It’s an average Friday afternoon – average beer, average sun, average spectacular view over the ocean from a spot in Steve’s backyard – so Danny is woefully unprepared when Steve obliterates the status quo by saying, “You know I’d have sex with you if you asked, right?”
By some miracle, Danny manages not to spit or dribble any beer over his third favorite shirt. Instead he swallows and subsequently realizes that was the last of it and the bottle is now empty. He stalls for time by planting it firmly in the sand.
Then he turns to Steve to stare at him.
Steve doesn’t even notice at first, and when he does, he just blinks at Danny, seemingly clueless.
Danny is too damn flummoxed to even pretend to be angry, which never happens. “Did you hear what you just said?”
“Yes,” Steve says, like he’s starting to doubt Danny’s mental capacities. That’s rich. “Did you?”
“But you’re straight. I’m straight.”
Steve snorts. “At a certain point, does that even matter anymore? Want another one?”
And that’s it. Steve collects Danny’s empty bottle and turns to head for the house, like all of this is completely normal, the usual, a given.
Only it’s not a given, unless they’re talking about how it’s a-givin’ Danny a headache. He can feel it coming on already, from the back of his head, in that spot that’s reserved for Steve’s most harebrained of moments.
He belatedly realizes he’s been left on the beach on his own, so he chases Steve inside. He finds him in the kitchen, not even getting them fresh beers, but doing the dishes. What?
Danny grabs a dish towel and starts furiously rubbing the soapy spoons and cups Steve has already produced. “So what does ‘I’d have sex with you’ mean, exactly?”
Steve glances over briefly. “Danny, you have two kids. There’s no way you need me to explain this to you.” He hands Danny a bamboo cutting board, which is infuriating, because it’s one of those wooden kitchen things you can never really get dry with a piece of cloth.
He tries like hell anyway. Having something to do with his hands is good for his brain, which needs all the breaks it can get right now. “Oh, there’s way. There’s lots of way. Because you see, Steve, the secret to making a kid is that it’s usually – granted, not always, but usually – accomplished by getting together one man and one woman.” Steve plucks the cutting board from Danny’s hand, which is probably a good call, because he’s been waving it a little carelessly. Danny doesn’t let it slow his monologue down. He waves his empty hand and the towel instead. “Need I remind you that, far as I know, there are no women between the two of us?”
Steve looks down at what space there is between them. It’s making Danny acutely aware that that’s not a whole lot. Steve shrugs. “I mean, we could do that, but I’ve never been much for threesomes. There’s always too many limbs and the blanket’s never big enough.”
So that, interestingly, is how Danny finds out that Steve once spent a sleepless night in Berlin with two people called Maia and Alex. It doesn’t occur to him until later to ask if Alex is a man or a woman.
Another thing that occurs to him later is that Steve basically just admitted that he would rather have Danny all to himself if they were to tumble into bed together, which casts some serious shadows of doubt on Steve’s straightness.
Danny saves a white tank from the pile of colored shirts.
“I think that would’ve been fine,” Steve mutters, but he’s wrong, so Danny ignores him.
“What is Alex short for?”
Steve throws the first of his laundry piles in the washer and the machine beeps a few times as he sets the program. “I have no clue,” he says, thoroughly derailing Danny’s attempts to be subtle in fishing for information. “We didn’t really get around to talking about that kind of stuff. I only knew him that one night.”
“Okay,” Danny says, while he methodically drags Steve’s squeegee over the back lanai windows that Steve just ran a sponge over. “Let’s back away from the you part of the equation for a moment and focus on me.”
Steve lifts his sponge from the bucket to the next window, dripping water everywhere. “Okay.”
“You animal,” Danny says, because yes, it’s a warm day in Hawaii, and yes, if he gets caught in Steve’s messy cleaning his clothes will dry before he can even finish complaining about it, but that still doesn’t mean he wants to get hit with ten parts water, one part white vinegar and one part window dirt. Which leads nicely into the point he was trying to make, actually, because- “Why do you think I’d even want to have sex with you?”
“You love me and you’re single.”
“I might be single by choice. That ever occur to you?”
Steve shrugs, like it’s not a theory worthy of much consideration. “You complained for an hour last week about how empty and cold your bed is these days.”
“That I did,” Danny is forced to admit. He was on a roll that time, which is easy when it’s a topic he feels passionate about.
“And you think I’m handsome.” Steve says this, tragically, while using his thumbnail to scratch at a dead fly that wouldn’t wash off the window with the sponge. Danny can’t think of many less attractive things to be doing, but then Steve’s done and he looks at Danny and he still exudes a disproportionate amount of steady self-confidence for a man with a fly corpse stuck under his nail. “Which I am.”
Danny pauses his squeegeeing mid-stroke to frown. “When have I ever said that I think you’re handsome?”
Steve recognizes that as such a stupid question that he doesn’t even bother answering. He may have a point.
It’s when Steve digs out a broom and a dustpan from the closet under the stairs – and Steve stepping into a closet after he tells Danny he’d have sex with him, Danny’s not going to dwell on that whatsoever – that Danny’s brain finally reboots enough to question Steve’s actions, instead of just his utterly bizarre words. “Wait. Why have we been doing your housework?”
Steve tries to hand him the broom, but when he doesn’t take it, Steve shrugs and leans on it instead. “I don’t know. I started and you kept following me around, so I kept going. Figured you’d need some time to work this out and we might as well do something useful.”
“Oh,” Danny says, insulted to his core. “God. I can’t even think clearly if you’re right in front of me handing me cleaning supplies.”
“Maybe go for a walk?” Steve suggests.
That’s probably the first sane thing Steve’s said all day. Danny turns and walks right out the door, slamming it a little in his wake.
He doesn’t make it all the way down the driveway before he changes his mind. He turns on his heel, doesn’t give himself any time to make a full pirouette out of it, and heads right back in, as explosively as he left.
“So here’s the thing,” he announces, without giving Steve the chance to do so much as gasp in surprise. Not that Steve does that even after that first moment – he seems pretty calm, like he always expects Danny to burst into his house unannounced five seconds after he leaves in a theatrical huff. “I’ve given it a lot of thought-” Or all of five seconds, for sure. “-and I actually don’t want to sleep with you to work out my sexual frustration and keep my gnawing loneliness at bay.”
Steve nods politely. He props up his broom against the closest chair. “Okay.”
“But you know what I want? You know what I really, really want, and didn’t realize I wanted until you suddenly pointed out all these foreign options on the menu of our friendship?”
“What do you want, Danny?” Steve asks, because he’s a good guy who will play along with Danny’s rhetorical questions sometimes.
“I want-” Danny says, and he gets stuck there for a moment. He doesn’t mean to make these words even more dramatic than they already are at this point, but there’s nothing for it, because he’s looking at Steve and Steve is looking at him and Steve is handsome and funny and smart and annoying and kind and it takes Danny’s breath away. “I want you to be in love with me too.”
Time freezes. For one awful moment, Steve is utterly still, and then his entire posture melts just a little and his coolness cracks and his face is suddenly making like it wants to set a world record for biggest, dopiest, most heart-stopping grin. “Hey, like I said, all you had to do was ask.”
Danny can breathe again. His headache is gone as unexpectedly as it came. “Well, I am. Right now. I’m asking.”
“I’m answering,” Steve says, and Danny is about to tell him that no, no he isn’t, because he hasn’t said a single little yes or no yet, but then Steve is kissing him.
Danny supposes they could count that. In fact, they probably should. Yeah.
“I’m not cleaning your house ever again, by the way,” Danny informs Steve, the next morning over breakfast, when he’s decidedly not doing a walk of shame. If anything, he feels like doing a shimmy of pride, but that’d be embarrassing, so he ignores the urge. He pointedly waves his croissant at Steve to make up for it. “Let’s just get that settled right now.”
“You’re gonna have to,” Steve says, buttering his bagel. “At least once you move in here.”
Danny determinedly does not drop his croissant. He maybe squishes it a little, but that doesn’t detract from its inherent edibility. “Let’s talk about that later,” he manages, through gritted teeth, and he steals the butterknife from Steve’s hand. He can move fast sometimes too.
Steve bites into his bagel, grinning.