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“Should we get married?” Danny asks, completely out of the blue on an otherwise unremarkable Tuesday evening. “I mean, there’s tax benefits and, y’know...”

“Tax benefits,” Steve repeats. He blinks, thinks that one over, but no, it still doesn’t make sense. “Is this about what that suspect said yesterday?”

“No. Yes. Everyone already assumes we’re married so maybe we should just...” Danny gestures broadly with his beer. He’s maybe a little bit… Not drunk, but definitely tipsy.

“For the tax benefits.”

Danny gives him an aggravated look. “Yes, Steven, for the tax benefits.”

Steve thinks about it. He’s still not entirely sure it makes sense but. He shrugs. “Sure, Danno, we can get married.”

 

***

 

Steve doesn’t forget about the conversation, but he doesn’t exactly think about it either. It sits there in the back of his mind with all the other memories he could call up if he needed to but doesn’t dwell on.

(Although maybe he should because the ones he does dwell on are far less pleasant.)

They arrest an arms dealer and stumble into a clusterfuck of an inter-agency serial killer investigation and between the bureaucracy and the shoot-outs, there isn’t really much time for thinking at all. Steve goes home exhausted every night and falls into his side of the bed while Danny falls into the other and—

He can’t say why exactly, but at some point he wakes up, rolls over to look at his partner and thinks ah, so this is why people think we’re married.

 

***

 

He still doesn’t do anything about it. Mostly because there is hardly any time to breathe between closing the serial case and picking up another, then another, then another. Steve can’t remember the last time he slept a full eight hours; he’s living on caffeine and adrenaline and the sandwiches Danny forces on him if he can get Steve to sit at his desk long enough to eat them.

It’s Lou who corners him coming out of rendition one day, late in the evening when they should all be going home, except for the fact that there are three kids missing and the clock has long since ticked past maybe they’re still alive. Steve’s knuckles are bruised and aching, but he’s pretty sure none of them are broken. He’s one more dead end away from punching a wall, though, and that might do them in.

(Danny is going to be pissed if breaks anything, he thinks, but especially if he does it doing something stupid like punching a wall.)

“You need a break,” Lou says. Steve starts to shake his head, but Lou just holds up a hand. “You are going to go home with Danny. You are going to eat, sleep, do whatever it is you two do to relax, and you will not be back here before eight a.m.”

“There are kids missing.”

He can’t say dead. Knows they must be, but he can’t—

“And we’ll find them,” Lou says, so solid and reassuring that Steve almost believes him. “But that’s not going to happen if you kill yourself first going on like this.”

Steve makes another attempt at shaking his head. Lou just squeezes his shoulder, steers him toward the elevator.

“Twelve hours, McGarrett, I mean it. I‘ll hold down the fort here; you and your partner just take care of each other. I know you’re all about this job, and Danny knows it too, but take it from someone who has been married almost twenty years, man, you can’t let it be everything or you’re going to lose all the other good things you’ve got.”

It’s not until half an hour later, when he’s watching with tired eyes as Danny unlocks the front door, that Steve realises what exactly Lou was saying. He also realises that he doesn’t feel a need to correct him. Not the married thing, Lou knows they’re not like that, but—he’s not wrong. Danny is a good thing. The best thing, maybe. Best friend, best partner anyone could ask for, best… Just the best. 

“What?” Danny says when he glances over his shoulder and catches Steve watching him.

“Nothing.” Steve shakes his head. Then in a burst of sappy spontaneity: “I love you, buddy.”

Danny’s smile is a little bemused, but fond. Always fond. “I love you too.”

It’s nothing special; words they’ve said a hundred times, easy and familiar. 

But maybe that’s the point.

 

***

 

The thing is. People have been making jokes about them being married for about as long as they’ve known each other. It was mostly the bickering, yeah, but the more Steve looks back, the more he sees that it wasn’t just the bickering. It was Steve driving Danny’s car and Danny fixing Steve’s tie and all the casual touches they never tried to hide. It was North Korea, Afghanistan, Columbia. It was “Danno” and “babe” and “I love you” and all the conversations where words weren’t needed at all. It was the liver and the restaurant and the way that Danny packed up his life and moved in with Steve just because he was worried. 

It was the way that the team shifted and changed but they always stood together. There was never any question that they would always stand together.

So yeah, maybe everyone else was onto something. Maybe they’ve always been at least a little bit married.

Maybe it wouldn’t be so crazy.

Maybe.

***

 

Danny’s wedding band was yellow gold. Steve is pretty sure he still has it somewhere, although Steve has never seen it. He’s only seen glimpses in photographs; baby pictures of Grace and a few family snapshots from holidays. Danny still rubs his finger occasionally, like he expects something to be there, even though Steve knows he doesn’t miss it.

He can’t imagine wearing a ring himself. He knew guys in the teams who used to take them off before every mission, tuck them away in socks with all the other precious keepsakes they couldn’t bear to lose. Steve never did it himself, never had anything worth keeping. He gets it now though; gets what it feels like to want to keep something close and at the same time want to hide it away for its own safety.

He thinks of Freddie and his tattoo and the way he’d laughed at how ridiculous and sappy and so very Freddie it had seemed at the time. He thinks about how that tattoo was the thing that brought Freddie home. 

He thinks about it a lot.

***

 

They do find the kids, but it’s several days later and only one of them is still alive. Steve watches Danny carry her out of the rat-infested house in the middle of nowhere and thinks about Grace and Charlie and Joan. He ducked Mary’s call two nights ago, hadn’t wanted his sister to hear him break the way he knew he would if he heard his niece’s voice right then. He couldn’t make himself talk to Grace last night either when Danny held out the phone; it made Danny frown and Steve ducked away from that too, made some excuse about paperwork that wasn’t entirely untrue. 

But tonight he knows that Danny will sit out on the beach and talk to both his kids and there won’t even be a question about Steve joining in. He knows that they’ll eat pizza because they’re both too tired to cook and they’ll drink beer and not-talk and Danny will go to bed first but he’ll still be awake when Steve joins him. He knows at least one of them will have nightmares, maybe both, because this case was fucking awful and just because it’s over doesn’t mean they can stop thinking about it. 

He knows how the rest of this day will play out and every day after that and maybe that should scare him but it doesn’t. 

 

***

 

“Okay,” he says, and it’s another Tuesday but it’s morning and it’s remarkable because of just how unremarkable it is. Steve didn’t sleep well, woke up well before the sun and whispered to Danny to go back to sleep before he slipped out for a swim. It’s still early and he’s a little cold, dripping water all over the house because he forgot a towel, and Danny hadn’t even paused in making breakfast to hand him a cup of coffee like it was the most normal thing in the world. And it is; this is normal these days. He can’t pinpoint when exactly it happened, but this is normal, this is Steve’s life, so okay. Okay. “Lets get married.”

Danny blinks at him. He doesn’t look fully awake yet. “Right now?”

“Well. No. I mean, there is probably paperwork and… stuff.”

“Stuff,” Danny echoes. He looks at the toaster when it spits out a cooked piece of bread but doesn’t move to do anything with it. “You know, if this is a proposal, it’s not very romantic.”

“It’s not a proposal.” 

Is it? Steve has to stop and think about that but. No. It isn’t. Not really. Danny said it first; this is just…. follow-up.

He crosses his arms, still dripping on the floor. “Besides, it was your idea.”

He knows the exact moment it clicks because Danny’s mouth falls open a little before he remembers to close it. “The tax benefits? I was just joking about that.”

“I know,” Steve says. He does. He’s had a lot of time to think about this. “I’m not talking about the tax benefits.”

(He had googled them, purely out of curiosity, but there is no need to mention that.)

“Oh.” Danny nods a little, like he’s not sure he’s doing it. “You don’t think we’re doing this kind of backwards? It’s just, usually there are a few steps before marriage…”

Steve shrugs. “Do you?”

They’ve never really done things normally. He doesn’t see why they should bother now.

“At least nobody will be surprised,” Danny says thoughtfully. “Plus, this way I do get those tax benefits quicker.”

Steve rolls his eyes, but he’s smiling, can’t help it. It’s ridiculous. Completely, utterly ridiculous.

He doesn’t think anything has ever made more sense in his life.