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Best Foot Forward

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“No, no, no,” Danny says over the phone. “Look, working on your car -- entertaining, certainly, watching you make funny faces at engine innards, but no.”

“No?” Steve repeats, feeling more let down than he really wants to examine.

“No, because there is an order to these things, Steven, and lo, it is written: getting your hands covered with grease after you just got a manicure is a pretty boneheaded idea.”

“Oh,” Steve says, because that makes sense. Except -- “You’re getting a manicure?”

“Yes, I am getting a manicure. It’s what Gracie wants to do, so we’re going.”

“Right,” Steve says, because there’s plenty about Danny that is bewildering and perplexing, but where Grace is concerned, he doesn’t need any further explanation. “Can I come?”


The salon seems nice. Bright and clean. If he’s not incredibly mistaken, there’s a bootleg copy of some Disney thing playing on the widescreens mounted on the wall.

Danny and Grace are already there when he comes in, and Grace is looking at what Steve feels is a pretty overwhelming selection of polish colors.

“Not pink, coral,” Grace tells Danny very seriously. “That one up there -- no, the one next to it.”

Danny obediently retrieves the bottle in question and offers it to Grace for inspection. It must pass, because Grace grins and twirls in place.

“Hey,” Steve says, and Danny and Grace turn to look at him.

Grace’s expression brightens. “Steeeeeve, are you getting your nails done, too?”

“Yes,” Steve says cautiously. He’s not sure he can commit to coral, not even for Grace’s best smile or Danny’s warmest, most approving look.

Some of that internal terror must translate to his face, because Danny rolls his eyes. “Relax, this doesn’t have to be traumatic. Guy specials for both of us, okay?” he tells the two salon attendants who are clearly waiting for them. Grace is already sitting in one of the chairs, watching the basin under her feet fill with water.

Danny strolls up to the chair next to her, and nods his head at Steve in the chair next to his. Steve takes his cue from Danny and pulls his boots off, and rolls up his pants.

“Seriously, Steve, relax,” Danny chides him after they both settle into their chairs. “Press the button, let the chair do some work on those wound-up muscles of yours.”

“My muscles are fine,” Steve says, but presses a button anyway out of curiosity. He expects it to vibrate, but he get something that rolls pressure up his back.

The technician -- his name tag says “Mikey,” of all things -- gently pulls on Steve’s ankle, and it takes him a second to figure out that Mikey wants him to put it on the cushioned ledge out of the tub. He smooths some goo on Steve’s toenails and does something mysterious with a few shiny metal implements, and then puts Steve’s foot back in the water. Weird.

Danny appears to be totally unfazed by any of this. Danny, in fact, seems to be so used to it that he can read this month’s Sports Illustrated and obey all of his technician’s nudging without much effort. Steve just wants to be sure he’s doing it right, and he can’t help it that he’s confused when Mikey pulls his foot up and starts to scrub the sole of his feet with something rough.

All the confusion is worth it, though, when Mikey starts with the foot massage. It feels good -- great, even -- and Steve sneaks a quick look at Danny, who is getting his own massage at the same time. And Danny --

Danny looks blissed out.

Steve’s mouth goes a little dry, and he only stops looking at Danny because Mikey starts putting some foam dividers between his toes. There’s some more goo, and then something that looks like polish but isn’t. Steve glances over at Grace, who is eying the application of coral to her toenails with every indication of deep-seated satisfaction.

And then he’s ushered over to a table, trying to keep the disposable foam flip-flops on his feet, and Mikey makes him put his fingernails in a dish of warm water. Warm water that he then adds hot green tea to, which Steve really doesn’t understand what for. And it feels weird, having someone he doesn’t know turn his hand this way and that, trimming and buffing and filing, and seriously, what is all this stuff Mikey is putting on his hands?

Before he knows it, he is shuffling off to yet another table, joined by Danny and Grace, and they all sit with their nails under the dryer.

“Nice, huh?” Danny says cheerfully, inspecting his nails for a moment before putting them back under the dryer.

“Yeah, it’s okay,” Steve admits. And then, still feeling a little awkward at having invited himself along, he tells Mikey he’ll pay for all three of them.

“You sure?” Danny says, skeptical. “Also, did you even bring your wallet?”

Steve glares at him and hands over his credit card before he even really looks at the receipt. When he sees the total, he tries to avoid making what Danny terms his “offended pufferfish” face, but fails miserably.

“Don’t make that face,” Danny chides him. “Well-groomed nails are to be appreciated.” And Danny’s voice does something with that last word, a little husk that makes Steve think of one thing and one thing only -- nails scratching down his back, and whoa.

“I appreciate them,” Steve says, a little hoarse.

“Maybe you’ll appreciate them more later,” Danny says, and Danny has a tone -- Danny has a tone that says that not only does he know what Steve is thinking, but he concurs vehemently. And then Danny changes gears abruptly by saying, “You ready for lunch, monkey?”

Grace waggles her fingers at them, showing off the coral polish. “Ready!”

“Come on, Steve, let’s get going.”

Steve takes a moment to still feel just a touch guilty. “You sure I’m not, you know, interrupting--”

“I’m sure, I’m sure, we’re good,” Danny says, exasperated. “We are good, right?”

“Yeah,” Steve says. “Hey, maybe I’ll get coral next time, Gracie, what do you think?”

“Steve,” she says, extreme pity in her voice, “it doesn’t go with your skin tone.”

“It -- what?” Steve says, flabbergasted, and Danny laughs all the way to the car.