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The Cost of Living

Chapter Text

Are you open for trade
Your salvation, for something, for some thrills
Is a body of work for your inspection
You can trace, trace my concern
My concern

I've been looking for truth
At the cost of living
I've been afraid
Of what's before mine eyes

“Five-O” by James

 

"Seriously, brah, you need to get laid in the worst way."

Steve vaguely remembers waving off Kamekona’s exasperated words of a few days ago. "What I really need," he had said shortly, "is the name of someone on this damned island who knows who is sending Stinger missiles to the Samoans."

Kamekona hefted his thick hands in a calming gesture. "Soon, brah, soon. Island time, remember?"

Steve remembered. He sighed and then reached over the counter and got himself a Coke, dropping a hundred dollar bill on the counter in payment. "See if you can get them to speed it up just a little, man, will you?"

Kamekona nodded, swiped his hand over the bill and made it disappear somewhere about his person, then returned to the topic with a wide grin. "I know this guy, my ma swears by him. She says he can make the earth move for you and put it right back where it belongs, all for a very reasonable price. He’s a haole, but very nice to all the aunties. And a few of the uncles."

Steve choked, getting a nose full of Coca-Cola in his horror. The top of the Most Appalling list kept changing like a kaleidoscope in his brain. First, it was Kamekona recommending a hooker to him, then the idea that he needed a male hooker. Then he confronted the vision of Kamekona’s mother chatting with him about a prostitute, and giving him a good review.

"You okay dere, Steve?" A flash of worry creased the big man’s face as he watched Steve wiping away the Coke dribbling down his face.

"This is a joke. You are not seriously recommending that I hire a gay hooker, are you?"

"Eh, you need sumthin’ to take the edge off. And I’ll bet that pretty little tita cousin of Chin’s is off-limits in a big way." His eyebrow had quirked in a frighteningly confiding manner.

"K, man, I am a cop now. I cannot go around hiring hookers. Besides, what makes you think I’d go for a guy, anyway?"

Steve knew he had totally blown it by the kindly look Kamekona had sent his way. "Eh, I been wrong before," he said before his cell phone had rung. Steve wondered vaguely if he could cover up evidence of Kamekona’s untimely death. After a brief spate of pidgin and a big booming laugh, Kamekona had the information Steve was waiting for and they parted without anything else being said on the subject.

Now he thinks he should have said something else, something a lot more forceful, about male hookers and how they should not be sent to one Steven J. McGarrett.

Because he’s had a bad week. He’s had some good beers to take the edge off, too. When the first drink arrived, "already paid for, sir,” Steve remembers that one of Kamekona’s multitudinous cousins owns this bar. By the third drink, when a key-card for the motel next door arrived with a room number scribbled on a cocktail napkin, he’d started to forget why this was a bad idea. Later, he will remind himself that he’d already sort-of-known what he would find when he went to that room, and he had gone anyway.

It's a cheap Kalihi motel, better than some he's seen, but not great. It doesn’t charge by the hour, but it isn’t much farther up the economic ladder than that. The room is at the end of the building, around the corner from the manager’s office. It's the only one on this side of the building with a light showing through the orange polyester curtains beside the door.

The door opens in response to his tap and, when he looks up from his boots, it is to find a blond looking inquiringly at him. To be more exact, a blond man. A short blond man with very blue guarded eyes and an impatient twitch to his eyebrow.

"You K’s friend?"

Steve isn’t exactly certain what the guy is asking and he’s pretty sure he’s at the wrong door. This guy is barefoot, wearing dark jeans and a navy blue tee shirt. He looks like what he probably is – a mainlander here for the clubbing and waiting for some pimply Island kid to deal him some coke or X to start his night.

The guy makes an annoyed click with his tongue reminiscent of Steve’s great-aunt Sally and says, "Shamu. You know, big dude, about six feet wide, sells shave ice?"

Now Steve is wishing he hadn’t had that last drink. He could’ve figured the drinks and whatever, or whoever, waited for him in this room were from Kamekona; he was very grateful that Steve kept his younger cousins out of the gun trade (and jail) yesterday. But why in hell the big guy is making assignations for him with short blond dudes is a question Steve intends to ask him as soon as he extracts himself from this stupid situation.

"Look, he must have got it wrong," Steve says with the distinct enunciation of two beers and three of the swirly blue things.

"You really want to have this conversation out in the open?" the man asks practically. He steps back from the doorway, inviting him in with a sweep of his arm.

Steve has to admit he’s got a point and steps inside.

It’s a small room and the decor is predominantly orange and beige. There is a single lamp on beside the bed for mood lighting; it just succeeds in making his host look exhausted and a little bit haunted around the edges.

"There’s been a mistake," he starts. At least three by his count and those are just the ones Steve himself has made.

"Let’s see if you still think that in an hour."

The man is looking him up and down and his gaze is far too assessing for Steve’s liking. It is also weirdly hot to be the focus of that blue-eyed intensity.

"Sit," and the short guy pushes him just right and Steve sits, well, folds onto the bed.

Then Blondie says, "I’ve already been paid. Let me do what I do," and he slides to his knees, fingers already unbuttoning Steve’s pants. There is a condom unrolled with a hotter-than-hell mouth around his half-hard cock before Steve can even say, "Not interested."

Which would have been a lie, and Steve is usually pretty good at lying, unless someone is sucking his cock like they’re getting oxygen through it. Just now, the only kind of lying Steve is good at involves the motel bed beneath his back. He’s harder than he’s ever been and there are startlingly large hands pinning his hips to the scratchy orange coverlet. That hot mouth is sucking away his mobility, his autonomy, his heterosexuality. All he can do is lie there, jerking and gasping, as this strange guy plunders his dick like it’s the siege of Troy.

Those hands have started to stroke up and down his hips, drawing his pants down his thighs farther and farther on each pass. They’re just on the good side of tickling and he relaxes into them. Once the pants are out of the way, those big hands slide beneath his hips, lifting him even deeper into the hooker’s mouth. Jesus, doesn’t this guy have a gag reflex? A warm trickle of spit runs down his balls. It is the hottest and dirtiest thing Steve can ever remember feeling.

Then a slick finger slides into his ass and he shoots up off the bed like he’s doing crunches. "What the hell?" he yelps, but it’s not all indignation. No one has ever shoved anything in his ass for fun and no exam was electric like this.

The hooker just grins, lips curving obscenely around the head of Steve’s cock before he pulls off to say, "Calm down, He-Man. This’ll feel good."

He lets the tiniest edge of a tooth drag over the head when he slides it back into his mouth and Steve can’t do anything but slap back down on the bed and pant. He wishes there was something to bang his head against until his tormentor's fingers press deep inside him, hard and good, and he forgets everything else.

The guy is slurping him up like bad porn, but the noises are real and hot as hell when muffled a little around his own dick. Steve's whine sounds like an F-22, far away and high. Then the hooker shoves with his hand and Steve is gasping, pumping his hips up and down, trying to get as much of those fingers and that mouth as he can. He needs more heat, more of that skillful tongue, more pressure, anything to come.

He manages to get his elbows underneath him and shoves up a little. If this is really happening, he's no coward. Hell, it's so fucking insane he needs to see it to believe it. The guy's staring up at him, hard-eyed over a mouthful of thick, red cock. He knows what Steve wants. And that scares him worse than anything has in a long time.

Steve shoves the man’s head and kicks a little to scramble up the bed and away from his tormentor. His pants are tangled around his ankles and he yanks them up under his ass – bad choice to go commando today, but he hasn’t had time to do laundry. The hooker is sitting on his ass on the floor, wiping the back of his hand over his mouth. The bottom half of his face is wet and shiny, his lips red and swollen and there is a wry twist to them as Steve rips the condom off and throws it on the floor.

"I’ve met two-beer queers before, but never heard of a two-finger straight."

"Fuck you," Steve gasps and swings his legs to the side of the bed. They feel surprisingly rubbery and his cock is still ragingly hard as he tucks himself back in and buttons up.

The hooker clambers to his feet slowly, leaning heavily on the bed. One knee seems too stiff to bend properly and Steve wonders why the man ever got down on the floor if it was so damned hard on him.

"You can, if you want. That’s included in the price."

The guy straightens up and holds his hands out to the side as if to advertise the package. There is a mean little smile on his face and Steve can feel Blondie despising him from across the bed. He would blame the alcohol and the long week for what he does next, but he knows it’s from a place a lot deeper and darker than that. He lunges for the hooker, wanting to do nothing more than beat that look off his face, punch some respect onto that smirk.

There's a fast move not his own, and then Steve is face down on the worn carpet with a hefty weight between his shoulder blades. He thinks he could break the hold on his wrist and knock the little bastard across the room. Maybe. On the whole, punching would've been more fun, but the hooker has some muscle on him. He looks like he knows how to take a punch and send it back with interest. Steve is just not-drunk enough to know that he is not on top of his game. The guy’s straddling him now and has a grip in his hair, ready to smack his head into the floor.

"Slow. Take your time and make your decision about this, my friend. You don't want to mess with me."

The ratty carpet is scratching his cheekbone. His shirt has ridden up and there are some plenty sensitive spots it's digging into. The man on his back isn't helping, but he can't seem to bring himself to care. "Yeah?" Steve asks, "What were we just doing? Talking about the weather?"

"Oh, hell, yeah." To his surprise, the hooker barks out a laugh. "I heard there's gonna be some hard rain tonight." The guy has straddled Steve's hips and is pinning him to the floor with his not-insubstantial weight. "Slow down, He-man. You don’t get to leave marks and I don’t do pain - for either of us. If that’s what you’re into, you can take it right out the door."

Steve can feel himself panting, his breaths laboring a little under the guy who has him pinned. "No," he says, and doesn’t know what he’s saying no to. But he feels the grip on his wrist loosen slowly and then release him. The weight on his back shifts and then there are hard hands gripping his shoulders and. . . massaging them.

Unrelenting thumbs have begun to dig out the lines of knotted muscle down his back. It feels unbelievably good; he’s been strained like a guy wire for six weeks or more. He should be bucking the guy off and kicking his ass out the door, maybe with a split lip for a tip. Instead, he hears himself exhale and it feels like he settles more into the floor. There are hard-muscled thighs like a hot welt across his back and strong hands working the two parallel lines of steel cable along his spine. He sighs with relief as the pain eases.

"If you promise to be a good boy, I’ll let you up and we can do this on a nice soft bed," the hooker says. But neither of them moves. Steve’s blanking. Honestly, who the hell reacts to someone about to beat the shit out of them by giving him a massage?

Those knowledgeable hands have worked their way up his back, straight up his neck and onto his scalp. Alarm bells finally begin to clang in his head but get muffled as the headache he's had since March begins to slip away. "Fuck you," he mumbles belatedly.

"Already told you, it’s on the menu," the guy says and it sounds like he’s smiling a little. "You maybe got a complex? Dick problems?"

He's going to bust Kamekona's balls for this. Procuring, pimping, whatever. Or maybe just for fucking with Steve McGarrett's head. If they don't get out of here soon, he won't be capable of driving home. Or looking at himself in the mirror. "I . . . will you come home with me?"

"You must be out of your mind." A genuine laugh from the hooker. "I like to keep my skin in one piece, thanks, and I don't do that by being ambushed in strange places. You look like just the kind of closet case who'll try to carve me up when you're done. You wanna fuck, we can do that, but it happens here."

Steve is genuinely horrified, more than he was when he found out this guy's mouth was the thing he wants most. "Just . . . let me up, I've got money, but I can't do this here." He's got to get out of this awful place, where he feels like the worst kind of trash, some kind of . . . user, john, nobody. He feels like there's soot clinging to his skin. God only knows what's in this carpet, but it can't be as bad as what's in his head. He wonders what it would be like to have those I-beam thighs locked around his waist because he's fucking the guy up the wall, not because he's pinned to the floor.

"See? You didn't even know that's what you wanted, and now you want me to . . ." The man stops suddenly, his hands falling to his sides. It’s like hearing a piece of tech shut down, hearing the speakers fade out. "I told you - I've already been paid. You want it, it's here or nothing."

Those hot hands move away and the man clambers off of Steve’s back. Steve pushes himself up to his hands and knees and then stops, punched in the gut by the mere idea of driving his cock into the hard body that just had him pinned to the floor. Just the thought of the man's taut ass is giving him visions. . . his cock sliding so, so slowly into that tight opening, muscular cheeks pressed against his shaft, the blond groaning his name.

Or. . . wiping away the blond man’s sneer by coming so hard down his throat that he’s choking on it. Steve's dizzy with possibilities he never dreamed of before tonight.

He isn’t on active duty any more. There is no one to ask or tell or to engage in moral debate. He hasn’t had a meltdown like this in years. He needs to do something crazy and his old team isn’t around to take him out to a bar in Singapore, Belfast or Capetown and get him so drunk he can’t remember his name, rank and serial. His new team isn’t much for drinking and he can’t imagine Chin and Kono taking him out to the sleaziest bars for a hard drunk-and-fuck night.

They’re not his buddies. They work for him. That's all they do.

Suddenly all he wants to do is slide his cock between those sarcastic lips; he wants to fill that tight, angry mouth. Or even just scrub his dick up against those washboard abs until he sprays spunk all over him.

While his head is reeling, the hooker examines him more closely. "You're not just some sweet little military boy, are you? You're a badge."

"No!" Steve's never had cause to or interest in lying about what he does. All he wants is some more time. "No, I -- Navy, lifer, I just --"

"Nah, I know what I'm looking at when I see it. I never thought Kamekona would send me somebody who'd bust my ass when it's time to check out." Blondie's look is filled with disgust. "Or my jaw." The guy's backed off, lets Steve twist up to stare at him.

"Look, I, I don't know what you want me to say, I just need . . ." He's a giant, aching pit of need. Even if he could say what, he wouldn’t tell. Not the haole hooker. How did one blow job -- admittedly, a hell of a good one -- and a shoulder massage do this to him?

"Someone to screw through the mattress?"

" . . . yeah."

And a lot of other things. Steve's not sure what they are; he just knows that he truly, desperately needs them. Maybe this guy knows. Maybe he should have tried to find somebody before this . . . before K pitied him enough to buy him a hooker. If some random prostitute isn't who he should be with right now, it's who he's got. He sure as shit doesn't want anybody else to see him like this.

"So what’s it gonna be?"

He swallows with a dry throat and chooses. "Whatever. We'll stay here." In this anonymous room with its ugly curtains and stained carpet, he'll take whatever he can get from someone who couldn't give a rat's ass about him.

He strips off his tee shirt with one hand. The hooker is watching him warily; someone taught the man to fight. He is standing with his knees shoulder-width apart, weight evenly balanced and ready to defend himself. Their eyes meet for a moment and Steve tries a half-smile in apology. It seems to be good enough because the guy yanks off his own tee shirt and tosses it on the chair beside him. The still-recent scar of a bullet wound on his chest looks like it should’ve been fatal, Christ, what did the guy do that won him that thing? Then he casually steps out of his jeans and Steve’s hands stutter to a stop on his fly.

The man is short; he barely comes up to Steve’s shoulder. But he’s muscular and well-formed. Steve could run his thumb along the definition down his chest, around his ribs, across his abdomen. He knows he’s purposefully not looking at the guy’s crotch, which is stupid. He’s been in locker rooms since he was ten, it’s not like he hasn’t seen dicks aplenty. But this is the first time he’s looking at one attached to the guy that just sucked him halfway out of his mind. A trail of light brown hair leads down from the mat on his chest, all the way down to a short, thick, cut cock that’s not fully hard.

"What do you want me to call you?" the guy asks.

The only name that comes to Steve’s mind is his middle name. "John."

The hooker grins, sharp and sunny, for just a moment. "No, really?"

Steve has to smile back. He shrugs and drops his eyes to watch his fingers unbutton his own jeans. Broad nimble fingers take over, pushing his hands to the side.

"You can call me Ray."

And Steve (John, he reminds himself) watches Ray’s hands unbutton him and slide those jeans down again. He shouldn’t be, but he’s getting hard again already. It’s been months since he’s had sex and weeks since he’s given himself a little relief and he’ll take anything at this point. That’s what he tells himself, as Ray lets his hands linger on Steve’s hips and rubs lightly with his thumbs. Somehow, Steve had never found those two patches of skin to be as crazy sensitive as they are right now.

When he raises his eyes to Ray’s face, there is something both calculating and kind in those blue eyes. Without thinking, Steve leans down to kiss him.

"Whoa, cowboy, no kissing," Ray says and turns his head. Steve’s lips trail down a day’s worth of blond stubble instead and he is simultaneously irritated and turned on. Slick teeth nip at his collar bone; then there’s a string of hot open-mouthed kisses trailing down to his left nipple.

"I thought you said," he gasped, "no kissing."

"Not," kiss "on," another kiss, "the lips." A hard suck on his nipple has Steve arching like a cage dancer. "Everywhere else is fair game, though." Ray grins again and switches nipples.

Ray doesn’t just kiss. He bites. He uses his mouth like a weapon and he's tearing Steve apart. He can hardly bear to hear his own groans and cries. "Wait, wait," Steve chokes, pulling away. It's too much. His hand cups Ray's cheek, stroking lightly. "Can't stand it."

Ray's head rests for a moment against Steve's sternum and he can feel Ray's breath, warm against his damp skin. Ray raises his head, wide smile with a soft, "Sure, John. I got you."

Steve almost wishes he would go back to biting; that was more honest than this easy compliance. When Ray says, "Fuck me, John, it'll be good, don't you want to fuck me?" Steve says, "Yeah. Yeah."

When Ray's heat closes around him, it's nothing he ever wanted and everything he needed so badly. When he shoves mindlessly into that clinging body and slides back out, every nerve in his body is Code Red for the next push.

It’s overwhelming, and not nearly long enough before it’s over. It could never be long enough. He doesn’t want it to end. He hasn’t felt pleasure like this in forever, feels like never. No, no, he thinks, not now, and he should have crushed the hopeless noise he lets slip as he comes, but he can’t think any more.

Steve wakes from his doze to the sound of the door closing gently. He's only disoriented for a moment before vaulting out of bed and slipping into his pants. He slips out the door after kicking one of his discarded boots into the jam to keep it from locking behind him. He pads rapidly down the walkway and peers around the edge of the building. There is a flash of blond under a sodium vapor light as the hooker crosses from the motel to the nearly empty bar parking lot. A minute later, with the purr of an engine, a light-colored late model Camaro pulls out of the bar lot and away from the motel.

It's too far for Steve to get a look at the plate. The orange lights disguise the real color of the car. With an odd sense of dejection, Steve turns and goes back to the room. He pulls on his shirt and shoves his feet into his boots. He checks his wallet. Everything's still in it. There's a key-card left on the nightstand and Steve debates for a long minute about whether he ought to take it and run the prints. Then he just shakes his head at himself, wipes his own key-card clean and leaves it beside the other one.

 

^^^

 

Danny opens his mouth to tell Kamekona that Mr. Repressed wanted to fuck him up last night instead of just fuck him, but he doesn't. It seems too personal. Which is stupid, because there's nothing personal about it. "Okay, big man, who was that asshole last night?"

"Oh, you no like? I thought you maybe get along."

There's genuine disappointment on K's face and Danny stares. "Yeah, right, best buddies. That's what sex for cash is all about, my brother."

"He been good fren' long time. Sad about his daddy, wen die couple months back." K hands him a red shave ice, brightens a little. "You go see him again?"

"Not in this lifetime."

Still, he's glad for K's help. Christ, without him, Danny'd be alone here -- or worse yet, back in Jersey dying for a single glimpse of Grace. And he's so damned grateful to have escaped that shithole he used to live in. His clients generally aren't trying to kill him.

"Thanks, anyway."

"No problem, brah. Get one good day, eh."

The truth? Every day in Hawaii is a good day. He learned to meditate while he was in the hospital and recovering from losing a chunk of lung. It was the only thing that kept him sane. He’d been so consumed by anger, there’s no telling what would have happened otherwise. Still, there are no fond memories of Los Angeles or its police department.

He eats his shave ice standing at the waterline, letting the happy shrieks of tourists wrap around him while the wild feet of kids throw stinging sand everywhere. He likes the water here. It's not like the treacherous waters where he used to live.

It wasn't even the bullet that took him down; he could've lived with that. One scared kid fucked up. Off-duty when he heard the call, Danny arrived on the scene in street clothes, never thinking he might draw fire from the good guys. It was a melee, a total clusterfuck. He didn’t hesitate to pull his weapon. Then there was a motion on his right, a terrified young voice shouting, “Gun!” and that was all she wrote. That part was an accident. Stupid, almost fatal, yeah, but shit happened.

The way his compatriots dropped him like a rock, that was what hurt. He lets the shave ice wash away the bad taste in his mouth.

He’d hated Rachel for dumping his ass and moving Grace away, hated her with all his considerable passion, until he found out what real betrayal was. An investigation cleared the Commissioner’s nephew of wrongdoing, naturally. The kid didn’t get so much as a slap on the wrist. Danny lost his life’s work and his reverence for the criminal justice system to a half-trained little shit and a conference table full of smug superior officers.

He moved to LA from Jersey in the first place because there weren't any openings on the islands, and he needed to be closer right the fuck now. Three months without seeing his little girl had already left him wild-eyed with rage and loss. The price of airfare every couple of weeks was as much as his new salary could cover, but it had to be enough.

Then he got shot and there was never enough. On a 60% pension, well, 60% of not much was even less. The endless time he spent recuperating alone just about killed him, and then the only option was to pack up and go. The only people who’d come to visit in the hospital were Rachel and Grace, a couple times, and his partner, Meka. He understood why when his commanding officer said, “I don’t think a desk job is right for you, do you, Danny?”

Fucking bastards. He’d only worked there eighteen months, and in their minds, he was already gone. They wanted him gone. They got him shot, and that made him a black eye.

“You’re a good officer. The best,” Meka said. “They didn’t know you, Danny. You kept to yourself.”

Like that was a crime. He’d had other things to do besides socialize. And. . . well, just maybe his big mouth had something to do with it.

A desk job might even have been bearable, and he knew he could have insisted, but no. He’d never work for or with these people again. In the end, he took the cash they offered -- not a payoff, no, and God only knew where they got the money from; it couldn’t be on anybody’s books. He put it away for Grace. Whatever happened next, he wanted to provide something for his little girl.

Those bastards got him shot and then paid him to go away. That hurt worse than the bullet.

He headed to Oahu to work at whatever he could. Honolulu prices made Los Angeles look like a bargain, but he'd have taken any shit job. And he had.

Except there was the woman in the bar the night after he quit Matson Security. It had been a graveyard shift job, paid all right, but walking around the docks all night was hell on his knee. He was afraid that pretty soon he’d have to go back for more knee surgery. His health benefits were almost worthless. They wouldn’t hire him at Starbucks. Hell, he’d applied to be a grocery checker.

He spent most of that day in bed unable to sleep, looking down the barrel of losing his baby girl. He was thinking he might not be able to make it here, and his only choice was to go back to Jersey. If he did, he’d have to ask his mom and dad for the airfare home.

He didn’t know what to do anymore. And then . . . the woman in the bar.

She was alone, lovely, maybe forties or early fifties, with the kind of subtle enhancement that only real money could buy. She picked him up -- not a completely new experience for Danny, but close enough to make him pink a little with pleasure. She noticed. "You must be new here."

She meant something else, but Danny didn't realize it at the time. "Fresh off the boat," he said.

"Oh, good."

Lauren was a divorcee from New York, here with friends, and it was a wild week. They were off getting ripped at some luau, but she had to leave early in the morning. She told him about her vacation; he told her he came down here for his daughter. They chatted companionably for a couple of drinks. Danny felt good. It was nice to know he could still turn a beautiful woman's head. He hadn't had a friendly conversation with a woman since his physical therapist, and she seemed more of the whips and chains variety.

Then Lauren said she had to head upstairs to bed. Danny, ever the gentleman, offered to show her to her room. He showed her that, and a lot more. It was intense. Danny made sure of it. He couldn't be a cop any more; he was half-crippled and completely lost in this strange place, but he still knew his way around a woman. Rachel had trained him well and he’d loved the practical exams.

He woke up bathed in the first rays of sun through the east-facing windows and gave away the rest of his loneliness. She took it, giving him her body in return. After she left in a flurry of kisses, he showered and dressed. He picked up his sport coat, mystified by the bulge in the breast pocket. I didn't have a handkerchief, he thought, and pulled out a thousand dollars in fifties.

That was how it started, his new career.

That day he leaves his tiny apartment. If he doesn’t do this, he can’t afford it anyway and he’ll be back in Jersey. He gets a temporary room in a crappy motel in Kalihi; no need to impress anybody. He doesn't have any savings left, anyway. The divorce, moving to LA and traveling to Hawaii ate it up. Tourists have their own rooms, and if he wants, he can take the bus into Waikiki. Parking there costs a small fortune. He needs time to look around for something cheap but decent. If this works.

The place is conveniently situated next to a bar, which he intends to make good use of that night. He just took money for sex. He’s thinking about trying to do it again. He already needs a drink. That’s how he meets Kamekona.

"Time to go home, brah." The enormous bald bartender is hanging over his head like a baseball bat.

"What?" He's drunk, but not drunk enough to kick out of a lowlife bar. The last time that happened was ten years ago, and it was more about the shamrocks they were painting on the other patrons. Tonight, he’s been quiet, kept to himself and gotten on with the important business of drinking. "I got money,” he growls. “You have to serve me."

"You scaring da clientele away." Sure as shit, the place was near empty on a Friday night at 11. "We don't need no po-lice in here. I give yo’ money back, you go down to the station bar by Queens, eh. Ass da rules. You no come here less we call. No need fo' trouble."

"You think I’m a cop?” There's something in his throat, but Danny hawks it out with a laugh. It sounds unconvincing, even to him. "I am not a cop any more. The glorious brotherhood of the LAPD chewed me up and spit me out. They did not need me among their ranks, and I have the bullet hole to prove it."

He's drunk enough to start unbuttoning his shirt. The barman is waving meaty hands, no, no, but Danny forges on. "This, Mr. Really Big Bartender, is the most enduring memento of my many years as a cop. I learned you don't get in between the good guys and the bad guys in a gunfight. At least not if they let the Commissioner’s nephew ride along with the SWAT team.”

He leans closer and speaks confidentially, knuckles white on the placket of his shirt, pulling it open over the ugly scar. "But I showed them. I got a new line of work. Looks like I'm an escort now." For a horrifying moment Danny has to look down when he feels his eyes burn. He pulls out a fan of fifties. "See? Met a very nice lady last night."

The giant behind the bar stares at him long and hard, and he's not the dumbass Danny thought he was. Because he pulls another beer and sets it in front of Danny. While he's polishing a perfectly clean, dry glass, he says conversationally, "I know lotsa nice ladies."

And Danny’s new career is off to a fine start.

Danny doesn't want to know anything about his clients, or at least he didn't expect to when he started. After he gave up the idea of foaming lattes at Starbucks or policing the Hilton, he thought he'd be doing the tourist trade, and he does.

There are sweet white haired ladies longing for a little excitement and Japanese businessmen with their Seiko watches. Danny doesn't look like a hooker; he looks like hotel security wearing the dark jacket and the white dress shirt open at the neck. Sometimes he even wears a tie. That's why the nice hotels let him trick in their bars if he spreads it around.

That, and he has a personal relationship with every concierge in town.

But when you have repeat business, and it's Kamekona's friends or family, you get to know them a little. It's bizarre, but okay. Helps him feel at home in this insane situation. He never imagined any of this. He can't think about it or he starts to get short of breath -- heart pounding, blood pressure rattling in his ears. He inhales hard and uses what he learned from the skinny, wrinkled monk in USC Hospital’s next bed.

Kamekona’s trying to get him screwed, but unlike the LAPD, it’s with Danny’s full participation. And he gets something out of it besides an ignominious early retirement. Danny still needs every moment of meditation he can get for enough focus to cope some days. He was a good cop, and now he's a criminal, but Kamekona's people treat him like he's their own. He doesn't think about that, either, as he eats his red shave ice and watches the blue waves roll in.

Chapter Text

Steve makes time to drop in on Kamekona in the course of the next afternoon, after a long night of sleep and a few hours of off-the-Richter left breaks. "You know I could have you busted for procuring," Steve says casually.

Kamekona looks up from fiddling with a blender behind the counter. "Heya, bruddah, howzit? You look a lot betta than the last time I saw you! You mek suk-suk last night?" His cheerful grin is about half a foot wide and just far enough on this side of prurient so Steve doesn't have to actively kill him.

"Kamekona, I love you like ohana, but please don't send me any more hookers, okay?"

"Ray didn't treat you good? Little manhaole s'posed to be da kine." Kamekona's brows knit with concern as he looks Steve up and down.

"No, man, he was fine. Nice guy. But," Steve waves his badge, "this says I'm not supposed to do shit like that, remember? It's kapu, brah."

Kamekona looks like he really doesn't get it, but he shrugs. "K'den. Have a Coke," and there's a cold bottle coming across the counter.

^^^

Which should have been the end of it. And would have been, if Steve hadn't been running down the beach two weeks later. He'd successfully put the whole incident out of his mind and was working off his irritable Sunday energy. Kona winds were blowing, so he swam a simple crawl four miles through the chop, then a jog back home up the beach.

As he slogged out of the waves, a pink plastic sand bucket went floating past. He captured the white rope handle and brought it along, rightly guessing that it belonged to the little girl building an impressive fortress at the surf line. She was concentrating hard on excavating what looked like a complex moat with a small plastic shovel the same eye-searing pink as the bucket.

"Hey, you don't want to lose this," he said and dropped the bucket beside her.
When the little girl looked up, he was struck by the serious look in her deep brown eyes even as she smiled. "Thank you." Then she turned back to her task.

Not sure why he was doing it, Steve squatted down and gave the sand fortress a careful assessment. He pointed, "Your seawall is collapsing over there."

"I know," she replied without looking up. "It needs shells, but I haven't found any here yet."

"Yeah, I guess that's one thing Hawaii is short on. Are you here on vacation?"

She looked up at him. "My daddy says I'm not supposed to talk to strangers."

"That's a good rule. My name's Steve."

"I'm Grace. That still doesn't mean you're not a stranger," she pointed out.

Steve felt his mouth twitching. "Good point. Did he tell you why you shouldn't talk to strangers?" He reached over and began shoring up the collapsing wall with a firm hand.

"Because they might try to kidnap me or do something bad."

"Your dad told you that?" What kind of a parent would tell a kid something like that? Sounded like Nightmare Central at their house.

"My daddy's a cop," she said frankly. "He's seen a lot of bad stuff and doesn't want any of it happening to me. So he told me to always be aware."

"Huh," he said thoughtfully. The kid certainly didn't look freaked out. "Where's your dad?"

"At the bathroom. He's going to be right back."

"Actually, he's back now," a new voice said. "Who's your friend, Monkey?" There was an edge of menace in that voice that suggested that, if he didn't like the answer, Grace's father was going to pound him into the sand.

"Hi, Danno! This is Steve. He brought my bucket back before it washed out to sea."

Steve looked up into Ray's frowning face. His mind stuttered to a halt.

Cop.

What the hell?

There was a long, silent, mutual stare, then Grace offered, "I don't think he's trying to kidnap me."

"You don't, huh?" Ray smiled at his kid, and Steve could see why. She was so cheerful and direct that it kept Ray from going ballistic the way Steve could tell he damned well wanted to. Steve'd had awkward meetings with one-nighters before, but this was ridiculous. A muscle in Ray's locked jaw was twitching before he asked, "So what is Steve doing here, then?" His eyes drilled into Steve's.

"I live up the beach a ways. I swim down and jog back from here Saturdays and Sundays. I just stopped to check out the castle Grace was building." Steve could hear himself babbling in the face of that intense stare. He stood up slowly.

"Just happened by, huh?" Thick arms folded over that well-defined and fuzzy chest that Steve remembered very well. He could feel the heat coming up in his cheeks as his gaze snared on one red-brown nipple.

Steve finally remembered to nod. He cast around for something to say. "Grace says you're a cop."

Ray's face became set and his lips tightened to a thin line. "Used to be." Icy blue eyes warned him not to comment on it. "Well, we don't want to keep you from your run. See you around," Ray said pointedly.

Grace looked up curiously from her moat building. Her eyes flicked from one to the other of them and her brow knit, but all she said was, "Bye, Steve. Thanks for getting my bucket."

Steve looked down, glad to finally free himself from that blue glare. "Bye, Grace. Nice to have met you. And . . . ?" he prompted the other man with a challenging stare. He held out his hand and waited for the other man to take it.

Ray sighed and said through gritted teeth, "Danny," then shook Steve's hand exactly once before letting it drop.

"Danny," Steve repeated, smiled at them both and then left them to begin his homeward run.

^^^

Steve was able to resist the temptation to run Danny's identity for exactly twenty-seven hours, but Monday afternoon was too slow and too quiet.

"Chin? I need to find background on someone. All I have is a first name and the make and model car he drives."

Chin looked up from the folder he was perusing with an expression that would have been relief on someone less unflappable. "That makes a nice challenge. Perp or witness?" He got up and led the way out to the computer table.

"I'm not sure yet," Steve said. Fortunately, Chin Ho's philosophy tended toward the wait-and-see model, especially where his boss was concerned.

"Give me what you've got, then," he said, accessing the system.

"First name, Danny or Daniel. Late model Camaro."

Chin's fingers started moving faster than Steve could ever hope to. Steve could field strip a cranky P-90 in a sandstorm, but Chin made every motion look like poetry.

"Oh, and he's an ex-cop. Not HPD, I don't think." There was no way an HPD cop could go unnoticed if he were now a prostitute.

Chin merely nodded and kept searching. Steve had time to go out and get himself a chai and bring back a green tea for Chin and hibiscus iced for Kono before Chin presented his findings. On the screen were three files fronted by license or mug shot photos. "That one," he said, pointing to the license picture of Ray/Danny.

"Okay, Daniel Williams, 33, drives a 2010 Camaro. No record here, no outstanding tickets or warrants. Give me a few minutes and I'll have more for you."

Steve grunted and handed Chin his tea before going to hide in his office. He wanted to know more about Ray the gigolo/Danny the protective father. The itch under his skin felt far too much like the ripple he used to get up his back before a firefight. Not nerves, exactly, but a preparedness, almost an eagerness for battle. He completed two games of online Sudoku before Chin poked his head in the door.

"Got what you're looking for, Steve. Williams is an ex-cop. LA, most recently, then Newark before that. He left LA two years ago on permanent disability; shot in the line of duty. There's something that read a little odd about that, though. I need to do some more digging."

"Anything else?" Steve tried for interested-but-not-eager and figured he flunked that test when Chin's eyebrow went up. At least the dark brown starburst scar on 'Ray's' back was explained now.

"Divorced, one kid. Ex lives here on the Island, married to a real estate developer. She married the mogul and came here with the kid around two years ago."

"So he moved here to follow her? Or his daughter?"

Chin looked at him for a moment before continuing. "Looks like. He files his taxes regularly, writes hefty quarterly tuition checks to his daughter's private school and lives in a fairly low-rent part of town. His tax returns list him as 'self-employed in the entertainment field.'" Chin's lip curved. "Think he's a dealer?"

Steve shook his head, remembering the air of tired determination that had hung in that motel room. There wasn't any avarice or smugness to 'Ray.' He hadn't felt that sense of scorn many drug dealers seemed to have for their clients.

"Anything else?" When Chin shook his head, Steve added, "Thanks, man. Can you send the files to me?"

"Want me to follow up?"

Steve was all set to say no, but Chin's hopeful expression stopped him. It really was a slow day. Why not? "Don't dig too deep, but let me know if you find anything else interesting."

Chin nodded, then left, a tiny secret smile on his lips. Steve sighed; his second was a good man but his air of knowing more than one hoped he would could grate a bit.

So, Danny Williams, ex-cop, single non-custodial father and hooker. Intriguing. Steve felt that itch still and sighed again. Then he wondered how long he could hold out before calling 'Ray.'

^^^

After what he thinks of as the Bucket Incident, when Danny saw the man now known as Steve . . . so beautiful, so wet, nipples cold and hard, hair still dripping . . . he gets serious. He searches the last four months of obituaries for 'Steve' and 'father.' He's got little else to do besides work out or clean his tiny apartment, and he sure as hell doesn't want to ask Kamekona. Big K still says something about the guy every once in a while.

There are dead Steves, and dead fathers who were Steve, but Danny learned patience the hard way -- on his back in a hospital bed, then during physical therapy. He hits pay-dirt with freaking wall to wall news coverage of the murder of retired HPD Dectective John McGarrett.

He's chilled by the look on Steve's face at his father's funeral, in full color on the front page, and wonders for the first time who the fuck he's been dealing with. Then he reads on.

 

^ ^ ^

The answer to Steve's Ray Question turned out to be three weeks.

Immediately after his old buddy Nick came to town for a visit in order to assassinate the man Steve had stashed in his house. But not before lying to Steve, offering to cut him in and kill only his team, and then doing his level best -- Nick's best was very, very good -- to cap him anyway. Nick ended his visit by forcing Steve to kill him, face to face. That was a layer of betrayal Steve had never even imagined existed and it hurt worse than any injury could.

Afterward, Steve walked straight into the ocean to wash away his friend's blood. He only came out when his team strode down to the water to reel him in. He reassembled his mask and took up his duties, securing Pak, answering every question about the operation and speaking with soothing competence to Governor Jameson. Dawn and then morning had come before he and Chin and Kono could finally stand down.

Someone from downstairs had poured coffee and shoved sandwiches into all of them somewhere along the line; he would have to thank them. So the empty feeling he had wasn't hunger or thirst; it was just . . . a whole lot of nothing. A hole of no particular size or shape, it left him unable to settle.

Chin offered Steve his couch until his house had been processed and cleaned; Steve had declined. Kono offered the same thing and Steve had turned her down, too. He left the office and let himself drift a bit, finding himself at Kamekona's shave ice stand with no conscious intent and little actual memory of getting there.

K came over after he finished serving a tourist family. He didn't say a word as he dished up something lemony, not Steve's usual. But when he took a bite, Steve could feel the cool tartness cutting through the embers piled up in his throat. The big man just nodded when Steve gave him a half smile, and waited. When Steve was finally ready to talk, the first thing that came out of his mouth surprised him more than K.

"You got Ray's number, brah?"

"Fo' real? Why you want da manhaole's number, man? You gonna bust him?"

"Nah. I just wanna . . . I think . . ." Steve gave up, not even sure of what he was trying to say.

"Eh, how 'bout some pakalolo? I get some everyone say is da kine. You smoke a little, get moi moi, feel beddah."

Steve smiled a little. Kamekona would never be convinced that Steve carried a badge, and sometimes offered three illegal activities per visit. High-grade grass was pretty low on the scale. He must have heard about the mess last night. His next words proved it.

"Look, brah, I know you got da haad rub with your friend. I know the lolo buggah is make die dead and you had to do it. But you told me las' time that Ray wasn't your thing."

Steve shrugged and felt the twinge in his shoulder from where Nick had nearly dislocated it. "That was last month, brah. Today . . ." he left it hanging.

"You got no beef with him, right?" Kamekona looked at him doubtfully, but his hand was reaching under the counter. He came up with a white card between his fingers which he held away until Steve answered.

"Promise, man. I just wanna talk to Danny."

Kamekona's eyes narrowed even as he handed over the card. "So, you already know who he is, why not jus' call him yourself?"

"Because I want to hire Ray. Thanks, man. I owe you."

 

^ ^ ^

When Danny was a beat cop, he remembers shooing the working girls away with a sort of offhand geniality. He didn't bust them unless he actually caught them soliciting and he didn't demand any favors. They liked him for that. They were just folks trying to get by, same as anyone else. The ones who dealt on the side, though, those he busted.

Sometimes all you need is someone to treat you like you're human, too. To say, "Hello." Hell, to say "Gesundheit." Now he wishes he'd treated the girls better. Now he knows what it's like to try to get by.

And now they're his friends.

Now he knows how to say "fuck" in Japanese, Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, Filipino, and Canuck, and recognizes "Oh, God!" in several more. He knows how to roll a condom onto a dick without using his hands because Sarita taught him, on a hysterical and rainy night in a bar downtown. They still laugh at him about the bunch of bananas he mangled before he caught the trick of it.

They don't laugh about the time he beat the shit out of a German tourist who attacked Callie in an alley. He heard the scream and his training kicked in before his brain did. He had pulled off the guy he was sucking and was across the street and down that alley before he even finished wiping his mouth. Or got paid.

When he saw what was going down, the hulking fist descending on Callie's small face again, he lost his shit entirely. He yanked the bastard back by his collar and just started whaling on him until the guy was bloody and unconscious, hanging from his fist. Then he dropped the dude onto the greasy pavement and looked to Callie. When she shrank back into the side of the building, he squatted down and made soothing noises until she took his hand. The whole side of her face was already swollen and her nose looked broken.

"Honey, we've got to get you to the emergency room."

"Unh unh," she said definitely. "Cost too much. They're not too good to girls there."

He skimmed his fingers over her bruised face. By morning, her eyes would be swollen shut. Hell, she likely wouldn't be able to work for a week or more, unless she took the really sick fucks who wanted a banged up hooker. His angry gaze fell on the asshole he'd dumped in the alley.

Wrapping his hand in a handkerchief from his pocket, he went over and fished out the man's wallet. He grinned darkly, removed the thick wad of American cash, then dropped the wallet on the guy's head. Let the local cops think he'd been rolled for his dough - they wouldn't bother about an attack on a hooker, so a little rough justice was in order.

"We've got money now; I'll take you to Queens. They'll fix you up."

"No," she insisted. "I just need ice. And maybe some vodka." Her eyes filled a little. "I just want to go home."

"You got someone there to look after you?"

"My sister, Anna. She'll know what to do."

He sighed, sort of hating this whole night. The two sisters were likely whores together. "Okay, babe. Let's get you home."

He walked her the twelve blocks to her cheap little apartment and waited on the stairs while she fumbled the key in the lock. When she opened the door, he reached in, felt for the switch and turned on the lights for her. Then he led her inside to the tiny kitchen and made her sit down while he filled a wet dishtowel with ice.

"Here, keep this on it for twenty minutes."

"Yeah," she said. "I know the drill - twenty on, twenty off."

"This happen before?"

She shrugged, looking away. She looked impossibly young to be sitting there, beaten to hell, with streaked makeup and a crimped tube top askew on her skinny chest. He found the vodka bottle on top of the rusty fridge and pulled a glass out of the sink before filling it and handing it to her.

"You need anything else?"

She shook her head. "My sister'll be here soon. You'll have to be quick."

He stared at her for a moment, confused by the non sequitur. It was only when she began shimmying out of the tube top, still holding the ice pack to her battered face, that he understood.

"Hey, hey, hey! You do not need to do that! Sit down and keep that ice pack on your cheek."

Her eyebrows came together in confusion, but she sat back obediently.

"Here," he said, tossing the German's wad of cash on the table beside her. "That's for you."

"But," she started again, "don't you want. . . ?"

"Listen, honey, all I want is for you to sit here, drink your vodka, ice your cheek and go to bed, okay?" He patted her shoulder. "And not with me," he added when she opened her mouth again.

"You don't like me?" She looked uncomprehending and a little hurt.

"No, it's not that."

"You a fag?" she asked curiously. There was no malice behind her words, just honest confusion.

"No, look, sweetie, you're lovely, but it's been a long night, my hand hurts and I am not gonna make you work after the night you've had."

She smiled at him, then, wincing a little as her bruised cheek pulled. "All right." Her words were muffled a little by the nose. "I'm Callie."

"I'm Ray," he told her, remembering Kamekona's first lesson. Always use a street name with street folks.

She got up and hugged him then, her slight form too bony and too small in his arms. Her battered cheek was hot and cold against his for a second, then she kissed him, quick and shy as a child.

"Thanks, Ray. I mean it."

"Any time, babe, any time."

He left the shabby little apartment without saying anything else. The image of her battered face darkening with bruises in that wan yellow lamplight is still with him almost a year later. But somehow the story got around. 'Ray' found that he had bought himself a lot of good will and some good friends that night.

Callie and her sister, Anna, and Sarita and Tomas and Mel . . . they helped steer him in his new career; prevented him from making some stupid beginner mistakes that could have cost him his health or worse. Between them and Kamekona's insanely extended family, he soon found himself part of a hidden community that knew his name and valued him all across the island.

It's something he never ran into before: wretched and beautiful.

 

^^^

 

"Ray speaking," says the disembodied voice in Steve's ear, and there's a little thrill just from that. "What can I do for you?"

"Talk to me," Steve says. It just hangs in the air. He takes a very real step back, then catches himself.

There's a sputter of laughter. "I can give you a 900 number."

Okay, different approach. "No, seriously, I need to talk to you. Today."

"Who is this?" Danny's tone is wary, then incredulous. "Is this – John? Steve? Whoever you are, fuck off."

No, no, please, that can't happen. "I was hoping . . . we could talk. I can make it worth your while, I promise. Just for a few minutes."

"You must be out of your friggin' mind. Do you by any chance recall throwing a left hook at me the first time? I don't go back for seconds. I am a popular man around this town, and I do business. You're not the kind of business I want. You, my friend, are bad news."

"Just to talk. In public, at the place of your choice. I can . . . I have a proposition for you. I'll pay whatever you ask just for ten minutes of your time."

"You fell off the pineapple truck and hit your head, didn't you? But because you're very pretty, and to get you off my case, I will talk to you. I'm in Waikiki right now. Meet me at Orchids in the Halekulani. You're buying lunch. Wear something decent."

Steve calls the cleanup people, tells them he wants the works. When he comes home, he doesn't want to know last night ever happened, no matter what it costs. No broken glass, no bullet holes, and above all, no blood. There's been too much blood spilled here. He drives into Waikiki, lets the valet take his truck at the Surfrider Hotel. It's quiet right now, and there's a room he can check into early.

He shows up at the Halekulani in his only suit. He knows he's the supplicant here. He already walked past the enormous floral arrangements and the shop windows full of pearls and silk, and has no fucking idea what to expect when he sees Ray -- Danny -- seated at a table, backed by the ocean, looking casual and perfectly in place in a sport jacket that's some textured off-white color.

He can do this.

The hostess shows him to the table.

"Hello, John." Danny stands. "Good to see you. You look like utter shit. Who broke your face, and what the hell'd you say to piss him off?" He stares frankly at Steve, eyes adding and subtracting. Steve has no idea what answer he calculates.

Bastard, Steve thinks. "Rough night." They shake. Steve can't fucking believe it. What is this shit? Who is this? It's not the man who went to town on his dick a few weeks ago. Over cocktails, they talk about the weather. This time of year, it's a short conversation. After they order, Steve says, "I need a big favor."

"How big?"

The man across the table, a look of quiet confidence emanating from him, has no fucking idea. "I need a weekend with you."

"No. That was easy. Are you staying for lunch?"

"I. Fuck. I . . ." Steve doesn't know what to do, what to say. He's completely dumbstruck. Sure, he's a little tired, but why didn't he expect an absolute refusal? It was the only thing he should have expected. A couple more drinks and he could claim he's drunk, but his mai tai's not gone yet.

"Yes, I understand it's all about you. That's how I roll. It's my job. Now tell me why I should spend a weekend with the man who wanted to punch my lights out."

Steve leans down and in, as sincere as he can be. "I didn't do it! I didn't even want to!"

"Oh! Gee, you coulda fooled me."

"I'll pay you ten thousand dollars." It's a last desperate attempt. He's so fucking happy to see Danny wide-eyed, paling under his tan. It's good to know he's on top of this game for a change, took his tormentor by surprise.

"What's wrong with you? Don't you know how to get off by yourself?" Danny doesn't look like he has any interest in the rest of his lunch, and that's fine with Steve. "Plus, how the hell do you have that kind of money?"

"I've been in the Navy a long time. I had my tour of the fleapits of the world. I did my duty. Now I can do what I want." For fifteen years, the Navy told him what to do. This is different. This is his sanity.

"Ten grand buys a lot of kinky shit."

"I don't want a lot of kinky shit." They shut up and wait while the server puts down their meals. Steve has no idea whether he ordered fish or not. Then his nemesis takes up the discussion again.

"What is this, Pretty Woman?"

"This is me and you. I need you. You have no idea. Are you gonna help me or not?" Steve's ready to get up and go. He doesn't need this shit, either. Kamekona will find him somebody. He doesn't need this little prick with the big ideas.

"What -- are we exorcising ghosts here, John?"

He stabs at something on his plate. "No. The ghosts I have are too big for this."

"Okay, wait a minute. Are you -- seriously, how fucked up are you?"

"What kind of parameters are we using?"

Danny laughs. "Way beyond the call of duty, then, I'm thinking." It's an honest laugh.

"Yeah," says Steve. "Way beyond."

"I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that duty is probably what fucked you up so badly."

Steven gives that the deep consideration it deserves. "Sometimes."

"And your solution for this is a weekend with me?"

"I want you to fuck me."

Danny fumbles his coffee. Steaming dribbles are making pink lines on his hand. "There isn't a scale big enough for how fucked up you are, John."

Steve likes it that the short blond piece of what he wants is off-center. "Steve," he reminds him. "John was my dad."

Danny groans and hides his face in his hands. "You used your dad's name as a cover for a whore? Christ, you don't have issues, you have subscriptions."

"Well, it is my middle name, too," he says defensively.

"Babe, what do you want from me? I mean, really."

"I don't know!" Steve is abruptly dizzy. The booze on a five a.m. sandwich is hitting him hard. "I need . . . I just need . . . a few minutes. Just to get away, I promise, nothing that'll hurt anybody." He is closer to being honest now, right this minute, than he has been in a long time. "I just need to get out of my head for a while." He wants to add that if calling Danny didn't prove how desperate he is, then nothing would.

"Yeah, I can see that it would be a messy, fucked up place to bunk. You think a hot weekend will be enough to do that for you? Cuz I gotta tell you, I don't think so."

It's hard to remember he's the one asking for a favor. "You don't know anything!"

Danny snorts. "Wrong! I know everything about how this goes. Call it professional training."

Steve growls, "You don't know shit!" He's up and standing and he knows the hostess is coming over for him, he can see her.

"Remember who called who, John."

Steve's alien anger leaves him abruptly; he feels like a deflated balloon. Or a used condom. He gives up and sits down, pokes at the mess on his plate. "I called you. I thought you could help. But you can't. Never fucking mind." He thinks, as much as he can right now. "I can find somebody else, somewhere else. I don't care who or where."

"And that's your problem, right there!" The blond is slouching even lower, hands barely above the table but still conducting the conversation.

Steve's confused now. "What the fuck, man? Why are you fucking psychoanalyzing me?"

"You don't want a person. You don't want connections or complications or anyone with a real personality."

"If I didn't, would I even fucking be here with you? Anything would be better than this!" Steve's trying desperately to keep his voice down. He doesn't think he could take getting kicked out of a fancy restaurant for having a fight with another man.

"We need to go now."

It's a command, and Steve responds. He stands up from his wreck of a meal, drops a stack of cash that was meant for Danny, and walks the straightest line he can toward the door of the restaurant. Danny follows him, more slowly, until they reach the pillars near the valet parking.

"A hot guy like you ought to have them lined up outside three deep. You should have to sell timeshares on your bed. Instead, you're hiring a hooker. Why?"

"I." He's just too tired. He can't take it any more. "Never mind. I have work to do. I shouldn't be here."

"Why do I even bother?" Danny asks the sky mournfully.

Steve turns to leave, but those wide hands are curving around Steve's biceps and shoving him backwards. His head smacks a pillar. It hurts a lot. There's probably some bruising back there. Nick messed him up pretty good. He guesses that Danny's demanding an answer. "Because you get paid. Isn't that what you just said? So what if I want to pay you for a weekend instead of two hours? Why don't you want that? That's a lot of time with your little girl! You could take her anywhere, do anything."

Danny's face slams shut. "Do not mention her."

"Why not? She's a great kid. I get why you're doing this."

"You do not fucking get anything. You are a stranger to me. I do not know you. And you do not know my daughter. She is the sweetest, most innocent creature on earth, and you do not speak her name. You do not know her, you do not see her, you do not touch her. In any way."

"Okay, whoa. Calm down. I know who I am, and believe it or not, I have a pretty good idea who you are."

"Yeah?" he asks aggressively. For a short man, he has no trouble getting up in Steve's face. "Who are you then, He-Man?"

"I'm a lot like you. You're a man who'll do anything to protect his own. I just. . ." and Steve falters. "I just don't have as much to protect as you do."

Danny's mouth drops open. "Yeah, your life is a wasteland, buddy. You've got a job, a career with meaning, money in the bank, a house, the respect of your colleagues. "

"Fuck, yeah. Respect, that's it. I get a lot of respect for somebody who doesn't fucking exist." There's so much bitterness in his words that even Steve hadn't known how deep it went.

"What, you're a ghost, too?"

"Spook. Five years I crossed the earth to find the man . . . who murdered my father while I listened. And I couldn't touch him. I killed him, but he's still walking around somewhere. You think that's okay?"

"What?" Danny shakes his head. "So what? You're living for revenge? That's all you've got?"

"I. . ." For the first time, Steve caves. He shrinks inside himself and doesn't answer. He's staring down the line between hotels at the ocean, a bright vision of paradise. It's a paradise he left behind years ago. Strong fingers jut under his chin and pull his face up. He stares at Danny, almost unseeing. "Yeah. That's it." Steve finds enough energy to stand up straight. "Look, thanks for your time. I can pay. I mean. If you were, if we were fucking, I'd have blown hundreds of dollars by now."

Danny's lip curls. "No pun intended?"

"I have a lot of money. I never did anything but work. I have nothing else."

"That's not true." Danny holds up a hand to stop whatever argument Steve is going to make. "Or it doesn't have to be true."

"My dad is dead, my sister is alive, I don't even know her, and that's all there is. So just, I'll just go. I can find somebody else who wants to -- who'll be willing to make me forget."

"You just have to admit a few key things about yourself and learn to live with the memories. Because you can never really forget. Any of it. Trust me, I should know."

"Why?"

"Because, you know what? You are a man who is so fucked up you can't deal, and that's what life is all about. It's about dealing with it. Just because you know 127 ways to kill a man with your left hand is not being a grown up. It is not living a real life."

"I did what I had to, to stay alive. I served my fucking country. What more do you want?"

"The question is, Steven: what more do you want?"

"What do I want? What do I want?" Steve turns away. He lowers his gaze to the pavement and the downed leaves from the morning's rain. "A blowjob?"

"Is that a question, or is it an answer?"

"It's as much of a fucking answer as either of us is going to get today."

And for some reason Danny says, "Okay, then. Yes."

Against all odds, it seems to be an answer, if not the answer.

Steve just watches him as he shifts back and away, favoring his left leg. "The weekend?"

"Let's see how well you learn to give a blowjob, shall we?"

Chapter Text

"Wait, what? You -- what?" The idea of sucking on Danny's cock makes his own start to life, and he can only be grateful that his jacket hides it. "Yeah, no. Not happening." God, isn't he fucked up enough? He doesn't want to want that. He just wants to get laid. Who he is -- it's the only thing he's been able to take home after all these years. His life is in shreds around him. He can't afford to lose this, too.

"That's what it takes, babe. Or I go across the street and have some fun with a nice lady from Galveston. First step to getting a real life is to stop lying to yourself. And me," he adds thoughtfully. "Decide fast."

He's moving away, walking away, goddamn him, but he turns as fast as he's able when Steve says, "I never lied to you."

"And that, right there, is a lie." He's gesturing with the cane now. It should be funny, but it's not. "You told me your name was John. You made fucking sandcastles with my little girl and told her you were a real person. Which one is it?"

"I don't know, Ray, why don't you tell me?"

Danny doesn't seem to have an answer for that one. He limps toward Steve. "You're Mr. Badass. You could break me with a toothpick. Are you going to?"

"Toothpick? I don't think so. You're a little more durable than that."

"Fucking semantics, and you know it. The first time we did it you could have killed me with your pinky, and none the wiser. Why didn't you? What do you want?"

"If I killed people when they pissed me off . . ." Steve slides a few more inches down the pillar. His suit jacket rucks up his back. There's probably grunge on the white shirt now. "I'm a SEAL, not a serial killer. I want, I need . . . some sleep. And sex. Sex would be good." For the first time, he tries a smile. He should have thought of that before.

"Okay, Jarhead. We can do that."

"Navy, man. I'm Navy," Steve complains. He feels lightheaded now that relief is in sight. He has Danny for the weekend and some hope that soon the world will start making sense again.

The valet has brought Danny's silver Camaro up for them. Silver, he thinks, and Danny all but shoves him into the passenger side. "Yeah, yeah," he says. "So, where're we going, Sailor-boy?"

Steve fumbles the keycard sleeve out of his breast pocket. "Moana Surfrider. Got a suite in the Tower. S'nice."

"You got the fucking room already? There isn't enough space in your whole body for your goddamn ego. For some reason you think you can do anything and everybody should jump at your command." Danny's obviously angry, but that seems to be his default setting, so maybe Steve shouldn't worry about it.

"Wonder why that is." He hands the card to Danny, knowing the room number is written on the sleeve. He hasn't slept in so long now that he can't even count back. He still feels sticky with Nick's blood and hollowed out by everything he's seen and done the past thirty-six hours. Danny inches down Lewers to Kalakaua; there are red lights and heavy traffic and in under two minutes Steve's dozing against the warm glass.

They pull into the hotel's drive before he even knows what's going on. He's got enough strength to get out of the car when the valet opens his door. He follows Danny through the portico, into the lobby and up to the suite without saying a word. Last night he knifed his best friend and sprayed the ocean with his blood. Today he's going to give a stranger $10,000 and a blowjob to make him forget it. It seems like a fair trade.

He slips his rumpled jacket off and drops it on the chair in front of the open balcony doors. Then he crosses the room to kneel beside the bed. He's made a commitment and he's going to keep it. Because Danny demanded it. Because Danny knows what he needs and this is the price.

And because he wants to.

Danny looks at him funny. On any other man it'd look like worry, or pity. "You sure?"

Steve doesn't want any of either. "I do what I have to do." He's always done what he has to do. He just needs Danny to tell him what that is. He waits.

"Here it is. Go for it."

Danny sits down bare-assed in front of him on the white puffy comforter, plump, soft cock laying to the left. Steve swallows hard. This is it. Once he puts that in his mouth, he can never not have sucked a man's dick.

He takes a deep breath and picks it up in his hand. It immediately responds, getting firmer, as if it likes him. That makes Steve feel better. Somebody likes him. He's one up on yesterday already. He strokes it in a cupped palm, making the loose skin go up and down. In the background there's a low moan, almost a purr, but he ignores it. This is all between him and his new friend.

He gentles the smooth, warm head with three fingers, fondling, holding the shaft with one hand while he rubs his fingertips around the narrow edge of the corona. When it hardens some more, he applies more pressure up the shaft with the pads of his thumbs. It's nice, a nice pleasant cock, perky and attentive.

A condom packet slides into his line of vision and nudges between two of his fingers. He fumbles it, tries to get the wrapper off, and fails. His hands are shaking. Steve feels his face turning red. He doesn't look up. He'd rather ignore the man behind the cock if he can. The orange packet he dropped looks garish on the white and gold room's plush carpet, tacky jewelry on a beautiful woman.

"It's okay. I'm clean."

Part of him actually believes Danny. Trusts his word. There's another part, smaller and more insidious, that just doesn't care, and it would frighten him if everything wasn't so damned far away right now. He skims Danny's cock with one fingertip.

It's not so bad, even though he's so close he can smell it now. The penis itself isn't so different from his own, and if sucking on it changes anything about who he is, that's the way it goes. Even so, he pauses with the head at his lips, making one more push for courage while he gets enough air in his lungs. He can feel the shush of his breath as it wraps around the head, skims over his fingers. The scent of cock, warm and male, comes back at him and he is relieved to find that he can more than tolerate it.

He thought Danny might say how to blow him but there's nothing. Fuck Danny, then. He can take what he gets.

Steve puts his mouth on the head. It's soft against the fullness of his lower lip, and he rubs it around, touching his teeth together so there's no biting. He rubs it against the flat of his teeth, too, just because it's kind of cool. When he thinks his new friend is ready, he slips it inside his mouth, licking and sucking on it like a Tootsie Pop. It tastes . . . like not much, just a little weird. There's a drop or two of moisture coming out, but he thinks that's a good sign. Carefully he covers the edges of his teeth with his lips and begins to slide up and down.

There's a trick to it, but he's willing to learn. Sucking is the name of the game, that's got to be good. He does some of that, making sure his mouth and tongue are close around the shaft, working until his cheeks hollow with the pressure. There's more hard, more pulse, and things are definitely going well. He's getting into it, hands off the cock and on Danny's thighs, going as far down as he can before pulling up and almost off, and he's sure he's doing it right, when Danny yells something he can't pay attention to and Steve's mouth floods with come.

It's more of a surprise than it should have been, but how was he supposed to know? He tries to swallow, even he knows that's a big thing, can't spit like a bad date, but it doesn't work so well. Come coats his lips and dribbles out the corner of his mouth. The cock slips away; he's sorry about that. He swipes at the wetness with his tongue. There's warm, sticky stuff dripping down his chin. He looks up, not knowing what to do next, and Danny hands him some tissues.

Yeah, he should clean himself up. He guesses it wasn't anything like Danny can do, by what Steve got from him, and Danny isn't saying anything. If he wasn't good enough, does he still get the weekend? Or will Danny just leave him there like last time? He wipes his mouth with the back of his hand and uses the tissue to catch the dribbles running down his chin. The cheap paper shreds a little against his stubble.

"Okay?" he asks. The word comes out funny. His jaw throbs dully.

"Yeah, you did good, Soldier Boy. You're a natural."

He's so tired he doesn't know what to do with himself, but Danny does. Danny pulls him up onto the bed, right onto his body, holds his face between those broad hands, and looks at him searchingly. One finger wipes a tiny bit of moisture away from the side of Steve's chin, then he softly kisses the same spot.

Danny doesn't say anything else as they settle on top of the sheets. He just shifts Steve's weight off his chest and slightly to the side, letting one hand rest on Steve's back, rubbing gently. With his face against Danny's arm, Steve falls asleep curved along Danny's side.

 

^^^

 

It's nowhere near the middle of the afternoon, and Danny's been dozing after the strangest blowjob he ever got. He's pretty surprised that Tall, Dark And Unstable actually did it, even with Danny claiming he wouldn't put out otherwise. What does this guy want to fuck Danny for anyway? Seeing that man on his knees, waiting on Danny's okay, was disturbingly hot. And then, where he'd have expected indifference and possibly teeth, Steve's total involvement left Danny dazed.

In fact, Danny needs a little distance himself.

Carefully he pulls away from the well-muscled furnace, lifting Steve's head and tucking a pillow underneath. He's crashed like he hasn't seen the back of his own eyelids this week. The comforter will be too much, but there's no extra sheet, so Danny takes the velour throw off the chair and tucks it around Steve. Then he gets dressed and goes downstairs.

Coffee. He needs a cup of coffee, because without the caffeine, there's no way in hell he can process. He gets it with ice and sits out on the veranda. There are still a few late lunchers, but there's plenty of room to think.

Ten thousand dollars? Really?

Not that it doesn't feed his ego, and he can use the money, but what the actual fuck? He watches pretty tourists and the sun on the moving water, letting his mind drift, sucking down his coffee. When he gets tired of that, he flips open the folded newspaper he grabbed off the main desk. On the front page there's a photo of the guy upstairs on the bed, blood streaming down his face from a cut Danny can't see. There are strobing blues and reds in the dark, floodlights starring the scene. There's law enforcement milling in tac vests, a nice looking house with broken windows in the background.

It's a wide-angle photo, so he can vaguely see crime scene techs foraging. There's a splash of dark marks in the cream colored siding that screams automatic weapons. In LA, it'd mean drive-by shooting. Underneath is the story of General Pak, how Steve and his team saved the world. After they stashed the family in the hidey hole -- Steve has a hidey hole? And . . . Danny's not too clear on this, but it sounds like they were ambushed by somebody Steve knew. Somebody he used to work closely with.

Danny drops the paper, leans back, and pours the rest of his coffee down his throat. Then he wishes he hadn't. He still gets "cop gut" sometimes: that burning ache in his stomach from too much coffee and the knowledge that something's about to go fubar . . . and he'll be the one who has to pick up the pieces. Except it already happened, last night.

Blowjob Buddy killed a man he knew in hand to hand combat last night . A death squad surrounded his house with automatic weapons, firing on it like hell raining down. He and his two-person team either killed the attackers as they converged or drove them away with Molotov cocktails and a hail of bullets. Jeezuz. They call this place Paradise?

It explains the argumentative and crazy. No wonder Steve . . . wants things. Is Danny the only person Steve thinks he can get them from? He's obviously willing to pay a small fortune.

In some ways it's nice to know he's not the only one whose life is a complete disaster. If he had any working brain cells, he'd be running for those postcard-green hills. Danny Williams, ex-cop, is a paid escort, and GQ upstairs has to trade money for cuddles after the night from hell. What the fuck is wrong with the world?

And on top of everything else, he told the guy he should shut up and learn how to deal. The poor son of a bitch is doing the best he can.

For ten grand, Danny thinks that maybe he'll do the best he can, too. It's not like the guy doesn't deserve someone who'll put in a little effort. If it gets too freaky . . . and he obviously has reason to be a total head case . . . Danny can always walk away.

Already he knows, deep down, that he isn't going to walk away.

Which must make him a little crazy, too.

Christ, he needs some normal. He pulls out his phone and presses 2.

"Danno!"

"Hi, Monkey, what are you doing?"

"Mommy's driving me to dance class. Guess what we did in school today?"

"You rode your unicorn in a parade around the island."

Girly giggles percolate in his ear. There's nothing he loves more than that sound. "No! And unicorns are not real!"

"You mixed a magic potion to turn all the school desks into puppies."

She doesn't even bother. "No, Danno, we --" and she's off. She doesn't stop talking until he hears Rachel say, "I'll be back in an hour, Grace."

"I have to go now. Bye, Daddy."

"Bye, sweetheart."

He sits on the lanai of the Surfrider for a long time.

 

^^^

 

Steve wakes in a strange place. His whole body galvanizes -- painfully, instantly ready. Then he recognizes the taste in his mouth. He remembers where he is and why he's here. Flexing to ease the stiffness in his arms, his legs, his neck, he listens. Danny's not here anymore. Not good enough after all. Alone again. The loss of one more human contact is a rock in his gut.

Well, he tried. There's nothing he can do about it; he doesn't think he could walk out the door without stumbling over his own two feet. At least the prick left him a blanket this time. He pulls the soft thing over his head and slides back down into the darkness.

^^^

Danny's been sitting in the comfy chair he pulled out to the balcony, his feet propped up on the rail, when he hears a snuffle of movement from the bed. He doesn't know why he thought he should come up here and keep watch, he just did. Curious, he gets up and wanders over to the bed. Steve's close-cut ruff of bedhead sticks above the peach-colored fuzzy blankie more appropriate to Grace than this man. Amused, he reaches down to touch the hair.

So fast he doesn't even see the hand, his wristbones are grinding against one another in an unbreakable grip. Steve's eyes appear above the throw, so blazingly intent that Danny feels singed. "Ow! What are you --"

Just like that, the eyes cloud with confusion and the white-knuckle grip relaxes. As the hand relaxes, so does the rest of Steve, and Danny realizes the man was coiled like a cobra. "You are one scary-ass dude," he says, rubbing his wrist, and now he knows how three people fought their way out of that house alive.

"Danny," Steve says. His voice is mushy with sleep, and his face slides into shy, confused pleasure. "You're here."

That look alone could break Danny's heart. Fuck, he probably shouldn't be here. "Where else would I be? I'm not leaving until I get paid." Even he feels dickish after that, but Steve's smile only widens a little. "How you feeling?"

"Better, now." Steve pushes himself up to the headboard, but the smile still lingers around the eyes.

Danny's left with the impression that Steve feels better because Danny's here. To shake it off, he walks to the fridge. "Here, Rip Van Winkle, hydrate." Steve easily plucks the bottle out of the air and commences slugging it down. Danny can't help but watch, sidelong, as that long throat works. "You hungry?"

"Nah. Give me a chance to wake up."

"Let's go for a walk. There should be a nice sunset."

"You're gonna take me for a walk on the beach at sunset? That's special."

Danny thinks that was supposed to be pissy, but the wistful look up from under the eyelashes shoots the sarcasm all to hell. "I like the beach, I like sunsets. You're too dopey from sleeping all day to be good for anything else."

Steve's unfazed by Danny's snide comment. In fact, he seems to like it. And it does turn out to be a fabulous sunset; Danny doesn't see nearly enough of these. He doesn't have a house on the water like some people do, although he could live without the bullet holes. They walk side by side, Steve effortlessly shortening his stride to amble with Danny, leaning toward him like he wants to be closer.

It doesn't take long before they're halfway to the extinct hulk of Diamond Head, along that pretty beach park. They're enjoying the last bit of light in the sky when, on impulse, Danny takes Steve's hand.

Steve startles a little, pulling away with a quick look around to see if anybody noticed. There's nobody in sight, and night is falling fast. All the tourists are eating dinner at their hotels or getting ready to go out. It pisses Danny off. It's not like the guy has to worry anyway; nobody's going to come up to him and call him a faggot. They'd have to be drunk or crazy, and maybe they wouldn't risk it even then.

"So, what, I don't kiss on the lips and you don't hold hands?"

"I, uh. It's, DADT's been my whole adult life, you know?"

Steve looks endearingly embarrassed. He's so uncomfortable that he made Danny feel bad that his shoulders curl in. That means Danny has to slide his hand into Steve's again and squeeze lightly.

"And this is a very dark beach on the edge of a very dark night and there's no shore patrol here. It may be your hometown, but I get the idea that your high school buddies are someplace else. Besides, I can guarantee that at least one in ten of them wanted to hold your hand on a beach."

Steve's flustered but determined, and he asks, "Just tell me, why are you doing this?" like he might be afraid of the answer.

"Don't ask why, Steve. Enjoy it, okay?"

"Maybe it'll take me a minute to get used to." But he sounds like he'd like to, and he doesn't let go as they stand and look out to sea.

^^^

Danny is surprisingly acquiescent, silent, even. Steve doesn't know what to make of that. It makes him nervous in the quiet flip of lapping water. He's getting twitchy. He might be in serious danger of actually saying "What are you thinking?" if someone doesn't say something soon. He hasn't got a clue.

So what do you talk about with somebody you're paying to fuck you when they're not busy doing it? The weather? The fact that he just said goodbye to an old friend with a KA-Bar? The bite of betrayal? The spatter pattern on the wall that Steve still thinks he can see sometimes, or possibly the mummifying mysteries his dad left behind?

Then Danny's a little behind him and the hand slides out of his; now it's on the back of his neck, blunt fingers gouging at the beginning of a world-class headache.

"Jesus, you're strung out. Stop thinking so hard. You'll sprain something. Come on, babe."

Steve can't help leaning into that hand. It feels like the only thing holding him to something, anything, like normal. Screw the irony that a male hooker from Jersey is his only anchor when he's less than five miles from the home he grew up in. Nothing about his life so far was even kissing cousins with normal.

If only he could just stop minding about that so much.

"You were a cop." He throws that one out, part anything to break the silence, part really wanting to know. "How do you deal?"

"With?" Danny asks into the darkness and Steve can hear the warning in his tone.

But he doesn't want to know how Detective Williams became a hooker. He wants to know how Detective Williams could see everything he must have seen and still be . . . Danny. Steve's seen and done a lot, too, but those things were national security. They were orders. They were for his country. Last night wasn't only about his country.

"The death. The blood and the killing and the sheer . . . cruelty. All of it. How do you deal with that?" He's glad it's so dark near the water line because his voice went up a little too high on that last word, and he can feel his eyes filling.

The hand on his neck slides down to dig between his shoulders. Steve thinks Danny's genuinely considering the question. "Seems like a long time ago. And I saw death, but I wasn't involved in it, didn't start it or try to stop it like you have, so it was easier for me. I tried to see justice done. You had to hand out your own."

"You know, then."

"Yep." Danny shrugs. "You made the front page."

"He offered to cut me in. One of the best men I ever knew, the best friend I ever had, offered me money for treason."

"And then he tried to kill you. I think you need to set your sights a little higher in the friend category."

"I -- I . . ." Steve can't trust his own voice any more.

"Listen, that was fucked, I didn't mean --"

Steve tightens down as much as he can. "It's okay, it doesn't matter."

"Yeah, yeah it does," Danny says, softer now. "You didn't deserve what he did. I'm sorry. "

Steve hawks out a laugh. "Yeah, me, too."

It's that, just that, a kind word from someone he barely knows, when it feels like he hasn't had a kind word in as long as he can remember, that makes the tears spill down his face. God, he's a mess. Nick Taylor pulled Steve's pin last night and now comes the explosion, in slow motion and all the worse for the delay. He's shaking, right there on the beach in the dark, and he's afraid.

"I'm a good soldier." His voice is cramped and wet. "But they never warn you about killing your friends. I killed him."

Danny's hand is rock-steady on his neck. He drags Steve down onto the sand, except not really, because his knees couldn't hold him up any more. Danny pulls him down and tucks him against his side as if he's a kid. Steve drops his head against Danny's chest and feels a big arm snag around his shoulders. That's so strange and wrong that it doesn't feel any worse when keening sobs claw out of his chest, and God, it hurts. Please, don't let anybody hear this.

At least he's muffled a little by Danny, and the quiet dark soaks up the rest. Danny's other hand comes up and cradles Steve's face, pressing him under Danny's chin, then strokes his cheek gently. There's a continuous murmuring hum from the chest under Steve. He's ragged from all the things clawing at him, and this man with a hand on his face is the only person who's here for him. Who wants him to let it out.

Maybe it would be better if he didn't.

Steve can't do a damned thing like this, he isn't worth anything to anybody like this. He struggles a little to get away from Danny, to escape his fragile support. But Danny doesn't let go and Steve just gives up. He cries until he can't breathe any more, until snot is running from his nose.

The guy pulls a handkerchief out of his pocket and says, "Blow." Steve does, but stays hunched over, head still pressed tightly to Danny's chest.

How fucking, oh, God, how much did he just humiliate himself? He can't remember any time he ever did this. Maybe when he was really small and maybe with his mom, but he doesn't remember. And that's sad enough that it gets one more sob out of him. Those arms just keep holding him solidly, maybe a little more tightly, rocking him back and forth just a little.

He's gone from a man who can do anything to a six year old with a scraped knee in seconds, and the man next to him saw it. Heard it.

"How long you been waiting to do that, Soldier-boy?"

"Fuck you. Just, fuck, fuck you." He tries to break away.

"Unh unh," Danny muscles him right back onto the sand beside him and keeps one hand on the back of Steve's neck, locking him in place. His voice buzzes against Steve's cheek as much as it sounds in his ear.

"Down, boy. Take it easy. You've needed to do that for years, it sounds like." Danny takes a deep breath and Steve feels it. "That's one of the ways you deal with it, man. You let it out occasionally."

Those irresistible hands are on his shoulders, his arms, soothing the serrated scrape of tension.

"I can't," he chokes out, "I don't --"

"Then maybe it's time you learned how." A spark of humor creeps into his tone. "But you didn't do too bad, your first time out."

Steve feels less humiliated, but more stupid. "Do I have to?" He's back to six, whining.

"Try pounding the sand next time," Danny says thoughtfully. "I, personally, favor shaking my fists at the heavens and shouting."

Somehow that doesn't surprise Steve in the least. Danny seems like there would be a lot of words buttoned up underneath his pale blue shirt.

"But," Danny continues, "crying is good. I've done a little of that."

"Why?"

"Because, Delta Force, it's what us humans do when there's nothing else to do."

"SEAL," he says automatically. And that's probably the best answer he's going to get. He's paying Danny to fuck him, not tell his life story, no matter how badly Steve wants to know. That'll probably cost him another ten grand, some other weekend.

Still, he can't resist. "Tell me," he begs. "Tell me something." Because he's like that, has always been like that, dogged in pursuit. Always wanting more than he can have. More than he should want. It's how he got . . . here. He's not above another sniffle. He must remember more about childhood than he thought.

"Okay," says Danny with a sigh. For a while, he just sits there, then he finally talks.

"Once upon a time, a long long time ago, there was a little kid in New Jersey who only ever wanted to be a knight in shining armor. And then he was a knight, and it was the best thing ever, slaying dragons. Hard work, but he always knew it was important. And then he got skewered, but that didn't suck enough, so there was more.

"It wasn't even the dragon who did it, but the youngest son of an important Courtier. So all the other knights and royalty decided he was the problem. To top it all off, the Wicked King gave him a poisoned apple. Compared to that, this really is Paradise, despite you, personally, being the world's biggest attractor of bad shit."

"Being a hooker in Hawaii just so you can send your kid to a fucking overpriced school and see her twice a month is Paradise? Just how bad was LA?" The moment it's out of his mouth, Steve knows it was the wrong thing to say. But it's par for the course tonight.

"I see you did your homework, Commander McGarrett," Danny snaps. "No wonder people want to kill you."

Maybe the most fucked up thing? Danny's hands never stop stroking gently over his hair and cheek. He never tenses up and pushes Steve away.

"I'm kind of an asshole," Steve says in apology, then wipes his nose on his wrist. God, he hates crying.

"Yeah, I got that," Danny hands him the handkerchief again. "But I'll keep your secrets."

Steve lets Danny pull him up from the sand. On the way back, Steve is unbalanced and awkward. He's not moving with the easy athlete's stride that should come unthinking. Every step sinks deeper and is harder to pull out of than he expected. Sometimes his shoulder bumps Danny's. That helps ground him a little. He thinks about reaching out and take Danny's hand again, but he doesn't.

He's been tired before, exhausted to the point of collapse, and it wasn't like this. His body's messed up and his thoughts are scattered. His head hurts like hell, like something shattered in it and all that's left is rubble he can't get over, around, or through.

Chapter Text

He spends forty minutes in the shower. Though his bruising needs ice, not heat, the rest of his muscles are screaming for relief. He should've taken a bath. Danny ordered food. He eats mechanically, knowing that he needs it but not tasting much. They're both quiet, thank God. Danny tries to engage him in conversation a few times and he makes an effort to answer, but he's not really tracking. It's kind of like being high, but not any fun.

Finally Danny heads for the shower and Steve gratefully sinks back inside himself, letting his hearing and vision open up, being still. Waiting. He's spent a lot of time waiting; hell, he's been trained to wait, and he's good at it.

He watches sets of waves come in, lit by the hotel lights, and lets his vision wander past the light into the darker sea. He can pick out the swells as they rise and they seem precious and simple to him. There's nothing underneath them except things that ought to be there.

He hears the shower pattering as if it's right next to him; everything's magnified like this. He can hear Danny's movements, the squeak of his feet on the shower floor and the occasional satisfied noise. Danny likes his showers. The evening breeze touches the hair on his arms and moves on. The last glass of wine is gone now, its tendrils calming his body.

Danny's back. He's padding toward Steve barefoot on the tile floor. His awareness spikes as Danny reaches for him from behind; he suppresses the instinct to move away from the hand on his hair. It's what he's here for.

Steve knows the guy's handsome; anybody with eyes can see that. There's a little color in his face from the hot shower. Bright eyed, tied up in a white robe that's just crying to come undone, he's even more appealing. A vagrant curl escapes from what once was a prissy blow-dry. His eyes are shadowed in the dark that invades the balcony.

"Jesus, look at you! You're a disaster." Danny looks him up and down critically. "You took a hell of a beating last night. You want some more shut-eye? We don't have to get down and dirty tonight, we can make a day of it tomorrow. I have toys," he adds, white teeth glinting, as if that's some kind of incentive.

The fear's rising again. Steve doesn't know what he's afraid of, and he doesn't care. He can't let this go until tomorrow; it has to happen now or it might not happen at all. And he can't let Danny orchestrate some performance on his body. It's got to be more real than that.

"You and me, tonight. No toys." He pulls himself out of the chair to his full height, hardly a giant but big enough to make his wants known. Needs. He needs this. "Let's do it."

Immediately both of Danny's hands are up and directing traffic. "Yo, Rambo! Chill. This is not one of your black ops."

It certainly is a mission to Steve. These are actions taken in stealth and darkness at enormous expense. There will likely be collateral damage and consequences never admitted. There may be casualties. It will solve some problems and create others. It's desperately necessary.

"Are you sure?" The words are heavier than he means them to be.

"Oh, so this is gonna be one of those nights." Danny's hands are tangling in his own hair now, and that's bound to mean he's fed up. He seems unusually hair-oriented. "I'm pretty sure there is no classified mission to assassinate your heterosexuality." Danny shakes his head. "Only a man as beautiful and fucked up as you could make this worthwhile."

Steve grabs it with both hands. "You think I'm beautiful." He can feel his face go smooth along with his voice.

"You're a fucking magazine spread. I'd totally buy the January issue to jerk off on you."

Steve's mouth drops open, somewhere between flattered and outraged. He inches forward until they're almost touching. "You're looking good yourself." He reaches to play with the curls on Danny's forehead.

Heavy arms slide around his waist, pulling him in tight. It feels like a good place to be. Maybe he can finally relax a little. Danny starts backing up. Steve's feet follow, slow but willing. He wants to see Danny now, all of him. It wasn't something he paid much attention to the first time; there were a lot of things demanding his attention. Now he has both the time and a clamoring insistence.

The bathrobe slides off Danny's broad shoulders easily enough. Danny obligingly drops his arms to let it fall. He's powerfully built, big shoulders tapering to flat belly and -- oh, shit. Steve's half hard already just from the meeting of their bodies, his robe gaping open, letting skin touch skin. It's more closeness than he's had since their last time, and he had even higher hopes for tonight.

Danny's obviously not sharing the moment – his dick isn't even stirring. God, you're so stupid, Steve thinks as his anticipation starts to leak away. Danny's not here for fun. He's working.

Steve reaches out, then checks himself. His hand winds up hanging in the air, sort of wavering in front of Danny's shoulder. He wets his lips and wonders if he can get Danny going. Well, the man's a pro, he must be able to get it up in suboptimal situations. It's just that Steve cringes at being . . . suboptimal.

Danny smiles then, takes a step back, and waves. "Be my guest."

"You're. Not even interested," Steve answers thinly.

At that, Danny grins a little and looks down. Bashful was never a look Steve expected to see on such a self-possessed man. One of his broad hands starts rubbing the back of his slowly reddening neck.

It's adorable.

"I . . . uh . . . took the edge off in the shower."

"Seriously?" So it wasn't only the water pressure that Danny had been pleased with. Suddenly, the sounds Danny had been making in the shower return with fine-tuned clarity. He is totally hard now. "I heard you," he breathes, cupping one of those shoulders with a cautious palm. Danny obligingly moves a fraction of an inch closer, open and offering. "I just didn't realize that was why."

Those bright eyes are so close he can see flashes of green in the blue depths. "I had to." He lifts his face and pushes it against Steve's cheek. Steve catches a faint whiff of aftershave. "I knew I wouldn't last five minutes with you otherwise."

Whether he's lying or not, Steve presses grateful lips against his hair, then hopes that Danny didn't notice. He's hard and ready and all he wants is . . . to be held. What the hell's wrong with him? This is not how he expected it to go with a hooker. He doesn't know what to think. "Do you want . . ." He twists toward the bed, his body saying what he doesn't.

"Oh, yeah, I want." A real smile gets bigger on Danny's face.

Steve feels like he's cliff diving when drops the robe, flops over backward onto the bed and elbows his way up toward the pillows.

"Oh, shit! Is that from last night?"

Danny's seen the bandage on his arm, the one he'd rewrapped after his shower. "It's nothing." There's nothing that can stop him now. He can't help it; he lifts his arms and hopes Danny understands what he wants. Thank God - Danny drops down and moves right on top of him, into them.

It wasn't like this last time. Not even close. Then Danny was behind a wall, body revealed but the rest concealed. Tonight he's all soft hair and hard muscle, smiles and laughing eyes and it's so damned good. Feels good, tastes good, smells good. How did Steve go all his life without this? He's been so empty, and this bed is so full. Danny's filling it for him, and it feels right.

Sex has always been something to excel at, a game or a goal. He didn't expect nirvana, just good exercise and an orgasm for a job well done. He knows as many ways to satisfy a woman as he could learn from the girls of Maryland and the pleasure houses of Saigon.

Here, he wants more and different. It isn't nice to think about it being Danny's job, but Steve's paying and he's going to get what he needs. There's a broad hand sliding down past his waist, over his hip, a wrist brushing his cock. He sucks down a quick shot of air.

"What do you want?" Danny asks cheerfully.

He was doing pretty good there for a while. He had been able to speak. Then, just like that, Danny renders him mute again. Because Steve just . . . wants. So much. And he has no words for it. He tightens his lips over the growl of frustration, but it gets out.

"Whatever you want, however you like it. Don't be shy." Up on one elbow, Danny watches him. His expression shifts to something unreadable. Then he slides back on top of Steve and leans his forehead against Steve's. "You can have anything."

The voice is low in his ear, tickling, and Steve tightens an arm around Danny's back. He wants it to be about be about something else, not pumping iron or the money shot.

"Sweet," he finally says, pushing the words to get them out. "Be sweet."

He can hear the smile in Danny's voice when he says, "That, I can do."

Fingers, gentle and strong, tip his chin back up and a little to the side. Then Danny is kissing him, slowly at first, thumb smoothing a path along Steve's jawline, then pausing, lips open. Steve's tongue tips out, hoping at least for a flick against that forbidden mouth. Where does he get the damn coffee? Steve can smell it, then taste it when Danny takes his mouth. It's a slow kiss that he never wants to hurry up, but it ends too soon anyway.

"I thought you said no –"

Danny does a shimmy that lights him up like a landing strip. "I changed my mind."

A thrill tingles up the back of Steve's neck. Danny doesn't kiss. That's the rule. Steve gets that. It's too personal. But Steve is important enough, personal enough, to break rules for. Breaking rules, Steve can work with that. For a Navy lifer, he's never been all that fond of rules anyway. He steadies Danny's head in his hands and kisses the acceptance from his lips. It's a gift he didn't expect to ever get, and it cracks Steve wide open.

^^^

 

Those eyes on him, they're killing him. And something just melted inside Steve that even Danny felt. His hands come up to cradle Steve's jaw; he's surprised at the graceful curve of bone beneath his fingers. It's almost delicate.

Not interested. The guy thought Danny wasn't interested. He resists the urge to shake his head. He gets up on his knees, straddling Steve but avoiding yesterday's damage, and drops kisses across his forehead. "You can do everything. Do you want to touch me? Go ahead. Touch whatever you want."

Steve licks his lips once and his eyes drop back to Danny's torso. He reaches out the back of his hand and skims his knuckles over the cut of Danny's abs. Then one finger traces the curve of Danny's hip and the muscle there. The path remains on Danny's skin. The finger dips down and down and Steve's head tilts to watch its progress. It tickles, and Danny's muscles jerk a little in response. Steve pulls his hand back.

This guy can't be as inexperienced as he seems, but he's had a damned tough twenty four hours. Who knows what the hell is happening inside that head? Danny should give him a break. He reaches out and grabs Steve's hand, putting it right back where it was. "Anything, remember? All for you."

Steve puts a hand on each hip, slides them back down over the curve of Danny's ass, and squeezes a little.

"Yeah, that's it. I like that. It feels good." If Steve can't talk, maybe he should.

Steve nods, sober and unsmiling, like he's planning an assault.

"Let me touch you, too. We can touch each other." The tentative touches are okay, but Commando Face is not what Danny was looking for. "You don't have to worry about doing it right. You won't be tested later. It's supposed to be fun. I'll show you what I like, and you show me what you like."

He drags a finger down the pulse inside Steve's forearm, and the man shivers. "In between, if there happens to be some licking or some stroking, hey! who's gonna know?" He's grinning down like an idiot, but this serious, adorable goof is pressing all his buttons. He wants him to like this, to have fun, to like Danny.

He really wants him to like what Danny's going to do to him now.

Steve's dick seems interested in the proceedings, rubbing up a little against Danny's ass. Excellent beginning, very promising. Sweet, he reminds himself. He begins to lightly stroke Steve's chest, long, lazy caresses from the breadth of his shoulders down to his waist, kissing in the wake of his hands.

Steve's hands stutter like clumsy butterflies before alighting on Danny's back. Once there, they start to knead lightly, as if he's checking out Danny's structural integrity, testing.

Danny can't take it anymore. He feels like he's defiling an innocent, here. Which, holy Christ, even though he knows it's not true - the man must have cut a swath in the world's women a mile wide - he's getting harder just thinking about it. That's so wrong that it's . . . exquisite. In order to break the tension, he says, "If you promise to treat me right, I'll let you," he pauses dramatically once he has Steve's full attention, "mess up my hair."

Steve finally cracks a smile.

That does it, the man is here again. Steve smiles all out, his male-model face splitting into a wide, dorky grin. Danny is charmed. Especially when those large hands come up and ruffle through his half-dry locks as if he were a wet dog.

"Curly hair," and Steve winks. He feels his own smile going loose to match Steve's.

"Oh, two can play at this game, my friend," Danny warns, then leans down to nibble on a nipple. He uses only his lips, but Steve leans up and gasps beneath him as if he had bitten and drawn blood.

Oh, some days, he loves his job. This may be two or three of those days. He rubs his shaven cheek against Steve's stomach, smooth against the hairless skin. There's a little chest hair, but not much anyplace else above the Speedo line. He smells good, like the edge of the jungle in the sunlight. Danny just breathes there a moment and Steve's hands come down onto his head. Instead of ruffling his hair again, they start . . . petting him, for lack of a better word. Curious fingers trace his ears and shape the back of his skull.

It's almost unbearably sweet to be explored like this.

Warm soap-and-man scent dominates lower down, leading Danny's nose, but he wants to take it slow. Steve deserves it. He moves up under Steve's arm, nuzzling his neck. Now one of Steve's hands is touching his face, cupping his jaw, light against his throat.

"I am interested," he murmurs into Steve's ear. "Thinking of you, I came so hard in the shower it took a year off my life. Now I'm like this again." A wriggle of his hips and his cock is pressed in a hard line against the hollow of Steve's hip. It looks fantastic there.

Steve turns, the hand on Danny's throat urging him to tip his face up. Then he's leaning in and they're kissing again and this is never a good idea. Danny tells the little voice in his head to shut the hell up. There was no way Danny couldn't have kissed him when Steve's eyes lit up and he looked so freaking relieved to be wanted. Nothing has changed since then. He's almost sure he hears, "Thank you," against his mouth as Steve makes love to his lips. This is one thing Steve's not afraid of and it shows.

Steve's enormous hands are cradling his head, moving Danny the way he wants him. He's carefully turning Danny so he can explore every tooth, maybe, and it's staggering, the kind of concentrated want the man radiates. The hesitation is gone, but the sweetness is still there, lingering underneath in the care he's using to touch Danny, to move against him. They're both breathing hard and Danny's about to start some serious dick-rubbing himself by the time Steve pulls away.

"Nuh-uh, not yet," says Danny, and grabs Steve's bottom lip between his teeth. Steve makes a wonderful, desperate kind of whimper at that. It's been a long-ass time since Danny's had a kiss, and Steve was built just for him. "I want you. You're beautiful. You're so goddamn pretty I don't even know what to do to you first."

He dives back into that mouth, searching out Steve's secret places. They're squeezed so tight together he thinks Steve's ribs are going to leave red marks. Then he remembers the bruising shit! and pulls back.

Steve's gasping. "Oh, God, Danny." He looks stunned at Danny's praise, all enormous eyes and wet lips.

Has no one ever told this man the truth about himself? Is everyone on the planet blind?

There's a hand on his shoulder; Steve licks his way across Danny's mouth and pushes him over onto his back. He leaves a cool trail along his jaw, moving down toward Danny's collarbone. If Danny had only known those were the magic words! Something is unlocked in Steve now; there's no strange virginity, no more of that endearing clumsiness. He's careful, still gentle, but now he's reaching out for what he wants.

. . . and then Danny's the one squirming as Steve licks his chest in broad strokes, sucks on everything in his path. He whines as Steve laps at his nipples, and then he's pushing up against Steve's stomach in earnest. Something in him is unwinding, too. He can feel it. He doesn't have to fake it – his body loves what Steve is doing.

There's a shift between the two of them; Steve settles lower down, in between his legs, and lets Danny shove against him as best he can. There's a soft scratch of chest hair rubbing his dick and noises coming out of Danny's mouth that haven't been real since he started this job.

And Steve . . . Steve is watching avidly.

Their skin is sticking together in tender places that sting a bit, but that's not stopping either of them. "This was, this was supposed to be for you," Danny huffs. His stroke gets slicker against Steve's chest.

"It is," Steve breathes against his breastbone before leaving slow, deep kisses against the skin. He is tasting Danny as he goes.

Danny now knows that he likes being tasted. He's light headed and losing control fast. Then there's nuzzling; Steve's further down, taking away that delicious pressure. He's pushing his nose into the blond curls just above Danny's pubic bone. He's breathing in and out audibly as he runs his nose back and forth. It's a long time since Danny's been so naked.

In another life, Danny went to a wine tasting and the sommelier had shown them how to do exactly this with the wine in the glass. On his body, it makes his dick stand straight up, bumping Steve in the throat.

"Danny," says Steve, and he feels the rumble in that long throat against his cock. Danny's whimpering and he doesn't give a good goddamn. "Can I suck you again?" Low and deep, like he's talking so Danny can feel it.

"You have got to be kidding me! You gotta ask?" He's straining upward, trying to fuck himself against the line of Steve's throat. Damn good thing he shaved, too. Steve's body's holding his hips down, so he's trying like hell, just not getting very far.

"Hold still, then." And now Danny knows the guy's just fucking with him, and it's a wonderful thing, to know Beautiful-But-Deadly is coming into his own as a lover. Coming into Danny's own. Because Steve's hands are on his hips now, holding him down in earnest, and that has never turned Danny on so much in his whole life. Steve moves lower, muscles Danny's thighs further apart, and settles in like he's planning on staying for a while. A shock skims his whole body when Steve takes one of Danny's balls in his mouth.

When the hands disappear from his hips and one of them comes back wet and sloppy, oh, yeah, he threw a bottle of slick on the bed, oh, fuck. It's crazy, he knows, but he feels vulnerable now, himself. Maybe it's that Steve is dragging things out of him he didn't even know were there anymore. All he knows is, he doesn't want to hide tonight.

Cold fingers are leaving woozy lines along the inside of his thighs and fuck if Steve isn't reaching for his ass. The man must have ADHD, but Danny won't miss a blowjob if Steve wants to fuck him.

"Lift your knees." It's a plea coming from deep inside Steve, and the tone just grabs Danny by the short hairs.

Danny prepped himself in the shower, but he hopes Steve isn't planning on just driving home. "Put your fingers inside me."

"How many?" Steve asks, eyes riveted to Danny's ass.

"Two - if your nails are short."

Steve seriously inspects the fingernails on his right hand; they glisten in the lamplight.

Danny's pulling his legs up. "Get your knees under my lower back a little, that's good." He reaches out and hooks a calf over Steve's shoulder. Steve is biting his own lip, watching himself finger Danny's ass. The press of fingers is just so good. Steve's got a hand around his dick, too, and that's a little piece of heaven. "Yeah, that's -- yeah."

The boy learns fast. Danny grins a little because he knows exactly where Steve learned this. It is interesting to have his own technique mimicked back at him. Nice to know he's good at this.

"Push around the edge a little, yeah, that works. You can -- do it, yeah, just slow, I'm ready, oh, babe," he's babbling, but his dick seems to be connected to his mouth somehow. "If you're done exploring down there, Columbus, you think you could fuck me now?"

Steve is smiling delightedly, attention still riveted on what he's doing with his hand and Danny's ass. He's just damn well glowing all over. For the first time, Steve's really, truly there with him in all his glory. It's a whole different guy than Danny has seen before.

"You said you wanted me to have fun," Steve points out as he tears open a condom and rolls it onto his dick.

Danny passes him the bottle of lube with a growl. "Fuck you. Fuck ME!"

Steve laughs, but the laugh trails off into a moan as he sets the head of his dick against Danny's hole and pushes. It takes him a moment to figure out just how much strength to use to slide in slowly and steadily. Steve's inside then, eyes wide when he stops to pant. "Got to -- just --" Danny knows how he feels, but Christ, not now!

Steve leans forward and plants his hands on the bed next to Danny's ribs. Danny wraps his hands around Steve's forearms and shifts his hips with a helpless grunt. Steve's breath hisses out in a rush.

"Danny, I," he loses his words and he's moving, slow but sure.

God, at last. When Steve grins at him, just a little shyly, Danny realizes he said that out loud.

"Too slow?" Steve asks with a tiny frown.

"Slow's good, just like that, give it to me like that." He smiles back, as best he can with lips that just pretty much stopped working.

Watching Steve's face is sex all by itself. Danny's balls get heavier just from the intensity of it. Heavy eyes, hard-kissed lips parted, red flush moving up his chest. And when Danny reaches up and skims his fingers over Steve's lips, the results are electric. Steve clenches his teeth, then gives in to a puff of moan. When Danny tightens up and arches his back, that puff becomes a belly-deep groan that echoes in the room. Steve doesn't stop, and he doesn't speed up. He pulls out and shoves back in over and over, every move a slow streak of pleasure.

How Steve has enough stamina for this, Danny can't imagine. Danny asked him for slow and he's got it, the slow fuck that's making his head spin. Every time he starts to pull back Steve inhales long and harsh, then holds his breath. When he pushes forward, the air rides back out on a low hum that Danny can feel like fingers dragging on his skin. He can feel that cock, too; condoms mean extra friction and it's tugging at his hole every inch of the way.

Danny's going to leave finger marks in Steve's arms if he keeps this up, but he can't make himself grab the comforter instead. "You're, you're a fucking animal. You can't do this forever!" A drop of sweat rolls down Steve's flushed neck and makes a tiny cool splash on Danny's tight pec. Steve leans in on the downslide and scrapes his teeth over it, God damn, ripping a high noise out of Danny's throat.

He's tense all over; his orgasm's building in every cell of his body. He'll be splattered on the walls when they're through. "Come on, harder, faster, come on, I'm dying here!"

"So -- so impatient," Steve gasps. He isn't in any better shape than Danny. "Okay, yeah, okay. If you can't take the heat." His slide turns into a snap and when he bottoms out he wails, a cry that must have the neighbors sitting up in bed.

"Noisy bastard! Do it, fuck me like you want to, like that --"

The long hot slide of cock devolves into weight and force and fuck. Those big beautiful eyes fly open as Steve cries out, drives deeper, balls smacking his ass. Steve's shaking now, eyes closed, and Danny wraps Steve's hand around his dick and pulls while he shoves up onto Steve's cock as best he can. Steve tightens his grip, grinding his teeth into a grimace, and comes like it hurts. His grasping hand on Danny's cock might be the only thing holding him to earth as his hips hit Danny's ass one last time.

That's about the time Danny's world turns over, too. There's a whimper fighting its way out of his throat and his come is splashing hot on his belly.

He's dizzy with it. Steve is, too, by the boneless flop halfway on top of Danny's body. Steve's thumb is rubbing up and down the underside of his cock, coaxing the last of his orgasm out of him and it's almost too much, but Danny's too wasted to bitch about it. For now.

His skin is singing and he's pretty sure his legs are numb. That might be because there's six feet of Navy sliding toward unconsciousness on top of him. He shifts a little and Steve slopes off to the side. It takes Danny a while before he can work up enough energy to heave himself off the bed and go find something to clean them up. By then, Steve only murmurs when Danny skims off the condom and runs a warm washcloth over his limp dick.

Well, the guy probably deserves a fuck-coma after the last couple of days he's had. And he had been strangely intent on -- even devoted himself to -- Danny's good time. So he doesn't mind rolling Steve like a log under the covers and tucking him in.

He hopes Steve doesn't flip out every time he wakes up by surprise. Impromptu facial rearrangement isn't included in the price.

Danny wanders back into the bathroom and washes up, then brushes his teeth. He isn't normally sleepy at this time of night, but that was . . . he doesn't even know what it was. He's whipped. Steve looks pleasantly warm and inviting to lie next to. So he turns off the lights and leaves the doors to the balcony open. There's a big moon hovering over the ocean, leaving its own contrail down the water. Silver light is splashed on Steve's sleeping face. He gurgles out a little snore as the mattress shifts, and he turns toward Danny, but doesn't wake.

Danny is asleep between one breath and the next.

Chapter Text

They have a strangely easygoing breakfast. He hadn't really known what to expect, combining every bit of what little he knows about Steve McGarrett. The man slept like hibernation and woke like rockets were screaming overhead, hauling himself straight up and scanning intently for the clock.

Or maybe he was worried about foreign agents. Seems like Hawaii's got a lot of those.

Danny sees this because he hears him breathe out sharply once in the heave of sitting up. Danny's in the comfy chair reading after an early morning of a little yoga, a shower, and a trip to the gift shop. He's got a Richard Marcinko paperback. Even though he knows it's nothing more than a men's adventure novel, maybe it'll give him some kind of clue to this guy's headspace. McGarrett is living a life of adventure.

Either way, here they sit at the edge of the spacious ocean and begin with papaya halves, each with a little purple orchid blossom tucked in the hollows where the seeds used to be.

"What do you want to do today?" asks Steve, only barely managing to swallow his mouthful of fruit before he speaks. As if that's Danny's call. Like, what, they're buddies sharing a weekend away, and maybe they'll go out and pick up a couple chicks tonight, flip for who keeps the room.

It's easier to snipe at Steve's table manners than answer. "When was the last time you ate a decent meal?"

Steve considers. "Last night I wasn't really hungry, and yesterday's lunch was a waste of good fish," he admits. "I think I got more food on the tablecloth than ended up in my mouth."

"Protein," Danny opines, puncturing the air with a fork. "Get something with a lot of protein."

"You come from a long line of Jewish mothers?"

"Football coaches. Those bubbes can really kill you with the wind sprints."

For the first time, Steve laughs outright. It has a strangely compelling quality, one that he wants to hear again. "I used to play football."

"So you know all about that, then," Danny says, like he's not being just a little insane.

"I'm very familiar. There were plenty of mothers who were drill sergeants, too. But hey, do I not look like the star football player of Kukui High?" Steve buffs his nails on his scruffy gray t-shirt. No man should look that good in gray.

Danny should have been expecting that. It almost seems inevitable. He finishes scooping out his papaya. "Yeah, you do," he admits. "Your old man must have been over the moon."

There's a pause while Steve takes a too-fast gulp of ice water, and his throat convulses. Then he lifts one shoulder an inch, lets it drop. "I dunno. He never said."

He blinks. "What?" His own dad showed up at every game he could, even if he was working double shifts. Sometimes he dragged along half the station house with him, just to watch Danny slide through the dust face first.

"I don't think my dad cared about football much. He liked to go fishing." Steve's face is as expressionless as any wrinkled monk's.

Danny knows he shouldn't ask, but the words are out of his mouth before he thinks. "Did you guys go fishing together?"

Danny's been married -- he's familiar with the phenomenon of perfectly timed deafness. Steve doesn't hear him, turns to wave at the waitress. "Can I get a cup of coffee?" The smile that accompanies the request is so dazzling, Danny's surprised she doesn't unbutton her blouse on the spot. Steve McGarrett must bleach his teeth twice a week.

"Steven," he says firmly, needing to drag that smile back to the table, "what did you want to do this afternoon?"

"Oh, yeah." The smile becomes both less bright and more personal. Danny likes it. "How do you feel about whales?"

"I'm against whaling in general, although I don't approve of Greenpeace's tactics. Why? You wanna go out and blow some up?"

Those too-pretty eyes close briefly and the smile disappears. "I think I've had enough of that for a few minutes. I just -- it's whale season. I miss that."

"Wait." He's horrified. "I know I'm not from here, but is there really open season on whales?"

McGarrett's grin gleams again. "Bring your harpoon. We're going whaling."

Every head in the restaurant swivels their way as Danny yelps, "Are you completely insane?"

That's how they end up ferrying two plastic kayaks in the bed of the giant Silverado, hideous pink and orange blotches against the Navy blue. The sight is rivaled only by the garish board shorts Steve bought for them in the dive shop. "Jesus! My eyes!" he'd groaned.

The asshole had the gall to smirk. "Wear your flowers like a man."

They're on the west side of the island, calmer waters today with more likelihood of sea monsters. "Are you sure this is safe?" he calls as McMuscle smoothly passes him by. At least with his vest on, he probably won't drown.

It's taking a few minutes to get his sea arms. He hasn't done this in many years, and it was on a little lake about the size of Steve's truck. Fortunately the plastic kayak is easier than the real ones. The burn in his shoulders and pectorals feels good. It reminds him that he's still strong, even with the bum knee. And it's pretty out here, with the light green under him shading out to emerald, teal, and the big blue sea. He's not as keen on the whole whale thing. The closest he's ever been was Grace bubbling about a class trip.

The big stud does a kayak 180 with nothing more than a twist of his body. On one of these things, that takes some power. "Showoff," Danny grumbles. "You cannot tell me that didn't hurt!" Steve's bruises have come to the surface in a purple counterpoint to his pink kayak. There's a fresh bandage on his arm that's bound to get wet, plastic wrap or no.

"Safety first," Steve assures him. "That's what these are for." He gestures to the painfully yellow life vest he's not wearing.

"And that would be why it's hooked onto your kayak?"

"I can swim."

The joy on Steve's face tells him the man was born to be here, out on the water with the sky all around. Navy, yeah. He gets it. "Just put the damned thing on, superhero, and hope the crazy rogue whale spits you back out. Also, you have an open wound, remember? I wouldn't want to get that full of salt. And take it easy, or you'll be so sore later . . ." His warning trails off abruptly as he flashes on Steve being so stiff tonight, and that other creeping notion he's been busy avoiding.

The one that says he ought to be taking it up the ass for his money.

Instead of telling him to mind his own goddamn business like any normal man would, Steve gives him the strangest look. It's kind of soft, from under his lashes, as he's turning his head. "Even if we see one, whales hardly ever eat people. That's just a literary device." While Danny boggles, he unhitches and pulls on the life vest.

Ooookay. He can't even parse that. The man who's paying for his time just did as he was told. Yeah, he's heard of that, but it's usually in an entirely different play space.

The ugly vest compromised Danny's other scenery, but at least he knows Steve will be ready and able to save him from omnivorous sea creatures when necessary. So he says, "Well, are we going somewhere, or not?" and digs in. He's not in the right kind of shape for paddling, so he knows the pace won't hurt Steve any. They're traveling along shore, just a couple hundred feet off the beach. He didn't really expect anything, but the water's so clear that he can see coral heads in the shadow of their tiny boats, dotted by colorful darting fish. Neat.

It's a nice day. With their cove backed by mountains and the happy puffy clouds above, the day's scarily perfect. Danny's up to the roots of his hair in sunscreen, and all's right with the world. Suddenly Steve's right next to him, holding his arm, the hand cooler than his sun-warmed skin. "Look."

Danny peers against the sun. Even his shades can't quite make up for the glare. When he sees what Steve's pointing at, it's just as well the man's still got a good grip, because Danny would have backpedaled himself right off the kayak trying to get away. "Shark," he croaks. There's a thin line of dorsal fin parting the water and it's coming straight at them.

"No," Steve murmurs. "Watch."

Danny swipes a look at him. "Are you for real?" But when he sees the wonder on Steve's face, he settles down. This must be something good. The fin has friends now, and they're getting closer fast. They're not fifty feet away from where Steve and Danny are floating. "Dolphins? They're too little. What are they doing?"

"Nai'a. Spinner dolphins." He sounds a little breathless. "They're coming to visit."

The many fins, there must be two or three dozen, appear at different moments and then vanish, a dance of pointy things. Then the first one leaps. It shoots up out of the water and does an airborne triple axel. That's the cue for all the others to start doing aerials while Danny gapes. Their shrill chirps and squeals ping a part of his lizard brain that makes him want to jump right in with them.

It's only a few minutes before all the dolphins are gone from sight.

"They're awesome." Steve gazes after them, eyes still a little round.

"You sound like my daughter," scoffs Danny. He's reaching for and failing at nonchalance, and okay, his heart is beating a little faster. "Grace is completely smitten with dolphins. She'd sure love to see something like that."

Steve only says, "She's a smart girl." He shoves Danny's kayak away and dips his paddle. "Let's see what else is out here."

"Not until we both put more sunscreen on." If one of them is badly burned, the weekend is over. Danny's liking the accommodations too well to cut it short.

"Thanks, coach," says Steve dryly, but he does it anyway.

There are turtles swimming by, heads up out of the water for a breath of air and then back down, and all the fabulous views he can eat. But Danny's the one who spots the whales. "Hey! Thar she blows!"

Steve has his sunglasses on now, but Danny doesn't need to look in his eyes to see the excitement. He straightens and holds like an English setter on point. "Mama and baby, damn. And an escort, see?"

"Huh?" Danny's too busy filling his eyes with his first whale to pay attention, which means he sees the not-whale-sized shape come up out of the water. "Hey! What was that?"

"It's the baby. Mama doesn't like that so much. See how she's trying to nudge the baby down?"

"Why?"

"She's feeding four hundred pounds of fifty percent milk fat a day, and there's nothing here for her to eat. She starves until they get back to Alaska. Would you want to see that wasted?"

"And you know all this because . . ."

"Hawai'i is probably the only place where you can earn a Cub Scout merit badge for whale trivia."

He tries to imagine McGarrett in a little shorts outfit with a string tie. Steve's hand is on Danny's lower back now, below the line of his life vest. He can feel each individual finger extending from that long rectangle of palm, thumb against his hip. Before Steve even speaks, Danny can feel the tension in those fingers.

"The escort's gone down. Let's wait and see if he comes back up."

Danny doesn't have a chance to ask why they care. He knows why when the huge animal explodes head first from the water, arcs gracefully backwards, and slams down flat. The impact echoes across the bay and throws up a wall of ocean. The thing was the size of a school bus. No wonder Grace had been so excited. "Holy Mother of God," he breathes.

"Yes!" Steve grabs him and for a minute Danny thinks he's going to dump both of them in the drink, no way, there are whales in there, but Steve keeps them both mostly upright and kisses him. Plants a big one right on Danny's cheek. "That's what I'm talkin' about," Steve says, and beams at him -- like Danny's the one who made all this just for Steve.

They wait to see if it'll happen again, but the whales keep moving. Before they dive, they're so close Danny can hear the burst of air when they blow, see whale snot rain down on the surface. They don't talk on the way back to shore.

Steve tosses the kayaks in the truck like he never got the shit beat out of him. Bruises? What bruises? They wipe down and change. There's nobody around. They haven't seen a soul since they got here. "This is a nice place." Danny uses both arms, the better to encompass it all. "How'd you know about it?"

Steve looks out over the bay. "A friend of mine, his dad used to bring us. We always had fun." Then he turns back, the bluest water reflected in his eyes. "I've never had a better day here, though."

For the longest two seconds of his life, Danny stares into Steve's eyes and wonders whether, if he turned down the cash, maybe they could . . . be something else. But then he pulls his head back out of his ass and gets in the truck.

Chapter Text

In the room, Danny is putting this morning's clothes back on. "I was thinking we should eat a light dinner," he says. "You must be starving, but we can order room service later."

"Are you kidding me?" Steve examines him, looking for clues he should have seen before -- the ones that would've told him Danny's crazy as a bedbug. "I could seriously eat."

"At ease, soldier, for Christ's sake! Two pounds of steak doesn't go well with a full body massage."

Danny's hair is some kind of barometer of his feelings, he's sure of it. It's a little wild after their day on the water. "Huh?" Not that a full body massage doesn't sound good. To be honest, he could really use it.

A lot, every day of the last four months.

Every day of the last five years.

"Well, you really liked it last time I rubbed your shoulders. And after the week you've had, I figure you deserve one."

Steve checks carefully again. Danny still looks like he's serious. "Okay. We can go down to the spa. I bet they have early evening hours."

"No. This is something I wanna do for you."

"Sure, yeah." He can't believe it.

Not that he can't believe Danny's capable of it, more like he can't believe someone who hardly knows him wants to do it. Just for Steve, to make him feel better. Under the circumstances, it's laughable. Ass fucking, yes. Get in, get off, get out. A full body massage, no. Then he looks at Danny's hands. They look like they could do him some good. He remembers how they felt, that first night. Warm and strong, attacking the tension in him and driving it out. That was before they even knew each other.

Now he knows what Danny's laugh sounds like, how he smells, what his daughter looks like . . . Danny is a real person to him now. More real than anyone else has felt to him for a while. It'd be nice to be touched by a real person. Someone who likes him.

Now that he's even thought of it, he's thirsty for it. Suddenly, he needs to be touched. "Salad it is." He moves closer and his hands make their own way to Danny's arms, smoothing his palms over the firm biceps to those substantial shoulders. The skin feels a little hot from the sun, still. Danny's face pinked up despite all the sunscreen, but it'll be golden tomorrow.

This close, he smells good. Like salt and coconut and clean sweat and the deep water the whales brought up with them. "We're both covered with salt. I could wash your back." He could cover Danny with kisses, he could fuck him, suck him. Anything. The rush he feels is like skimming over the water in the sunlight. He is free, he can do anything. He can touch Danny. He can let Danny touch him.

"When you said you'd rub my shoulders -- I want that. Now. Will you touch me now?" Fuck, his voice just cracked.

Danny just dips his head with a smile. "Sure. Let me get a couple of things." Then he says, "In case we get more involved later, did you use the can today?"

"What?"

"Well, some people like to start with an enema to clean things out. I was thinking probably not tonight."

"I'm good." That's more real than he was expecting. Too real. He bites the corner of his bottom lip, wondering what to do. It's a little like freefall. Now there's nothing between him and . . . what? He can't ask Danny every damn thing, he has to start thinking for himself. But his brain doesn't seem to be working. It's lost power. All the juice he's got is going to the sparking unease and excitement in his gut.

Fortunately Danny is telepathic. As he heads for the bathroom, he throws over his shoulder, "Why don't you get comfortable on the bed? Lie on your stomach."

That's doable. Maybe he should take his clothes off, too. He's stripped off his shirt and is working on the tie to his board shorts when a couple of towels come flying out of the bathroom.

"Spread those out on the bed, willya, babe?"

He's walking into this all by himself. He's not crazy or exhausted or desperate. He's voluntarily, on purpose, going to let another man touch his body. No, be honest, he tells himself. He needs another man to touch his body. More importantly, he needs Danny to do it.

Danny appears in the bathroom doorway. Steve freezes in place. "What's wrong?"

"I -- uh, nothing, I was just --" about to run into the hall naked, and keep right on going. "Nothing."

Danny looks supremely unconvinced. "You've had a massage before, Steve. Nothing different, I promise. Not yet, anyway." White teeth show boldly in the dim room.

A lifetime of training and experience is screaming Not yet. Not ever. But he earned this weekend, paid for it in blood . . . and a lot more that he hasn't had time to count the cost of. He takes a deep breath, then another.

Danny's still looking at him, brows thick. Finally he comes to a conclusion. "I think you don't understand how this works."

"I knew that," Steve blurts out, and he can feel the pulse in his neck beating. There's no entreaty to the Ceiling God, but Steve suspects it almost happened. It makes him chuckle even though it's not really funny.

"Here's how it works," says Danny. "It's simple." He looks strangely serious, almost . . . sympathetic. He abbreviates some broader gesture to reach out, fingertips touching Steve's face. "You want something." Steve opens his mouth to interrupt, but Danny puts a finger on his lips. "You tell me what that is, and I give it to you. Whatever you want, and nothing you don't want."

"What if I don't know what I want? And what if --" the words drill their way out, "What if I don't want to want it?"

"Conflicted much?" Danny smiles wryly. "I can't fix that. I am not a therapist, although I am unanimous in thinking you could use one, seriously, and whenever you want, I can get you a number. But here's the thing. For a man who lives outside the law, you carry a lotta rules along. There are no rules, McGarrett. You, of all people, should know that."

"Christ, how can you say that? I don't gun down innocent people, I hunt the scum of the earth! My job is important!" It's the most important thing in his life. The only thing. "Not many people can do what I do."

"Take it easy. I didn't say you're not important. I'm saying, it's time to make your own rules." Danny leans into the refrigerator. "Your head's not working too good right now. Here, have another bottle of water, your brains are dried up. You're all sticky. Get in the shower, wash off the sweat and salt. You'll feel better when you're clean." He slaps Steve's shoulder companionably like they're on the football field together.

He tries to explain, doesn't know why. "The places I've been, rules were the only thing I had."

"Welcome to Hawai'i."

"What does that mean?"

"Things change." Danny hands him the water and waves him into the bathroom. "Go. Wash."

In the shower, Steve realizes Danny's right. Things change. This is just a little break from the stress. It's not any different from when he and his team cut loose in dives and whorehouses across the world. They're not hurting anybody. Danny's not hurting him, for damn sure, and Danny -- more likely Danny's daughter -- will be glad for the ten grand some day. She'll never know how he came by it.

^^^

 

While Steve's in the shower, and Danny only wishes that could fix what's wrong with him, it's not all his own fault, he calls down for dinner. On impulse, he rings the concierge to see if he can get a massage table brought up from the spa.

"Fucking pays better," suggests Duarte. "Unless you're getting up to gymnastics I don't even want to know about."

"I'll take that under advisement, my man. My bum knee thanks you very much. Catch you later."

"You better, man," says the concierge with a laugh, but he knows Danny's good for it.

There are several bottles of wine in the fridge. Hell, this joint should have a wine cooler in the room. He could probably get one of those sent up, too. But he's got no interest in being that picky. He opens one and fills a glass. It was a good day, off even Hawai'i's charts, but Steve is exhausting. Danny's never had to cope with a client's misgivings -- not about being with him or being who they were. It's always been pretty cut and dried. People who come to him have already made up their minds.

Danny ordered the same thing for both of them that Steve ordered for lunch yesterday, since he didn't eat any in the first place. Grilled pink snapper and roasted asparagus, with rum creme brulee for dessert. By the time Steve's out of the bathroom, the food's already there. "Thanks," he says, and looks like he's about to start drooling.

He smells wonderful, some kind of island-scented wash that's almost better than the food. He moves like a tiger, padding across the floor in the hotel bathrobe, dressed in something fluffy but still ultimately dangerous, and Danny thinks he could gladly skip dinner just to nosh on Steve.

"Tell me honestly, are you getting enough to eat?"

"Oh, yeah, the fish is excellent, there's plenty to take the edge off."

"I note that's not stopping you from making away with what's mine!"

He's sneaking forkfuls from Danny's plate, waiting for those special moments when Danny's gazing out over the water. And since Danny can't help that -- this ocean view shit just never gets old -- Steve nails an asparagus spear and chomps it complacently. At least he didn't chomp it with his mouth open. Somehow he never spilled any hollandaise on the bathrobe. Damned ninja skills.

"What, exactly, do you think you're doing?" Nobody's stolen Danny's food since Shelby, his first real girlfriend. Certainly Rachel was above that sort of thing. "You do realize that we're eating the same food, right?"

"Just making sure that yours was good enough. You're the kind of quiet, unassuming man who would never complain about it." Steve smirks and licks a spot of yellow off his upper lip.

Danny envies, or possibly covets, that drop of hollandaise. "Do not take that tone with me, my friend. I'll be needing all my strength, and that means protein, plus vitamins, too. In other words, you need to keep your paws off my meal." Although nothing else, he fervently hopes. "Are you sixteen? Have you been away from civilization so long that you do not know that a man's food is his castle?"

He almost misses the low words and their slight smile, would have if not for Steve's downward glance. "I feel like I'm sixteen."

Danny can't help relenting. "If you're so intent on sharing, then, here." He scrapes his chair closer to Steve. "Open your mouth and close your eyes." Steve gives him an uncertain look. "You're going to fuck me," Danny says. "Possibly go so far as to sleep in the same bed, even. I think you can trust me with a spoon."

It takes a couple more seconds for the lids to drop, lashes sweeping down. He parts his lips. The very tip of his tongue slips between them, then disappears. It's so sensual it makes Danny's mouth go dry, and he takes a quick sip of wine. Then he leans forward and lifts a spoonful of creme brulee to those perfect, waiting lips. He barely touches the cool spoon to the bottom lip in warning, and Steve opens his mouth a bit wider, allowing it to slide in. There's a hint of white teeth, then he tightens his lips around the crackle of sugar.

"Don't look." He means to be more forceful, but that took all the starch out of everything except his dick, and it comes out on an exhale. "Keep your eyes closed." He feeds Steve another spoonful and is rewarded by a tiny noise from the back of Steve's throat. Danny's watching the growing bulge under the robe, and they're both on the same page here. When the ramekin of custard is gone, they're both breathing faster. Danny has the most insane urge to follow the spoon to Steve's mouth and taste the real dessert for himself.

Instead, he cups Steve's chin in his palm and whispers, "I'm going to go take a quick shower." The yearning in Steve's now-wide eyes almost stops him. "I'll be back in a few minutes."

^^^

They deliver the massage table while Danny's in the shower. That's pretty smart. He's seen how Danny favors that knee, though he doesn't say anything about it. Kneeling on the bed for an hour wouldn't do him much good. Steve stands by the glass doors, watching the early evening glow over the water. He wants to pace, but it's better not to. Leaning at the door won't wind him up like walking around might. It's not like he should be uneasy. He's dry and clean and well-fed, not gutting it out in some freezing scratch in the earth or a Kandahar cave in the winter.

It was a good meal -- probably the best he's had in ages, if only for the company. The way he reacted to being fed, he doesn't know what to think. It kind of rocked his world. His hand tightens a little on the stem of his glass, and he takes another, longer, swallow. It's a good thing there was another bottle of wine. It's comforting to feel something he understands.

He's no coward, it's just that this is bigger than it looks from the outside. He's never come anywhere near this before. It's not like he hasn't slept with Catherine in the last couple months, and that's always nice. They like each other. She's no more interested in commitment than he is. Seems like he's discovering now why a 'no strings' woman worked for him.

Danny's in the shower, sluicing and splashing. Why Danny, he has no idea. A friendly face? The guy isn't exactly head over heels for him. Surely he could have picked up somebody nicer in almost any bar. But no one else has taken him out to walk the beach. No one he knows would've sat through his fucking emotional disembowelment. Spending one night with Danny meant something. It made him more than a stranger.

No one else in his life has ever let him push like that and pushed back without gouging chunks out of him in the process, or simply walking away. Despite the $10k price tag for the weekend, Steve has an almost childlike faith in the idea that Danny cares about what happened to him. It's foolish, but for that kind of money, why shouldn't he keep his dreams? At least until Monday morning.

Even Kono and Chin, the people closest -- and he winces at how little they really know of him -- don't seem to understand just what the last few months have cost him. Whatever Danny's real feelings toward him, at least he seems to understand how tough it's been.

The shower has shut off while Steve has been sipping and musing. When Danny steps out of the bathroom in a cloud of white ginger steam, Steve finds himself smiling foolishly at Danny's curly hair. The man's wrapped in the other white bathrobe and it comes a lot farther down his legs, making him look like a kid trying on his big brother's clothes. It makes him look years younger and appealingly vulnerable. The hot water has left his skin ruddy and flushed.

He's even more attractive than Steve thought. His feet are bare and the pink of his toes is shockingly intimate. He comes to stand beside Steve on the balcony. When Steve turns his head to look inquiringly up at Danny, he can't read the expression in those night-tinted eyes.

Then Danny reaches out one hand and lightly traces the curve of a lock of hair behind Steve's ear. "You're nervous? Seriously?" He strokes his fingers over the shell of Steve's ear, fingertip catching in the secret hollow where his ear meets his neck. "Trust me. There is nothing you need to be nervous about."

Steve stops himself from pulling away. Danny bumps his hip into Steve's; it feels like it did when a team mate clapped him on the shoulder before practice. His anxiety dissolves, but his heart rate is still high. He finally recognizes it as excitement. His half-hard dick ought to have clued him in. Shit - he's really going to do this. He didn't have any trouble saying "Fuck me," at high noon in a fancy restaurant, why worry now?

Of course, that was a decent meal, his first blow-job, a night of much-needed sleep and a sobbing catharsis of epic proportions ago, but Steve isn't much in the habit of second-guessing himself.

They wander back into the room; he's blinking a little at the light. Danny goes to burrow into the satchel he brought with him, left abandoned on the chair. It would almost make sense to get undressed at this point. He feels pretty naked anyway. He unties the robe and lets it slide off into one hand as Danny turns around.

The surprise in the long up-and-down review reminds him that Danny didn't spend much time looking at his body last time, and he instinctively flexes. Steve's not completely oblivious; female attention may not have meant a lot, but he's had plenty. Then it's not his six pack Danny's examining.

"Shit." He almost-touches the carefully-stitched gash that's a red line down Steve's right bicep. "Christ, that must have hurt when I grabbed --"

"It's okay." Having a warm body to hold on to was more important than a scratch. "You weren't hanging on to that arm."

Danny grins at him, more openly than Steve has ever seen him. "You are built, man. Like a brick shithouse."

"You want this?" Steve teases, because he knows what the answer has to be, and he wants to hear it.

Danny shakes his head. "I should be paying you." There it is, that bald, no-filters honesty, that's what Steve craves.

"Next time," Steve offers.

Danny runs a finger down Steve's chest, all the way to his cock, and flicks the tip. "I," Danny says firmly, as he begins to take things out of his bag and line them up on the bedside table, "am going to make you scream."

"Yeah, yeah, you have mad skills. I get it. So far, though, all I'm hearing is talk."

"I can, my man, I can. I am a professional."

Which is not exactly what Steve wanted to hear, but. Danny is still smiling, and it's a real smile. The corners of his eyes are crinkled and he looks . . . anticipatory, almost eager. Steve can't be sure, but he thinks the shadows he saw in Danny's eyes that first time aren't there now. Or, if they are, they aren't worse because of Steve. Like he's going to enjoy himself as much as Steve is. Something clicks over inside Steve and he truly relaxes for the first time in . . . he has no idea.

He wants Danny to enjoy himself, to feel him let go, too. Wants to know that he has an effect on Danny. "So I should put myself in your capable hands?"

"You sure as hell should."

Steve half-bows, then leans against the table. He can't help posing, hands clasped behind his neck, crossing his ankles. His cock is limp against his leg; for this pose, it ought to be hard. "Have at it. I am in your hands, Mr. Williams."

Danny shakes his head. "Good to know you're a supermodel in disguise."

"This is a disguise?" Steve feigns confusion.

Danny laughs. He reaches out and traces the edge of a lotus petal on Steve's shoulder. "Tell me about your ink." He turns away, fiddling with something on the table now.

"There's not much to tell. I was having a tough time once. I found out one day that I could wear something beautiful, and have it with me no matter what." Danny looks up at that, surprise showing clearly in his face. Steve thinks he ought to put a leash on his own mouth. He's blushing, he can feel it. "Look, doing my job wasn't always fun. Sometimes I needed a reminder."

The other man nods slowly. "I guess it beats some of the other marks we have to carry around to remind us, huh?" Danny draws a single finger down the scar on Steve's thigh, then hooks a thumb toward his own gunshot scar, still hidden behind the robe's lapel.

Steve nods, pleased that Danny gets it. "I chose these."

"So what's with the sunrise thing?" Danny asks with a smirk, warm finger tracing the figure curved around Steve's nipple. Trust him to go right for the really embarrassing one.

"Just a marker. In Australia, it means, "Bite here."

"You lost a bet, didn't you?"

He's not saying no. "Or maybe it's 'The Sun Also Rises Over My Left Nipple.' You've read it. It's a classic."

"You know, the guy in the novel had his balls blown off."

Steve chokes. Damn him. "Thanks for that exciting trip into American literature." He suddenly likes Danny enormously. Danny's as much of an ass as Steve is. Thank God. Suddenly crying all over the guy seems much less awful. Danny is real, a mouthy little bastard, he's so fucking up front Steve wonders how he ever stayed sane as a cop. He wonders when they're going to quit talking. "Jesus, got your tutu on, prima donna? Let's get this show on the road."

Danny looks down, then seems to force his gaze back up. "Oh, now he trots out the fairy jokes. Nice!"

It suddenly strikes Steve that Danny has been nervous, too. He's -- if he wasn't already leaning on the table, he'd be floored. Danny wants this as much as Steve does.

"Come here." He leans up, skimming his thumbs under the collar of the robe Danny's still wearing. "It's not the Oscars." He's trying to think of a way to say 'Don't worry, it's not that important,' but he can't quite figure out how. Partly because it's a lie. It's been on his mind for weeks.

As much as he'd like to lie to Danny, he doesn't think he can. His body sucks at lying. It's curving toward Danny without his even trying to. Instead, he helps Danny shrug off the robe and gets his first really good, unobstructed look at the strong lines of Danny's body, pink and gold and sculpted. The wealth of muscle he remembers; the genuine arousal is new. Burying his face in the curve of Danny's neck, there's that distracting white ginger scent again. He gives up and pulls Danny close.

For the first time, he wonders why Danny isn't working in the highest echelons of the escort world. He knows there is such a thing, populated by the very beautiful. Then he remembers Danny's mouth.

"Screw you," Danny's meaningless retort is muffled against Steve's hair.

So there's a logical explanation after all. His rather disturbing ability to hit on the truth and state it plainly wouldn't go over well in a world that thrives on illusion and pays top dollar to get it. Too bad for Danny, but it's all to Steve's good. A startling idea forms in the back of Steve's brain. It's so radical that he blocks it off almost immediately. He can feel it there, lurking behind the barrier he has just created. "How much do you make in a week? At this, I mean?"

Danny pulls back and looks at him like he's out of his fucking mind. "Why? You thinking of picking up a little work on the side?"

Suddenly Steve's appalled at himself. "No, I --" and now he really is turning brick red. He's pretty sure he's never been this color since he flubbed his lines in the eighth grade play.

"OK," Danny claps his hands together. "Here's what we're going to do. You're going to lay down." He pushes Steve to roll down on the table. "I'm going to get a towel."

Steve does not ask why. He does not open his mouth. He thinks he may never open his mouth again.

"We," Danny waves a hand between the two of them, "are not going to talk about money, hooking, or anything related for the next twenty-four hours. Think you can handle that?"

Steve nods. Nobody says anything until Danny comes back out of the bathroom.

"I am going to give you the ride of your life," Danny tells him seriously. "By the end of this weekend, you are going to be a well-experienced and happy bisexual man, ready to take advantage of the smorgasbord of sexual offerings in this pineapple- and tourist-infested sandbox."

Steve blinks. "Oh," he says softly.

Danny smacks his hip. "Lift up," he orders, shoving a fluffy hotel towel across the table. He shoves lightly and Steve settles back down on top of it.

He turns back to the beside table where he is arranging things. Steve finally manages to focus on them. He gapes at what Danny is holding in his hand.

^^^

 

Okay, Danny admits, it is purple and a touch sparkly. He originally got it on a closeout mail-order special because he has one client who loves her anal play, and she prefers purple.

"Don't worry, it's been cleaned. Can you believe, the package said you could use the dishwasher to clean these? Unbelievable. Anyway, this is sterilized, and not in my dishwasher! Come to think of it, I don't have a dishwasher."

Danny is babbling because he's never seen such a spread in front of him, just begging him to be the first man to plunder, debauch and generally render as impure as any creative human being could manage. And Danny is feeling very inspired. He's always been an ass man, but Steve is the perfect storm. There's a horrific scar that cuts above his tailbone and down the other leg, enough color left in it that Danny knows it's not that old. Christ. He's not even sure he wants to hear the story, and he knows to treat it with care. There are other scars, but this one is the newest and possibly did the most damage. It only accentuates the beauty.

The vibrator hums against the concrete column that is Steve's neck. Within ten minutes, the guy doesn't seem aware of the little grunts he's making, or the long, slow sighs of pleasure as Danny works with even strokes up and down his back.

And damned if the man doesn't look even better when he's oiled. All that skin sucks it up like a sponge, leaving only a faint luster. When he starts to knead that muscular ass, the work he put into Steve's shoulders and neck -- Jesus, does the guy do pushups with his head, or what? -- pays off in little motions of his hips. Danny knows that under his hands is a happy man. From here, he could get right to the point. But why do what Mr. Uptight would expect?

After a few minutes, he lets his hands slide down to those rock-hard and very finely wrought thighs. After an interrogative grumble, there is silence again. There's only the brush of faraway waves and the slight whisper of Danny's hands rubbing oil and warmth into Steve's skin. Danny's working it now. The robe's long gone; too warm for this kind of exertion, and he's never been so happy that he took those classes. The pleasure of manhandling Steve's limp body alone is worth every hour.

Plus . . . trying to remember where the pressure points and energy meridians are takes his mind off his own cock. It's bumping up against the table -- and the spa's 800 thread count sheets -- every time he leans in. The contact is distracting, and he's trying to ignore it as best he can. His dick is not seeing any action tonight, not the way McGarrett is oozing into the table. His breathing has evened to the rhythm of someone very nearly asleep.

He thought the toys were going to be fun, but chances are good the guy's going to be out of it before Danny's hands get sore. He finds he's a bit disappointed in that. McGarrett is like a vast undiscovered playground. He could vacation here, if he ever has another vacation. There is a hell of a lot of natural beauty to be appreciated right beneath his hands. Virgin territory, so to speak.

As he moves on down toward the narrow span of ankle, this one criss-crossed by scars, looks like it was caught in a freaking bear trap, he bends the knee and gently rotates the foot. It turns out the man carries all the rest of his apparently endless tension in his calves. If he hadn't seen Steve's loose-limbed stride, he'd wonder how the man could stand upright.

When he presses hard against the sole with his thumbs, Steve moans and shifts, spreads his legs, just enough for Danny to . . . God, there's a glimpse of his big, heavy balls, and doesn't that just figure. It does something to Danny's insides.

"Danny." Steve's voice sounds nothing like it ought to, dropped half an octave and barely making it out of his mouth. "Do that . . . thing. Where you touched me."

Danny knows what he's asking for and his cock throbs. He's brave, Danny'll give him that much. He'd expected to have to coax it out of him, or just plain have at that pale, freckled ass and see what happened. He never thought Steve would ask. But now that it's happened, Danny is so very there. The home town hero deserves a reward, Danny thinks, and grins.

Sliding his palm against the inside of Steve's leg, so as not to surprise him, he works his way up to that dream vacation. Steve's skin has a slight sheen in the low light, courtesy of the coconut oil. The dark hair on his legs stands out vividly. Some of it has been swirled into circles and eddies by the passage of Danny's hands. He likes to see his mark on Steve, even one so ephemeral as this. For the moment, Steve's skin belongs to Danny.

He intends to treat it right.

A little extra oil massages nicely into the cleft of Steve's ass, and he smooths his thumb over that tight ring. Steve's groan is hollow and needy.

"Yeah. Yeah, babe. It's okay. I'm gonna give you what you need."

There is no answer, but there's a long breath sighing out from between Steve's lips with a slackening of the muscles beneath Danny's hands. His fingers work their way in, real lube now instead of oil, and he takes his very sweet time. It's not all that long before Steve is breathing hard, little throat-caught whimpers floating back that are sheer music. His body is opening up to Danny with a trust that cannot be faked or misunderstood. He's loving this, but the best is yet to come. One hand strokes Steve's back, gently soothing. With the other, Danny finds the knot that will send Tall, Dark and Horny into orbit.

By now Steve's hips are pumping up to get more, shoving back down to drag his cock over the towel. Sweat shimmers across his back. His voice is a ragged edge. "Oh, fuck."

"We're not even close to where we're going to wind up tonight," Danny croons.

"We're -- no?" He sounds like he doesn't quite know where he is now.

Danny can't help the chuckle he gives, but he reaches up and runs the fingers of his cleaner hand through Steve's hair. "Don't worry, I know what I'm doing."

"But . . ." Steve's words come slowly, stumbling a little, as if he were drunk. A long shudder follows the line of his body. "It feels so good. Does it always feel like this?"

Danny's so glad it's him, not some other asshole. There are men out there who aren't any too gentle, for starters . . . plus he couldn't stand it, not being the one who gave Steve this. "It can, yeah. I promise you, though, it's gonna get a lot better."

In Danny's opinion, it does.

That's gleaned from the way Steve bends under his hands. It's obvious as he gasps when Danny rolls the little purple vibrator around the heft of his balls, then slides it gently into the spot where Steve needs it most. He draws his conclusion from the hoarse cries, all that Steve has left after the moans have deserted him. And he knows by the way Steve can barely stand as Danny helps him to the bed and wipes away the last of his orgasm.

"Jesus." On the air, there's a drift of the warm smell of Steve's come as Danny leans against the bathroom doorframe. He's shaking. He's been hard so long, so sensitive to his own touch that he can't keep his hands off his dick. Cradling his balls in one hand, he whines faintly as he squeezes the tip. Yeah, he's jacking off over a client and he can't stop, doesn't even know why he feels like he should. It's not like he never got off with a client before; it happens all the time. But not like this, not this balls-deep need.

That was one hell of a show. He can still feel his fingers in Steve's ass, the way that ring tightened around them, and his breath stutters as his own hand clenches. He can see it all, and knows it's going to be with him for a long time. The look on Steve's face when he came -- Danny's gaze is pulled to the bed, he can't help it, where a patch of light from the bathroom falls on Steve's stubbled jaw. "Fuck." He comes, too, the breath knocked out of his chest, jizz splattering the cold tile.

Chapter Text

He dreams of being held close, heated by the body beside him. Danny doesn't want awake when he can have this. He tries to kick back down, go the other way. He can't, but when he's awake enough, he understands that after an intense night of sex, he's wrapped up in long, strong arms, with a muscular, hairy leg between his. The cool early morning air is feeling its way in, a nice addition that makes the warm expanse of skin along his even better.

Danny doesn't cuddle with clients. They aren't interested in cuddling, either. It happens pretty much never. So even though he's in bed with a fucked-up man who's in serious need of a shrink . . . someone that Danny should get the hell away from as fast as he can go, somebody he shouldn't have taken money from, no matter how much . . . he luxuriates. Just for a few minutes.

Then he untangles himself. Steve's eyes open just enough to see him. His lips slowly relax into a small smile that could melt a heart harder than Danny's, and in seconds he's asleep again. Danny shakes his head to knock out that image. It's nothing he needs to take back with him. After a quick shower, he sits down in the balcony chair and clears his mind as the sun works its way up from behind Diamond Head.

By the time Steve's showered and they've had breakfast on the veranda, it's after nine, another beautiful day in the neighborhood. Steve's been quiet. Danny wonders how much the man talks on an ordinary day, whether his vocal cords atrophy from disuse. Wonders what he was like as a commanding officer, what it'd be like to take certain orders from him if circumstances were different. He hasn't been a whore for so long that he's forgotten what a real lover is like.

Danny's telling his lame-ass brain to shut the fuck up when Steve says, "Let's go for a drive." He's staring out over the water. It's blue and full of people.

"Really?" It's McGarrett's dime, but even Danny isn't enough of a shit to remind him.

"Yeah, really. Let's get out of here." Steve's already on his feet.

When they've hauled their bags down to the parking ramp, he says, "We're not taking your monster truck." Steve tips him a glance. "It's pretty recognizable, for one thing. Your face is in the paper so often even the tourists point at you. I bet a lot of people know it's yours, and we were already all over town in it yesterday. "

"Hot car. Can I drive her?" Steve runs an index finger along the Camaro's right front quarter like he's a New England matron checking for dust.

"On the way back." Not likely.

"I have to ride shotgun?"

Jesus, the man whines like a sawblade. "What, you want hand grenades instead?"

Steve starts to sing-song "This is my rifle, this is my gun," accompanied by lewd hand gestures.

"Shut up and ride, big man."

All Danny needs is a good spot. They cruise along the Pali Highway. Afternoon clouds are already packing up against the Ko'olaus, dark blue, loaded with rain. Good. They turn up the Kamehameha, motor through Kane'ohe. Steve's still Quiet Man. Danny reaches over to massage between the bones of Steve's hand, to loosen the grip the man's got on his own thigh. He's rewarded by a hard inhale and a spasm of the hand under his.

Truth is -- and he's big on that nowadays -- he wants Steve's attention, and the guy's ignoring the hell out of him.

"Stop thinking so hard. You're creating a vacuum. My car will implode. Do I look like a man who would do well with my precious car in little tiny burned-up pieces? No, I do not." Steve literally shakes himself and looks over, distracted and amused by Danny's stream of bullshit. "I want you to consider these things before you continue to think, creating whirlpools of negative ions inside my vehicle. When your brain splatters on my upholstery, you do not want to hear what I have to say. "

He actually gets a laugh. Or more like a chortle, but that counts. It sounds pretty good compared to the silent treatment.

"Thank you, Dr. Science."

Danny nods to his audience. "Was there something you wanted to do? I know some people drive just to drive, but not you."

"I need to get outside. Clear my head a little. Let's go up to Waimea Bay, take a walk on the beach. It'll still be sunny up there. If there's too many people, we could go into the valley instead."

Last night had been okay, but a long walk on another beach today wouldn't do his knee a damn bit of good. "I have an idea. Let's try this first." There's the sign for Kahana State Park and a fortunate break in the oncoming traffic; three roads aren't enough for this kind of tourism. He makes a quick left onto the paved track that leads into the mauka side of the park. "You said, 'Let's go for a ride.' I'm taking you for a ride, babe."

"In Kahana? There's nowhere to go."

"That, sailor, is where you're wrong." They crawl on past the shabby visitor center. Fortunately it's closed. A ranger, or even a docent, on site would ruin everything -- they'd have had to find someplace else.

"You don't intend to hike here, now -- the trails here are muddy at the best of times, and it looks like a downpour coming."

More than a downpour, if Danny has his way. He maneuvers carefully off the pavement and parks on the side of what used to be a red dirt road, now half-overgrown. This is perfect, better than he'd hoped. He pops the trunk and gets out. Steve does, too, coming around to the middle of the road.

When Danny pulls out an old blanket out of the trunk, Steve finally wises up. He catches the blanket, but says flatly, "A park ranger could come through here any minute." In the green dimness, there's an unholy gleam in his eyes.

The state parks don't have enough staff to spit at; he's been to them often enough with Grace. He can see Steve knows that, too. "Strip."

Steve does. Somehow he makes a show of taking off his clothes when there's not a wasted gesture, or maybe it's that he's the only thing Danny can see. There's nothing else in the world besides a couple blurry trees and Steve, Steve's body, his hard-flexed abs with a couple drops of rain flowing down them. Danny can see their trails on his skin. The water droplets grow smaller and roll down under the loose waistband. He can't breathe.

Steve toes off his running shoes, then unsnaps his cargoes. It's loud and clear over the occasional patter of raindrops. He pulls the zipper down, spreads his legs enough to free the fabric, and the pants drop to the ground. Air fills Danny's lungs with a gasp that he barely knew he needed. Steve steps free as the pants hit the ground. He's naked, and surely as impressive, as the first man. He's gleaming against the dark forest, light striking him from the road entrance, his skin burnished except for a broad stripe of pale across his hips. It's vivid as a street sign.

When Danny's eyes make it back up to that beautiful face, Steve smiles. It's a shark's grin, nothing like the sleep-sappy smile of this morning or any of his others. There's something about this man Danny's been missing, something he overlooked, but he's seeing it now.

McGarrett's not only a trained killer, not just unstable, he's dangerous in a way Danny never expected. Why hadn't he seen that before? It doesn't matter. Danger's not stopping him now.

Danny moves closer, drawn like a trout leaping to the lure. As he does, Steve reaches down, throws his bundle of clothes through the open window into the car. Only he could make that look like a gymnast's move. Then he stands, heavy shoulders squared to Danny, fists loose, and says, "So. Are you gonna fuck me, or what?"

Danny doesn't say anything for a minute, just stares. Then, "Yeah." His voice is hoarse, almost unrecognizable. "Yeah, I am." He waves a hand at the hood, a long stretch of still-warm steel that's nearly level. "Bend over."

 

^^^

 

Steve shrugs and shakes out the blanket. He folds it into a narrow rectangle of padding, leans his elbows on top of it. This is going to be good, he knows it. He's been waiting since the first time he met Danny, a man who's got everything and knows how to use it. Where the old Army blanket came from, he doesn't know, but it's a nice touch. Steve's glad to bend over at last.

Here in the forest, the rain pattering down, is the perfect place. He lived in the killing desert so long he almost forgot what it was like to walk out into life-giving rain. He's naked in the rain and Christ, he always wanted this and never knew it.

He smirks back over his shoulder at Danny, who's stripped himself down and chucked his clothes into the car, too. For a short guy, he's built like a bull, but Steve's not afraid. He's not afraid of anything. There's so much adrenaline in his blood right now that he's seeing minute things -- silver shapes reflected from rain on giant leaves of taro, birds in the forest canopy. He can hear them call. Steve hears Danny's voice, still with its strange hoarseness, telling him to relax, but he can't.

He can't until he feels Danny move over him, sharing his heat with Steve's chilled skin, whispering in his ear about how beautiful Steve is, how bad he wants to fuck him, that it'll be so good. Crooning as he strokes drops of water over Steve's cold back with his big, broad, hot fucking hands.

"Spread your legs, Steven, more, get your ass down here, that's right. Down more. Come on down to earth where the normal people are," Danny rasps, rubbing wet fingers against Steve's hole. Only now does Steve see the bottle of lube next to the windshield wipers. The sight jolts him, but even that can't bring him back to normal. There's something so atavistic about his bare feet in the mud and the cold bright drops rebounding everywhere, Danny hot against his back.

Water runs down his face, dripping from his hair, into his eyes, his mouth. The air is clear, fresh, and so sweet he could be drunk on it. He's opening after so many years of being closed, and it's intense.

It's Danny.

He doesn't know why this is possible now, but he's ready to thank the gods of this place for it. Danny's working at him until he's soft, there's pressure. It's even more filthy and wrong out here in the open, makes him break into instant sweat. He's on edge, thrills climbing up his body. Danny's fingers are inside him. By the time Danny pushes in for real, he's ready. He watches his tanned hands flex against the shiny skin of the car; his nails whiten at the edges while Danny slides in and he waits for the hurt to subside.

There's someone inside him, inside his body, taking him over and urging him on.

It doesn't hurt that much. Not enough to stop him from having it. He needs this like dry earth needs the water falling all around. Distantly he understands he's making noise, cries he'd try to stifle any other time. Now they just blend into the sound of rain on the hood of the car, the dull deep tapping it makes on the leaves, the spattering in the mud. Danny croons nonsense, half-enunciated words flowing over them.

"Beautiful, incredible. Need you bad. This is, you're," he gasps. Danny's teeth scrape on the outcrop of a shoulder blade. "Steve. God, Steve."

A hand's around his cock, pulling down to the root as Danny plunges into him, holding him in place. For once in his life, he is in place, actually feels like he belongs here. Like he fits in his own skin the way Danny fits inside him. They're both washed by the cold rain, he never knew it would be so sharp and clean, that he could feel so alive.

Steve's words fall out. "It's good, come on!" He's been dead to the world -- dying a little every day, the hole inside him bigger and bigger. The only thing he loved was his next leap into midair, the next explosion. "Want you, want it, please --"

Those things didn't work. This, this is the opposite of empty. Being inside a woman, or even Danny, left him alone and restless, wondering what he was missing. Now Danny is filling him up. One hand firm on Steve's hip, the other around his cock, the man grounds him and sets him free at the same time. But there's still something more he needs, and it's been gnawing at him since yesterday. "Danny." He can barely put the words together, he's so far gone. "Danny, don't --"

The hand spasms on his cock, almost painful, and the rocking stops. Steve tries to get purchase to shove back. It's slippery, bad angle, legs spread way too far. Danny's weight is holding him down.

"Fuck!" Danny groans. "What, what's wrong?"

He finally gets things right, forces his heels into the muck, starts to move again. "Don't want you to." It's muttered at the car, almost too low, because knows he shouldn't ask. Shouldn't tell. "Don't kiss them."

Danny answers anyway. The harsh, "No, babe. Won't," is balm to some strange wound. "Nobody else." Danny's banging his ass again, shoving inside as hard as he can with his own feet on shifting ground. Steve's canted forearms catch even on the wet hood, friction burn rippling. The weight of wet blanket over the wheel well scrubs at his cock when he slips forward. Danny's balls bump his with every thrust. "You. Just you."

With a last twist of Danny's wrist, Steve's toes dig into the mud as he howls into the sopping blanket. Rivulets of rain wash jagged white streaks of his come off the flat black of the tire. He feels Danny groan more than hears it, the vibration tickling his back. After two deep slams that bump Steve's too-sensitive cock against the molding and make him clench all over, Danny slumps full-weight on top of him and gasps up all the air. Steve doesn't care. He doesn't need it for anything.

He does need a little help getting back into the car. He can't quite hold his own against gravity.

"You okay?" Danny tosses another blanket over the seat with one hand as he muscles Steve into the car. He's got a towel, too, and buffs Steve down as he slumps, legless, into the passenger seat. He wipes most of the mud off of Steve's feet before tossing the towel into the back seat.

"You came prepared," he mutters.

Danny laughs. "I do, yeah." He turns over the engine, turns on the heat. By the time Danny's got him mostly dry, trying to get him dressed, Steve's half out of it against the window.

His body is humming gently at him, his ass is sore, he's damp and still a little chilled . . . and he cannot remember the last time he felt this good. Out of half-lidded eyes he watches the gray surf as they coast along the highway. The quiet and the heat lull him, and he's not fully awake until it's time to crawl out of the car.

^^^

 

It's just as well Steve's half-asleep on the way back. Danny needs the mental space. It's been a weekend he won't soon forget, and he's a little worried the same thing will happen with the Big Crazy. Danny needs him on the brain like he needs a hole in his chest. Oh, wait.

This was what he's always been afraid of -- getting close to a client. Really, it was going to happen sooner or later. A person can only be lonely for so long before he gets sloppy. He never understood how a girl could love a pimp, but now he kind of does. It's not any more dumbass than falling for a trick.

Stop it, he warns himself. No sense in bashing his customers just because he's been stupid.

At least a working girl and a pimp have some common ground. Every girl wants somebody who knows who she is, and loves her anyhow. For them, it's a "boyfriend" who turns into a user, an owner. Looks like the only difference between them and him is his own version of insanity. The man in the car seat next to him is not a user, owner, or boyfriend -- and he sure as hell wouldn't be okay with the way Danny makes a living.

Danny left the normal world behind, and he can't afford to go back.

Steve stirs as Danny pulls into a parking place next to the Silverado. He's glad he brought his stuff down with him. He's not in the mood to go back upstairs. Steve opens his dream-shot eyes and gives him a soft smile. Danny can't help but reach out to smooth Steve's sticking-up hair. "Hey," he says. "Rise and shine." God, he's got to get the fuck out of here.

Steve unfolds from his car seat into the outside world in slow motion. He's probably a little achy.

"You good?"

"Never better," says Steve, low and satisfied, and shakes himself like he was wet. "Come on." He ambles carefully over to the truck and leans into the bed, unlocks the box. There's a fat envelope in his hand. "Thanks for this weekend," he says. There's no condescension. "It was something I needed. Something I had to do."

"And now that you have?" Danny's genuinely curious. He wonders if it had any impact at all.

Steve shrugs, squints like he's perplexed. "Now I know."

Danny doesn't ask him what he knows, but he suspects "I did it," is not the same as "I'm over it." The things you want, they just don't go away all neat and tidy. Danny's a prime example of how life doesn't work that way. If he could have those things back, all the things he's lost . . .

Steve thinks he can just flip a switch. There's no sense in trying to tell him otherwise. If there's one thing Danny learned in this business, it's not to tell the client too much of the truth. It hurts a little to think of Steve as nothing but a client, but it's a cold slap of reality he badly needs. He's never been involved with a client and he sure as hell shouldn't start with this one. Steve's so deep in the closet he's still hiding from himself.

Maybe someday, far in the future, Steve will get his act together. More likely, he'll be drunk-dialing Danny next time he's fucked up. The sad part is, Danny knows he won't say no. "I'm glad it worked for you. Good luck, babe." He sticks out his hand, expecting a crushing, manly grip.

Instead, Steve ducks his head with a shy smile and clasps Danny's hand warmly, lets go reluctantly. With another unsure look, he hands over the envelope. "You should count it."

"Not here." Danny nods at the parking ramp camera.

"I -- why didn't you ask for the money up front? I would have."

Danny chuckles, and he means to say, "I know Kamekona," but somehow his mouth and his brain fuck everything up. "I know you." Something in Steve glows brighter, and Danny wishes he couldn't see it. Then he nods.

Neither of them know what to say now. Steve makes that stupid-ass 'aloha' hand gesture that Danny never disdained before, and it might be his imagination that Steve looks kind of wistful at Danny's two-finger wave. He climbs gingerly into his truck and turns the engine over, ready to go back to his Real World. Danny wouldn't be too excited about that, either. He puts it in reverse as Danny walks around the Camaro to the driver's door.

"See you in the newspaper," he mutters as Steve pulls away.

 

^^^

Women were dying in Honolulu.

No one really noticed the first death or assumed it was anything other than an accident. After all, one Filipina hooker with a broken neck wasn't really going to raise any alarms. She was wearing five-inch heels and her body was found at the bottom of a long flight of stairs. HPD didn't need Sherlock Holmes on the case.

The second one raised no more than an eyebrow or two in the Vice Squad. Another hooker, this one a Chinese-Hawaiian girl, found overdosed in a park. The only points of interest to the police were the angle of the injection site and the bruising around it.

The third one was different. The girl had been found with her throat slit from ear to ear. Coming right after a gang blow up, complete with splashy headlines and bodies all around town, the governor was taking no chances. She sent the Five-0 team.

By the time Steve got to the scene, the sun was just coming up. Kono was taking photos and Chin was speaking to bystanders. A couple of HPD uniforms were doing crowd control, although the only crowd seemed to be three or four tired-looking street people and a waitress from the all-night greasy spoon behind which she had been found.

Chin nodded Steve over to where he stood next to a crying woman in rumpled pink scrubs. Beyond the sobbing woman's shoulder, Steve could see the ME and his assistant lifting a small body into a black body bag. The sequined fuchsia camisole seemed garishly bright against the black plastic. There was a large drying pool of blood, which likely meant she had bled out there rather than been dumped.

"This is Anna Miyun. The victim is her sister, Callie. Anna works the graveyard shift at the Singing Sands Nursing Home. She and Callie share an apartment about four blocks from here. When she got home, Callie wasn't there so she came looking to have an early breakfast with her. She's the one that found the body; when she screamed for help, they all came out of the restaurant." Chin hooked a thumb back toward the small crowd beyond the crime scene tape.

It seemed to have grown some; Steve saw cell phones in use and figured they were passing the word. He sighed and hoped that his crime scene wasn't going to wind up on YouTube within the hour. He saw an unmistakeable flash of blond and his mind blanked out for a white second. For all the times he'd seen Danny inside his own head over the last few weeks, none of those thoughts had him at a crime scene.

"Ray!" the woman beside him cried out. "Ray, it's Callie. They killed my little sister!"

Anna Miyun broke free of Chin's supportive grasp and stumbled back toward the taped-off barrier. Steve watched as Danny ducked under the policeman's arm and caught Anna, letting her sob hysterically into his shoulder. He talked softly into her ear, then wrapped an arm around her and walked her slowly back to Chin and Steve, whispering all the way.

Steve had a coppery taste in his mouth and his throat felt too narrow for a breath as Danny's eyes met his. He nodded once but couldn't speak. He wasn't even sure what name to call him.

Danny was wearing a tight black mesh shirt shot through with silver threads. His black jeans were skin-tight and his eyes were smudged with kohl. There was a black leather cuff on the wrist wrapped around Anna's shuddering shoulders, silver studs glinting. The outfit was gay club trash, but Danny glowed in the horizontal rays of light. Even as he stood there heavy-eyed and worn out, Steve wanted to lift a hand to touch him.

"Is it true?" he demanded hoarsely.

Steve nodded but couldn't speak. Chin was the one who answered.
"I'm afraid so. You are…?"

He sounded smooth and professional, as if he had never investigated the man in front of him for his boss, standing mute beside him.

"Daniel Williams. I'm a friend of the family," Danny said flatly, ignoring the confused look he got from Anna. "What happened here?"

There was an unexpected ring of authority in his voice and Chin started to answer before thinking. Steve stood silently as Chin summed up the crime scene for him. Danny nodded quietly after Chin stopped speaking and turned his attention back to Anna, who had quieted down to gasping sniffles.

He unwrapped his arms from around her and turned her to face him. With a gentle finger under her chin, Danny raised her face so that she could look at him.

"Anna, was Callie working last night?"

The young woman nodded, eyes glassy with tears.

"Was it a regular or was she out looking for johns?"

A shrug and a sniffle. Steve fished in a back pocket and came up with a crumpled handkerchief that he passed to Danny. The other man took it without looking and used it to dry the tears from Anna's face, then held it for her to blow her nose. He brushed a few strands of hair off her damp cheeks and tucked them behind her ear.

"Was she dating anyone right now?" he asked softly. "Did she get a new pimp?" A shake of the head, her eyes straying off to the side.

Danny put both of his hands on her slender shoulders and squeezed them lightly. "Is there anything you can think of, anyone new in her life, someone she started seeing or something she was doing?"

Anna shook her head again, mouth trembling, then stopped. "She's been keeping to herself more. She even started going to church and said she was going to stop hooking because it was wrong. But she didn't know what else to do and we need the money. Ray, why would someone do this?"

"I don't know, sweetheart, but I promise you, I am going to find out, okay?" He gathered her back into his arms and let her fresh storm of weeping soak into his shirt. Over her head, his expression was grim as he sought out Steve's and then Chin's.

He opened his mouth to speak and Steve was certain it would have been a demand, but Kono and a uniformed policewoman came up at that moment. "Officer Leiani will take you home, Miss Miyun," Kono said, wide eyes taking in the odd tableau in front of her.

"Ray?" Anna asked.

He gave her a small, encouraging smile. "Go with her, sweetheart. She'll take care of you. I'll stay here and take care of," here his voice broke a little before he took a breath and finished, "I'll be here for Callie."

She nodded and then allowed herself to be led away by Officer Leiani.

When Danny turned back to the Five-0 team, the expression in his eyes was considerably less gentle. His glare at Steve was almost a physical thing.

"All right, why are you here?"

Anger was something Steve could work with. "What do you mean, why are we here? We're the Governor's task force!"

"Like the Governor really cares about three dead working girls," Danny scoffed. "No one did a damned thing about Siria or Mae Li, even when I told them she couldn't have administered that dose to herself; so why does Callie rate the big guns, huh?"

Danny started pacing in a small, tight figure eight, one hand digging into his heavily-gelled hair. He snapped his fingers at them as he figured it out.

"Oh, I get it. This is how she reassured the Tourist Board that our little island paradise really is a safe haven for all those mainland tourist dollars. 'I've got my best team working on it – I can assure you the matter is already being resolved.'"

Chin was almost grinning and Steve sort of wanted to; Danny's impression of the Governor's last press conference was eerily accurate.

"So what can you tell us about the victim, Danny?" Steve asked in a calm tone. "How did you know her?"

Danny deflated as he sighed, his shoulders drooping. When he looked at Steve, his eyes held shadows.

"I met her one night because some tourist was beating her up. I took her home. We got to be friends." He waved a hand toward the restaurant behind him. "We used to meet up here some nights, with the group." A second wave included the huddled knot of streetwalkers and night-owls still watching from behind the crime scene tape.

He turned away from Chin and Steve and watched the ME and his assistant slide their loaded gurney into the back of the hearse. They heard him sniff and saw him swipe at his eyes. When he turned back, the smeared kohl made them look that much deeper and sadder.

"She was just nineteen years old, you know that?"

"I'm sorry, man," Steve's hand was on Danny's shoulder before he even knew he had moved.

"Yeah." The word was noncommittal.

"You said there were three dead prostitutes," Steve said suddenly. His hand was still on Danny's shoulder; it only fell away when Danny began to pace again.

"Callie is the third one in nine days. Siria was the first one. They said she broke her neck falling down a flight of stairs. Mae Li overdosed on heroin last week, and now Callie. At least they can't rule this one accidental, unless you think she tripped and cut her own throat on her overbite!"

"Hey, we're not the enemy here, brah," Chin said calmly. "Why do you think Siria and Mae Li were murdered and not accidental deaths?"

Danny ran another hand through his already disheveled hair and Steve had to swallow to push away memories of running his own hands through that hair. Fortunately, Danny started to talk again, biting out his words like a guard dog barking a warning.

"Siria didn't work the part of town where she was found dead. She kept a suite in one of the nicer hotels a couple of blocks back from the beach, The Pipeline. She wouldn't have been anywhere near the roach palace they found her at. She was an escort, not a cheap hooker."

"What's the difference?" Kono asked as she walked up.

Steve could see that Danny wanted to blow, could almost hear the rage bubbling through his veins. He said quickly, "The Pipeline caters to a pretty upscale crowd, rookie."

He knew that Danny had caught his subtle apology for Kono's tactlessness and the reason for it – she was a new cop and didn't know the street yet. The other man waved a hand in the air and said, "Right. Siria was a class act; she charged top dollar and had a pretty regular clientele. She didn't need to take any down-market jobs."

"And the other woman, Mae Li?" Chin asked.

"She was a different story. She's got a pimp named Charley, works the docks and the red light district. And yeah, she had a habit. They found her with the needle still in her arm – but it was the wrong arm. She was left-handed. She wouldn't have been shooting up her left elbow; hell, she wouldn't have used her arm at all. She shot up between her toes so it didn't leave bruises."

"And you told that to the police?"

Another hand cut through the air like a club. "Yeah, I told them. I went down there and gave the lead detective what I knew. Know what he told me? He really didn't have time to listen to useless shit about a dead hooker because he had a pile of cases more important than some girl no one would ever miss."

"Who'd you talk to, Danny?" Steve said in a low voice. Both Chin and Kono were looking pissed off, too.

"Wanamaker," Danny spit out.

"I'll follow up on it," Steve promised.

The belligerent blue gaze fixed on Steve's face. "So, what, you'll get him an administrative slap on the wrist?"

"I was thinking more like a private punch in the mouth, but if you'd prefer the other . . ." Steve left it hanging.

For the first time since he'd stormed onto their crime scene, Danny smiled. "Can I help?"

Steve was grinning back at him before he knew it. Then he sobered. "Yes, as a matter of fact, you can. If these murders are connected, we're going to need to start talking to people. I'm guessing you already have a list of who we should be talking to and what we should be asking."

Danny was nodding. "Yeah, but none of them are gonna wanna talk to us right now. They all just got to bed and you won't get anything out of them."

"All right," Steve said decisively. "I'll pick you up at noon and we'll get started."

Danny's jaw dropped. "The hell you will! You'll pick me up at three. I need sleep, too."

It was Steve's turn to blink as Danny turned and stalked away. "And wear something a little more professional!" was the best he could shout in response. Danny merely waved an arm in a complicated and irritated pattern as he ducked under the crime scene tape.

"I think he already is," Chin murmured. Kono giggled but subsided when Steve shot them both a look.

Chapter Text

At 2:45 there’s a single, bold thump on Danny’s door. In certain parallel universes, he thinks it might constitute someone’s definition of knocking, so he goes and opens it. Tall, Dark and Neurotic is standing there, all but tapping his foot. Well, Danny was ready for that, so he is actually showered, shaved, and wearing a reasonable facsimile of workwear.

"A tie?"

Danny raises his eyebrows. "To think you said I was supposed to look professional." He looks pointedly at Steve’s uniform of cargo pants and a t-shirt. If his gaze slows down for a more leisurely crawl across that broad chest, it’s no one’s business but his own. "What did a necktie ever do to you?" It’s become a lot warmer inside his apartment.

"You’re in the Islands, Danny. No one wears a tie here."

"Wrong. I do," Danny says and ignores the way Steve’s glance takes in his tiny studio. There is nothing hanging on the walls, although he finally managed to take everything out of boxes. It’s the unrelenting beige of a cheap rental; the only spots of color are the two drawings Grace has created for him, both hanging on the fridge.

"OK, let’s move it along here. If you want to see Audrey, we’ve got to get there before happy hour." He crowds Steve out of the door.

"Why do I want to see Audrey?" Steve asks, following Danny automatically to his Camaro and sliding into the passenger seat as if he had been invited.

"Because," Danny says as he pulls out of the parking lot, "Siria used to work for her. Audrey knows most of the escorts on the island and she might have some information about who Siria was seeing."

 

^^^

"Daniel! When are you going to quit the Lone Wolf act and come and work for me?" The well-educated British accent curls around them the same way the speaker’s subtle perfume does. Audrey is about sixty, still tall and straight and she rocks her gray hair, making it look sophisticated and elegant rather than a sign of her age. Her bright green eyes assess Steve even as she is reaching over to give Danny’s cheek a light brush of her perfectly made up mouth.

"I like being my own boss, Audrey, you know that."

Her eyes slide past his shoulder to where Steve looms. "And what have you brought me today, darling?" Just the tip of her tongue touches her glossy upper lip. "You look like you might be a talented amateur. Are you looking for a job, my dear?"

Danny grimaces and waves a hand. "Audrey, this is Commander McGarrett of the Governor’s Five-0 Task Force."

Steve reaches out and takes her cool and slender hand with his best straight-A-student and I-was-a-choirboy-too smile. "Ma’am."

Audrey laughs and this time, it is a real laugh, from deep in her belly. "I know who he is, Daniel! Stop looking like you’re going to vomit. Commander McGarrett knows when he’s being teased."

Danny runs a hand through his hair and groans. "Audrey, I have had a very bad morning; please do not jerk my chain today, all right?"

Steve likes the way her eyes immediately turn serious. "I know, my dear, I heard about the girl."

She takes Danny by the arm and leads him over to a white Italian leather sofa and fusses gently at him until he sits down, Steve next to him. She pours them all coffee in delicate bone china cups and sits on the matching sofa across from them.

"That’s why we’re here. I was hoping you might be able to tell us something about her, what was happening in her life. Anything you know could be of help."

She purses her lips and looks out the large picture window to her right. She stares at Diamond Head in the afternoon sunlight for a moment and, when she turns back, Steve is mildly surprised to see tears in her eyes.

"I know that she’s dead, Daniel. I don’t know who killed her, though."

He nods. "So you think it was murder, too?"

"I know so!"

Steve interjects, "Ma’am, how do you know it was murder?"

Audrey looks at him, her gaze frank and open. "I went to identify the body, Commander. I saw what she was wearing. Siria was top drawer. There is no possible way she would have been wearing filthy five-inch plastic wedges." She spits out the last few words.

Danny turns to him with a satisfied air. "That I would not have known. Now do you believe that she was murdered?"

"Why else do you think I’m here, Danny?" Steve is pleased to see surprise in Danny’s eyes, too. He turns back to Audrey. "Did she have anyone she was seeing regularly? Did she mention a jealous client or a pimp? Anyone at all. Was there a phone in her effects? You see, we haven’t got a single lead. Just that she was murdered in a part of town she never would have gone to, wearing shoes she would only be caught dead in."

Steve is already wincing when Danny slaps him in the arm.

Audrey smiles lightly, insincerely, at them before her face turns serious again. "She might have had a patron these last few months. She mentioned something about a boyfriend paying for her suite at the Pipeline. But I don’t have a name," she added as Steve and Danny both opened their mouths. "They said her bag was not with her. She would never be without her handbag, or her Blackberry, for that matter, and I’m sure her book was backed up somewhere. Perhaps you’d better check her suite."

"Yes, ma’am." Steve rises, knowing when he hears a dismissal. Danny gets up, too. He steps around the table and takes Audrey into his arms and they exchange a few quiet words before she kisses his cheek again and lets him go. They show themselves out.

Steve waits until they’re in the car and pulling out of the gates before asking, "So how do you know Audrey?"

"She’s my ex-wife’s cousin."

Steve knows he’s staring like an idiot. Danny’s profile is absolutely blank and he doesn’t look away from the road once. The air in the car seems close now and he can smell Danny’s aftershave, spicy and more familiar than it should be.

After what seems like a long silence, Danny sighs and grimaces before saying, "No, I’ve never worked for her. No, Rachel does not know what her Cousin Audrey does for a living. Yes, she is the only one of my ex-in-laws that I could ever stand to be in the same room with for more than ten minutes. Anything else you want to know, Commander McGarrett?"

The derisive tone somehow flicks Steve on the raw. He speaks before he thinks. "Does Rachel know what you do for a living now?"

The tires shriek as Danny wrenches the steering wheel to the right and a close-following truck swerves around them as he brakes hard. He’s out of the car and around in front of it before the engine finishes shutting off. Steve’s blood is up and he is yanking open the door and meeting Danny halfway and in mid-shout.

"Do not threaten me with that, McGarrett! I am trying to help you here!"

Danny is up in his face now, shouting, muscles bunched with fury, and it’s pissing Steve off. "Yeah? Seems to me like you’re the one using it to find out who killed your friends."

There is something stupid hidden in that sentence somewhere and Steve knows that he is not thinking clearly. But Danny’s finger is poking him in the chest now and it is pushing Every. Single. One. of his buttons.

"Who co-opted who, G.I. Joe?" Danny hisses at him, waving that goddamned finger right under his nose.

"Don’t touch me!" Steve is nearly shouting now. "And I’m Navy, not Army."

"Yeah, I remember, John."

One more poke to his chest and that does it. Steve has Danny’s hand in a thumb lock, then twists it enough to drop Danny to his knees on the sidewalk, arm behind his shoulders just the way Danny had him that first drunken fuck-up of a night in that motel room.

"Enough. That is enough, Danny. You don’t have to like me, but your friends need us, and I need your help, so we have to work together. Now, I’m going to let you up and then you’re going to help me find out who killed three women."

"Fine," Danny grunts out and Steve releases him. He doesn’t think he wants to see whatever expression is on Danny’s face right now, so he turns away to stare up at Diamond Head as the other man straightens up.

When Danny starts to brush away the dirt from his slacks, Steve’s finally got a grip. He turns back toward Danny, saying, "After we check out the . . ."

Danny’s fist smashes into his jaw, and it’s hard enough to snap his head around.

"I told you before, McGarrett. I will keep your secrets to the grave. And you will keep mine. Because if my ex-wife ever finds out what I do to keep paying for my kid, she will take her away from me, do you understand that? I will never see my little girl again. And I will not survive that."

When Steve manages to blink his vision clear again, Danny is striding angrily back around the car. He gingerly checks the damage and figures that his teeth are all still where they started, although shaving tomorrow is going to be touchy. The engine starts up, but Danny doesn’t haul ass and leave him stranded like he expected. It’s not quite an invitation, but it’s a hell of a long walk back from this end of town, so Steve walks back toward the car.

The side of Danny’s right thumb is drumming against the steering wheel as Steve slides into the passenger side. He doesn’t say a word and he won’t look at Steve. But he still waits until Steve’s seat belt is buckled before pulling back onto the road.

After a few miles, Steve says to the dashboard, "I didn’t . . . I wasn’t trying to threaten you. I would never do anything to get between you and Grace. I swear it, Danny."

Danny sighs and the drumming hand stops and combs through his hair. "Yeah, OK. I might be a little on edge. Callie . . ."

"I get it. I’m sorry, okay?"

"Yeah, me too." Danny shoots him a quick glance from the side. "How’s the jaw?"

Steve grins and it hurts like hell. "You punch like a girl, Williams."

Danny laughs and shakes his head. "And you lie like a rug, McGarrett."

But he pulls into the next gas station and buys two cold Cokes. And he doesn’t say anything when Steve spends the rest of the drive with the cold metal pressed against his bruised jaw.

^^^

The valet parks his car at The Pipeline. Danny was the one who’d started investigating, but until now he’s had no access, and there’s something else that needs to be done. "Steven, call the medical examiner. With all the gang war casualties, Siria’s body might still be there. We could still get evidence that was overlooked beyond cause of death."

"The other women, too." Steve makes the call. They apparently put him through right away. Pays to have some clout. When he’s done, he says, "They’re still there, all three of them. Max said he’d make them his first priority. Now he knows they need his full attention, the office won’t release them to next of kin."

"Yeah, we all know what happened to the drug dealers. No mystery there. These are the only people who need the ME." He can’t help thinking of his friends as people, not bodies, and they are in serious need of some justice. "Listen, Audrey asked to have Siria’s body released to her for burial if no family shows up. You can do that, right?"

Steve nods. "Yeah. No problem." He goes back to his phone, this time to the HPD, asking for a herd of crime scene techs while the manager opens the apartment for them.

"We’ll need a set of those keys, and the names of whoever paid your bills since she’s been here," says Danny, before the man can escape. He doesn’t expect a request for a warrant, and there isn’t one. Needless to say, the manager wants to keep a visit from the Five-0 team on the down low. There are probably others in the building who wouldn’t welcome a police presence, even if only from snobbery, and the sooner they finish, the sooner they’ll be out of here.

"Miss Andrada’s rent was paid from the same account every month. I assume the account belonged to her," the manager volunteers.

"Then we’ll need that information too." He turns back to what’s important.

"Did you ever wonder if you were in the wrong line of work?" Steve’s eyeing the place, looks a little awed by the quiet luxury.

"You’re kind of a dumbshit, you know that?" Trust McGarrett to skip right over a stone truth that he doesn’t like much. Danny decides to pass on the reminder that yes, indeed, he’s in this line of work. "What were you expecting, red flocked wallpaper? A turn of the century bordello? Or are you just saying that escorts have no taste?"

"I’m saying . . . I’ve seen nice places, but I’ve never lived in them. It’s always been a flyover."

"On the way to something a lot worse."

"Yeah."

Danny blows out a breath. He passes a hand over his hair, wondering if he needs more gel, it feels like it’s starting to curl, and then he says, "Yeah, I get that. Neither of us really belongs in a place like this."

Steve cut him a glance. "Why do you say that?"

"Not exactly out of the top drawer, either of us, are we?"

"I’m . . . it’s my job. I go to the trash heaps of the world and try to clear out the debris. It’s different for you. You could have everything. Like this."

Danny spins around, gesturing at the apartment. "Are you out of your mind? You’ve obviously been in the service too long. How, exactly, would I get this? I do not suck cock for diplomats and drug lords. I pick up tourists and trust fund babies in bars and on the street." Now Danny’s jaw is set. He’s grinding his teeth.

"But you could." Steve’s look is open and oddly young. "If you wanted to, you could have anybody."

How are they having this conversation in the middle of a crime scene? Danny really wants to know, and he inquires of the heavens with lifted palms and a deeply felt sigh. "You," he states for the record, staring Steve in the eye, "need trepanation. Or maybe you already had it, and that’s the problem. But thank you for the implied compliment."

Steve lifts his head and turns his unnervingly sincere eyes away as they both recognize the footfalls of the HPD’s version of CSI in the hallway. One of them says, "Let’s get to work."

They do. They process that apartment as if they’ve been working together for years. They bag Siria’s laptop, a stack of mail, her phone. "She didn’t have this with her?"

"Nah," says Danny. "This is her personal number. She might not always take it along."

"The HPD didn’t turn up a purse. Her work phone was probably in it."

"There’s a lost opportunity."

"Maybe not," Steve says, on his knees and poking under the couch. Danny’s eyes are riveted to the line of his ass. Even Steve’s cargoes can’t hide perfection, and Danny’s ability to ignore that only goes so far.

"Her work phone could have the service plan under her work name. I don’t know what her real name was. Audrey might not even know that. But it could be on this phone."

With one gloved hand, McGarrett reaches under and pulls out a bag, pretty and sequined and small enough to fit under the furniture. Right where someone might have kicked it without noticing.

"Oh, fuck me." Danny gapes at the thing Steve hands him.

It was an iPad. "That’s her goddamn black book," whispers Danny. It would contain her most personal records. They’re both excited enough at Steve’s find that neither of them even takes a swipe at a stupid joke. It’s passworded and no doubt in code, but he expected that. "You got codebreaking software."

Steve snorts. "I’ve got codebreaking software that’s still classified."

"Cool."

"Meanwhile, Chin can dig into the bank account that’s been paying for all of this."

"Let’s boogie, then."

"Are you lost in the seventies?"

"Screw you, I saw Saturday Night Fever last week." And they leave the rest of the apartment in the hands of the HPD.

Which is kind of like eating all the good cookies and leaving only a couple of broken bits and crumbs in between their teeth, but Danny’s still pretty pissed about the way Siria’s murder had been shunted aside. It wouldn’t raise their profile with the authorities, but HPD would finally do their freakin’ jobs.

Siria’s last call was to a local number. Her last message was the callback. "I don’t want it to be this way." It was the sound of a young man on the edge. "Talk to me. I love you. Only you." It turned out that the man listed for that phone number had written three personal checks to Siria’s account in the amount of her rent, one Peter Yorenko.

"Twenty-two? That seems a little young to start killing prostitutes . . . but about the right age for a tormented love affair."

"Kids grow up so fast these days." Something sounds familiar, though. "Wait, I know the name. I think the hellfire and brimstone pastor from down in my part of town is his father. Peter, Senior. He attracts a congregation of folks from the neighborhood and some street people. Bet if Papa found out, he’d preach, all right."

^^^

It was a little after 5 p.m. when Steve and Danny walked into the Five-O work room. Fortunately, neither Chin nor Kono were the nine-to-five type, despite having gotten up well before dawn. Chin plugged Siria’s iPad in, called up some software and set to work bypassing Siria’s passwords. Danny leaned over Chin’s shoulder and watched avidly, seeming as intrigued by the software as Chin was.

It doesn’t take long before they have Siria’s entire client list spread out before them on the big screen. She had an orderly mind, Steve notes. There is a single Excel sheet with client names and contact information. Each name is linked to a separate spreadsheet showing income, dates and short reminders regarding a client’s specific likes and dislikes. Meeting places and methods of payment are noted in some kind of personal shorthand, but Kono figures it out pretty quickly.

There’s a wide range of figures listed. Steve puzzles over it for a bit before realizing what it must be. "She had a sliding scale?"

Danny looks at him obliquely. "Probably. Sometimes, when you like a client, you give her a special rate. Or if it’s a gift or something." Steve looks back at him steadily, as if he were someone who hadn’t given Danny a thick envelope with way too many bills in it just a month ago.

"Huh." Kono points, drawing everyone’s attention to an entry most of the way down the last page. "This looks like a special rate client. The note says it’s a birthday." There is no name, but there is a set of initials: PY. The phone number listed next to the entry is the same as the last outgoing call on Siria’s personal cell. When they check, it’s owned by Peter Yorenko, Jr. Their call goes straight to voice mail. With his phone turned off, there’s no way to find him immediately.

"So I’m thinkin’ that someone gave Peter, Jr. a bang-up birthday present," Danny tells the room at large.

"His birthday was three months ago," Kono comments, examining Peter’s driver’s license.

"You think he stalked her?" Chin purses his lips and considers the pretty but weedy-looking youth on the screen in front of them.

"Talk to me, I love you, only you," Steve quotes quietly at Danny, ignoring the startled looks he gets from his team.

"Three months is plenty of time to get well and truly obsessed," Danny agrees. "Especially if your old man is a weird fundamentalist minister. To a kid like that, Siria would have been the Garden of Eden, the Holy Grail and every drug he never ever had. Hell, she’d have been heroin – one hit and you’re hooked."

Steve watches Danny run an absent hand through his hair and thinks he might know what young Peter was feeling. It hasn’t even been five weeks since Steve last touched Danny and he could feel the shakes starting deep down in his hands. That one weekend was supposed to cure him; instead, it only made things worse.

"So," Danny claps his hands together and smiles broadly at them all. "Who’s up for a little evening church?"

After the most ridiculous decision-making process Steve has ever been party to (he should have realized that Kono would cheat at Rock-Paper-Scissors), Kono and Chin choose to check Peter Yorenko, Jr.’s home and known hang-outs, leaving the evening service at the Church of the Bitter Fig for Steve and Danny.

They slip into the last row during the opening hymn. The church itself is a small former warehouse. Despite the paint splashed onto the cinder block walls and the bright fluorescent lights above, it’s still grim and frankly foreboding. Pastor Yorenko hadn’t wasted any money on making the hard wooden benches that served as pews any more comfortable for his flock. The organ was obviously donated from someone’s home; it’s being played by a gigantic kupuna wahine with a fierce concentration.

When the last aggressive chord dies away, the congregation all turns toward the single lectern. Pastor Yorenko steps up and bowed his head. He begins to pray fervently and loudly, his words booming out despite his skinny frame and hunched shoulders. Yorenko prays on behalf of the creeping sinners before him, those too craven to appear in church, those too benighted to ever accept Jesus as their Savior and a whole host of others; his prayer seems to encompass everyone there and not there.

It takes twenty minutes; next to him, Danny is shifting and fidgeting on the bench well before the halfway mark. He’s obviously never been trained to wait. "I will never complain about Father Serio’s benedictions ever again," comes a mutter out of the side of his mouth.

A white-haired aunty in the row ahead of them turns around and glares at them. Steve nudges Danny to shut him up. Sitting beside him, shoulder to shoulder, his leg warmed a little by Danny’s, is almost worth suffering through this. They’re both scanning the assembled worshippers, but there is no sign of Peter, Jr.

Steve texts Chin; turned out the kid wasn’t at his father’s home nor the food bank he often works at. The vibration of his phone is just loud enough for the older lady in front of them to turn around and glare again. This time, Danny takes a dig at Steve, leaving a ghost impression of his elbow between Steve’s ribs. It isn’t entirely unwelcome. Then Danny gives the lady an angelic smile and looks utterly fascinated by whatever Pastor Yorenko is spouting now.

The pastor’s face is red and shiny with sweat. He paces tirelessly back and forth in front of his lectern, haranguing the congregation with what is presumably meant to be a sermon. If so, it’s the least comforting or educational sermon Steve has ever heard.

"The fires of Hell await those who choose sin, giving themselves over to the temptations of this world. But a deeper pit and hotter flames await those who lead their fellows into sin, by drugs, by drink, by levity and impiety. The worst torments are reserved for those women who lead men, good, decent, upright men away from the path of God and into the foulest of all sins, those of the flesh!"

Sticky patches of white spittle are collecting at the corners of Pastor Yorenko’s mouth and his thin red hair is flopping all over the place as he waves his arms and shrieks. To Steve, he looks half-crazed and wholly repugnant, but most of the congregation seems to be listening to him with rapt attention. When he finally winds down, there’s a final hymn and collection baskets are passed. He doesn’t even think of reaching for his wallet. Danny drops in a five dollar bill and passes the basket on.

"I would have paid a lot more to get out of here," Danny whispers. Steve clenches his jaw at the near-touch of Danny’s lips and the faint warmth against his ear. Was that really an unintended consequence, or is Danny fucking with him? He hopes not. Being so close, seeing Danny work, watching his concentration and competence is damned difficult as it is. It’s tough to keep his head together as the congregation belts out what has to be "Washed in the Blood of the Lamb Jesus," since the chorus seems to rely heavily and endlessly on the phrase.

They stand as Pastor Yorenko passes them by, then wait as people choke the main aisle. The hold-up seems to be the fact that the pastor greets every single one of them, shaking hands and patting shoulders. There is no way to slip out without speaking to him, so Steve follows Danny into the aisle and waits his turn.

"I haven’t seen you here before, my son," the pastor says, greeting Danny with a sharp look.

"Uh, no, sir. I’m new here. My friend, Callie, said I should check it out," Danny says, sounding considerably more hesitant and unworldly than Steve has ever heard him.

"I see. And are you of her wretched trade, my son?" The eagle glance is now crawling over Danny as if he is assessing the exact depth of sin clinging to Danny’s well-pressed trousers.

"No, sir. I’m a neighbor of hers."

"Good. The only escape from Hell is to never go there. Remember that, my son."

Psycho, Steve thinks. Then it’s his turn for the sharp-eyed glare to be turned on him.

"Another new lamb? Welcome, my son."

Lamb. Yeah. Steve shakes his wiry hand and hopes his smile doesn’t look as fake as it feels. Yorenko’s unkempt red hair with its strands of gray looks like it’s flailing for freedom. There’s still spittle in the corners of the guy’s mouth. The man motions to Steve’s upper arm.

"Tattoos defile the temple of God, my son. Remember that!"

While Steve is trying to think up a civil response, Danny steps in and takes the pastor’s hand again. He shakes it firmly, smiles, claps the man high on the shoulder, then waves expansively. "You really made an impression on us tonight, pastor. I think we’ll be thinking about your words for a very long time."

The pastor’s head comes up sharply, but before the old man can say anything else, Danny is stepping out of the vestibule, Steve trailing in his wake. When they get to the corner where they had parked Danny’s car, Steve asks, "So what was that all about?" He gestures to indicate Danny’s weird intervention.

"That, my church-going friend, was police work." Danny holds up his hand under Steve’s nose. On it is a single greasy red hair, complete with its precious follicle. "Even if we can’t find Junior, we’ve got a sample of his old man’s DNA. That ought to at least let the ME know if we’re chasing the right dude."

Steve feels a real smile on his face this time. "Nice job." He rummages in the right-hand pocket of his pants and finds a plastic baggie, which he passes over to Danny.

"Of course you have an evidence bag in your pocket," Danny sighs, putting the hair inside and sealing and dating the evidence, automatically signing the bag. "Why am I not surprised?"

"Wanna know what I have in the other pocket?"

"No!" Danny sputters. The grim atmosphere of the Church of the Bitter Fig dissipates quickly on the drive back to Danny’s apartment.

"It was a good day," Steve says. "We made some real progress."

"Yeah, we did. Thanks," Danny says, standing beside his car as the engine ticks and cools.

"See you in the morning? Eight o’clock at headquarters and we can keep running down Peter, Junior."

"Eight a.m., ugh," Danny sighs dramatically. "The things I do in pursuit of Justice." Then he smiles cheerfully at Steve over the hood of his car, says, "Night, partner," and strides off.

As Steve climbs into his own truck and pulls out, he finds himself still worrying at something Danny’d said. It isn’t until he’s almost all the way home that it finally filters up.

Partner.

Something clicked inside when Danny said that, and Steve knows it’s the truth.

Now he just has to get Danny to see it.

 

^^^

In the end, Peter Yorenko, Junior isn’t all that hard to find: his name and address were on the scanned checks. Peter doesn’t live with his father, nor is he at his own apartment. But Peter’s roommate tells them that he’s house-sitting for another friend and cheerfully hands over the address. They pull up in the monster truck a few doors from a fair-to-middling duplex that one of Yorenko Junior’s buddies rents; the young man is out of the country doing mission work in Columbia. The neighborhood is quiet; people are mostly at work.

Steve gets out, looks around and doesn’t slam the car door. "Wait for me," he says, goes low, and heads around to the nearest house’s backyard with an H&K MP5.

Danny remembers, yet again again, that he’s not a cop any more. His "retirement" -- like gonnorhea -- is a gift that keeps on giving. He waits.

On one hand, the MP5 might be the right decision -- the "boy" they’re looking for might have murdered one or more of Danny’s people. There’s no telling how dangerous he could be if cornered. Danny still doesn’t like standing around with his thumb up his ass while somebody else does the work. On the other hand, they have no evidence that the kid did anything except pay Siria’s rent. Several men did that over the years. There’s probably no need for this one-man SWAT team. They could just walk up to the door and knock.

"Clear," says Steve.

"Shit! How did you do that?" Danny didn’t hear a breath or a footfall until Steve spoke practically into his ear. He hadn’t actually jumped, but near enough.

"Trained in recon."

Danny can’t see the smirk from here, but he can hear it. "Recon this," he says, flipping him the bird and heading toward the duplex.

This time, they walk up to the front door and knock. And knock. No answer. Peering through the narrow window alongside the door, he sees a figure sprawled face down on the couch. He thumbs for Steve’s attention.

"Danger to life or limb," growls Steve, and slaps a blob of something near the doorknob, pushes against it with his other hand.

He’s amazed. "You know that?"

When Danny doesn’t move back with him, Steve pulls. Danny stumbles off the steps about the time the blob explodes. "What the fuck!" His ears are ringing.

"C4. Just a little."

"Just a little!" The door wasn’t blown entirely off its hinges, but it’s hanging drunkenly. "What were you thinking? Did that come out of your pocket?" His voice is rising. It hardly matters. The whole neighborhood knows they’re here now. "Have you no respect for your very manhood?"

"The detonator was in my other pocket. Not even close."

"Oh, so that makes it perfectly safe?" There’s a headache blooming from the back of Danny’s neck.

Steve looks at him, eyes wide and sincere. "Well, yeah. It does, as a matter of fact. So no huhu, brah."

"That’s exactly what I’m worried about! No huhu!"

"Huh. Maybe I used too much," Steve comments blandly, stepping over a drift of splinters. He’s still carrying the MP5.

"Of course you used too much! Any would be too much! And put that thing away! He’ll freak out so bad he’ll lawyer up before we get a word out of him!"

There’s a groan from the couch and the kid tries to lift his head as Steve shoves the weapon behind his back. "Whass . . . wha happen?"

"Looks like you happened into a liquor store." There are cans and bottles in various stages of deliquification all over.

"I, I just . . . um. . . who are you?"

"We’re your worst nightmare," mutters Danny as he stalks into the kitchen. Peter, Junior’s worst nightmare starts digging in the refrigerator.

"What are you doing?" Steve’s low-voiced aggravation is bristling at him.

"I’m feeding Emo Boy, what does it look like?"

"Why?"

"Because we won’t get a damned thing out of him in the shape he’s in, okay? He can’t talk if he can’t process verbal communication." The truth is that Peter, Junior looks too much like Danny did after Rachel tossed him out on his keister. And one way or the other, his girlfriend is dead. "If he did it, we’ll find out. If not, he’s a pretty sad sack of shit right now."

They make the kid eat scrambled eggs and toast and gag down some bacon, with a pause while he throws up the first course in the sink. Toast first, next time. "What? You’ve never been on a week-long bender before?"

"I never drank alcohol before." He still looks like he’s going to puke on the kitchen table.

"Let this be a lesson to you."

^^^

Back at headquarters, in the interrogation room, Danny talks. Steve looms. It’s his specialty, and should be pretty intimidating, but Peter, Junior doesn’t even notice. Danny’s intensity grabs all the kid’s attention.

"We are going to find out who killed Miss Andrada. So if you did it, you’d better think fast."

"I didn’t kill Siria. I loved her. I’ll do anything to help you find out who did it."

The kid doesn’t look like he’s capable of much thinking right now. He’s sweating and pale, a pathetic contrast to his red flag of hair, but that could be the hangover.

"She called you. She left a message. What did she tell you?"

"She said she wanted to see me. But I couldn’t, it was wrong." The kid is so handsome in person, Steve can almost believe him. "She said she was leaving her old life, but I couldn’t see her until she kept her promise!"

"You’re shitting us right and left, buddy." Danny is implacable. "She was a smart woman who was in the business for years. She didn’t fall in love with her tricks. How did a good little boy like you afford a woman like her?"

"My friends." He’s rubbing the heels of his hands into his eye sockets. "They paid for me. For Siria, I mean. A night with her was my graduation present from college. They pooled their funds. It was a lot of money. Then we started seeing each other like real people." He looks down at the scratched table under his hands. "Like I wasn’t a preacher’s kid and she wasn’t a hooker. Siria was only twenty-four. She never had a real boyfriend before."

Holy Christ. Danny loses a little color at that one. Steve is shocked, too. He hadn’t imagined that woman was so young -- God, she must have gotten into the life before she was old enough to drive -- but it makes a sad kind of sense.

"You paid her rent. That was only normal for Siria, not for you. You just got out of school. Where’d you get the money?"

"I sold my baseball cards." At Danny’s incredulous look, he shrugs. "My grandfather left them to me. They were worth a lot of money. Siria could hardly get out of . . . the business if she had to pay the Pipeline’s rent. She was looking for somebody to sublet. She really was quitting."

Steve speaks up sharply. "But she didn’t. Is that why you killed her?" He’s good at Bad Cop, but today Danny hardly lets him get a word in edgewise.

"No!" Tears wash out the color of his vivid blue eyes and look wrong on the young man’s cheeks. "The message is on my phone. I saved every message she ever left me. Here!"

Danny’s got to be wondering -- how naive is this preacher’s boy, exactly? Because Steve, despite what his team thinks, is well aware of those little pieces of paper, and they haven’t got one for any of this kid’s possessions. Yet he’s handing them the pot of gold outright.

"How did you keep her a secret from your father? He wasn’t likely to accept her as your girlfriend."

"He knew all about her."

Startled, Steve can’t help a squawk. "What?"

"The fallen woman coming back to God -- there’s a precedent for that, you know." The boy looks stubborn as hell, and maybe there’s reason for him to be. "It’s not like it’s never happened before."

Danny looks like his gut hurts. "In bad movies on the Lifetime Network, sure. In real life, nice boys don’t date whores."

"This is not a made for TV movie!" There’s a preacher’s carrying voice inside their suspect, too. "This is our lives!"

"I know, kid, I know," Danny says, and doesn’t even bother to correct the tense.

Honestly, it isn’t much of an interrogation. Peter, Junior was with a group of church parents and kids on a camping trip that night. Chin and Kono already called a few of the parishioners in question while they were in the interrogation room, and they verified his alibi. They’d finish up the calls, but one of the campers had a baby she was up half the night with, walking around the camp area.

"He didn’t kill her." There’s a certainty around Danny’s mouth.

"Oh, yeah?" Steve quirks an eyebrow. "Tell me another Western. Boy meets girl, girl makes promises, girl lies, boy kills girl. Maybe he snuck out of camp somehow, maybe he got somebody else to do it. How about them pineapples?"

"You could be right, but you’re wrong. I think we should call Max and ask him about that DNA sample we got from Daddy."

He’s surprised when Steve agrees without question. "We’ll keep Peter in custody. If Daddy’s got anything to do with it, that should make him nervous."

Chapter Text

Twenty minutes after Max reports the hair sample as a DNA match to the material under Mae Li's fingernails, Pastor Peter Yorenko, Senior is discussing the situation with Chin while Steve and Danny watch through the mirror. Chin doesn't have a baseball bat, but he looks like he wants one. He's laid out pictures of Siria, Mai-Li and Callie on the table in front of Yorenko. Callie's is her high school yearbook photo.

"Have you ever seen these women?" Chin's voice is controlled, but the snarl is barely disguised.

The bastard doesn't even try to deny anything. "Why, my son, of course I know them." He smiles faintly, pleased with himself, although clearly he's not expecting any understanding. "I sent them all to God."

Chin's not getting it. "And how did an upright religious man come to meet these --" his normally unreadable interrogation style crumbles as his face suffuses with shock. Then he turns to stone. "You what?"

"They were members of my flock. They needed care, and more help than most. I was honored to give them that help."

Chin's fists are clenched so hard his knuckles whiten, but his voice is even and uninflected. "Help. To do what?"

Steve finally sees the man who taught Kono everything she knows. He looks calm again, but there's a strange light in his eyes that tells Steve it would be both Chin's pleasure and an honor to rip the pastor in half.

The scraggly old man sighs, ignoring Chin. "But they made false promises. They needed correction."

"Of course they did." Chin's trying to make him feel understood so he'll keep talking. The deeper the pastor digs, the easier it will be to bury him. "In what manner did you correct them?"

"I told you, I sent them to God. It was necessary and I would never deny it. It's a sin to lie." His resonant voice is giving Steve the creeps. "Please, release my son now."

Danny makes a small strangled sound and one hand splays against the glass. The fingers of his other hand could possibly tear the left trim piece away from the one-way mirror. Steve can't not reach over and fit his own hand over Danny's, interlace their fingers and silently offer what comfort he can.

"I need you to describe in detail the exact manner in which you corrected the three women." Chin, like everyone watching, is well aware that the pastor could be telling bedtime stories.

"Give me a pen and paper, or will you transcribe the recording? I'm not ashamed of what I did for the greater glory of Heaven. Those women are at peace now. More importantly, my boy is free from that whore's evil temptations. He'll be a great successor to my pulpit and a true leader for my church. That's all I care about."

Afterward, for the first time, Steve asks his team out for a beer. They could all use one. To his surprise, they agree. Even Danny comes along. Everything's going great and they've closed the case; no more women are going to die because of Yorenko.

"No, seriously, you just reached out and took the hair sample off his sleeve, Danny?" Kono shakes her head. "And they told us at the Academy that it was all about letting the forensics team collect evidence."

Steve leans in. "Kono, he pulled it out of the guy's head. That's how we got one with a follicle for the DNA sample. It was a thing of beauty."

"I've got a long reach," says Danny modestly. He demonstrates by reaching across the table and stealing fries off of Kono's plate without coming out of his comfortable slouch. "Plus I used to do sleight-of-hand stuff for my little brother."

"Is that hair admissible in court?"

"No," Chin answers firmly.

"But," Danny points out, "it didn't matter once we got the confession. I wasn't expecting it to be Daddy; I just wanted to see if we were pointed in the right direction."

"We wouldn't have found the Yorenko connection so soon if you hadn't helped us with Siria's black book, Danny. More women could have died." Chin is earnest and Danny taps the neck of his beer bottle against the other ex-cop's with a pleased smile.

"Plus there's no way in hell he's getting out on bail. After the confession it was easy enough to get a court order for another DNA test. He'll be safe and sound in that jail cell until the trial date."

Kono's still concerned. "You don’t think he'll weasel out of prison time on an insanity defense, do you?"

"He has a pretty twisted sense of right and wrong." Steve rubs a hand through his hair. "I just – to listen to him made my skin crawl. And that's pretty tough to do."

"Lawyers make serious effort to keep clients out of psychiatric lockup. " Danny waves at the waitress. "It's pretty nasty. Way worse than the general population. Nobody wants to spend twenty years drugged to the gills."

"Then I hope they can't keep him out of there."

Two rounds later, Steve pulls Danny aside. "Stay," he says. "Work with us. You're a good cop. The pace is killing them." He looks over at Kono and Chin, at the matching tired slant of their shoulders, and grimaces. "We need you."

Danny's gaze turns opaque. "No," he says, and walks away, walks right out the goddamn door, leaving Steve standing there with his hand outstretched and empty.

When Steve turns back to the table, Chin and Kono are staring at him and he knows they've seen.

"He say no, brah?" Chin asks as Steve slumps back into his chair.

Steve nods and picks at the label on his last empty bottle.

"Why?" Kono's dismayed. "He seemed to really like us and he's good at it."

"He didn't say," Steve bites out. "Maybe we don't pay well enough."

After a moment or two, he can practically feel Chin's stare on him. When he looks up, his second has a quirk to his lip that announces that Steve is being a dumbass. Steve hates that look.

"What?"

Chin and Kono look at each other; he can see a decision being made.

"Steve, Danny's a proud guy and he's got a past. He knows cops and he knows how it would go down if that past got out. What he needs is a way around it. And I think we could come up with a way."

"Oh, yeah? I'm all ears."

 

^^^

 

In his time, Danny had awakened in better circumstances. Almost all circumstances were better than this. In fact, this could possibly have been the worst night of Danny's life. Considering that his shit list included taking a slug in the chest from a fellow cop and the night he found his wife and baby daughter gone and a process server on his doorstep, that was saying something.

He'd seen a lot of fires, but that was nothing compared to nearly being torched.

Oxygen tasted delicious, even from a plastic mask. Five minutes out of the building, he tried to hack up his good lung. He sat barefoot and bare-chested on the curb near an ambulance, wondering what he was going to do with his fucked up life while he watched his building burn. The whole scene was bathed in pretty-colored revolving lights against the city-dappled darkness.

He tried to imagine asking Rachel and Stan if he can stay for a few days while he looked for a new place.

Fifteen incredibly short minutes ago, a table-saw metallic shriek launched him off the bed from a dream-disturbed sleep. He landed on his shoulder, lost a strip of skin shit, that hurt before he knew it was the smoke alarm. His smoke alarm, the one he stuck on the ceiling in above his bed because he didn't trust the grimy one that was already in the kitchen. Good call, since if that one was going off, he couldn't hear it. Ugh, the smell, how did he not wake up?

It wasn't somebody's blackened pizza, it was the real thing, a reek of burning electrical wire and dirty nylon carpet. Fuck, he thought, and knew he shouldn't stop to pull on his pants, but they were right there so he did it anyway. His vision was sleep-stained as he stumbled on a pants leg. Ground floor. Go out the window? There was no flame in his place and the doorknob wasn't hot, but more importantly, something was missing. A fire alarm would drown out even the banshee scream in here.

Christ, there were a couple dozen people in this flimsy building, never catch this crap passing Jersey fire code, it'd go up like a box of matches.

Yanking on the hall fire alarm upped the decibels to sheer pain. That stench was in the hall, too, stronger than his apartment, was it from next door? Down the hall? Shit, was it next door? That cranky old fart Hasegawa who always called him Shorty. If the man had a lawn he'd yell at kids to get off it.

"Hasegawa! Lenny!" People were streaming into the hall, but nobody was coming out of 125, and through the fire alarm, no one could hear you scream.

He used the butt of the fire extinguisher to bash the door open.

The room was choked with smoke; the curtains were burning. That was enough light to see a body, undershirt and tighty whiteys and a gush of blood down Hasegawa's face, matting his gray hair and pooling on the carpet. A lot of blood. The old man must have jumped out of bed and wound up cracking his head on the coffee table.

The noise was killing him. He'd be deaf for a week. For a frail-looking old man, Crankypants weighed a ton. Instead of picking him up, Danny hauled him out the door by the shoulders. He was limp, but at least not literally dead weight. Hasegawa's lips were moving, but Danny couldn't hear a damned thing over the blare. Somebody stumbled into them in the hallway, then grabbed one of Hasegawa's arms. Together they pulled the unresisting man out the door, into fresh air. Away from the fire alarm and toward the honk and whoop of emergency vehicles, they deposited their prize on the ground.

"Thanks." Danny's word caught on a guttural cough, his mind blanking on the other guy's name.

"Yeah, brah."

They bumped fists over Lenny Hasegawa as the fire fighters closed in, and Danny dropped to his knees to check him out. Thready pulse, labored breathing, but he was awake.

"Where's my hat?" Lenny wheezed. He stared rheumily at the two of them. "Give me back my hat!"

By the time an EMT got over to them and Danny described the situation, the fire had erupted out of other windows, probably eating into the second floor by now. It was just like Danny thought, and fuck, he could see flames in his own apartment. Then it registered that he just made it out of a burning building. His own burning building. That drove the blood out of his brain, and it was a good thing he was sitting on the ground.

The EMT had to help him move over to the ambulance to get checked out. "Thanks, uh, Mr. Chou." When he stood up, he thought he was going to puke. He was glad enough to sit back down, even on a hunk of cement.

Which left him on the curb, wondering which end was up and how the hell he was going to get there.

Audrey would put him up in her enormous penthouse, but he feels as out of place there as a cat on an ice rink. He's not sure which of them would cramp the other's style more. There are other people he could ask, but they have small places, and his compatriots need some space when they're not working.

What he really needs, he figures, is a Motel 6. Clean sheets, twelve hours of smokeless a/c while he sleeps and maybe, just maybe, the loss of all his worldly goods will look better in the morning.

Christ, all his stuff. Everything.

Photos. Clothes. The napkins his grandmother embroidered for their first Thanksgiving dinner. A photo of his whole family on the boardwalk from years ago.

He's always felt sorry for people who had their houses burn, because Danny likes things. What he had, they were just little things, pretty much worthless, but they were . . . his life. His memories.

Pictures of Grace, ones that he slipped out of their photo albums one day when Rachel wasn't in the house. He didn't truly think she would fight him for a few pictures, not when she was taking his daughter away, but he couldn't take any chances. Those are gone now. The second half of Grace's childhood is spotty for him since the divorce, and the first half just went up in smoke.

His eyes burn a little. He hopes to hell it's because it's 3 a.m. and his eyes are red from smoke. Her first baby tooth was in his top bureau drawer. He'd been so thrilled to sneak a silver dollar under her pillow as he brushed back her soft hair.

He takes another deep breath into the mask, because his lungs ain't what they used to be, and hands the apparatus back to the EMT. "I'm good," he says to the concerned look.

Fuck. His Camaro had been blocked in; it's not there any more. Fuck, it's been towed. He can't go anywhere even if he had anywhere to go. And he'd have to break in and hotwire the thing, because while his wallet is in his back pocket, the car keys are a tiny bubbling heap of slag on what used to be the kitchen table in his toasted apartment. So is his phone. His laptop.

Tears fill his eyes.

"Let's go," says a familiar voice and Danny's head turns so fast his neck hurts.

"What?" he manages to bleat past the smoke rings and the grief. For a second, Steve wavers in the whirling lights of the emergency vehicles. But Danny blinks hard and Steve's still there.

"Come on. We're going to my house."

"Huh? No," Danny says automatically.

Steve wraps a paw gently and firmly around his upper arm. Danny stands with the pull even as he's wondering why he lets it happen, and he follows meekly down the block. The Silverado looms like a Jurassic leftover. Danny stands there and looks at it. Because he's beyond exhausted. Because he wants to cry and hide his head and he's supposed to be about three decades past that.

Steve's face is creased and concerned and he hasn't shaved in a couple of days and his eyes have dark circles under them, but he's here trying to prop Danny up, of all people.

"Sorry about your place, buddy."

Danny doesn't even rifle through all the reasons why they are not exactly buddies, he can't say that, so he says nothing. He stares at Steve and thinks he should make some noises, something grateful, or self-sufficient, or halfway mature. All he can think of is, "Can I use your shower?" He can smell himself, and he stinks of burning landfill, which is what the stuff of everybody in that building became in one short hour.

Steve's face kind of folds a little and his eyes get softer than Danny has ever seen them. "Yeah, you can have a shower. Get in the truck."

Danny has money. He's got nearly seven grand in his checking account now. But that wasn't supposed to be for a hotel room and a first and last month deposit on new crappy apartment and replacing all his . . . everything. That money is for Grace's school. Her uniforms. Books. So she can be in the right place with all those rich kids and walk into the life she deserves to have.

Danny needs to be the one to give her that, if he can't give her anything else.

Money for art lessons and flute lessons, money to discover the kind of talents he's sure she has. Whatever they are. He just hopes to hell it's not tennis. Because if Stan's cash and country club connections make his little girl into Grace Venus-Williams, he will just have to shoot himself. After she conquers Wimbledon with him court-side, rocking a blue blazer and a driving cap, clapping politely.

Considering the way his thoughts are bouncing around, Danny thinks he could be a little shocky.

He gets in the truck, climbing like a little kid because he has to be careful about it. Maybe he pulled a muscle dragging out Mr. Hasegawa. He would like to rant about the impossible size of Chevy trucks and how they're made for inhuman giants. Ordinarily he would. But drawing one deep breath will start him coughing again, and he just doesn't have it in him.

Steve says nothing during the drive to his place. Danny can't even track well enough to figure out where they are. He just slumps in his seat, head against the cool glass.

When they pull into a driveway and walk into a house and through it and Steve says, "Towels are in the cupboard," Danny feels his eyes burn again. He stands in the middle of Steve's too-bright bathroom, hands hanging at his side, and can't think what to do next.

It didn't seem odd even for a moment that Steve walked right in with him; it's certainly big enough for two, and that's odd by itself. It's the party bathroom. Then he starts pulling stuff out of cupboards and medicine cabinets and putting them around the sink. A razor, a fresh bar of Irish Spring. Blue Suave shampoo. Two fluffy towels that may actually be bigger than Danny, a washcloth, and some kind of scrubby thing. Steve turns on the water, lets the spray go until it's about right, and...

...he's helping Danny undress, which amounts to unbuttoning his pants when Danny's fingers don't do their job, and Danny wonders for a creaky moment if he's paying for this in the usual way. Not that he should care. It's what he does. It's what Steve wants, after all. And then Steve pushes him gently into the shower and pulls the curtain shut.

"If you need anything, I'm in the kitchen. You gonna be okay?"

He can still feel Steve's large hands warm on his shoulders, turning him toward the streaming water. "'M good," Danny manages to mumble as he sticks his head under the spray. It's the best, most beautiful, hottest, cleanest shower of his life.

The scent of smoke is rising out of his skin and sluicing from his hair. He wouldn't be surprised if he'll still be smelling it tomorrow. Next week. He stands under the spray, soaping himself over and over again because it smells good and simple and clean and about as far from smoke as you can get. And, just a little, it smells like Steve did those first two times. It takes Danny by the hand and leads him to a blurred memory of the hollow of Steve's throat, the arch of his underarm, the small of his back.

The simple green scent rises up around him and follows him out of the tub in a cloud. Danny ignores the way that smell comforts him. He just lets it work, lets it curl around him and loosen his shoulders, unkink his neck . . . fill his lungs with something besides the smell of burning memories.

He makes his way slowly out of the bathroom, suddenly chagrined to be in a stranger's house wrapped in a towel. At least it covers most of him. It wasn't until he was almost dry that he realized he had no clothes. Not any he wanted to step into, anyway.

Eyes on the floor, he almost smacks into Steve's chest. There's a wad of cotton in his gargantuan hand.

"I, uh, thought this stuff might fit you."

"This stuff" turns out to be a tank tee and a pair of home-made cut off shorts that come nearly to Danny's knees. Both are soft and well-worn and gentle against his skin.

"Thanks," Danny says, and that just doesn't cut it. "Really, thank you." Jesus, that's lame. The guy picked him up off the curb like a forlorn sack of trash and wouldn't accept anything in trade.

"That's what friends are for," says Steve quietly, and pushes the bathroom door open again. "Soup's on the stove when you're ready."

There's a sock to the gut, and Danny never saw it coming. He mumbles, "Chicken, right?"

"Yeah, is there any other kind?" Steve frowns. "With noodles. I think."

Like he could possibly care. "You're a goof, you know that?" Danny smiles weakly and shuts the door on Steve's warm, direct gaze.

If Danny had more brain power, he would marvel at all the faces this man has shown him, and he'd boggle at this latest one. But all he can do is pull up a stool to the breakfast bar and start spooning in careful swallows of soup, letting it soothe his raw throat. When he's done, Steve hovers with a hand floating behind Danny's back, yes, he saw that, until they both make it to the top of the stairs. Danny falls into the neatly made bed in what must be the guest room and the bad day fades to black.

Come morning, Steve's gone, and he must have a will of iron to get up and haul his ass in to work after spending half the night dealing with Danny. By the time Danny is fully awake he's pissed that Steve didn't get him up, too. Unless he wants to catch a cab, he'll be sitting on his ass all day while there's a job to be done: just because Preacher Serial Killer says he did it doesn't mean that much. Down the line he'll have a lawyer who'll win big if he can get this guy off the hook.

Their case had better be perfect, because that is so not happening on Danny's watch. Siria and Callie and Mae Li deserve a lot better than that and he, personally, is going to make the case airtight.

He's sitting on the edge of a strange bed in a strange room making plans, when he can do that in the Five-0 offices with everything he needs at the ready. He stands up to go find Steve's landline -- if he has one -- and call a cab. That's when he realizes he has no pants.

Shit.

So he wanders. Curiosity only ever bothered cats. Unfortunately, there's not a lot in this house to sate him. He doesn't snoop in Steve's bedroom, not that he thinks Steve would mind. In fact, he has a weird feeling Steve wouldn't mind at all.

Which is reason enough to avoid it. As for the rest of the house, his own dump has -- had -- more personality. He can't identify anything except a box of lately-purchased cereal as obviously belonging to Steve. The contents of the refrigerator and what's behind the cupboard doors doesn't count.

John McGarrett must have been a piece of work. There are exactly three photos on the walls, none taken after the mid-1980s. Wife and kids memorialized, John the missing link. Could it be possible that the man had as little life of his own as Steve does? Does it run in families?

It's a nice house, or it could be. It just needs someone with a real life to live in it and sweep away all the ghosts. He wishes he could've sat John down and explained to him that normal people have furniture that had been purchased within the last three decades. This house is like a sad time capsule. Did John McGarrett just let his entire family's life grind to a halt when his wife died? Because it sure as hell looked like it had.

One thing Danny now knows about the Navy -- 'ship shape' is not just a cliché. Clutter is obviously not an option. It makes him want to move that coaster to the left and tilt one of the photographs, just to see if Steve notices. Then he remembers the guy is A) a maniac who carries C4 in his pants pockets, and B) a former terrorist hunter, if Danny grasped what the newspaper didn't exactly say.

Suddenly he hopes like hell Steve doesn't leave mantraps in his own home.

The front door bangs as he's reaching into a refrigerator that's so old it's got rounded corners like his grandma's used to.

"Danny!" Steve's grin is brilliant, like he wasn't expecting Danny to still be there. He's smiling over a heap of store bags he's dumped on the kitchen table.

"What's all that?" It's kind of a stupid question; either Steve found all that stuff on the side of the road or he just conducted a raid on Emporio Armani. Steve never struck Danny as a sugar daddy, but he has made a decent stab at it.

Steve squints at him. "Clothes." Apparently he didn't know Danny was mentally deficient, but he's rethinking it.

"You buy out a designer shop?" No one has bought Danny clothes since he outgrew his aunt's Christmas sweaters when he was fifteen. Rachel had tried, God knew, but Danny refused, point-blank.

"Hey! I didn't have much time. Ala Moana was easy, and this was the first store." A frown line appears between his eyes. He might as well wear a sign that says, "Please don't kick the puppy."

In the bags, there's everything Danny will need for a couple days, including underwear and . . . beautiful, well-tailored button-down shirts of the kind he hasn't spent money on in years. No place to wear them, anyway.

"Button-downs? You actually bought me Oxford shirts?"

There are five of them in tasteful colors that will look good on Danny and the right size. Unbelievable. Sheesh, how is this guy not married? Then he remembers: Navy boatload of issues, closeted bisexual, violence is his middle name. But he can be so damned sweet. Danny chokes, mentally, on the label. Nice of the guy, but fucking expensive. Tie? Nice tie. Really nice tie. He used to have an entire collection of nice ties. This time, he chokes up physically, a little.

"You looked professional last week, remember?" Steve shrugs. "Thought you'd need them."

Danny just stares, looks him up and down. "You don't look like you usually buy Armani. Where do you shop for yourself? 'Cause I can't afford any of this."

"It's on me."

Fuck, is that where this is going? He sets his teeth and squares up to Steve's pretty face. "You are not paying for anything of mine, do you understand me?"

Steve's bottom lip actually sticks out. "Fine. Wear them until you get something else. Then give 'em back to me." He stalks over to the back door, panties obviously in a bunch.

"Right. Because you're a thirty-four short with an eighteen inch collar," Danny calls after him. "Do not walk away from me! I am not here to be your kept man. I am here to nail a killer, and when I am done with that job, then we can talk about which bed I'll be sleeping in."

Steve whirls around. By God, his too-long legs can cover distance. Before Danny can register how much, he's back in Danny's face. "It's not about the bed!"

"No, it is only tangentially to do with beds of any sort, it's about being a hooker! It's about what I do!"

"You used to be a cop!"

"So?"

"So do that again. We got another case. I need a partner, Danny. You're good at this. We're good at this together."

"Playing Cops-And-Robbers with you won't help me pay the bills, McGarrett."

"I'll pay you."

"For what?" Danny can feel his face flushing as his blood lifts itself to fuel a stupendous rage. Somewhere in the back of his mind he knows he should be using all the techniques he's learned to calm himself, but the only techniques he wants to use on McGarrett involve brute force, or possibly -- if he wants to be honest, which he doesn't -- the Kama Sutra.

"I'm the boss, remember? Standard task force pay, same as Chin gets."

"Other duties as required?" Danny sneers, making an obscene gesture with his left hand.

"No. No other duties. Union work rules. Whatever, it doesn't matter. I'll deputize you, and by the way, you're kind of an asshole, Williams."

"I caught a case of it from you, you dick!"

Now Steve's pissed, too. "If I don't buy you any more designer shirts, will you get off my ass?"

There is a moment of thunderous silence, and then they both burst out laughing.

Danny laughs until he starts coughing, then when he stops, says, almost fondly, "Unbelievable."

"You're the one who's unbelievable!"

"Okay. But when this case is over, while I appreciate your generosity, I will take my life back. Also? This is probably as much sublimation as I can take without coffee."

"Put the damned clothes on. When we have time, I'll take you to Target."

"You better take me on the way. I'm still barefoot."

 

^^^

And just like that, they're both moving deeper into the kitchen. Steve is spooning whole-grain pancake batter onto the griddle while Danny makes coffee and they ease carefully around each other. Danny probably doesn't want to bump into him. Steve, on the other hand, seems to have lost a little bit of his accustomed grace. It might be because he's afraid of making a wrong move.

When their elbows touch or their shoulders jostle one another, they each smile a little, a small moment of embarrassment.

Steve wonders how much he'll have to argue before he gets Danny into a pair of board shorts and out onto his beach. He's looking forward to it. In a strange fit of nostalgia, he bought Danny the most eye-popping board shorts he could find, and the selection was vast. He just wants to see him again. All of him. Well, most of him. Because Danny feels right. Solid, always in motion, he's right there within Steve's orbit where he belongs like no one else ever has.

Nostalgia? Not exactly, because he's never had this before. But he's wanted it, longed for it with his teeth gritted. He already knows how Danny will look in them.

They're done eating breakfast when Steve subtly moves things forward. He's flipping through the tower of folders he brought in with the bags of clothes, and Danny's looking askance. Steve knew from the first that Danny would sink his teeth into them like a short, snarling Rottweiler. "This is a pile of cold cases the Governor dumped on me when I reported to her this morning." He shoves it aside, away from Danny.

"Oh, yeah? What's this one?" Square hands, bigger than they should be, reach for the slim folder next to the leaning stack.

"That's the Yorenko file." Steve stifles a wave of out-and-out glee when Danny takes the bait.

"What? Are you kidding me?" He grabs the documents and shuffles them under a gimlet eye. "This one comes first, my friend, and you obviously have no idea how to write up a case." Danny starts regurgitating everything he ever learned in police academy -- chain of evidence, witness statements, corroboration. "How the hell did you ever get by with this kind of worthless shit? This is an outrage! It's -- "

Steve cuts him off. "Paperwork wasn't a big part of my former job description."

"Yeah, I'll bet. Chin, at least, should know better. God knows what your sloppy habits have been teaching the rookie: how not to do it."

"The Governor's not in a hurry. These others are from before Five-0 ever existed. She'll pay a consultant's fee for as long as we're willing to work these cases. It'd be an awesome opportunity if we weren't all exhausted after a week of work. The money she's offering to clear these up is amazing."

"Oh! Sure! So she's not in a hurry?" Danny grumbles. "What if I am?" He raised a hand to acknowledge the rest of the world. "I have a life, you know!"

"Not right now," says Steve bluntly.

 

^^^

 

Fuck.

Danny's forgotten the very first thing he'd ever known about Steve McGarrett -- the man is a bastard. The preacher's case should only take a few more days, even if Danny wants it so tight it strangles the man. But after that, even staying with Steve, he's still broke. He's got to find a place he can afford to rent . . . after he replaces everything of value that he ever owned. First month, last month, and security is a metric ton of cash when there's this fall's portion of hell to pay -- the eighteen grand a year for Punahou School.

There's the lure of easy cash from his night job, but frankly . . . that shade of green lost its glow after Steve McGarrett slammed into Danny's life. He doesn't know why or how, but this last month his job's been eating at him worse than it ever did. The time they've been apart, and he can't even believe he's thinking about it that way, he didn't even try for new clients. He was lucky to get himself together enough to see his regulars.

They can't even reach him anymore because his work phone, could it ring, would do so in some landfill in the state of Washington.

Now this freak of nature is daring him to play cop again.

He slaps a hand on the table. "Fine. Great. Since HPD is so pathetic, I'll take a look at them." It has everything to do with one-upping HPD, and absolutely nothing to do with an attractive man who sees him as a good investigator. He's even willing to forgive Steve's self-satisfied unshaven grin when he finds three pairs of tan chinos, all within an inch of the proper length, at the bottom of the last bag.

^^^

 

"I'll go with you."

It was all he could think of to say when Danny announced his intention to look at apartments. He couldn't believe it. Danny was only here a couple of days. Why did he want to escape so badly he'd leave without a second pair of shoes? It made Steve's stomach turn.

There was no realistic way to keep Danny from apartment hunting. He'd sound like a crazy man. He already felt uneasy at the prospect of Danny leaving, and as hard as he tried to hide it, it had to be written all over his face.

He shouldn't be grateful that Danny was here now, but he was. It was horrible that Danny's place had burned down. Steve knew that, intellectually, even though he didn't have a real understanding of "home" – or even of "belongings." He'd been bouncing off the walls in his father's house for months now, and it wasn't home any more than any other place. Home died with his mother.

That didn't stop Steve from wanting it.

Deep down, he knew Danny could make this place a home. It was in the way he treated his daughter, the way he slotted neatly into Steve's life from the moment he got here. Hell, the way he wasn't gone in the morning. It was little enough to hang Steve's hopes on, but hang them he would.

He'd responded to the fire call from sheer instinct, sitting up straight in bed with the address shaping his lips, even though the volume was so low he shouldn't have heard it at all. He was fully dressed with a steering wheel biting into his palms before he understood that he was outside.

Having the Camaro towed was just a way to keep Danny's precious car safe – there was a fire truck on its bumper and men working the fire hydrant across the street. It was an accident waiting to happen, and the city didn't pay for injured automobiles. In the end, it turned out to be the best decision he'd made in a long time. He wasn't about to say that to Danny.

An hour later he'd brought Danny upstairs to get clean, wash the sting out of his eyes and the stench off his skin. Steve had to turn away, physically leave the room. Even he knew that filling his hungry eyes with Danny's body shouldn't happen like that. But he still didn't have a full grasp of the situation. It wasn't until Steve followed a half-asleep Danny up the stairs, his hovering hand warmed by Danny's ever-present heat, that he realized what he had.

Not a guest. An opportunity.

He thought he'd have weeks to prove that his house could be Danny's home. But no, there was the list off the internet with places circled in red. Places, Steve noted, that were undoubtedly no better than the last apartment.

He shouldn't be a snob. He'd lived out of places that made Danny's old apartment look like a palace. The thing was, none of them came with a year's lease. And the house they were standing in would make a great place for Danny to live, better than any apartment Danny could afford. Danny would have to understand that. Steve would make him understand it.

^^^

The first place is wonderful, as far as Steve's concerned.

"Mold," he says flatly. He sticks out his thumb like he's going to hitchhike and jams it into the wallboard. Danny makes a noise like Steve stuck his thumb into Danny, one Steve craves to hear under different circumstances, and then gasps, ditto, when Steve hooks his thumb behind the wallboard and pulls.

Part of the wall crumbles at their feet.

"Was that some kind of ninja mojo? Wait, I do not want to know! What the hell did you do that for? You can't just say something, Doctor Thumb? Every concept has to be accompanied by an action sequence? I want to see you play Charades, I really do, except only if I'm wearing body armor and --"

The red-faced apartment manager interrupts him, which is too bad, because Danny's barely warmed up. Steve kind of hopes there's more to come, and yes, he's a little bent, but that's the way it is.

"Christ! You just broke the goddamn wall! You'll pay for that!"

Steve flashes his badge. "Mold in the walls. It's not up to code. I'd check this whole complex if I were you, and we'll have the city inspector in as soon as possible."

The manager's still moving his lips as they leave, but no sound is coming out.

Behind Door Number 2, it's even better.

"No, no, no!" Danny's stumbled backward out of the kitchen faster than he flipped on the light.

"We'll call Bowman Pest Control right now," says the horrified young woman as she opens her phone. "They'll fix it, I promise –"

"There are things the size of Mr. Hoppy crawling out of that sink! And they can fly! At least I know there aren't any rats; the cockroaches beat them senseless and kick their asses to the curb! What the hell do you feed them, U-235?" He swipes a hand toward Steve, who thought he had his smirk under control. "And you, shut up! I don't care what's in the jungles of Borneo. This is not Borneo, it's the good ol' U. S. of A. Or it was last I heard," he says, with a final glare at the kitchen as he backs out the apartment door.

Three, four and five are all in the danger zone. Frankly, one and two made them look pretty good.

"No water pressure. But a pretty nice place, for two grand a month." He sees Danny swallow hard.

"Six hundred square feet, but look at the walls." Neither of them could help looking; it must have been a tag-team spaghetti fight. "You'll have to prime and paint this whole place and replace the . . . carpet. For $750 a month, they're not going to do it." Steve doesn't offer to pick up a brush.

"There's no light in here, Danny. You need some real windows. People can't live without enough daylight to create Vitamin D." Danny looks at him as if Steve has forgotten he works nights. Windows, Steve thinks, are the last thing Danny cares about. That was a miss.

Thank God for Number Six.

"It's beautiful." There is longing on Danny's face as he stared at the wood floors and a matched set of bedroom doors. "And I can afford it."

Steve shakes his head decisively. "I don't like it."

"Seriously? What is it this time?" Danny turns on him, looking rabid. "Bring it. And this time, you'd better have a good reason. Why did you come along if not to help me find a place? I dare you to find something wrong with this one. I'm apartment hunting with freaking Goldilocks! One's too hot, one's too cold, this one is –"

"Next to a meth kitchen," Steve supplies helpfully.

"Right! So . . . what?" Danny stops and stares.

Steve sniffs and wrinkles his nose, then nods.

Danny groans. "Really? You're sniffing out drugs now? Is that what the military did to you in their secret underground labs? I mean, I always knew you were a dog, but I thought it was a metaphor." He stomps down the stairs, pausing only while Steve calls HPD to come bust the neighbors.

Steve knows what he wants. He'd lined up his living-together ideas while he was standing at the shirt counter, before he hit the Governor up for HPD's cold cases. Now he'll have to add a dollar figure for rent; should've known that Danny would be determined to pay his own way. For $100 more a month, he'll let Danny paint the little room that used to be his sister's room for Grace. It's not like she's going to be in it more than four nights a month, anyway. And if that isn't a sad little fact.

He'd offer that for nothing, the same way he'd open his house to Danny for nothing, but it'd just be an excuse for Danny to flip out. Steve can't let Danny's pride get in his way. He intends to win this one, and he's right on course for it – Danny doesn't even know there's a contest.

What he knows about Danny: he's tough, he's proud, he's a blistering-hot lover. He will literally do anything to be near his daughter and do what he considers to be right, he's the second most stubborn bastard in the world, and he is apparently Steve's Kryptonite.

The thing that keeps Steve from freaking the fuck out about that is that Danny won't ever use it against him. He isn't even sure how he knows that, but he does. Danny's been so resolute about not taking anything from him, he must be pretty safe.

"Don't get so down." Maybe he could will Danny to see reason. Or at least to agree with Steve, which in this case was the same thing.

"I'm not down! I'm, I'm..." Danny runs out of gas. "Okay, this is a fucking disaster. Are you satisfied?" The way he's slumped over, head in hands, Steve saw that last week, hopes he never does again. "There is no decent place on this island for me to live. A thousand apartment buildings in this godforsaken town, and I'm going to have to live in the fucking homeless encampment where police officers -- like I used to be -- move a bunch of human misery from place to place like scum rolling on the ocean."

Danny's voice is so thin and brittle that Steve feels like crap, even though the crummy apartments weren't his fault. Those blue eyes look as vacant and sad as the places they just saw.

What can he say that'll make Danny cave?

"Danny, listen to me. I know a place that's big enough for you and Grace, too, and it's affordable. And I can assure you that the neighbors don't cook meth, or have more than four legs."

"Oh, yeah?" Danny looks like he wants to spit on him. "Why have you not mentioned this place before we saw what was under every rock in this damned city, Steven? Where is it, Hilo?"

Be casual, he warns himself. Don't fuck this up. "I could use some cash to fix up the house."

"What?" Danny's face twists from angry to baffled.

"I'm telling you I could use a roommate."

Danny's lips part, then his mouth thins into a blank line. His cold stare bores into Steve's eyes. Then he looks away and says, "That's not a possibility."

Steve ducks his head. "Why not? It's not like you work from home."

The double take is priceless. "Yeah, right. Are you fucking demented?" His voice rises abruptly. "Because it's standard for one of the top cops on the island to want a whore for a roommate."

"No, Danny," he says calmly. "I want you for a roommate." Steve didn't spend years digging out confessions for nothing. He's patient . . . when it's important enough. He waits a beat, then says, "It'd be nice to have some life in the house again, you know?"

Danny's suspicious look morphs into something softer. It warms Steve's gut and spreads liquid relief through his blood. "When you find a terrific deal, you can move out." He watches as the hundredweight of bricks slides from Danny's shoulders. "Besides, if you're painting anything, it might as well be my house."

"Okay, then." Danny is starting to smile a little, as if his anxiety is falling away. "Painting included, I'm paying seven hundred a month and not a penny more. And the first thing you do is buy a new water heater."

"Eight hundred, and nothing too girly. No pink, and no glittery shit." He's kidding. Grace can have whatever her heart desires. He wonders if the lot is big enough for a pony.

Danny's jaw drops. "How did you know I wanted glitter?"

God, he loves the sound of Danny's laugh.

 

^^^

 

Steve is so goddamn . . . beautiful. And he's so fucking close. Who knew that a man offering to help coach your daughter's softball team could flush all your common sense down the toilet? Danny should be making contacts, calling his regulars with his new number, getting his business life back on track. Instead, all he can do is watch Steve.

Steve, walking out of his bedroom in his birthday suit in the morning, sneaking into the bathroom as if any noise might disturb Danny's precious sleep. He would swear he saw the man avoiding the creaky floorboard that Danny already knows is there. Steve, waiting for the toilet to stop running before he opens the bathroom door and tiptoes down the stairs, towel in hand, still bare-assed as the day he was born.

Steve sleeps in the nude. Of course he does. Danny has figured out that he swims in the nude, as well. Every morning that knowledge flips Danny a boner he has to fix during his own morning shower. Sometimes he can't wait even that long, but he always makes sure Steve's safely out in the water. Danny is not about to chance jacking off in his borrowed bed and having Steve materialize upstairs while Danny's miles and weeks away, buried in Steve's ass in his carefully hoarded memories.

Sometimes he feels guilty about drooling like a fool over the guy who scraped him off the pavement a few minutes after his friends were murdered. He tries to tell himself they would have approved, even though it can't go anywhere. Callie was always trying to set him up with some guy she knew -- she was convinced he was queer as the day is long -- and Shandra egged Callie on. Bitch.

He misses Callie.

 

^^^

Fuck.

He couldn't have imagined how hard this would be. It was stupid. He was an idiot. What the hell was he thinking? He'd had some kind of fever dream where Danny really wanted him, despite everything, and would fall into his arms when he realized Steve was his soulmate, or some such absolute and utter shit. What was he smoking? The man won't even touch him. Like, at all.

Steve practically inveigled himself onto Danny's daughter's ball team, which could be just masochism, since he sits next to Danny during the games. When Danny gets excited he grabs Steve and shakes him, and it reminds Steve of other grabby things. They're things he wishes he did not think of at those moments, as well as how hard Danny's thigh is, how good he smells, and how great it is that he makes it to his kid's games.

But Danny doesn't grab Steve for any other things, and it's getting . . . strange.

At first Danny didn't seem to mind if Steve touched him. Nothing rude; he wouldn't do that to a man under his roof. But sometimes he can't stop himself from a little touch here and there, anything that has plausible deniability. Fixing his tie, settling his tac vest, moving him bodily away from the coffee maker. But Danny has started turning away from his touches, as if Steve's got cooties. Sometimes he even flinches a little, like a horse shuddering off a fly.

It makes Steve go cold inside.

He can't figure out Danny's deal. He doesn't know if the guy doesn't want to get close to him, personally, or if he never did want anything to do with men. Maybe it was just a job. He knows what Danny said. Danny called him beautiful; it's not like Steve will ever forget. That doesn't mean it was true. Even Danny couldn't get far in his business without a little sugar on top. Even Danny had to bend for some things.

There's a yell from the stairs. "You okay, there, Silver Surfer?"

He'd nearly choked himself on the mental image of Danny bending and then had to spit a mouthful of water onto the floor when he started laughing. "Nothing! I'm fine."

"Sure you don't want to share the joke?" Danny walks into the kitchen, giving him the evil eye.

"No, I really don't." Steve washes his cereal bowl.

"That's okay, nothing could really be as funny as your face in the morning. See, there it is. You're twitching."

"If I'm twitchy, it's because you're so annoying. You always get up this cheerful?"

"Always." Danny blinds him with a grin and moves away to the refrigerator.

Steve is making himself dizzy with his own thoughts.

 

^^^

 

It only took Danny two weeks to start thinking about forever. Not forever with Steve, of course, because that was out of the question. Even if Steve didn't bring the crazy in his own special way, thinking he can conquer crime through manic bullheadedness and enough firepower to run a military junta, there's that little problem of bisexuality. As in, apparently? He's not.

Maybe he really did get over it.

The man hasn't propositioned him. Hell, he hasn't taken a long look at him. He hasn't taken a long look at anybody, that Danny knows of. Everything's been so above-board that it's almost making Danny uncomfortable. Has Steve always been some kind of a monk? Is this how he used to live? No wonder he finally blew. Danny's been a little shocked by how businesslike he is with Chin and Kono, even though they're the only two people Steve really knows.

His dates with Danny were powered by nothing but overwhelming need and despair, and they happened because there wasn't anybody else, not because he finally got his gay on. Danny tries not to think about that, because it hurts like a bone-deep bruise that he keeps pegging on sharp corners by surprise.

Here, Danny's got a home, companionship, and a little bit of security even if it's only for a while. He hadn't known how terribly he missed that. His life has been hand-to-mouth the last couple of years, and while his bare apartment was what he had, it wasn't exactly everything he ever wanted. At first, he thought Steve would want something for all this; that had pissed him off royally. Then he realized that Steve was just being a good guy and wasn't asking for anything.

Now Danny wants to give him anything he wants. Fuck it, Danny just plain wants him.

He knew Tall, Dark and Neurotic had issues; he just didn't know the guy had a split personality. They fucking make meals together. Danny's seeing the less-crazy version of Steve, doing normal things like a normal person . . . normal things that two people do when they live together. Dishes. The laundry.

Danny's practically having an orgasm just folding warm socks right now. He remembers being married, and when it was good, it was the best. It's different when two people are comfortably in each other's space than when you're trying to get past the homeless man huddled by the wall at the coin laundry. There, the loneliness and despair seeps into you through your skin. Here, there's warmth and comfort.

None of his regulars can reach him. It's becoming too damned easy to forget. He wants to forget. He wants to stay here with this crazy, infuriating, beautiful man.

Danny is starting to think that maybe he doesn't know himself quite as well as he thought he did. It wasn't his goal in life to become a criminal and live outside society's boundaries. He had wanted what he had -- a wife, a daughter, a place in the world. Bright lights and big money never did it for him. The quiet of a Sunday morning breakfast and the promise of sharing a newspaper is far more tempting. He wants to be someone's partner, someone's home.

But this is not that partner, and Danny can't be that home. Steve is one of the most high-profile law enforcement officers Danny's ever seen. And he's still a member of the armed forces. Even if Steve wanted him . . . never mind how Danny made his money, the Y chromosome alone is enough to blow it all to hell.

All this time, he's been proud of what he did here. Not proud of selling his body, but proud in the knowledge that he'd conquered his circumstances and kept on being the father he needed to be. He'd never stopped to look at it from the outside -- he couldn't. Because this time, he couldn't bear the truth.

This is the truth: if they find out he's a street hustler, it'll be front page news. Steve will go down in flames, and Danny will be the reason. They'll both be destroyed. He won't even be able to fuck strangers for money -- every cop in town will know who he is. Not to mention Rachel. She'll know, too. The news won't go over well in that quarter. If he ever sees his daughter again, she'll be ashamed of him. She'll be ashamed that Danny Williams is her father.

That would kill him.

Chapter Text

"Yeah. Champ. That was what my dad called me." Steve doesn't even know why he's repeating himself. "So when I got into the garage, I found the toolbox that had the rest of the word missing. It was full of . . . stuff. A key and some letters, a postcard. It could have been mementos, but it wasn't. There was a tape of him, talking about what he'd been doing."

They're in the kitchen shooting the shit after dinner. They haven't cleared the table, which gnaws at his sense of cleanliness. It's a measure of his frustration that he's spilling what weighs so heavily on him these days. "A couple weeks later, a team broke in, tazed me, and stole it. They were pros. I photocopied some before that, but the rest is gone, and I don't know what to do any more."

"You?" Thick brows went up. "Those guys beat you up and stole your lunchbox? They must have been tough sons of bitches." At Steve's glare, Danny says, "Let me get this straight. You chased this scumbag down, you shot him, he comes back to life, he's on the loose -- and you don't tell your team you got a box full of clues? When did your brain get broken? They are your team!"

"Danny, they have lives of their own. They don't belong to me." He hears the thread of grief in his voice. His real team, well, that was a while ago, and look how that turned out. "I hear slavery got outlawed."

Nobody can blow a raspberry like a Jersey boy.

"Idiot. They care about you. They are loyal to you. They accepted me for you. And they're smart. They can help you figure this out. You know Chin sure as hell cared about your dad. I swear I do not understand you people. You, you're from another planet, I know that now."

Steve shrugs. "We, we don't talk about him."

"That's because you don't talk about important stuff! If human beings could see all the crap you stuff down inside, you'd be the size of the Empire State Building! How you can even move dragging this kind of baggage around I do not know!"

"I just... I don't even know how. And I don't really want to learn, okay? So just leave it. There's no way I'm going to put any of this on Chin and Kono." Steve starts to get up.

"That's it," bawls Danny. "I am done with this shit." He proclaims it with such finality that for a moment Steve thinks he's going to get up and walk out. He lands a flat-handed slap to the table that makes Steve jerk.

"I have ways of making you talk. You are talking. You will talk right now. You will tell me something about your dad right this minute. No waffling. No ifs, ands, or buts. Speak."

It's a command worthy of his first drill sergeant. It's the Daniel Williams Session One Non-Directive Counseling Method. Steve instinctively leans forward, adrenaline climbing, fight winning out over flight. "You push and you push and you push! What do you want from me? I'll tell you a few goddamn truths, and we'll see how much you like it!" He glares at his tormentor. "But at least I deserve a beer first."

A hand tugs at the stiff blond hair. "I'd be better off with sodium pentothal."

He smiles wryly. "We're trained to resist it."

"Okay, fine," says Danny grudgingly. "No, sit down! You sit! You do not leave this table." He gets up and pulls a mystery bottle out of the far cupboard. Steve hadn't even known it was there. "I'm not a cruel man, you know."

Steve rolls his eyes in what he thinks is a pretty good imitation of Danny and very nearly grabs the glass out of his hand. He downs the finger of Scotch before the man can stop him.

"That's sipping whiskey!"

"Not tonight."

They sit there for a couple minutes, Steve on his second and Danny tasting his first, while Steve gathers his thoughts. They're slippery as hell. When he's got one in his grasp, he starts to talk. Why not give the man what he wants?

"My dad was . . . he loved Mom. I never heard him tell her, but I could see it on him when they were together like it was clothes. It was different with us, though. He wanted the best for us, and he was tough. I think it really hurt Mary."

"It hurts when you think your dad doesn't love you."

Steve wants to say it's not about him, he was never like that, never wished or wanted, but he can't get the words out, so he takes another sip. "Danny, I know how I feel. I'm not stupid, no matter what you think. It's just that I don't want to think about it. I sure as hell don't want anybody else to know. That's how you survive doing intelligence work."

"You're not intelligent any more. So spit it out." Danny's implacable. "I won't tell anybody. I will keep your secrets."

"Fuck it, then." Suddenly Steve's banging his empty glass on the table, leaning over and yelling in Danny's face. "I hated him, okay? Sometimes I hated him." He backs off, but the age-old anger is bubbling out and he can't seem to stop it. "Nothing was ever good enough. Nothing I did could satisfy him. I was a fucking football hero and he never once came to a game to watch me play."

His body feels like it's one huge muscle cramp, and it shows in the snarl. "I heard him say nice things on that goddamned tape he left in the toolbox, all, 'I love you both so much,' and, 'It killed me to give up my kids,' and you know how much that made it all better? Not. One. Iota." He's hoarse now, lungs squeezed tight. "I needed to hear it when I was six, twelve, before he kicked our asses out of the house!"

He subsides again, distantly aghast at what's come out of his mouth, but determined to do this anyway. "Mary, she's spent her whole life trying to get over it with drugs and booze and crazy shit, and she didn't have any way to make it better. I love her." His voice goes up half an octave. "Why didn't he love her, too? She was a great kid, my little sister. And he did that to her."

Steve watches as Danny picks up the bottle, examines it, but very little is gone. He's drunk on anger, not expensive liquor. To his surprise, Danny leans in and covers Steve's shaking hand with one of his own. "Yeah. Me, too. I love my sisters. Yeah, I get that."

Steve looks at him, unblinking. "I hate him." He's never said that to anyone, and it feels good. It feels . . . big. "I hate him." Then, just that fast, his towering anger collapses, foaming into confusion. "But he was my dad. He was a good man. He did good things."

"Yeah, he did. But he screwed up, too. It's okay to be angry and proud both."

His head hurts and he feels like he's scraped raw. "It's too hard."

"Eh, only family can make you truly nuts."

"Philosophy, no less." Steve tries to pull the corners of his mouth up. It almost works. "Family? Is that how I turned out like this?"

"Either that or being dropped off a bridge without your bungee cord. I don't want to theorize without all the facts here, babe."

A breath forces its way out of his chest. "It doesn't matter. None of it matters. I still have to find the men who brought him down."

"Yeah, you do. He was your dad."

"Okay. Okay." Suddenly Steve's hanging limp in his chair, back where he started. There's a hollow ache under his ribs where that truth festered for years. He puked out half a lifetime's worth of seething anger in thirty seconds, and it hasn't changed anything. Except there's a warm hand on his shoulder and one pulling him out of the chair. There's someone with him who understands something about Jack McGarrett -- something nobody else ever knew except him and Mary.

For some reason, right now it doesn't seem as much like his own fault.

"Steven, listen to me. I will help you do this thing. Unless and until we end up national news for you consorting with a prostitute, I will help you find the people who did this. But even the two of us can't do it alone. We need your team."

"Okay."

Danny pours them each another drink. Now he can better appreciate the golden goodness as he sucks it across his tongue.

"Cubs against the Brewers?" Danny's already headed toward the living room, dragging Steve by the hand.

"I'm willing to watch the Cubs get slaughtered, and drink more of your Scotch."

"Bite your tongue! They're not the Yankees --"

"Nobody should be the Yankees."

"Ah, Commander McGarrett, so much knowledge and so little understanding. You are so very wrong, as usual."

Then they're on the couch and into the game and it's okay. Good. It's good.

 

^^^

"Good work, brah."

"Thanks, Chin. You, too."

Danny had put the final piece in place on the Kampau investigation, and all that was left after rounding the bastards up at the warehouse was paperwork. For a change, they'd gone down without a shot fired -- once they were surrounded by Five-0 and the SWAT team. Danny's missed this so much, the pride in his work, being a part of a team. Being part of something bigger and better.

Too bad it's temporary.

There is way too much at stake here. He's so damned tired of living on the edge. He tries to think back. Did he feel like this as a beat cop in Elizabeth, a down and dirty city where some scumbag tried to shoot or stab him every other week? He had everything to lose then, too. But somehow, it hadn't felt anything like how fragile his life is since he got shot.

He and Steve, two men drowning, taking turns throwing each other lifelines. It's enough make a cat laugh, as his old granny used to say.

Granted, Steve is a little too masculine and a lot too messed up for his rosy visions of home and family, but the feeling is there. The peace. The reliance on one another. The partnership. Danny likes the beers on the lanai and the quiet give and take of cooking together. He likes knowing that Steve's been in the shower before him, likes the light drift of Irish Spring.

Although from the way the guy acts, no stranger would ever imagine they'd had some of the most intense sex of Danny's oversexed life. And Steve's . . . what? Just a normal straight military guy? Can that even be possible? Danny needs to get out before he falls even further.

Those things keep Danny on the ever-sharpening edge. He always knew he'd be in trouble after Steve; he just hadn't known how much. This is too dangerous for both of them. He should never have agreed to stay. He has no idea how he can bear to leave.

 

^^^

It's a beautiful day on the diamond with Grace's Junior Girls' Fast Pitch team.

"Way to play, ladies! You were really thinking like a team out there!"

"Thanks, Coach Steve," says Gloria. "It's easier that way, with everybody doing their job."

Jesus, out of the mouths of babes. Maybe Danny had it right all the time. Of course, Steve wasn't Chin and Kono's job.

Danny comes jogging up, and Steve notices his knee isn't bothering him today. Must be all that time NOT getting down on his knees.

"How come you figured it out for a bunch of little girls whacking a ball around but conveniently forgot it for yourself, huh, McGarrett?"

"Don't be such a buzzkill." He knows the fond look that rests on his friend is too revealing, but he can't help it. "We're out here having fun, and now we're going to go get treats."

"I'm just sayin'."

"Stick a shave ice in it." Honestly, he can't think about anything serious right now, much less his meltdown the other night. Being around the kids makes him feel . . . free. It's as if they spread innocence and happiness all around them, no matter what their own moods. "Let's have something sweet and give everything else a rest."

Danny subsides and examines him closely. "You really like this, don't you?"

Steve shrugs and half-grins. "It's fine, it's okay, don't make a big deal out of it." But he thinks it must show, the way he feels when he's out here with the girls . . . out here with Danny.

When he played football, it was all about the win. The football field was awash in his teenage anger, the thrill of victory and, of course, the agony of defeat. Here, there was no taunting and no misery, just fun in the sun and sheer high spirits. These girls didn't seem to feel the need to trash talk each other like boys. They didn't get steamed about losing. Hell, sometimes they even yelled encouragement to players on the opposing teams.

He likes to help the girls out, correct a stance or grip. But this kind of play is something he's never experienced. It's . . . nice. Fun.

Two fingers go in Danny's mouth as he wolf-whistles at the moms bent over gear bags. They straighten as Danny and Steve approach. "There's the muscle. It's all yours, boys," says Maria. They give in gracefully and hoist the bags.

Danny grunts as he lifts a bag into the back end of an old GMC Jimmy. "Would you two mind driving the ravening horde to the shave ice stand? You've got the perfect Mommy Mobiles, and the girls won't fit in my --"

"Silver penis extension," Nalani says. Then she laughs at Danny's frantic hissing and his "Shut up!" motions.

"My innocent ears!" he protests, and damned if they're not turning red.

It's too cute. Steve can't resist. "Aw, look, he's blushing." Then he leans in toward Danny, eyes still on the laughing women, and stage-whispers,"Hey! You told me it was a car! I've been driving your...!"

"That's enough out of you." Danny's even redder now. "Just for that -- hey, everybody, treats are on Steve!"

^^^

The end of the season. There's a lot of satisfaction in seeing his daughter successfully navigate her world, even if it's only on the ball field.

For the first time today, Danny plops his ass into one of Steve's inordinately large living room chairs. McGarrett The Elder at least went for comfort, although Danny isn't sure La-Z-Boys still exist in the real world. His mother's lasagna is in the oven in the two huge pans he had to buy yesterday. With dogs and burgers to grill, there's enough to feed the small horde of girls who can each put away as much chow as Steve.

They personify the old Hawaiian adage, "Don't eat until you're full. Eat until you're tired."

Danny is willing to bet that all the parents together won't eat as much as the girls. Of course Stan and Rachel, who are in California today, would be taking Grace and her friends to a fancy restaurant, but Danny still wins -- "his" house is right on the beach. Stan and Rachel's mansion isn't. That's gratification no amount of money can buy.

Extra glad for Steve's central air, he already set the timer to remind him to chop the veggies. Just because it's a party doesn't mean Danny's going to skimp on his daughter's vitamins.

Outside, the good times roll. Steve's up on the raft with a couple dads, tossing girls into the water. They need to work off the crazy energy still clinging from their successful run at the trophy, which they'd brought with them and placed in a shrine of honor on top of the giant grill. It's got glowing leis piled up around it. The other parents are lounging and swimming, and Cheri and Mahina's moms seemed happy to help him put the lasagnas together.

Even Chin and Kono stopped by with congratulations, and they're having a spirited discussion with a mom about the perfect burger over a brace of beers. He'd been surprised and pleased when Kono hugged him and gave him a peck on the cheek. "You're one good dad, brah."

"Thanks." Her praise truly warmed him.

Having an athletic girl was nothing Danny ever expected. Grace was growing up into Rachel's delicate looks and Danny's physical power, which makes him think it could lead to an athletic scholarship in the future. In fact, he wouldn't be surprised if a couple of those girls went on to the Junior Olympics. They're just that good. He knows what he's looking at, and he's managed to make almost every game. Of course, that had been easier when he worked nights.

He's about to lever himself on up and join the fun when he hears Lehua ask, "Is Steve your other dad?" He hadn't heard them come up onto the lanai. Wow, the French doors are completely worthless. And they can't see him; Chairy keeps him out of sight. There's a pause for Grace's unseen eyeroll – who did she get that from? -- and then Lehua says, "Okay, your other other dad."

Another pause. In Danny's head, Grace is rubbing her chin with her thumb. "I don't know. I think he likes my dad. But I don't know if Danno likes him."

"I hope so," says Lehua. "With a few extra dads and moms, the birthday presents rock the house." The two girls explode into a fit of giggles – how he loves that sound – bang open the doors, stampede past his chair without a backward glance, and head toward the bathroom.

Danny slides outside, closing the doors silently behind him.

Later, after all the food and kids are gone and they're both ignoring the fact that the kitchen needs a bulldozer, he's glad to relax in the pleasant evening breeze. Everything's going his way. His daughter's happier than she's been in a long time, and so is Danny.

It's been a long but satisfying Hawaiian week of putting scum behind bars, a combination Danny never thought he'd be able to experience in this lifetime. It's made that much better by the last shards of setting sun slashing through a bottle of Golden Ale. Life is good, right here and right now, and it's because of the man sitting next to him.

Steve's been a good friend, and if there can be anything more . . . Danny's been sharing space with him, watching and learning and wanting, long enough to take a chance. The temptation is too much. Steve can't be Mr. Right, there's nobody like that for Danny any more, but maybe he can be Mr. Right Now. Steve was good with getting a blowjob before. Maybe he still is. "You and me, we're comfortable with each other, right?"

There's a grunt, and Steve reaches over to click their beer bottles without actually moving any other part of his body. It could be that they're sitting just that close.

"Living here has been great for me. I really appreciate it."

Steve shrugs and smiles out at the ocean.

"No, I mean it."

He's not drunk. He's not. It's just that when the shadows roll up from the water and cover them both, they make a place for secrets, and Danny and Steve both have plenty. Sometimes secrets want to roam free.

Danny sets his bottle down and slides off his chair. Carefully he kneels in front of Steve, who's already open-mouthed and ready to say who knows what, but Danny's got to get his in first. He slides his hands up the coarse hair on those rock-hard thighs to the hem of the shorts and says, "I'd love to --"

"No!" Steve stands up fast enough and unsteady enough to knock Danny on his ass. He's staring, eyes wide, in a not entirely flattering way. It's not the look Danny was hoping for.

"What the hell --"

"Do not do this to me, Danny. Just . . . don't."

"Are you some kind of hypocrite? You liked it well enough before!"

"No. That's not what I'm about, Danny." Sand crunches under his Tevas; he turns on his heel and he's out of there before Danny can even think about getting up. Forty seconds later he hears the rumble of the truck as it backs out of the driveway.

Even then, he doesn't get up. He only got pushed a foot or so, but it's far enough back to give him a clearer view. It's a clear line of sight to the paint peeling on the shabby life he built out of desperation and spit. The scum of the earth isn't just out there. It's right here. Well, fuck anyone who thinks he can make Danny Williams feel like that.

He grunts out a pathetic little laugh. He tried, and Steve all but ran off screaming.

He doesn't want to remember exactly how it felt to have Lt. Commander Steven McGarrett fall apart under his hands, with his dick up Steve's ass. Even worse is the memory of how it felt to have that much power over someone like Steve, to be the one who could take him and keep him safe. He badly wants to forget how connected he'd felt then. It was only a glowing vision hung over hills of dry sand.

His street friends had tried to warn him. He had shelved it as good advice that didn't pertain to him. What did he care? There was no one in his eyes except Grace.

Danny has never been a man who could ignore the truth, or twist it into something else. His singleminded insistence on The Truth lost him his job security in LA in the first place. And that big old 'never' lasted only until he needed something bad enough. Until he needed the money. Then he threw away everything he'd ever been and became a criminal. Not a bank robber or a stock broker, either, but the pathetic kind of crime that means you're on the ladder's lowest rung.

Christ Almighty. What was he -- how did he ever think he was going to win the shining hometown hero, no matter how fucked up? It hasn't escaped Danny's notice that Chin Ho and Kono seem to have Superman on some kind of pedestal, while Steve treats them like a very effective and competent means to an end. It hadn't seemed like the same thing was going on at home -- fuck, home.

This is not his home. Danny just got served. His living here is an act of charity, plus Steve's got an extra cop on the case. Steve wants him for his detective ability, only for his mind, and isn't that a kick in the pants?

For the first time in a hell of a long time, Danny wants to make love with someone. Because Danny was always a sexual being, perfectly content in his skin; he's a physical lover. He prefers to show and tell. For once, he wants to be wanted for his body, and it's a no go.

It's so fucking wrong he can't even make it line up in his brain. His head hurts. His chest hurts. The irony is sickening. Or maybe that's the pain in his knee as he tries to heave himself off the sand. Shit, maybe Danny should offer to pay Steve. As he tries to imagine Steve's expression, Danny grins and it loosens up something in his gut a little. Not much, but at least it's enough for him to breathe, straighten up and walk back into the house.

Steve is gone, so Danny puts his empty bottle into the recycling and slowly pulls himself upstairs. He's been burying himself like a tick in Steve's side, never realizing that it wasn't going to last even a few more days. He's been putting off finding a place, but now it's necessary. He's got to get out. There's nothing to stay in this house for besides a lot of heartache.

He brushes his teeth, takes a handful of whatever over-the-counter pain reliever Steve's dad left in the cabinet and goes to bed. He'll make his plans in the morning. No, wait, tomorrow morning is Siria's funeral. He didn't forget. He just didn't want to think about it today. Tomorrow was going to be bad enough unto itself. And now he had even more ground to cover.

He falls asleep under something invisible that feels like it's crushing him.

 

^^^

That absolute fucker. Throwing right in his face everything Steve wanted so badly, at the end of a day that was so . . . good. There was just something about Danny's daughter that called to him, as if by being near her he could have all the good things she had. Of course, he thinks, the best good thing she's got is Danny. He shakes his head as his fingers try to leave dents in the steering wheel. What an idiot he is.

It wasn't bad enough that he tricked Danny into coming home with him. No, then he had to hope in his heart that Danny would stay. Because he wants to be with Steve. Because that happens in the real world.

His whole body aches. He wanted to believe Danny stayed here for him, not for the other stuff -- like a real job that's always been the second most important thing in his life. Okay, there had to be some kind of carrot, but Steve was more than willing to pretend it wasn't hanging in Danny's vision.

Then Danny wants to hand over his goddamn body as a thank-you card. Steve tries to clear his throat. It doesn't work. "Living here has been great for me. I really appreciate it." Oh, hell, yeah, and he'll show his appreciation in the currency he uses with his customers.

All the longing, all the glances he tried so hard not to take. How much he wanted to laugh with Danny, to take care of his daughter with him, to go for runs on the beach, to lean over the same file and figure out the mysteries together . . . to go home to the same house together and fall into bed after cooking a meal. Together.

He wants so much, too much. He's always wanted too much. Again and again, and he never learns. Danny's not there with him, not even a little bit. Danny's doing his own thing.

Steve's all alone in this, just out here alone, wanting. He wishes he could walk out of his own house and not come back. Fuck, there's no law against it. But he's an officer and a gentleman, despite whatever's choking him right now. He took on responsibilities and he'll see them through.

Whatever it takes.

If the only part of Danny he can have, the only part he can let himself want, is his partnership at the Five-0, he'll do that. His determination's kept him alive all these years, and it'll keep him alive through this. If Steve can work with that agile mind and that evil sense of humor, it will be enough. All he needs to do is make sure Danny doesn't leave.

If he'd known that one act of insanity in a scuzzy motel room . . . if only he'd just punched Danny and walked out. No, not that. He just wishes he'd been stronger that weekend. That he'd never called "Ray."

Or maybe that he'd never left him.

 

^^^

 

The call comes in not three hours after Danny finally fell asleep. At first, he doesn't recognize Kamekona's voice booming over the tinny sound of ukuleles and laughter.

"Danny, howzit? I got sumtin' of yours down here. Come get it, eh?"

"K, man, what are you talking about? Why the hell are you calling me at . . ." he squints at the ancient digital clock beside the bed. "2:40 a.m.?"

Kamekona's laughter rumbles softly in his ear. "Because I missed you, Manhaole, whadja think? McGarrett's down here, so drunk he's lolo. He's talkin' 'bout his feelings, brah. You gotta do sumtin'."

"Why me?" Danny aska the heavens, even as he drags on some jeans and gropes for a t-shirt. Kamekona answers him literally.

"Because he come in an' ask me for 'someone like Ray,' Danny."

Danny figures he could be forgiven for dropping the phone. He takes advantage of the moment and pulls on his shirt before picking it back up again.

"Shit. Okay, is there anyone there who might . . ." Danny doesn't even know how to ask what he wants to know. Kamekona answers him anyway.

"Tomaso is here but he's with someone. No worries der. But Danny, come down to get him quick, eh?"

"I'm on my way."

"Da kine, brah," Kamekona says cheerfully, then hangs up before Danny can even register that K knows he lives with Steve.

It's just after three when Danny walks into Mako's bar. Kamekona was behind the bar, polishing clean glasses like every bartender in every movie or TV show Danny ever saw. He makes a crazy eyebrow show toward the left, so Danny follows his gaze to the end of the bar. Steve's tucked into one corner of the bar, leaning against the cheap rush matting covering the wall.

As Danny comes up behind him, he can hear Steve talking. He's not slurring his words. He speaks clearly and distinctly to the beer rings on the bar in front of him.

"I didn't ask for this, you know. I was happy the way I was."

"No, you weren't, brah." K's eyes are on Danny. Something in them tells Danny to wait, to stay quiet and listen.

"OK, I wasn't," Steve admits. "But I was used to it. Then you sent me Ray and it all got complicated."

"I know, brah, I'm sorry. Jes' wanted to make you feel better," Kamekona says gently.

Steve shrugs and slumps a little more deeply into the wall. "You sure you don't know anybody else like Ray?"

"Nah, Steve, there ain't anyone else like him. Besides, I thought you got Danny now."

Danny tries killing K with his glare, but his friend thumbs Danny's attention back to Steve, who's methodically tearing a soaked bar napkin into tiny even pieces.

"Nope, I don't. Danny doesn't really want me, and I can't find Ray." He sounded so lost, so forlorn that Danny had to break in, had to say something to stop this.

"Ray is a figment of your imagination, you oversized asshole. Ray does not exist. He is a non-person. There's only me. Danny Williams. Remember me? I live in your fucking house?"

Steve rolled his head against the wall to look at Danny. "Yeah, but you don't wanna be there. Don't wanna be my partner."

"Steve, I can't be your partner. I've explained it to you."

Steve shakes his head sadly and nearly rolls off his stool.

"Jesus, how much has he had?" Danny demands and whistles when Kamekona slides the bill across the bar. He doesn't have that much cash, so he sinks to patting McGarrett down for his wallet. Which he doesn't have.

K grins at him when he comes up empty; suddenly he's coping with a drunk Steve McGarrett wrapped around his neck, half-hanging off him. Steve's breath is silvery with high-end vodka, which makes Danny wonder if he can get drunk on fumes alone.

"S'ok, Danny. He can owe."

"Thanks, my brother."

Danny wraps an arm around McGarrett's skinny waist and steers him out to the car. Steve, weirdly docile, allows Danny to arrange his long limbs into the passenger seat even as he watches with glassy-alert eyes.

"Why don't you want me, Danny?"

"Steve, I am not talking about this now." Danny's a little ashamed to be using one of Rachel's tried and true tactics, but it's after three am; he hasn't got much brain power at this time of night.

"You don' want me," Steve insists.

"What the hell are you talking about, Steve? Who offered a blowjob to whom tonight and got tossed on his ass?" Danny can't help that his words hiss out from between his clenched teeth. "And which of us went tearing out of the house like his machismo was on fire? Here's a hint: it was you, princess."

Steve is picking at a miniscule hole in the knee of his cargoes with his thumbnail. His eyes fix on it stubbornly. "That was just sex, didn't mean anything. Paint job, blow job, whatever. It's all . . . you were paying the rent. And I don't wanna be that guy, Danny."

"What guy, Steve?" Danny really wishes he had a McGarrett-to-English dictionary, one with a special section for 'drunk.'

"Your landlord. I don' wanna be him. I wanna be. . ." he trails off, staring out the window.

"Who, Steve? Who you want to be?" Danny asks softly. Steve's face reflects in the window, flickering in and out as they pass streetlights. Steve's face twists as if he's being tortured. From what Danny knows of his emotional state, that likely isn't too far from the truth. But he stubbornly stares out at the dark streets without a word.

When they get back, he tries to make it out of the car and up the walk by himself, but lists so badly to one side that Danny just ignores his grumbling complaints, grabs an arm and a waist and starts hauling. He gets Steve inside and up the stairs, nearly coming to grief at the corner before getting a better grip and manhandling him into the bathroom.

Pointing to the toilet, Danny orders, "Piss."

He's actually sort of amazed that Steve does as commanded, even as Danny paws around the medicine cabinet looking for the aspirin. John McGarrett, man of a bygone era. He finds it just as Steve flushes, zips, and lurches to the sink to clumsily wash his hands. Danny's about to award him Neatest Drunk Of The Year when Steve looks around, confused, then dries his hands on his own shirt.

Danny just sighs, handing him four aspirin with a glass of water. "Drink."

When it's all gone, Danny fills the glass again and makes him swallow that one, too. With luck, some hydration might ease the killer hangover Steve will be suffering in the morning.

He steers his charge into the bedroom, more than a little creeped out by Steve's passivity. Undressing a hot hunk is one thing; undressing a hot drunk with a miserable thousand yard stare is something else entirely.
Steve's stripped down to boxer briefs and tucked under the covers when his hand suddenly lashes up and wraps around Danny's wrist.

"I don't want to be just your landlord, Danny, or just your boss. I want to be your lover, okay? There, I said it. Is that what you wanted to hear? You walk around this place half naked, like it's a frat house, and you expect me not to notice? Are you trying to make me lose my mind?"

Steve lives in a liquor time machine. He was back to the conversation in the car. His eyes burned fever-bright at Danny, willing him to get it, to agree, to be who Steve wants him to be. Steve's hand twisted. Now he had Danny's wrist and Danny had his. They were locked together in an age-old gesture. "I wanna be your partner."

Danny didn't know what to say. He probably wouldn't know what to say if he had all day to think of a response. When he remained silent, Steve's hand dropped away and he turned to face the wall. There was no reply to Danny's quiet, "Good night."

Chapter Text

The next morning, Danny has knotted his tie and left the silent house by eight. Steve is still asleep, snoring like an asthmatic cocker spaniel. Danny thought Steve had intended to go, too, but he is clearly not going anywhere. Danny sets another big glass of water and the bottle of aspirin right beside the bed.

He picks Audrey up at the door of her condo, escorting her down to the car and seating her as if she were a duchess. There is something fragile about her this morning; her makeup doesn't quite cover the signs of her grief. He realizes, as he hands her out of the car at the mortuary, that for the first time since he's known her, she looks her age.

There is a small crowd of Siria's friends, fewer than she deserved but more than Danny had feared. Peter Yorenko is in the back, staring at his shoes and dripping tears. A small group of clean-scrubbed young men in earnest cheap suits are seated around him, presumably his friends there to give him moral support. He sees no one else from the Church of the Bitter Fig, for which he is grateful.

There is a tastefully simple urn on a palm-leaved table at the front of the small chapel. A framed photo of Siria rests beside it: her head shot from her brief acting career. Danny seats Audrey in the front row before the minister's lectern and then slides into place beside her. The minister, a gray-haired Asian lady wearing a hand-woven rainbow stole, is shuffling her note cards. She settles her glasses more firmly on her nose as someone slips into the seat on the other side of Audrey. Danny leans forward to greet or snarl at them, depending on what he thinks Audrey needs.

Instead, he blinks as Steve McGarrett settles himself neatly, his hat on his lap and all the buttons and medals on his dress uniform polished to a high shine. Steve slants one look sideways at Danny, nods once, then smiles at Audrey and takes her hand. He looks pretty pale and there are dark smudges beneath his eyes, but otherwise, no sign that he spent last night swimming in vodka and angst. And he is here, right now. Danny has the strangest urge to smile, too, as he takes Audrey's other gloved hand in his and lifts his face toward the minister, who has begun to speak.

After the funeral and interment, Audrey invites a small collection of friends back to her apartment. Danny hands over Steve's keys without comment and the three ride in silence back to her place. When they get there, Danny takes Audrey's wrap and Steve seats her on the couch. Audrey's expert staff has finger sandwiches and coffee ready before the doorbell has even rung. Danny takes one look at Audrey's wan face and pale lips and fixes her a plate of food, then shoves a cup of black coffee into Steve's hands and goes to man the door in Audrey's place.

A stream of lovely, poised young women with older and obviously wealthy men -- and a few oddballs who fit into neither category -- later, Danny is just thinking of getting himself a finger sandwich or two when his ex-wife and daughter walk in.

"Danno!"

As he is mechanically bending to scoop up Grace, Rachel walks through the door and looks bemusedly at all the people gossiping around her.

"Daniel? What are you doing here?"

Danny wishes he'd had more sleep. He can't think of anything intelligent to say. He just buries his face in Grace's neck and blows a raspberry into her skin, making her giggle. Then Steve and Audrey are there.

"I asked Daniel to be my escort this morning, dear," Audrey says, exchanging cool cheek kisses with her niece.

"Hi, Aunty Audrey," Grace cries and slides down to hug her great aunt. Then she throws her arms around Steve's waist in greeting, too. The flabbergasted look on his face cheers Danny up. It's almost enough to make up for the fact that he just sat through his friend's funeral on less than four hours of sleep due to McGarrett and his issues. Grace's high-pitched greeting causes a tiny muscle beside Steve's right eye to twitch.

"I'm so sorry I forgot that you and Grace were coming for luncheon this afternoon, Rachel," Audrey says. "We were burying a friend this morning and it went completely out of my head." She turns to Grace and gestures toward the buffet. "Why don't you go get something to munch on, Grace, dear?"

Grace, who has a healthy appetite, needs no further invitation. Rachel, however, remains standing, looking consideringly at the three of them, although her gaze rests longest on Steve.

He holds his hand out to Rachel and introduces himself.

"Lt. Commander Steve McGarrett, ma'am. I'm Danny's partner on the Governor's Five-0 task force."

"Daniel! How wonderful! I didn't realize that you had changed jobs. I've heard so much about the task force's work these past few months."

"I …" is as much as Danny manages. All the possible ways he intends to kill Steven J. McGarrett short-circuit his ability to speak like a rational human being.

Rachel is looking sincerely impressed. "You were the ones who caught that awful minister who was murdering prostitutes, correct?"

"Yes, ma'am," Steve says. "We couldn't have done it without Danny. He's the one who really put the pieces together on this case."

"I'm so glad that you're back in law enforcement, Daniel. For all the times I complained about the job, it's what you were born to do," Rachel says in a heartbreakingly earnest voice and Danny wants to bang his head on the wall.

Then he wants to bang Steve's head when he says, "I couldn't agree more, Mrs. Edwards. I know you'll be hearing more about Danny's work from now on." The curl at the corner of Steve's mouth is an incentive to homicide, in Danny's not-so-humble opinion. Audrey must suspect something, or perhaps she merely notices that Danny is fast turning puce, because she takes Rachel's arm and walks away a few steps. Danny rounds on Steve in a heartbeat.

"What the hell are you trying to pull, Steve? I am not a member of Five-0, and you know it."

"Yes, you are, Danny. You're the only one who doesn't see it yet. This is what you're meant to be doing, and you know it. Just say yes."

McGarrett thinks he's so damned clever, manipulating Danny into taking the job that he cannot possibly take. Bastard. Danny shoves the anger down and promises that he will let himself blow up as soon as there are no witnesses. He settles for growling, "No! Dammit, how am I supposed to send my kid to private school on a state cop's salary?"

"Oh, Daniel, I meant to speak to you about that." Rachel is suddenly back beside him and he lowers his arms from where he has been waving them at Steve.

"Yes?" he inquires through gritted teeth. The deceptively mild syllable is almost enough cover for the aneurysm Danny's going to have in five minutes.

"Grace has been asking if she can switch schools and attend the public school that her friends from the softball team go to. Stan and I have looked into it, and it has reasonably high test scores. What do you think?"

"No, absolutely not," is what comes out of his mouth and really, is he nuts? It's not like he wouldn't love to save eighteen grand a year, plus uniform fees. He went to public school, hell, his Mom is a public school teacher. He's all for the democratic ideal of public education. But…

"I thought you didn't want her slumming with the--"

"Hey, watch it!" Steve says mildly. "Some of us did just fine with a public school education here."

"You did yourself, Daniel."

Now everyone is looking at him as if they have to humor the crazy person and talk some sense into him. "Why does Grace want to switch schools?"

"She says she's tired of dealing with the – how did she put it? – 'the snot-nosed silver-spooners.'" The arch of her eye-brow tells him that she knows exactly where his daughter got that phrase.

Damn, he'd thought Grace was asleep for that rant.

"You know what it's like to feel out of place, Daniel," Rachel reminds him. He hasn't seen that big-eyed kitten look in a few years, and it's like a worm twisting in his gut.

Grace chips in seriously from behind Rachel, "The kids at school call me Haole-Girl or Rich Bitch."

Steve mutters, "That's priceless, coming from kids who attend the Haole Rich Kids' School."

"The girls on my softball team don't call me that. They all go to the same school and want me to come, too. Can I?"

"They seemed like sweet girls," Rachel assures him. Like he hasn't been to every game while she was off getting her hair and nails done.

Danny knows what it's like to feel out of place. He knows what it's like to be judged for what he does or doesn't do, for what money he has or doesn't. He gets it. He gets the allure of people who accept you just the way you are. Kamekona, Kono, Chin and especially Steve have done that for him.

How can he deny her that?

And the truth is, Danny never wanted his little girl to be a spoiled rich kid. He doesn't think she'd ever be like that, but in her circumstances, the next couple years could make or break her. He doesn't want her broken.

He also doesn't want to have to excavate to find the incredible person he's fathered under a bunch of twisted entitlement issues.

"Honey, of course you can go to school wherever you want to. I just -- you deserve to be happy where you are."

When the words come out of his mouth, it's like a light goes on. His daughter . . . and maybe him, too.

Steve's beaming a soft half-smile down to where Danny's crouched next to Grace. Refusing to look at that silly and much too appealing face, Danny says, "Okay, that's settled."

Grace says, "Thank you, Danno!" and throws her arms around his neck. He obliges by standing up, letting her do the monkey-swing off his bicep. There is some more conversation amongst the grown-ups, but Danny is trying hard to keep from detonating at the sight of Steve McGarrett's so-happy grin. He's been arranging Danny's life since the first moment. Now he seems to think he has him exactly where he wants him, and it's pissing Danny off something fierce. The stupid bastard doesn't seem to get that Danny is trying to protect him.

Danny manages to keep it all bottled up on the drive home. He even manages to get through the front door, flinging his suit jacket onto a chair while Steve carefully hangs up his uniform jacket.

As Steve turns to face Danny, all of the anger and all of the longing and all of his sheer pissed-offedness about last night's stupid scene surge to the surface and break free. Up come his hands and he slams Steve back against the door. Then he's shoving his face into McGarrett's and . . . not yelling, because when did that ever do him any good? He is kissing him. They kiss until they're both oxygen-starved and panting. When he pulls back, he knows that he looks shocked, he can feel it on his face, but Steve, Steve looks wrecked. The man's wild-eyed. Then they are both scrabbling at one another's clothes, twisting and tearing at each other.

"Fucking -- I hate you for this," says Danny, but he doesn't stop digging at the front of Steve's shirt. "Are you trying to make me crazy?"

"What?" Steve pants. "You mean you didn't start that way?" Somewhere in there are the words you bastard. "I have done nothing but try to be your friend!" Steve grunts as he pushes Danny away, but it's only to grab at the tail of Danny's shirt and try to drag the thing over his head.

Danny twists away. "You sure have a damned funny way of showing it, my friend." Danny drags his own tee shirt off and tosses it away. "You co-opt me onto your damned team, drag me here when my place burns down, and you don't let me leave. Don't think I don't know who got my Camaro towed!"

"And I paid to get it back. It's right outside the door where you left it, so just get in it and go!"

Yeah, like anyone is going anywhere. Steve is still massively hung-over, Danny is nearly trembling with rage and he can't think of anything else to do but…

He reaches out and hooks a hand around the nape of Steve's neck, then drags him down for more kissing. It's hard and mean around the edges; it's been a long time, and this has been building since the minute they met. No more disguises. No more roles to play. No time to be careful or gentle or understanding of limits. There are no more limits between them. There can't be. They did that already, and look where it got them.

Well, here.

Here is a wild, singing place where their blood thunders in their ears and their hands burn as they run them across each other's bodes.

 

^^^

Steve spins them and Danny's head smacks the wall. Somehow it seemed natural to back Danny toward the wall and give him an extra shove. Because he knows Danny can handle what he can dish out. Danny is tough and strong and smart and both of them know what they want. Steve never thought he could have this. He never thought he'd find a partner who can take everything Steve has within and someone who can help him out.

Danny is his partner. And after tonight, even Danny's going to know it.

He pins Danny against the wall with a kiss and runs a thumb down the damp cords of his neck. Steve's fingers lock tight at the nape, hairs crushed under his palm. He grips Danny's throat in his hand for a moment, feels his pulse drumming beneath his fingers, Danny's breath humming against his palm as he tightens his hand. Danny just stares at him, unafraid, eyes heated and ready.

"You gonna fuck me or choke me?"

"Why not both?" The words are out of Steve's mouth before his brain can barricade them back behind his teeth. But Danny's laugh vibrates under his hand. He reaches out and grabs Steve's hips and drags him in close, which forces Steve's elbow to bend and loosens his grip on Danny's throat. That's okay - he can steal Danny's breath another way.

They stand there panting, crotches grinding into each other, and Steve can feel the slow smile tease on his lips. Before he's even really thought about it, he's bending his head and nuzzling beneath Danny's jaw, searching for the spot his thumb rested on a moment before. When he finds it, just beside the strong cord of Danny's neck, just where the blood thrums and sings, Steve licks it. Danny hums happily, then gasps when Steve bites down.

"Vampires, jesus, you go to too many movies --"

Danny's fingers dig into Steve's hips, and he knows he'll see marks there in the morning. That's okay, too. Steve drags his lips farther down Danny's throat, liking the sigh he gets, then he bites down again. This time, it's right over the collar bone, where it bows out to the left of the hollow of Danny's throat. The bone is unyielding, but Danny isn't. Danny is melting into him now.

Danny's shoving his hands in between them, going for Steve's belt like he went for the buttons. Steve's still got the shirt on; interrupting him was obviously a tactical error. Steve pushes back a little to let him have at it. The shirt tails are getting in the way and Danny is being too careful about the whole business. With a jerk, Steve rips the offending shirt apart at the placket, buttons plinking on the floor and rolling away.

"Now I see why you don't have any button downs beside this one." Danny gets the belt open and the button of Steve's pants.

"I used to have more, but Cath is kinda hard on uniform shirts."

"I don't wanna hear it." Danny sounds pissed and horny and his eyes flash when he glares up at Steve. Then he curls his thumbs under the belt on each side of Steve's waist and just slides to the floor, drawing Steve's pants and underwear down with him. Steve is left to look down at the golden crown of Danny's head, bracketed neatly, trapped by Steve's body and against Steve's wall.

"Hear what?" Steve's own hearing blanks for a moment as one of those broad hands gets a just-too-firm grip on his cock.

"I don't wanna know about you and anybody else."

"There is nobody else, Danny. There isn't ever going to be anyone else." The words are out and hanging in the air between them before Steve even knows he's thought them.

Danny rocks back on his heels a little and looks up at Steve.

To cover up that blast of truth, Steve says, "Besides, what about you?"

"That is work." Danny looks like he wants to punch him, and the hand on his dick tightens dangerously. "This, this is . . ."

Steve's afraid to hear exactly what Danny thinks this is, and he's glad to change the subject.

"That's not your real work, Danny. You know it. You know what you should be doing."

Ice blue eyes are snapping up at him in the gloom. "You've picked a hell of a time for your recruitment speech, McGarrett."

Steve reaches down and drags Danny upright. It's not quite rage boiling in him, but it's something like it. It's close enough that his words rasp out from between clenched teeth. "No one else, Danny. No more 'work.' Just me. You hear me?"

"Fuck you. We all do what we gotta do."

Steve is pinning Danny to the wall with his hips and with his hands. When Danny tries to raise his arms, Steve grips them and shoves him against the wall again. "No more," Steve repeats stubbornly.

When he kisses Danny, it's too fast and too hard and he tastes blood between them and it's good. It's right. There should be blood between them. Only something like that can show Danny how important this is.

Suddenly Danny's pushing back, pushing hard. There is a drop of blood on his lip, just off-center.

"What you gotta do, Danny, is be a cop. Help me clean up this island. Be with me."

"Be with you?' Danny's yelling now, just as bitingly as he's kissing Steve, knocking him back, taking over. "Leave it. Goddamn you, leave it!"

"No!" He won't. He can't. Why can't Danny see the truth?

"If anybody finds out we're together, your name is shit on this island. Don't you get it? I am not a cop, I am not your boyfriend, what I am is a liability!"

His hands are waving in the air, the back of one slaps against Steve's bare chest. "If I join your little crime-fighting cabal, and people find out what I used to do, you will be the laughingstock of every police force in the country! Hell, the Navy will court-martial you so fast, your medals will spin. Don't you get it?"

Steve shakes his head slowly as the words penetrate. He gets it, he just refuses to accept it.

Danny's eyes close for a moment. He looks so damned tired that Steve feels his anger ebbing away.

"Please," begs Danny. "Please, just this."

When Danny looks at him again, Steve realizes how much this means to Danny. How much he wants to say yes and exactly how determined he is not to. How determined he is not to screw things up for Steve.

"This is all I can give you."

Steve's heart crunches in his chest. He almost doesn't have enough wind to breathe out, "You crazy bastard. You're going to give us up. Me and the team, too."

"I can't be a part of destroying your work. Or you."

"Asshole." He shoves a knee in between Danny's and flexes, trapping him against the wall again. Danny can't help but roll his hips against Steve's bare thigh. He moans at the pressure.

Steve is going to lose vocabulary soon. "Fuck now, talk later."

"No more talking," Danny gasps agreement. "Waste of time anyway. Hardheaded prick, nobody can talk to you --"

Steve drops to his knees.

And then even Danny's done talking.

Afterward, in the too-big bed that's now just right, Steve's walking the narrow path into a really good dream, or maybe a good reality. He only barely hears Danny start talking. His unsteady voice could be coming from a much smaller man.

"That's not the only thing, you know? I'm not just a broken cop. I'm a criminal. This was not anything I ever wanted my life to be."

Seventeen years tear off of Steve like a bandaid.

He's back in Coach's kitchen shooting the breeze, waiting for Jeremy to get home so they could go running. He says, "I saw some guys who're going out tonight looking for whores." He wasn't about to mention any names, and he knew Coach wouldn't ask him to, but his disgust spurred him on. "Why would they do that? Why would they touch . . . Christ, there are girls all over town who are dying to get into our dress whites."

"Hold it, knucklehead." Coach gave him a hard look over one shoulder. "You'd think young men came to Annapolis with their brains up their asses. What did the girls in your high school want from boys?"

Steve laughed. "If I knew that . . ."

The man's outright glare cut off Steve's laughter. He thought for a minute, since this seemed to be a serious question. "Flowers, the prom. Stupid stuff. Some of them wanted to get married." He couldn't imagine why, but he knew people from his graduating class who had. They'd be stuck in Gooberville all their lives.

"Yeah, well, girls around here want that, too. Your buddies aren't quite as oblivious as you are."

"But -- but . . ." There wasn't really a good way to phrase that.

"Don't act like you're so high-class. Those girls out on the street don't have a lot of choices. They can't get out of their hometown on a full-boat scholarship like you did." He cut off Steve's outraged yelp. "You're selling your body just like they are, only you're selling it to the American people, and you're being trained to kill. Who's got the moral high ground now?"

The words are still echoing in his head when he tells Danny, "You did what you had to do. It's over now." Why can't he understand?

"It is not over! It will not be over. Look at me! Are you blind, deaf and dumb? I am a prostitute!"

"You never hurt anybody. Enough already." He pulls a resisting Danny closer, and finally feels him relax into sleep. He knows it won't last, but he'll take the peaceful interval while he's got it.

 

^^^

"You're Williams, huh? Here," the barrel-shaped plain-clothes guy thrusts a pack of files at him. The files he just spent half the morning growling down a phone line for. There may or may not have been some graphic descriptions of possible parentage for the person who had misfiled the case notes for a former cold case that was suddenly boiling hot.

Danny is too busy scribbling his signature onto the top sheet to correct the rude bastard, but Chin has a little free time on his hands.

"That's Detective Williams to you, Mersky."

"Yeah? I heard he earned his badge on his back."

There is a sudden, thunderous silence in the Five-0 offices. Chin is simply staring at the smirking cop; Kono has straightened up from under the SmartTable. Steve has come to lean on the doorjamb of his office, light as a hawk touching down behind the intruder's back.

Danny stares up at him, blinks once, and says, "That's what you heard, huh?"

Mersky's stupid grin is fading fast into defensive bluffness. Any second now, he's going to grumble that the Five-0 team can't take a joke and run. But Danny's temper won't let that happen.

"Because I think I earned my badge walking five thousand miles on a city beat. Sitting hundreds of graveyard shift stakeouts. I think I've filled out enough case files for an old growth forest. I've been deposed so many times I can speak lawyer-ese. I think I've got eighty-seven, soon to be eighty-eight, convictions under my belt. What have you got?"

Danny pokes Mersky's incipient beer-gut, then grins all Jersey-mean and back-alley challenge. "I think you've got a big mouth and a tiny little . . . inferiority complex, File Clerk Mersky."

Mersky's face is turning red and his fists are bunching when Steve says, "Now, Danny, I think Mersky's just a little jealous of your last undercover assignment."

Chin says, "Well, who wouldn't be? I mean, no one's ever offered him a thousand bucks just to spend the night."

Kono chirps up, all innocent curiosity, "A thousand dollars, Danny, really?"

Danny takes a step back from Mersky and catches the lifeline they are tossing him. A smug smile creeps over his face. "It's all about the work ethic, rookie. I work hard for my money."

"How hard, Danny?" Chin grins.

"Oh, very, very hard, my friend. And she was fine..." He lets the sentence trail off as if lost in a cloud of memory.

"Yeah?" Mersky spits. "'Cause I heard you were screwing dudes in alleyways, too."

The room might as well be a crack in a glacier. Steve chooses that moment to stalk into the middle of the room. He has a very particular lack of expression that chills even Danny.

"Mersky, today is your lucky day." Steve takes a few steps around the man, who is obviously torn between wanting to keep an eye on McGarrett and not wanting to make any sudden movements.

"You know why? Because we have a hot case to solve. That means that I just don't have time to teach you about professionalism or showing respect to your superiors." Steve's voice is low and conversational and Mersky is sweating visibly now.

"But don't worry," Steve smacks his shoulder with a friendly tap that knocks the big man sideways a step. "I'll call your supervisor and arrange for some time for us in the gym. I find that's a good place for informal discussions about things like that."

Mersky's face goes pale.

Steve leans in confidentially. "And if you're a good boy, I won't let Detective Williams help. Because he's been undercover a lot and learned a lot of different things."

Mersky's gaze slides left to look at Danny's cold smile, then goes back to McGarrett's friendly shark grin. Chin and Kono look like they're watching a football game, all happy faces and no rescue in sight for Mersky. Suddenly, the big man proves he's not quite as dumb as he could be. He draws himself up and fixes his gaze on Danny. He wets his lips, then says,

"Detective Williams, I apologize for my unprofessional remarks."

Danny lets him stew for two or three breaths, then gives a huge grin and claps him heartily on the same shoulder that Steve whacked. Ignoring Mersky's wince, he says, "No problem, Mersky. Now get out of here. Some of us have work to do."

As Mersky gratefully scuttles out, Danny and Steve are left staring at each other. There is quiet again for a few moments, then Danny says heavily,

"I told you this would happen." His voice begins to gain volume and his arms begin to move in counterpoint to his words. "Did I not tell you that someone would get a hold of the gossip and boom! there goes Five-0's reputation? This was exactly why I didn't want to work here -- assholes like that who have nothing better to do than spread nasty shit in the break room. We'll be lucky if we get any backup at all the next time we call for help."

Steve is smiling at him. As are Chin and Kono. "What! What is that look? Is this funny to you? Don't you get what could happen if..."

Steve interrupts firmly, putting one hand on Danny's shoulder. "Nothing's going to happen, Danny. It's all taken care of."

Danny draws a breath, but Chin says, "Yup, no worries, brah. Your undercover assignment is attached to your file. All the records came in from LA finally. I made sure everything was backed up this time."

Danny stares at him; Chin looks steadily back. When Danny looks at Steve, he is standing there with an irritatingly smug tilt to his head. "Don't worry about it anymore, Danny," he says with peculiar emphasis.

Danny is torn between anger at Steve for maneuvering him into this in the first place and being swamped with relief and love for his team. They have his back. All he can do in return is to have theirs.

"Okay," he says a little gruffly, "we've got some leads to tease out. Let's get to work."

And they do.

 

EPILOGUE

 

It hadn't even been that bad a case. But it had been long and grueling, and the leads just hot enough that none of them had been able to leave the office or the crime scenes or the car for nearly three days. Finally they were home, finally they had some privacy, finally Steve and Danny were getting to some seriously needed personal hygiene.

Danny had just finished shaving off the three days of itchy beard, a damp towel slung around his hips. God, that shower had been good. Steve was just climbing out of his own shower in a billow of green soap smell. Danny appreciated the reflected floor show as Steve dried himself off with unselfconscious and economical gestures. When he bent over to pick up the bath mat and toss it over the edge of the tub to dry, displaying his perfect ass, Danny had to groan aloud as he fumbled the toothpaste.

"What's up? You cut yourself?" Steve came and hooked his chin over Danny's shoulder, looking both owl-eyed and concerned.

"No, I did not cut myself with the tactical dental floss, McGarrett."

Steve completely ignores the sarcasm; upon being reassured of Danny's well-being, he shifts a little closer, plastering himself against Danny's backside. He closes his eyes and gives a happy hum as he links his arms across Danny's abdomen. "So what's the big issue?" he mumbles into the skin of Danny's shoulder.

"I am too tired for sex. With you. How is this my life? I have gotten old in this job, McGarrett, and it is your fault."

Steve gives an interrogative grunt and makes a stupid fuzzy smiling face at him in the mirror over Danny's shoulder.

"I couldn't get it up with a crane and two bottles of Viagra. And neither could you."

"Forty-six hours without sleep will do that to a man," Steve says, far too reasonably for a man whose lover has just thoroughly impugned his sexual potency. Then he adds, "But don't sell yourself short, Danny. I hear you used to be a professional."

For one hot second, the entire world stops and Danny can almost feel it shriveling up at the edges. Then he catches the look in Steve's eye -- the one that isn't swelling shut. Steve damned well giggles. Suddenly the two of them are laughing so hard that they have to brace each other up.

"You utter dick! I can't believe you said that!"

"Actually, neither can I. Awake forty-six, sleep zero," he reminds Danny. Still, he looks way too pleased with himself for getting both a short joke and a hooker joke in one.

"Complete bastard," Danny says, pronouncing each word with relish as he puts toothpaste on his brush then sets about scraping the scum off his teeth.

Steve, who prefers to brush his teeth in the shower with Naval (creepy) efficiency, just snickers in Danny's ear, kisses it, and murmurs, "Lucky bastard."

When Danny stops brushing to gaze at him in the mirror, everything bleary and soft, Steve's eyes crinkle at him. He yawns widely enough to demonstrate to Danny that he still has his tonsils.

"Okay, okay, that's enough of that; I am not your dentist. You, bed," Danny orders, turning him around with firm hands on his shoulders. The fact that he still has his toothbrush stuck in one corner of his foamy mouth does not add to his authority.

But it works anyway, since Steve turns and wanders into the bedroom. Danny hears the shuffling of sheets and then a heavy thud as Steve hits the mattress. "Try to leave me one pillow this time, you hog," he calls after he spits.

"You never say anything romantic to me anymore," Steve intones tragically from the bedroom.

"The romance was the first victim of our jobs, babe." Danny rinses his mouth, rinses the sink and pads into the bedroom, wiping his damp hands on his tee shirt.

"As long as the victim isn't you, I don't care," Steve says, suddenly intense again. Danny is reminded of the hot mess he once spent an insanely lucrative weekend with a couple of years ago. Steve's a lot better now, but he can still be damned intense about some things.

"Steven, this is me. I? Really am bullet-proof. You just think you are."

Danny knows that he's bullet-proof because his whole damned team routinely throw themselves between him and bullets. He's never been sure what's up with that, since none of them treat him as if he can't do his job in any other arena.

Maybe they all figure that he's already caught his share of flying lead. Or maybe they realize that Steve will completely lose his already tenuous grasp on civilization if Danny gets killed.

While he appreciates the basic sentiment, he feels the same way about each and every one of them. So it can lead to some interesting ballet out in the field, kind of like it did today. But no one got shot today, including Danny, so he counts it as a win. The sheets and comforter puff up around him as he falls into bed next to Steve; then everything settles down.

"Sex and pancakes tomorrow morning, babe," murmurs Danny.

"Mmmmph," Steve agrees happily into his pillow. " 's Wednesday," he objects suddenly.

"Valasquez was so thrilled that we got those bastards, he told us to take the rest of the week off. Didn't you hear him?"

"I was still cleaning mud out of my ears," Steve grumbles.

"That was mud? Smelled like..."

"Do not finish that sentence, Detective Williams, I am warning you."

"Yeah, yeah." Danny reaches over and turns out the light. They both sigh in relief as cool darkness soothes their tired eyes. "Cause you actually are the boss of me."

Of course, Danny had been the one to dig out the stash of emergency Q-tips and hand them to Steve, all the while keeping up his end of the call with the governor . . . and Steve's. He could probably afford to be lenient just this once.

"Damn right I am." Apparently Steve does not feel lenient, although threats are less threatening in a sleepy mumble. "Any insubordination from you, I'll bust you back down to the streets."

"Uh huh." Danny wraps an arm around Steve's muscular chest and Steve presses back against him. Danny smiles against the curly dark hairs on Steve's nape, because they both know he'll never be back on the streets again.

 

 

THE END

 

Glossary
Beddah – better
Da kine – "just the thing"
Haad rub – bad time
Haole – mainlander, non-Hawaiian
Kupuna wahine – Grandma
Lolo – crazy
Make die dead – killed
Manhaole – mash up of haole and manhole (male prostitute) borrowed from a Hawaiian comic
Mek suk suk – Have sex
Moi moi – sleep
Pakalolo – marijuana
Tita - tough woman

 

Title from: "Five-O" by James, from the album "Laid", lyrics below

Are you open for trade
Your salvation, for something, for some thrills
Is a body of work for your inspection
You can trace, trace my concern
My concern

I've been looking for truth
At the cost of living
I've been afraid
Of what's before mine eyes
Every answer found
Begs another question
The further you go, the less you know
The less I know