Lonely, abandoned, cold... Steve could just as easily have ripped out his heart and burned it in front of his eyes. Danny had struggled not to break down in Steve's arms as he hugged him one last time. Before that, Steve told Danny he had to find peace. Furthermore, he always had been there for everyone else, never for himself. And he had solved his father's mystery. Therefore, nothing held him in Hawaii anymore. These words sounded nothing like the Steve who had kidnapped Danny from HPD ten years earlier and implanted him into his task force.
Was Danny surprised by this new, this different Steve? Not really. Of course, his former partner had had a rough time. First, Steve watched his fatherly friend Joe White die, and then his mother, who had loved her job so much more than her family. Still, the old Steve wasn't going to let that throw him off track. But Danny had noticed the signs long ago. It had seemed to him that old Steve was disappearing a little more every day. The sparkle in his friend's eyes withered away slowly. And somehow, Steve always seemed a little absent. That's why Danny had decided to move in with him on some flimsy pretext.
Danny had hoped to prevent the inevitable. And yet he had to realize that it was like tilting at windmills. But what Danny hadn't counted on was that Steve would leave him here on the beach, with wounds that were barely healed. Danny had discharged himself from the hospital against medical advice. It had not helped him. And now? He didn't know. He didn't even know what tomorrow would bring or the day after. For the first time in his life, Detective Williams had no plan, no goal. He felt anchorless, like a ship in a stormy sea. But also listless.
In fact, he felt more miserable than ever. Steve had shut down completely, not even beginning to try to understand Danny. Then tall, dark and gloomy had to learn it the hard way . Whatever it was that had him so enthralled that he couldn't see a way out, he wasn't going to get rid of it just by running away. It didn't work that way, and Danny knew that better than anyone. And you couldn't find peace that way either. You couldn't just shake off the weight on your shoulders, repress it, or even forget it. You had to face your demons to fight them. And it was this knowledge that hurt Danny even more than his injuries ever could have. He had tried to explain it to Steve, but he just didn't want to hear it. He didn't care. God, Steve, what has happened to you?
Danny remembered their first meeting at Steve's garage, their first cases. He thought about Chin and Kono... and wondered how they're doing now. He hadn't heard from them in a long time. At the same time, Danny tried to imagine his future. A future without Steve. Because his promise to return someday had been more than half-hearted, when you live side-by-side with someone like that for ten years, professionally and privately, it leaves deep marks on you and the other person.
What had become of the invisible bond that had once bound them together? Was it still there? Was it tattered? Or had Steve simply cut it? Like they did with the umbilical cord of newborns? Maybe this bond had been a kind of umbilical cord for Steve? A connection with Danny that he had now cut. If that was the case, Danny wanted to know why. He had asked Steve about it, not directly, but still. And what had been the outcome? Nothing. Steve didn't even seem to know it himself.
And knowing Steve as Danny did, he hadn't even looked into it. It was so typical of this stubborn guy. Yes, Danny had his moments, but Steve, Steve, surpassed him by far. And that's why Danny made a decision. It wasn't easy for him. But he had to. He heaved himself out of the weathered chair and, even though he seemed to feel every fiber of his body and the pain was driving him half crazy. He didn't care. He would prove to Steve that Danny Williams was not so easily dumped. But he had to hurry because he didn't have much time left.
Steve was in the cab and on his way to the airport. The lump in his throat threatened to choke him, and yet he wouldn't let it burst because that would mean a cascade of never-ending tears streaming down his face. And he wouldn't give himself the embarrassment to do that in front of a cab driver. The man had been talking nonstop for a good five minutes anyway. True, he had always asked Steve some questions in between, which he had answered at first, even if it was only with a grunt. But now Steve was no longer listening. The voice degenerated into background noise as the landscape passed by, as did the memories. He was on his way to a new future. For the first time in his life, Steve had come to terms with something. At least, that's what he had tried to tell himself. We all knew that certain things look different in reality than in theory. And so, it had been with the parting from Danny.
The stubborn guy had discharged himself from the hospital. Steve had almost fallen for the ruse and scrapped his plans. But only almost. He had seen through Danny's plan in time and... Was he proud that he had left him on the beach? If so, why did he feel so miserable now? Why did it feel like the blond whirlwind had ripped out a piece of him, Steve, and kept it there? Why did it feel to Steve like Danny was trying to tell him, I'm keeping this with me, and when you return, you'll get it back? Was there even a return for Steve? Was he planning on coming back? He didn't know, and he didn't want to know. Because what mattered now was to focus on the future. Yeah, the future... and what did it look like?
Again, there was a theory, which already did not have much in common with reality. During his countless sleepless nights, it had felt so simple. Steve had made plans and dreamed of starting over somewhere else. Maybe at Joe's ranch in Montana, which belonged to Steve now. Meanwhile, the executor of the estate had also had everything restored. All Steve needed was some new furniture and... And then? Did he really want to live there all alone? In theory, he liked the idea. But now that he was getting further away from his old life and Danny...
Nope, he hadn't imagined it that way. But what should he do now? Go back to the house after the big goodbye scene?
"Hi guys, I'm back. I changed my mind."
That would be equivalent to failure, and there was no such thing for Steve McGarrett. He never failed. He was a SEAL, or at least had been one. But SEALs weren't lone wolves. They always fought in packs. And today, Steve had left his pack behind to take off into an uncertain future. Steve closed his eyes and lowered his head. No, he couldn't show any weakness now. He had to focus on what lay ahead. And that was? Loneliness, sullenness and peace. After all, that's what he had told Danny, that he wanted to find peace.
But at what cost? And what kind of peace was that Steve had been talking about? Wasn't he running away from something completely different? From feelings that had spread through him while his partner had been in the hospital fighting for his life? Hadn't that been the real reason for his escape? Escape, for the first time since he had left everything behind, this word came to his mind. Oh my God, what had he gotten himself into? And all because he didn't want to admit the feelings he had for Danny? All that empty talk of peace and how he had always taken care of others but neglected himself in the process. But Danny had taken care of him in return, hadn't he? How often had they had each other's backs? How many times had Danny helped him out of trouble, followed him halfway around the world? And in return, Steve had dumped him and left him on the beach with a battered body and a wounded soul.
Soulmates, that's what they were. I love you. That had already become something like a catchphrase between them. But was it just that? Was it not much more? Hadn't there been something deep and profound between them? A force of nature that neither of them could or wanted to fight against? Danny had kept pestering him with questions, and because Steve didn't know any better, he had met him with empty words and meaningless phrases. Just like now with their parting for an uncertain time. Steve had avoided his ex-partner's gaze. And when he'd pulled away from Danny's embrace, he'd even felt a slight chill. And this chill was now spreading through his body, like cancer that wouldn't stop growing. If it were cancer, then something could be done about it. Just like against any other disease. But what was it in Steve's case?
"Mister, we're at the airport. Hey, mister!" The cab driver's impatient voice snapped Steve out of his thoughts. Absentmindedly, he put a few crumpled dollar bills into the man's hand, grabbed his duffel bag, and got out. Steve stood rooted to the spot, looking up at the airport building for a while. He was almost afraid to go through the glass double doors. It felt like he was crossing a line. The last barrier he had to overcome, to leave his old life behind. His old life? That sounded kind of strange, didn't it? But whatever would come now, it had nothing to do with Five-0 or criminals anymore.... or with Danny.
Steve took a deep breath, walked through the doors that slid silently apart, and stood in the huge hall where hundreds of other people were around him. Some were welcoming friends and family members; others were saying goodbye to each other. Steve felt the lump in his throat heavier than before. He hated goodbyes because many of them had something final about it. Like his goodbye to Freddie, then, and today's goodbye to his team and Danny. Yes, he had told him it wouldn't be goodbye forever, but... Steve shook his head as if that could dispel his thoughts from becoming increasingly gloomy. He made his way to the check-in counter, noticing that the lightheartedness he had felt this morning seemed to be slowly disappearing into thin air.
He wondered if an intentional goodbye felt that hard. Shouldn't he be full of drive and energy now? For Steve, it felt more like a balloon that was slowly deflating. He flirted half-heartedly with the airline lady who handed him his boarding pass, and the further he got from the entrance to the departure lounge, the heavier his legs became. It felt like his shoes were made of lead. And to make matters worse, there was a loudspeaker announcement that his flight would be delayed by about half an hour. Awesome. Was there some greater power conspiring against him and his travel plans? Little did he know...
So, Steve trotted towards boarding. Since he was a little early anyway, he bought himself something to drink. As he took a sip from the bottle outside the store, he thought he saw a familiar figure out of the corner of his eye. He wondered about his mind, which was apparently playing tricks on him. Someone was walking around who looked like Danny. As much as Steve craned his neck, he could no longer find the person in the crowd.
Time seemed to crawl by. It took an eternity until the call for boarding was issued. Steve flew economy. He could easily have afforded business class but didn't want to. The flight to Los Angeles lasted just under five hours, and he didn't yet know how he would continue from there. He would probably decide spontaneously. Spontaneously... Steve thought that would be his new motto. But that would also mean that he would have to throw all his traditional quirks overboard—all his routines. Oh well, that would undoubtedly be a challenge for him. But that's how it was when you said goodbye to your old life.
Finally, he was in the airplane cabin and stowed his luggage above the seats' compartment. He had booked himself a window seat. The sky over Hawaii clouded over, matching Steve's mood. Steve huffed out a long breath as the phone in his hand suddenly vibrated.
Danny had sent him a text message, "Miss you already."
Steve swallowed, then had to grin, even though he didn't feel like it. The lump in his throat was really about to burst now. When it happened, he'd probably have to lock himself in the toilet.
His phone vibrated again. "What's the matter with you? Am I not even worth a message to you? Like, I miss you too?"
Oh, Danny, don't make this so damn hard for me , Steve thought. Still, he typed, "I miss you too," and hit send.
Shortly after, "There you go, that wasn't so hard, was it?"
Steve gulped. Then he briefly looked over at the narrow aisle. The plane was slowly starting to fill with people.
The phone vibrated, "Do you actually know where you're going after you get to the mainland? I told you Jersey would be nice. But you don't want to go there. Why not? I think it's great there."
Steve shook his head. What the hell was that about?
The phone vibrated, "How's the window seat?"
What? The following message popped up, "I forgot to mention, I'm a detective. A pretty good one."
Daniel , Steve thought, leaning his head back.
Another message, "What's the matter? Did your fingers get stiff? I'm not a solo act..."
Steve shook his head.
Next message, "Honestly, babe. Shaking your head isn't going to get you very far."
Steve widened his eyes and reread the message. What the heck was going on here?
"Where's your SEAL instinct, Steve? Shouldn't you start looking for hidden cameras now? Oh, that lady in red who just passed your row, she should have used less makeup."
Nothing could hold Steve in his seat any longer. He stood up and scanned the cabin. When he turned around, his eyes almost popped out of his head. Three rows behind him sat Danny, also at a window seat.
The phone vibrated, "Bingo! It's about time." And right after that, "Don't just stand there and look handsome, have a seat. You know I can barely stand on my feet."
In a helpless gesture, Steve raised his hands. Danny winked at him in return. Steve caved in. With apologies mumbling in a loop, he retrieved his bag from its compartment, squeezed between the passengers still streaming onto the plane, and stopped next to Danny's row. Then he tucked his bag away again and, exhausted, dropped into the seat next to Danny.
"So, we have to thank you for the delay of the flight?" asked Steve, a little out of breath.
"That's right. I pulled some strings. It's for a good cause, after all. I can't possibly let you fly off into your misery alone." Danny was visibly pleased with himself.
A fact that elicited a smile from Steve.
"So, what now, buddy?"
"Babe, I don't know. I figured I'd fly to LA with you, and we'd go from there. Maybe to... Jersey?"
"Yeah, why not. I still owe you a sightseeing tour. We've been talking about it forever."
"Steven, stop interrogating me. Let's just take it one step at a time. I don't think you had your escape all planned out."
"Escape? So, for you, it was an escape?"
"Yeah, what else. I mean... Do you seriously think I would have bought all your gibberish? Your talk about seeking peace? Forgive me, but you and peace? Yeah, maybe when you're dead. And even then, I'd have my doubts. Nothing has ever stopped you. You even have ants in your pants on Sundays. And sorry, but you and knitting in front of some fireplace, that doesn't suit you, babe."
"You seem to know me better than I know myself," Steve interjected.
"Of course, I do. I've studied you. Ten years at your side have made that of me. Ergo..."
"Ergo, you get what you see. Why don't you let me finish?"
"Danny, I...," Steve searched for words. "I... I'm sorry I made you..."
"For leaving me behind? Like you'd leave a dog at a rest stop? Or that you're just having a hard time telling me how you really feel about me?"
The seatbelt signs lit up. Danny and Steve paused their conversation to comply with the request. Shortly after, the plane taxied to the runway. Meanwhile, Steve had time to think about his answer. He couldn't believe he was such an open book to Danny. Yet somehow, he was also grateful to have such a friend. And he scolded himself a fool for having jeopardized that friendship so recklessly.
The two remained silent until the plane reached cruising altitude and the seatbelt signs went out.
"Danny, it means a lot to me that you're sitting here next to me," Steve began.
"But?" interjected Danny, concerned.
"There is no but. I think you saved me from doing something foolish, and I'm grateful for that. And yes, you're right. The feelings I have for you run deeper than I wanted to admit. And that scared the shit out of me. I was afraid that if I said something, you might react strangely, you might end our friendship, or I don't know..."
"Just say you were scared of losing me." Danny swallowed.
"Yes, you're right. I was afraid of losing you. From the moment I saw you lying on the floor bleeding, I thought I had lost you already. And that was still the case when you were fighting for your life at the hospital. This is the second time you've done this to me. Do you know what that means to me? I don't know if I would go through that again."
"Welcome to the club. Then you know how I feel about you throwing yourself in front of moving cars, jumping off roofs, or catching bullets. Do you think I wouldn't care about any of that? I do. But Steve, we have to live with that. It's our job, damn it."
"I know, but I think I'm getting too old for this shit," Steve snapped.
"That's nonsense, and you know it. Babe, all you need is a vacation. Let's take a few weeks off or longer, and then we'll figure out what to do next."
"Anything but open a restaurant," Steve chimed in.
"Anything but open a restaurant. It can also be a little cafe or an ice cream parlor or a surf store," Danny quipped.
"I guess you think that's funny," Steve grunted.
"It's not? Then please explain what your plan was before I gloriously sabotaged it, Steven."
"I didn't have a plan. Not a real one, anyway. I... Damn it, Danny, don't look at me like that."
"How am I looking at you?"
"Like I'm prey."
"Maybe you are. My prey. Did you seriously think I was going to let you steal your way out of my life? I've devoted the best years of my life to you. I'm entitled to spend the rest of the damn time with you, too. And that can be very nice." Danny said, grinning from ear to ear.
"Were you hallucinating again while you were at the hospital?" Danny had told Steve everything from when he'd been shot in quarantine. About the restaurant, Gracie's wedding, Charlie's police training, and that they had sat together as older men in the weathered chairs on the beach.
"Nope, no hallucinations this time. I was just listening to my heart. When I said 'I love you,' I meant it differently. I didn't just say it. I meant it, you know... really, as in the true sense of it. Our relationship has become the world to me in the last few years. And I thought you would feel it too, especially when I moved in with you. But I..."
"I... I felt it, Danny. I swear. But I didn't want to admit it to myself. I think we should have just talked. Something that has always been an issue for us. We do talk, but not to each other."
"You know what, Steve? I think we should change that from now on."
Steve reached out to grab Danny's hand. They intertwined their fingers and stared deeply into each other's eyes. Hopefully, the flight to LA would pass quickly. They couldn't wait to get a hotel room together. And this time, Danny would certainly not sleep on the couch.