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One Foot in Front of the Other

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Morning on the Beach

One foot in front of the other. One foot in front of the other. Over and over and over again one of Steve's bare feet smacked down on the firm, wet, cool sand as he ran along the beach. One foot in front of the other with a smooth, steady rhythm achieved with years of practice.

Over his lifetime Steve had run untold thousands of miles. Every morning like clockwork he was up and out of the house to run along the beach as the sun peeked up over the horizon. Rain or shine, weekday or weekend, holiday or workday, happy or sad, tired or energized. Every morning he ran. It was part of who he was. It was how he stayed centered, focused. It was a sign of how driven he was. One foot in front of the other. He didn't think about how many miles he had run or how many he had yet to run. He simply focused on putting one foot in front of the other, one step at a time.

Morning was a popular time to jog on the beach. As a sign of his focus, Steve didn't even notice the other jogger running along the beach in the same general direction at first. The guy was like a hundred other joggers on the beach in the morning – trim, toned without being overdone, wearing jogging shorts and a tan and nothing else. Like Steve, the other guy had a look of concentration on his face. Like Steve, he probably was alone on the beach in his mind.

Steve wasn't sure what made him look at the guy. At first he just noticed that someone was running nearby, but didn't pay him much attention. Oh yeah, guy jogging on the beach. Right. Nothing to distinguish him from a hundred other joggers he might pass while out for his morning ritualistic run.

Without intending to, the two men fell into a sort of natural rhythm. They were after all about the same height, had legs about the same length, and had a focused, driven stride earned by logging a lot of miles in their lives. The only real difference was that while Steve was barefoot, the other guy wore running shoes.

Glancing without really noticing, Steve subconsciously kept track of the other runner. Stride after stride they matched one another. Until they didn't. With a sharp and sudden cry of pain, the guy who had a second earlier been running, was on the ground grimacing in pain.

Steve instinctively stopped and ran to the guy, "What's wrong?"

Through clenched teeth, the other guy grimaced out, "Cramp!" He grabbed his leg.

Looking down, Steve saw the muscles in the guy's right calf spasm uncontrollably in a clear, classic muscle cramp. Steve had been there many times himself. No matter how much you stretched, no matter how many miles you logged, sometimes muscles cramped up and when they did there was nothing you could do but ride it out.

Steve dropped to his knees beside the guy. He didn't know the guy but he could clearly identify with the stranger. He instinctively wanted to do something to help the man who was clearly in pain, but he also knew that there was not a thing he could do until the rebellious calf muscle calmed it's tantrum.

"Take my hand," Steve ordered as he reached out his hand to the stranger. "Do it!" he said when he saw the guy hesitate. When the man took his hand in his grip Steve instructed, "Squeeze! It'll help you get through it. I know."

The stranger did as instructed. For anyone who knew him, that fact in itself was a surprise. When fiercely independent was defined they put his face in the dictionary as the proto-typical example.

"Breathe! Squeeze!" Steve ordered. Five seconds ticked past. Steve repeated his orders and the other man did as advised. Ten seconds. Fifteen seconds. Finally the spasm that gripped the muscles of his right calf started to subside. The pain was finally easing. With one final shudder he dropped back onto the sand and lightened his grip on Steve's helping hand.

The man drew in a deep breath and closed his eyes for a second trying to re-center himself. He had been in such a perfect state while running but that moment was gone, taken away from him with a suddenness that seemed impossible.

Seeing his fellow-jogger in less misery, Steve released the man's hand and moved so that he was kneeling at the man's outstretched legs. While the man had his eyes closed trying to re-achieve his focus, Steve reached out his big hands and gripped the man's leg. Quietly he worked the muscles with skilled hands. His fingers knew what to do to take away some of the residual tension that remained.

Gradually he extended his massage outwards from the focal point of the spasm. While the spasm had been focused in one area, it had of necessity radiated outward and impacted all of the surrounding muscles. Steve knew that by working those muscles now, at this point post-spasm, the recovery would be eased.

The man sighed. "Damn, that feels good. Your hands are amazing."

"Thank you," Steve said with a hint of a smile.

Opening his eyes to look at his rescuer, the man returned the smile and said, "Actually, I think I should be thanking you."

"You're welcome. How's that feel?"

"Fantastic. I could get could lost in that feeling."

"Relax. Breathe out. Deep breath in. Let the tension slip away. Relax."

"Anything you say, just don't ever stop doing what you're doing."

Steve chuckled. "Well, at some point I have to go to work." He continued to work his hands over the man's leg, realizing finally that the leg he was massaging was a very nice leg. A very muscular leg. A leg covered with beautiful, black hair, the color of the hair on the man's head … and his arms … and his chest. "Oh, crap!" he realized. "This guy is hot!" Unsure of how to extricate himself from this position, Steve kept massaging the muscles while he tried to think of what to do.

Fortunately his problem was solved when the man sat up and looked Steve in the eye and said, "Thank you. Most appreciated." Steve took that as a sign that he could stop. He remained kneeling on the sand, mesmerized by the man's eyes. He didn't know what color they were, but they were beautiful. They were filled with life. They were filled with mischief. They were … "Come on, Steve," he silently scolded himself, "get it together."

Standing, the man limped a little as he tried to walk a little bit.

Steve leapt to his feet and said, "Here, lean on me. My house is just over there," he said pointing to his place about a hundred yards up the beach. "Come, sit on the lanai for a few minutes."

The man wanted to object. He wanted to escape those incredible eyes, that boyish smile that was both innocent and impish at the same time. "All right," he said, not really knowing why he said it.

Steve smiled broader as he let the man lean on him.

"You're the perfect height," the man observed.

Steve chuckled.

"Why the laugh?"

"My partner is always telling me I'm freakishly tall. I tell him he's just abnormally short."

"You have a partner," he said as a combination question and statement. "Won't he be upset that you're bringing a stranger home? I mean, the sun's barely up and you haven't bought me a drink yet."

Realizing that his statement was misinterpreted, Steve explained, "No! My work partner. He's not my partner."

"Oh, good."

"Good?"

"Sorry," the man said apologetically as Steve helped him into one of the loungers on the lanai. "Let me rub that leg some more so the muscles don't clench up."

"I won't object. But I thought you had to get to work. Won't your partner be waiting for you?"

"He doesn't get up as early as I do. I like to start the day with a run as the sun is coming up. He doesn't like to start the day with anything physical … unless you count eating donuts."

Letting himself relax into the strong yet gentle hands that worked his leg, the man said, "You're painting an interesting picture. I'm getting an image of a freakishly short guy whose girth equals his height."

"No," Steve said by way of explanation. "He's really trim. I don't know how he does it the way he constantly eats junk food. He's hot, actually." Realizing what he had just said, Steve froze and said, "I can't believe I just said that. Sorry."

"For what?"

"I shouldn't have said that," was all Steve could think of to say.

"Why not? If the guy's hot, he's hot. I'm sure he's not as good looking as you."

Steve picked up on the compliment and smiled.

"I love your smile," the guy said. "It lights up your face, which is already pretty nice. Sorry. I shouldn't have said that. Now we're even," he said, matching Steve smile for smile.

"Thank you. Ditto."

"You don't get many compliments, do you?" the man sensed. "You should. You're really handsome."

"Thanks. You too."

"Thanks."

 

Pineapple and Coffee

The two sat facing each other silently for 30 seconds before Steve said, "You want some coffee? I usually have some after my morning run."

"I'd love a cup of coffee," the guy said. Steve looked at the man's face, getting sucked into those eyes once again before pulling himself back to the moment.

"Can I help?"

"I got it," Steve answered before reconsidering. "But I wouldn't object to the company."

"Good." Together they walked into the house and made their way to the kitchen. The man's leg was feeling much better between the time and the ministrations of Steve's hands.

While the coffee brewed, Steve grabbed a fresh pineapple and proceeded to remove the shell and the core. He deftly cut the fresh fruit into chunks which he piled up in a big dish.

"That smells absolutely amazing!" the guy observed sincerely. "I love the smell of fresh pineapple."

Steve chuckled again.

"Now what?" the guy asked, confused.

"Sorry. My partner hates pineapple. He says he despises the smell and can't stand the taste. I, on the other hand, can't picture a world without pineapple. I eat it every morning."

"I don't know the guy, but he's nuts. Pineapple is one of the gifts of the gods to the human race." To prove his point he grabbed a chunk of the freshly cut fruit and shoved it into his mouth. "Wow!" he said sincerely, "that is freaking amazing!"

"Freshest of the fresh. Pineapples aren't grown commercially in the islands anymore. They're all mass-produced in Central America, the Philippines, Thailand, places like that. But a few farmers still grow them here for locals. I get mine from a guy each evening on my way home. I swear they're the best tasting. I don't know what he does or how he does it but they're amazing."

"You speak the truth, my friend."

Steve picked up a chunk of the freshly cut pineapple and tasted it for himself. "Hm," he agreed, "incredible."

"You cut a good pineapple, my underappreciated, handsome friend."

Steve smiled shyly, which was completely out of character for him since he typically wasn't shy in the least. "Hey, why do you say I'm underappreciated?"

"You speak of your partner as someone who is important in your life but yet at the same time you say he calls you freakishly tall, eats junk food while you exercise. It sounds like he doesn't appreciate the same things, and he seems a bit arrogant from the way you describe him … and it just seems like you don't get a lot of affirmation from him."

Steve wanted to disagree. "I'm sorry if I undersold him. He's really a great guy …"

"For a freakishly short guy," his newfound friend finished his sentence. The two men shared a laugh. Steve poured the coffee when it finished brewing. "Oh my God!" he said as he smelled the freshly brewed coffee. "If that tastes anything like it smells this is going to be the best cup of coffee I've ever had in my life." He took a sip and closed his eyes savoring the taste. "Yep. That's incredible coffee."

"Kona beans I picked up when I was over on Maui yesterday. They have just the perfect climate on the Kona coast to grow some incredible coffee."

"Oh course you can have the best beans in the world but if you screw up the roasting …"

"I know!" Steve agreed enthusiastically.

"Some places insist on burning the beans. I don't know why they think the burnt taste is a good thing. If the beans are good the roasting should let the natural qualities of the bean shine through."

"Right!" Steve agreed.

"Does your partner like Kona coffee?"

"Not so much," Steve admitted. "He's more of a 7-11 kind of coffee guy."

The guy scrunched up his face in a grimace. "I don't know if I want to meet this guy or run the other way."

"He's a great guy," Steve reiterated.

"Ok. I'll give the guy one more chance. But three strikes and he's out and he has used up two with the pineapple and the Kona coffee."

As the two men savored their coffee and munched on pineapple while standing in Steve's kitchen it occurred to Steve that they had even exchanged names. Holding out his hand in the universal sign of friendliness, Steve said, "By the way, I'm Steve."

Taking the proffered hand, the man said, "John. Nice to meet you Steve. Any man who rescues me from an embarrassing cramp while out running, who gives me great pineapple and coffee, and is as handsome as you are is a friend of mine."

Again with the unusual shyness, Steve blushed a tiny bit, not understanding his teenager-like reaction to the compliment. Still holding the man's hand, Steve looked up and was once again drawn into those luscious eyes. "You're not so bad yourself, John."

Even though he had been looking at the guy for quite a while, Steve seemed to realize for the first time that the guy was standing in his kitchen in just running shorts and sneakers. He noticed that the guy had sand on his back from where the cramp had sent him down onto the beach. "I just realize that you're cover with sand and sweat. Would you like a shower?"

"I would love a shower!" John hesitated a moment and added, "And just so you don't think I'm a total man-whore out trolling for men on the beach at sunrise, I don't usually accept offers of showers from strange men. In fact, I think this is my first."

"I'm not strange," Steve protested.

Joking with him, John said, "I thought you were freakishly tall."

"No. Like you, I'm just the right height. We can't help it if freakishly short people hang out with us."

"And feel inadequate," John added.

"I'll let you tell him that part," Steve said.

"Pit Bull in a chihuahua body?" John asked as they walked toward the bathroom off Steve's bedroom.

"I've always pictured him as a Doberman in a Dachshund body, actually, but you're headed in the right direction."

"I think I need to meet this guy," John said.

"Maybe later. First, shower." Steve didn't need to explain further. Taking a bold step, he leaned in and kissed his new found friend on the lips.

"Oh, yes! More. Please."

"Anytime, anywhere."

"Here. Now."

"Ok."

 

Danno Will Never Have Post-Pineapple Sex

Somehow the two men managed to shed their clothes. For John this wasn't a difficult move since all he wore were sneakers and a pair of running shorts. Shedding his clothes first he stood naked in front of McGarrett which caused the man to stop in his own disrobing. He stared at John's naked body.

Looking down at his body and then back up at Steve he asked, "Is there something wrong? Was I not supposed to take my clothes off? Do I have grass stains on my ass or something?"

Steve shook his head to say no. "Nothing wrong. Quite the opposite. You are one of the hottest men I think I have ever seen in my life."

Now it was John's turn to blush. "You don't get out much, do you? I don't regard myself as all that attractive, just a basic guy … all right, basic guy with really nice hair."

"Huh?" Steve said, once again letting his eyes roam over his visitor's naked form.

"Clothes off, big guy. Shower." John helped Steve shed the last of his clothes and joined the man in the shower, letting the hot water wash over their bodies, washing away accumulated sweat and grim. They had a half-hearted effort to soap one another but quickly abandoned that and simply let their hands roam over one another's bodies. Throughout, their lips remained locked on the other man's lips in an intense kiss.

When they came up for air, Steve hugged John tight to his body and whispered in his ear. "I really like this."

"I can tell by the erection you've got."

"Ditto."

"Oh, yeah. Where did that come from?" John said when he looked down at his own crotch.

"Happens."

"When you have the right stimulation."

Before he could continue their banter, Steve heard his cell phone start to ring.

"Excuse me. Got to get that." He stepped out of the shower dripping water all over the floor in the process of grabbing the offending instrument. "McGarrett."

Even though he was across the room in the shower, John could hear the booming voice that came through the phone. "McGarrett! Where the fuck are you? Don't you know we work for a living? Are you planning to haul your freakishly tall body in here sometime today?"

"Danno, good morning to you, too."

"Cut the chit chat. Where are you and when are you getting here? Did you forget you wanted us all here early this morning?"

"Oh, crap, I forgot. I'll be there as quick as I can." Closing the phone he looked sorrowfully back at the occupant of his shower, the tall, dark, handsome and oh so sultry stranger with a hard on that was just begging to be sucked. Steve sighed and said, "I'm really sorry, but I've got to get to work."

"I know. His voice carries well."

"Big lungs in such a small body."

Steve grabbed a towel and wiped away most of the accumulated water on his body. "I'm gonna have to go. Where are you staying? I'll drop you on my way."

"Thanks." John quickly rinsed, toweled off and looked for his clothes.

"I'm so sorry," Steve said again. "I had visions of us …"

"Me, too. Your partner seems to be working really hard on his third strike."

"He's really a good guy, someone you want at your back when you go into a firefight."

"What kind of work do you do that involves firefights?"

"I run the governor's special anti-crime task force. We work out of the Palace downtown."

"My hotel is near there, so if you're going that way I'll accept your offer of a ride." Pulling his shorts back on and getting his sneakers tied, John asked, "You wouldn't maybe have a t-shirt I could borrow, would you?"

"Sure," Steve said, pulling one from a drawer and tossing it to John. Since their bodies were similar in size the shirt fit perfectly.

"Naval Academy," John read off the shirt. "You went to Annapolis?"

"Yep. Sure did."

"You still in?"

"No. Retired to head up the governor's task force."

"Oh, good."

"Good?"

"I wouldn't want to cause any hint of trouble for an active duty military guy. DADT and all that shit."

"You?"

"Retired Air Force Colonel."

"Colonel? Nice!"

Steve was now dressed as well and was guiding the two men toward the front door of his house.

"You meet me again later to pick up where we left off and I'll show you nice."

Steve smiled and said, "You've got yourself a date."

 

Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho, It's Off to Work We Go

In the truck they raced through busy traffic on their way to the Palace. Without thinking, Steve drove straight to his office where he parked his truck. When he jumped out of his truck he stopped and said, "Crap! I was going to drop you at your hotel! I completely forgot."

As he made a move back toward his truck, John stopped him and said, "No! I know where I am and can get home from here."

"Thanks, John," Steve said with a smile. "I really am sorry to cut our shower short."

"I was really looking forward to the part that comes after the shower," John said with a smile that could be described as both lewd and lascivious. Steve moaned with frustration. "Oh, I'd so much rather do that."

"Meet me later and we will. And you'll have had all day long to think about what we can do together. You can think of our naked bodies rubbing against each other, our hands roaming over the other guys' butt and back, …"

"Enough! Stop! I cannot go into the office with an erection tenting out my pants!"

"Why would you have an erection?" John asked in his most angelic voice, batting his eyelashes provocatively.

"You know very well why, Mr. Cock Tease!"

"Me? Me? Never."

"Do you want a quick tour before you go?" Steve asked, hating the thought of parting company with this man, but desperately needing to change the subject.

"Sure," John said, also not wanting to say goodbye.

Steve guided the two men inside the Palace, up the grand staircase and into the 5-0 offices. He gave him the perfunctory tour which was cut short by Danny Williams yelling at them when he saw Steve. "Well, it's about fucking time, McGarrett!"

"Sorry, Danno, I was busy."

"Busy? You were busy? Well so are we – busy twiddling out thumbs because our leader didn't show up for work on time! Busy? You were busy. Well bully for you babe."

John leaned toward Steve and said, "That's got to be him, right?"

"Right."

Steve whispered, "He's cute."

Danny focused for the first time on the fact that Steve was not alone. He paused in his rant, took in the other guy, and said, "I'm sorry. I didn't realize Steve had company."

John stepped forward and reached out his hand, "Hi, I'm John. You must be Danny. I've heard a lot about you."

"You have? Why?"

"Why not?"

Danny saw the shirt John was wearing and asked, "McGarrett, isn't that your shirt?"

Looking at the shirt he said, "Lots of people wear shirts from the Naval Academy, Danny."

"Yes, but not all of them have that particular stain along with a rip in the sleeve near the right shoulder." He crossed his arms and smiled. "I am a detective, after all."

"Yes, Danny, it is my shirt." He left it there. Steve introduced John to his other co-workers while he heard Danny continue his rant in another room.

"Do you need to do something before he implodes?" John asked with concern.

"Nah. He'll run down after a while."

They stopped in Steve's office briefly, knowing that they had to part company. "So, …" Steve started.

"You need to get to work, and I need to get back to my hotel and find something to do with myself today."

"Have you ever been here before," Steve asked, intending to play tour guide (at least in terms of recommendations).

"Yes, I've been here a great many times." Seeing the disappointment on Steve's face, John offered, "But I don't know the restaurant scene. I was wondering if you might be free this evening for dinner? You pick a place you like and I'm sure I'll like it, too."

Steve smiled. "I can do that. I look forward to it."

"Me, too," John returned the smile. "Can I have a quick kiss goodbye?"

Steve glanced at the open door and listened for Danny's voice. Not hearing anything from beyond the door he advanced on John, wrapped his arms around the man and kissed him. Sighing, he forced himself to keep it brief. However, with his impeccable sense of timing, and Steve's bad luck, their kiss coincided perfectly with Danny's entrance into Steve's office.

"Oohhh! Excuse me. Didn't mean to interrupt," Danny said, quickly backing out of the office and disappearing.

"Oh, fuck," John said.

"No. Not a problem. I'll deal with him. It's about time he knew, anyway."

"I'm so sorry, man. I should never have asked to kiss you in your workplace. Crap! Crap! Crap!"

Steve shook his head. "No, seriously. It's not a problem. If he hasn't figured it out by now the man is a lousy detective – and he's actually a very good detective."

"I'm getting out now." With his head down in embarrassment, John turned and started out of Steve's office.

"Hey."

John stopped and looked up, raising his eye brow in silent questioning.

"Thanks," Steve said.

"For what?" John asked, confused.

"For deciding to run this morning, for being on the beach when I was on the beach, for having a leg cramp, …"

"My pleasure. Well, actually, the cramp wasn't a pleasure, but you helped it to be bearable. So, thank you."

"I'll pick you up at 7," Steve said.

"I'm looking forward to it. See you then," John said as he left the office.

Like clockwork on a finely tuned Swiss time piece, Danny was in Steve's office within 30 seconds of John's departure. Steve was absolutely certain that his partner had watched for John to leave and had headed into Steve's office immediately upon his departure.

With a very determined look on his face, Danny dove straight into the heart of the matter. "So Steven, why was that man kissing you?"

"He wasn't kissing me."

"He wasn't kissing you? I beg to differ my friend."

"He wasn't kissing me."

"He wasn't kissing you. I see. So tell me, please, what was going on?"

"I was kissing him."

Danny paused, held up his right hand, and then said slowly, "You were kissing him. Now just how does that differ from him kissing you?"

"I was kissing him."

Danny cocked his head to one side, held up both hands, and then stopped, deciding on a different approach. "So Steven …"

"Yes, Daniel."

"Steven, who was that man you were just kissing? And why were you kissing him?"

"His name is John. And I was kissing him because I like him."

"You like him. Good. Because his lips were getting rather close to yours. No, actually, more than close. I'd say … and this is just an observation, mind you … that your lips and his lips were touching."

Steve kept his absolutely perfect poker face, simply stared at his partner, and said, "That's right." Danny wanted more but Steve was determined to make him work for the information.

Danny smiled and shook his head in frustration. "You know very well what I mean, you smug …"

"Careful, Danno."

"Cut the crap, Steve. Who was that guy?"

"Like I said, his name is John."

"How long have you known John?"

Steve looked at his watch before answering. "About three hours."

"Three hours," Danny said incredulously. "Three hours? You do move quick, don't you?"

"They don't call me Smooth Dog for nothin'."

"Three hours."

"That's what I said."

"Ok. So how did you meet 'John' three hours ago?"

"Running."

"Running?" Danny asked, becoming increasingly exasperated with his friend.

"Yes," Steve answered while keeping his poker face in place.

"You met 'John' three hours ago while running. Were you both running?"

"Yes."

"So you picked up some stranger on the beach!?" Danny practically shouted. "Are you insane? Do you have any idea who this guy is? Where he comes from? What he's doing here? What his background is? What his last name is?!?!" Danny was in full out, flat out rant by the time he got his last question out.

Steve leaned back in his chair, crossed his arms, looked at Danny and said, "Did you think I was celibate, Danno?"

That question drew Danny up short. He once again cocked his head - dare I say it, much like a dog trying to figure out what someone wanted them to do – and looked at Steve, speechless.

"Chin! Kono!" Steve shouted as he jumped up out of his chair. Seconds later his two other colleagues raced into his office. "What's wrong boss?"

"Nothing wrong at all. This is a red letter day. I just made Danny Williams speechless," Steve said proudly.

The power of speech quickly returned and Danny let rip with a new rant. "I've seen you do a lot of stupid things in the time I've known you, but picking up a stranger on the beach and then doing … God knows what with him … and then trying to lick his tonsils clean in your office."

"Relax, Danny. I'm having dinner with him tonight and I'll be sure to ask all of your questions."

"While your feet are firmly planted on the floor, please," Danny ordered like an outraged mother instructing her adolescent daughter in proper dating etiquette.

"Yes, mother," Steve replied.

"Now you're mocking me," Danny complained.

"Yes," Steve simply answered.

"Bite me," he said as he started to storm out of Steve's office. He stopped, turned back, and said, "Believe it or not, your friends are concerned about your well-being and happiness and don't want to see you getting yourself into some mess with a stranger …"

"So you'd be happier if it was just a one-night stand?"

"Yes. NO! Yes! No! You know very well what I mean!"

Enjoying himself beyond belief, Steve crossed his arms and smiled at his partner. "Not really. Why don't you try it again."

Danny actually growled at him and bared his teeth a little in frustration. One hand was again raised into the air in front of him – the man couldn't talk without his hands – Danny said, "I don't want to see you get hurt."

"And apparently you don't want to see me get laid, either."

"Actually, that's right. I wouldn't want to have to see that. And I'm going to be haunted by the image of you naked and nasty with that guy for the rest of my life! Thank you very much! You've just made my future therapist a very happy – and rich – man."

"So I have your permission to get laid?"

"Yes! You can get laid if you want. Go fornicate."

"Fornicate?"

"Fuck! All right? You happy? Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Try to introduce a little class and decorum to the situation and see what it gets you," Danny complained.

"Thank you for your permission to have sex."

Both hands in the air this time, the growl louder, Danny said, "Stop twisting my words! You know very well what I'm talking about. You're simply playing with me."

"Yes," Steve said, smiling.

"I hate you. I hope you know that."

"You don't hate me, Danno. You worship the very ground I walk on."

Sighing, Danny looked at Steve, trying to fix a truly pitiful expression on his face. "Babe, you don't spend a lot of time in the dating pool. All I'm saying is someday you're gonna meet …" He paused in mid-sentence. "Hey, wait a minute. Since when do you fuck guys?"

"I wondered when you were gonna ask that question. Since I was 16 actually."

"Sixteen?"

"I know, by New Jersey standards that probably made me a late bloomer. But, yes, sixteen. And for the record, we fucked each other."

Danny squeezed his eyes shut and shouted "Naaaaaaa naaaaaa naaaaa!" Breathing deeply he said, "I did not need to know that detail about you, Steven."

"Yes, mother."

"Mock me if you want, but I've got your best interests in mind."

"You know, Grace is going to hate it when she goes on her first date and you have this same talk with her."

"Oh, no, that won't be a problem since she's not allowed to date until she's 40 – or I'm dead – whichever comes last."

"You know very well she's gonna go on dates long before she turns 40. And for the record, you're a great father. But you're a lousy mother, so stop trying to play the part."

Danny held up his finger and said, "You may go out with this guy but only if you promise to play safe and don't trust him with your heart unless you know him."

"Danno, go to work. As I recall, you called me away from a hot naked man in my shower because you needed me here …"

"You're not going to be happy until I'm mentally scared beyond all recognition, are you?"

"Huh?" Steve said, confused.

"You …"

Steve shrugged. "Yessssss," he said, still not getting what Danny was saying.

"You … and that gigolo … naked in your shower. There. You happy? I said it. You were NAKED. He was NAKED. You were NAKED … TOGETHER. HAPPY?"

Steve had the biggest smile possible on his face. "Yes, actually, more than you could possible know."

"Well, then, my work here is done."

"Not by a long shot, my friend."

"Don't I know it. Turning you from an overgrown adolescent into an adult is going to age me by decades."

Danny turned and walked out of Steve's office, muttering to himself. "I get no respect around here. You try to help the guy, and look what it gets you. Years of therapy!"

 

Dating 101

The remainder of the workday passed quickly for everyone as they worked diligently to try to thoroughly document one of their cases for the District Attorney's office. Steve hated paperwork but at the same time knew that it was a necessary part of the job and that without a well-documented case file that all of their efforts were wasted. And Steve did not believe in wasted effort, especially not when the stakes were as high as they were in the case in question.

At 6:30 all four of the teammates were feeling wiped out. But they had earned their fatigue – they were finished. The files were as complete as they could be and they had been forwarded electronically to the appropriate attorney so that he (or she) could prosecute the case.

Steve moved around the office turning off coffee pots, lights, and copy machines, all the while haunted by a nagging feeling that he was forgetting something. Kono and Chin said good night and left together.

Danny leaned against the wall of the office with his arms crossed and an evil smile on his face, all the while studying Steve, who by the way was utterly oblivious to being studied.

Turning off his own office lights, Steve looked at Danny and said, "Night, Danno."

"Tired, Steve?"

"Totally. I just want to crash on the sofa and watch some utterly mindless tv program. Although I'll probably just fall asleep in the middle of what it is. Night."

"Yo! Smooth Dog!!" Danny yelled at the man.

"What?" Steve asked, totally confused. "What's wrong?"

Danny didn't say anything but simply looked at Steve with a cat-that-ate-the-canary look on his face.

"What?!?" Steve asked.

"Forgetting something?"

Still not getting it, Steve repeated his question. "What?!?"

"Jessssh!" Danny said, throwing his hands in the air. "Do I need to go with you and tell you what to do with your dick?" Steve looked more confused. "Your DATE, idiot!!!"

"Oh, fuck!"

"Yes!! Now you've got it!" Danny said with satisfaction.

"Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck. What time is it!?! Oh, crap, I'm gonna be late! I must look like crap. I wanted to go home first, shower, change clothes. Oh, crap, crap, crap, …"

"Calm down, Smooth Dog, before you have a coronary. Where you meeting the man of your dreams?"

"His hotel, over on the beach." He gave the name of one of the better known big hotels, popular with tourists.

"Come on," Danny said, "I'll drive you."

"You drive like an old lady, Danno."

"And you drive like a reckless teenager. And if you think I'm letting you drive now when your exhausted and your hormones are raging out of control, you're nuts. You'd probably run over a bunch of tourists and then try humping the bellman of the hotel."

Their conversation continued in much the same way while Danny drove them the few blocks over to the hotel. When he dropped Steve off at the front he grabbed the man's arm and looked him in the eye, saying, "Now you know what to do if he gets too forward, right? You tell him you're not that kind of guy! Right?"

"Danno, bite me!"

"No, thank you, that's why you're going on a date with tall, dark and handsome in there. Now here," he said, holding something out to Steve.

Steve took what turned out to be a quarter. Utterly confused, he looked at Danny and said, "Danno, you are nuts. What the hell is this?"

"A quarter. If he gets fresh with you, you go to the nearest pay phone and you call me and I'll come get you."

"Danno, you are a pig from hell."

"Who loves ya', babe?" he yelled as Steve got out of the car.

Leaning back in the window, Steve said, "I may be tired. I may have had an abnormally long … dry spell, I may be horny beyond belief, but I do know that there aren't any pay phones any more. This is the age of cell phones, and yes, mom, I've got my cell phone."

"Have fun, babe. Make me proud!"

Steve smiled through the open window and said, "Careful, Danno. I'll be forced to tell you which of his nipples is more sensitive, what kind of lube he likes to use, and whether he's a top or a bottom."

Danno shrieked, covering his ears. "Oh, get outta here!" Danny watched the big man stalk across the driveway and into the huge, open air lobby of the hotel. Danny saw the man from that morning apparently waiting in the lobby for Steve to arrive. Danny grimaced when he saw Steve stick out his hand like he was meeting some random guy in a hotel somewhere, not the man he was gonna get naked with after dinner. "Oh, babe," he muttered, "you are beyond hopeless."

Danny shook his head in frustration, started his car and moved it out of the driveway and parked it nearby. By the time he got the windows closed and the doors locked – and flashed his badge at the scolding bellman – Steve and his date had moved into the hotel's restaurant and had been seated.

With one quick stop in the 24 hour convenience store next door to the hotel, Danny strode into the hotel like a man on a mission. He was after all on a mission – he was determined to save Steve from himself, and that was turning out to be a full-time job. Walking into the restaurant, he easily spotted his target, walking directly up to the table.

Steve didn't spot Danny until the man stood right next to their table. In fact, it was his date that spotted Danny first.

"Detective Williams. I'm surprised to see you here."

"Danny!" Steve said in disbelief. "What the hell are you doing here?"

"Trying to save you from yourself, Smooth Dog."

"Danny, go away! Please! I'm begging you!"

"That's why you need my help. You see, you're supposed to beg your date, not me."

"Danny, please! Leave! Now!"

Utterly ignoring Steve's words, Danny grabbed an empty chair from a neighboring table and pulled it up to Steve and John's table, parking himself while he rooted around in a small plastic bag he was carrying. "Here," Danny said, thrusting something toward Steve.

"Oh, dear God!" Steve said when he saw what Danny was holding out to him.

"You, too," Danny said to John, handing him the same thing.

"Condoms?" John asked.

"Yes. You see, here's the facts. Steve doesn't have an biological family here anymore. But he's got me. I've got his back, like he's got mine." John's eyebrows went up in disbelief as he listened to Danny speak.

Suddenly realizing that his words could be taken in a sexual way – especially by two men on a date, two men that he had just handed condoms to – he stopped and closed his eyes. Taking a deep breath, Danny said, "Ok. One more thing to put on the agenda for the future therapist." One more deep breath – he was persistent – and Danny continued. "So, John … nice to see you again. How's it going? Hope you had a good day. Several things. One, Steve is a good man. No, he's one of the best men you're likely to ever meet. So, two, treat him well. Three, if you don't, I'm from New Jersey so I know how to get rid of the body so no one will ever find it. Four, Steve's exhausted tonight so be patient – he's probably a little off his game. Five, he's had a little dry spell, so his game is probably a little rusty."

"Oh, dear God," Steve muttered.

"Steven! I'm speaking!"

"When aren't you speaking, Danny?"

Ignoring Steve, Danny continued, "Six, you've both got some condoms so if you … if you … if you decide to do something that … oh, hell, play safe boys. I don't need the details."

"Danny, go talk to your daughter. I hear she's got a line of eligible bachelors lined up at the door wanting to take her out on dates."

Danny looked at Steve with an inscrutable expression. The ever present finger went up into the air. "No. She doesn't date until she's 40. And you, Mr., just be glad I'm not making you wait until you're 40 to date."

While Steve was dying of embarrassment, John had a look of absolute delight and pleasure on his face. Looking at John, Danny said, "You. What's with the look? Huh? Yes, I'm talking to you. He's my friend and I watch out for him."

John smiled at Danny and said, "I'm not laughing at you, Detective Williams. I'm thinking I must have picked a great man to have dinner with if he's got such loyal and persistent friends."

Danny was for the second time in one day, speechless. The fact was not missed by Steve. "Twice in one day. This is unheard of." Looking across the table at John, he explained. "You see, Danny … he talks a lot. In fact, he never shuts up. I've offered to pay him to stop talking … and it didn't work – he kept on talking. I think he must talk in his sleep. Secretly I've been convinced that that was the real reason his wife divorced him – she needed him to shut up so she could get some sleep. So, to see him speechless is sort of a notable thing."

"Notable, babe, but only momentary. I'm quick on my feet. I mean, really, I've survived as your partner for months now without getting shot a second time so I think I'm pretty good. Now, back to the point at hand. You're both adults – one of you clearly, one of you eventually will turn into an adult eventually with my help. I'm tired and I'm going home. Remember, Steve, you're tired and men don't perform at their peak when they're tired." Turning to John he said, "Be patient with him. If possible, let him sleep tonight and do him in the morning and you'll both have a better experience."

Danny stood, returned his chair to the table from which he had borrowed it, and said, "You gentlemen have a nice dinner. Oh, and by the way, dinner is on me, tonight. Your check has already been covered. I even threw in a nice bottle of champagne. Not the most expensive, but a decent one. I am a lowly public servant after all. But for my friend, hey, what's money. Night guys. Don't do anything I wouldn't do." Reconsidering, he said, "Well, scratch that. I wouldn't date either one of you, or anyone with a penis for that matter. Not that I have anything against penises …"

"Danny, good night."

"Good night, Steve. Oh, and Steve, when you're on a date, you don't shake your date's hand. You give him a hug, you grab his ass, you give him a quick kiss. Anything but shake his hand, babe." Danny waved and was gone.

Steve closed his eyes and tried to sink down in his chair.

"I'm so sorry …" he started.

"That was the sweetest thing I think I've ever seen!" John said before Steve could continue.

"Huh?"

"What your friend just did. I'm really impressed. I wish I had a friend like that. I don't personally know of very many straight guys who would buy condoms for two guys to use on their date, or who would … impress upon the guy his friend was dating about the need to treat his friend well. I learned a lot about you just now, Steve. Your friends think very highly of you. That tells me a lot about you."

Steve looked mildly confused. "You really are tired, aren't you?" John asked when he saw the confused look on Steve's face.

"More than you could possibly know."

John laughed pleasantly and said, "Well, let's have a nice dinner, drink some champagne, get some sleep, and make plans for another date when you've got your game on."

"He really said that, didn't he?"

"Yes, he did. I found such honesty absolutely refreshing."

"Please," Steve said, "do me a favor."

"Sure."

"Don't ever, ever, ever tell him that."

Both men shared a laugh that set them both at ease.

"Come on," John said, "let's look at the menus, order something to eat, and then get you into bed." Realizing that his remark could have multiple meanings, John quickly corrected himself, "into bed to sleep. But first, free food."

After looking through the menu for a few minutes they placed their orders. Neither man had cravings for anything elaborate that evening. The waiter returned with their champagne, pouring a glass for each. "Since neither of you is driving tonight, you both get to partake."

Steve looked up and said, "How do you know we're not driving tonight?"

"Detective Williams. He left very detailed instructions."

Steve sighed and chuckled. "Danno. What am I going to do with you?"

John heard and had a rebuttal. "I think the more accurate question would be, what would you do without him? You two seem to have a symbiotic link that works amazingly well."

"Maybe a little, but he really stepped over the line tonight."

John disagreed. "And you wouldn't do something equally extreme for him? You haven't done some equally meaningful for him?"

Steve immediately thought about his conversation with the governor about Rachel's husband, Danny's daughter, development zoning laws, and visitation rights. He conceded that maybe, possibly, that had been a little out of the ordinary. But he knew Danny would have done the same for him … and … in fact … just had. Steve sat back in his chair and smiled at his personal revelation. "Yeah, you're right. I have. And we do seem to synch somehow. I don't know how or why since we are totally, absolutely, completely, utterly – did I saw 'absolutely'? – different people."

"That's probably why you get along so well. Your strengths compliment his and vice versa. Between the two of you, you must be quite an intimidating force be reckoned with."

"I suppose you're right." They paused for a moment while Steve reflected. "But enough about my partner – also known as Mother Hen – tell me something about yourself. I don't even know you last name."

"Ok. First, can I borrow your cell phone for a second?"

"Sure."

"Is Danny set up on speed dial?"

"Yeah, number two."

"Two?"

Steve conceded, "The governor is number one."

"You have the governor on speed dial? I'm impressed."

"I work for her. We keep in touch."

"Ok," John said, dialing speed dial number two.

Danny answered almost immediately, "Yeah, Babe, what's up? Is he treatin' you like a princess yet? Did he try anything inappropriate? Remember, feet on the floor."

"Yes, Detective," John said.

"John? What are you doing with Steve's phone?"

"I borrowed his cell phone to call you. You got a minute?"

"Sure."

"Quick question. I assume you've run a background check on me by now with the photos you took at the restaurant, and you've probably got my name now with facial recognition software and government databases. Don't even try to argue the point. I know you've done it – it's what I would do."

"All right," Danny said skeptically but listening.

"Ok. I'm gonna hand the phone to Steve for a second so you can tell him my name. Ok? Here's Steve."

Steve had been listening to the entire conversation, mortified at the thought of Danny doing a background check on his date. When he had the phone he simply said, "Danny. Please, please, please tell me you aren't doing a background check on my date. Please. Please." And he sighed at Danny's answer.

"Of course I am. You didn't have his name. Want to hear it?"

"No."

As if he hadn't even spoken, Danny gave him the man's name and started a brief recitation of biographical background.

Steve was overwhelmed with disbelief. Holding the phone to his ear, he closed his eyes and shook his head back and forth in denial. "I don't believe this. Danny. Danny. Stop! Enough! Danny! I don't care if his record is backstopped. Danny. Danny. Are you listening? Danny? Williams! Shut up! I'm hanging up now. Danny. Danny? Danny, go home and stop investigating my date. Ok? Can you do that? Really? Good night, Danno." Steve ended the conversation and held the phone to his forehead, his eyes still closed.

"I am so sorry," Steve said.

"Steve, don't be! I could tell from my brief encounters with him that he's like a dog with a bone – he doesn't quit until the bone is gone! And I still think it's sweet."

"I am sorry," Steve repeated. He put his phone down, picked up his champagne glass and downed the entire glass in one swallow. Their waiter immediately refilled his glass, which he again downed rapidly.

By the time that their entrees were delivered to the table Steve was fairly mellow. As they ate the delicious food, John asked, "You're not going to ask me about the backstop in my record?"

"Nope."

"Why not?"

"They're in my record, too. I can't tell you about mine anymore than you can tell me about yours. No need to even bring it up."

"Damn, you're good," John said with an admiring smile.

"Thank you," Steve responded, surprised by the compliment. For him it was just a matter-of-fact approach to a fact of life. Covert missions required absolute confidentiality. He knew that it was a waste of time to even bring up the issue for discussion.

"What branch were you with?" John asked.

"Navy. SEAL."

"You were a naval SEAL? Wow! Those guys are good."

"Thank you. And you?"

"Air Force. Pilot."

"For all we know, you could have flown me and my team into a mission sometime."

"Could well be. Who knows. Doesn't matter, anyway. We're together now. And I suspect if we had known each other then neither one of us would have paid the other any attention – we would have both been focused on the mission with laser-like precision. That's what our work required."

They finished their entrees and the last of the champagne. Steve downed two glasses of water as well in an effort to stave off a headache the next morning from the sulfites in the wine. Both passed on dessert and got up to walk back to the beautiful lobby, taking in the gorgeous waterfall and carefully arranged orchids in full bloom.

Steve felt nervous at that point, not knowing what to do. His hands were shoved firmly into his pants pockets.

John nudged his shoulder and said, "You look beat, Steve. Come on up to my room and sleep. Ok?"

Steve thought for a minute and said, "Ok." His mind flashed back to something Danny had said earlier, something about not shaking your date's hand but … Steve took his hands out of his pockets and gave John a quick hug, dropping his hands to the man's waist and then his butt before quickly letting go.

"Come on," John said, taking Steve by the hand, "let's go to bed."

"Ok."

At the elevators while they waited for a car to arrive John turned his head and said, "Good night, Danno."

Steve heard, "Good night. Damn."

Keeping a firm hold of Steve's hand, knowing he would try to pull away and go beat the crap out of his partner, John pulled Steve into the empty elevator and pushed the button.

"He was in the lobby?!?" Steve asked, incredulous.

"Of course."

Steve shook his head and paced as much as the little elevator allowed. "I don't fucking believe it. He wanted to punch his fist into the wall of the elevator but he knew that that would probably hurt, so he hesitated.

"I think it's sweet."

"Sweet my ass," Steve said. "This is stalking."

"No, but if he shows up at the door to the room, then it's stalking. And by the way, you do have a sweet ass."

"He's probably got the room fully bugged with half a dozen cameras and mics so that he can critique my performance. I wouldn't be surprised to see him pop up while we're having sex holding up score cards: 9.6, 9.3, 9.1. Jesus."

John just laughed and gave Steve a quick hug. "It's a good thing he's cute."

"Cute only goes so far," Steve responded in irritation.

"So should I tell you now or later that one of the reasons he's doing this is that he's jealous and wants you for himself?"

Steve's face blanked. It wasn't confusion, it was simply blank. "Huh?" he asked.

"Danny. Your partner. He's hot for you."

"No way!"

"Yes, way!" John answered.

"Danny? Danny Williams Danny? Little Danny? No! No way! He's as straight as straight can be. Danny? My Danny? No! No way!"

John just laughed. "He's also a good friend, which is why he's doing what he's been doing to safeguard your well-being, but that's only part of it."

"You don't know him like I do. Trust me on this."

They were inside John's room by that time. Steve was still convinced that John was completely off-base and John was completely convinced that he was dead on the money with his analysis.

After a quick hug, John said, "No offense, big guy, but you stink. You need a shower."

"My morning shower got interrupted as I recall." He started for the bathroom, pulling his shirt off as he went. He stopped and said, "Do you want to join me?"

"Yes, but not right now. You're going to shower and then we're going to sleep. If I come in there with you there's no way I'll be able to keep my hands off you."

Steve smirked – the smirk of a man who'd just been told he was too handsome to leave alone. He toed off his shoes, dropped his pants and started his shower. John picked up Steve's cell phone and pressed speed dial number 2 – had to be careful to not call the governor on speed dial number 1.

"Steve? You ok?"

"Sorry, Danny, not Steve. He's in the shower. It's John. Just wanted to let you know that I thought what you did tonight was wonderful. And I'm not supposed to tell you that. You're a good friend. I wish I had a friend like you." Silence. "Hello? Danny? You there."

"Yeah, I'm here. I'm just thinking about what you just said. I was afraid I'd come on too strong and overstepped by bounds, but then I've never been good at boundaries."

The two men talked. Steve finished his shower and came into the bedroom toweling dry. He found John laying on the bed talking on the phone. He dropped the towel and laid down next to John. "Who?" he asked quietly.

"Danny."

"Son of a …"

"I called him."

"Danny. Steve's finished with his shower and he's laying sprawled out on my bed, completely naked. I like talking to you man, but you've got overwhelming competition at the moment. Sleep well, man. See you in the morning. You coming over for breakfast? Thought so. See you then."

Steve shouted, "Well talk about this tomorrow," as John started to disconnect, hoping that Danny heard him. He was sure that he did.

Leaning up on his elbows, Steve looked at John and said, "Just what is this developing relationship you have with my stalker partner?"

"I like him."

"I thought I was here for you to like."

"Oh, I like you," John said as he leaned in and gave Steve a quick kiss and a grope. "Now it's my turn in the shower." While the man was showering, Steve pulled back the covers and crawled into the comfortable bed. He told himself he was just going to close his eyes for a minute; within 60 seconds he was sound asleep. When John returned to the bedroom he was pleased to see Steve sleeping soundly. As quietly as possible he crawled into the other side of the king size bed, turned off his light, and was himself asleep in short order.

The next morning John awoke lying on his side with Steve cuddled up tightly behind him. Steve was apparently already awake; his hand was gently stroking across John's belly.

"Morning," John said. "This feels nice."

"I agree."

Noticing that Steve had a very definite erection and that it was pushing into intimate places of his anatomy, he asked, "Is that an Uzzi you've got shoved between my legs?"

"Not an Uzzi, but it is loaded and ready to fire."

"Nice of you to wait until I woke up before opening fire."

"Glad to," Steve said as he leaned over and gave John a quick kiss.

John held up his hand and said, "Great idea, but bathroom first – must pee."

Steve chuckled. "Fair enough."

John hopped out of bed but was back within two minutes.

"Better?"

"Yes. Peed and brushed my teeth. No more morning breath." John lay facing Steve and wrapped his arms around the man, kissing him passionately.

"I see that the rest of you is awake now, too," Steve said as he felt John's erection pushing up against his belly.

"Waking up with you naked in bed would get any red-blooded American male excited."

"Well, not every man."

"They don't know what they're missing."

The two men finally consummated their relationship, which wasn't difficult since both were exceptionally turned on by the other and therefore had relatively short fuses. Their matching heights made mutually blow jobs – otherwise known as 69 – a perfect fit.

Post-orgasm, they were lying side by side when Steve's cell phone rang. Since John had used it last it was lying on his side of the bed. Reaching over he quickly saw Danny's name appear in the Caller ID screen.

"Let me guess," Steve said.

John flipped the phone open and said, "Good morning, Sunshine."

"I hate you," John heard Danny say.

"I highly doubt that."

"You don't know me."

"I've got you all figured out."

"We'll talk about that later. Am I interrupting anything?"

"Only afterglow."

"I sooooo do not want to hear about it."

"Then why do you keep calling?" Steve asked (he had been listening in on the conversation).

"Morning, Smooth Dog."

"Bite me, bitch."

"Steven! Is that any way to talk to your faithful, loyal, long-suffering partner?"

"Danny," John asked, "are you feeling underappreciated?"

"Constantly! Finally! Someone who understands me."

"So, does that mean you'll extend my visitor's visa and let me stay a few extra days?"

"The jury is still out on that, but I'll take it under advisement."

"You asked about breakfast. Give us 20 minutes to shower and get dressed and we can be downstairs. I assume you're not far away."

"I'm still home, but I live only a few minutes away."

"We'll see you downstairs in 20 minutes," John said before disconnecting the call.

Steve stared at him and said very matter-of-factly, "You two have bonded. This doesn't happen very often – Danny doesn't like people. In fact, I don't think I've ever seen this happen."

"I'm special," John answered with a smile. Steve returned the smile and wanted to add a kiss but John had jumped out of bed and raced into the bathroom to shower. When he finished a few moments later he shouted, "Showers all yours. Move it, sailor. Don't want to keep Danno waiting. The man doesn't strike me as overflowing with patience."

As he stepped into the shower, Steve agreed. "No, patience is not one of his strong suits." He watched John brush his teeth and rub something unidentified into his hair. The man seemed to spend a particular amount of time working to get his hair to stand up in just a particular way. Steve was amused, having assumed that the hair stood the way it did naturally. He should have known hair product was involved!

Toweling off, Steve grabbed his underwear and cargo pants but couldn't find his shirt. "You seen my shirt?"

"I sent it down for washing. Here. This is the Annapolis shirt you loaned me yesterday. I had it washed yesterday so I could return it to you. Steve took the shirt, feeling a mixture of both pleasure and disappointment. Pleasure that John had thought enough of him to care for and then return his shirt. Disappointment because he liked the idea of John wearing his shirt; it somehow made him feel closer to the man, in contact with the man. He took the offered shirt and pulled it over his head.

 

Breakfast

Exactly 20 minutes later they walked into the restaurant in the lobby of the hotel and found Danno already there.

"Danno. Fancy meeting you here," Steve said simply.

"So?" he said with a big smile on his face. "Did you get a little?"

"Oh, dear God!" Steve said as he tried to hide his head in embarrassment.

John felt no such embarrassment, so he played along with Danno's game. As they all sat together, John earnestly described their encounter. "Well, let me tell you, asking 'did you get a little' is not exactly the proper phrase when you're talking about Steve. The man is hung like a fucking mule!" he said spreading his hands apart to indicate a large size.

"And let me tell you, he has passion, raw sexuality, energy just brimming over. It was like bringing in a wild oil well and watching it blow. Awesome! The things he does with his lips would just curl your toes. He just oozes sexuality and sensuality."

Danny sat silently, eyes wide, staring ahead, not at all sure how to handle this conversation.

Steve jumped in, "Happy? I'm sure he can tell you more, if you like. Give you a ‘blow-by-blow’ description, so to speak." Steve started angry, but as he spoke he saw Danny start to squirm in discomfort; his anger was displaced by a bit of satisfaction.

Danny shook his head. "No. Thank you. I hope to sleep again before I die. If I have the image of the two of you blowing each other and fucking like rabid tree squirrels in my head I don't think I'll ever be able to sleep again. Nightmares."

"Not nightmares, Danno. Fantasies! Hot fantasies! This man is smoldering hot. He is sultry. Passionate. He has a dick of death. He has absolutely no gag reflex and could take …"

"Ok! You've had your fun. Enough."

"… me to the root. And I'm not exactly a small boy myself."

Danny whimpered.

"Did you have the room bugged and wired with cameras so you could watch?" Steve asked.

"What? No!"

"Steve kept expecting you to pop up holding a sign to score his moves, like they do in Olympic events.

"My magic markers were in the shop. And I wouldn't even know how to score sex between two guys."

"Simple," John explained, "you just look to see how much his toes curl and how many cute faces he makes. It's just like straight sex – at least so I've been told. I've never personally gone into foreign territory myself so I'm working off what others have told me."

"You've never had sex with a woman?" Danny asked interestedly.

"Nope. Never. And want to keep it that way."

"But I bet you've had offers, though, right? I mean, you are an attractive guy."

"Danno. Are you checking out my friend?"

"I'm just saying, if you wanted to sleep with the guy, then in your assessment he must be attractive and I'm trusting your judgment – not making any personal statement."

"Good save, Danno!" John said.

"Thank you."

"Ok. Enough about that," John said. "So, Danno, you gonna be ok with me fuckin' your boss?"

"I thought you said 'enough' and were moving on to better topics of conversation."

"This is a better topic of conversation. First I blew him and next I hope to fuck him. You ok with that?"

"Hey!" Steve complained. "But my work partner does not get veto power over my sex partners, what I choose to do with those partners … or anything else for that matter!"

"Ok, guys, I need serious coffee and sugar. Let's eat. And hopefully that will distract you for a few minutes."

Danny ordered the pancakes with extra butter and extra maple syrup, but only after reiterating with the waitress that there should be nothing like macadamia nuts or anything else in his pancakes – only pancakes. No pineapple, no coconut, no fruit of any kind – just pancakes. Oh, and bacon. Crispy fried bacon. His closing admonition to the waitress was, "And don't forget the syrup. Lots of syrup."

She left, amused by her short blond customer and his two gorgeous friends.

"He's a purist," Steve explained.

"I had figured that out."

"And he's also a heart attack waiting to happen with his diet. With all the fat and sugar he puts into his system on a daily basis I can hear his arteries hardening from over here."

"Hey!" he complained, "no one asked for your opinion, Dr. Steve!"

"Just being concerned about my friend's health is all, Danno."

John chuckled, which made both of his tablemates look up and ask simultaneously, "What?"

"You two, that's what. You two are perfect together."

"Never before in the history of time have there been two people so different than we are," Danny explained. "How the hell do you get 'perfect together'? You spend too much time in the sun yesterday? Did Steve bang your head against the headboard of the bed one too many times last night? Did he maybe suck your brain loose while he was blowing you last night?"

John just smiled and said, "I stand by my assessment."

"You both bring a lot of strength to the partnership but they are complimentary strengths. There is little overlap in abilities, but that only serves to strengthen the partnership."

Danny stared at the man, turned to Steve and said, "Steve, don't close your eyes around this guy. There's something wrong with him and I don't know what he might do."

John just laughed. "I love you guys! You're both great."

Feeling a bit slighted, Steve jumped in and said, "But I made your toes curl! Don't forget that."

John leaned over and gave Steve a quick kiss and an intense smile, adding, "I will never forget how you made my toes curl in ecstasy my friend." He closed his eyes and went in for another kiss, this one more intense, each feeling drawn in by the openness and pure sexuality the other brought.

Danny looked around nervously – not afraid that someone would see, no, that wasn't his issue – he simply didn't want to watch because deep down inside in a closed off place where no one ever was allowed, Danny found the two men kissing to be hot, hotter than hot. And he didn't know what to do with that knowledge or the ensuing erection that it was producing. He had had enough shocks in the last 12 hours. At the moment he just needed to look somewhere else and come back to his body's reaction some other time when he was alone and had time to think through what the hell was happening.

When his two tablemates didn't stop at a kiss but went on to wrap their hands around the back of one another's necks, Danny decided enough was enough. "Excuse me, Romeo and Romeo …"

Good fortune shined on Danny Williams because it was just at that moment when their waitress brought out their breakfast. With hot plates of great smelling food, John and Steve's attention was re-directed to another base human need – food.

"They get your pancakes right, Danno?"

"So far so good," he answered as he carefully lifted each and examined it to ensure that no errant nut or pile of poi had wound up as an unwanted part of his breakfast. Declaring it pure, he spread mounds of butter on the pancakes allowing it to melt. This was followed by huge helpings of maple syrup. When the waitress made the mistake of bringing out a pitcher of a pineapple based syrup he sent it away with a scolding.

John and Steve ate their own food, which was healthier and featured less (no) fat and significantly less sugar and carbohydrates. Fascinated, John asked, "So, Danny, I have to ask. You're a pretty trim looking guy. Nice tight little body, a little on the short side" which got the expected rouse out of Williams, "but you don't seem to let that flaw get in the way too much. So how is it that you don't weigh like 300 pounds? I hear your diet is not always high in nutritional value.

Thrusting his chin into the air as one taking exception to something, Danny said, "I've always weighed the same. I can eat anything and it never changes. That plus I spend a lot of my time chasing after John McClain here, and let me tell you, when you do that you work up quite a sweat. Then there's the whole diving for cover to avoid flying bullets thing. And I work out every night at a local gym."

John put down his fork, looked at Danny, and said, "John McClain?"

"Yeah, you know, the guy in those Die Hard movies who's always taking on herds of terrorists and bad guys? John McClain. He's a cop. He kicks butt."

"And you think Steve is like John McClain?"

"Hell, yes!" Danny answered. "Our boy here takes tons of unnecessary risks. He refuses to wait for back, dives into every situation, regardless of the risk, with guys blazing. And I'm left running after him trying to keep him alive while he plays hero."

Steve disagreed. "I don't play hero, Danno. I see a problem and I set out to fix it."

John played Devil's Advocate. "You don't think he should do those things?"

"His intentions are good," Danny conceded, "but he scares the life out of me at least once each day. My life has flashed in front of my eyes so many times since I met him that I know the story by heart. My biggest problem is convincing him to wait the five minutes it might take for backup to arrive."

"You are my backup, Danno," Steve said simply.

"And there is a big part of the problem!" Danny explained energetically with hands in the air and a look of major frustration on his face. "I can't back you up if I don't know what you're gonna do, and I also haven't had the same ninja training you've had so I'm not up to some of the crap that comes flying our way."

John had a suggestion: "Steve, could you give Danno some training? Teach him some rudimentary skills, show him how you might respond in certain situations, things like that?"

Steve considered the idea quietly before nodding his head. "I don't see why not."

"I do!" Danno complained. "I'm a cop, not a soldier. I'm from New Jersey. I learned street fighting, not battle-field fighting. I'm also not as young as I used to be."

"And it scares you a little," John added as a suggestion/question.

"Maybe a little," he conceded.

"Perfectly natural, normal reaction. I'd be concerned if you didn't have that reaction."

"Thank you," Danny said. Looking up suddenly, Danny added, "Hey! Why does this suddenly resemble marriage counseling?"

Steve furrowed his brow at that point, noting, "It does seem remarkably like a psychological intervention of some sort. What's this all about?"

"Nothing," John answered.

Neither man fully believed him. After a moment of quiet eating, Danny asked a question that had not come up before. "So, John, what brings you to our little corner of hell?"

"I'm trying to unwind and sort out my life."

"Sort out your life? Do tell more, please. You are about the right age for a mid-life crisis. Did you leave some woman – or man, sorry – after going through couple's counseling because you couldn't keep it zipped up, were feeling your age, and wanted to make sure you still had some wild oats left to soe?"

John looked startled. "Wow. Never had any of those questions before. Let's see. Mid-life crisis – haven't had time for one. Leaving someone – nope, haven't had time for a relationship in more years than I can count. Wild oats – don't I wish." He stopped at that point and went to take a bite of his breakfast.

"No! No! No! No you don't! You don't stop there! I want to the truth. I want to the full story. Start talking Mister!"

John looked at Steve and said, "Is he always like this or is this just a sugar rush hitting his blood stream?"

"He's always like this."

"Always?"

"Always."

"Wow."

"Enough of the back and forth hoping Danny will forget or get annoyed!"

"It sounds to me like Danny is annoyed. Doesn't it sound that way to you, Steve?" John asked.

"Yes, it does, but then he always sounds that way so it sort of becomes background noise after awhile for me."

Ignoring the banter the two men were exchanging, Danny looked at John and said, "I'm waiting – and I never forget. Talk. What makes John tick? And why is he needing to sort out his life?"

John set his fork down, sighed slightly, and looked at Danny. "I suddenly seem to have options that I never had before. I also no longer have the structure – and rigidity sometimes – that I had before as well. I basically need to decide what I want to do with the rest of my life."

"Why?" Danny asked.

"Why?" John repeated.

"Why?" Danny repeated. "Why do you now have time? Why do you need to decide now? Why?"

"For the last twenty years I've served in the Air Force. Many of the last ten years have been spent in … dicey situations, shall we say. I was good at what I did. I loved what I did. But not everyone in the chain of command loved what I did. So I find myself suddenly retired … and I don't know what to do with myself. I've never had to think about what I was going to do with all the time in the world. I've never had to think about where to eat, when to work, where to go. I've followed orders. But now suddenly everything is different."

"Ok," Danny said.

"Ok? Actually, no, none of it is 'ok'." John responded with a bit more bitterness than he intended. "Sorry."

"No problem. You, my friend, have found yourself exactly where you need to be."

"I have?"

"He has?"

"Yes, he has," Danny answered both men at the same time.

"Danny, you hate Hawaii so why do you now suddenly think it's the perfect the place?"

"I didn't say it was the perfect place. I did say that John has found himself exactly where he needs to be." Danny paused with a look of delight. "Why you may ask."

"Yes, I'm asking," Steve said.

"Because of you."

"Because of me?"

"Yes, because of you. You see, John, Steve went through some of the same soul searching and angst. In fact, he still is to some degree."

"I am?"

"You are."

"I'm sorry, Danny, you're gonna have to explain," John said.

"Steve spent a lot of years of his life in the Navy. He, too, found himself suddenly as a fish out of water."

"A fish out of water?"

"Yes, stop interrupting me. Steve didn't anticipate his life changing course so suddenly or rapidly, but it did. One day he was doing his secret, spy, Ninja, assassin, blow-things-up super SEAL stuff. And then suddenly like a rubber band being stretched, he was snapped back to his former life and away from everything he had known for years and years and years."

Life Danny had done many times, Steve held up one finger and said, "Ok. First, you don't know what I did."

"Tell me."

"I can't."

"So I have to take poetic license and fill in the blanks the best I can. And you can't deny that you like to blow things up."

"Who doesn't?"

John jumped back in the conversation, "He has a point. Blowing up stuff has saved my ass more times than I can count."

"And a mighty fine ass it is, too," Steve said with a smile.

"Thank you, sailor."

"No problem, fly boy."

"Oh, good Lord. Are you two gonna start humping at the table or something else thoroughly embarrassing for me?"

"That would embarrass you?" Steve asked.

Catching on to Steve's line of thinking immediately, he said, "No. You know what I mean."

"Yes, I know. I see a chink in Superman's super powers. And like you I don't forget. Remember that."

"With you, big guy, I never forget. Now back to the original point, if you don't mind," Danny tried.

"And what was the original point?" John said, honestly having lost track of where they were in the conversation.

"I was trying to explain that you and Steve has very similar situations and that … I can't believe I have to explain this to you in this much detail – how did you two ever manage to figure out how to have sex with one another without me there to tell you how it's done? Anyway, Steve went through the same soul searching, life change, and it's possible he can help you through your search."

Steve looked at Danny, then at John, then back to Danny, back to John, and then back to Danny. "True."

Danny stood, "You two are so perfectly matched it's disgusting. Excuse me, I'll be right back."

"Where you going?"

"Bathroom, do you mind?"

"No," Steve said, "go ahead."

"Thank you!"

Alone at the table for a moment, John said, "So you went through something like this, too?"

"Yeah, I did."

"What happened to you, if I can ask?"

"Someone assassinated my dad – and made me listen to it over the telephone. I came back to hunt down the bastard that did it and put him away."

John studied Steve's face for a minute, and then said simply, "Good."

"And you?" Steve asked.

"I quite honestly don't have all the background information. But it doesn't change the fact that I'm now sort of at loose ends and don't know what I want to do today, let alone tomorrow, next week, next year. At least you had something new to throw yourself into with 5-0."

"True." Steve thought for a minute. "And you have me."

John stared at Steve before speaking one word very softly. "Really?"

Steve stared back at John. "Really." Steve reached across the table and took John's hand, entwining their fingers. "Really."

Danny returned to the table and observed the two men sitting silently. At first he thought something was wrong, but then he saw the two men's hands linked together.

"Everything ok?" he asked.

A hint of a smile appeared on Steve's face followed by a hint of a smile on John's face. "Steve, what are you doing today?" John asked.

"You."

The smile on John's face broadened. "Good."

"John, have you ever been surfing?" Steve asked.

"Oh!" John said, with a huge look of excitement on his face. "I love surfing. I tried to get the natives to try it at my last posting but they just didn't get it."

"Want to go surfing?" Steve asked. "I know some incredible places to surf here on Oahu."

"You sweet talkin' man!" John said. "I'm yours."

"Good."

"Danno, let's go surfing," John said.

"Danno doesn't like the water," Steve said very matter-of-factly.

"You're kidding," John said. "Who doesn't like the water?"

"Danno."

"Well, that would make living in Hawaii somewhat less appealing."

"Ya' think?" Danno said enthusiastically. "And besides, today's a workday."

"Danno. I'm taking the day off."

"You have never taken a day off, Steve."

"Which is why I've accumulated a lot of leave time. I'm taking the day. You, Chin and Kono keep things going. You can call me if you need me, but I probably won't have my phone when I'm out on the water."

"Or in bed with me afterwards," John added.

"What he said," Steve agreed.

"Come on," Steve said, "I'll drive."

"John, it's been good knowing you."

"What's wrong Danno?"

"Riding with Steve is a life-threatening experience. The man drives like a maniac."

"Cool. Faster is better."

"Oh, I don't believe this," Danno complained.

"I was a pilot, Danno. I like things that go fast."

"I repeat what I said earlier: you two are a match made in heaven. But don't say I didn't warn you – he's a crazy driver."

"Danno! I'm a great driver."

"Steven, HPD won't let you take out cars anymore because you've destroyed so many of them. Why do you think I always have to go get the cars?"

"Because they like you better," Steve said.

"And why do you suppose that is?" Danno asked.

"I have no idea, Danno. You should be happy – somebody likes you. We've got to go."

Holding hands, the two men left the restaurant. Only after they had left the room did Danny realize that they had left without paying the check. "Thanks, guys!" he shouted after the two men. "Wasn't it enough that I bought your dinner last night?"

 

Surfing

Since Danny had driven Steve to the hotel the previous evening, they had to walk back to the Palace to pick up Steve's truck. From there they swung by Steve's house to pick up a couple of surf boards and pack a few provisions before hitting the road headed out to the north shore where the waves were the most awesome. Steve of course verified first that John knew what he was doing on a surf board. While the waves on the north shore were awesome, they were also dangerous, even for an experienced surfer. Still, Steve's reading of John was that while the man liked to go fast, he didn't take unnecessary risk. He knew he could be wrong, and if he was, he'd find out in short order.

Steve's read of John proved true, though. The man was good on a surf board. He had clearly put in some serious time on a board before and knew how to work with the waves for the best ride possible. He was not flawless, but then Steve knew that very few people were.

Regardless of skill, both men had a great time. They whooped, they hollered, they yelled, they peed in the ocean, and for a time left the world and its problems behind. After a few hours they agreed that it was time to call it a day – at least in terms of surfing.

Driving them back toward his house, they stopped at a little market John would never have found. Walking inside, the first thing John noticed was the smell of pineapple.

"Is this …?"

Steve nodded and smiled. "Yes."

"I feel like I should fall to my knees and give thanks."

An old man greeted Steve, although John wasn't really sure what he said. Steve clearly knew the man, calling him Mr. Fong. They picked up a few things, including another of the freshest pineapples known to man, and then headed to Steve's house.

Both men were ravenously hungry so Steve threw together a couple of sandwiches which they took out onto the lanai. They wolfed down the sandwiches in record time, having worked up a huge appetite by their physical exertion out on the ocean waves.

Disappearing for a minute, Steve returned with two ice cold beers, handing one to John. "A little early in the day for beer isn't it?"

"You got somewhere to be?"

Not able to argue the point, John took the beer and savored the rich taste of the cold beer. "Um, good! I don't know this one," John said, studying the label.

"Local. Great stuff."

John gave Steve an assessing look, finally pronouncing his verdict. "Great beer, phenomenal coffee, the world's best pineapple. I'm never leaving."

Steve smiled, raising his beer bottle in acknowledgement.

The two men sat quietly on the lanai, enjoying the dappled sunlight that trickled down to them. They both found themselves simply watching the ocean.

"You've got an incredible view, Steve."

"It is great. This house is where I grew up. I seriously considered selling it after what happened here, but I kept it – and I'm glad I did. I couldn't afford to buy a place in Hawaii today with a view like this one."

"This is where it happened?" John asked.

"This is where it happened. Living room." Steve was quiet for a minute. "But that's past. This is also where I met Danno."

"You're kidding."

"Nope. In the garage. I was here looking at the crime scene and he was the detective in charge. He took exception to my violating his crime scene. We pulled guns on each other. The governor settled the issue."

"I look forward to hearing the story sometime."

"Deal," Steve agreed.

Their beers finished, along with their sandwiches, Steve retrieved two more beers. After a couple more along with over an hour of conversation, both were both surprised to see that the sun was gone and night was already setting in. "When the hell did that happen?" John asked.

"Don't know. Missed it."

"Steve, can I use your shower?"

"Of course. You know where it is from this morning."

"Got to rinse some salt water off my skin."

"Go for it."

John disappeared into the house while Steve remained on the lanai staring off at the water. Having spent much of his life on the water or around the water, he found the ocean comforting – not to mention totally captivating. Therefore, he was quite surprised when what seemed like a moment later, but was really 15 minutes later, he saw John appear in the doorway, totally naked. "Hey, sailor, want to do a little … actually, I don't know how to finish that sentence. What is it that sailors do?"

"You, for one."

"Ok. Hey sailor, want to do a little me?"

Steve leapt from his chair and gave the man a kiss.

"Excuse me, but I've showered. You still feel like salt. Go shower."

"Meet me in the bedroom in 3 minutes?"

"Deal."

While Steve disappeared into the house, John closed and locked the sliding door before making his way to the bedroom. He arrayed himself in what he hoped was a provocative pose on the bed. Despite having what many considered stunning good looks, John never had really seen himself as attractive. He saw all of the flaws and tended to focus on those things exclusively.

Where others saw a trim physique, John saw skinniness. Where others saw cute little elfin-like ears, John saw cause for embarrassment. Where others saw strong hands, he saw hands roughened over time by too much hard work.

A moment later his attempts at provocative poses were interrupted by Steve's return. Much to John's surprise, though, Steve stopped a few steps into the bedroom and stared.

"What?" John asked, concerned he had committed some terrible mistake unintentionally. He quickly checked his body to see if he'd accidentally missed the fact that he'd grown an extra arm or something equally grotesque. He didn't find anything out of order so he asked Steve again with growing concern, "Steve? What's wrong? What did I do?"

"My God you are gorgeous."

John arched his eyebrow in disbelief. "Me?!" he asked incredulously.

"Do you see any other men around here?"

"No. But I'm not 'gorgeous' by any stretch of the imagination."

Joining him on the bed, Steve brought his face to within inches of John's face and tried again. Pushing the man back onto the bed, Steve crawled on top of John and brought their faces to within inches once again. Looking into John's eyes he said, "Handsome." And he kissed the man.

Pulling back ever so slightly, Steve said, "Stunning." And another kiss.

More intense eye contact. "Sultry." Another kiss.

"Hot." And another kiss.

"I think you've been in the sun too long," John tried. "Either that or you need to have your eyes examined. Which could actually account for all the wrecked cars Danno was talking about."

Steve kissed him again. "Less talking, more kissing."

"Ok."

They wrapped their arms around one another. They explored one another's body's, they found the good spots that made the other's eyes roll back in their heads. They licked. They sucked. They caressed. They rested. They fucked like rabid animals.

First Steve was on top. Then they rolled around. First one laid back and let the other have his way. Then they reversed roles. Since it was their first time for such intimacy their lovemaking went on for some time. They knew that later – if they were to have a later – that things would move more quickly. But it wasn't later, it was now, and now was good.

Without conversation they both relaxed and fell asleep. The next morning they awoke tangled in one another's arms. Steve would have liked to spend another day with John doing fun stuff but decided that he really shouldn't miss work two days in a row.

"Can we meet for lunch?" Steve asked as he drove them toward the Palace.

"I would like that very much," John said, smiling with delight.

"It's a date," Steve said, hoping he didn't sound like a love-sick teenager. "I hope that doesn't interfere with any plans you might have."

"Don't have any plans. Don't know what I want to do with my life – remember?"

"Not to worry. Today's Friday. We'll have lunch, I'll work a little, then we'll have the weekend together to do something fun – or serious – or frivolous. Anything you want."

"How could a guy refuse an offer like that?" John said with a smile.

Their timing was such that just as Steve parked his truck Danny pulled in right next to them.

"Hey, Danno!" John said enthusiastically, greeting his boyfriend's partner.

"Oh, great. Now there are two grown men who insist on calling me that!"

"What?" John asked. "It's a nice name. It captures your spirit beautifully. I like it."

"Of course you do. You've been hanging out with a bad influence," he said, gesturing toward Steve.

"So," Danny asked conversationally, "how you doing this morning?"

"I'm great!" John said. "Danno!" he said enthusiastically, putting his arm around Danny's shoulder. "We had the most amazing, blow your socks off sex last night! This guy is hot!"

Throwing his hands in the air, Danny closed his eyes and yelled, "Ohhh! Nooo! I did not need to hear that!"

"I said we had incredible sex last night," John said a little bit louder.

"I said I didn't need to hear that!" Danny complained.

"Oh, I thought you said you didn't hear what I said when I said we had phenomenal sex last night."

Pointing at John, Danny said, "You are an evil, evil man."

"But you love me, don't you?" John asked impishly.

"Don't push it," Danny warned.

"Steve did a lot of pushing last night. Pushing, pulling, thrusting, thumping, humping, pumping, …"

"There are some things a man should not have to picture," Danny explained slowly. "Steve having sex with you is one of them."

"Why? He's hot! He's the hottest guy I've ever been with."

"I am?" Steve asked, surprised.

"He is?" Danny echoed.

"Yes, you are," John said to Steve with a look that he hoped conveyed his absolute sincerity.

"You're pretty amazing yourself, Mister," Steve said in response.

"Hey, that's Colonel," John said, moving a little closer to the man.

"Colonel," Steve said, corrected.

"Very good, Commander."

"Oh, sweet Jesus!" Danny complained. "It's like I'm living in a bad gay porn flick from the '80's."

Their conversation was interrupted when Danny's cell phone rang. Noticing his ex-wife's name appear in the Caller ID he answered. "Rachel? Thank God it's you! What? No! I'm not mocking you! You wouldn't believe what Steve is making me watch. What? Steve is dating this guy, … Yes, a guy. NO, I'm not making that up!" Standing up straight, Danny said indignantly, "What do you mean you think he's attractive? What are you doing checking out my partner's ass?"

John grabbed the phone from Danny and before Danny could react, said, "Rachel? Hi, my name is John. I'm the guy Steve is seeing. I just wanted to say that I couldn't agree with you more. He is hot!" Lowering his voice to a conspiratorial whisper he said, "I'm glad I'm not the only one who appreciates his ass. And a fine one it is, let me tell you."

Danny and Steve both stared, mouths hanging open in shock and disbelief while John walked having an animated conversation with Danny's ex-wife about Steve's physical attributes. Interrupting the conversation with Rachel, John asked, "Steve? You mind if Rachel joins us for lunch today?"

"No! No! No! No! No!" Danny shouted. "No! No! No!" Danny Williams waved his hands, his hands, his whole upper body. "No!"

"Sorry, Rachel, I couldn't hear. Your ex-husband is having some sort of tantrum or spasm, I'm not quite sure which. I know, but he's cute when he does it."

"Steven! Make it stop! Make it stop now!" Danny walked a couple of paces back and forth. "You are dating the craziest man alive. And until now I had reserved that title for you. You've attracted the craziest man alive to the second craziest man alive. And neither of you will rest until you've dragged me down, too. Your boyfriend is talking on my cell phone to my ex-wife making plans for lunch. This cannot be allowed to happen. This is bad, Steven. This is bad. This is very bad. Make it stop! In the name of all that is holy, make it stop," he begged.

Danny walked into the Palace, headed toward their offices leaving John talking on his cell phone. Steve looked back and forth between the retreating form of his partner and the animated conversation his boyfriend was having with his partner's ex-wife. You couldn't write stuff that good.

John waved at Steve and said, "I'll be in in a minute, once we finish talking."

Not sure what else to do, Steve turned and walked into the building. When he entered their office he found Chin and Kono both staring at Danny who simply sat in a chair. Complimenting the picture, Steve sat opposite Danny and did the same thing. Neither man knew what to say. Neither man looked up. They simply sat in silence looking at … nothing.

"Boss?" Chin asked, concerned. "Is Danny having a stroke?"

"Could well be. Me, too, I think."

"What's wrong?" he asked.

"My boyfriend is making a date with Danny's ex-wife."

Kono's interest was aroused by that statement. "You're kidding."

"Could I make up something like that?" Steve asked.

"No," she answered seriously. "When and where?"

"Don't know. Why?"

"I want to watch!"

Steve was about to imitate one of Danny's rants when John strolled into the office and tossed Danny's cell phone back to the man. "Ok, it's all set. We're meeting Rachel at 1:00." Recognizing the place when John identified it, Kono immediately excused herself to call and make a reservation for the adjoining table so she could watch the event. As soon as she was finished she returned to the common work and whispered hew news to Chin.

"You book it for two?" he asked.

"Of course!"

They were about to high five one another when Danny interrupted everyone by shouting over and over and over again, "Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!" He held his hands over his face and simply kept repeating, "Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!" He was yelling so loud that he missed the sound of footsteps and was therefore shocked when he heard the Governor say, "Detective Williams. Is there a problem?"

Danny immediately stopped talking and simply stared at the woman. "Governor."

"Yes?"

When Danny didn't speak again, John stepped forward and said, "I take it that you're the Governor. Nice to meet you. I'd like to compliment you on the fine islands you have here and the excellent members of your Task Force."

Always the politician, she immediately moved into political mode and took the man's offered hand. John identified himself, to which she responded, "A pleasure to meet you, Colonel."

"How do you know of these fine folks?"

Both Steve and Danny simultaneously waved their hands and said, "No!"

"Gentlemen!" she scolded. "Is something wrong with you?"

"They do that occasionally, I've noticed. I met the Commander yesterday when he came to my rescue on the beach. I am forever in his debt for his quick thinking and generous assistance. Without him I might still be out there flopping on the beach."

"They are the best."

"Yes, I have to agree," he said both conversationally and sincerely.

"So, Colonel, when did you start having sex with the Commander?"

Danny spoke up and said, "Everything is getting cloudy. This must be what a stroke feels like."

"Stop playing the drama queen, detective," the Governor ordered.

"Drama queen? Me?" he asked in disbelief. "I'm in the Twilight Zone. There can't be any other explanation."

"So, Colonel, answer my question," the governor said, returning her attention to the attractive man.

John did not appear phased whatsoever by the question, the situation, or Danny's seeming to wilt in front of them. "Well, ma'am, I want you to know that he was a perfect gentleman. We waited three hours."

"Well, hell, I would have expected something faster. It's not like you were waiting an hour before going swimming after eating!"

"I'll see what I can do about speeding things up in the future."

"You only get one first time, Colonel."

"That's why you have to do something a little different each time, so that every time is another first time."

"Very good, Colonel," with delight at this reasoning.

"I do try, ma'am," he said proudly.

"Steve, he's a keeper." Turning to McGarrett she asked, "You are planning to keep him, aren't you?"

"At least through lunch, Governor."

"Got plans for dinner, Steve?" John asked.

"Yes, I'm planning to spend the evening with this really hot guy I met on the beach. His name is John and he's incredible."

The two men smiled at one another and had they not been in a crowded room would have been in one another's arms. Their moment was interrupted by the Governor asking, "So tell me about this lunch."

"Oh, Dear Lord!" Danny said, covering his face with his hands. "Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse," he said, shaking his head back and forth.

"I'm having lunch with Rachel – she wants to check me out. Also, she thinks Steve has a hot butt."

"He does."

Danny had never seen it, but he was sure that Steve actually blushed. "Glad you agree, Governor."

"And Kono is probably going to be at the next table over trying to listen in."

Everyone turned their attention to Kono. "Yes, of course I will be. Duh!"

The Governor issued a decree. "Ok. Mind if Kono and I join you and Rachel for lunch?"

"No problem. I'll call and tell them we're four people now."

"If they give you any trouble you call this number" (she handed him a business card) "and my assistant will take care of it for you."

"Excellent," John said with delight.

"Gotta go. Can't wait for lunch. See you Officer, Colonel."

And just as suddenly as the Governor had arrived she was gone.

"I like her," John said.

"You like everybody," Danny said glumly, "which is part of the problem."

"I have always tried to be cordial, welcoming, outgoing – a gentleman."

"I am begging you – please – please don't talk about anything too sensitive with my ex-wife today. Please. This is the woman who takes me to court periodically to try to revoke our custody agreement."

"I very much have that in mind, Danno." Putting his hands on Danny's shoulders and looking into his eyes, John said, "I understand. And I would never, ever do anything to harm that. Believe me. If I am able to strengthen it a bit I would not be upset. You're a good person Danno. You're important to Steve. And therefore you're important to me."

The man's words succeeded in conveying his sincerity. Danny simply nodded, looked his square in the eye, and said, "Thank you."

"You're a good man, Danno," John said, squeezing his shoulder in a reassuring move.

"Thank you."

"What? No return compliments? No, 'John, you are a prince among men'? 'John, you have the perception abilities of Superman'? Nothing like that?"

"You're better with words than I am," Danny answered.

"Oh, Danno, you sweet talkin' Devil you!" John said, smiling one of his dazzling smiles.

Danny smiled at John and said, "You are something else, you know that?"

"Steve has been trying to persuade me of that, but I personally don't believe him."

"Well, for once Steve got something right," Danny conceded.

John gave Danny a quick hug, whispered, "Thank you," into his ear before pulling away.

"Well," John said, "I've got to go buy some new clothes to wear. It's not every day I get to be in the company of such lovely women so I need to be presentable." John gave Steve a longer hug, followed by a kiss, and whispered something to him that no one else could hear. Whatever it was it brought a huge smile to Steve's face.

With a smile and a wave he was out the door and off on the quest for Governor-worthy lunch clothes.

"Oh, I love that man!" Kono said with a huge smile on her face.

"Give it a little while," Danny complained, "you'll get over it."

"No I won't. I don't have an ex-wife for him to go to lunch with like you do."

"Oh, you are getting too good at this, Kono," Danny said with a smile.

"I have a good teacher now."

"Kono, no!" Danny complained. "That man is a bad influence. Do not spend much time with him or it could rub off on you and drag you down."

"I'm counting on it!" she said in reply.

Danny threw up his hands in mock disgust and walked away, giving Kono a good laugh. She was excited about the unexpected outing.

 

Lunch

The man who walked into the restaurant at 1:00 looked good. In fact, he looked downright stunning. John had purchased a white linen jacket and pants and matched them with a white shirt. Combined with his dark complexion, his jet black hair, his height and his ever-present aviator sun glasses and you had one kick-ass first impression. As he walked confidently down the street toward the restaurant heads had turned everywhere to check him out – male and female alike.

Timing was such that John and the Governor arrived at just the same moment. In fact, he held the door open for her to enter. Inside they found Kono talking with a woman that John assumed was Rachel. She stood about Danny's height and for some reason seemed like the type of woman he might pick.

Introductions were made and handshakes were exchanged before the foursome moved to a beautiful table overlooking the beach. Between John's masculine good looks and the power-presence of the state's governor their table created a bit of excitement.

If he was nervous John gave absolutely no hint of his feeling. But, he never did. And really, this lunch had been his idea. He did not regard himself as the most social of creatures and had never regarded his social skills as very good. In truth, his social skills were fine, it was just that he didn't like lots of people all in one place at the same time and social gatherings tended to feature a lot of people all in one place at the same time.

But a lunch for four was not large in anyone's book. While they perused the menus the four engaged in the usual menu-study chit chat. "See anything that looks interesting?" "Oh, wow, what a good idea!" "Have you ever had …?"

When it was clear that they had made their selections, their waiter appeared immediately and started taking orders. Each of the four was efficient so in 30 seconds he was away from the table leaving the guests with momentary silence.

John broke the ice by raising his wine glass and saying, "Thank you all for agreeing to join me for lunch on such short notice. It is the rare man that gets the privilege of dining with not one, not two, but three beautiful women all by himself." He projected the same calm confidence he had projected walking down the street earlier.

"Damn, you're good!" the governor commented which elicited a shy smile.

"So, Colonel, what brings you to the islands?" Rachel asked.

Since none of them knew the answer, all eyes were trained on him.

"I recently retired from the Air Force and I … well, quite honestly, I don't know what I want to do now."

"What did you do in the Air Force?"

"Combat flight pilot," he answered without elaboration.

"How did you come to meet Steve?" someone asked.

"I was running on the beach one morning and found myself running parallel with him. At first I just noticed that he was a good-looking man but didn't pay much attention. And then I got the worst muscle cramp in one of my legs. Without any grace or style I fell and flopped around like a fish out of water. Not my finest moment.

"And then the man who had been running beside me came to my rescue. He was my Knight in Shining Armor. Well, actually, no armor, just sweat, but you get the picture. Most people would have ignored me and run the other direction, but Steve basically held my hand and massaged my leg to try to relax the muscles a little. And let me tell you, the man has some of the best hands. Oh! Let me tell you! I could have laid there on the beach and let him rub my body all day long!"

"Who wouldn't?" Rachel asked, suddenly feeling embarrassment when she realized she had said the words aloud. Her embarrassment was quickly erased when the other women at the table murmured their agreement.

The Governor agreed with John's assessment by saying, "It's no wonder. Have you seen the size of his hands?"

Rachel got a coy look on her face but didn't say anything. John noticed, though, and said, "Go ahead. Rachel, what's your question?"

"Well, is there any … um, correlation … between …"

John cut her off sensing that she wasn't going to get the question out before dying of embarrassment. "You mean are his feet as big as his hands?" After a brief pregnant pause he added slyly, "I wouldn't kiss and tell, … but yes they are!"

There were several squeals of delight, which was not what most people would have expected from a luncheon attended by the state's governor. Other patrons in the restaurant looked discretely toward the table to see if they could figure out what was so exciting and delightful to the other diners. But of course John had lowered his voice just enough so that his tablemates could hear his comment but others could not.

Even though John had removed his sunglasses as soon as entering the restaurant, he still exuded masculinity and confidence and sex-appeal. Several of the diners in the popular ocean-side restaurant had kept looking back at him, very taken with his sultry good looks.

Any awkwardness that anyone was feeling had evaporated with John's remarks. Conversation flowed freely from that point onward, interrupted only by the arrival of the entrees which of course generated its own share of conversation as everyone oh'd and ah'd about the presentation of the food – one thing that the restaurant was noted for doing very well.

"If this tastes as good as it looks I'm going to be a very happy man," John said admiringly.

"The food here is fabulous," the governor said confidently. "And besides, Commander McGarrett should be making you a happy man already."

"He is, I assure you," John replied.

After the food was sampled, Kono asked the obvious. "So, John, do you think you might stay here in Hawaii for awhile?"

All eyes were on him expectantly as he considered the question. With a suddenly serious expression on his face he finally nodded his head and said, "Yes, I think I might stay for a little while."

"Good," the governor said.

"Do you think Steve might like to have someone like me around?" It could have been taken as a joking comment except for the very serious expression that remained on his face.

Kono answered first with a big smile on her face, "Without a doubt. You're good for him."

"But is being good for him something he might want? Or is it like medicine that tastes terrible but will ultimately help, something he will resist?"

The governor's turn. "It is what he needs and I believe it is what he wants."

Rachel's turn. "And if he ever acts differently, tell me and I'll go smack him for being too stupid for words!"

"Amen, sister," Kono added, which reduced the table into another collective laugh. John joined in, secretly relieved.

"I've known him such a short time, but I've been thoroughly impressed with him from the start. I don't really know him yet beyond the fact that he's adorably cute, has fantastic hands, and has fabulous taste in coffee, co-workers and friends."

Rachel made perhaps the most prescient observation of the day. "Of everyone here, I probably know Commander McGarrett the least of all. But I do know Danny Williams rather well, and I can assure you that there is none with higher standards and higher thresholds that one must cross to become a friend than his. Steve McGarrett cleared all of those hurdles with the greatest of ease. I'd say that Steve McGarrett is a good man."

"He's extraordinarily giving, loyal beyond belief, and one of the best friends and bosses anyone could ask for," Kono observed.

"I trusted him enough to give him a job with carte blanche to do anything with immunity. And let me tell you that is not something a politician does easily or lightly."

John nodded. "Thank you all so much. You don't know how much I appreciate your honestly and your willingness to talk with me. And I don't mean just talking about his adorably cute butt, but the real Steve."

Laughter engulfed the table again. "He does have an adorable behind," Rachel said, "and he wears those wonderful pants that shows it off so well. When I first met him, he and Daniel were running a surveillance operation out of my house. They set up in my bedroom because that gave them the vantage point they needed. I can't tell you how many times I found reason to go into the bedroom while he was bent over their telescopes. The way those cargo pants tightened around his backside as he leaned forward was ..." But she stopped herself, blushed slightly, and took a sip of water.

John raised his wine glass to Rachel and said, "You have good taste, Rachel."

After another bottle of wine, John persuaded everyone to try a couple of the desserts, of course only after protestations all around that everyone was too full to eat another bite. The desserts were as creative and beautifully designed as the entrees had been and while each person only had a few bites, they were memorable bites bursting with flavor.

"I'm going to have to run an extra 10 miles tomorrow to work off the calories of this lunch," Kono commented.

All too soon the governor announced, "I hate to eat and run but I have a meeting. Ladies, I have had a marvelous time. Thank you for allowing me to tag along. And John, what an absolute pleasure to meet you. Thank you so much for inviting me today. I hope you decide to stay here with us. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help in quest."

Politely shaking hands, John gave her one of his over-the-top smiles and assured her that he would. Unfortunately, everyone had to get on to something else, but considering that they had been at lunch for two and a half hours that was not a terrible surprise. Rachel had to leave to pick up Grace from school and Kono had to return to work to at least give the illusion that she was doing something productive.

John suddenly found himself alone. He paid the check – how did that happen, anyway? – and then decided that checking in with Steve was his first order of business. He enjoyed the beautiful afternoon outdoors by walking to Steve's office at the Iolani Palace. As before, his suit, his sultry good looks, and his sun glasses all combined to turn heads everywhere.

He found his man hard at work – or at least focused hard since it turned out his attention was on a game of electronic battleship. Steve was so absorbed by his game he didn't notice the other man come into his office at first. He noticed the man's arrival just before two arms slipped around his neck and two lips appeared on his neck. "Hey, babe," John whispered to Steve.

Steve wrapped his hands around John's and leaned back into the embrace and the kiss. "This is nice," Steve said with a smile. "Have a good lunch?"

"Yeah, it was nice. They've got great food there."

"And did you get all the dirt you needed on me?" Steve asked.

John released his embrace and walked around so that he was facing Steve. Crouching down beside Steve's chair, he looked Steve in the eye, took his hands, and said, "I learned that your friends absolutely adore you and that my first impression of you is dead on target. And you should know, Commander McGarrett, that while I didn't come to Hawaii to fall in love, I could very easily find myself doing exactly that.

"I have to tell you, though, that I am way out of practice at falling in love so I'll probably screw it up somewhere along the line, but know that if I do it will not be intentional but purely accidental." He paused, looked down, and then said, "I don't do casual really well, Steve."

"John, will you stick around? I'd really like it if you stuck around for a while. Could you do that – for me?" Still holding hands, Steve added, "We can move your things from your hotel into my house and we can spend some time getting to know one another. We may turn out to be totally incompatible – I seriously doubt that, but it is always a possibility."

"Yes, Steve, I would like that. I would love to stick around for a while. I thank you for asking me. And yes, I would like to move my things out of that hotel and into your house, if you're sure that you want to take that big step."

"I'm sure. I don't do casual very well, either."

The two men stood and embraced like two long-lost friends who had just found each other after years of separation. "Thank you, Steve," John whispered.

"Ok," they heard from the doorway, "I'll have you know that this is a place of business, a part of the governor's office of the state of Hawaii. This is not Mama Mabel's House of Feel Good."

"Mabel's House of Feel Good?" Steve and John asked simultaneously. "Danno, how do you come up with these things?" Steve wanted to know.

"What? You've never heard of …?"

"No!" they both said simultaneously to the man leaning casually against the doorframe to Steve's office. Danny smiled a big smile and asked, "So, John, did my ex give you all sorts of dirt at lunch today?"

"She told me that you were a good man with high standards, and that if Steve got past the admission criteria and gained your acceptance then that means he's not just good, but one of the best."

"She said that?" he asked, surprised and serious.

"She said it better than I did, but yes. Steve, you've got some pretty awesome friends who think the world of you and they hope I do, too. And Danny, your ex-wife told me that if I screwed this up, that she's gonna come smack some sense into me."

"My ex-wife? Rachel? British-accented woman? Rachel? About so high? My Rachel? Really?"

"Yes, one and the same."

"Wow, you've got a way with women, babe," Danny said admiringly.

"I know," John agreed. "If only my super powers worked on men as well as on women!"

"Oh, trust me," Steve said, "they do just fine with men."

John turned and gave Steve a quick hug and equally quick kiss. When the kiss broke he simply hugged Steve and felt comfortable in his embrace for a moment.

When it ended, John said, "Danno, Steve asked me to move in with him and I said yes."

"Good. If you had tried to make a run for it I was prepared to tackle you and try my damnedest to knock some sense into you."

John stared at Danno seriously for a moment and then simply said, "Thank you, Danno."

"You're welcome."

"Now why don't the two of you get out of here," Danny suggested. "Steve, whatever you're doing can wait until Monday. Move his stuff to your house, take him for a walk on the beach. He looks like a million bucks so go show him off to the world."

"He was only playing electronic battleship, Danno."

"I knew it!!!" Danno shouted. "I knew that you sat in here playing games!"

"Only when I'm too nervous to be able to focus."

"No need for nervousness now, babe. The verdict is in. The all-clear signal has sounded."

Holding hands, the two men left the office to check John out of his hotel and move his few possessions into Steve's house. The weekend had started.

 

The Move

John traveled light. Years of a perpetual itinerant life taught him quickly to not acquire much stuff and to keep life simple. If it couldn't fit into one bag or one box, it was too much. As a result, moving John from his Waikiki hotel to Steve's house was not a complicated undertaking.

At Steve's house it did not take much time to clear out some drawer and closet space for John. Steve's wardrobe was not that extensive to begin with, and the house had ample storage space. Unpacking completed, Steve grabbed two ice cold Longboard Beers and invited John to go for a walk with him on the beach.

Walking slowly side by side they savored both their beers as well as one another's company and companionship.

"You sure you're ok with this, Steve?" John asked. "You don't really know me at all. Hell, for that matter, I don't really know me that well, either. If I did I wouldn't be floundering around right now trying to figure out what to do with myself for the rest of my life."

"Yes, I'm sure. No questions asked. And you're right – we don't really know each other yet. But my gut instinct is that this is right, this is good. So, yes, I'm sure. And as a wise man once commented, I might be able to lend a helping hand on the search for what to do with the rest of your life."

John slid his aviator sunglasses down his nose a little and looked over the top of the lenses. "You really caught me off-guard, Steve. I never in my life planned on something like this. I'm not even sure I know how to do it. But I really want to try."

"Me, too," Steve said with a smile. They clinked their beer bottles together and started walking back toward Steve's house – no, actually, their house.

That night Steve introduced John to a new delicacy: fresh grilled burgers topped with grilled fresh pineapple slices.

"Danny won't touch these," Steve said. "In fact, if he sees me put pineapple slices on the grill he starts frothing at the mouth and starts waving his hands around."

"I can picture it now. But I've got to say – he doesn't know what he's missing. He is a wise man on some things, but on pineapple he really missed the boat."

After dinner and a couple more beers, John was nearly asleep. He forced himself to get up and clean up the dishes, scrub down the now cold grill, and make sure there was no ant-bait anywhere in the kitchen or on the lanai. Steve had already told him about how nasty the Hawaiian ants could be.

Despite their mutual fatigue – neither was a late-night kind of guy – they made passionate love before falling asleep in the comfort of the other man's presence.

Since the next day was Saturday – well, that really meant nothing at all in terms of their routine – both men awoke at their usual time. Throwing on shorts and some running shoes they were out the door for a rousing hour-long run along the beach.

The accumulated sweat washed off, Steve asked what John wanted to do with the day. John of course had no plans but didn't want to be a bother to Steve.

"Tell you what," Steve said, "Danno doesn't have his daughter this weekend so he's probably holed up in that shit-hole of an apartment of his …"

"Got an opinion one way or another about Danno's living accommodations, Steve?" John asked with a chuckle.

"You'll agree when you see the place." And he was right. When Steve drove them into the parking lot of Danny's place, John was dubious. But when Danny opened the door, John was convinced that Steve was right. John's sight was drawn to two things simultaneously – he was, after all, trained in making split second assessments of a situation to be able to spot trouble.

The two things that caught his attention were: 1) Danno in a sleeveless t-shirt and a baggy pair of gym shorts, and 2) the apartment was tiny – and did he say tiny? The place was tiny – and a dump.

"This is trouble," Danny observed.

Steve affixed the most innocent of expressions on his face, looked at his boyfriend, and said, "I don't see trouble, do you, John?"

"No. All I see are two friends here to help another friend out."

"Shouldn't you two be off screwing your brains out? This is the honeymoon period after all."

"Already did that," John observed. "You can come watch the next performance tonight if you want."

Danny closed his eyes and held up his hand. "There is no scenario I can ever imagine where I would want to watch the two of you getting naked and nasty."

Looking at Steve with mock-shock on his face, John said, "There's nothing nasty about it, I can assure you."

"Yeah, yeah, whatever. I don't care if it involves butterflies and rainbows – I don't want to know about it, let alone watch it. Now what are you two doing here? This is my day free from Steve's own unique brand of craziness. These days are few and far between so they are sacred.

"Love you, too, Danno," Steve said.

"Enough. What do Frick and Frack want now?"

"We've come to rescue you, Danno," John explained patiently.

"Rescue me?" the man asked incredulously. "Rescue me from what?"

"From this place you call a home," John explained. "You're in the most beautiful place on the planet on one of the most beautiful days of the year and you're sitting inside this …" he said gesturing vaguely around the apartment interior, "with the blinds closed and, … oh, Danno! Say it ain't so!"

"What?" the man asked, not following what he was saying.

"A TV dinner? In the middle of the day?"

"It's my breakfast and lunch rolled into one. I'd offer you one, but then you'd stay and that only means trouble."

"Danno, paisan! No, no, no!"

"What do you mean 'paisan'? You don't look Italian?"

"And you don't look like a smuck, so why you living like one? Steve, we're barely here in the nick of time. Operation Rescue Danno is now underway."

"No! No! No! I'm just enjoying my breakfast. You two goons get away from me!"

But his own personal rescuers were having nothing to do with his complaints. "Come on, get some shoes on your feet and let's go. We'll buy you a donut somewhere."

"You can even put some bacon on it if you want."

"I don't want to go anywhere! I'm very happy right where I am!"

"We're nearly too late. He's already delusional. We need to move fast."

Danny knew his objections were for naught so he cursed the two men while looking for some shoes to put on his feet. He opted for a pair of half-white socks and a pair of what looked like new running shoes.

Growling at John as he came back with his keys in hand, John caught him off-guard. "Danno! I just realized! You're not wearing a tie! Damn, dude, it's a good look on you."

"You are a twisted fucker, do you know that?"

"Yes," he said very matter-of-factly. With the apartment door locked – really, John thought, why bother? – the three men piled into Steve's truck. Before he started the truck, Steve looked over at his two friends. "So, where are we going?"

"You two are the posse that couldn't shot straight! Do you know that? You come and kidnap me from the safety of my home and you don't even know what to do with me after the abduction has occurred? I don't fucking believe it! Move!" he commanded to Steve who sat behind the steering wheel of the truck. When Steve didn't move, Danny repeated louder, "I said 'Move It!'"

Steve and Danny traded positions so that Steve was sitting in the middle of the seat with Danny behind the wheel with a totally cocky smile on his face. When he had the seat moved a lot closer to the steering wheel he said, "Now this is what I'm talking about! Forever you've been driving my car. It's about fucking time the tables were turned."

Before he could say another word, John spoke up from the far side of the truck cab. "You should feel special, Danno. He doesn't even let me drive his truck, and I'm sucking his dick."

Danny closed his eyes and grimaced.

Steve turned to his boyfriend and said, "You want to drive my truck?"

"Sometime, sure."

"Ok. You want to drive?"

"Hey! Sherlock! I'm behind the wheel!"

"It's true. John, you'd probably never be able to squeeze in the way he's got the seat so far forward."

"And to think I was gonna move the seat back when I was done," he muttered aloud.

"Now, you two goof balls shut up and let me think for a minute."

"Goof balls?" John said. "Steve, what's a goof ball?"

"I'm not sure, but he says that a lot. Must be some New Jersey thing."

"I'm sitting right here!" Danny protested loudly.

Deciding where he wanted to go, Danny started the truck. "Think you can handle it?" Steve asked.

"I handle you, don't I?" Danny said without a second's hesitation.

"Very good, Danno!" John said.

"Hey!" Steve complained, "Quiet over there!"

Slowly and carefully Danny drove them a few miles down the road before parking.

Steve looked at the store front and then looked at Danny. "Danno! Dunkin' Donuts? Really?"

"Hey! They have great coffee. And I like their donuts!"

"I've heard they're good, but with your obvious predisposition to hypertension …"

"You! You are the cause of my hypertension! And I'm taking pills for that now, thank you very much!" he said getting out the truck and leading the two other men inside his favorite donut shop.

"John! What do you want?" Danny asked. "Steve's buying."

"Hey! Who said I was buying? Isn't it enough I let you drive my truck?"

"You owe me! Do you know how many times you've conveniently forgotten your wallet when you've invited me out for a beer?"

"Maybe once."

"Once!? Even you can't say that with a straight face!"

"All right, maybe it was twice," he conceded.

"John, I warn you, watch this one. His wallet is sealed shut soooo tight that the air inside was last refreshed in 1975."

"Danno! I pay lots of times."

"Oh yeah? Name one. Come on! Name one. Can't? No, of course you can't because it never happens."

Steve tried to act outraged but all he managed to do was to put on what Danny called his "constipation" face, which he supposed was better than "aneurism" face – really, how did the man come up with those names?

John put his arm around Steve and nuzzled his ear saying, "I'd hate to see Danno in a bad mood."

"I've seen it – trust me, you don't want to be in the same state."

While Danny knew exactly he wanted in terms of donuts, neither Steve nor John were donut regulars so they didn't have a clue what donut etiquette required of them. They whispered back and forth for nearly 60 seconds while looking for something that looked the least deadly. Between the two of them there might have been six spare ounces of fat so they most likely didn't have much to worry about, but still …"

They finally settled on a pumpkin spice donut that was maple glazed. Steve thought the pumpkin, spice and maple sounded more natural. In point of fact, they were all fried in the same type of oil with about the same sugar and fat content.

Danny led them to a space at the counter where John and Steve examined their donut – yes, they opted to share one while Danny had three all by himself. Their examination complete, they broke their donut in half, sniffed it carefully, and tentatively licked a tiny taste of the maple glaze.

"Sweet," Steve commented to John, not in a complimentary fashion.

"Yeah, sugar tends to be sweet."

"I wonder if it's all the refined sugars that make you so perpetually grouchy, Danno?" Steve wondered aloud.

"I'm not 'grouchy' – I'm just a very determined man, which doesn't set well with everyone."

"I don't know, Steve," John said. "It could be all the saturated fats in his diet. That combined with the sugar probably are gonna shave a couple of years off his life."

"Well, if my days are numbered then why am I spending those precious few I have with you two?" Danny loudly asked the two men.

The manager walked over to the three men very tentatively and asked, "Is there a problem gentlemen?"

"Yes," John said very seriously, "with his diet. Or it could be his existential angst."

"Look at you with the big words," Danny commented. "And I apologize for my two friends here. They are new to the donut world, having survived on things like oats and pineapple and tree bark up until now when I showed them the way to the good life." Danny looked back at Steve and said, "And you call yourself a cop! Every good cop knows where the best donuts in town can be found. It's out duty, it's our obligation."

Steve looked at Danny and said simply, "When they come up with a low carb, non-fat, high fiber donut we'll talk."

"So, guys, what should we do today? After we finish our donuts, that is? Want to go surfing?"

Both Steve and Danny responded nearly simultaneously, "Danno don't surf." Steve added, "Actually, Danny doesn't swim."

John simply stared at Danny for a moment. "Sorry, I forgot. But you can swim, right?"

"I can swim," he said, "I just choose not to do so. I personally do not see the need for land-based mammals to splash around gracelessly in water. It just seems like senseless danger is all I'm saying."

"So if we don't go surfing, then let's do the opposite and go hiking up in the hills. It looks like there's a lot of potential places not that far out of town."

Steve readily agreed. "Perfect! I know just where we should go!"

"Hey, guys, just remember this is my day off and I don't get off on proving that I can leap small mountains in a single bound, or other crap like that."

"But you said you go to the gym. How is this different?" Steve asked.

"That's a controlled environment, with air conditioning, personal color televisions on every machine, and some amazingly pretty women to watch while I work out."

"Well, except for the air conditioning, the TV, and the pretty women we've got you covered."

"Got it covered? It sounds like you've got nothing."

"You've got us," John said. "You can't find us at the gym. You get some quality time with two guys who think the world of you."

Danny gave John a combination smile and smirk but didn't say anything.

"Who loves ya', Danno?" John asked. "Come on, you 'goof balls', let's hit the road. You drivin', Danno?"

"Yes!"

Taking his place behind the wheel he asked Steve who sat next to him for directions. Steve guided them on a 35-minute drive – Steve could have made it in 20 – to a place that didn't look like more than just a widening in a dirt road.

Parking and locking the truck, Steve led the three men on a beautiful but fairly gentle hike that took them past some truly amazing, exotically lush greenery. After about 20 minutes of moving through the overgrowth they broke into a clearing and were overwhelmed by a huge waterfall that started more than 70 feet up the side of a small mountain. John and Danny were both impressed by the beauty before them.

Even city boy Danny stared admiringly at the natural beauty in front of them. Steve said nothing but noticed the smile on his partner's face and was happy.

"Wow," was all John had to say but he, too, had a huge smile on his face.

After a few minutes of taking in the view before them, they slowly made their way back to the truck so that Danny could drive them back into town. Without discussing it, they returned to Danny's apartment. With the truck parked Danny led the two others to a nearby bar he knew for a post-hike beer.

All three men were quiet, not an usual thing for John or Steve, but it was unusual for Danny. Noticing that Danny was so quiet, John asked him one simple question. "You ok, Danno?"

Looking up at John, Danny nodded and said, "Yeah, I think I'm gonna be."

John smiled one of his biggest smiles and said, "Good. You deserve the very best that life has to offer, my friend."

The two men clinked the necks of their beer bottles together. Steve watched the two men, happy beyond belief that his two best friends in the world were rapidly becoming such good friends. It would have been absolutely awful if the two men had not taken to one another and he did not want to even think about what that would have been like.

After a couple of beers John excused himself to find the men's room, giving Steve a quick hug and kiss as he left the table. Not more than 15 seconds later Steve's cell phone rang. With the noise of the bar he stepped outside so that he could hear, leaving Danny alone at the table.

As he reflected on the day, his friends and his new life, his revere was interrupted. "Look at the haole faggot! Where your two faggot friends go to, haole?"

"Excuse me?" Danny said in stunned disbelief, looking up at a fairly intoxicated sizeable Hawaiian man.

"Where you're friends go, faggot?"

"Excuse me?" Danny repeated.

"You stupid, too?"

"I don't know what rock you crawled out from under, but I suggest you head back there right now an take your bigoted attitude with you."

Danny turned back to his beer only to find the bottle knocked out of his hand. Working extraordinarily hard to keep his temper in check and to maintain the good feeling from his day, Danny said, "You really, really don't want to do this, my friend."

"Don't call me 'friend'. I ain't no faggot's friend."

John chose the perfect moment to return to the table. Immediately sensing the tension in the air, John said, "Is there a problem?"

"Yeah, you faggots are the problem. What you doing coming in here? You don't belong here."

"Care to rephrase that, butthead?"

"Somebody needs to teach you a lesson," the man said advancing on John.

Since the guy was half drunk – as well as a bigoted idiot – when he took a swing at John he didn't accomplish anything other than thoroughly pissing off John. Without striking him at all, John had the man down on the floor with his hands behind his back in a seemingly single move.

Steve caught a glimpse of the movement from his place on the street and came rushing back inside when he saw his boyfriend take down the stranger. One of the drunken idiot's friends came at Steve while another went after Danny.

The minute John had taken down the drunk assailant he had immediately yelled for the bartender to call 911. The main assailant's two friends were no more efficient than their drunken friend had been. Still, the one who had gone after Danny had used a pool cue and had actually connected with him enough to cause a cut on his arm that was bleeding.

"Son of a bitch!" Danny yelled as he knocked the pool cue out of the guy's hands and kicked the man's feet out from under him. The man landed on the floor with a thud, followed by one pissed off Danny landing on top of him to keep him restrained.

Several cars full of HPD officers arrived at that moment prepared for a bar brawl of unknown origin. At first assuming that John, Danny and Steve were just some of the brawlers, they had yelled orders for the three men to get on the floor face down. When Steve identified himself and his friends, the three men they were restraining were immediately taken into custody.

The officers had questions for Steve, Danny and John but Steve insisted that paramedics check out Danny first and deal with the cut on his arm. While the paramedic examined Danny's cut, he looked at Steve and said, "McGarrett, only with you could this happen. Only with you could I get beaten up because you are getting laid."

"Sorry, Danno," John said.

"I'm just thinking about the cosmic imbalance in the universe that makes me pay the price for you two fucking your brains out."

"If it's any consolation, Danno," John said, "It's really, really good sex."

Danny smirked at the man and said, "You're not gonna be happy until that image is burned into my brain, are you?"

Steve looked at his friend as a bandage was applied to the cut on his arm, offering the one thing that he knew would get Danny's attention. "Ok. I'll buy the next beer." To prove his point he reached into his pocket, pulled out his wallet, and placed a $20 bill on the table.

A look that was a cross between bemusement and revelation appeared on Danny's face. He pulled out his cell phone and snapped a quick picture. "I need proof of this – Steve McGarrett paid for something. John, make a note – this is a sacred day. Circle this date on your calendar in red. You have been witness to one of the great events of human history. This is something that has been prophesied, but I never thought I would live long enough to witness it for myself. I thought this was something that would be left for the next generation. This is a day that will live in infamy."

"Danny," Steve said seriously, "bite me. And be careful or you'll be drinking moose-piss beer or some other equally cheap beer in a can."

"I think you can start by replacing the bottle I had before that Neanderthal knocked it out of my hand. And I think I get big points for not simply taking the idiot out right then."

"So what happened?" Steve asked, totally confused about what precipitated the event.

"What happened is the idiot and his friends apparently saw something that they found too gay for their comfort, and they decided to tell me about their concern."

"Huh?" Steve said.

"They called me a faggot. They called all three of us faggots and said they wanted to teach us a lesson. They didn't want us in their bar."

John and Steve both listened in disbelief, but unfortunately not disbelief as well. "I'm so sorry, Danno," John said.

"What? It's not your fault! You didn't call me names or take a swing at me! It was those fucking Neanderthals that did all that. You!" he said vigorously, pointing at John. "You did not do this! Do not do the whole guilt trip routine. I will not have you pulling that crap! Do you understand me? You had better understand me … and remember, I have the secret weapon: I have my ex-wife on speed dial, and if need be she will come smack some sense into you."

John sighed. "Thanks, Danno. You're right, but I still feel bad that you got assaulted because of something I did."

Danny reached for his cell phone. "I'm getting the phone ready," he warned, holding it in his hand while looking at John.

John threw his hands in the air. "All right! All right! Not that!"

"Sorry, Danno, but thanks for standing up for my honor," John said with a mock bow toward the man. "My honor and virtue are intact. You are a gentleman."

"You are so full of shit!" Danny said in response, catching John off guard. The two men shared a hearty laugh that was intoxicating in its intensity. McGarrett was helpless at the effect, joining in the delight his two friends were showing.

Due to a combination of their donuts, their hike, their beers, and their unexpected excitement, all three men were ready to call it a day. Walking Danny to his door, John and Steve said good night and drove back to Steve's house.

It was too early to go to bed so they ended up on Steve's sofa, not cuddled together but also remaining in contact, even if only with a hand. Steve checked out the news on TV while John read.

Since they were still only barely getting started at learning about one another, Steve noticed that John was reading on some sort of electronic reader. When he asked, John explained, "It's an iPad. After 20 years of needing to be able to pick up and move without much advance notice, I've sort of learned to keep my life unencumbered. This thing," he said holding up the device, "has been wonderful. I have all my music here. I have movies here. I have 500 books in here. I download magazines and read them here." He flipped to a different screen and showed Steve the beautiful electronic version of a popular monthly magazine, demonstrating how the screen could be resized with a light touch. Never one to be scared of technology – quite the opposite in fact – Steve was immediately taken with the device. John passed it to him to flip through some of the apps he had installed.

"I love it!" Steve pronounced after just a few minutes of checking it out. He had a thousand questions but limited himself to only about a dozen, all of which John patiently and easily answered. After about 20 minutes John said, "Can I have my iPad back?"

"Maybe," Steve said without looking up as he explored a new app.

"Maybe?"

"Ok," he grudgingly said. "But I like your toy!"

"Well, honey," John said with a smile as he powered down the iPad, "you can play with my toy anytime you want."

"Great," Steve said, grabbing the iPad back again.

"Hey!" John complained. "This toy!" he said, indicating himself.

"Give me a minute," Steve commented as he powered the iPad back on and proceeded to lose himself in the addictive device.

"I've created a monster," John complained. He switched his attention to the TV news program that Steve had been watching before giving up and going to bed.

“You coming to bed?” John asked.

Very half-heartedly, Steve answered, “In a minute.”

John shook his head. “Right, I’ll see you in the morning.”

“Cool! This has battleship! Oh, I love this thing.”

“I got that impression. You know you can lay in bed and use it, right?”

Steve looked up with revelation and joy all over his face. “I can, can’t I?”

John threw his hands up in the air and walked into the bedroom to begin getting ready for bed. Teeth brushed and face washed, he stripped off his clothes and crawled into bed, hoping that his boyfriend might decide to join him – and return his iPad while there was any hope of a charge remaining in its battery. He fell asleep before either joined him. Steve came to bed an hour later, plugging the iPad in to charge as he quietly crawled into bed beside his boyfriend.

 

Sunday was Made for Shopping

The next morning, being Sunday, which was like any other day, saw Steve and John up at 6 and on the beach running until 7. After showers, pineapple, coffee, some fresh mango Steve had purchased the previous day, and some yogurt, breakfast was finished. John cleaned up the dishes and counters since Steve had warned him about how determined the island ants were. “Leave one crumb,” Steve had warned, “and let one ant find it and you’ll have an entire army here in under 5 minutes. They can find anything, anywhere, and get anywhere – even into spots you thought were impermeable.”

Duly warned, John became as obsessive as Steve at cleaning the kitchen counters and floors spotless. He even too to wiping down the walls with bleach cleanser in case anything had splashed.

They were just about to talk about what to do with their day when Steve’s cell phone range. By instinct he grabbed for the phone, finding Kono’s name on the caller id.

“Kono. What’s up?”

“Sorry to disturb you on Sunday, boss, but we’ve got a case.”

“What happened?”

She proceeded to fill him in on the sketchy details that had come over the police scanner radio a few minutes earlier.

“Ok,” Steve said when she finished. “We’ve got to move on this now. We’ve been after this guy for too long to let him slip through our fingers now. Call everyone else …”

“Already done. They’re all on the way.”

“Good, Kono. Good job. I’ll leaving now. See you there.”

Closing his phone, Steve looked around for John who stood nearby. John had heard Steve’s side of the conversation but had no trouble filling in the other side.

“I’m so sorry,” he started before John cut him off.

“No! This is your job. Don’t apologize. Just go do what you do and keep the world safe. That’s what you do and you do it very well.”

“I have to leave you here alone.”

“Afraid I’ll get into trouble?” he asked.

“No, I just the leaving you stuck here with nothing to do and no way to get around.”

“Steve, don’t worry about me. I’m a survivor. I’ll be fine. Go. No guilt, please.”

Steve gave him a big kiss and a quick hug before grabbing his shoes, his keys, and heading out the door to get into his truck. John watched him go from the open doorway, thinking how much he had come to enjoy the company of the big guy driving away in the blue truck.

Despite their having talked about it, Steve had not had time to give John a key to the house yet so if he went out he had no way to unlock the door when he got back. Thinking like Steve would have, he started looking around for a hidden key, finally finding one in the garden. To be sure he had the correct key he tried it in the door and found that it worked.

Shoving the key into his pocket he grabbed a decent looking shirt, shoved his feet into running shoes, and left by the front door to start the long walk back into town. He knew where he wanted to go, having passed the place a few days earlier while riding with Steve in his truck.

It took an hour, but John found the car dealership he wanted. He started looking around at the huge number of cars on the lot, knowing that he would have a salesman with him in under a minute. Car salesmen were good – they could spot a potential customer from a mile away.

As he looked at the various cars on the lot, he kept coming back to three: a BMW Z-4, a Mazda Miata, and a Jeep. I know. There was no similarity between a jeep and the two sports cars. He liked the idea of the Jeep for getting around off-road. He knew that while 800,000 people lived on the island, there were still big stretches of basically wilderness, jungle, that one could explore if you could get to them. A Jeep would make that easier.

The two low-slung sports cars would be of no use in going off-road. In fact, they would last probably about ten feet before their bottoms were ripped to shreads. His salesman tried to figure out what was John’s key deciding factor. For most people it was style vs. money. For most people it came down to money. They didn’t want – or couldn’t afford – to spend a lot of money on a car. He couldn’t get a good read on John yet so he didn’t know how to play the deal. John simply walked between the three cars, sat in eat, and thought.

Over the course of the next hour John took each car for a test drive. He loved all three of them but in the end opted for the Jeep as the car for him that could get him around town as well as off-road when necessary. Decision made, he went into the office with the salesman where they completed the necessary paperwork. The salesman got a huge shock when John paid cash for the car. He didn’t actually have that much cash on him, but he used his ATM Debit card, which easily covered the full amount.

That detail taken care of, he called an insurance company and set up the necessary insurances to keep him financially safe when he was out on the road. Shaking hands with the dealer John took the keys to his new Jeep and drove off the lot. He enjoyed the feel of the 5-speed stick shift – it felt more like the driver was an active participant in the process of driving, rather than just another passenger.

Since he still didn’t know the island very well – so much had changed since he had last visited here years earlier – it took him an hour to find his next stop but he succeeded. The store was busy – as these places always seemed to be – but he was able to get the help he needed to make his purchase. He was able to get exactly the item he wanted and was even able to talk the woman in the paper store next door into wrapping it up for him to give as a gift. He knew people found him cute – he really didn’t understand that – but he was not opposed to using it when it helped him accomplish a goal.

That mission accomplished he made his way up and down the streets looking for a grocery store. He needed a good-sized store, not a little mom-and-pop place, although they absolutely had their uses. He found a big-box store, parked his new car, grabbed a cart, and started up and down the aisles picking up what he knew Steve needed. They hadn’t talked about any of this, but John had noticed that Steve was down to one roll of toilet paper, so he found the brand that matched what he had now and bought a 12-pack. He noticed that Steve was also out of paper towels so he bought a 12-pack of them as well.

Up and down the aisles he worked, spending a fair amount of his time in the fresh produce aisle picking out some things he liked and some things he knew that Steve liked. Others would be a gamble. He got the fixings for a big homemade summer salad – one of his dishes that included mixed greens, grilled chicken, cucumber, tomato, cottage cheese, hardboiled egg whites, chick peas, and of course croutons.

All the necessary ingredients in hand he grabbed a loaf of bread to make garlic bread in case Danno joined them for dinner. He found Steve’s favorite beer and bought two cases of the stuff to put in the garage until there was space in the refrigerator.

He grabbed some snack foods, trying to avoid the fried things, opting instead for baked crackers and pretzels, knowing that Danno’s blood pressure and cholesterol needed the help.

That stop complete, he drove back to Steve’s house and put all of the groceries away. He placed his present for Steve on the dining room table at his place. He wasn’t entirely satisfied so he returned to his Jeep and drove off again in search of another store for another purchase.

John was basically no good at it, but he wanted a camera so that he could take pictures. He wanted to be able to remember Steve’s face as he opened the present John had bought for him. He wanted a picture of the man period. Given his limited photography skills, he didn’t want anything too complicated but he didn’t want an entry-level point-and-shoot camera either. He used his good looks to get a salesman to pay some attention to him and spent half an hour talking through what he wanted and what his options were. In the end he did something completely out of character – he bought two cameras. For the man who had spent his entire adult like trying to live simply, unencumbered by material possessions, this decision was a major move and a major statement about his plans for the future.

One of the two cameras was a small, pocket-sized Canon point-and-shoot camera that did a pretty good job despite its compact size. The other was a more traditional SLR type camera but with a full-frame sensor, interchangeable lenses, and the ability to make some kick-ass pictures. He bought the necessary memory cards for each as well as a couple of lenses for the DSLR camera and left the store $5,000 lighter than when he had entered.

Yes, it was a splurge, an extravaganza, but when was the last time he had allowed himself something like this? Never. He lived a very frugal, monastic life and had socked away a lot of money over the years. It felt both wrong and good at the same time to spend a little of his accumulated wealth.

With one final stop to pick up some cut flowers for the house, John returned home to put the flowers in water on the dining room table. He marinated the chicken breasts he had purchased before grilling them on the lanai.

He hated the thought of disturbing Steve at work so he sent him a text message instead, hoping that the man got the message. His message was simply, “Bring Danno back for dinner if you and he want to. I’ll have food ready.”

When the grilled chicken cooled enough, he sliced it for placement on the salad. He sliced cucumbers, diced tomatoes, cut up some of Steve’s magnificent fresh pineapple, open and washed some chickpeas. With everything prepared and at a good holding point, he opened his two cameras and started looking them over to figure out how he should get started.

Of course, like everything else, you had to start by charging the batteries so John did that while he looked through the manuals. He figured out how to use the point and shoot and was ready to try that one first once the battery was fully charged. The DSLR was much more complicated but also much more powerful. He looked forward to taking that one on hikes back into the jungle looking for waterfalls, native plants, flowers, and of course the occasional shirtless man jogging on the beach.

Steve texted that he and Danny would be there in 20 minutes which put a smile on John’s face. Checking the room one final time to be sure he was satisfied, John changed into a pair of shorts and t-shirt before sitting down on the couch with his iPad to pick up in the book he had been reading.

 

Presents and Dinner

When he heard the front door open he put his book down, and smiled up at Steve as he came in the door.

“Hi, babe,” John greeted his man.

They shared a quick kiss and a hug. John gave Danno a hand-shake and a smile.

“Whose Jeep?” Danny asked, ever the Detective.

“Mine.” John answered simply and directly.

“Yours?” both he and Steve asked, nearly simultaneously.

“Since when?” Steve asked.

“Since this afternoon.”

“You rented it?" Steve asked.

"No, I bought it."

"You bought a Jeep?” Danny asked.

“Yes, Detective, I bought a car. This is a big island and I needed some way to get around so I bought a car.”

“How did you get there to buy a car?” Steve asked.

“Walked.”

“You walked all the way …” Danny started in amazement.

“Yes,” John answered simply.

“Good choice in vehicles, babe,” Danny summed up.

“Thank you, Danno. I like it.”

"And I guess this means you've decided to stay with us for a little while?" Danny asked.

"Yes, I've decided to stay while I try to decide what I want to do when I grow up."

John directed the two men onto the lanai where he brought ice cold beer for each.

“We were out of beer,” Steve said. “Where’d you get them?”

“I discovered an amazing thing!” John started in a somewhat mocking tone of voice. “There are these big stores that sell all kinds of stuff, including beer! I know! Have you ever heard of such a thing? It was pretty amazing, I’ll tell you. I knew you were out so I bought a couple of cases to resupply the larder.”

Always observant, Steve noticed that the toilet paper and paper towels had both been restocked as well. Giving John a hug he said, “Thank you. I hate shopping with a passion.”

“Exactly as I suspected. Doesn’t bother me in the least so I’m happy to do it. Actually, so many of my postings have been so far removed from stores that it is a bit of a delight for me to see so much stuff for me to choose from."

John left Steve and Danny happily drinking their cold beers on the lanai while he stepped back inside to pick up a couple of things. He returned to the table on the lanai with the beautiful cut flowers which he placed in the center of the table. He placed his present for Steve in front of him, and he pulled his smaller camera from his pocket.

“What’s this?” Steve asked.

“I bought you something. Open it.”

“What is it?”

“It’s a present, dufus!” Danny explained. “You’re supposed to open presents – and then say ‘thank you’ to the person that gave it to you.”

Steve picked it up, shook it, flipped it around, mystified.

“Open it!” John and Danno said together.

“All right! All right!” he said, a bit unsure about what was happening. John snapped several pictures with his new toy while Steve tore into his present. When he ripped the paper from the box he was surprised to find an iPad of his own inside. The smile on his face was huge and genuine.

“You bought me an iPad?!? Oh, wow!”

“What’s an iPad?” Danny asked.

“What’s an iPad?” John mimicked. “Tell me you’re joking, Danno. Come on, please tell me you know about iPads! Please!”

“Nope. Sorry. Can’t. Never heard of them. Don’t know what they are.”

“You poor, poor man,” John commented. “Steve will have to show you when he gets his all the way unwrapped and ready to roll."

Steve had the box open and the various pieces out for inspection. Steve brought out another box, unwrapped this time, which he handed to Steve. “A case to keep it protected.”

“Thank you! Thank you so much!” Steve said. “Why did you do this? You shouldn’t have done this. I can’t accept such an extravagant gift.”

“Steve, shut up and play with your new toy. Remember, it has Battleship!”

His ploy almost worked. Steve’s eyes lit up at the prospect of playing Battleship on the iPad, but he again was concerned about accepting such an expensive gift.

John brought out another box, this one wrapped as well, which he handed to Steve. “Gift cards to get you started in the app store and with buying music you like. Maybe some movies. Maybe a few books. Whatever you want.”

“Cool, but I really wish you hadn’t done this.”

“Tough. Get used to it. You’re my guy. I love you. I’m gonna sometimes buy presents for you. Get used to it. To balance it out, I'm sure I'll forget some big event sometime in the future, so remember this day when that happens.”

John stood and snapped a couple of quick pictures of Steve playing with his new toys. He got a couple of pictures of Steve and Danny sitting side by side drinking beers, both looking happy.

John left the room to throw the salads together. He carried the three big bowls out to the lanai, placing one in front of each man. He brought out a nice olive oil, a really nice balsamic vinegar, and a couple of other choices as well for those with less taste for the finer things.

“Salad?” Danny asked in a complaining tone. “You’re feeding me salad? Do I look like a rabbit to you?”

"Well, the legs are about the right length," John commented. "Don’t worry, Danno, there’s meat in there. I marinated and grilled a bunch of chicken breasts that I sliced and put on the salad. Good source of protein. And I left the pineapple out of your salad, even though you're missing one of nature's finest treats.”

“Good!” he affirmed.

After a few bites, Danny had to concede, “This is pretty good.”

“Would I feed you crap?” John asked. “Oh, almost forgot.” He dashed back inside the house and returned with the garlic bread, steaming hot and fresh from the oven.

While up he refreshed the two beers, taking away the empties before returning to his own dinner.
"I love this chicken," Danny observed. "What's the marinate?"

"An old Italian recipe from New York."

"So Steve," Danny commented, "I could get used to this. Your boyfriend can cook for me anytime he wants."

It was Steve's turn to comment. "I didn't know you could cook."

"I wouldn't call preparing a salad to be cooking, per se."

Steve was not buying his deflection. "You're feeding me great food. Call it what you will. I didn't know you could do this. It's good. And you've somehow done the impossible – getting Danno to eat something that isn't friend in bacon grease and rolled in two pounds of sugar."

"Thank you," John said with a slight bow of his head. "I have a few skills. I can even talk about some of them."

"More super secret Ninja stuff," Danny muttered.

"No, Danno, I was not a Ninja. Steve's training put him into a whole other category. He is head and shoulders above me in his training. I just did … odd jobs, yes, let's call it that. I did odd jobs."

"Uh, huh," Danny said, not buying a single word John was saying. "Do you do windows, too?"

"Yes, actually, I do," he said. "I've actually washed some very high windows before," he said half to himself. Steve noticed his boyfriend gave a slight involuntary shudder as he said those words, knowing that the conversation had triggered a memory, a memory he would rather have left forgotten. Steve put his hand on top of John's hand and gave it a quick squeeze. He hoped that Danny didn't notice but of course the man had eyes that missed nothing.

"Sorry, John. Didn't mean to bring up some bad memories."

"No problem, Danno. They've been there for a few years and they're not going away, as much as I would love to forget them. Just one of the many times I very nearly died unexpectedly. But please, can we talk about something different? Did you resolve your case this afternoon?"

"Yes," Steve answered, "we actually did. It turned out to be a whole lot more minor than I expected. So case resolved, paperwork done, and the books closed on another one."

"Congrats, guys," John said, raising his beer bottle in their direction.

When the salads were finished, John cleared away the dishes. Both Steve and Danny objected, telling him that he had worked so they should clean up, but John absolutely would not hear of them moving from the table. "There's one more thing I need to get," he said cryptically as he disappeared inside the house.

A moment later John returned to the table carrying something that made Danny sit up and take notice. With eyes wide open, his mouth slightly ajar, Danny pointed and said, "Is that …?"

"Yes. As close as can be. I got it from a little deli I found."

What had Danny salivating and speechless was a huge New York style cheesecake – a whole cheesecake.

John disappeared back into the house, returning immediately with three small plates, a large knife, three dessert forks, and a huge bowl full of sliced strawberries. In true New York fashion, the berries had been coated with sugar and allowed to exude berry juice for a couple of hours, creating a soupy mess.

"John, I love you," Danny said.

"You haven't even tasted it yet. Neither have I for that matter. It might not turn out to be very good. It looks good."

"It looks fucking fantastic," Danny said.

"Danny, would you like to slice, or would you like me to?"

"Please go ahead. Make mine a big piece."

John cut two slices, one for him and Steve, and then made Danny laugh by placing the remainder of the huge cheesecake in front of Danny. "All for you, Danno," he said with a smile.

Danny cut a slice for himself and moved the plate into the center of the table – all right, maybe toward the center of the table but actually within easy reach. He took a bite and closed his eyes. "Mother of God," he said with a look of what could only be described as ecstasy on his face.

"Good?" Steve asked.

Rather than answer with words, Danny just rocked back and forth a little and moaned.

"I think that means 'good'," John said.

Rather than speak, Danny shoveled several more forks of the best cheesecake in the world into his mouth. He continued moaning. John thought that if the man's shoes had been off they would have seen his toes curled in delight.

John and Steve shared a look of pleasure at the smaller man's obvious delight. They remained silent for a few minutes, letting the man savor his experience. When his plate was clean Steve was a touch worried that his partner might lean over and lick the last errant crumbs and molecules.

Danny sat back and sighed. "Now this is what life is all about."

"Even if I did make you eat salad?" John asked.

"Don't tell anyone, but yes," Danny consented.

"I think you've got a hit, John," Steve observed.

Before John could make a response, Danny spoke and said simply, "Steve, if you ever do anything to fuck up this relationship, I will personally haunt you until your dying day. Do you understand me?"

"I don't have any intention of fucking it up, Danno."

"This is all new to you, Smooth Dog, and I just have to say you've got a keeper."

"You say that to all the men who buy you cheesecakes, Danno," John said.

"You're the first man who's ever bought me a cheesecake before."

"You're kidding, right?"

"Would I joke about one of the holiest of holy things?"

"Wow," John said. "That's big."

"You bet your boots it's big," Danny agreed.

When dinner was finished, John returned the cheesecake to its original box and gave it to Danny to take home with him, along with the strawberries in a plastic container. Danny gave the man a hug as he started out the door, saying simply, "Thank you."

"Anytime, my friend. Anytime."

Danny turned to Steve and gave more precise instructions. "Smooth Dog, whatever you do with him when you get him naked, do a little more of it tonight to thank him for me."

"Is that an order, sir?"

"Yes, it is."

"Good night, Danno. Drive safe." They watched the man drive away, closing and locking the door as they returned inside.

"John, that was incredible. You are incredible. The iPad. The dinner. The cheesecake. Liking Danny. Hell, tolerating Danny."

"He's a great guy, and I like doing things for people. Just don't expect it every day."

"Can I expect other things on a daily basis?"

"Those things are a requirement," he said, wrapping his arms around Steve's torso and kissing him.

Steve pulled away and giggled – yes, if "giggled" is a term you can use with a six foot tall, former SEAL – as he went to retrieve his new iPad. Dropping onto the couch he turned it on and started to set it up to his liking. John stood in the kitchen doorway for a few minutes smiling as he watched the big man obviously happy. He knew that Steve's life had had more than its share of unhappiness, so he liked the fact that he could bring a smile to his beautiful face.

John washed up the last of the dinner dishes, did ant inspection, and then joined Steve on the couch with his own iPad. While Steve played and downloaded some things, John quietly sat beside him reading, one hand resting comfortably on Steve's leg.

After about an hour, John disappeared for a few minutes, reappearing shirtless a few moments later. "Hey sailor, think I could tear you away for a few minutes for another sort of game?" As he spoke he rubbed one of his hands across his flat belly. The hand moved upwards to his chest, tweaking one nipple. He looked at Steve with what could only be considered a sultry, provocative look.

Steve turned off the iPad (but carried it with him) and followed John into the bedroom. John ordered him to go brush him teeth and get ready for bed. When Steve returned to the bedroom he found a sight he had never beheld before – John was naked, on the bed, on his hands and knees, with his beautiful ass up in the air.

Looking over his shoulder, John said, "Think I might be able to interest you in a little sex tonight?"

Steve practically panted, salivating like Danno had done earlier with the cheesecake.

Steve shed his clothes and moved toward the bed, running his hands over John's backside. "My God you are beautiful," he said.

John felt the head of Steve's erection rub against his leg. "Fuck me, Steve. Now. Please."

"Oh, yes!" he said, starting to pull away.

"Now, Steve," he practically begged.

"Lube. Need lube."

"I'm already loosened and lubed, Steve. Just slide in. Please."

Steve looked down at the man who had so quickly and easily stolen his heart and said, "Anything, baby." With one step his erection was lined up perfectly with John's ass. True to his word, John was loosened and lubed and ready for action. With a steady forward pressure, Steve slid his dick deep into John's body, eliciting a groan of delicious pleasure from the man on his knees.

When Steve hit bottom he heard John make a gasp and hold his breath. He inhaled and begged, "Fuck me, Steve, please fuck me."

"Gladly," Steve said as he started to slide in and out of his boyfriend's body. With each stroke John encouraged him to keep going. Steve leaned forward onto John's back, wrapping his arms around John's trim torso, kissing his way around the man's smooth, tanned neck as he fucked him with a steady rhythm.

With one stroke John's arm slipped and Steve's weight pushed him onto his stomach. Taking advantage of the new position, Steve used his knees to spread John's legs apart and give him greater access to the gates of paradise.

Placing one of his big hands on each of John's shoulders, Steve propped himself up and started power fucking the man's ass, slamming his entire sizeable erection into his boyfriend over and over and over again. It was hard at that point to tell which of the two men was feeling greater pleasure. It was fair to say that both were thoroughly enjoying themselves, their partner, and the moment.

All too soon, Steve dropped fully onto John's back and shuddered. He gasped but otherwise remained silent. Years of training and quick blow jobs on board crowded ships had taught him to cum silently. While most men were somewhat vocal at orgasm, Steve was the opposite – he was silent. John didn't actually know how the man did it, but there was no mistaking the moment. He could feel Steve shudder as he blasted his load deep inside John's body before collapsing quietly.

A moment later Steve lifted his head and gently kissed John's shoulder. "That was the best sex I think I've ever had," Steve said.

"You probably say that to all the guys," John teased.

"Haven't been that many guys. No need for any others now that I've met you." Steve wrapped his arms tightly around John and hugged him close. His erection had subsided and he slipped out of his partner's body, rolling over to lay on his back beside the man.

John went to shower before returning to let Steve have the bathroom to shower. When Steve returned he found John sound asleep with a peaceful expression on his face. Steve picked up his new iPad and lay quietly on his side of the bed, his face flipping back and forth from John's face to his iPad every few minutes.

New Life

Over the weeks that followed John became a regular fixture in 50's life. Not only did he bring Steve more happiness than the man had ever known in his adult life, but he was genuinely a nice guy that everyone liked to have around. He was fun, he was smart, and he quickly became a solid part of their lives.

With John in his life, Steve finally consented to something that he had studiously avoided since returning to Hawaii – he accepted an invitation from the Governor for a formal dinner. He didn't really know what the occasion was – that didn't matter to him. What mattered was that he and John were going to dinner together as a couple at the Governor's invitation. A public, formal event. An event that was in some ways their public coming out since it was the first time they would be seen and introduced together formally.

John rented a tuxedo for the occasion. Steve dressed in his white Navy uniform, complete with his medals and various awards. The contrast of the black of the tuxedo and the white of Steve's uniform was stunning.

When they were ready, John drove them to the Governor's house in his Jeep, delighted to drive with the top down so that everyone could see the stunning man by his side. The feeling was mutual – Steve was equally delighted and considered himself to be the fortunate one.

The valet took their keys when they arrived, directing the two men to where they should proceed. They could have found the location without his directions, simply by following the sounds of the music and the voices.

Steve had known that the governor entertained a lot in her role as governor, but to actually see the crowd of people all present because of her gave him a new element of respect for the woman. As they entered the room, John looped their arms together so that they could walk in clearly identified as a couple. No one could mistake their arrival together to be a chance encounter – they were a couple.

Spotting the newest arrivals, the governor pulled herself away from a gaggle of supporters to make her way to John and Steve. "Commander. Colonel. Such a pleasure to have you here."

"Thank you for the invitation, Governor," John answered. "I generally despise large gatherings of people," he confided, "but for the chance to have this man on my arm, … well, I'd do just about anything."

She gave them both a big smile before leading them into the crowd to introduce them to a number of people. The dinner was a veritable "Who's Who" among the movers and shakers in Hawaii. There was more wealth arrayed around the room than Steve had ever seen before. John didn't appear to be phased in the slightest by the assemblage of people, power and prestige.

Leaning over to his boyfriend, Steve said, "Why aren't you more nervous?"

"Simple. I've done this a thousand times. After a while it just becomes old hat."

The two men moved around the room chatting with people, some of whom Steve had seen before but most of them unknown. There was something exotic about them, however, that attracted a number of people. They were two tall, handsome, stunning men with classic good looks. They were clearly together and had no hesitation showing their affection freely.

Steve had been terrified that he wouldn't be comfortable with PDAs (public displays of affection) but in reality he found it stimulating, enticing, liberating, and delightful. He was proud to be seen with John by his side.

"John!" they heard someone call from a few feet away.

"Rachel!" John said, spotting Danny's ex-wife. He gave the woman a big hug by way of greeting. "You here alone?" he asked when he didn't see anyone else with her.

"No, my husband is around here somewhere. Working the crowd no doubt. Business never stops – especially when you have this much power assembled in one place."

"True," John said in acknowledgment.

A bell sounded and the lights were lowered for a moment before coming back to full strength. "Ladies and gentlemen!" the governor announced. "Dinner is served."

"That's our cue," Rachel said, "time to find Stan."

"Talk with you later, Rachel."

They joined the throngs of party-goers in moving toward the dining room. Giving their names at the door they were escorted to their seats at one of the many tables of eight that filled the large, elegant dining room. Steve did a quick count and guessed that there were about 100 people present for dinner – a small gathering by Navy shipboard standards.

Throughout dinner they made conversation with the others at their table, finding several of the people absolutely captivated by the allure of dining with a handsome male couple. When dinner was finished and dessert and coffee had been served and a few people were moving around the room, Steve looked up when he heard someone else seem to recognize his partner.

"John?"

"David. What are you doing here?"

"I could ask you the same thing, little brother."

"Having dinner," John said in an obvious move to be difficult.

Steve watched the interaction with great interest. The two men simply looked at one another for a moment not speaking.

Standing, Steve said, "Hi, Steve McGarrett." The two men shook hands and exchanged names. "I didn't know you had a brother, John."

"Just the one," he said simply, standing beside Steve.

"Do you live in Hawaii?" Steve asked.

"No, California, actually. Just here on business. One of my business associates invited me to join him tonight so here I am."

"You traveling alone or is your wife with you?" John asked.

"All by myself on this one, unfortunately. This is a relatively quick trip so there's no time for anything fun."

"What about you, John? Where are you living these days?" his brother asked with curiosity.

"Here," he said with an utter lack of information.

Steve was absolutely amazed by the interaction, astonished that his usually confident boyfriend was clearly uncomfortable. He had never seen anyone elicit this response in the man so he was intrigued. He remained silent by John's side, though, letting him direct the conversation. Steve wasn't sure if John was out to his family and didn't want to do anything to make the situation more uncomfortable for the man.

That question was answered, though, when they moved into an adjoining room for after dinner dancing. At John's suggestion, they moved onto the dance floor. Steve whispered in his ear, "I'm a really, really bad dancer."

"Don't worry," John answered, "so am I."

They held one another close and moved slowly with the music, which was fortunately a slow number. Steve was fortunately spared embarrassment when he felt a tap on his shoulder and found the governor asking if she could cut in. Steve moved to the side of the room while John danced for a few minutes with the governor. He was very curious about what they were discussing, seeing that they were deep in conversation. He made a mental note to himself to ask John about their conversation on the way home.

Steve's quiet contemplation was interrupted by the sound of a man's voice by his side. "So, you and my brother …?"

"Yes," he said proudly. After a moment of silence, Steve asked, "You aren't especially close with your brother?"

"Close?" the man said. "No. I actually didn't even know if he was dead or alive."

"Really?" Steve said in disbelief.

"His life is his own. His one goal in life was to get as far away from his family as possible and he did that very well. He had no interest in going into the family business. No, actually, that's too mild a statement. He fled as far as he could from his family's efforts to give him a good life."

Steve quietly considered the man's words, not knowing exactly how to take the statement but sure that there were two different stories waiting to be told. The Governor returned his boyfriend at that point. He felt John slip his hand into his own hand. "Thanks, Steve, for letting me borrow John for a few minutes."

"Of course, ma'am."

When she had moved off, David raised his eyebrow, looked at his brother, and said, "On a first name basis with the Governor? I'm impressed little brother."

"Don't be. We're just friends," he said.

"You would have been a natural in the family business, John," the man said admiringly.

"But I have no interest in your business," John said dismissively. "Had about enough fun for one evening, Commander?" he asked.

"Sure. Anytime you're ready."

"Good night, David. Good to see you. Have a good trip home," John said as he turned and guided them toward the door.

Steve looked back and forth between the two men, at a complete loss. Shaking the man's hand, Steve said, "Nice to meet you."

Steve stepped quickly to rejoin his boyfriend, taking his hand and whispering, "You ok?"

"Not now, please," was all he answered, holding himself ramrod straight.

"Of course," Steve said.

They retrieved John's Jeep from the valet and drove home. Steve remembered his question, asking, "So what were you and the governor talking about on the dance floor?"

John thought for a moment before answering, "I don't honestly remember."

"Really?" Steve said.

"I wouldn't lie to you, Steve."

"Sorry," Steve said. "Didn't mean that to sound like it did."

John gave him one of his patented smiles. "No worries. Let's just go home and go for a walk on the beach."

"I can do that," Steve said. "Have I told you how hot you look tonight?"

"Not for at least ten minutes."

"You look really, really hot tonight. You make that tux look like it was meant to look on a man. You turned heads everywhere tonight. You had women and men alike watching you."

"I think they were just concerned I was gonna steal the silver or something."

"No. They all agreed with me that you are hotter than hot. You had all the women practically in a lather, including the governor. And the men. Well, we won't even talk about them, but if we did there were a fair number that were dazzled by your good looks."

"Have I told you lately that I love you?"

"Not for at least ten minutes."

"Well, I love you," he said.

"Good. And may I say that you do it better than anyone ever has before."

"Aw, shucks. You say the sweetest things. You in all your white suited beauty."

"No, not beauty. I'll take handsome, though."

"Deal. Oh, and you should know that I'm planning to fuck you right through the mattress tonight."

"Really," Steve said. "You think you're up for that?"

"Oh, yeah. Try and stop me."

"Wouldn't dream of it. Would be disappointed if you didn't."

"Good. You won't be disappointed. And neither will I."

"Awfully sure of yourself there, aren't you?"

"Not all the time, but when I'm right, I'm right."

When John parked the Jeep in front of Steve's house, Steve leaned over the stick shift and pulled the man's face close for a kiss. With the build-up of their conversation on the drive home, John wouldn't have been surprised by an intensely passionate kiss. Instead, though, Steve was slow and tender, stroking John's face while he gently kissed him. "I love you, John."

John looked away before saying, "You are the best thing that has ever happened to me. I keep thinking I'm gonna wake up to find that it's all been a dream and that you're not there."

"I'm here," Steve said, taking John's hand and squeezing. "Feel me? I'm here and I'm not going anywhere – ever. You're stuck with me."

John reached out and hugged Steve, breaking away quickly. "Let's go inside before I lose it out here."

Inside the house they changed clothes before moving to the lanai for an after dinner beer. They left the porch lights off, enjoying the look of moon light falling on the ocean beyond the beach.

"I never get tired of this view," John said.

"Agreed," Steve said as he sat looking at John. John noticed that Steve was looking at him. "You're not even looking; how can you agree?"

"You look at what you want and I'll look at what I want."

Without speaking, they each reached out a hand and sat quietly simply holding hands as they looked out at the ocean. They listened to the age-old rhythmic sound of waves hitting the shoreline, allowing the steady, repetitive sound to wash away some of the unexpected anxiety of the evening.

"Thanks for not asking, Steve."

"I know you'll tell me when you're ready."

John stood, stepped into the house and returned a few seconds later holding his cell phone. Hitting two numbers to speed dial someone he put the phone to his ear.

"Danny? Did I wake you? Sorry. You alone? Good. Well, no, not good, but I need to talk to you. … Language, Danno!" He held the phone a little away from his ear. Steve was able to hear his partner's raised voice without moving closer to the phone.

"Danno? Danno? Take a breath man. Danno? Language, Danno."

John sat listening to Steve's partner for a minute until he ran down, ending his rant with, "John? Why are you calling me in the middle of the night?"

"It's not the middle of the night!" He realized he didn't have a clue what time it was. "It's … Steve, what time is it?"

"How the hell should I know," he answered. "Danno?" he shouted toward the phone, "what time is it?"

Danny answered, "I'm hanging up now guys."

"Danny," John said, "please don't."

There was some quality about the man's voice that made Danny not carry through on disconnecting the call. "John? What's wrong? Are you and Steve having a fight?"

"What? No! God, no. He's being so fucking good to me I can't believe it. It's just been a very … unexpected evening. You ever had the experience of the dead not staying dead? The past not staying where you locked it away?"

"What happened?"

Danny heard John sigh but didn't hear anything else. Steve looked at John and then reached over and took the phone. "Hey, Danno," Steve said in a subdued voice.

"Steve? What's wrong? John doesn't sound too happy."

"He's not at the moment."

"What's wrong? Do you want me to come over there?"

"No, thanks though. John saw his brother unexpectedly tonight and it sort of reawakened some memories."

"Steve, it's 2:30 am. I can get dressed and be over there in 15 minutes. Either that or you can take him to bed and hold him tight."

"I think I'll do the latter. Thanks, Danno. Talk to you in the morning," Steve said as he disconnected the call.

"I shouldn't have called him," John said.

"Don't worry about it. The man thinks you practically walk on water as it is." Steve's remark brought a smile to John's face.

"Thanks, I needed to hear that."

Steve took John's hand and said, "No problem. Come on. Let's go to bed. As you just heard from a very wise … or cranky … man, it's the middle of the night and time for us to go to bed."

John followed Steve back into the house. True to his earlier promise, John took Steve to bed and rode him hard and relentlessly before they went to sleep. Steve thought the man was an absolute machine the way he kept going that night. John bent Steve in any number of different shapes and contortions before they were finished. In the end he had Steve on his back, jerking him off as he fucked him. Out of character, when Steve's orgasm arrived, he cried out in release. The sound was all it took to carry John over the edge as well.

A few minutes later when their breathing had returned to normal, John withdrew from Steve's body and slid off his back to lie beside him. Steve simply said, "Damn! That was good."

"Oh, yeah," John concurred.

Due to the vigorous sex, their earlier anxiety, and the lateness of the hour, both men fell asleep as they were. Steve lay on his back with one arm thrown up over his head – a habit he'd had for years. John lay on his side facing Steve with one arm tossed over Steve's stomach.

 

Coffee

Sometime later sounds of movement could be heard from elsewhere in the house. As a testament to how tired John and Steve were, neither man heard the footsteps and neither man stirred.

A few minutes later the door to their bedroom was pushed open and a man entered. He pulled the curtains open to let in the bright morning sunlight before turning toward the bed. He looked admiringly at the two men who lay in the bed sound asleep. A small smile crept over his face.

And then he yelled, "Get your lazy asses out of that bed right now! Do you plan to sleep away the entire day! It's 11:00 in the fucking morning! Move it! Move it! Move it!"

John had jumped out of bed and instinctively moved into a fighting stance when he heard the man yelling. Steve's reaction was as fast but took a different route – from somewhere nearby he produced a gun which he aimed at the source of the noise.

"Really, Steven! A gun! In the bed!"

"Danno? What are you doing here?" Steve asked, only partially awake.

"I came to bring you coffee and breakfast. But since its nearly lunch time I'm not sure if that plan still works. And I also don't generally like serving coffee to people who are pointing guns at me!"

Steve put the gun back into its hiding place before hoping out of bed. John had walked around the bed to Steve's side and wrapped his arm around his boyfriend.

"Ok, guys. Here's the way it's gonna work. Danno is here to help with whatever is going on. We're gonna start with no visible penises. I've got nothing against penises. In fact I'm rather fond of my own. But I don't see the need to take it out and show it off to people. So, you two are gonna go and shower and get some sort of clothing to cover yourselves."

"Or at least our penises?" John teased, now awake enough to engage in banter with his friend.

"At least. Covering nipples too would be wise."

"Wise?"

"All right, reasonable, proper. Better?"

"Why do you feel so negatively toward nipples, Danno? They are things of beauty, overlooked by 90% of men."

"I have nothing against them. I also have nothing for them so I see no need to display them. Put them away please. Go. Now. Shower. Meet me in the kitchen in 10 minutes and you'll get coffee."

"Danno," Steve started. "There's coffee beans in the refrigerator."

"Already got it covered. You. Shower. Clothes. Now. And no hanky panky. Ten minutes. The clock starts now. If you're late … well, let's just say don't be late. You wouldn't enjoy my method of moving things along."

"Steve," John said with one of his arms wrapped around his boyfriend's waist and said, "short people scare me sometimes."

"Tick tock, gentlemen, tick tock. And I'm not short! You're just freakishly tall! Move it! Move it! Move!"

"We'd better do what he says. God alone knows what he'd do if we are late."

"He's quite the little Emperor Napoleon, isn't he?"

The two men did as instructed and showered. And really, how did man live before showers? Showers were a gift straight from the Gods. Without showers, man was just animals, really. Whoever invented the shower should be recognized with a holiday, with statues in parks, with parades. Showers were glorious things.

With 11 seconds to spare – but who was counting – Steve and John walked barefoot into the kitchen. Each man had followed directions and pulled on shorts and a t-shirt, covering up all their tender bits.

Danny pointed them to two stools on the living room side of the kitchen counter. John slid in easily, but Steve grimaced a little as he sat down. "A bit tender this morning?" John asked.

"A little. You were an animal last night. I don't think I've ever been fucked quite so hard for so long and with such intensity."

"Sorry, babe."

"I’m not! I had the biggest orgasm of my life. I think I'm dehydrated from it even." Turning to Danny, John said, "Got any juice, Danno?"

"Huh?" Danny said, dumbfounded by the conversation he had just heard.

"Juice? Wet stuff? Refrigerator."

"No."

"Ok," John said, getting up from his stool and going into the kitchen. He pulled a machine out from under the counter, put it on the counter and plugged it into an outlet. He stepped through a door into the garage briefly, returning with his arms laden with fresh pineapples.

"Oh, Jesus!" Danny said, pulling back from the sight.

John urged him to take the seat he had just vacated while he cut the crowns off the pineapples and cut them into big strips. One by one he fed the big pieces into the juicer and made two large glasses of fresh squeezed pineapple juice. He didn't even both to ask Danny if he wanted one.

Steve inhaled the smells coming from the juicer and practically purred.

"You two are just sick," Danny said, not understanding the appeal of pineapple. Somewhat intrigued by the process, he asked, "Now what do you do with all the … waste, pulp, whatever you want to call it?"

"I work it into the soil in the garden so that it can break down and enrich the ground where I'm gonna plant vegetables this summer."

"Huh," he said.

"It came out of the Earth and it goes back to the Earth."

"Well not all of it," he said, pointing toward the glass of juice. "Unless you pee in the garden as well, in which case I'm never eating anything you cook ever again."

"You're safe, Danno. No peeing allowed anywhere near the garden."

"Good. Now get out of there," he ordered John, also instructing him to remove the juicer – Danny wouldn't touch the thing.

Seated on his stool next to Steve once again, John watched Danny grind some coffee beans. The man made three cups of what smelled like good coffee. It wasn't Steve's Kona beans but whatever it was smelled pretty good.

While the espresso machine brewed the coffee one cup at a time, Danny produced a bag of muffins – huge muffins packed with fruit. It turned out that all three men were most taken with a cranberry orange muffin that tasted incredible.

They enjoyed their muffins, their coffee, their juice, and one another's quiet company. As soon as the muffins were finished and the coffee refreshed, Danny reached across the counter and took John's hands in his so that the man couldn't escape. "Ok, babe, talk. Danno is listening."

"You mean the call last night?"

"Yes, the call last night. I very nearly got out of bed and came over here."

"I'm sorry I called you like that. And I'm glad you didn't come over here because your boss and I were fucking like rabid tree squirrels for about an hour after we went to bed."

Danny didn't close his eyes like he had previously. He just smiled and said, "Go on."

"Well, I started out with him on …"

"You know very well that that's not what I want to hear! Shut up about the sex and tell me what happened to make you call me. Come on, babe, I'm worried about you."

Taking a deep breath, John explained, "There's really not much to tell. It's the age-old story. Father wants his son to follow in his footsteps. Father builds a company and wants his son to join him in the business. Son tells his father to go fuck himself and leaves. They never speak again and then it's too late. And there you have it."

"I think you've probably omitted a tiny detail here or there," Steve observed.

"Only one – maybe two."

"Sure," Steve added.

After a moment of quiet, Danny asked, "Was it the business you objected to?"

"No. Not at all. The family business built airplanes and I ran away to fly. It was both not that far and at the same time a million miles away. What I didn't want and couldn't handle was having my father run my life, make my decisions, tell me what to do, how to do it, when to do it. He had built the company and he had strong views about how he wanted the company to be run. I knew that if I joined him I would be miserable for the rest of my life and I couldn't do that. I wouldn't do that. So I left. I walked away."

John paused in his explanation. "Had I stayed I wouldn't have ever had to worry about money." He stopped again for ten seconds. "As it turns out, in the end I inherited 50% of the company anyway and the company is now so massive I can't get free of it, so even dead he still won't let me get free of his shadow."

"But you would have had to sell your soul, in effect, had you stayed," Steve said.

"Yes," John answered quietly.

"I'm glad you made the decision you did. It made you who you are today. And I really like who you are today."

John looked at him and couldn't help smiling. "Damn, you're good."

"Hey, once in a while I get a little wood on one of the balls."

"Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined I would meet someone like you."

"You didn't meet someone like me – you met me."

"It almost makes me believe in a deity."

"I've never been called God-like before."

"I didn't call you God-like!"

"You say tomato, …"

“Ok, if you two are done with your mutual admiration society – and allow me to say that if you’re doing some of the things you’ve apparently been doing, you damn well better feel that way about one another.”

Pointing at Steve Danny said, “And you, Mister, if you had done what I told you and kept your feet on the floor this man would never have had his nasty way with you.”

“Um, Danno,” Steve said, “I think at one point I probably had both feet firmly on the floor. It was later they were in the air.”

Danny mostly suppressed a shudder, smiling at Steve and John. “It’s too late. You’ve already fried my brain. You can’t shock me anymore.”

John smiled a totally evil smile and said, “Oh, Danno! A challenge. Find a new way to shock Danno. Yesss!”

“Oh, dear Lord!” Danny pleaded. “Why me?”

“Because we love you, Danno,” Steve said.

“Bite me, babe.”

Taking a deep breath, Danny said, “So, John. You gonna see your brother again?”

“Not if I have a choice.”

“You don’t want to have closure on that part of your life? It clearly bothered you. And you’ve never struck me as a man scared of a challenge.”

“I don’t mind a challenge, Danno, but I don’t like reopening old wounds for no good reason."

"Sometimes if you reopen them once in a controlled manner they will finally heal and never bother you again."

John stared at Danno. "But I don't wanna!" he pouted.

"Ok, I'm going out on a limb here, but do it. I'll go with you if you want. Tell him you love him. Tell him you hate him. Tell him you don't ever want to see him again. Tell him you miss him terribly. I don't care, but go and tell him something so that he knows where you stand and you feel better about having said your piece."

"You suck," John complained.

"No, actually you do," Danny responded, "and from what I gather you do it rather well."

John naturally and instinctively lifted his head with a bit of pride when he heard Danny's words of praise.

 

Six Months Later

Usually at the end of the workday Steve came home at about 6:00 and he and John spent a quiet evening together. Sometimes they went out for drinks or dinner after work with co-workers or friends.

About six months into their relationship, one evening Steve came home at the usual time but with Danny Williams tagging along. Steve, Danny, and John spent a lot of time together because they all were friends and got along amazingly well for such different people.

John heard the men enter the house from his place on the lanai. Putting his book down he walked into the house. "Hi, guys. What's up?"

Rather than answer in words, Danny simply walked toward John, stopped about 5 feet in front of him, and dropped to one knee, kneeling before the man. Needless to say, John was a touch surprised by Danny's move. His surprise increased further when Danny reached out, took his hand and kissed his hand.

He looked at Steve for some hint about what this new behavior was all about. Steve simply crossed his arms, smiled and shook his head.

"Rise, my child," John said for lack of any other idea.

Once Danny stood, John looked at him and said, "Ok, Danno. Care to explain?"

"You are a God. You have performed a miracle. A miracle I never thought I would live to see. A miracle that will most likely save my life a couple dozen times over."

"Ok. Glad I could help. What did I do that elevated my status to that of a deity?"

"You've turned Steve McGarrett into a sane man. A man who … are you ready for this? Really ready? … He called for backup before running with guns glazing into a firefight." Pausing for effect, Danny emphasized, "He called for backup! Do you know how many times that has happened? Never! He called for backup! I can't tell you how excited that made me!

"Ever since I first met this man – from day one of our working relationship – I have asked him, no begged him, to always call for backup before going into a dangerous situation. But he's never done it. Until today. You have made this Ninja into a man who works on a team. I never thought I'd live so long. This is a sacred day. This is a holy day. This is a day to give thanks.

"You, my friend, changed the unchangeable. You have mystical powers. You are doer of the impossible. You perform miracles. You've brought his testosterone levels down to those of a mere mortal man. All thanks to you."

"Danny, stand up!" John ordered, feeling uncomfortable with the man's actions, even though the audience consistent of only Steve, a man who was still smiling coyly off to the side of the room.

John directed the two men out to the lanai and grabbed two beers out of the refrigerator for them. The three sat relishing the beautiful Honolulu sunset. Danny gave a huge sight. John looked over at him and saw the man smiling one of his biggest smiles – a smile so big it almost didn't seem possible that he could put all of it onto his face.

"Danny, you're positively chipper – you should know that it's a bit scary."

"What?" he said. "I'm always chipper. But especially today, a day of miracles."

"Steve," John said in desperation, "what did you do?"

"What he said," Steve answered.

"He called for backup," Danny repeated. "He called for backup. And are you ready for this? When I asked him why the sudden change in behavior, he said – ready? – that he didn't want himself or any of us to take needless risks or to endanger ourselves." Danny still had that massive smile on his face.

John had a confused expression on his face, holding up his hands as if to say, "Yeah, so?"

"Don't you get it? You've made him value life! You've made him want to live through the day! He wants to be able to come home to you in one piece!" Danny practically twitched with delight. "I love it! I can't thank you enough."

John raised his bottle of beer toward Danny in a toast, even though he was still a bit mystified. "Thanks," he said, not sure what other response would work in this situation. He knew that Steve had a tendency to plow into any situation – unless it dealt with emotions – more quickly than others. John had quickly decided that the reason was that Steve's mind was faster than most and he could visualize branching option patterns and contingencies that most people couldn't envision as quickly. In other words, the man was good. It wasn't that he was reckless, he just was smart and his mind worked fast.

Still, John didn't totally dismiss the lowering of testosterone levels idea. He and Steve still enjoyed a very vigorous sex life, even after six months together. It never seemed to get old. John still got excited when Steve walked into the room, and even more so when the man took off his shirt. He positively lost it when the pants came off as well. And Steve felt the same reaction with John. Combine that with the fact that neither man had had a steady relationship or sexual outlet throughout most of their adult lives and you ended up with sexual drives and energy that was unequaled.

Steve disappeared into their bedroom and came back a moment later wearing a loose pair of shorts. He left his shirt behind, standing bare-chested. After six months, the sight of his boyfriend's naked chest still excited him.

Steve caught sight of the man's reaction, saying, "You know, you are as horny as a teenager."

"You're a good one to talk!" John complained good-naturedly.

While Danny was in the bathroom, Steve sensed that something was on his partner's mind. "You're awfully quiet tonight. What's up?"

Without looking up, John said, "Steve, we need to talk."

Steve felt as if his heart skipped a couple of beats. The words "we need to talk" were classic starters for "we're finished." Every horrible possibility crashed to the front of his mind. He quickly thought of everything he had done wrong, every stupid thing he had said, every important thing he had forgotten.

"I thought you were happy …" Steve said, at a loss for what else to say.

"What?" Suddenly realizing where Steve's mind was going, John quickly said, "No! No! No! I'm happier than I've ever been in my life, happier than I ever thought I would be."

"Then what's wrong?"

John sighed, leaned back on the sofa, and closed his eyes. "I got a phone call today from my old bosses. They want my help with something. They want me to go on a mission. They've sort of got themselves into a bit of trouble and need some help hauling their asses out of the fire."

"I'm assuming that it would be dangerous," Steve said.

"Oh, yeah, you could say that," John agreed.

"Really dangerous?"

"Yup."

"Don't go," Steve said imploringly. "Don't go."

"I don't want to go. I finally have something I never thought I would have. I'm not a coward. I've spent years taking risks, doing things others wouldn't do. Every day I went out knowing that I might not come back at the end of the day. But this time I don't want to go."

"Don't go, John. Please, don't go."

"The problem is that I know the guys that are in trouble. They're great guys and if I don't go I may not be able to live with myself if they don't make it out alive."

"I'll go with you. I'm trained in special ops."

"Wish I could babe, but you're security clearance isn't high enough."

"I have top secret security clearance."

"Not this high."

"Really?" Steve said in disbelief but also belief.

"Really."

"I've done some pretty off the books kind of ops in my time."

"This one definitely fits into that category."

"I can make some calls. I have some high level contacts in DC. I can pull in some favors and get read in."

"I've spent years making the tough calls on the spot. But this time I really don't know what to do. I want to go, but I also want to be totally selfish and not play with fate and risk everything one more time."

"When do you have to decide?"

John looked at his watch. "About 5 minutes."

Steve felt his world at risk of disintegrating before his eyes. When Danny walked back into the room he was still bubbling over with enthusiasm from the day. One quick look at the two men told him immediately that something was wrong. In the time he had known Steve he had never seen the man look scared, but that was the way he looked now. And John wouldn't look at him.

"Guys," he said. "You're not looking very happy. What's up?"

Neither spoke for a moment. Steve finally tried to put it into words. "He has to go away, Danno. And there's a chance he won't be coming back."

While it was rare, it did happen – Danny Williams was speechless. He was no expert on gay relationships, but he thought that what John and Steve had was the strongest relationship he had seen and that the two men were perfect for one another.

"No," was all he was able to say. "What did you do?" he said, directing his question to Steve.

"He didn't do anything, Danno," John answered. "I'm sort of being reactivated. And the mission is high risk."

"No. They can't. No. I'm sorry, but no. No. If you think that I'm going to stand by and let you go off and do some stupid death-defying save the world kind of thing, you are seriously nuts."

"Just a few minutes ago you were calling me a deity. Boldly going is what deities do."

"No," Danny said, closer to tears than he could believe. He didn't know what else to say. "No." His simple one-word statement was quickly turning into a plaintive, begging request.

"No. You are too … you're the one. You're Steve's guy. No. You're not going anywhere. If I have to sit on you or handcuff you to a palm tree, you're not … no, just no."

Steve looked at John. "They won't tell me anything, will they? When you leave, you'll be so far under the radar that no one will know what's happening. And I don't have any standing in their eyes. I'm nobody. Just some stranger asking questions. It's not like I'm a husband or wife with some right to know what happened to the loved one on loan from their personal collection. If something happens to you I’ll likely not even be told.”

"I've listed you as my primary contact. You're the beneficiary on my pension and my insurance."

"But that doesn't change the fact that I've got no legal status. And if something goes wrong I'll never be told. They'd call your brother before they would call me, and they'd never call me."

Steve was closer to losing control than he could remember ever being. In six short months his life had changed so dramatically for the better. He rose from his chair and quickly left the room.

Danny was still basically speechless. Nothing that he could think to say would change the situation. When the 5-0 team had first started working together and had formed their bond, Danny, Kono and Chin had worked out a pre-determined one word alert to indicate life-threatening crisis. Danny pulled out his cell phone and quickly texted that one crisis word to both Chin and Kono along with the statement, "Steve's house."

He knew that wherever his coworkers were, regardless of what they were doing, they would both immediately drop it and head to Steve's. He didn't know how long it would take since he didn't know how far away they were, but he hoped it wouldn't take long for them to get there. Danny was feeling so overwhelmed and inadequate at the moment and he needed help – desperately.

Danny stood looking at a forlorn John. Steve had left the room to go who knew where. For once in his life Danny Williams didn’t know what to say. He was rarely at a loss for words, able to fill any situation with words of some sort. So he did the only thing he could think to do. He walked over to the sofa, sat down next to John, and put his arm around the man, pulling him close to Danny until the man’s head rested on Danny’s shoulder. Neither man spoke a single word but the support they gave to one another was the best they could have provided at that moment.

Steve suddenly came back into the room and immediately said, “Where do you launch from?”

“Huh?”

“Where are you going for your mission briefing?”

“Pentagon.”

“Good. The Pentagon is in Virginia just across the Potomac River from DC. In DC same sex couples can marry – it’s legal and has been for some time. I’m going with you and we’re going to get married before you leave.”

John stared at Steve. “Are you proposing to me, you romantic devil you?”

Steve slowed down, took a breath, and dropped to one knee in from of John. “John, I’ve waited my whole life for you. You are the one. You are the only man I’ve loved in the way I love you. You have shown me a side of life I didn’t know. I’ve been more happy with you than I ever have been with anyone else in my entire life. You make me laugh, you make me watch stupid movies, you run with me, you love pineapple and good coffee, we have fan-fucking-tastic sex together. I could go on – the list of reasons would take hours to review. But I’ll sum it up. John, I love you. I don’t ever want to lose you. I cannot conceive of a life without you. John, will you marry me?”

With a somber face, John nodded his head and answered simply, “Yes, Steve. Yes, I will marry you.”

“Good. Pack a bag. We’re going to DC ASAP. Danny, can you come to be my Best Man?”

“Hey! Maybe I wanted him for my Best Man!”

“Guys! Hey! There’s enough of me to share. I’m one hell of a man – there’s plenty to go around. I’ll be Best Man for both of you.”

“Good. Danno, go pack. I’m gonna check on flights,” Steve said as he dashed for his laptop computer.

In five minutes Kono arrived, followed shortly thereafter by Chin. Danny briefed them quickly and quietly about the crisis and Steve’s unexpected proposal. Kono and Chin both wanted to go along but realized that they couldn’t all suddenly disappear on such a huge trip. Life on the island continued and their work couldn’t be put on hold, even if they went and came back as quickly as possible. It was still a ten hour flight each way with many hours of time change.

Kono had a solution, disappearing to her car for a moment. When she returned she handed Danny a very nice looking camera. “Here. This is my baby. Take good care of her and get pictures of everything. And I do mean everything. I want to see the ceremony. I want to see the kiss. I want to see their faces as they look at one another. I want to be able to feel that I was there. Can you do that for me, Danny?”

“I’ll try. This is more camera than I’m used to using but I will certainly try.”

“We’re booked on a midnight flight out of Honolulu. Not the time I would have preferred but I took what I could get. We need to get moving if we’re gonna make the flight.”

Chin suggested that he drive them to the airport so that Steve didn’t have to leave his car in long term parking for some undetermined amount of time (and expense). They swung by Danny’s place quickly so he could grab a couple of things, including his toothbrush and some clean underwear.

All too soon they were at the airport. While Steve and Danny said their good byes with Chin, John ran inside the airport to get the check-in started. Of course each man had to appear in person to show his photo ID, but otherwise check in was relatively easy.

Getting through security was more difficult because two of the three men were armed. They were finally through and into the long concourses from which areas branched off into separate areas branched off for boarding. Of course their flight was a large one on a large plane with a lot of people.

They had been running at such a quick pace that Danny didn’t really think about the implications of what they were doing until they arrived at the boarding area and saw the sea of humanity. Danny sighed, not looking forward to the cattle car experience for the next dozen hours.

Their timing was such that boarding was about to start. John grabbed his two traveling companions and ushered them through the crowd.

“John. Where are you going?” Steve asked, confused about what his partner was doing.

“Follow me,” was all he said.

John led them to a separate boarding area that did not have a line like the huge mass of people lined up for boarding in the economy cabin. John handed over the three boarding passes which were scanned with a smile and a welcome. John led them down the tunnel and into the front of the plane. John turned left to the second row of the first class cabin.

“Who wants the window?” he asked.

“John, what’s going on? I didn’t buy first class tickets. There’s some mistake.”

“No mistake. I upgraded us. It’s a long, long flight. You and I are both tall and getting our legs into an economy seat is cruel and unusual punishment. Danno could handle it since he has those little, short legs.”

“Hey!” he complained. “I’m not short. I thought we were clear that you two are just freakishly tall.”

“I don’t remember that,” John said, enjoying the momentary levity.

“You two sit together,” Danny said, grabbing the one seat across the aisle from them. Taking his seat, he sighed, “Oh, this is nice! I’ve never been in a first class seat before.”

“This is the way to travel, Danno,” John said from his seat on the aisle across from Danny.

“I’m always traveling with you in the future.” A moment later he looked up and said, “Hey, wait a minute. How much is this costing. I’m a lowly paid civil servant.”

“Don’t worry about it, Danny. It’s my treat.”

“That’s not fair.”

“Not a problem. I’ve got the money.”

Steve jumped into the conversation. “He’s rich, Danno.”

“You’re rich? When did this happen?”

“At birth.”

“You’ve always been rich? Why am I just hearing about this now?”

“I’ve never really thought much about it. I’ve spent most of the last decade living in places where it didn’t matter if you had lots of money or no money – there was no place to buy anything or spend anything. Over time it just became irrelevant.”

“And I bought your dinner for your first date? What’s wrong with that?”

“That was a very sweet thing for you to do, Danno, and I’ll never forget your kindness and thoughtfulness that night.”

“Thank you for buying me a first class ticket, John. I appreciate your thoughtfulness. I might even be able to sleep on this flight.”

Their conversation was interruption when a flight attendant announced that boarding was now complete and the main cabin door had been closed. He reminded everyone to take their seats for an immediate departure.

Their plane pushed back and was soon taxiing away from the gate for the long slow ride out to the active runway. When their turn arrived the powerful jet powered up and started their roll down the runway. In what seemed like too little time, the large, full, and heavy airplane was in the air and climbing.

As they passed through 10,000 feet above sea level the seat belt sign was turned off with the usual caveat that everyone was asked to keep their seat belts fastened while they were in their seats.

Some people reclined their seats and went to sleep but about half the cabin remained awake. Some people were on Honolulu time but others were on the time zone of their east coast destination where it was early in the morning.

Flight attendants began coming through the cabin offering drinks, snacks, or even a full dinner. Danny was terribly torn – he was exhausted but he also didn’t want to miss his first opportunity at a first class dinner. Finally, the decision was made for him when he fell asleep.

Sometime during the night someone reclined his seat, put a pillow under his head and covered him with a blanket.

 

Breakfast Over Boise

Several hours later Danny awoke to find sunlight coming into the plane through the small cabin windows. Looking left he saw John asleep but Steve sitting up reading something on his iPad. Danny took advantage of the quiet to admire his two friends. Danny liked many things and disliked an equal number of things. One thing he disliked intensely was flying. It was not easy for him to get an airplane and was not something he did lightly or easily. It took a strong motivation for him to do this. As he looked at his two friends he once again thought of just how important the two men were to him. Steve was his boss and friend. With John in the picture he had a new friend – a really good new friend who did great things for his other friend. Increasing his friends by 100% produced more than a 200% return. Danny realized that he was in a rare position – few people ever got to experience what had unexpectedly fallen into his lap with John and Steve. Danny smiled.

Sensing that someone was looking at him, Steve looked up, spotted Danny and smiled over at the man. Steve unbuckled his seatbelt, stood and moved over to the empty seat next to Danny. Steve reached into his pocket, found whatever he was looking for, and held his closed hand out to Danny. Danny looked curiously at Steve but reached out to take whatever Steve was holding out for him.

When he looked, Danny found his friend had handed him a penny. Looking at both sides, Danny raised his eyebrows and said, “Ok. You need to explain.”

“A penny for your thoughts.”

Danny sighed and said, “I was just realizing how fortunate I am to have two friends like you two. Not only did you get a great partner but I got a new friend and he turned you into a really nice, responsible adult that I like – a little.”

“A little?”

“All right. Maybe a little more than a little.”

“I’m touched, Danno.”

“Ok. Don’t ever repeat this to anyone, but I wouldn’t get on an airplane without drugs or lots of alcohol for just anyone.”

“You don’t like to fly?”

“Like it? I hate it! Why anyone would willingly get on an airplane is completely beyond me. Always has been.”

“I never would have guessed. You doing ok now?”

Looking around the first class cabin, Danny said, “Not bad actually. This is the way everybody should fly. Of course I’ll probably never in my life be able to afford to do this ever again, but for the moment, yeah, I’m doing ok.”

Steve held out his hand to Danny who offered his hand as well. They shook hands in a friendly, supportive, affirming way – the best one can do while seated side by side on an airplane.

“Do you remember the first time we met?” Steve asked.

“Remember it? Of course I remember it. You’re the only man I talk to on a regular basis who tried to shoot me the first time we met.”

“It was mutual if I recall correctly.”

“Well, I’m glad no one got shot and that we got to know each other. And while we’re telling secrets, don’t tell anyone this either, but I’m really glad we’re friends. My life really sucked when we met. You ever repeat this and I’ll never forgive you, but you’re the best thing that ever happened to me.”

Steve kept his eyes cast downward, gently nodding his head. “Thanks,” he said softly. “That means a lot to me.”

"You’re welcome. Now, before we get ridiculously mushy here and try to do something stupid like hug or something like that, tell me what's happening once we land."

"I'm not entirely sure. I've got a few contacts I've never tapped for any favors and I'm already trying to reach them. After we took off I started sending some e-mails hoping to open a few doors and pull in a few favors. I've paid into the favor bank for a long time – it's time to make a withdrawal."

"Babe, if I knew anybody I'd be calling 'em for you, you know that. But I'm afraid I'm way out of my league on this one. I'll do whatever I can, but I don't know anybody who's anybody."

Both men had been so intent on their conversation that they hadn't realized that John had woken up. With them realizing, he had stood up and was now standing right beside Danny. "You two plotting the overthrow of the world over here or what?"

Danny involuntarily jumped a little in surprise. "Jeez, you scared the crap out of me!"

"Sorry, Danno. Didn't mean to surprise you. I'm not awake enough to surprise anybody right now."

Steve asked, "You get some good sleep, babe?"

"Yeah, I think so. I'll let you know when I finish." He excused himself and made his way forward to the restroom, which even in first class was terribly small. "Really," he thought, "would it be so terrible to make these things a few inches bigger?"

Mission accomplished John returned to his seat finding Steve back in his seat. "You awake now?"

"Most of the way," John responded.

A flight attendant had noticed the two men awake and approached them to ask if they were interested in breakfast. The idea was appealing to both and the food turned out to be surprising good for something that must have been prepared somewhere between 24 and 48 hours earlier.

Breakfast cleared away, John was staring out the plane window deep in thought. Whenever he flew he entered almost a zen-like state where he marveled at the wonder of flight. Even though he knew the equations and theories and explanations for how something the size of a small city got off the ground, into the air, and moved through the air at hundreds of miles per hour, it was still a mystical, magical experience for him.

As their jet pushed through the air at 37,000 feet at slightly over 500 miles per hour, he tried to determine their location. He had flown thousands of hours but most of those hours had been flown over foreign lands so that his knowledge of the United States geography was more or less equivalent to that of anyone who flew over the country occasionally – general, bordering on vague. As a pilot, of course, he would never admit to that short-coming even though there was a perfectly logical, reasonable explanation that was absolutely legitimate.

He was pulled from his revere when he felt Steve's hand come to rest on his own hand as it rested on the arm of his seat. He looked from the vista outside the cabin to the man seated beside him, lifting the fingers of his hand to entwine them with Steve's. Neither man said a word but through that simple gesture they spoke volumes – concern, support, affirmation, and a thousand other feelings and sensations.

Danny looked across the aisle at his two friends and internally sighed. He was a fairly tough guy who could hold his own in most situations, but this one was tearing him apart inside. Only by looking away was he able to hold himself together. Part of his vulnerability was likely due to his fatigue. Even though the man had slept for a few hours, it was not the same as sleeping a full eight hours at home in his own bed. His own bed might have been crap, but at least it was his own bed. It was comforting in its familiarity if nothing else.

He was tired but he knew that he couldn't sleep now. Bright sunlight was shining through the cabin windows and his mind was going faster than their jet. He knew sleep was a pipedream that would not be realized until far too many hours had passed, far too many emotions had been experienced, and far too much uncharted territory had been crossed. He worked very hard to throw up a shield around his emotions, around his vulnerability. His friends needed him. They didn't need to have him fall apart. They rarely asked for anything so he knew that now more than ever he needed to be strong for not only himself but also for them.

As he watched the two men sitting across the aisle, hands entwined in a simple gesture, he saw their fear, their uncertainty. They of course each wanted to be strong for the other so other neither of them said a word, but he knew that they knew one another well enough by now to communicate without uttering a single word.

 

Upright and Locked Position

The remaining two hours of their flight passed with excruciating slowness for all three men. John had the additional burden borne by all pilots who flew as passengers – it just didn't feel natural to be seated away from the action, unable to see, to control, to maneuver.

One advantage of the many that came with sitting in the First Class cabin was that when the flight arrived at the airport gate, they were the first ones off the airplane. Steve had been in DC many times, John far fewer times, and Danny not at all. They were all on equal footing at first though in that none of them had flown into Dulles airport. When they had had occasion to fly in or through DC previously, John and Steve had both flown through one of the military facilities that surrounded the city.

With no checked luggage they were able to make their way to the main terminal and outside into a waiting taxi. When they had left Honolulu the previous night the air temperature had been a perfectly reasonable 77 degrees. Even though they should have realized that the air temperature in DC in December was going to be cooler, they all found the outside air bracing.

None of the men had worn a jacket and of the three only Danny wore a long-sleeved shirt. Steve and John were both dressed in t-shirts. At least all three wore long pants and shoes (as opposed to sandals). Inside their cab they sat quietly together in the back seat as they made the long half hour drive into the city. Danny wondered why in the world anyone had built a major airport so far from the city but kept his questions to himself.

"Are we going straight to the Pentagon?" he asked Steve.

"After 9/11 no one just shows up at the Pentagon. We need to be invited into the areas where we need to go. I sent some e-mails after we got on the plane but since it was the middle of the night I haven’t gotten answers back from anyone yet. So, we're going to a hotel to wait."

Steve had asked the cab driver if he could recommend a nice hotel in DC that had nice views. After getting an answer to his question about how much they were willing to spend, the man drove them to the Hay-Adams Hotel at the corner of H and 16th Streets. When they saw the location they decided that the view wasn't too bad – their closest neighbor just a block away was the White House.

When they arrived, John went up to the registration desk and inquired about getting a comfortable suite, laying his gold card on the counter. Had Danny been paying closer attention he would have gone into shock at John paying $2,000 a night for a suite for the three of them, but fortunately Steve and Danny were busy checking out the beautify lobby and the well-dressed people scattered around the lobby.

"I feel under-dressed," Danny commented.

"And grubby."

"I wasn't gonna say anything, but you do need a shower."

Steve smiled at Danny and said, "Back atcha, babe."

"We're all set," John said, handing each man a keycard even though they were all staying in the same suite that only had one main door. A bellman guided them to the elevator and escorted them to their room.

The bellman opened the door and then held the door so that the three men could enter the room. Danny and Steve both looked around a stunning room at the sofas, windows that offered a breath-taking view of the White House across Lafayette Park, and a large dining room table, among other things. The bellman showed them the two bedrooms to the suite, the bathrooms, the kitchen, their in-suite ice maker, refrigerator stocked with sodas, and more amenities than Danny knew were possible.

When the man was gone, Danny said, "This place is bigger than my apartment."

"Everything is bigger than that closet you live in, Danno," John said.

"I'll have you know that that 'closet' has 450 square feet."

"This is bigger," Steve said in agreement. "Do I want to ask …?" Steve started, intending to ask how much the room was costing per day.

"No," John said immediately and without explanation.

Looking out one of the windows, Danny said, "When I went on my honeymoon, I spent $200 a night and that place was nice. This place, this is beyond belief."

"It's a little more than $200 a night, Danno."

"How much more?"

"Add a zero and you'll be closer."

"Holy sweet baby Jesus!"

"Don't think about it, Danno. Go take a shower and wash a little of the road grime off your body."

"I think I will," he said, not wanting to think about the cost of the room they were in at the moment.

Shedding his clothes in the bedroom he stepped into a gorgeous bathroom with a shower that did things for him that his ex-wife hadn't been able to do in all the years of their marriage. After 20 minutes he was mellow and was trying to think of ways to spend the rest of his adult life in this shower.

His melding with the shower was interrupted by John's voice a few feet away. "Danno! You ok in there? You're gonna get all wrinkled and start to shrink if you don't come out soon, and trust me, dude, you can't afford to get any smaller."

Opening the door to the shower Danny splashed a handful of water at the commentator. John laughed and somehow managed to dodge most of the water.

With great regret, Danny turned off the water to the best shower he had ever experienced and reached out for a towel. He was surprised to find John wrapped in a bathrobe still standing in the bathroom, holding a towel out for him to use.

"You trying to give me a heart attack, John?"

"Nope. Just sneaking a little peak."

Never a man to back down from a challenge, Danny shoved the shower door all the way open, stepped out and put his hands in the air, legs spread apart. "Well, here it is! Take a good look! Want the back view, too?" he said turning around, instantly regretting the move when he heard an appreciative whistle.

"Nice butt, Danno!"

Grabbing a towel to cover himself, Danny yelled, "Steven! Come get your boyfriend! He's bothering me!" John laughed as he turned and left Danny to towel dry.

Danny really didn't want to put his clothes back on. He had worn them for a full day of work in the moist Hawaiian heat followed by sleeping in them and traveling all night in them. The thought of putting them back on at the moment was less than appealing – not, actually that was putting it too mildly. The thought was repulsive. He found a big, plush bathrobe hanging in the bedroom closet and decided to slip that on as a much better alternative. He had seen John wearing one just moments ago, guessing that the man had reached the same conclusion.

Sauntering – what? It's a word! – into the living room Danny found John sitting on one of the sofas perusing the room service menu. Still dressed, Steve was stretched out full length on one of the other sofas and appeared to be sound asleep. Aside from needing a shave, the man looked none the worse for wear.

Sliding the menu across the coffee table toward him, John asked, "I'm getting something to eat? What do you want?"

Danny glanced, very taken with the idea of eating something. His poor, confused body didn't have a clue what time it was back home so he didn't know if he should be eating breakfast, lunch, dinner, or midnight snack, but he knew that one of those sounded like a reasonable idea.

When his eye fell on the price of an item that sounded good he involuntarily gasped.

"Don't look at the prices, Danno," John said in anticipation of his comment.

"How can I not! No sane person can afford that! I can't afford anything on this menu! I can't …"

"You're my guest. I've got this trip. You can buy breakfast on the next trip."

He wanted to argue but his mind just couldn't construct a logical argument so he simply said, "Thank you."

"You're welcome."

"What do you want?" John asked again.

Danny named something that was the lowest priced item on the menu even though it wasn't remotely what he really wanted. John knew exactly what the man was doing and also knew him well enough to know what he really wanted. When he called Room Service to place the order John went ahead and ordered what he knew Danny would have ordered had he not seen the prices.

The prices were ridiculous – there was no disputing that; it was just a fact. But how often did they visit this hotel or this city or stay in any hotel for that matter? Rarely. In fact, since meeting Steve neither of them had had any need to travel so they hadn't been anywhere but Steve's house in Honolulu.

John had more than enough money, not only because he had inherited a boatload of money but also because he never spent any of what he had. For a combination of the two reasons he didn't hesitate to spend a little now. He didn't think that he would ever get to the point where he could spend money just to spend it, but right here, right now, for his friends, he would have done anything.

A few minutes after placing the order they heard a knock at the door. Steve was still sound asleep but Danny and John looked at one another. "No way!" Danny observed. "Not even a pizza delivery guy could have made it here with the food already."

John opened the door, not at all surprised to find a hotel butler who's task was to set up their dining room for their breakfast. Danny stared as the man set to work, but didn't say a word. This was all new to him since this was not the circle in which he lived.

By the time he had finished setting up the table there was another knock at the door. The butler admitted a finely dressed waiter pushing a travel of juices, coffees, and tea.

"Sir? May I offer you orange juice? Pineapple juice? Apple juice? I also have freshly brewed Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee and a variety of the finest English breakfast teas."

John had the pineapple juice which elicited the predictable response from Danny. He skipped the juice and opted instead for the coffee. He started to get up to get the coffee when John quietly gestured for him to sit back down. A moment later the waiter presented him with a cup on a silver tray into which he poured coffee which smelled heavenly. After offering sweeteners and a variety of dairy products for his coffee – all of which Danny refused – the waiter stepped back to the side to discretely wait until his guests needed something further.

"So, is this the way you always travel?" Danny asked John, honestly curious.

"Hardly. I've spent twenty years traveling on old, slow, crowded cargo planes and sleeping in tents or on floors. I like this better than that."

"I can see why," he agreed. "Do you think we should wake Sleeping Beauty so he can partake?"

"No. He's exhausted. I don't think he slept on the plane. Let him sleep for now. He can eat when he wakes up."

Though neither of them heard another knock at the door, another man had arrived in their dining room. Their butler invited them to move to the table and proceeded to serve them their breakfast.

"Oh, wow!" Danny said after taking one bite. "These pancakes are awesome! And this syrup! Wow!"

"I'm glad you find it satisfactory sir. The syrup is from a small farm in northern New York that has been successfully making maple syrup for more than 100 years."

Danny didn't know how one should respond to a statement like that, or to the fact that the man serving him breakfast knew that fact. He decided to simply take another bite, nodding his head.

A change in subjects seemed in order. "So, what's the first order of business?" Danny asked.

Suddenly a voice from the sofa answered very clearly, "We go get our Marriage License."

"Hey! I thought you were sleeping."

"I was, but then I was thinking, and listening to you two."

"Spying on us?" John asked jokingly.

"Someone has to keep an eye on you two!" Steve responded.

Steve rose from his place on the couch, grabbed his ever-present iPad and moved to the table to join John and Danny. The waiter immediately offered him coffee, tea, or juice.

Using the Internet connectivity and browser on the iPad, Steve very quickly had the information he needed. "Ok. The Marriage Bureau Section of the Family Court issues marriage licenses and minister authorizations for marriages performed in the District of Columbia." He paused, and then continued reading, "Pursuant to the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009, L18-110, effective March 3, 2010, same sex couples may apply for marriage licenses in the District of Columbia."

"Ok," Danny said, "Where? When?"

"They're open Monday through Friday from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm and they're located at 500 Indiana Avenue, NW, Room 4485. Looks like we need to file out an application of some sort, show proof of age, pay a $35 fee … crap, then wait. "By law, three full days must pass between the day of application to the day that the license can be issued. The fee payment is required to pick up the license. Marriage licenses are not issued by mail."

"Three days. We can do that," Danny said, "can't we?"

"We have to," was Steve's only observation.

"Then what?" Danny asked.

"Oh crap!"

"What now?" John asked.

"I thought we could just get married there at the courthouse, but on their website it says, 'The civil wedding calendar is generally booked 2 to 3 weeks in advance.' We might be able to pull off three days but three weeks – no way. John could be dead by then."

"Ok," said Danny, taking charge. "So here's what we do. We go get the license ASAP, immediately, NOW, and then we come back here and I talk to the Concierge about alternatives for getting married. Men have been getting married here for more than a year so I'm sure others have dealt with the same issue. I'll find the alternatives that I know exist."

"Good idea," John said. "Steve, go shower. Danno, let's get dressed so that when he's finished we're ready to roll. We'll get a cab over the Courthouse and get step one completed."

Ten minutes later the three men were out the door and into a cab on their way to the Courthouse. When the cold air hit them as they stepped outside, each man made a mental note to add buying a jacket or at least a sweatshirt or sweater to their agenda for the day. The cab ride to the Court house was not long and fortunately city traffic wasn't too bad. Security again proved a little challenging since two of the three men were armed but their badges and credentials quickly resolved any difficulty.

Escalators, escalators, and more escalators to get to the fourth floor. The Marriage Bureau was buried back in a distant corner of the building. Despite the signage a couple of times they thought they had taken a wrong turn so they were relieved to finally find the place. With only one other person at the counter they were quickly welcomed and provided with the necessary one page form. Sitting together in the cramped waiting room they completed the application and handed it back to the clerk.

She explained the 3 day waiting period.

"Is there any way to rush that?" Steve asked. "He's about to be deployed into combat and we want to be married before he leaves."

"I'm sorry, sir. I wish I could help, but three day waiting period is a legal requirement."

Danny had watched this from the sidelines. He finally knew something he could do to help. Pulling out his cell phone he speed dialed the governor's office. He didn't need to talk to the governor – he had quietly and carefully over time cultivated multiple friendships with the governor's staff. He learned birthdays, sent cards, asked about their children (or their cheating husbands) and had quickly built up a solid network. He never had tested that network but he decided now was the time to try.

"Delia? Danny. No, I'm in DC. Long story. I'll tell you when I get back. Fucking freezing, let me tell you. And none of us have coats. I need your help. I'm here with Steve and John. They're gonna get married. They've applied for the marriage license but they found out there's a three day waiting period before the license can be issued. Problem is John's about to be deployed into a combat situation and they don't have three days. Right. John. Yeah! That's the one. I know. Tall. Uh hum. I'm not commenting on that! Do you think someone from there can call the governor here …" Turning to the clerk Danny said, "Does DC have a governor?"

"No. A mayor."

"That's the senior most elected official?"

"That would be him."

"Got his phone number?"

The clerk looked in a directory and wrote down a number for Danny who in turn read the number to the voice at the other end of the cell phone.

"Ok," the voice on the phone answered, "give me a few minutes and I'll see what we can do. Take care of yourself, Danny. See you when you get back."

"Thanks, babe."

"Danno? What are you doing?"

"I was just making a phone call. It may not work, but I pulled in a favor to see if we can cut the waiting time down a little."

John and Steve both smiled at Danny but didn't say anything. Instead they pulled the man into a quick three-way hug. They were to the cashier's office to pay their $35 fee and then returned to the first office to see if the governor's office had been able to cut through some red tape for them.

The clerk greeted them with a smile. "Gentlemen. My boss has received a request from the Mayor that we issue your license ASAP. I have your license right here."

"Thank you so much. I can't tell you how much we appreciate your help. Do you have any recommendations on who we can get to marry us on such short notice?" he asked the clerk.

"I see a number of licenses coming back signed by ministers from this place." She wrote a name and general area onto a sticky note and handed it over to the men. "You might want to check with them."

Steve gave her one of his million dollar smiles and thanked her profusely, assuring her that they would be back first thing in the morning.

Out the door and into another cab, giving the driving the name of the church they wanted and explaining that they didn't have an address.

"No problem. Is well known place. Very old. Been there for hundreds of years. Everyone knows."

Their cab dropped them off in front of a stately church in the oldest part of the city which dated back to the Colonial days. The sign in front identified the place as dating back to the mid-1700's. Partly because they were anxious and partly because they were freezing, they climbed the few steps that led from the sidewalk up to the church's front door. They were a bit surprised to find the doors unlocked and open. With the doors closed to keep the winter chill out, they looked around.

They appeared to be in an entry hall of some sort with two large staircases leading upstairs, one to the left and one to the right. "Might as well take a look," Steve said, leading the three men up the stairs and into a simple but beautiful sanctuary with the pews arranged in a semi-circle.

The first thing that caught one's eye was the huge, old bank of pipes for the organ that dominated the central part of the front wall of the room. The place was old, definitely old, but it was stately. The room was filled with incredible stained glass windows that did not appear to have been installed anytime recently.

Proceeding into the Sanctuary, they became aware of how large a room they were in. The ceiling was easily 40 feet high in the central part of the room. More stairs led to an even higher balcony.

"Bigger than it looks from the street," Danny observed.

"Steve," John said, looking at his partner, "I haven't exactly been a regular at any sort of organized religious thing in – well, ever. They may not want to talk to me."

"I haven't been to such things, either. But we've got Danno. He can charm anyone."

And it was just at that moment that he received his opportunity.

"Good afternoon, gentlemen," they heard. Turning, Danny, who was closest, saw the man first. Exuding friendliness, Danny walked toward him, stuck out his hand, smiled, and said, "Good afternoon. Are you the minister?"

"Yes, I'm one of them," the man said nodding. What Danny really wanted to ask was, "Are you old enough?" but he held his tongue and instead said, "We have a bit of a problem and we need your help. Well, not 'we' but they," he said, pointing to John and Steve.

"These are my best friends, John and Steve."

"We're your best friend, Danno?" Steve asked.

"Of course we are," John said to Steve.

"Why? Did we draw the short end of the stick?"

John elbowed his boyfriend and gave him a withering look that said basically, "Time and place," which translated into "There is a time and place for everything and this is not the time nor the place for comments like that." Steve got the message and shut up.

"You have to excuse them – they're really just teenagers at heart."

The man smiled and nodded his head.

"How may I help you?"

"My two best friends are partners – boyfriends. And trust me, they are so perfectly suited for one another it is scary. Neither one of them is … well, let's just say that they're really good for each other. They ground one another, they calm one another. They laugh together, they cry together, they keep me company, and have made my life a whole lot better than I thought it could possibly be at this stage of my life."

The minister crossed his arms and paid rapt attention to Danny's eloquent build up.

Danny took a deep breath and said, "They are both retired military. Steve was a Commander – a Navy SEAL. John was a Colonel in the Air Force. They both spent the bulk of their adult lives doing things we can't do for ourselves. We probably couldn't sleep well ever again if we knew the details of the risky, dangerous situations they've been in over the years."

"Thank you both for your service. I personally am grateful for your sacrifices and appreciate the safety and security we have due to the efforts of men such as yourselves.

Danny sighed, "John's been unexpectedly reactivated. He's being sent into … he's being sent into … a really dangerous situation … really dangerous. There is a chance," he paused, closed his eyes and fought to get his emotions in check. "There is a strong chance he will not make it back to us."

He took another deep breath and said, "And they want to get married before John leaves tonight. We've got the license. And like I said, trust me – they are perfectly suited for one another. I'll swear to that. I'm their Best Man." Putting his best desperate, wounded puppy dog face on, Danny looked at the man and said, "Can you please marry them? Please?"

The man looked at Danny with a perfectly neutral poker face, quiet for a moment, before giving his answer. "I would be delighted to marry them. Now, I have to tell you that we usually require couples to meet with one of the ministers for some pre-marital counseling, to discuss the decision to marry, to work out the details of the ceremony, and to get to know one another a bit. But given the tight time frame you described, I think we can make a few modifications to protocol in this situation."

Danny cheered and threw his arms around the startled man, hugging him and lifting his off the ground. Steve and John were doing a modified version of that between themselves a few feet away. When Danny had set the man back onto the floor, he joined them in joyous laughter. "It's not often I can make people this happy. I like it!"

John and Steve both shook the man's hand and thanked him profusely.

"If you can give me a few minutes, I need to go downstairs and get a couple of things. I assume you want to do this now."

"Yes, please."

"I'll be back in just a moment," he said as he disappeared into one of the stairwells.

"Do you think he's old enough to be out this late?" Steve asked.

"I know!" Danny whispered. "That's what I thought, too."

"I'm guessing he's about 25, 26 years old," John volunteered.

"No way!" Steve said. "Twenty-three tops."

"While you two argue," Danny said, "I should take Kono's camera and get some pictures. She will kill me if I take this all the way back to her in Hawaii empty."

Danny moved around the room snapping pictures of his friends as he tried to get comfortable with the camera.

"Danno," John said. "Can you get a few with this one, too?" he said, holding up a smaller pocket sized camera that looked a lot more suited to Danny's photographic talent and skill-level."

"Sure thing," he said taking the camera and quickly getting it turned on and sorted out. He got a couple of Steve and John standing together near the altar of the church, looking at one another with a mixture of joy and trepidation. As he snapped some more pictures with both cameras, Danny couldn't help but think of how terrifying this whole thing must be for both of his friends.

When he ran out of casual, informal shots he could take, Danny started directing the two men into a couple of poses that worked well.

Their photography session was interrupted by the return of the minister, this time changed from sweater and blue jeans into a floor-length black robe complete with clerical stoll. "Wow!" Danny said. "Quick transformation."

"You ask, I deliver," he responded. Danny noticed that he had another man with him who looked to be somewhere in his mid-20's. "We need to have two witnesses so I've asked one of my colleagues to join us. Is that all right with you?"

"Of course," Danny said.

"Do you have the license?"

Steve handed over the license and waited silently while the minister quickly checked it over. "Very good," he said. "How about some introductions first. Who is John and who is Steve?"

"I'm Steve," Steve said offering his hand.

"I'm John," the other man offered.

"A pleasure to meet both of you gentlemen. According to the license you live a fair distance away from us."

"Yes, we're all from Hawaii. Well, we all live there now. I'm the only one who was actually born there. John is from California. And Danno, well, Danno is …" he looked at Danny, "… from New Jersey."

"Me, too," the minister said with a smile.

"You're kidding!" Danny said with great gusto. The two men started talking about where they had lived and grown up.

"I hate to interrupt," John said, "but I'm unfortunately on a fairly tight timetable. Appointment with impending death and all that," he added, trying to be light, which didn't work.

"Of course," the minister apologized. "Let's get this show on the road, so to speak." He directed everyone to walk toward the altar where he positioned the participants before taking his place in front of them.

"Friends, we are gathered together here in the sight of God and man to witness and bless the joining together of Steve and John in marriage. The covenant of marriage was established by God who created us for one another. With his presence and power Jesus graced a wedding at Cana of Galilee, and in his sacrificial love gave us the example for the love of those who covenant together in marriage. John and Steve come to give themselves to one another in this holy covenant.

"John and Steve, I ask you now in the presence of God and these friends, to declare your intention to enter into union with one another. Steve, will you have John to be your husband, to live together in marriage? Will you love him, comfort him, honor and keep him, in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others, be faithful to him as long as you both shall live? If so, say 'I will.'"

"I will."

"John, will you have Steve to be your husband, to live together in marriage? Will you love him, comfort him, honor and keep him, in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others, be faithful to him as long as you both shall live? If so, say 'I will.'"

"I will."

"And you, Danny, will you, by God's grace, do everything in your power to uphold and care for these two persons in their marriage? If so, say 'I will'."

"I will," Danny said proudly.

"Let us pray. O God, source of infinite love, bless us with a sense of your presence in this sacred time. Keep us sensitive to the wonder of things that give meaning to life. Deepen our loving for those who we know and for those who, though strangers, need our care. And so we gather with John and Steve to celebrate the beginning of a new part of their journey and we give you thanks. Amen"

The minister handed a card to both John and Steve, and invited John first to read the words printed on the card. "I take you to be no other than who you are. Loving what I know of you and trusting what I don't yet know, with respect for your integrity and faith in your abiding love for me. You will know the full joy of love and friendship. In all that life may bring us."

John smiled proudly and confidently, and then repeated the vows as led by the minister.

"I, John, take you, Steve,
to be my husband,
to have and to hold,
from this day forward,
for better, for worse,
for richer, for poorer,
In sickness and in health,
To love and to cherish,
As long as we both shall live."

When it was Steve's turn, he read the same introductory words. "I take you to be no other than who you are. Loving what I know of you and trusting what I don't yet know, with respect for your integrity and faith in your abiding love for me. You will know the full joy of love and friendship. In all that life may bring us,

"I, Steve, take you, John,
to be my husband,
to have and to hold,
from this day forward,
for better, for worse,
for richer, for poorer,
In sickness and in health,
To love and to cherish,
As long as we both shall live."

"Gentlemen, are you exchanging rings?"

"Not at this time," Steve said simply. "Later."

"No problem. Then, John and Steve, you have declared your consent and vows before God and your friend, Danny. May God confirm your covenant and fill you both with grace. We rejoice with you. We celebrate your marriage with you. It gives me great pleasure to announce that you are now married under law and through love. I now pronounce you husband and husband. You may kiss."

Steve looked intently at John who simply stared back at him. "We really did it, didn't we?"

"You bet your hot little butt we did," Steve whispered as he moved in to give his husband a quick kiss.

In a deep voice that seemed too large for the body that spoke, the minister said, "Oh, come on! Is that the best you can do? We want to see a kiss!"

John and Steve both laughed and tried the kiss again, a bit more relaxed this time, following what came naturally for them.

The minister said, "John and Steve, go forth from this place together with the grace and peace of God now and always."

Moving a few steps away, he said, "I see some cameras here, so why don't you hand them over so we can get some pictures of all three of you."

The minister clearly knew what he was doing with a camera, immediately putting the devices to work doing what they were intended to do. When Danny looked at some of the initial shots he was truly impressed. "You're pretty good at that," he said. "But I shouldn't be surprised. You are from the holy land after all."

"I've never heard New Jersey called the holy land before."

"You've never tried living 5,000 miles away from it either, have you?"

"Nope. Can't say that I have."

"Trust me. Don't."

The minister escorted the party to the back of the church where he signed their marriage license and invited both witnesses to affix their signatures as well. "This needs to go back to the Court Clerk. I can mail it in tomorrow morning or you can take it back to them and pick up your Marriage Certificate. Otherwise they can mail it to you."

Checking his watch, Steve saw that the Court would still be open so he suggested that they head back immediately to complete the final step in the process. With profuse thanks, the three men departed as quickly as they had arrived. As the minister waved at the retreating cab he silently wished them well and was grateful that he did not have to endure what they faced in the days ahead.

 

Despite heavy traffic, their cab dropped them off at the door to the Court House in time for them to make it inside and complete the last stage of the process with time to spare. A half hour later they walked out of the Court House with several copies of the officially signed and sealed Certification of Marriage in their hand.

Out on the street, Danny had the two stand together once again holding up the papers and smiling so that he could get some pictures. If it had been warmer they would have taken more, but it wasn't warm so they simply jumped into another cab and went back to their hotel.

 

Check-In

At the hotel, Danny told the men to go on up to the room while he stayed down in the lobby bar. "You need a few minutes together."

Neither of his traveling companions spoke but both knew he was giving them time alone to say their goodbyes. There wasn't time enough to consummate their relationship, and besides, they had already done that a few hundred times. The piece of paper didn't change who they were or how they had sex.

Thirty minutes passed before John and Steve joined Danny in the bar. "It's time, Danno."

"Let's roll."

In the thick of rush hour traffic, their cab crept along the crowded city streets. When they finally made it onto the bridge across the Potomac River there was finally some movement as the road widened and the traffic could spread out a bit.

Their cab driver didn't know his way around the Pentagon so Steve guided him to the entrance that they needed. Danny paid the man and they sent him on his way.

Steve held tightly to John's hand, hoping that if he held on tightly enough he would never have to let it go. Inside the building they went through layer after layer of security screening but each time were admitted to one more ring deeper inside the Inner Sanctum.

When not being scanned or scrutinized by some machine, John and Steve held tightly to one another, walking hand in hand with Danny following closely behind them. After twenty minutes of walking inside the Pentagon they finally arrived at the room they needed. Inside they found a uniformed clerk sitting behind a desk.

"May I help you?"

John identified himself.

"We've been expecting you, Colonel."

When the man looked questioning at Steve, John said simply, "This is my husband, Commander McGarrett."

The man's face was a neutral mask. He said nothing. He revealed nothing. John used the quiet to add, "I need you to put in my record that Steve is my next-of-kin and is the one who should be notified of my status. All communications related to me should go to him. I've already listed him as my beneficiary on my retirement and life insurance. I just need you to add him as my husband for official contact purposes. Here's a copy of our Marriage License if you need that." They had spent the extra money to get an extra copy of the Marriage License at the Court House so that they could prove their status before the law. It was a non-negotiable part of this that Steve had to be the one who was to receive notification of John's status.

The clerk took the paper and invited the men to take a seat in the three thin, uncomfortable chairs against one wall of the room. They all took a seat but Steve was unable to sit still. He paced, tons of nervous energy needing to go somewhere into some physical activity.

"Didn't you ever have to lay in wait on some of your super secret missions, waiting for just the right moment to pounce?"

"Sure," he answered.

"How did you do that if you can't even sit still for five minutes?"

"Easy. The stakes were never as high as they are right now." John looked up at Steve and held out his hand. Steve returned to sit next to John, holding his hand tightly.

After fifteen minutes it was Danny's turn to stand up and move around. After thirty minutes Steve was a cross between numbness and fatigue. After forty-five minutes John's calm exterior was showing signs of cracks. After fifty-five minutes the door opened and a different man entered the room, quickly taking in the men who all quickly stood before him.

The man held out a paper to John and simply said, "Colonel, your services are no longer required. Your country thanks you for your willingness to serve." John looked at the paper and saw that it was his Marriage License.

Words failed him for a moment. "What happened? Did you get them out?"

"I can't discuss such matters with anyone, Colonel. We are sorry for any inconvenience you might have experienced."

"Excuse me?" Steve said in disbelief. "We flew 5,000 miles – at our own expense – and now you tell us, what? That we can go home? Just like that?"

"Yes."

"Oh, I see," Steve said.

"Steve!" Danny said, reading the body language of his coworker.

"I must return to my duties, gentlemen. There is someone outside the door to escort you back out. I know this place can feel like a maze." As quick as he arrived the man was gone.

"Let's go home," Danny said simply. "All three of us. Let's go home."

They followed their guide back out, a faster trip since this time they didn't have to provide identification and wait for various scanning devices to do their job. It was easy to get a cab outside the door. Danny gave the address and appreciated the fact that this time they were going counter to the traffic so the trip was must faster.

Both Steve and John were silent the entire way back to the hotel and then in the elevator up to their room. When the door was finally closed and the world shut out for a few minutes, Danny asked, "Ok. So what happened back there?"

"You got a glimpse of the bigotry of the United States military, my friend."

"You're kidding. Don't get me wrong. I'm more grateful than I can ever explain that you're here with us and not off somewhere doing God knows what. I'm not complaining by any stretch of the imagination. But I thought Don't Ask, Don't Tell was overturned."

"The law might have changed," Steve explained, "but you can't legislate a change in the mindset of those entrenched in simply maintaining what they've known. No one can present any evidence – none – that shows that having gay men and women in the armed forces is detrimental to morale or unit cohesion or any of the other bullshit they spout off about. They can't do it because it doesn't exist. The Pentagon has known for nearly 60 years that there is not one wit of truth to those beliefs. Since the 1950's people have been pushing for them to face facts, but for 60 years the old boys have held their ground. And just because the President signed a piece of paper doesn't mean that anything is going to change today or tomorrow. Don't get me wrong, it will change, but it's going to take some time. We'll get there but it will not be a smooth, easy trip. And today I'm so torn. I hate bigotry. It's stupid. It's fear. Nothing more. But tonight I'm grateful for it in this situation."

Danny noticed that John had sat quietly on the sofa listening to his husband talk. Turning his attention to the man, Danny asked simply, "How you doing, John?"

"Been better. Been worse. I'm pissed. I'm relieved. I'm sad. But mostly I think right now I'm going to focus on the positive, be grateful for the greatest gift a man can have," he said, squeezing Steve's hand in his own, "and get back to building a new life."

"I knew there was a reason I liked you!" Danny said in response. "Now, let's get cleaned up as best we can and go downstairs and get some dinner. And then let's get to bed. God alone knows what time it is back home."

Steve smiled. "You did it again, Danno. You called Hawaii 'home'. I'm so proud of you."

"Bite me, big boy!"

"No, actually, I'd rather not. Let's go eat."

A world of possibilities existed outside the doors of their hotel. Washington, DC was a vibrant, alive city that offered some spectacular restaurants to satisfy locals and at the same time pry a few more dollars out of the hands of the hundreds of thousands of tourists who trooped through the city every year. Except for the simple fact that it was December, the sun was down, and the three men had not had time to acquire anything warmer to wear. In other words, they would have frozen their nipples off by going outside to one of the many restaurants. The day had been one of unbelievable highs and mind-numbing lows. They were all exhausted, jet lagged, and emotionally used up. All they wanted was food and then warm beds and comfortable pillows not that far away.

For once Danny did his best to ignore the prices. It also helped that the prices were less ridiculous than the room service prices had been. Within an hour they were fed, watered, and safely tucked back inside their suite. Danny collapsed onto one of the sofas and realized that he was too fried to even figure out if he should turn on the television.

"Go to bed, Danno," John said. "We're calling it a day."

"Any idea what time it is?" Danny asked.

"Not a clue. Half past too bed time."

Danny stood and found John standing in his path. Before he knew what was happening, the man's arms reached around him and embraced him in a hug. A moment later he said two simple words. "Thank you." They parted and all three went to bed.

Shedding his clothes, Danny fell into bed. Before turning off his light he grabbed his cell phone and sent a simple text to Chin an Kono: "All well. 3 of us will be coming home together. Great day. Lots to tell later."

He set the device aside, turned off his light, and promptly fell asleep.

 

To Tour or Not to Tour – That is the Question

The next day all three men crawled out of bed just before noon feeling remarkably refreshed and alive once again. It was truly remarkable what a night of sleep could do for the human body and mind.

Over coffee once again served by their own personal butler Danny asked the obvious. "So what now? Do we go home? Do we stay here and do something? Do we buy jackets?"

"DC is an amazing city," Steve observed. "But in all honesty, at the moment I have no interest in anything but going home."

"I second that motion," John said.

"I third that motion," Danny said. "When can we leave?"

John picked up the phone beside the sofa, called the Concierge and told him what he wanted. Within five minutes the Concierge had their return flight arranged. "Ready to hit the road, gentlemen? Our chariot awaits."

"I don't know," Steve joked. "I may not be able to pack that quickly." Thirty seconds later he had been into the bedroom and returned with his backpack slung over his shoulder. "All ready."

The laughter they shared was refreshing. Check-out was a breeze. The cab ride to the airport was long but uneventful. Airline ticketing was easy. Airport security was the usual hurry up and wait. Their flight was on time and their timing was impeccable so they arrived at the gate just in time to walk onboard their plane and take their first class seats.

Just before the plane door was closed, Danny texted home with their flight details, telling everyone when their flight was scheduled to arrive in Honolulu. Somehow Steve had again managed to get them onto a non-stop flight to Honolulu. There weren't that many such flights. So close to the holidays everyone was trying to get out of town to start their winter breaks. Those who had lived with the cold, dark fall and early winter in Washington were ready for a bit of sun and fun, so every seat on the large plane was full. For about the millionth time Danny quietly reflected on how grateful he was to not be seated in the back with the passengers; he much preferred life up front with the leg-room class.

While their flight out had been mostly overnight, this flight departed during the afternoon and chased the sun westward providing bright light the entire way. All three men had slept well the previous night so none of them were particularly sleepy. As a result, everyone was awake to enjoy some of the food service and pampering offered to those who flew up front. For the million and first time, Danny quietly reflected on how grateful he was to be seated where he was.

When people fly and spend hours seated in one location, it seems a natural thing for them to doze off, to sleep. Following the many courses of lunch, which was topped off with a to-die-for dessert crepe topped with strawberries, Danny put his head back. Had he been able, he would have purred in complete and utter satisfaction.

Glancing to his left he saw his two best friends, content simply to be sitting in one another's company. The flight attendants had taken excellent care of him, even bringing a bowl of vanilla ice cream when he saw someone else having that for dessert. The flight path that day featured mostly smooth skies all the way. Combine those elements and you find it's easy to fall asleep. And that is exactly what Danny did.

Steve wasn't far behind, having consumed more rich food in one sitting than was customary for him. Also, neither he nor John had been able to run for a couple of days. He too found sleep luring him away. John remained awake. As a pilot he just naturally found flying to be stimulating.

Had the world been in a different time and place he would have asked to visit the cockpit, maybe sit in the Jump Seat. Sadly, those days were long gone. Cockpits on commercial planes were now "hardened" to protect the cockpit from trouble. The world had changed so much in the years John had been away, so for the better but much of it for the worse. When did bullies decide to take out their crazy aggression on hundreds, thousands of innocent bystanders?

John found the actions of the terrorists of the world to be the actions of cowards. Real men didn't skulk around and get women and children to blow themselves up. Real men would just fight it out and be done with it. Well, actually, no – not so much. If it really worked that way the world wouldn't have been quite so war-ridden for most of modern history.

John sighed and tried to stop being so philosophical. The sight of a peaceful, sleeping Steve seated next to him was comforting and served to wipe away all the thoughts about terrorists and bombings and craziness. Steve's mouth was slightly open. The muscles of his face were all relaxed. There were no stress lines around his eyes like he got when working a tough case. When he slept, Steve looked at peace – and adorably cute. Well, maybe cute was the wrong word – handsome sure worked, though.

Reaching for his iPad, John sat back in his seat and tried reading to pass the time. The flight was comfortable but it was still a 10 hour flight which taxed everyone's butt, bladders, and boredom limits. The airline offered the usual array of smaltzy romance movies as well as a couple of what he called "talking dog" movies aimed at a very general audience.

Bored with what he was reading, John's mind was going faster than the plane on which he sat. Thoughts raced around in his mind. Ideas bounced off one another, creating a flurry of activity.

He had never used it before, but he accessed the word processing software on his iPad and typed in a single sentence. He thought for just a moment and was able to capture one of those ideas bouncing in his head. Smiling, he typed another sentence, and another, and then more.

Over the next two hours John sat quietly typing away on the iPad's on-screen keyboard. He had not intended to write a story, but found that that was exactly what he was doing. John was writing an adventure story, a love story, a story with romance, a story with hot, steamy sex, a story with real people who had depth and character.

John became so engaged in his writing that he didn't even notice when Steve awoke from his nap in the next seat over. Steve smiled at the sight of his husband so engrossed in something. He didn't know what John was writing but he hoped that he would get the chance to read it. The man's mind was so incredibly agile, so sharp, Steve assumed that anything he wrote would be kick-ass intense.

After another meal, coffee, more dessert, more talking dog movies, more boredom, and in John's case a bit more writing, they were finally on their final approach into Honolulu. The air had become a bit more choppy coming into the lower altitudes so the passengers had been kept in their seats for the last hour. It always worked out so that the seat belt sign came on just at the point that everyone had been drinking liquids for hours and their bladders were approaching the bursting point.

John had made one bathroom run several hours earlier but he was still grateful to get off the plane and head to the first Men's Room he spotted. Since his buddies followed him in he guessed that they had shared his need.

Zipped up, hands washed and dried, the three men set off walking confidently down the concourse, side by side. People naturally moved out of their way. They were not in a rush, they were not running, but they looked confident and in their element. Steve and Danny had reattached their badges to their belts while in the restroom. To be out in public without wearing their badge left them feeling almost naked.

Getting out of an airport when you didn't have luggage was much, much easier than getting into an airport. When the airlines got you to where you were going they were glad to be rid of you. Any threat a passenger posed was largely removed when they left the plane.

John and Steve were both startled, astonished, overjoyed beyond belief, to walk past the Security Screening area into the front part of the airport to find a huge sign hanging from the ceiling saying simply, "Welcome Home!" Looking downward, they all saw balloons, hundreds of balloons, some hanging, some in bunches, confetti, and smiling faces.

Kono and Chin were there of course, as well as the Governor and a variety of friendly faces. All of them spoke at once in unison, "Welcome home, John! Steve! Danny!" Exhausted, grubby, unshaven, the three men felt enlivened by the welcome they received. The experience included two shirtless Hawaiian men who placed leis around Steve and John's necks in the traditional Hawaiian welcome. A shapely female did the honors for Danno which made him beam with joy.

"What are you guys all doing here?" Steve asked.

"We came to welcome you all home!" the governor said simply.

"How did you know?"

"Danny texted us with your flight information and the good news. We are all so relieved that you're all back where you belong. Welcome home, gentlemen."

John looked at Steve, then at Danny. Danny looked at John and then Steve. All shared the same thought: they were home. It was not the home any of them ever dreamed they would have, not the life any of them dreamed they would be living, but they had found home. They were home and it was good.