "And you're not talking about it anymore, which means that it's something really bad." He let out a breath, a deeper unhappiness leaking through as he set down the beers. "Something to do with the fanfiction."

Shit. Feeling the last possible conversation he wanted to have coming in like a cruise missile, Danny flung a safer truth in front of him like a shield. Then he put a lie in front of that, giving him as much protection as possible. "I wanted to figure out the real identity of one of the authors. But no one would help me, and with my level of tech skills I've officially given up."

Somewhere in the middle of that, Steve had gone absolutely still. "Which one is it?" he said carefully, clearly worried that Danny was going to hare off after some idiot teenager. "Maybe I can help."

He was going to have to veto that hard. "The best thing you could possibly do for me right now is promise that we will never discuss fanfiction again as long as we live." He picked up two of the Longboards, handing one to Steve. "We'll drink to that, and 5-0defender's identity can wisely remain a secret."

At least, that was what Danny had meant to say. But he only made it about halfway through that last sentence, because Steve's face had changed the minute the author's name had come out of Danny's mouth. He jerked like someone had slapped him, his expression turning pale and tense in a way that normally required someone he cared about to actually be kidnapped. A heartbeat later he’d boxed it all up, in that exact same way he always did that fooled no one because he went too far with it.

All of that, for a name that should have gotten completely lost in the middle of the much wilder, more dramatic stories surrounding it. If Steve had been interested in them as pirates, there was no way he should have cared enough to read short little stories where they ate dinner and argued and cuddled each other and the kids. He shouldn’t even recognize the name.

Unless.

Danny’s heart started pounding like someone trying to kick down a door. “I take it you’ve read her work?”

There were a few endless seconds where Steve froze, and Danny would have paid actual cash money to know what was going on in his head. Then the blankness cracked, leaving Steve caught somewhere between defeated and exhausted. “Jerry told me about the site.”

“He mentioned that.” When Steve swayed, Danny gently guided him over to the couch and sort of pushed him down into it.

Steve went without a fight, eyes fixed on a spot in the distance that was definitely nowhere near Danny. “I told myself I was just checking out the site so I could talk you down off the ledge if you ever found it, but the truth was I was curious. There were a few interesting things on there, but most of it was…” The words trailed off as he shook his head a little. “Strange. They had our names, but it was more like watching a soap opera.”

Danny left his hand on Steve’s back, rubbing soothing circles. He held onto his heart with a death grip, fiercely reminding himself that he didn’t know yet. It was possible that Steve’s monologue could end anywhere. “That’s a good way of putting it.”

Steve squeezed his eyes shut. “But there was this one story where we just… we all went to the zoo. And the kids’ names were wrong, but we'd gone so many times by then that…” He swallowed. “I re-read them, sometimes.”

That took the breath out of Danny. His chest constricted hard, heart slipping out of his grip and heading for the ceiling. The only possible reason Steve had to go back and re-read Grace’s stories was if he fantasized about that life as much as Danny did.

But from the bleak look on Steve’s face, he clearly hadn’t connected the same dots Danny had. “I sort of lied, before,” he said quietly. “I found out who 5-0defender is.”

Steve opened his eyes, squaring his shoulders as if bracing himself. “Is it someone we know? I always wondered.”

That surprised Danny enough to distract him. “And you weren’t curious?”

Steve shrugged. "I knew it wasn't you. Beyond that, I didn't feel like the answer really mattered." He paused, the silence full of things unsaid. "I didn't think you would ever read them."

Danny's throat tightened. “Grace didn't, either.” He kept his hand on Steve’s back, fingers curling a little in the fabric of his shirt. "She's the one who wrote them, it turns out. Apparently, she thought that the stories that were already out there didn't sufficiently capture how achingly, stupidly in love with you I am."

Danny could actually see the moment the words sank in, Steve's eyes flying open like he'd felt a jolt of electricity. He turned to Danny, expression caught somewhere between wild hope and terror that he couldn't trust what was happening, and it hit Danny that Steve might have been suffering with this even longer than he had.

The thought made Danny's chest ache, but it was filled with so much sweetness his eyes stung. "She was right, by the way," he continued softly, and the light that flared in Steve's eyes outshone the sun. "They really don't."

The kiss started surprisingly hesitant, like neither of them could still quite believe this was happening. It deepened slowly, each touch and taste a little braver and more confident than the one before. Danny felt utterly exposed for the first time in his life, everything inside him spilling out into the light, but Steve just took it all and gave him back everything in return.

When they broke apart, Danny's eyes were suspiciously damp. "Stay," he managed, voice a rasp.

Steve's eyes were wet as well, but they were still the brightest things Danny had ever seen. "I think it's safe to say you'd need the entire U.S. Navy to get rid of me now."

"As if I'd let the Navy get anywhere near you." Danny's hands tightened on Steve without bothering to inform his brain about it. Thankfully, Steve's only response was to snuggle closer. "We'll have to figure out how to tell Charlie, but at least we know Grace will be thrilled."

"What about you?" Steve asked softly, something fragile flickering across his expression. "Did reality live up to the stories?"

He loved this idiot so much it felt like he didn't have room to fit it all inside him. "You dope," he whispered, leaning in for another kiss. "It blew them out of the water."