"Hey, McGarrett," Hamid calls as he walks through the door, his voice weirdly muffled by the bolts of fabric lining the walls. He pivots until he spots Steve in the armchair in the corner.
Steve glances up from the vest he's working on--that hem is fucking perfect, if he says so himself--and answers around the pins in his mouth, "Yeah, what?"
"You ready for the front of the house?" Hamid asks, and his smile is wide. "Need some help out here."
"Hell yeah, seriously?" Steve sets the vest aside, sticks the pins back in their cushion, and sits forward. He's done almost everything else in his apprenticeship; it's about damn time. "On my way," he says, and Hamid disappears back the way he came.
Steve levers himself out of the chair--he'll probably never again be anything but awkward--and pauses to shoot his cuffs and straighten his tie before grabbing for his cane.
He sees why Hamid wanted help as soon as he rounds the corner to the waiting room--with Pierre out for an emergency fitting and Hamid busy upstairs with a client, there's no one to tend the guy who's sitting only somewhat comfortably in the painfully tasteful chairs. The thump of the cane draws the guy's attention, and he stands up as Steve crosses the room.
"My apologies for the wait," Steve tells him, and he sticks his hand out. "Steve McGarrett."
The guy's shorter than Steve, but built solid, and he gives him a handshake to match. Steve's grateful he gives the cane only the briefest of glances. "Danny Zuko," he answers.
Steve can't help the snort that escapes; he only hopes that Hamid didn't hear it or he'll catch a lecture on customer service before he can go home. "Okay, seriously?"
The guy rolls his eyes and crosses his arms over his chest defensively. "Yes, that's great, I've heard them all, you wanna get it out of your system now or do you need all day?"
Steve holds both hands up, palms out placatingly. "Hey, sorry, all right?" he says. He can see the guy's eyes track the swing of the cane from his left hand, and Steve quickly squashes the urge to hit the guy with it if he says anything. "What can I help you with, Mr. Zuko?"
"Danny," the guy answers. When Steve blinks back at him, he pulls his chin up and says, "You can call me Danny. 'Mr. Zuko' sounds too much like my father." He gives Steve an easy grin that makes his whole face crinkle, and Steve finds himself smiling back. "Anyway," Danny continues, "I apparently need some new shirts, and I have been informed that this--" he unclenches enough to pull one hand out and point around the room, "--is a good place to get them."
"One of the best in D.C." Steve nods and waves Danny back toward the large curtained-off area under the stairs. "Did you want custom-tailored or fully custom-made?"
Danny holds the thick velvet curtain open with an 'after you' gesture to let Steve lurch by. "What's the difference?" he asks.
"Couple hundred dollars," Steve shoots back with a shrug, and God, Hamid is going to have his balls for sniping at the customers. He settles into the chair at the table and looks up to see Danny frowning at him.
"Funny, that's very funny," Danny says and sits down across the table.
Steve pulls a sample book over and flips it open so Danny can see. "For custom-tailored, I would alter an already-cut shirt to fit your measurements." He flips the page and points at a new picture, saying, "For custom-made, I do it start to finish--draft a pattern to fit you, cut the fabric, sew the shirt. The more hand work involved, the more expensive it gets."
"Wait, you're telling me you would make my shirt?" Danny mimes using a needle and thread. "Like, you, yourself?"
"Is that hard to believe, or something?" Steve asks, frowning. Maybe he won't ever be ready for the front of the house, if he has to deal with assholes all day.
"No, man, hey," and it's Danny's turn to raise his hands palms-out, "it's just, you don't strike me as somebody who sews, that's all."
Steve grinds his teeth together. Maybe it's just this one. "Yeah, how do I strike you?"
"Look," Danny continues, "just, okay. I take it the custom-made looks better?"
Steve drags his eyes down to where Danny's stabbed his finger into the book, pointing at a half-finished shirt, and he nods. "Since it's made to fit you perfectly, yeah. We keep the patterns, so you can always order more without coming to the shop."
"Great, I'll take four," Danny says.
"Um." Steve can feel his eyebrows rise when he blinks, but he manages to recover quickly enough to point at a carpet-covered six-inch-high platform on the other end of the room. "Excellent. I'll need to take some measurements, and then we can talk fabric." He heaves himself out of his chair and snags a clipboard from the side cabinet.
When Danny gets to the platform, he turns and gives Steve a sour are you fucking kidding me look. Steve just huffs and sticks his bad leg out farther for balance, and Danny screws up his face thoughtfully before stepping up on the platform. Steve's left the cane at the table; no way is he going to fuck around with it and everything else, even if his leg--and his ass, back, shoulder, good leg, hell, everything--is going to hate him tomorrow.
"Okay," Danny says, hands splayed, "I feel like an idiot."
"Just stand naturally," Steve assures him. "This won't take long." He shuffles close and loops his tape measure around Danny's neck, making sure to stay in Danny's line of sight as he pulls it tight just above the collar of his shirt. Danny smells fantastic, his aftershave a subtle warm spice that Steve just catches as he leans in to look at the tape measure.
"I could have told you that," Danny mutters, practically into his ear, when Steve notes the measurement down. "'s on the label."
"Yeah," Steve snorts, "but nothing else about your shirt fits, so." He looks critically at the way the shirt strains to accommodate Danny's wide shoulders, the way the buttons at the top of the placket barely hold on but there's folds of extra fabric tucked into his waistband. Steve's willing to bet half a paycheck that the rolled-up sleeves are too long.
Danny's arms come up--along with his ire, apparently--when he draws breath to defend his sartorial choices, and Steve quickly uses his own reach to get the tape measure around Danny's chest. He pulls the plastic taut just at the nipple line and Danny's breath hitches out in surprise. Steve says, "If your shirts fit, you wouldn't be in here." He lets one end of the tape measure loose and adds the measurement to his clipboard.
Danny drops his arms and sighs. "Yeah, you got a point there." While Steve measures the length of his arms, he can feel Danny giving him a once-over. "You, ah, did'ju make what you're wearing?" Danny asks.
Steve can feel Danny's pulse, thudding warm under his fingers when he takes the wrist measurements, and he leans a little on his ruined leg just to distract himself with the twinge. "Yeah," he answers and grabs for Danny's other arm. He doesn't know why, but he offers, "This one got me into the apprenticeship. You're my first official customer."
He glances up just in time to see Danny break into a shit-eating grin. "So I'm like, poppin' your cherry?"
Steve groans and rolls his eyes. "Yes, it's exactly like that."
Steve comes in early the rest of the week to work on the pattern drafting for Danny's shirts. He would be kicking himself for forgetting about asking how relaxed or well-fitted Danny wanted his shirts, but Steve reasons that Danny would have a better idea of what the hell he's talking about if he's got examples.
So he drafts three patterns, cuts them all out of cheap cotton and quickly sews them up on the big ancient machine that dominates the back room. Steve hangs them on a rack near his chair in the corner and stands back, leaning on his cane and trying to imagine what Danny will look like in his work. He thinks Danny will go for the classic cut, somewhere between fitted and relaxed, but Steve would rather see him in a close-cut, modern fit. He could pretend he's being objective about how Danny's got the body to pull off the look, but a year of watching hospital ceilings and learning how to walk again have made him a little more honest with himself.
Danny's appointment is on Friday, and the late-morning sun slants in through the shop windows when Steve comes to greet him. They end up back in the curtained space--mostly because Steve's leg and back muscles are coiled so tight they feel like fused springs, not that he'll admit it out loud--and Danny gets his shirt completely unbuttoned by the time Steve gets back with the pattern samples.
Danny gives Steve a confused scowl when he sees half-unfinished muslins. "Those look like shit," he blurts as he shrugs his own shirt off.
Steve very deliberately sets his cane to lean against the table so he's not in danger of watching Danny too closely and says, "These are pattern samples, so you can check the fit before I cut into the good stuff." He shuffles the three steps he needs to get over to the platform, holds out the first one and hangs the other two on a hook on the wall. "This one is a more relaxed fit, the other two are a little more fitted."
Danny takes the first one and pulls it on. "Which do you like?" He looks quizzically down at the button-free placket.
Steve hop-steps in front of Danny and takes the fabric from his fingers. "On you or on me?" he asks quietly as he puts a few pins in the placket to hold it closed.
"On you," Danny answers just as softly, then he clears his throat and shifts a little on his feet.
Steve nods and indicates Danny should turn and look in the mirrors behind them. "I like fitted, personally," he says as he spreads his hands over Danny's shoulders. "I move better, you know, with the--" and he circles one hand in the air. Danny ducks his head like he gets it.
The muslin fits well across the span of Danny's back, but, "I think I got this a little too relaxed," Steve mutters half to himself. He looks over Danny's shoulder and catches Danny watching him in the mirror. "If you like this, I'd probably recommend taking it in just a bit." He pinches the shirt along Danny's obliques to demonstrate.
Danny's lips twist to one side, and he says, "Nah, I'll try the others first. Give me the fitted one?" He turns around and points at his chest rather than fumbling with the pins, and Steve quickly takes them out.
When he goes to the hooks to trade shirts with Danny, his damn leg disagrees with the movement and Steve topples sideways with an indrawn hiss of pain.
"Whoa whoa whoa," Danny says sharply, and Steve finds himself caught, propped up by Danny's solid shoulder. "You okay, McGarrett?" His hands are warm on Steve's back and hip.
Steve grabs at Danny's shoulder, scrabbling to get his screaming leg back under him, to get the turned-under ankle straight and his foot square on the floor. "Fuck," he pants, and it takes all he has not to tuck his face against the fuzzy chest underneath him and just hold on. As soon as he can he says, "Sorry about that, I'm okay," breathing deep and pushing himself upright.
"The hell you are," Danny growls even as he helps push Steve to standing. His fingers twitch against Steve's back before he lets go. "You look terrible, sit down."
Steve swallows and steadies himself against the wall before straightening to his full height and giving Danny what he hopes isn't too pathetic a smile. "I'm fine, really. Just moved wrong." He grabs the fitted shirt from the hook and holds it out. "Try this one?"
Danny takes the shirt, but he's scowling like he knows Steve is far from fine. Steve manages to keep himself mostly still under the assessment, in spite of the white-hot needles spiking in his hip and thigh. Danny turns and gets back on the platform, watching himself in the mirror as he slides the shirt on, pointedly not looking at Steve when he observes, "You didn't just tear your ACL or something, did you."
Steve clenches his jaw and the fist that isn't holding him up. It's humiliating enough to nearly faceplant in front of a client, no fucking way is he going to talk about it. "I'd ra--"
"No, hey, that's fine," Danny says quickly and turns back to face Steve, his hands moving just as fast as his mouth. "You don't have to tell me, it's just, I'm a curious kind of guy, you know, I don't mean to pry." He smooths his hands down the front of the muslin. "What do you think of this one?"
Everything still hurts, but it's down to manageable, so Steve feels steady enough to say, "Here, let me--" and carefully step forward to add the pins to the muslin's placket.
Danny starts talking the moment Steve moves. "I fucked up my knee in high school, you know? I remember really liking my cane, cuz that meant I could toss those fucking crutches."
Steve snorts, because, yeah, and he gently pushes Danny to turn around so he can straighten the shirt across his shoulders.
"It's like I got a goddamn barometer in there now, though, I can always tell when the weather's changing," Danny says. He spreads his hands wide, and Steve watches the way the shirt moves with him in the mirror as he plants his hands on his hips. "Oh, hey, that feels nice."
Steve was right: even in the muslin, Danny looks spectacular. "Yeah, it looks good," he says instead.
"It looks good, he says," Danny mutters and runs his hands down his front again. "You, my friend, did an excellent job with this. I cannot believe--I mean, this shirt looks like crap--" he rubs the pinked edge of a sleeve between two fingers, "--and it fits better than anything in my closet. Tell you what, I don't even need to try on the other one, this is it."
Steve nods, unaccountably pleased, and shuffles around him, marking the muslin for a couple of minor adjustments. He can feel Danny watching; he's grateful for the distraction when Danny asks, "Where'd you learn to sew, anyway?"
The answer doesn't hurt anymore, not like it did the first few times Steve fielded the question, and he's answered it often enough that the response is tumbling out his mouth before he really thinks about it. "From my mom. I got roped into helping make my sister's prom dress after I broke the sewing machine playing football in the house."
But then Danny doesn't just chuckle and leave it there, like everyone else is content to. He asks, "What about your sister?"
Surprised, Steve frowns and looks up from where he's pinning the hem of the shirt; the backs of his knuckles rest against Danny's hip. "What about her?"
Danny gives him a look like he's an idiot. "Didn't she help, too? It was her dress."
"Nah, she wanted nothing to do with it," Steve says with a shrug. He doesn't exactly know why he's still talking, only that it's a good way to keep Danny from watching him too closely, like he's about to fall over again. "Mare had her heart set on a dress that cost four hundred dollars, Dad said no fucking way and then after the football thing, it was like, my punishment or something. There wasn't enough time to get the machine fixed before prom, so we hand-stitched the whole thing."
"Damn," Danny mutters as Steve shifts around to adjust the hem on the other side.
"Mom told Mare it was couture. I had no clue what that even meant." Steve smiles at the memory; even that doesn't hurt as much as it did, before.
"So how'd it turn out?" Danny asks. At Steve's pull, he obediently holds one arm up to let Steve adjust the sleeve.
And there's the old hurt, bubbled up in his chest and familiar under everything else that aches. "It didn't," Steve says softly, his attention focused hard on the cuff and pins in front of him. "Mom died two weeks before Mary's prom, and I had to figure out how to finish the dress by myself. It was-- I had to, you know?" Danny's other hand slips over Steve's shoulder, warm and reassuring, and Steve realizes he's never told this part of the story, to anyone.
"I stayed up nights to get it done, Mary decided she didn't even want to go to prom, and my dad lost it. We'd never seen him so furious," Steve confesses and drops his hands to his hips. "She wore it, she looked great, she got drunk at an after-party and came home covered in puke."
Danny's hand squeezes his shoulder, and Steve looks over to see his expression, open and sad. "We, ah, we didn't get along much, after that," Steve admits. He shakes himself a little, takes a deep breath, and shifts to adjust Danny's other cuff. "I'm sorry," he says, "that was maybe more than you wanted to know."
"'S'all right," Danny says with a tiny shrug of his shoulders. "Like I said, I'm a curious guy. I get the feeling you don't usually tell the whole story, so I appreciate it."
Steve looks up in time to see Danny give him a swift little smile, and he nods in return before reaching for the placket. "I'm, ah," he stutters, "I'm all done, here. I should have the first one done next week, if you want to stop in and check the fit one more time before I finish the rest."
"Yeah, I can do that," Danny answers, his knuckles brushing against Steve's as he reaches to take the muslin off.
Steve spends most of Saturday in bed, alternating between floating on a muscle relaxer/painkiller cocktail and being pissed off that he needs it. A lack of pain wakes him up at half-past three on Sunday morning, so he figures he may as well get a start on his day, seeing how it takes him far longer to get stuff done than he'd ever thought possible, before.
By mid-afternoon, he finds himself at the shop, cutting the first of Danny's shirts out of a smooth blue-gray sateen. Hamid's there, too--Steve's increasingly convinced he's hiding an apartment in the basement--and he offers to spring for delivery so Steve can stay and get the machine-sewn parts of the construction done over the dinner hour. By eight Steve's back home, full of tandoori chicken and with Danny's partly-finished shirt folded carefully into his bag.
The History Channel keeps him company while he sews; the news channels irritate him and he doesn't really watch so much as listen, so movies are out. The small needle glides easy through the fabric, and Steve relaxes into the motion of it, pleased with the way the shirt is taking shape under his hands. He can almost feel his mother, warm against his side as she clucked over his clumsy first attempt at whipstitching.
She'd like this, he thinks as he surveys his freshly-laid thread, the fabric soft between his fingers.
Danny arrives for his next fitting with a cell phone plastered to his ear, every line of his body tense and coiled for a fight. He raises an eyebrow when Steve waves him up the stairs, and Steve catches a growled "Fuck you" as he reaches the top. Danny stabs at his phone, then pockets it and waves his hands like he really wants to clench them in his hair.
"Bad day?" Steve asks, trying for nonchalant as he shoulders past.
"You have no idea," Danny answers. He turns and follows Steve's pointing without hesitation; he just keeps talking and Steve can't stop watching him. "I hate my boss, I hate my coworkers, so much, my doctor says I should reduce my stress level but he does yoga or some shit, what the fuck does he know about stress?" Danny attacks his shirt buttons like they've offended him.
Steve wouldn't mind if Danny popped a few, that shirt offends him. He takes the finished gray shirt off the hanger and holds it out, saying, "Yoga is actually really good for reducing stress."
Danny glares, and his mouth opens and closes like he's trying and failing to think of things to say. Steve hasn't been so entertained in months. "I do yoga," he offers with a little shrug, and that earns him a snort as Danny takes the shirt.
"You wouldn't know mellow if it bit you on the ass," Danny grumbles and pulls the shirt on. "I do not see how contorting yourself into a pretzel can possibly make you calm."
Steve would worry about the way Danny's applying the buttons to the buttonholes, but he made the shirt, he knows they'll hold. "It's not so much the pretzel that's calming, it's finding the right shape for you," Steve tells him; he keeps his eyes wide and innocent in the face of Danny's glare and it's so funny. "How about downward dog?"
"Bite me," Danny growls, although he seems to have calmed down enough that it's mostly for show. Steve feels his grin threatening to break through, but Danny's focused on fastening the cuffs and can't see it anyway.
"No, really," Steve says, trying to add all the new-age woo-woo that had initially made him suspicious, "The inversion would be perfect, you could let your irritation just flow into the earth."
Danny wags one finger in Steve's direction. "You are a terrible salesman, McGarrett." He turns to the mirror and tugs at his cuffs, and Steve lets his smirk break free. "Oh, hey, you're good at this, at least," Danny mutters as he shrugs his shoulders like he's testing the range the shirt gives him.
Steve can't quite believe that it slips out of his mouth, but: "I'm good at a lot of things." He frowns, covers as best he can by thumping behind Danny and unnecessarily adjusting the collar. "Do you see anything you'd like changed?"
"About the shirt? Not a thing." Danny half-turns to look at the side view, and Steve leans back a little to better see how the shirt moves with him. "'S like it was made for me or something."
"Ha," Steve says. The cut of the shirt is perfect (the sleeves over Danny’s muscular upper arms had been a real challenge to fit), and the blue-gray accentuates Danny's coloring rather than competing with it.
"Everything else--" Danny sounds almost lost, wistful and bitter all at once. "Can't always get what I want, know what I mean?"
Steve looks up, meets Danny's eyes and knows just exactly what he means--Danny's hiding it deep, whatever it is, but he's walking wounded, too, and somehow he trusts Steve enough to let him see it. "Yeah," he answers, "yeah, I do." Danny's lips twist and he nods, and Steve says, "Hey, call me Steve."
Four shirts become eight, then fifteen. Danny insists he try each one on before he walks out of the shop--to catch any problems, is what he says, and Steve knows that is utter bullshit, because the shirts are excellent--which means he's coming by for an hour or two every couple weeks to pick up a few as Steve gets them finished. Unlike a lot of clients, who seem to either shout into their cell phones or stand in awkward silence, Danny actually talks to him.
Hamid puts Steve front-of-house more often, and he manages to cultivate a few other longstanding clients in spite of himself. (Steve was just being honest when he told that guy that it was his body fat that made him look fat, not the suit. The guy had asked, after all; Steve still isn't sure why Hamid was so upset about the whole thing.)
Steve always gets a little thrill whenever Danny shows up wearing one of his shirts, and today is no exception, although, "Would it kill you to actually knot your tie properly?" he asks when Danny gets to the counter.
Danny sets a plastic-wrapped package down with a huff. "What the fuck happened to good morning? Or maybe a, how may I help you, my good and loyal customer?, huh? Respecting your clientele, that's all I'm asking, here."
"And I'm just saying, you're undermining the quality of your shirt with your half-ass four-in-hand." Steve smooths down his own tie to emphasize his precise half-Windsor, and he doesn't miss how Danny's eyes follow the motion before Danny shoves the package forward.
"Shut up, whatever, I need you to alter some pants," Danny growls.
Steve peeks inside the plastic and sees what looks like four pairs of chinos in varying shades of gray and blue. He can't help frowning. "What--"
"I have had these for years, you know, these are good pants, but I don't wear them, see? Because they don't fit!" Danny's hands are going as fast as his mouth, defensive. "But then I think, hey, I know a guy who can fix that, and so." He spreads his hands wide, here I am.
"You want me to fix your pants."
Danny glares. "That is what I just said." He swipes the package off the counter and sort of waves it toward the curtain; Steve points his cane and bends his head after you. By the time he follows Danny inside, Danny's grumbling, with the package already on the table and one navy-blue pair pulled out. "It honestly cannot be that difficult, they're just too fucking long."
Danny toes out of his shoes and unbuckles his belt; Steve forces himself to turn and look more closely at the rest of the pants in the package. They're a good brand, obviously washed but otherwise unworn. "That's all? Just length?" He can hear the rustle as Danny pulls on the first pair.
"Actually, I was kind of hoping you could do something about the ass-bubble, too."
Steve turns back to see Danny standing up on the platform and scowling at his reflection in the mirrors. He barely manages to stifle a snort; the pants are easily three inches too long and they puff out weirdly around Danny's hips and thighs. The stretch of the crisp white shirt across his back only makes the pants look worse. "That is...really not a good look for you."
"No kidding." Danny turns his scowl on Steve, which gets him moving across the room.
"But you're right," Steve tells him, "I can fix that." He uses his cane to hook a rolling stool from the corner; no way he's measuring the hem while he's on his knees. "Just stand naturally, I'm going to start with the hem and go from there, okay?"
Danny looks down and licks his lips as he nods agreement. "G'head," he rumbles, and Steve quickly diverts his attention back to Danny's feet.
He's halfway through pinning the first pantleg when he feels Danny go tense; he can see in the mirror as the curtain twitches open and a broad guy in a dark gray suit steps in. Steve swivels and grabs his cane to push himself up off the stool; he doesn't like the way the guy's coat bulges to the side.
Danny says, over-bright and accent spread thick, "Hey, Malone, what's up? I didn't think you were allowed in a classy joint like this."
Malone's voice is a deep bass to match his barrel chest. "I never did think you were funny, Zuko."
"I'm wounded, really, I'm very hurt that you don't seem to find much joy in life, my friend," Danny says, dramatically putting one hand over his heart and rocking back on his heels. "But surely you didn't come all this way just to tell me that."
"No." Malone smiles, sharp and fast, and pulls a Glock from under his coat, aiming straight for Danny's chest. "The capos wanted to deliver a message to Salvo, and I volunteered."
Steve’s awareness narrows to the gray of the guy’s suit and the black of the Glock, the triangle of distance between him, the gun, and Danny. Only vaguely aware that Danny's talking, Steve fades against the wall and eases a step closer to Malone, who'd only given him and the cane the briefest of glances. He has no doubt Malone plans to kill him, too, as a witness, but he's pretty sure Malone has dismissed him as a threat.
It's a mistake that pisses Steve right the hell off.
As soon as he's steady, Steve moves on training and adrenaline: releasing the cane, pulling his long-bladed shears from the holder on his belt and stepping forward to ram the point into the guy's meaty neck. He uses both hands to add his weight against the round handles, angling up into the brainstem and pushing until the shears stop against the inside of the guy's skull. Malone stiffens, eyes round and surprised, and the gun thunks to the carpet before he topples over with a sickening gurgle of air rushing out his lungs.
Steve's left leg can't counteract the momentum; he follows Malone to the floor and bites down on a cry as the leg twists and the remaining muscles seize up tight. A breath later Danny's on his knees beside him, and Steve can't contain the whimper when one warm hand lands atop his knee.
"Jesus fuck, McGarrett, what the fucking fuck was that?" Danny sounds wrecked, breathless and terrified, and he's twisting around, hands everywhere, trying to gauge Steve's condition. "Are you okay? Nevermind, obviously you're not, whatever, just--tell me how to help you, okay? What do you need?"
Steve breathes deep, in and out, his eyes screwed shut against the hurt. "Cramp," he gasps, "give‘t a minute, ah, fuck--you okay?"
"Am I okay, what the fuck kind of question is that?" Danny hisses, sounding thoroughly angry even as he rubs gently next to where Steve's holding his thigh. "I am fine, I had it under control until you pulled--" Steve can feel the air across his face as Danny gestures wildly, "--whatever the fuck ninja shit with your fucking scissors, Christ. What the fuck, Steve?"
"I could ask you the same thing, Danny," Steve grits out. Thankfully the cramp begins to ease, enough that he can look up to see Danny's expression quickly blank out. "You're--"
Steve can feel the pounding of feet on the floor behind him; he manages to turn his head enough to see a Korean guy with a Sig Sauer looming over them. "Danny, you okay?" the guy says, and then he sees Malone. "Holy shit."
"Chin Ho Kelly, meet Steve McGarrett," Danny says, sitting back on his heels and waving between the two of them. "Steve McGarrett, Chin Ho Kelly."
Steve blinks and looks closer, sees Kelly doing the same. They make the connection at almost the same moment; Chin breaks into a wide grin and shoves his Sig into his shoulder holster. "Howzit, brah?" he asks and crouches closer. "Long way from home, yah?"
"Yeah," Steve breathes and grimaces bitterly; he's a long fucking way from home. He lets go of his leg and pushes himself toward sitting, forcing his still-protesting joints to uncurl.
Danny scoots back, his attention swinging between Chin and Steve, and he blurts, "Waitaminute, what? You two know each other?"
"We went to the same high school in Hawai'i," Chin volunteers, "and I used to work with Steve's dad." He looks like he wants to grab Steve's ankle to help straighten him out, but Steve's glare is enough to keep him back.
Steve digs his fingers into what's left of his thigh, pushing the knee toward the floor as the muscle releases. He looks up and aims what he hopes is a smile at Chin, although he's probably a half-mile off. "I broke all his football records."
"Of course you did," Danny sighs, exasperated, and this time he really does clench his hands in his hair. "Will someone please explain what the actual fuck is going on?" He points at Steve, who can't take his eyes off the way Danny's pompadour is now sticking out in all directions, and then at Malone's body, where blood is slowly bubbling out around the shining handles of the shears. "You, what the fuck?"
It's not often Steve's seen Danny reduced to so few words in his vocabulary; it's kind of amazing. He shakes his head, though, because, no way. "You first. Are you fucking mafia, Danny? Chin?"
Danny sputters and turns bright red, his fingers clenching and unclenching. Chin answers smoothly, "Not exactly. Danny's undercover with one of the bigger families on the East Coast." Chin pulls out his wallet, flipping it open to show Steve a badge. "FBI; I'm his handler."
"Fuck, I was undercover, goddamn," Danny swears. One hand is back in his hair.
"You still are," Steve points out just as Chin says, "We're so fucking close, Danny." Danny's face crumples and he uses his free hand to pinch between his eyes.
"I know how to keep my mouth shut," Steve offers as Chin stands up to step close to Danny. "Your cover's not blown."
"Think about it," Chin says, low and soothing. "The capos obviously think you're a threat to their standing with the family. How much closer will you get to Salvo, after you show him what his capos do behind his back?"
Danny draws a deep breath, lets it out slow. "Swear to God, Chin," he starts, sounding strained and close to breaking.
Chin reaches up to give Danny's shoulder a reassuring shake, and he whispers, "Not long now, brah, I'm telling you."
After a long moment, Danny breathes out a quiet, "Okay." He drops his hands and glares at Steve, like being pissed at Steve will set him back to rights. "Your turn. Where the fuck do you learn to do that?" He waves over at Malone.
"I'm--I was special forces," Steve says and realizes he'd rather not discuss this while he's still on the floor. The pain seems to have receded to a dull roar, so he cuts a glance at Chin and reaches out. Chin grabs hold of his forearm in a strong grip, and together they get him standing on his good leg and his cane. "Naval Intelligence, then SEAL Team Five--" and Steve scowls over Chin's shoulder at Danny, "--and that guy was going to kill us both, so don't tell me you had it under control. I saw an opportunity, and I took it."
"You 'saw an opportunity'," Danny hisses and shoulders around Chin to get right in Steve's face, height difference be damned. "The fuck? I was talking, Malone was talking, all I needed was one more minute and Chin would have been here and we could have had the bastard in custody instead of skewered on a pair of scissors!"
"What is your problem?" Steve resists the urge to push at Danny; given how steady he feels on his feet Danny would have no problem pushing him back on his ass. "It worked, you’re not full of bullets."
Danny's eyebrows rise, and the effect with his crazy hair would be funny anywhere else. "Excuse me? You call that--" he points at the body that takes up almost half the floor space, "--'working'? You are not a SEAL, you're a goddamned tailor who not only killed a guy but probably fucked himself up in the process!"
The silence that falls is nearly absolute. It feels like ice water dumped down his back.
He wishes Danny had gone ahead and punched him; he'd like nothing more than to wipe the shocked expression off Danny's face. Steve blinks once and draws in a long breath, pulling his back parade-straight and pointedly directing his attention to Chin. "I'm going to close up the front. I assume you'll get this cleaned up before my boss comes in tomorrow."
Chin nods and pulls a cell phone from his pocket. "I'll stop in later this week to take your official statement, okay?"
"Yeah, fine," Steve answers before turning to lurch his way toward the front door. It feels better than it probably should to be stretching and using his abused leg, but whatever; he's going to pay for it tomorrow either way.
He hears Danny call, "Steve," as the curtain falls closed behind him, but he doesn't stop until he gets to the front door. He turns the sign in the window, locks the door and hits the button for the retractable gate, then leans hard on the cane and rests his forehead against the smooth wood of the doorframe. "You're not coming back here," he says, just loud enough.
"No, I can't risk it." Danny's foot connects with a soft whump against the side of one of the waiting room chairs. "It's a shame, though. I was kinda hoping the Bureau'd spring for a few suits, too."
Steve straightens up and turns to see Danny standing shoeless in the middle of the room, his hands deep in the pockets of those ridiculous pants and his hair mostly smooth again. He hears himself ask, "How long?"
"Fourteen months," Danny answers quickly, and one hand comes out of a pocket to illustrate. "I've been under fourteen months, if I can parlay this--" the hand swirls around to encompass the shop and the whole fucked-up mess, "--into usable evidence I might be out in two or three more. Not counting the time I'll need to spend in witness protection after I'm done, of course."
Steve doesn't quite know what to say to that, so he lets the doorframe hold him up. The adrenaline crash is familiar, at least.
"Listen, uh." Danny points behind him with his thumb, half-turns to glance at the counter before turning back to meet Steve's eyes. "I gotta go. But I wanted to say--"
"If you apologize I will hit you," Steve says, feeling sharp-edged and exhausted.
"--thank you." Danny closes the distance between them until he's only an arm's length away. "I know what it's like, killing somebody, even when it's you or them doesn't make it better. So, thank you." And he sticks his hand out, offering a handshake, inviting Steve closer than he'd ever gotten when just making a shirt.
Steve hesitates, just a breath, before taking Danny's hand, grip as solid and sure as the day Danny'd first come in the shop.
Steve doesn't know what Chin said to Hamid, but when he arrives at the shop the next morning (dosed with the high-octane meds he only keeps for the truly shitty days) Hamid gives him a bag full of handwork and points him right back out the door. "Take the week, Steve," Hamid tells him sternly. "Let me know when you need more and I'll bring it out to you."
“Um.” Steve doesn’t quite know what to make of Hamid’s expression--it’s somewhere between exasperated, pissed off, and proud.
“I don’t generally take apprentices, you know that.” Hamid crosses his arms and frowns up at Steve over his square-framed glasses. Steve nods, a decade of experience with superior officers keeping his mouth firmly shut and his flinch contained. “But I owed a favor, the tax credit for hiring disabled veterans was appealing and your portfolio showed promise. Now, your work has come a long way in the time you have been here, but I did not expect when I hired you that I would be needing to clean bloodstains out of my carpet.”
“I didn’t get any on the walls?” Steve tries for the bright side, but he knows it doesn’t really work when Hamid sighs ruefully and rubs one hand over his closely-shorn head.
“I suppose I should be glad to know you can double as security if the need arises,” Hamid harrumphs, and Steve relaxes a little. Hamid’s expression shifts toward proud and trying not to show it too much. “Still, those were eighty-euro shears, and the replacement is coming out of your check.”
“And the carpet,” Steve agrees, but Hamid just shoos at him with both hands.
“The FBI has already paid,” he grumps, “and you may think you are hiding it, but I know that you hurt. Go home, get your stitching done.”
Steve can’t find it in himself to resent when Hamid mother-hens him, so home he goes.
Three weeks later, Steve’s just settled in for the night with a pile of shirts and a Weapon Masters marathon on the TiVo when his cell phone rings. From the kitchen counter.
“Ah, shit,” Steve mutters. It’s a small apartment--a glorified studio, really--but it still takes him a lot of rings to answer.
“Yeah,” he barks, hoping to hide how hard he worked just to get out of the armchair.
“Got it in one.” Danny chuckles roughly, and he sounds terrible, gritty and exhausted.
“How did you get this number?” Steve slowly works his way back to his chair.
“We-ell,” Danny hedges, “I may have asked Chin to abuse his badge a bit. A little. A smidge.”
Steve lets the exhale as he drops into the seat carry how he feels about that. “Really.”
“Yeah, I just--” Danny sighs, harsh through the speaker, “--you see the news lately?”
“No, not lately--wait, did you--? Are you out?” Steve leans back and rubs idly at a little ache in his hip, tries hard to ignore the little fillip in his belly.
“Nooot exactly.” Danny sounds like he’s just now sitting down after a long day. “Was the investigation successful? Yes. Did we arrest half the people involved in organized crime on the Eastern seaboard? Yes. Am I out? Not if I want to survive to testify. And that, my friend, is something that I very much want to do.”
“So why call me? Aren’t you already in protective custody?”
“Yes, actually, so, again with the slight, very slight, bending of the rules,” Danny huffs. Steve can imagine him pinching his fingers together to show exactly how slight. “I’m shipping out for an undisclosed location at a time I can’t specify tomorrow.”
“Which only answers one of my questions.” Steve tucks his head against the wing of the chair. “Why call me?”
“Is it so unbelievable that I’d want to talk to you, find out how you’re doing, let you know what’s going on with me?”
“I’m just a tailor, Danny,” Steve spits, and whoa, he thought he’d let the bitterness about that go, but apparently not.
There’s silence on the line for a long beat. “No, Steve,” Danny finally says, and his voice is raw, “not to me. Why did you think I kept coming back, spending an hour at a time giving you shit when I could have just picked up my stuff and left?” Steve draws breath to reply, but Danny keeps right on talking. “No, never mind, forget it, see, the thing is. The thing is, I’m supposed to be leaving tomorrow, but I’m not going to be leaving anything behind. Except you.”
“What--” Steve has to swallow, the air’s suddenly too dry, “what are you--”
“Everything I had, before, that all left me, you know?” Danny’s voice comes quiet over the line. “So I took this assignment, this long-term undercover gig, ‘cause what else was I going to do? But then, I’m getting in, so deep and just this side of burning the fuck out ‘cause I can’t see which way is up, right, and there you are, this tall drink of water who snipes right back at me and I can relax, you know, for one fucking minute, and it was, it was, shit, it was like the one honest thing in the whole fucking mess that was my life. And I just, I needed you to know that.”
Steve’s head is spinning a little; he latches onto the first thing he can. “Honest?”
“Fuck, yes, I know I couldn’t tell you my name, okay?” Danny sounds exasperated, and he’s probably waving his hands, too. “But everything else, Steve--Donkey Kong and Milla Jovovich and whatever the fuck else we did and did not talk about--that was honest, okay? Will you please, at least, accept that?”
One breath, two, and Steve says, his voice rough, “Yeah, Danny. Yeah, I can--I can do that.”
“Okay then, thank you.” Danny exhales, long and drawn-out. “So what are you doing tonight, anyway? Anything exciting?”
Steve can’t help the surprised huff of laughter that escapes. “Nah, my boss keeps sending me home with hand-sewing, so.”
“I think I got an hour and a half on this thing,” Danny says. “You can sew and talk at the same time, right?”
Steve clicks the speakerphone on and sets the cell on the arm of the chair. “Yeah, Danny, I can do that.”
Steve checks the news looking for Mafia-related stories exactly twice in the next few weeks. It’s two months, a gray mid-November day before he reminds himself he’s not actually waiting for anything, for anyone: Danny had talked and Steve had sewed for the seventy-eight minutes Danny had left on his disposable phone, they’d kept their goodnights light and easy, both well aware of how this goes.
He misses Danny anyway.
He keeps busy: throwing himself into his new career the way he’d done for his first because he knows no other way, Tuesday and Saturday afternoons at Bethesda for vicious wheelchair basketball. He’s been with the team for over a year, and he’s still laughably bad, but he always leaves feeling wrung out in the best way.
His old squad comes to visit, and it’s just as awkward as every time they come--Steve genuinely likes these guys, trusts them to the bones, but he doesn’t miss the way they watch him walk, the way they steer conversation like they’re traversing a minefield. He knows Beek’s remembering the tourniquet he’d had to screw down tight against Steve’s hip, Sam’s counting the number of field dressings he’d wrapped around Steve’s torso, Mike knows exactly how far they’d carried him. Steve knows they’re thinking there but for the grace because he’s thinking the exact same thing, and he loves them, but God, they’re exhausting and he’s not really sad to see them go.
Steve surprises himself with how deeply he comes to hate winter in D.C.--he’d always liked snow well enough before, but that was also before he’d tried to walk in it with a cane. After the first time he shows up to work with slush clinging to his ass, he starts carrying a change of clothes with him to the shop and wearing cheap cargo pants for the commute.
One January morning Hamid catches him near the employee door before he has a chance to change. Steve’s reminded strongly of the last time Hamid did that--but he’s certain he didn’t leave any bloodstains in the shop, so he looks around to see if he can find any clues to Hamid’s mood. Steve tries to be subtle about turning his left side away, but Hamid’s having none of it.
“How bad, this time?” Hamid asks. He waves his fingers gimme at Steve, the expression on his face very clearly expecting to see the damage Steve’s managed this time, so Steve turns toward him. “Where did you do this?”
Steve doesn’t bother to explain the mess on his knees--the bus splashed an impressive spray of soupy slush when it stopped--he just indicates the wet patch up his left leg all the way to his shoulder. “I slipped getting on the bus, fell back to the sidewalk,” Steve answers, and he can’t quite hide how unsteady he still feels.
Hamid clucks and roughly attacks the wet side of Steve’s head with a handkerchief while Steve shrugs his damp coat off. “You do not do yourself any good; you fall too often.”
“No--” Steve just barely stops himself from swearing as a fresh bruise on his elbow makes itself known. “I’m fine.”
Hamid steps back and crosses his arms over his chest. He frowns thoughtfully and says, “You’re not, and I hope you will not be too angry with me when I tell you you shouldn’t stay in Washington.”
Which is how, two weeks later, Steve’s on a plane to Honolulu. He’s not quite sure how Hamid blindsided him so thoroughly to set him up with another job--traded him like a football player to a friend expanding business from Hong Kong to Hawai’i--but, six years after he’d last been there, he’s going home.
Steve remembers the last conversation he’d had with his father as mostly bits and snatches. He hurt everywhere, had made the call in between doses so he wouldn’t fall asleep on an international connection. The thing he remembers most is how much he didn’t want his father to come to Landstuhl, how much he couldn’t bear for his father to see him, how much he wanted Dad to come anyway.
He got a visit from a chaplain two days later informing him of his father’s catastrophic stroke.
Arrangements were made over the phone, in between surgeries. Steve doesn’t remember a lot of those conversations, either, but he remembers feeling satisfied, so he doesn’t ask Mamo for details during their monthly check-ins about the house.
Maybe he should have, he thinks when he finds himself facing off cane-to-kitchen-knife against an angry, wetsuit-clad Korean woman in his father’s living room.
“What the hell are you doing here?” Steve shouts.
“I live here, what the hell are you doing here, haole?” she shouts back. Her knee’s wrapped tight and Steve’s easily got sixty pounds on her, but she’s holding the knife steady and Steve’s not entirely sure who would win if she got close enough to use it.
“I grew up here!” He’s not sure what he’s more angry about--that she’s here or that the living room looks entirely different. “I own the house!”
“Bullshit. Landlord’s gotta give twenty-four hours’ notice before he enters the property.”
“I’m not--I just wanted to come home.” Steve drops the cane and leans on it before he topples over; he’s fresh off nearly sixteen hours’ traveling and all he really wants is a bed.
Her demeanor changes in a flash; she drops the knife to her side and her face goes from stonily angry to open and empathetic. “Fuck, I’m sorry,” she says. “You must be Stevie, Mamo told me about you, I’m Kono Kalakaua.” She switches the knife to the other hand before she offers her hand out to shake.
Her grip is warm and strong. “Steve McGarrett,” he answers. “Only Mamo gets to call me Stevie.”
“Come on, brah, sit down already,” Kono orders and waves him through to the kitchen. He follows, not quite sure he’s ready to see what the kitchen looks like, but the barstool looks inviting enough. Kono hustles around the kitchen, putting the knife away and digging in the fridge. “I take it Mamo didn’t tell you he was renting the place out?”
“No--” Steve scrubs one hand over his face, recalling something about a ‘house account’ and paperwork, “I think--yeah, maybe? I didn’t pay a lot of attention, at the time.”
Kono’s got an impressive array of sandwich fixings laid out in front of him. “Mamo told me about your dad, I’m sorry.” Steve nods his thanks, but he’s surprised when she continues, “All that--” and she circles a finger to indicate the space Steve’s occupying, “--happened at the same time, too?”
“Hence the not really remembering,” Steve says and steals a slice of cheese.
“Sooo, Iraq or Afghanistan?” she asks while she’s piling a sandwich together. When Steve doesn’t answer right away, she glances up and gives him a knowing look. “I’m a physical therapist; I get a lot of referrals from Tripler.”
“Afghanistan,” he answers. “IED, more than two years ago, now. What about you?” Steve points in the direction of her knee.
“Massive wipeout.” Kono adds the top slice of bread to a monster of a sandwich before she squishes it viciously under the flat of her hand. “I was on the pro circuit when I was fourteen, blew out the knee a year later. I thought the whole helping-people-walk-again thing was pretty cool.” She takes a gigantic bite of the sandwich and looks at Steve with wide eyes. “Oh, hey, d’ju wan’ one?”
After they eat, Steve tries to leave and go to a hotel, but Kono flat-out refuses and sends him to the ‘guest suite,’ which he’s pretty sure the house didn’t have before--the end of the lanai is reconfigured, the old formal dining room expanded into it to house a wide-windowed bedroom overlooking the ocean and a brand-new bath.
“I’d have remembered this,” Steve blurts, but Kono just shrugs.
“This was here when I got here,” she says. “Okay, so you know: half my family is Honolulu PD and I already texted my cousin to run a check on you. And I’m a light sleeper.”
Steve grins and holds one hand up, palm out in surrender. “I swear, I just want to sleep for like, two days. And thank you--I’ll figure out--” he waves around for living arrangements, “--tomorrow.”
“No worries, brah, I’ll be on the North Shore tomorrow. Gotta catch the last of the winter waves.” She knocks lightly on the doorframe as she closes the door behind her.
Steve turns around, surveying the room: wide bed, sheer curtains, simple nightstands. Basic, like nobody’d bothered to really decorate yet. The bathroom is similar, functional without really feeling done. Steve’s surprised to find grab bars next to the weirdly tall toilet and in the large shower, but he’s too tired to wonder at them; he crashes into bed without much grace at all.
True to her word, Kono’s gone by the time Steve wakes up--even though the time difference means he’s up fairly early, Hawai’i time, he feels like he’s slept forever. He decides his first order of business is a call to Mamo.
“Stevie!” Mamo answers, joyful as ever. “Howzit, braddah? You still got snow up there?”
“Yeah, they got snow up there,” Steve answers. He rests his mug of tea to warm the top of his thigh. “But I got a job in Honolulu.”
“Ah, you’re coming home, then.” Mamo sounds pleased, and Steve can hear the surf in the background. “When will you get here?”
“I’m here now, actually,” Steve tells him. “I’m at the house.”
“You met Kono then? She’s kama’aina, good surfer.” He pauses a beat, and Steve’s about to say something when Mamo’s thoughts seem to catch up with him. “Wait, you’re wanting to move home? You didn’t read what I sent you? Her contract goes ‘til April.”
Steve snorts, because, of course. Mamo’s still talking, starting to sound a little more urgent. “You can’t kick her out, Stevie. You can come stay with me a while, yeah-no?”
“No, it’s fine, Mamo, we’ll work it out, I’ll let you know.” Kono had left a note telling him not to take off until they’d had a chance to talk living arrangements. “I got a question for you, though: Where’s all my father’s stuff?”
“A lot of what’s in the house is your father’s,” Mamo says. “He was redecorating some, those last couple years. Everything else I put in a storage locker; I can give you the key when I see you.”
Steve swallows against a fresh tightness in his chest, carefully sets the mug down on the table next to him. “And the ‘guest suite’? When did that happen?”
“Oh, Stevie,” Mamo sighs into the speaker. “Jack started plans for that the week you were wounded, after he talked to the doctors. He had the contractors arranged by the time you made it to that hospital in Germany, and he was going to meet you in Maryland. The work was all to be done by the time he brought you home.”
“And you just--” Steve gasps, he can’t, he can’t breathe.
“Jack had already made payments,” Mamo says gently, “and I’d still hoped you’d come home, so I saw your father’s plan through.”
Steve manages to get out a quiet, heartfelt “Thank you” before he hangs up. He runs one hand down the length of his thigh, his fingers tracing the ridges of scar tissue under his jeans, and finally lets himself grieve for his dad.
So Steve finds himself with a roommate for the next three months, after Kono haggles him into cutting her rent in half. He’s less sure about sharing the house the next day, when the traveling catches up with him and he can barely hobble to the kitchen; the last thing he needs or wants is smothering concern.
He needn’t have worried; Kono seems to have a sense of when to ignore and when to help, and when she does offer it’s without judgment. And after the first time, without argument on Steve’s part, because Kono is more like a drill sergeant than anything else. She somehow even gets him to promise he’ll wait to go swimming for the first time until she’s with him.
“I swam in this cove before I could walk,” Steve points out grumpily.
Kono’s scowl darkens. “Have you walked on sand at all in the last two years?”
Steve chooses to ignore that in favor of adding to his own argument; he doesn’t even have his swim trunks yet but he misses the ocean, so much. “I was a SEAL for six years, I know what I’m capable of.”
“How about now that half the muscle in your leg is gone?” Kono pulls no punches.
“I swam a lot in D.C., for rehab.”
“In a pool.”
Steve crosses his arms and glares; Kono glares right back. “I can help you surf again,” she says, and the ‘if’ at the end is as clear as if she’d voiced it.
“Okay, fine, Jesus,” Steve agrees. He tosses his hands up in resignation and suddenly finds himself getting hugged.
After that, they settle into a routine. Steve swims almost every morning, and Kono doesn’t leave for work until she hears him on the lanai. It’s a little weird, knowing someone’s keeping track of him, but it’s kind of nice.
He buys a small SUV (he’d really liked the big navy blue quad-cab, but he just couldn’t see himself making the climb to the driver’s seat after a long day) and starts work at Wu’s Fine Tailors in downtown Honolulu, sewing silky summerweight suits and shirts for a clientele very different from Hamid’s Beltway crowd. His first week at work, Steve spends the evenings watching rented movies to brush up on his Cantonese--apparently Hamid had studied with Gerald in Hong Kong, and once Gerald found out Steve understood him, he’d dropped his perfect English entirely.
Gerald tells him the arrangement he’d had with Hamid still stands, so he does handwork at home on the ugly days. It’s a lot more pleasant to work on the lanai than it was in his little apartment in D.C., even if he is hurting too much to truly enjoy it.
In mid-March Kono throws a luau for her sister’s birthday and strongarms Steve into helping with preparations. Steve’s pretty okay when people start arriving, but they just keep coming and he can’t quite remember the last time the house and yard were this full of commotion and people.
“You look a little shell-shocked, brah,” comes a warm voice at his shoulder, and Steve turns to see a familiar face.
“Hey, I know you,” he says with a smile and offers his hand to shake.
“You better!” Chin answers with a broad grin and wraps his hand around Steve’s forearm. “Island life agrees with you, McGarrett.”
“What brings you?” Steve lets go to indicate the chaos around his house.
Chin gestures with the beer bottle in his other hand. “Family. Kono and Keiki are cousins, and I don’t have the mainland as an excuse to miss these, anymore.”
Steve starts to steer them through the crowd toward a relatively peaceful corner of the lanai. “You’re working here, now?” he asks over his shoulder in time to see Chin grab another bottle of beer.
“Yeah, I transferred to the Honolulu office last October,” Chin says. “You?”
“Winter in D.C. sucks, man,” Steve tells him as he drops gratefully into a chair. He takes the bottle Chin offers. “Plus Hamid had a friend expanding business from Hong Kong to Oahu and he pretty much railroaded me.”
“Couldn’t have been too difficult,” Chin observes, and Steve nods. It wasn’t, really--for all he still feels a little raw, living with what his father left unfinished, he’s finding himself glad to be home.
The last two weeks of April, Kono doesn’t move out so much as drift away like the tide, and Steve’s kind of surprised when she tries to hand over her keys. He hands them back to her, saying, “You should keep them, you know, in case I get locked out or something.”
She gives him a considering half-smile and then wrenches at the keychain in her hands. “Here, then,” and she gives him a different set of keys, “you should keep my spare set. In case I get locked out. Or something.”
After that, she still keeps tabs on him--texting him weird pictures, cheering embarrassingly for his terribleness at wheelchair basketball, inviting him out for surfing. Chin comes over like clockwork, too, sometimes even sharing a few details about a case and asking Steve’s opinion--apparently Steve’s old security clearance is enough for Chin to trust him with case information, and Steve appreciates that more than he dares to try and articulate.
Then, one June morning, Steve’s just settling in to add pockets to some linen shirts when Gerald pokes his head into the back room. “New customer, asked for you,” Gerald says in the brusque way he has that still, somehow, manages not to sound rude. “Room 3, says he needs some shirts.”
Steve gets to the fitting room and stops just inside the saloon-style doors, feeling like he’s just crested the top of a giant roller coaster and is hurtling back to earth. The blond, broad-shouldered customer has his hands in his pockets and he’s half-turned from the door like he’s checking out the room.
“Danny?” It comes out soft, on the tail end of a breath.
Danny turns and his face lights up with a tentative smile. “Hey, Steve.” When Steve doesn’t manage more than a blink and a breath in reply, Danny takes his hands out of his pockets and taps his chest. “I feel like we haven’t been properly introduced, you know? So--” and he steps closer, offering one hand out like so many months ago, “--hi, I’m Danny Williams.”
Steve reaches out on autopilot, holds onto Danny’s hand for a beat longer than he probably should but Danny doesn’t let go right away, either. “What are you--you’re out?” He’s never actually been poleaxed, but he imagines it probably feels a lot like this.
“Yeah, turns out--” and Danny scratches at his chin, “--when you play a key role in the takedown of a major crime family, the Bureau is more willing to finally approve your transfer request, go figure.”
“And you transferred here?” Steve can’t stay still; there’s a little curl of something in his chest and he shuffles to the side, turning his attention to the credenza along the wall.
Danny pivots to watch him, Steve can feel it. “My daughter’s here, so here is where I want to be.”
The little curl sours, down in his guts, but damned if Steve will show it. He grabs for a notepad and turns back, tries to remember what to ask when confronted by a parent. “How old is she?”
“Almost nine, now,” Danny says proudly, and his eyes are soft like he’s not really seeing Steve in front of him. “I missed years, after her mom brought her out here. Now, twelve days a month isn’t going to make up for that, but it’s a hell of a lot better than I had.”
Steve has to clear his throat and look down to see where he’s very deliberately planting his cane. “Gerald said you, uh, you needed some shirts? I could probably get your patterns from Hamid, if you’re willing to wait a week or so, or I could take new measurements today, make a new pattern.”
There’s silence for a beat, long enough that Steve has to look up to see Danny watching him. Just before Steve opens his mouth to say something, anything, Danny nods and says, “Yeah, I think you should do that, the new pattern thing. You need me over there?” He points to the bank of mirrors on the far side of the room and skirts around Steve’s cane to get there.
Steve sets his cane against the credenza and steps slowly after him. On the platform, Danny’s eye-to-eye with Steve and his regard is unsettling, almost a physical weight. “You look good,” Danny says quietly. “Like you go to the beach.”
“Yeah,” Steve starts to reply, thinking of the beach he likes best, the quiet one behind his house, but then he finally realizes what Danny’s wearing: one of his shirts, the silver-white with fine charcoal pinstripes (and oh, is sewing pinstripes a pain in the ass), and: “A tie.” It’s slate blue, a good choice with the shirt, and the knot is perfect. “You’re wearing a tie.”
Danny smooths one hand down his front, palm gliding over the silk. “It’s professional attire.”
“Really? Here I thought I’d just taken a wrong turn, ended up in San Diego.” Danny’s smile grows as Steve’s frown intensifies.
“Nobody wears ties in Hawai’i.” Steve doesn’t know why it bothers him so much, but it’s jarring, not right, reminding him too much of D.C, perhaps. He’s seen maybe three ties since he came back to Oahu, hasn’t even unpacked his own.
“Yeah, well I do,” Danny says, smile turning to a scowl, his hands on his hips like he’s ready to throw down about it, so Steve backs off, at least a little.
“Okay, fine, at least you can finally tie the things properly,” he says, and Danny raises his chin in acknowledgement. “Except I gotta--” and Steve points at Danny’s neck with the end of his pen.
Danny’s scowl smooths out but he doesn’t look away; he just reaches up and tugs the tie loose, pops the top button of the shirt, bares his throat. Waits.
Steve tries to keep his movement crisp, professional, standing back enough that he doesn’t catch whiffs of Danny’s aftershave. He measures quickly, only noting the measurements that are different--Danny’s filled out a touch more in the shoulders, an inch trimmer at the waist.
“How long you been back here?” Danny asks, his voice pitched low while Steve works.
“Since February,” Steve murmurs around the pen in his mouth. “You?”
“Coupla weeks,” Danny replies. “I’m settling in, you know, getting back into work. WitSec is great and all, but if I don’t see another cow in my lifetime, I’ll be happy.”
“A cow?” Steve has to pause, hold the tape around Danny’s wrist and look up at him.
“They stuck me on a factory farm in fucking Nebraska, like I don’t stick out like a sore thumb working between Mexican guys and gigantic farm boys,” Danny says, his hand twitching like he’d rather be waving it.
“Huh.” It explains the changes in measurement, but Steve can’t think of anything else to say. He lets go, sticks the pen atop his ear and shuffles around behind Danny to measure his back length--not that he expects it to have changed.
“Still, I’m glad to be working with Chin again,” Danny says, and Steve freezes, his hands stopped before they reach Danny’s back. He glances over Danny’s shoulder to meet Danny’s eyes in the mirror. Danny smiles a little, like he’s sharing something just for them. “I’ll tell you something: Chin Ho Kelly is a meddlesome bastard.”
“He told you I was here.” The curl is back, warmth expanding in his chest, and Steve doesn’t dare look away.
Danny shakes his head, a small movement to the side. “I asked. He...insinuated.”
Steve isn’t aware of moving until his hands press flat against the warmth of Danny’s shoulder blades. “This is--” he swallows, struggles for breath, “--this is what we didn’t talk about.”
He can feel Danny lean back, a minute push against his palms. “It would have been unprofessional. And Chin was listening.”
“And now?” Steve asks, rough and low.
“Now I can be honest,” Danny answers, his gaze unwavering, one hand coming up to rest against his chest. Steve can feel muscle and bone shift beneath his fingers. “I missed you.”
A laugh bubbles up and escapes in a huff, short and sharp. Steve closes his eyes and rests his forehead against Danny’s spine, whispers, “I missed you, too.”
It feels like pulling the ripcord on a freefall jump, the moment the long fall breaks and the chute furls out above; Steve feels grounded only by the warmth of Danny under his forehead, under his hands, by the way Danny relaxes and spreads his stance a little, inviting more of Steve’s weight.
“That’s good,” Danny’s muttering, barely loud enough, “okay, I mean, of course it’s not good in the sense that it took us what, fucking forever to get to this, and I’m not gonna lie, I am a tiny bit embarrassed that Chin had, like, bullet points and shit. No, what is good is that we’re on the same page, here, we can, you know, we can go from here and maybe I don’t have to spend, like, everything I have just to have the excuse to come see you, now that the Bureau’s not paying, and I won’t have to feel like some kind of creep for wanting to see you beyond a professional capacity, if you know what I mean, okay, that, that is what is good.” Danny twitches one shoulderblade. “Steve? You’re good, right?”
Steve curves his hands around Danny’s shoulders and straightens up, catching Danny’s gaze in the mirror again. “Yeah, I’m--we’re good.” He stretches the tape measure along Danny’s spine and doesn’t miss the slight exhale of breath that elicits. “You still want a shirt, right?”
“Yeah, I, uh,” and Danny reaches up to scratch at one eyebrow, “I need a pink one.”
“Pink.” Steve isn’t quite sure he heard correctly.
Danny pivots quickly and looks square at Steve. “Apparently it’s a thing, at the office, newbie mainlander haole loses a rigged bet, gets told to wear something they choose, something embarrassing.”
Steve can’t help the way his eyebrows rise. “And pink, that’s embarrassing for you?”
“No, see, it is not,” Danny answers, one finger rising between them for emphasis, “I have a daughter, okay? I have worn pink, I have been doused in glitter and had wings strapped to my back, because I defy you to look in a three-year-old’s baby browns and refuse to play fairies. Pink is not a problem for me, but someone in my office apparently thinks it will be, so fuck them. I want a pink shirt, I know you can make me a good one, and I will wear it with pride.”
Steve starts smirking in the middle of Danny’s tirade, really lets it loose when he’s done. “Pride, huh?”
“Pride, my friend, that is exactly what I said.” Danny nods his head like it’s final, the beginnings of a smirk of his own on his face. Danny Williams isn’t much different from Danny Zuko--a little looser, maybe, but so much the same as Steve remembers that his smirk edges over into a grin.
Danny points at the barely-touched notepad in Steve’s hand. “What is this, you didn’t even take my measurements, now?”
Steve glances down to see what Danny’s pointing at and laughs. “No, brah, no need. You never forget your first.”
Steve gasps awake before dawn, bites down on a scream as half his muscles seize up tight. He breathes through the cramp, lies awake listening to his body throb for a while before he decides that it’s going to be the kind of day he hasn’t had for a few weeks now. The uptick in his physical activity has been great therapy: he’s gained back a lot of the upper-body muscle he’d lost while in the hospital and if he can help it, he’ll never be winter pale again.
It’s taken him almost three years to make peace with his body, but he’s proud of it, even on those days when he can barely get out of bed.
Eventually he manages to get to the bathroom, to break into the row of prescription bottles he uses less often since he arrived in Hawai’i. The rest of the day Steve spends in a tight orbit of four rooms--lanai, kitchen, living room, bathroom--without awareness of much beyond that. He’d have even forgotten to call Gerald if it weren’t for his phone pinging an alarm.
By late afternoon he’s restless, unable to sew and irritated by the television and focused tight on the movement of his feet and cane across the floor--pacing keeps the nerve pain in his calf and thigh to a dull twitch under his skin, maybe if he can wear himself to exhaustion he’ll be able to sleep, have a better day tomorrow. He feels like a grouchy tiger in an old-fashioned zoo exhibit.
So he’s surprised when his doorbell rings, but it doesn’t take him long to remember why when he looks at the clock--six on the dot. Shit, it’s Friday.
Steve reaches the door just as knocking sounds from the other side; he swings it open just far enough he can poke his head around, lean his right hand against the doorjamb. “Hey, Danny, I’m sor--”
“Fuck, Steve, you look awful,” Danny blurts in greeting and lowers his hand. “You okay?”
Steve looks away fast, up and over Danny’s head to the street, so he doesn’t see whatever’s on Danny’s face. “Look, I’m fine, I know I should have called but I’m not--” he blows out a breath, dares to drop his gaze back to Danny. “Take a rain check tonight?” The nerves in his calf start clamoring, driving tiny little knives down toward his ankle, and Steve yearns to start moving again.
Danny frowns, his lips pressed into a thin line for a moment before he nods. “Yeah, okay, if you’re sure,” he says slowly, like he’s giving Steve time to decide different.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” Steve reassures him. “I’m just not good company tonight. I’ll call, okay?”
Danny levels one finger at Steve’s chest. “I’m gonna hold you to that,” he says before he turns back to a silver Camaro sitting in the driveway.
Steve’s not sure if he’s relieved or unhappy when he closes the door, but he pushes it aside. He’s just got to ride this out and it’s easiest to do when he’s moving, so back to pacing he goes.
Nine circuits later, he’s just rounding the corner into the living room when the front door pops open and Danny comes striding in, carrying three white paper bags and a six pack of almost-beer.
“Danny?” Steve blurts, and Danny kicks the door shut behind him.
“I never did figure out how rain checks work,” Danny says, and he breezes past Steve into the kitchen.
Steve catches a scent of something delicious--jasmine, maybe--and he grumbles, “What the hell?” He lurches into the kitchen to find the bags on the counter and Danny digging through his cupboards. “I told you--”
“And I heard you, Steven, I did,” Danny says, pausing long enough in his raiding of the kitchen to stop and look at Steve. “But see, I started thinking, we were planning on dinner, right, and when was the last time you ate anything?”
Steve has to swallow or he’ll drool out the side of his mouth; he’s pretty sure there’s pho in there somewhere. But he sets his jaw, no way is he going to tell Danny that the last time he ate anything more complicated than a Hot Pocket was yesterday.
“Yeah, see, that’s what I’m talking about,” Danny says and turns back to pulling stuff out of the cupboards, laying plates out on the table and digging in the bags. “And I figure I’m good enough company for both of us, so.” He stops and spreads his hands wide.
“Fuck you,” Steve growls, because this feels uncomfortably close to pity, and that’s the last thing he wants from Danny.
“Right back atcha very kindly, babe,” Danny answers, unperturbed. He settles himself at the table and starts opening boxes. “Now sit your ass down and eat, you stubborn sonofabitch.”
He’s too hungry to do much more than dig in at first; it looks like Danny ordered half the menu. Once they’ve demolished a large plateful each--with the table a minefield of open boxes between them--Steve’s feeling measurably better but not good by a long shot. He fills his plate again and starts bouncing his bad knee, hoping that will be enough movement to keep the nerves too busy to be painful even though he knows it’s not really going to work.
Danny leans back, cracking open a second near-beer and saying, “Yeah, this was better than a restaurant, you know? No pressure, none of this getting-to-know-you chitchat that I am, if my record is to be believed, really fucking bad at.” He watches Steve’s knee bounce for a moment, and Steve resolutely does not notice Danny’s watching. “‘s a good thing we already know each other.”
“Oh yeah, how do you figure?” Steve mumbles between bites.
“I know, for example,” Danny says, “that you won’t tell me how much pain you’re in right now.” Steve stiffens, his hands poised around his plate, and lifts his gaze to Danny’s. “I know that likewise, you won’t tell me if there’s anything I could do to help alleviate said pain, just like I know that I won’t ask, even though it goes against my very nature to keep quiet.”
Steve narrows his eyes and feels more furious with each breath. “So really, that was you asking if you could help me, in the most roundabout way possible,” he growls. When Danny gives him nothing more than narrowed eyes in return, Steve spits, “I’m not a fucking project and I d--”
“Who the fuck said you were?” Danny cuts him off. He shoves his chair back and starts jabbing takeout boxes closed. “Did it ever maybe occur to you, you self-absorbed asshole, that some people would rather spend time with you than be home alone because they like your company?” He marches back and forth between the table and the refrigerator, unceremoniously filling the empty top shelf with containers. “D’ju ever think that maybe, just maybe, some people don’t like to see someone they care about suffering, huh?”
Steve feels his anger melt under Danny’s glare, a little curl of pleasure growing in its wake. He crosses his arms over his chest and bounces his knee faster. “You care about me?”
Danny lets the fridge door fall shut and throws his hands out like he’s amazed that Steve’s managed to figure out that much. “And in the normal world of human interaction, people--” and Danny points both hands at Steve, “--allow other people--” then he points at himself, “to express that caring by telling them what they need and letting them help!”
Steve can’t resist. “Wait, which ‘they’ is doing what, now?”
Danny grunts and curls his fingers like he wants to wrap them around Steve’s throat before he catches Steve smirking. “Oh, I oughta beat you with your cane, you jerk.”
“Gotta take it from me first.”
“I am so not getting into that with you,” Danny grumbles and comes back to fall into his chair. “Look, if I weren’t here, the agenda for your evening would look like what, pacing until you’re too exhausted to do more than sleep where you land?”
“Pretty much.” Steve nods, focusing on the tabletop and tightening his arms around his chest; it’s...intimate, letting Danny know this.
“And if I stay?” Danny asks, his voice gone soft. “Will you still need to move, or is there something we could do different, something I could do to help?”
“Maybe,” Steve allows, just as quietly. For all he knows the dimensions of Danny’s body, knows the numbers of the space he takes up and wants to learn what those numbers feel like, Steve’s not entirely sure how he feels about letting Danny map the damage to his body, the way he’s healed crooked.
“Look, you don’t--”
“Stay,” Steve says, finally looking up to meet Danny’s eyes.
“Okay,” Danny answers, and his expression smooths out into pleased. “Okay. So what’s, uh--” he rubs at his nose like he’s suddenly self-conscious, “--what’s the plan, then?”
Steve unclenches enough to grab his spoon, and he returns his focus to the plate while he drives rice around. He stretches his bad leg out, just far enough to rest his bare toes against the jeans hem covering Danny’s ankle. He has an idea, but: “It’s not exactly first-date material,” he confesses.
Danny laughs and presses his ankle tight against Steve’s toes. “Babe, you took scissors to a gunfight for me. We gotta be in, like, fourth date territory by now.”
“They were shears,” Steve corrects him with a chuckle. “Maybe fifth?”
“Going steady, even,” Danny agrees.
Steve wiggles his toes and jiggles the knee; the spikes are starting again but they’re not too bad, not yet. “I have--” Steve blows out a hard sigh, takes a deep breath, “--days like today, this--” he waves the spoon to indicate his leg, “--is nerve damage, nerve pain, like sometimes the nerves get confused and start firing wrong. Moving usually helps, but before I left Bethesda I tried massage a couple times.” He dares a glance at Danny.
“Massage, eh?” Danny rests his chin on one hand, elbow on the table. “Maybe a happy ending?” he asks, a mischievous glint in his eyes.
It feels so weird to be discussing it at the kitchen table, which is maybe why Steve’s laugh escapes louder than he’d intended. “Yeah, not for me,” he says, “not with the shit I’m on today.” Danny looks a little disappointed, at least until Steve adds with a touch to Danny’s elbow, “Maybe for you, though. Since we’re going steady.”
Danny’s a lot faster than Steve expects; all he gets is a glimpse of a wide grin before Danny’s warm hands are framing his face, warm lips pressing soft against his own. Steve straightens in his chair, pushes up into the kiss like his spine’s electrified, his focus shifted and narrowed to the way Danny’s stubble rasps against his, the slide of Danny’s lips, a tentative tongue. Danny’s arms fit nicely under his hands, his thumbs hooked just below the bulge of biceps.
The moan that rises from Steve’s chest is as much regret as it is enjoyment, and he pulls back earlier than he’d rather, but he’s already pushed his luck and he needs to move, now. “Mmm, sorry, I gotta--” he gasps, and Danny straightens up, giving Steve enough room to lever himself out of his chair.
“‘S’okay,” Danny answers. He’s standing like he first did in the shop, every line of his body hesitant, waiting for direction. “You’re driving, babe, do what you gotta do.”
Steve leans his weight on his hands, one on the cane and one on the table, and shimmies his hips to shake his left leg out. He keeps his face turned to the floor--Danny can probably see his wince, but he can hope--and says quietly, “I, ah. I’m due for another dose, and we should probably--there’s not room on the couch.”
“Tell you what.” Danny claps his hands together lightly, and Steve starts the four steps across the kitchen. “You go, do your thing, get what you need, I will clean up in here, and then I will come find you, wherever you want to do this, all right? Capisce?”
“Capisce?” Steve looks up, and Danny waves one hand irritably.
“Year and a half, it sticks to you,” he grumps. Steve grins, tempted to break into a terrible pop song that he’s been hearing from his neighbor’s yard. Danny must see it; he waves his hands shoo and points toward the hallway. “You think you could manage a shower, too? I hate to break it to you, but just between you and me, you’re kinda ripe.”
“Bitch, bitch, bitch,” Steve mutters loudly as he moves back toward his bedroom, “you barge into my house--”
“I brought you dinner!” Danny yells from the kitchen.
“--and now you tell me I need a shower?” Steve leans one hip on the edge of the bathroom sink while he digs into the medicine cabinet. Once he gets the meds down, though--now that he’s been standing still a while--he can tell Danny’s right. He stinks.
Fortunately he keeps a few sets of shorts in the bathroom cabinet, so it’s quick work over to the shower, really just a tiled-in space at the end of the room with only a low lip to step over. The nerves in his calf have shifted away from outright pain to crawly-spiders-under-the-skin, which still creeps Steve out but is relatively ignorable, and the sciatic nerve seems to have taken up where the smaller ones left off, radiating a weird half-numb-half-burning feeling around his hip and down into his thigh. He hopes the change means the flare is getting close to burning out, but he knows from experience that it doesn’t really mean a damned thing.
The shower skirts close to being too much, but Steve manages to get dry enough and get his shorts on only by keeping the promise of the wide bed firmly in mind. When he reaches the bedroom, he hears an indrawn hiss of breath before he spots Danny near the window.
Steve’s not embarrassed about his scars, not really--they’re a roadmap to things he should not have survived, a testament that he did and is slowly healing--but he can see, in the moment it takes Danny to recover, just what they look like. “Danny,” he says softly, “you don’t--”
“You should probably know,” Danny says, a little over-cheerful, “the sum total of my massage experience is giving neckrubs to cute girls in the library. In college.” He steps forward and waggles his fingers. “But I was told I have magic fingers, so if you believe some college girls from Jersey, circa--” he screws up his face in thought, “--1998, I come highly recommended.”
Steve huffs out a chuckle, surprised at the relief that bubbles up under his ribs. “Sounds like you’ll do fine,” he says before letting his knees fold and his ass land on the mattress. He uses his arms to scoot himself toward the middle of the bed.
“Uh, you got oil or something?” Danny asks, and Steve swears.
“I think there’s some baby oil in the kitchen,” Steve says, and at Danny’s quizzical look, he throws up his hands. “Yeah, I think Kono left it, and no, I don’t know why, but I’m pretty sure I saw some, upper left cupboard by the sink.”
In the time it takes Danny to get to the kitchen and back, Steve manages to get to the bathroom. He ignores Danny’s scolding hiss and grabs a couple towels before heading back toward the bed. Between the two of them--and a few nudges from Steve’s cane that have Danny scowling hilariously, which is why Steve keeps doing it--they manage to get the covers peeled back and Steve atop the towels in the middle of the bed.
Danny shucks his jeans before crawling over to sit next to Steve’s hip. “Okay, what now?” He looks Steve up and down, gaze lingering on the ink across Steve’s shoulders, before he frowns. “How d’you--”
“I think--” Steve says, and he pulls up onto one elbow. Lying on his back isn’t so comfortable, so he reaches to shove both pillows under his scarred side to prop him more at an angle. He doesn’t have the muscle to keep his leg steady, and Danny gently grabs hold of the knee and shuffles around until he’s sitting with his legs crossed, shins pressed to Steve’s good leg and the scarred leg resting across Danny’s thighs. As soon as they settle Steve breathes deep, the heat from Danny’s legs and his hands where they’re resting on either side of the knee feels fantastic.
“You good?” Danny asks, and Steve gives him a smile. “I’m not gonna hurt you?”
“Oh, I’ll let you know,” Steve promises, and Danny grabs the baby oil bottle.
“Yeah, probably kick me in the face,” Danny mutters as he pops open the bottle and pours a little in his palm. “You don’t have any scissors close by, do you?”
“Scout’s honor, no scissors,” Steve promises with a laugh. He curls one arm under his head, the better to watch as Danny leans away and starts working along his calf.
Danny doesn’t press hard at first, just skates his oil-slick fingers from Steve’s ankle to his knee, avoiding the worst of the scars and getting a sense of the underlying terrain. It’s enough to compete with the crawly-spiders, but Steve doesn’t lose that feeling until Danny’s third pass, when he starts digging in, pushing against the too-tight grain of muscle and oh. That feels good.
“‘M tellin’ you, this, you gotta,” Danny murmurs while he works, “you gotta get something different for this kind of thing, babe. All I can think of when I smell this stuff is chasing my baby girl through the house and hoping I can catch her before she greases up the furniture.”
“Did you?” he asks, just loud enough to be heard. “Catch her?”
“Most of the time,” Danny tells him with a rueful laugh. “Grace loved being naked, and it only got worse when she figured out how to take her own clothes off. Rach and I, we got used to it, didn’t blink when she’d streak through the house.”
Steve reaches out to trace along a faint scar across Danny’s knee. “Rach--your wife?”
Danny’s fingers twitch against Steve’s Achilles before they continue their slide up his calf. “Rachel, my ex, yeah,” he breathes, and Steve can hear the ache in it. This is the wound Danny’s been carrying with him, down where he doesn’t show it. “She, ah. I...wasn’t around much, for a while there. Had a couple multi-state cases, did a short undercover job--wanted to distinguish myself, you know?” He glances over, meets Steve’s eyes for a breath before turning back to watch his hands. “Got stabbed on an insurance fraud case--can you fucking believe that, goddamn insurance fraud and the guy goes certifiable, tries to gut me like a fish--and she decided she couldn’t do it, couldn't do the waiting if it also meant I could come home cut to ribbons, or not come home at all.”
Danny runs his knuckles under Steve’s calf, encouraging what’s there to relax, and Steve's foot twitches with the release of it. “She waited to tell me, like she thought it was kinder to wait until I was halfway through rehab and mostly self-sufficient again, but. It got ugly.”
“She brought Grace to Hawai’i?” Steve asks when Danny stops to get more oil.
Danny leans his wrists atop Steve’s thigh, one hand cupped full of oil and one holding the bottle. “She got married, got custody, nothing I could do.” He turns the oil-filled hand over, spreading it from Steve’s knee to his hip and pushing the shorts up out of the way with his mostly-dry knuckles. “I took the Salvo case a month later, went under two weeks after that.”
“And met me.” Steve pokes Danny’s thigh and gets a swat on the elbow in return. “Lucky you,” he says with a chuckle.
“Yeah, yeah,” Danny says, but his expression goes unaccountably soft even as he digs his fingers into Steve’s quad.
Steve can’t quite contain a noise--not a whimper, but embarrassingly close--and Danny freezes, but Steve waves him on. “‘S good,” he reassures Danny, who starts moving again. “Feels right, like it’ll help in the long run.”
Danny works in silence for a while, and Steve watches him, watches the way the muscles work across his shoulders. The burning-numb feeling starts to fade, and there’s a deep ache left over as the muscles relax, but Steve’s pretty sure he’ll be able to sleep, at least. He’s already starting to drift a little, exhaustion creeping in around the edges, until Danny’s voice makes him perk back up and pay attention.
“I promised I wasn’t going to pry, but that was before I got to get up close and personal,” Danny says quietly. His fingers dip gently into the deepest scar, a vicious twist along Steve’s inner thigh, before going back to kneading muscle. “What the hell happened?”
Steve sucks air for a moment; it’s not like he hasn’t told about it before but Danny deserves more than the bare bones of the story. It’s easier, that Danny isn’t meeting his eyes, that Danny’s focus is elsewhere. “I was hit with an IED,” he starts, his voice rough. “In Afghanistan. It was a night op, it was textbook and we...I got. We were on the way back, and I didn’t see it until I heard it click, that I’d set it off, and I tried to turn away but I wasn’t fast enough. My team...my team carried me out.” He’s not really seeing the plane of Danny’s back anymore, is barely aware of the hands anchoring his leg. “Some of the...damage is from what they had to do to keep me from bleeding out.”
“Jesus, Steve,” Danny whispers. His hand is wrapped solidly around the tender back side of Steve’s knee, holding the joint close to his belly. He reaches with his other hand to cover the scars on Steve’s side.
“I begged them not to take my leg,” Steve admits, feeling broken and small.
Danny sighs, a world of emotion in the sound, and he slides around, shifting them both until Steve’s face is tucked under Danny’s chin, one of Steve’s arms across his body and the scarred thigh snugged warm between Danny’s own. Danny squeezes Steve to him, his arm heavy across his shoulders, and Steve gives in, holds on and breathes.
It’s fully dark when Steve wakes up, just the opposite from the last time he’d awakened: he comes to with a slow-growing awareness, starting with how mostly-comfortable he is. There’s just a niggling ache in one hip where he’s lying on it, the kind that demands a change in position, but everything else is blessedly quiet. Probably because he’s half-draped over a furnace of a breathing body pillow: Danny’s giving off considerable body heat along with an occasional grunt of a snore.
Given the way he’s clamped onto Danny--nose tucked under Danny’s jaw, hand snugged under Danny’s ribs, knee between Danny’s thighs--it’s going to be impossible to change positions without waking Danny up. So Steve stays put for a little while: teasing apart the scent of himself and Danny’s spiciness and sweat and the overlying sweetness of baby oil, matching his breathing to Danny’s and holding his palm against the heartbeat beneath, marveling at the miracle of it until the ache in his hip can no longer be ignored.
As soon as Steve shifts, Danny rouses, mumbling something utterly incoherent but being mostly helpful by not moving much as Steve repositions. As soon as he goes still, lying stretched out on his belly, Danny rolls politely alongside him, chin against shoulder, one hand resting in the small of Steve’s back, one knee just bent enough to rest gently and warmly on the back of Steve’s wounded thigh. “I expect my happy ending ‘n th’ morning, jus’ so y’know,” Danny growls softly into Steve’s ear.
Steve rubs his nose against Danny’s and murmurs, “Anythin’ you wan’, Danno,” before he falls back to sleep.