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Not This Life

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When an illness knocks you on your ass, you should stay and relax for a while before trying to get back up. ~Terri Guillemets


“Should we get that?” Steve asked, too comfortable to even turn his head at the question.

“Isn’t that why we have Kono?” Danny responded, not opening his eyes.

“No, no. Don’t bother answering the door,” Kono called out as she went through the living room.

“You need to earn your keep,” Danny called back, making Kono snort at him. They could hear her talking to whoever had arrived. Their dinner guests weren’t due until 6:30 and although Danny didn’t know precisely what time it was, he was pretty sure it wasn’t that late.

“Hey guys,” Kono said from the backdoor. “Trent’s here.”

“Ahhh,” Danny said, standing up to turn around and greet him. Steve turned in his chair, his body stiffening as he stared up at their new cook.

“Trent, this is Danny and Steve,” Kono said, looking from Steve to Trent and back. “But you apparently already know Steve?”

“We’ve met,” Steve said, still staring up at him. Trent had the same surprised expression on his face as Steve did.

“We have,” Trent agreed. He was a native Hawaiian, about the same height as Danny with short cropped black hair. There was a blush under his tan, his brown eyes wide as he looked down at Steve.

“We…uhm… well,” Steve said, not finding the exact words he needed. He hoped he would eventually be able to discuss his former relationships with his former clients without stumbling over the words. It was inevitable that he would be running into them, especially once they began joining the Club. Steve was relieved when Danny stepped in to break the uncomfortable silence surrounding them.

“Got it,” Danny said with a decisive nod. “Good to meet you.” He extended his hand to Trent who firmly grasped it with his own.

“Good to see you again,” Steve said, finally finding his voice.

“I’d say the same but you look like you’ve been through a rough patch,” Trent said.

“Losing side of the fight,” Steve had to agree.

“Sorry to hear that,” Trent said, the mood lighter. “I brought everything required to prepare dinner. I just need the use of your grill.”

“Of course,” Danny said, leading him over to the gas one that had been cleaned and readied for Trent.

“You’re still expecting about 10 guests?” Trent asked.

“We are,” Danny agreed.

“Excellent,” Trent said. “I’ll make myself at home in your kitchen if you don’t mind.”

“Not at all,” Danny assured him. “Kono knows where everything is.”

“I do,” Kono agreed, leading Trent back into the house.

Danny sat back by Steve, looking over at him as Steve studiously looked out over the ocean. “So…” Danny said, a distinct note of teasing in his tone. “You and Trent.”

Steve glanced over at Danny, his face carefully blank. “I knew him as Keith.”

“Ahhh…” Danny said in understanding. “And you were Freddie.”

“Uh huh,” Steve agreed flatly.

“Babe,” Danny said, reaching over to put a warm hand on Steve’s left arm. “Why are you embarrassed?”

“I have no idea,” Steve admitted. “It’s ridiculous.”

“Yeah it is,” Danny said with a smile. “Was he a regular?”

“No,” Steve said. “I saw him three or four times.”

“Okay,” Danny said, turning back to gaze out over the ocean.

“I’m sorry,” Steve said.

“For what?”

“I… I have no idea,” Steve confessed. “I guess this is the first former client we’ve encountered that you didn’t already know?”

“It’s going to happen. Our club is going to be filled with people one or both of us had as clients. We wouldn’t have met if we hadn’t been in that particular line of work.”

“I know,” Steve sighed. “I know I have no reason to feel like this.”

“I totally get it,” Danny said.

“I’m glad,” Steve said. “Thank you.”

Danny laughed, smiling at Steve with a look of pure fondness. “You are a goof. Do you know that?”

“You may have mentioned it a time or two,” Steve said, leaning closer to kiss him lightly. They broke apart at the sounds of someone clearing their throat.

“We can come back if now’s not a good time,” Chin said with a laugh. The very pretty woman with her hand through his elbow looked delighted and amused in equal parts.

“No, now’s fine,” Danny assured them, standing to greet them properly. He gave Malia a light kiss on the cheek, accepting the beautiful flowers she had brought with them.

“Those are very nice,” Steve said, looking up at them.

“They are from my garden,” she said.

“Malia is a genius with plants,” Chin remarked as they accepted Steve’s invitation to have a seat as Danny took the flowers inside to put on the table.

“How are you doing?” Malia asked Steve, assessing him with a doctor’s eye.

“Much better,” Steve assured her and Chin. “I’m sleeping and my appetite has returned full force.”

“Excellent,” Malia said.

“I can barely keep enough food in the house,” Danny said as he sat back by Steve. “Thank goodness Kono has been staying with us. I let her drive the Ferrari and she’ll go to the grocery store as many times as I need her to.”

“You going to buy her one?” Chin laughed. “She really likes yours.”

“As I’ve noticed,” Danny agreed. “Maybe when the club makes its first million.”

“I heard that,” Kono said as she crossed the living room to open the door.

“No promises, Kalakaua,” Danny yelled back at her.

“Uh huh,” Kono said, leading George and Jonathan into the backyard. She disappeared back into the house after showing them the lanai.

“It is beautiful out here,” George said, looking out over the ocean.

“Amazing,” Jonathan agreed. “You, not so great.”

“This is better,” Steve assured him.

“It is,” George confirmed. “He looked like death warmed over right after it happened.”

“You know who did it?” Jonathan asked with a frown marring his handsome face.

“No,” Steve said. “They were Japanese.”

“What can I get you to drink?” Danny asked deciding that was not a discussion they needed to have. Being asked about it by the FBI was bad enough. They did not want to resort to lies or half-truths with their friends.

Once he had everyone’s drink requests, he went into the house to fulfill them. Before he reached the kitchen, he detoured by the front door to answer the bell, finding Stan on the other side. “Howzit,” Danny said with a smile up at him.

“Danno,” Stan said. They embraced in a quick bro-hug before Danny escorted him to the kitchen. Kono introduced Trent to Stan, the men shaking hands and agreeing it was good to meet. Leaving them to talk, Danny prepared the drinks and returned outside to pass them around.

“You can have alcohol next week,” Danny reminded Steve when he frowned at his water.

“Yeah,” Steve agreed, shrugging.

“Are you still taking your pain medication?” Malia asked casually. She sounded like friend rather than a doctor as she asked.

“Yes,” Steve said.

“No,” Danny said at the exact same time.

“Steve,” Malia said with a shake of her head. “It’s not a weakness to help your body heal.”

“You have to know it’s to your benefit,” Jonathan agreed, looking like someone who knew all too well how much pain relievers could help.

“We could change the subject,” Steve suggested, making the others laugh.

“All right,” Danny agreed, looking back at the door when Stan and Trent emerged. Danny made the introductions that hadn’t yet been made, George and Trent saying how glad they were to finally meet.

“I’ve looked over the blueprints,” George was saying where he stood just next to Trent as he put the shish kabobs on the hot grill. “There’s room for expansion as well as space for quite a bit of renovation.”

“I’d like some expansion,” Trent agreed, describing the changes he could see being made. George took some notes, suggesting they look over the blueprints together after they’d eaten.

“These are the five logo versions he provided,” Kono said when all the delicious food was consumed. She passed out the sheets on which she had printed the logos Grant had sent. He had told her that they should be considered drafts and any changes that needed to be made could be easily incorporated.

Steve, Danny, and Kono had previewed the logos, arguing about which one was most suitable. Danny and Kono liked the one that Four-Four-Five spelled out in words. Steve favored the one that used the numbers to make the sails of a boat. They had pointed out that the Club would mostly be on dry land and the sailboat might convey the wrong impression.

Two of the logos they had decided weren’t to their liking but had agreed to show all five to everyone else. As they were all stakeholders, though not yet shareholders, it should be a group decision.

The two logos Steve, Danny, and Kono disliked were discarded almost right away. Trent said he liked one of them well enough but was willing to let it go. It wasn’t his favorite of the bunch.

Malia claimed she didn’t get a say but the others insisted. Chin Ho wasn’t an official part of the Club but they couldn’t imagine not getting his input. That gave Malia a vote as well.

The group did some friendly arguing about which logo would best represent the club, which would best translate to being embroidered on polo shirts, and which would make the best signs.

“Can Grant incorporate the sailboat but make it less prominent?” Stan asked, studying the two that were the finalists.

“That’s an excellent compromise,” George agreed. “Since you’ll have a boat, making it part of the logo makes sense.”

“I’ll talk to Grant tomorrow,” Kono decided.

“We need to meet on a regular basis,” Steve said thoughtfully. “At the very least until we open.”

“That’s an excellent idea,” Danny agreed. “We’ll have a myriad of decisions to make. Meeting once a week will give us time to work through them.”

There was a discussion about who was available and who was not. Turned out Thursday night was a good time for meetings, most of their schedules clear. Those who had conflicts would try to reschedule or would catch up when they could.

“There’s no reason for me to come,” Stan said when Kono asked about his schedule.

“Of course there is,” Danny said. “You are a stakeholder. And who other than us stands to lose the most if it fails?”

Stan laughed at his question. “Well, you have a point. You’ll lose my money too.”

“Precisely,” Danny said. “It’s settled then. Thursday nights, here, at 6:00. Trent, you are not expected to cook every week.”

“You have to know I don’t mind,” Trent pointed out. “I didn’t become a chef because I don’t enjoy cooking.”

“There is that,” Danny said.

“What does being stakeholders mean, exactly?” Kono asked, a look of consideration on her face.

“Hmm…” Danny said, glancing over at Steve. “It means a vote on most of the major decisions. It means…being like a board of directors. We aren’t a corporation so we don’t have a board. But if you are willing to serve as ours, unofficially, we’ll feel more secure in our decisions.”

“Eventually we want to share our profits,” Steve said. “We haven’t figured out how that will work yet. But we want to make you and all of our employees stakeholders.”

That announcement brought with it an excited discussion about how to make the profit-sharing work, who would be eligible, how long it would take for employees to become vested, how many slices the club-pie could accommodate.

“We really do need a full time accountant,” Steve said as the discussion swirled around their heads.

“My sister is a CPA,” George said. “Do you want me to have her call you?”

“Does she have a job currently?” Danny asked.

“She stopped working when she had her twins. They’re four now and she’d like to return to work. Her husband works mainly from home.”

“Sounds perfect,” Steve said. “She can bring them to work when she needs coverage.”

“I’ll give her your number,” George said.

“How about a day-care on site?” Stan said, considering the words as he said them.

“Huh,” Danny said. “It’s not a bad idea. Except we said we weren’t going to have anyone under 18 on the property.”

“Right,” Steve agreed. “But…”

“If we hire single parents, it would be a real perk,” Kono pointed out.

“We could run it as a co-op,” Steve said, looking over at Danny.

“A co-op,” Danny repeated.

“That’s an excellent plan,” Stan said. “Sweat equity so they don’t have to pay and they have a stake in it. And locate it away from the club. I’m sure you can find a place with room for a playground.”

“There is that,” Steve agreed.

“Will we allow people not working for us to enroll their children?” Danny asked. “It would help pay for it.”

“I don’t think that’s a concern, is it?” Kono said with a laugh.

“Well, you know,” Steve said. “It’d be nice if we had income from all sources possible.”

“How many people will the day-care need to employ?” Chin asked.

“It depends on the ages and the number of children,” Stan said. “We built one for a client and they had to make sure the heights were right for the bathrooms, that the square footage was adequate, that there was an appropriate child-to-teacher ratio.”

“We can hire a full time cook and have them teach the kids about good nutrition,” Trent suggested. That idea was met with very positive reaction.

“Do you want us to look for suitable properties tomorrow?” Kono volunteered, looking over at Jonathan to include him in her tentative plan. He nodded in silent agreement. There was a chance he’d agree to almost anything she suggested but none of those who were aware of that mentioned it.

“That would be great,” Danny agreed. “The club can buy it once we have the papers.”

“And it can be renovated without much trouble,” George assured them with smile.

“Lucky for us,” Steve said. 

“If we have all the information for the proposed day-care, we can vote next Thursday,” Danny said. “Malia, you can give Chin your proxy if you can’t come.”

“Right,” Malia agreed with a secret smile just for Chin.

“When will you start all the hiring in earnest?” George asked.

“Another month,” Steve said to Danny’s nods. “We’d like to hire as many veterans as we can.”

“We’ve put the word out at Hickam-Pearl,” Danny added. “We think we’ll have quite a few candidates.”

“I’m spreading the word as well,” Jonathan said.

“We’ll hire college students as valets, life guards, other part time positions,” Steve said.

“How many employees will you end up with, do you think?” Malia asked.

“We honestly have no idea,” Danny admitted. “Trent, how many do you need in the kitchen?”

Trent considered that before stating he’d need a total of seven or eight, more for special events. “We’ll also need at least two pastry chefs. And if the dining room seats 100, we’ll need a minimum of six servers. Seven would be even better. Plus a maitre d’ or hostess and wine stewards.”

“The servers we’ll need right away. The wine stewards can wait,” Danny said.

“Do you know who you want in the kitchen with you?” Kono asked.

“Three of the best chefs are leaving Stanton Street to come here. I’ll need three more fully trained ones. I’m willing to take on two interns, one for each meal service. We can assign one to the day care as well.”

“That’s very generous of you,” Kono said with a smile.

“We all need to learn,” Trent said. “And we’ll need the help for room service. It won’t be 24 hours, right?”

“No,” Danny said. “The club officially closes every night at 2 a.m. and reopens at 11 a.m. We aren’t going to try to have full services around the clock.”

“Pastry chefs?” Jonathan asked. He was making notes on his iPad, keeping track of the conversation as well as he could.

“I don’t know any quality pastry chefs,” Trent said. “Stanton Street bought their desserts. So classless.”

“We can advertise for them,” Kono said. “We need housekeepers, front end staff, maintenance people, hosts and hostesses.”

“They’ll all be fully cross-trained so if a club member wants a fresh beach towel, any employee will get it for them,” Danny said. “Division of labor has its place but we will not have employees say it is not their area. The entire club will be the responsibility of everyone who works there.”

“We’re going to use the UPS philosophy in our training,” Jonathan said. “Everybody has to do every job.”

“Even the boss-men,” Kono said, sounding like she was gloating.

“Think I haven’t cleaned plenty of toilets in my life?” Steve asked, making her laugh.

“I’m sure you have,” Kono said, laughing at him.

“That is an excellent plan,” Trent said with genuine enthusiasm. “Chefs can become isolated, have a higher opinion of ourselves than we deserve. Scrubbing toilets will be an excellent reminder what the club is really about.”

“That was our thinking,” Danny said. “Do we know anyone who can run the gambling cruise? And we need a captain for the boat.”

“We thought that would be Steve’s job,” Kono laughed, the others ribbing him good-naturedly.

“Some days it will be,” Steve agreed with a wink. “We’ll still need a full time captain and crew. Plus personnel for the casino.”

“We’ve talked to the Madame, Michelle, about people in her line of work,” Danny said.

“What line of work?” Malia asked in curiosity.

“She’s offers bondage and all that goes with it,” Steve said.

“Ahhh,” Malia said in understanding. “She doesn’t want to work for you?”

“She said she has too many clients already,” Danny replied. “But she’s being extremely helpful with referrals for possible experts. She’ll have a list to us by next week. Once we find the one or two we want, we’ll order the equipment they request.”

“What about…well… sex workers?” Jonathan said, trying to be as diplomatic as he could.

“We have four friends in the business we’re talking to about working for us,” Steve said. “We’ll pay whoever we hire to get a license as a massage therapist. We want everything as legitimate as possible.”

“Four won’t be enough,” Trent said.

“Those are the only ones we’ve confirmed. We got referrals from them,” Danny explained. “We’ll start talking to all the possibilities as soon as there is furniture in the offices downtown.”

“It should be delivered Monday,” Jonathan said. “Four desks and a conference room table.”

“Excellent,” Danny said. “We’ll get you all keys in case you need access.”

“Why would we need a key?” Chin asked.

Danny shrugged, checking with Steve. “Brainstorm in the middle of the night? Check on the logo design?”

Chin shook his head, his smile warm. “All right, brah. We promise not to sleep there.”

“We probably will,” Steve said with a laugh. “Did you add at least one couch to the order?” he asked Jonathan.

“Yep. Made sure it was seven feet long so you’d fit,” Jonathan confirmed.

“That’ll leave plenty of room for Danny too,” Kono teased, making Danny frown over at her.

“Your Ferrari privileges are revoked,” Danny said sternly.

“You don’t mean that,” Kono said with a dimpled smile that would have convinced almost anyone of almost anything.

“For a week,” Danny amended, not entirely immune to her charms.

“We could meet there instead of here,” George suggested.

“Here is fine,” Steve said. “More casual. Better view.”

“That’s for sure,” Trent agreed.

“Bring your swim suits next week,” Danny said. “It will still be light enough to swim before dinner.”

“You won’t be swimming yet,” Malia reminded Steve gently.

“I know. Maybe I’ll wade in up to my knees.”

“Maybe,” Malia said. “If you’re careful.”

“Steve and careful do not mix,” Danny reminded her.

“As I am all too aware,” Malia said with a glance at her watch. “It’s late and I have work tomorrow.”

Everyone else agreed that they needed to leave as well. It took half an hour before all the good-byes and confirmations of their next meeting were complete. Kono left after extracting their promise that they would let her know if they needed her.

“We’ll be fine,” Danny assured her with a light kiss on her cheek. “Thanks, babe.”

“Ohana,” she reminded him before leaving so he could close and lock the door.

“It’s bed for you,” Danny told Steve who was sitting on one of the steps leading upstairs.

“You too,” Steve said, reaching out with his left hand.

“I need to tidy the kitchen,” Danny said, leaning closer to kiss him.

“Trent took care of most of it. The rest will wait until morning,” Steve said, a request in his tone.

“All right,” Danny conceded easily. “Let’s get naked and go to sleep.”

“I really, really want to have sex with you,” Steve said as he led Danny up the steps.

“Ditto. But not for another couple of days. It could displace your fracture if we do it too soon.”

“I know,” Steve sighed, looking down at the sling that still tightly bound his injured arm to his body. “It was nice of Trent to make shish kabobs so you didn’t have to cut my meat for me.”

“It was,” Danny said, helping Steve out of his clothes. “I’d like to eat your meat.”

“You can’t say things like that when you can’t follow through,” Steve said with a frown down at Danny’s head.

“Well,” Danny said, kneeling in front of Steve’s naked body. “If we’re careful and you stand up, we won’t be putting pressure on your arm, will we?”

“I like your thinking,” Steve said, thrusting his hips forward.

“I see you and your desperation,” Danny said, caressing the hair on Steve’s strong thighs. “I expect reciprocation when you are fully recovered.”

“Absolutely. I’ll even buy you another Ferrari.”

“What would I do with two Ferraris?” Danny asked before leaning forward to lick a wet stripe up the side of Steve’s hardening cock.

“No idea,” Steve admitted, steadying himself with his left hand on Danny’s shoulder. “Could you please get on with it?”

Danny laughed before showing mercy and taking Steve in his mouth as far as he possibly could. Steve groaned in relief and in arousal and in approval.

“Your mouth is… your talent can’t be… oh babe,” Steve moaned, only half sentence formed. The rest of his words were cut off by Danny’s actions. He was tonguing Steve the way he’d learned Steve enjoyed the most, paying special attention to the underside and the ridge at the top. Those were two of Steve’s surest triggers.

Danny’s expertise brought Steve to a hard, fast orgasm, one that made him weak in the knees. Danny guided him to the edge of the bed so Steve could recovered, his breathing too fast, his cheeks high with color.

“I’ll be right back,” Danny whispered, disappearing into the bathroom. As promised, he soon returned, wiping his mouth with a fresh towel.

“What d’ya want?” Steve slurred, trying to focus on Danny.

“I’ll take care of it, babe,” Danny said, pulling back the covers. “Come on.”

“Huh,” Steve grunted, finally rousing himself enough to get into bed. He leaned up against the headboard so he had a clear view of Danny touching himself, enjoying his own strokes on his hardness. “Does that feel good?” Steve whispered, licking his lips. “I love touching you like that. Stroking you up and down, up and down. Feeling you get harder and harder until every muscle in your body tenses up and you explode. All your arousal shoots from the tip of your beautiful pink penis, splattering you and me and the bed. I could watch that all day, the look on your face, the way your tongue frantically licks your lips. You are so beautiful when you come….” Steve’s words did the trick, Danny erupting all over the towel he’d strategically placed on his stomach. “Perfect.”

“Mmm…” Danny moaned, turning his head enough to kiss Steve until they were both breathless. “Love you.”

“I know,” Steve said, throwing the small towel on the floor. “Will you make me waffles in the morning?”

“Do you even have to ask?” Danny asked, reaching over to turn out the light. “I’d go to Belgium to get you waffles if that’s what you wanted.”

“Nope. Just you and waffles right here,” Steve said to Danny’s contented sighs.

“The way it should be,” Danny said.

“Yep,” Steve agreed, stroking Danny’s ruffled hair with his left hand, content to bask in the comfort they had carved out for themselves. He was a very lucky man and he knew better than to take it for granted.