Danny found himself whistling as he pulled out of his driveway and onto the street. His house had been empty with Grace away for the weekend, but he'd have her back home soon. If that wasn't reason to be happy, he didn't know what was.
He'd made it less than four blocks when his police radio, a constant background noise in the Mustang, caught his attention. "Suspicious activity" caught his attention, but it was the address that made him frown as he repeated it in his head, not even needing the dispatch confirmation to know that it was John McGarrett's house.
The house was only two blocks over from Danny's, though in the opposite direction. Danny spun a quick U-turn in the middle of the road and gunned the engine, speeding past his own house to make it to McGarrett's in record time. He didn't bother to let dispatch know--if there really was something going on, he was going to need back up, and he also didn't want to waste time.
He pulled to a stop just before the house and jumped out, quickly making his way behind the cover of trees, listening for any sound. He could hear the occasional shout from the house, and the unmistakable sound of someone getting punched.
He peeked out around the tree to see that the front door was unguarded, and had just decided to make a run for it when he heard the gunshot.
That sent him flying to the door, which he shoved open while hiding behind the wall next to it for cover. A shot came at him, and Danny ducked around again, shooting, but all he saw was the retreating backs of two white males as they disappeared out the back door.
And John McGarrett, slumped over in a chair, obviously dead.
No one is supposed to remember the moment they're born, but Danny did. He remembered only because it was so different from everything that had happened since. Well, almost. He remembered crying, and how different it sounded at first, as if he was crying into a vacuum: no echo, no reverberation of the noise, just his muffled cry.
And then there was noise, and motion, and harsh light and rough fabric, and then...well, then he didn't remember anything else for a couple of years, when the vague recollections of childhood, consistent with everyone else he knows, start. Nothing further back, except that one, brief minute.
When he was four, Danny tripped over one of his sister's toys and fell on his arm. He remembered only that it hurt, and that he wished he'd seen the toy. Then suddenly he was walking again, as if it hadn't happened, and he dodged the toy just in time and was fine.
His mother told him it wasn't nice to make up stories, and that he should always tell the truth. The more Danny had tried to tell her it was the truth, the more annoyed she'd gotten, so he shut up. And he never mentioned all the other times when things happened, but then they hadn't.
At ten, he learned about déjà vu in school, and pestered his teacher about it until she explained it wasn't real, it was only something people made up to explain a trick their minds played on them. When he tried to tell her no, it was real, people just had it wrong, she gave him such an odd look that he shut up. Suddenly things shifted, and he'd never asked the question in the first place.
He'd always thought that was it, that sometimes things just happened over for him, until one day when he was sixteen, parked in an alley with Patty Simpson, in the back seat, rounding first and steadily on his way to second. He'd been smooth the whole time, using all his best moves, and she had been really into it.
And then she just froze. He stopped and pulled back, asking what was wrong, which was when he realized she'd literally frozen. No movement, stuck in the same position she'd been kissing him in--and now he understood why nature made people instinctively close their eyes when they kissed--her arms barely giving him enough room to move.
"Patty? Hey, Patty." He poked her, but nothing. Then he looked around, and realized nothing was moving. There was a piece of litter hanging in midair outside the car window, and at the far end of the alley he could see the headlights of a truck that was just stopped on the road. It was like nothing he could ever remember.
Except the sound. His voice had that same muffled, vacuum sound that he'd only heard one other time, the time he'd thought was just a dream. The moment he was born.
What if he was supposed to fix things like this, and no one had ever told him, and the world was stuck like this forever, and he had to walk around in it with nothing but his own muffled-sounding voice for company?
"Danny? What's wrong?"
Danny blinked, looking back at Patty, who was moving again, looking worried. The sounds of the city were suddenly loud in his ears once more, and everything seemed perfectly normal.
"Are you okay?" Patty asked.
Okay? Everything around him had just stopped. Completely. And apparently no one else had noticed. He opened his mouth to say just that, then remembered the times he'd tried to tell people before. "I'm fine," he said. "Just thought I heard something."
"I must not be distracting you enough," she said with a giggle.
"Babe, you are plenty distracting," he said, giving her his best practiced smile as he moved back in, pushing the incident away to think about later. Much later. As in, never again.
Over time, he figured out how to manipulate it himself, or at least he thought he did, since it only worked about half the time. As near as he could tell, whoever or whatever had given him this let him use it for himself occasionally, as long as he used it mostly for good. He'd become a star baseball player in high school, but was careful not to be too good, and it had put him in a position to save a few people on road games.
As he got older, he discovered he could use it in gambling, but he was careful only to use it when he needed it. And he'd become a cop, so that his gift would be a use for the greater good, which he figured evened out any personal use.
He screwed up his proposal to Rachel and spilled wine on her, and managed to do it over flawlessly. He saw Grace's birth twice--he'd have done it more, but he'd long since learned he could only adjust the same minute once.
He had not, however, been the one to send himself back a minute to see the second worst sight of his life--his wife kissing another man. One second, he'd been standing there wondering about the awkwardness between Rachel and her co-worker, Stan, who'd just 'dropped off some papers,' and the next he was standing ten feet from the step, watching them kiss. On Danny's own porch, the one he'd just come from a 12-hour shift as a cop to pay for.
The worst had been Grace crying as her mother moved out, but thank God or the gods or whoever the hell controlled this thing, he'd only had to live through that once.
When the divorce was settled, Danny found he couldn't stand to be in the house. He couldn't look at any surface and not wonder what Rachel and Stan had done there, couldn't walk in or out without remembering that scene on the porch. Ironic, considering thanks to his front porch surprise granting him both a divorce and custody of Grace, Rachel was paying him for a change.
He also couldn't avoid the sudden--or so it felt--barrage of Hawaiian things. Ads on the radio and the TV, mentions from random people, six arrests in three weeks of Hawaiian natives (and where the hell Salvo was getting a sudden influx of Hawaiians he'd really like to know).
Hawaii had always seemed so exotic, ever since he was a teenager. It was like when he learned to drive, he'd developed a taste for adventure, and Hawaii seemed like a good one. So when he heard through the grapevine that Hawaii was getting as much of an influx of Jersey natives as he'd been seeing Hawaiians, and that Honolulu Police Department could use someone familiar with them, he jumped at the chance.
Rachel's face when he told her the news gave him more satisfaction than it should've, but not enough to make him want to relive it. He knew she could telecommute, and knew that the move wouldn't be that hard on her, but he still felt a slight twinge of guilt at making her go another 5,000 miles from her home.
Very slight. But still.
Grace was thrilled at the idea, and he managed to tell her twice without even trying. She cried a little at the airport saying goodbye to Rachel, even though Rachel would be following in a few weeks, but once that was over she was as excited as Danny was about the prospect of a new place and a new start.
Six months in they'd been happy and settled, and Rachel was getting more time with Grace than Danny sometimes thought she deserved, but since she worked from home and Danny was a cop, Grace was better off having her own mother as a babysitter.
The Salvo case continued to be a frustration for all of HPD, and Danny and John McGarrett, as the leads on the investigation, in particular. Each lead they'd had seemed to dry up within minutes of getting it, as if someone was plugging leaks faster than they could poke them into Salvo's organization.
But that aside, Danny was happy. Until he heard the call over the radio.
He didn't even try--he didn't have to. One second he was standing there, staring at John McGarrett's corpse, the next he was standing on the doorstep, hearing someone shouting, "My brother's dead, isn't he?"
Instinct drove him to kick in the door before the words were even finished, gun out, yelling, "Freeze! HPD!" before he even got a look at the man's face. Another man was running out the back, laptop left open on the desk, but the man who'd shouted, he was standing beside John McGarrett, alive and taped to a chair. The man had a gun in one hand and a phone in the other.
At the sight of Danny, the man turned, pointing his gun at him. Danny squeezed his trigger, and the man went down, two holes in his chest, fingers twitching for a moment before he stilled completely. Danny ignored the runner and rushed over to the would-be shooter, kicking his gun off to the side before he leaned down to check for a pulse.
Dead. Thank God.
"Danny," John said, "thank God. How did you get here so fast?"
"I'd just left the house to get--" Danny saw John's leg clearly for the first time. "You're hit!"
John looked down at his leg, where there was a hole in his pants and blood. "It's nothing," he said, "through and through."
"Still, we need to--" Danny frowned as he picked up a towel nearby and pressed it to John's wound. "Do you hear that?" Danny asked, looking around for the source of the tinny noise until he found the phone on the floor, just by John's foot. He picked the phone up and put it to his ear.
"Hesse, I swear to God I will hunt you down if you killed him! I swear--"
There was sudden silence. "Who is this?" the voice demanded.
"Detective Danny Williams, HPD. Who is this?"
"Lt. Commander Steven McGarrett."
Danny let out a breath, never more grateful for his gift than right that moment, because otherwise he'd be telling this guy his father was dead. "Your father is fine." Which was close enough to true--Danny didn't need to get into the details at the moment. "Let me get his hands free and you can talk to him. Okay?"
There was a sharp exhalation, then, "Okay."
Danny carefully removed the tape binding John's hands together and handed him the phone. Danny used his own phone to make sure an ambulance was on its way with HPD before he freed John's legs. As soon as he had them free, Danny checked the wound, relieved to see that John appeared to be right. Through and through. Bad enough to be life threatening if left untreated, but with Danny applying pressure and the sirens getting closer by the second, John would be fine.
He was reassuring his son of that fact as Danny sat back on his knees, still holding the towel on the wound. "It's fine," John was saying, not for the first time. "Danny got here in time and shot Hesse."
Well, in time the second time at any rate, Danny thought, shuddering at the memory of John's lifeless body tied to the chair. He'd never get used to bringing the dead back to life, even if they had no idea they'd been dead. He'd only managed that kind of save a handful of times, but every time it was like seeing ghosts.
"Okay," John was saying as the paramedics rushed in with HPD. "I'll see you then." John ended the call and handed the phone back to Danny, who realized he was handling evidence and quickly placed it back on the ground before he messed up any other prints that might be on it. "Thank you, Danny," John said quietly, as the paramedics started tending his wound. "Another minute...I don't know what might have happened."
I do, Danny thought, suppressing another shudder. "All's well that ends well, right?" Danny said, before jerking his head towards the man on the ground. "I take it his name is Hesse?"
John nodded. "Victor Hesse. He and his brother, Anton, supply guns to a lot of very bad people. Or supplied, I should say. Apparently his brother was just killed in Steve's custody."
"Which almost got you killed?"
"But it didn't," John said. "Thanks to you."
Thanks to whoever controls this gift. "I'm just glad I made it in time."
"Detective McGarrett," the paramedic said, "we need to take you to the hospital now."
John nodded, barely wincing as he moved himself over to the stretcher with a little help. Danny watched them strap him in, and said, "I'll come by the hospital," as John was being wheeled out.
He waited until John was gone, and then turned his attention back to making sure no one screwed up the crime scene. This whole thing had nearly been a disaster, and he wasn't about to let his save be for nothing.
Steve arrived at the house exhausted. He'd been on about four military flights and had completely lost track of what time it was anywhere. He'd had to ask the pilot for the date and time when they'd been on their approach to Honolulu.
After a call to his dad's cell went straight to voicemail, Steve went home. He wasn't sure if his dad was out of the hospital, and he needed to get rid of his bag anyway. The front door was locked, because apparently the black and yellow crime scene tape wasn't enough to keep anyone out, so Steve went around back and used an old trick that his father apparently had either never guessed, or never bothered to fix, on the back door.
He stopped short just a few feet past his father's desk at the mess that seemed to be everywhere. Papers were all over the place--apparently Victor had been stupid enough to think Steve might leave a paper trail with his father about Anton's whereabouts--and there was a chair overturned next to a lot of blood.
Steve swallowed as he looked at the dried puddle. He'd seen men die losing less blood than that, and he could easily have been coming home to a funeral, were it not for Detective Danny Williams.
He took a deep breath and forced himself to move past the mess, looking around to see what had changed in the house. Not much, as it turned out--with a few exceptions, it was almost as if his mother could come walking in at any moment.
Apparently the only reminders of his wife that his father had felt the need to remove were his children.
He made his way to the garage to see if his father had made any progress over the years on the Mercury--assuming he'd even kept it. He opened the door to the garage to see that he had, in fact, kept it. A quick look under the cover showed that he hadn't done much to fix it, however.
Steve ran his hand along the hood, remembering the day his dad had brought it in. "A project for us," he'd said, and Steve hadn't been able to take his eyes off the car, imagining himself driving along the Pali Highway in a year with his new license, looking like the cool quarterback should.
Too bad that by the time he'd gotten his license he had been 5,000 miles away.
He turned away from the car, taking one long look around the garage before heading back inside, but something caught his eye. An old, beat up tool box so messed up that the Champion sticker only said, "Champ."
Which was what his father had called him on the phone. Twice. He'd thought it strange at the time, but now he wondered if it was more than coincidence.
He approached the box carefully, opening the lid as if it might explode. There wasn't an explosive inside, though, just a weird bunch of things that made no sense. He picked up the tape recorder and pressed play, surprised to hear his father's voice. "I can't continue this investigation into the police department from the inside. I don't trust the people I work with, so I'm going to have to do this on my own."
A noise from the other room startled him, and he hit the stop button and tossed the recorder in the box, closing the lid as he reached for his gun. A short, blond man came around the corner, his gun already drawn, and Steve braced himself, aiming his Sig. "Who are you?" Steve demanded.
The man blinked, and his stance relaxed a little, though his gun stayed up. "I'm Detective Danny Williams, Commander," he said carefully. "We spoke on the phone."
The voice did sound vaguely familiar, and the warm feeling it sent through him was the same as the one he'd attributed to learning his father was alive when Williams had given him the news on the phone. Still, Steve wasn't taking any chances. "Show me your ID."
Eyes rolling, the man said, "Who else would know I talked to you on the phone?"
I don't trust the people I work with, the tape had said. And Steve knew this guy worked with his dad. "ID," he snapped.
"Fine. ID. Just don't shoot me while I'm pulling it out, okay?" Even with that, he kept his gun up with one hand while the other reached for his ID. When Steve saw the shield, he holstered his weapon. It still might not be safe to trust Williams, but at least he didn't think the man was going to shoot him on the spot.
When both their guns had been put away, Williams said, "Sorry. Your dad wasn't expecting you for another day, so when I heard noises in here--"
"Yeah, I managed to get here a little sooner. Where is he, anyway?"
Steve frowned. "Still? I would have thought he'd be home."
"They're about to release him," Williams said. "That's why I'm here--he asked me to get him some clothes. Said he wasn't going home in scrubs if he had to sew the pants they cut off him back together."
Steve laughed. "That sounds like Dad."
"Give me a minute to grab his stuff and I'll take you to the hospital, all right?"
Nodding, Steve followed him out of the garage and back into the house. "Thanks, Detective," he said.
"Call me Danny," the man threw over his shoulder, along with a smile, as he hurried for the stairs.
Steve watched him go, that feeling curling in his gut again. It must be the association of Danny with learning his father was alive, he thought. He was sure it would fade quickly enough.
A couple of minutes later, Danny was back downstairs with a bundle of clothes in his hand. "Ready?" he said with another one of those smiles.
Or maybe it wouldn't fade so quickly, Steve thought, as it curled up in the pit of his stomach like it was going to take up residence. "Yeah," he said, shaking the thoughts out of his head and following Danny out the door.
Steve found himself hesitating as they got off the elevator at the hospital. He had known that his father was going to die when he was on that call with Victor Hesse. There'd been no doubt in his mind, and none in his father's, judging by his words.
And yet all Steve had been able to say was that he was going to get his father out of it. He hadn't been able to come up with any appropriate last words to say to his own father. And in the end, he hadn't gotten his father out of it. He owed that save to Danny Williams.
Who was stopping at a door and turning into a room, and Steve could see the easy smile on his face from the side. "Brought you a going home present," Danny said, a moment before he stepped aside and let Steve in the room.
Steve tried a smile, but it felt awkward on his face. "Hi, Dad," he said. John was sitting on the bed in a hospital gown, apparently waiting for his clothes. His face lit up at the sight of Steve in a way Steve hadn't seen in so many years he'd actually forgotten that look existed. When Steve reached out to shake his hand, John pulled him into a hug instead.
"It's good to have you home, son," he said in Steve's ear, squeezing him tight before letting him go.
"It's good to be here," Steve said, then cleared his throat. "I...I'm glad you're okay."
Steve stepped back, looking over at Danny, who took that as his cue to step forward. "I have your clothes," he said, dropping a bag on the bed. "We can wait outside while you change, and then get you out of here, okay?"
He nodded, so Steve turned and followed Danny back out of the room. "Been a while since you've seen him?" Danny asked.
Steve nodded. "I wasn't sure I ever would again," he said in a low voice, glancing back at the door before fixing his eyes on Danny. "Thank you."
Danny gave a half shrug, but there was something more to the nonchalance that made Steve curious. "He's a good friend and a great cop," Danny said. "And I just answered the call I heard--thank the person who called it in."
"Actually, that was probably me."
"You? From North Korea?"
Steve nodded. "I had my unit call HPD the second I realized what was going on."
"So if you hadn't called it in, I wouldn't have known, and...well, you did, I did, and it worked out."
Steve cocked his head. "Was that English?" he said, needing to lighten the atmosphere.
"Why," Danny said, tilting his head and looking up at Steve, "would you prefer it in Hawaiian?"
There was a light in Danny's eyes that did the same thing to Steve as Danny's voice did, and Steve pushed that feeling down hard. "Sure," he said, pleased that he sounded mostly normal, "Hawaiian might be more comprehensible."
"Too bad. I don't speak it."
Steve frowned. "How can you live here and not speak any Hawaiian?"
"You're right!" Danny smacked himself in the forehead comically. "Of course, my house came with an instant fluency in Hawaiian. I forgot. How silly of me."
Steve couldn't hold back a laugh, feeling something unclench just a little inside with the sound. "Ho, no need snap, brah," he said, feeling his grin widen as Danny buried his head in his hands with a groan.
"And you're questioning my English?"
"That wasn't English. It was Bird."
"Yeah, I may not speak it, but I have been here long enough to recognize it by the way it sort of masquerades as English, but with a complete lack of any comprehensible meaning."
Danny's hands flew through the air at a rapid rate as he ranted about the frustration of having three languages in one American state, and Steve found himself watching those hands with fascination. He swallowed carefully, his eyes going back to Danny's face as his rant stopped and he stilled.
Steve was pretty sure he'd never seen anyone with eyes that blue.
"Let's get out of here before they decide to keep me."
John's voice from just behind Steve's right shoulder was as good as a bucket of cold water. Steve jerked his eyes away from Danny's face and turned to look at his father. "You're all ready?" Steve asked.
"More than ready. I hate hospitals."
They might be vastly different in some ways, but he had to admit he was in total agreement with his father on that one. "Let's go, then," Steve said, trying not to notice how Danny fell naturally into step beside him as they headed for the door.
Danny followed both McGarretts up to the house, noticing how similarly they walked, and how alike their postures were. He got the feeling Steve might find that comparison a little offensive, though, so he kept it to himself.
It was only when they ripped off the crime scene tape and stepped inside the house that Danny remembered that it hadn't been cleaned up. He was about to suggest they go to his place when father and son immediately started putting everything out of the way, blithely ignoring the blood on the floor as if by some unspoken agreement.
How fucked up did you have to be as a family to do that so calmly--and without even talking about it?
Danny shook his head and tried to ignore the clean up, distracting himself by watching Steve. The man had been completely unexpected. Danny had heard all about his accomplishments from John, from every school football achievement through his rapid rise up the ranks of the military. So he'd expected some sort of macho big man on campus type, one step away from stuffing a geek in a locker.
He hadn't expected a person who had looked so uncertain about seeing his own father. Or one who could tease Danny so easily without a hint of malice.
And he definitely hadn't expected to find the man so damn attractive.
He'd seen pictures--shots of younger Steve, half-boy, half-man, peppered the shelves at the McGarrett house. There were also a couple of very stern shots in uniform with Steve unsmiling and serious, one clearly taken just out of the academy, and another taken sometime after he'd gotten a fair amount of ribbons on his chest.
But the pictures hadn't done justice to the man in person. He'd been attractive enough when he was rigid and defensive, holding a gun, but when he'd relaxed, he was beautiful. And when he'd smiled Danny had fled the room with the first excuse he could find.
He'd had to take a minute to quell his body's reaction before he could go back downstairs.
Danny blinked at John. "Sorry, I was thinking."
He heard Steve's snort and had a feeling he knew what kind of comment the man was holding back, but he kept his focus on John. "I was asking if you had to pick up Grace," John said.
"No, she's with Rachel for the night."
"Then you should stay for dinner," John said.
Danny couldn't help but look in Steve's direction, wondering if that was such a good idea. He needed some time to sort out this thing, whatever it was, away from Steve's presence. "I don't want to intrude on the reunion."
"You won't," Steve said, his eyes holding Danny's. "Stay."
He couldn't say no. And he didn't really want to. "Okay." He nodded, trying to pull his focus from Steve and failing, even when he looked back at John. "Thanks."
Out of the corner of his eye, Danny saw Steve smile, and Danny forced himself not look that direction. "We should get you off your feet," Steve said, and Danny saw John roll his eyes.
"Did those doctors tell you to say that?" John asked.
"No, common sense did, Dad. Come on, we'll sit out back."
As John headed for the back door, Danny felt Steve's hand, warm and solid, on his shoulder. "Can you go make sure he gets seated?" Steve asked, his voice low and too close, his mouth near Danny's ear, which was doing odd things to Danny's stomach. "I'm going to get another chair and some drinks."
"Sure," Danny said, looking in Steve's direction without actually looking directly at him. Danny followed John out onto the lanai behind the house.
"We'll have to get another chair," John said.
"Steve's getting one," Danny said, pulling out the nearest chair. "Have a seat."
John lowered himself carefully into the chair. "Told you to babysit me, didn't he?"
Danny laughed. "No, sir."
"It's okay," John said, as Danny took the other chair. "He was like that after his mother died. Afraid I was going to disappear at any second. Every day I'd go to work and get that worried stare, like he was sure I wasn't coming back, but didn't want to ask me to stay."
"How long has she been gone?" Danny asked. He could tell from the pictures that it had probably been a while.
"Eighteen years." John turned his head slightly, eyes focused on the sea. "If Steve hadn't gone to the mainland, I'm not sure he'd have ever gotten over worrying that I'd be next."
"What happened to his mom?"
"Car wreck," John said, though something in the way he said it seemed off. John focused on Danny again. "I think Steve took it even harder than Mary did, but he seemed to adjust once he was gone. Anyway, that was a long time ago."
The abrupt change of subject could've been chalked up to someone who'd realized he'd said too much about personal things, but combined with the way John had said his wife died in a car wreck, it made Danny even more curious.
Before he could ask any more questions, Steve came through the door with a folding chair in one hand and a cooler in the other. "That garage is a dust factory, Dad," Steve said, putting the chair down and opening it up, dusting it off with his hands before sitting in it.
"I haven't had time to clean it up," John said.
"I'll see what I can do while I'm here."
"I don't want you wasting your leave doing that," John said, and Danny thought it sounded off. "How long can you stay?"
"I have a month," Steve said, not sounding entirely happy about it. "When he realized how much leave I had saved up, my CO insisted."
Danny, who was watching John to avoid staring at Steve, saw the way his mouth tightened. "It'll be nice to have you home for a bit."
The words were honest and heartfelt, which made the way John had seemed upset about Steve having a month to visit that much stranger. It was a puzzle, and Danny had entirely too much trouble leaving puzzles alone.
Danny's eyes drifted to Steve to find him studying Danny with a look that made Danny shift his eyes away for a few seconds before he had to look back, meeting that look with one of his own.
Apparently puzzles weren't the only thing he couldn't leave alone.
Steve was rinsing dishes off and putting them in the dishwasher when he felt Danny come into the kitchen. He didn't know how else to explain it--Danny hadn't really made any noise, but Steve had known he was there the moment he'd approached the door. "Dad fall asleep on you?" Steve asked without looking behind him.
"No, I just thought I'd bring the rest of the bottles in."
Steve heard the clinking of glasses as they went into the bin, and then saw Danny as he leaned his back against the counter beside the sink. "I get the feeling you and he have been spending a lot of time together," Steve said.
Danny shrugged. "He's a good guy, and we get along. But he's always seemed lonely. "
It was on the tip of Steve's tongue to say he wouldn't have been lonely if he hadn't sent everyone away, but he wasn't ready to lay that on Danny. On anyone, really. "So, what, you two are dating?" Steve teased with a sideways glance.
"Jealous?" Danny asked, eyebrows raised.
Steve wasn't sure exactly how to read that one. Was he jealous that his father apparently didn't feel the need to send Danny away when he had tossed away his own son, or was he jealous that his father was getting to spend a lot of time with Danny?
That the answer was 'both' was unsettling and unflattering.
"Nah," Steve said, picking up a plate and running it under the water. "He doesn't really seem to be your type."
"True," Danny said. "He's a little old for me - I like 'em my own age." He felt Danny shift, and wasn't sure if it was for comfort, or because it moved him a little closer to Steve. "And with tattoos," he added.
The plate landed in the sink with a loud clanging noise, but didn't break. Steve picked it up, focusing on getting it under the water again before hazarding a glance at Danny, who was watching him with an expression Steve couldn't quite decipher. Or maybe he was afraid to. "You're very funny," Steve said after a moment.
"Who said I was joking?"
Steve swallowed carefully, scanning Danny's face, trying to read him and coming up with only one answer. But was it reality or just what he wanted to see?
"I brought the last of the bottles," John said from the doorway.
Steve tore his gaze away from Danny, looking over his shoulder in a mixture of annoyance and relief. "Thanks, Dad. I could've gotten them."
"I'm not an invalid," he said, his tone mild. "But I am tired, so I think I'm going to head up to bed."
"That's my cue," Danny said, pushing off the counter. "Thank you for dinner--it's nice to see that Steve cooks better than his old man."
The look Danny gave Steve was warm, and Steve couldn't help but smile back, even as part of his mind was still trying to decipher their earlier conversation. "You think the steak was good, you should see what I can do with fresh ahi."
"I look forward to that," Danny said, and yes, okay, there was no mistaking that tone, and Steve found himself clearing his throat.
"I'll walk you out, Danny," John said, and the two of them left Steve alone in the kitchen with his thoughts.
As if coming home hadn't been difficult enough under these circumstances. This was the last thing he needed. He should find some reason to leave--visit Cath, maybe, or look up one of his former buddies. Anything would be safer than staying here when it was becoming clear that he wasn't the only one interested.
Yet despite every instinct telling him what a bad idea it was to stay, he couldn't even seriously consider leaving. He didn't want to.
"Can I help?"
John's voice startled Steve. "Sorry, didn't hear you come back in," Steve said. He looked over at the sink, but he'd managed to finish putting the dishes in the dishwasher while he was talking to Danny. "I'm just about done," Steve said, dealing with the last of the empty bottles. "You should go on up to bed."
"Okay," John said, and Steve heard him take a few steps before he said, "Steve?"
Steve turned to look at him. "Yeah?"
"It's good to see you."
Steve gave him a smile. "You too, Dad. Good night."
Danny was almost home when his phone started blaring a Disney tune--the latest ringtone Grace had picked, since he had yet to figure out how to change the ringtones himself. He smiled as he accepted the call. "Hey, Monkey! Shouldn't you be in bed?"
"I'm going," she said. "Just wanted to call to say good night."
"I'm glad you did. Did you and your mom have fun tonight?"
"Yeah! We made cookies!"
Danny smiled, picturing her covered in flour. "How many of the ingredients made it into the bowl?"
"Danno!" He didn't think he was imagining how she always managed to sound more exasperated when she'd spent time with Rachel. "All of them!"
"Good. Glad to hear it."
"Did you have fun tonight?" Grace asked.
Danny thought about it for a moment. It had been a little odd, with the undercurrents at the McGarrett house, but all in all...."I did," he answered at last. "I had dinner with Uncle John from down the street and his son."
"He has a son? But he's old!"
Danny tried not to laugh too hard as he pulled into his drive and got out of the car. "He's Grandpa's age, Gracie. His son is my age."
"Oh. Was he nice?"
"Yes," Danny said slowly. "Yes, he was."
"Good. Glad you had fun, Danno."
"I'm glad you had fun, too. But it's bedtime."
He recognized the long sigh that followed, but to her credit, Grace didn't try to fight it. "Okay. Night, Danno!"
Danny pocketed his phone as he went inside, still thinking about dinner at the McGarrett house. He couldn't quite shake the image of the two men calmly cleaning up a scene that he knew had actually killed John originally. But then he was the only one who knew that, so maybe it freaked him out more as a result. Or maybe they both had their emotions locked away so deep that they didn't feel anything when they saw it.
He found the thought of Steve being that closed off a little depressing, and decided to lock that away himself in favor of spending his night sleeping instead of imagining Steve McGarrett naked.
He didn't expect it to work, but he tried anyway.
Steve ignored the twinges in his shoulders and back as he pushed the last yards through the ocean to the beach. He hadn't been able to go out and just swim for fun in a while--Naval Intelligence had kept him more landlocked than anyone who joined the Navy would have expected. So when the cleaning crew had arrived that morning to wipe away all signs of the crime, he'd taken off for the ocean.
It had been his refuge after his mother died; there was something comforting about the symmetry of using it to avoid thinking about the near death of his father.
He shook himself as he stepped out of the water, wiping his face before he looked up at the house. His father was on the lanai with the other thing Steve had been avoiding thinking about--Danny. They looked as though they were in a rather heated discussion, which was, of course, the only reason Steve slowed his steps, taking longer to reach them than he really needed.
"...to protect him," his father was saying when Steve was close enough to hear, though he doubted they realized he could hear.
"Yeah, well--" Danny looked up and saw Steve and stopped, mouth open, eyes unblinking for a few seconds.
"Am I interrupting anything?" Steve asked, looking at his father, then back at Danny. He was still staring, his eyes bluer than the sky in the sunlight, his throat working a little in a way that challenged pretty much any weak excuse Steve still had in his head as to why he shouldn't want the man.
Danny finally blinked, a few times, but it was John who answered with an almost believable, "No. We were just talking about a dinner we have to go to."
"Dinner?" Steve glanced at his dad, then back at Danny, who seemed to be able to move again, and was giving Steve what could only be described as a thorough once-over. Possibly even a twice-over. Steve shifted a little closer to Danny, pushing his hips forward just a bit. "Where?"
"The Governor's residence," John said, as if it was a nuisance to be invited to dinner there. "Boring evening, not--"
"You should come," Danny said, his voice a little hoarse. "The invitation included you."
John pushed himself out of the chair, favoring his injured leg. "I'm sure Steve wouldn't be interested in--"
"I'd love to," Steve said quickly, before his father could go any further. If his dad didn't want him going, then he had every intention of being there. That Danny was going to be there didn't exactly hurt the invitation either.
"Great," Danny said, smiling and rubbing his hands together. "I'll pick you both up at 7?"
Steve nodded. "Sounds good."
"I'll walk you out, Danny," John said, and Steve knew that tone. It was the tone his father got when he didn't get his way. Steve hadn't heard it much, but he knew it nonetheless. The comment about protecting someone, followed by his father's attempt to keep him away from the dinner, didn't take a huge leap to connect.
He had a feeling the toolbox he'd found in the garage was connected as well. It had disappeared from the garage when Steve had gone back the night before to look at it. More signs of his father trying to protect him from something.
After all, his father had sent him 5,000 miles away to protect him at 15--and the fact that Steve still wasn't sure why bugged him. No reason to think he'd stop now, never mind that Steve was a Navy SEAL more than capable of protecting himself.
At least Danny treated Steve like a normal person. Not that anyone who wore a tie in Hawaii probably knew much about normal. Maybe there was a story behind that--he'd have to corner Danny at dinner and ask.
Contemplating all the other things he could do to Danny in a corner, Steve grabbed a towel and started drying himself as he went into the house. He made it as far as the living room, the towel half over his head, when his father stepped in front of him. "Steve, are you sure this is a good idea?"
"It's just dinner, Dad," Steve said, hanging his towel around his neck. "I promise I know how to eat with the right fork--I won't embarrass you in front of the governor."
And just like that tone before, Steve knew the look on John's face. He'd gotten it the time he'd joined his teammates in toilet papering the coach's house. "Steven."
"I got shot in the leg, not in the eyes."
Steve put on his best innocent face. "I have no idea what you're talking about."
"You know, Danny has a daughter."
"I'm aware of that."
"And you have a career."
Steve locked his jaw, struggling to keep his arms at his sides. "Your point?"
"That you should think carefully about what you're doing before you do something a lot of people might regret."
He studied his dad for a long moment. "Are we talking about Danny here, Dad? Or are we talking about that toolbox in the garage and whatever it is that got you shot?"
The phone rang, and John glanced in its direction, breaking his hold on Steve's gaze. "Better get that," Steve said, brushing past him and heading up the stairs. "I'll get out of earshot in case it's something you don't want me to hear."
His father didn't stop him.
Steve was out of the shower and in his room by the time his father was off the phone. Only when he heard Danny's Mustang pull up did Steve venture back downstairs again. Danny was standing by the door, talking to John, but his words trailed off when he saw Steve come down the stairs.
"Wow, you own a tie?" Danny said after a long moment.
"I am a Naval officer. Of course I own a tie."
"But one that doesn't come with a suit of armor?"
"It's called a uniform, Danny."
And honestly, the tie did actually belong with his uniform. As did the pants. Steve had found a white shirt and black jacket in his closet, both classic enough cuts that he could get away with them, and he'd pulled out his uniform tie to go with them. Thankfully, the blacks even matched closely enough that he thought no one would notice.
Except maybe Danny, who was studying him a little closer than most people would. But he didn't think Danny would complain.
John cleared his throat, and Steve wondered just how long he and Danny had been silently staring at each other. "We should go," John said. "Wouldn't want to be late."
"Right." Danny turned and opened the door, and they all filed out and into Danny's car. Steve climbed into the back, folding his knees up to his chest to fit in. "There really isn't a lot of room back here," he said, his eyes meeting Danny's in the rear view mirror. "Kind of defeats the purpose of a back seat, doesn’t it?"
He wondered if Danny would pick up on the implication. "Maybe, but the front seats go all the way back," Danny said, never blinking as he held Steve's gaze.
Okay then, Steve thought, shifting to adjust himself as he reacted to the suggestiveness in Danny's voice.
John finished lowering himself into the car and they took off for the governor's residence. The house appeared quiet as they pulled up, the car door opened by a guard almost before they came to a full stop. The governor greeted them inside, shaking hands with John as if they were old friends. Which Steve supposed they could be, since he didn't really know that much about his father's life over the past 20 years.
Introductions over, the governor's patented politician smile firmly on her face, they went in to dinner. Steve was surprised to see that it was just the four of them, but apparently he had been right in his assessment, and his father really was friends with the governor.
Several stories about her days in the state's attorney's office later, Steve understood why. Jameson had apparently been very good at getting criminals off the street, and John had been her go-to detective on a number of important cases.
The stories kept them occupied until dessert, and if Steve missed a few points here and there studying the way Danny's hair smoothed so perfectly back over his ear, or the crinkles in his cheeks when he laughed, he was pretty sure no one noticed.
At a glance from Danny, full of promise, he amended that to almost no one.
When they started lingering over drinks, Jameson seemed to notice that she and John were the only ones talking. "I'm sorry, boys," she said. "I'm sure we're boring you with old war stories."
"Not at all, ma'am," Steve said, training drilled into him from dinners with politicians while in Naval Intelligence making it sound believable.
"Still, we should probably let you go, or John and I will be here all night talking."
"I can give Steve a ride," Danny said quickly. "If you two want to talk." Steve swallowed at the images that came unbidden to his head about Danny and rides.
The governor raised her eyebrows at John. "My driver can take you home later, if you like."
John's worried glance went between Steve and Danny a couple of times before settling on the governor again, turning into something Steve didn't quite recognize. "That would be great," John said. "Thank you."
Steve glanced at Danny and tried not to grin like a schoolboy about to go on his first date.
Danny's palms were a little moist on the steering wheel as he drove to one of his favorite bars. He'd suggested a drink before he took Steve home, half expecting Steve to turn him down, but he'd quickly accepted. The car had been silent, save for some truly hideous 80s ballad station he'd stopped on when Steve had said he loved the song.
Whatever reluctance about the attraction between them Danny had sensed in Steve the night before, there didn't seem to be any reluctance now. Steve had been sending him glances all night that were difficult to misinterpret.
At least he hoped he was interpreting them correctly, considering Steve was a Navy SEAL, and DADT was still very much the law--even if there was talk it would be gone soon.
He parked a couple of spots from the bar's door and jumped out, Steve catching up quickly enough that he grabbed the door before Danny could, holding it open. Danny murmured a thanks as he went through, feeling Steve close behind him as he made his way to a table.
The place was dark and relatively quiet, with booths around the walls that allowed for conversation, but not so quiet that you'd be overheard. Danny dropped into one side of a booth, watching as Steve gracefully slid into the other.
Before he could say anything, a waitress stopped at the table. "Hey, Detective," she said, "the usual?"
Danny nodded. "Longboard?" he asked Steve, who nodded back. "Two," Danny said to the waitress.
"You come here often?" Steve asked with a smirk that he somehow managed to make look cute instead of annoying.
"Often enough," Danny said. "I like the atmosphere."
Steve nodded at the waitress, who was smiling at them from the bar. "You're here often enough that she seems to know you well, anyway."
That was definitely not a note of jealousy, Danny told himself sternly, no matter how it sounded. Even if the way Steve looked at the waitress when she came back with the beers was decidedly unfriendly.
"So," Steve said after a sip of beer, "you have a daughter?"
Danny couldn't keep the smile off his face as he nodded. "Grace," he said. "She's eight going on twenty. And smart, and gorgeous, and just about perfect." Danny ducked his head and looked at his beer. "And I could go on about her for hours," he said, hazarding a look up at Steve, who was looking as though every word was fascinating. "So I'll stop now."
"You don't have to," Steve said, pushing his beer back and forth a little between his hands. "I don't mind."
"I'm sure you'll hear me talk about her a lot more," Danny said, then kicked himself for sounding as if he assumed they'd be spending a lot of time together.
But Steve didn't seem to mind. "So you've got Grace," he said, nodding at Danny's hand, "but no ring."
"Ah, yes, well, that would be because my ex-wife is wearing someone else's."
"You were married?"
Danny laughed. "I didn't give birth."
Steve rolled his eyes. "You don't have to be married to father a child."
"No," Danny said on a sigh, "but I preferred to be married to have one once I had fathered her. Which turned out to be a mistake--the marriage, not the daughter. I wouldn't trade her for anything."
"You share custody?"
Danny shook his head. "I have custody, but Rachel and Stan moved here so Rachel could be close to Grace, and with my job, well...she's better than a baby sitter."
"There is that," Danny agreed. He took a drink. "So what about you?"
"I'm not cheap," Steve said, "but I can babysit."
Danny laughed. "Duly noted. I'll be sure to call on you the next time I need someone to watch Grace."
"Anytime," Steve said.
Danny could tell he meant it. "And don't think I didn't notice how you didn't answer my question. I am a detective. I notice these things."
"I wasn't sure what the question was."
"Tell me about you."
Steve shrugged. "Not a lot to tell. Left Hawaii at 15, went to Annapolis, joined the Navy, became a SEAL and then went into Naval intelligence."
"He says as if it was like riding a bike," Danny teased. "That's quite a list of accomplishments. And I've heard a few more from your dad."
"Really? I'd have thought he wouldn't say much."
Danny frowned at him. "Why?"
Pushing his bottle back and forth a little between his hands, Steve hesitated for a moment before speaking. "We've never been particularly close," he said finally. "I love him, but I've been gone so long, and we don't seem to really know each other."
And you almost didn't. "He's very proud of you," Danny said, wanting to somehow bridge the gap between Steve and his father, knowing how close that call really was. "Seriously, I know from proud fathers, and that man is a proud father. Trust me."
"I do," Steve said gravely, and Danny felt goose bumps at the look Steve gave him. "So if you say it's true, then I'll believe it."
This was too fast. He knew it was too fast, and yet he couldn't find it in himself to care. It felt right in a way nothing had since he was a teenager, except for Grace and Hawaii. "Good," Danny said, and had to stop to clear his throat. "In that case, I have this awesome bridge back home I want to sell you."
Steve threw his head back and laughed, and Danny could only stare. He'd go back a minute every time that smile and laugh happened if he could, just to see it again. It was breathtaking.
And he was utterly and completely fucked.
Three beers a piece and three hours later, Danny looked at the time. "I hate to go," he said with real regret, "but I have to pick up Grace tomorrow morning."
Steve reached for his wallet, but Danny waved him off. "I chose the place, I'll pay."
"Next one's on me, then," Steve said with a smile.
Danny considered the consequences of no sleep followed by the day he and Grace had planned and forced himself to get up instead of staying in his seat. He laid money on the table and waved to their waitress as he followed Steve out to the car.
The silence on the way back to Steve's was much more comfortable than the one they'd had heading for the bar. Danny had a vision of the two of them riding like this, decades in the future, coming back from dinner, comfortable and relaxed, looking forward to bed....
Jesus, he needed to stop. The guy was only here for a month. Even if something happened between them, Steve would be gone soon after.
He pulled up in front of the McGarrett house and killed the engine. "Thanks," Danny said quietly, looking up at Steve through his lashes. "I had fun."
"Me, too," Steve said, his voice almost a whisper, running through Danny's body like an electric current, making his fingers itch to reach out and pull Steve into a kiss.
Fuck it. The guy wasn't exactly sending mixed signals. Danny leaned in, something unclenching in his chest when Steve met him halfway. The kiss was soft and easy at first, but neither of them pulled back until Danny had to stop to catch his breath.
Without even trying, the time flip occurred, and he was leaning in again, experiencing that first kiss all over. It was just as mind blowing the second time, and this time Danny let his forehead rest against Steve's as he caught his breath again.
"Wow," Steve said softly. "Talk about déjà vu."
Danny froze. "What?"
"I could've sworn that just happened twice. Not that I'm complaining, because I'd be good with a lot more kissing, but that same exact kiss. Weird, yeah?"
"Uh...yeah. Wow. That's so weird."
And really, Danny shouldn't have known that exact look, but he did. He knew Steve had caught on, that something wasn't ringing true. "Really?" Steve said, sitting back just a little to look Danny in the eye. "Because you don't sound like it was all that weird."
"I, uh...." Fuck. He'd tried to tell so many people growing up, and no one ever believed him. So he'd stopped. Even Rachel and Grace had no idea. How could he explain it?
But then Steve had relived the moment with him.
He'd gone through the second minute. That had never happened before. Maybe, just maybe....
Danny took a deep breath. "Okay, this is going to sound weird," he said, his eyes closed. "I have this thing. I mean, there's this thing. That happens. And sometimes, I get do overs."
Danny managed to open his eyes and look into Steve's. "I get do overs. Repeating minutes. Only a minute, and I can't always control it. But...yeah. Déjà vu. Only reality."
Steve blinked at him a few times, and Danny was having trouble figuring out if Steve was preparing to jump out of the car and run, or have him carted off to the psych ward. "Okay," Steve said after what felt like forever. "Okay."
Steve nodded. "There's no other explanation for what just happened. And if it's happened to you before...okay."
"You're taking this very calmly."
"Have you ever used it to hurt anyone?"
"Of course not," Danny said quickly.
"And I'm guessing you've used it to help people?"
Danny nodded. "Ever since I can remember."
"Then why shouldn't I be calm about it?"
Danny stared. "My whole life...." He found himself gripping the emergency brake, staring at the little tip on the end. "For as long as this has been going on," he continued after a moment, "no one has ever believed me."
"But how else did they explain the whole reality déjà vu thing?"
"No one's ever remembered the first minute."
"Never?" Steve asked, a frown creasing his brow.
The frown deepened. "Okay, now I might not be quite as calm."
"I don't blame you," Danny said, leaning back into his seat and closing his eyes. "Go ahead," he said tiredly, waving at the door.
"I would imagine the last thing you want is to stick around after that."
Danny just shook his head, keeping his eyes closed as he waited for the sound of the car door. He didn't want to watch Steve walk away.
"Danny." Steve's voice got closer, and Danny could feel the heat of his body. "Hey."
He opened his eyes to see Steve leaning in. "I said I might not be quite as calm. I didn't say I was freaking out."
Steve gave him half a grin. "Trust me, some of the things I've seen, this isn't that weird."
"I'm not sure I want to know what you've seen, then," Danny said.
Steve laughed, and Danny couldn't help leaning into him just a bit, which was all the encouragement Steve apparently needed for another kiss. That kiss led to another, which led to another, until they discovered the emergency break was very inconveniently and uncomfortably placed in the Mustang.
The floodlights came on at the front of the house, startling Danny back to awareness of something other than the smell and feel of Steve. Steve pulled his head back to look over his shoulder, and Danny realized his hands were under Steve's shirt, halfway up his back, and Steve's were making their way up Danny's sides, fingertips digging into Danny's bare skin.
"Shit," Steve said, turning back to capture Danny's lips one more time. "I have to go," he said, glancing over his shoulder again. "Dad might come out here."
Danny couldn't help laughing, leaning his forehead against Steve's temple. "I have to admit," Danny said, "I thought I was long past the stage where any of my dates would say that."
He felt Steve's smile, felt his chuckle reverberate through him. "So this was a date then?" Steve asked.
Danny grinned as he pulled away, having a hard time making his hands leave the warmth of Steve's skin. But he managed. Finally. "You bet your ass," he replied.
"Not until the third date, I won't," Steve teased.
Danny swallowed hard. "Grace has a school concert tomorrow night," he said, "but if we had dinner the night after, that would be two."
"Is that your way of asking me out?" Steve asked, cocking his head.
"Dinner Saturday?" Danny asked.
Danny grinned, unable to resist kissing him one more time before Steve pulled away, his fingertips lingering just a moment on Danny's skin before he let go. "Good night, Danny."
He waited until Steve went into the house and out of sight before he started the car and took off for home. He barely noticed the drive, couldn't actually remember unlocking the door to his house, or getting ready for bed.
His mind was busy replaying that scene in the car as he lay down and turned out the light. Someone actually believed in his gift. Had shared it, accepted it. After a lifetime of hiding, it was still hard to believe.
Of course, Steve could still come to his senses. Things that seemed reasonable making out in a car in the dark didn't always look the same in the light of day. Or even outside the car.
Danny's phone buzzed on the nightstand, and he checked the screen.
Thought you might want my number. Still not freaking out. Go to sleep. S.
Choking back a laugh, Danny sent back a 'goodnight' before he saved Steve's number, liking the feel of permanence having it in his phone gave him. It was silly, a little thing, but it warmed him nonetheless.
He looked at the text one more time, rolled his eyes at himself for behaving like a thirteen-year-old girl. He put the phone down and turned onto his side, away from the phone, and drifted off to sleep.
Steve was awake before his dad the next morning, leaving for a run, followed by a swim. He needed to clear his head to think, and if he was honest, he wasn't keen on running into his father, who'd been waiting in the living room when Steve had come in the night before, the taste of Danny still on his lips.
"I thought Danny was giving you a ride home."
"You left hours ago."
Steve had slid his tie off from where it hung loose and open around his neck and tucked it in his jacket pocket. "So? We went for drinks."
"Dad. I'm 34."
"That I'm not 16, and this isn't the prom. Oh, wait," Steve had said, shucking his jacket with more force than necessary, "you wouldn't know what that looked like, would you? So I can see why you might be confused."
John had looked as if Steve had physically slapped him, and Steve steeled himself not to apologize. It was true. Harsh, maybe, but true. "I want the best for you, Steve," his father had said quietly, after a moment, looking a little deflated and suddenly old. "It's all I've ever wanted. Everything I've done was with that in mind."
Steve had shook his head, tossing his jacket over his arm and heading for the stairs. "So you've said." Steve had stopped long enough to fix his father with a look. "I'm just waiting for you to show it."
He'd gone upstairs and hidden in his room until his father had gone to bed. And he was still hiding now. He didn't understand the issue his dad had with the idea of Steve and Danny. It wasn't as if his father hadn't known about Steve. Steve had taken great pleasure in telling his father about a boyfriend when he was 17, though with hindsight, he knows it was partly because he'd hoped Dad would bring him back to the island because of it. But John had neither been shocked or upset.
Steve had thought at the time John just didn't care enough to be bothered.
So why did he care now? Steve pushed through the water towards home, turning that question over in his head. He kept coming back to John's overheard comment to Danny about protecting someone. Was he trying to protect Steve? Not from Danny, surely--Steve might not know his dad that well, but he could tell John trusted Danny.
Unless it was Danny he was trying to protect from Steve. Or maybe Steve's career--both their careers.
Which left him with more questions than answers.
He reached the beach, toweling off on the lanai before going into the house. The house was silent, only the quiet whirr of the ceiling fans greeting him as he walked through the dining room into the living room.
Steve looked out the front window to see the truck was gone. His dad's leg must be feeling better if he'd felt up for a drive. Then again, maybe he'd just needed to drive himself wherever he was going because he couldn't trust anyone else with his location.
That toolbox might hold a key, if Steve could find it. And since his father was out, maybe he could make some headway. He looked in the garage again, checking other corners and under old rags, but no luck. Same with the closets downstairs. He even tried his father's room, but he'd never expected him to be that obvious. He'd have to know that's the first place Steve would likely look.
The truck pulled up outside, and Steve grabbed some clothes and ducked into the bathroom before his father could come in. He took a longer shower than normal, not caring if his father assumed it was to avoid him. But he had to come out eventually, dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, toweling his hair dry as he walked down the steps.
"You were up early," his father said, standing in the doorway to the kitchen.
"Actually, I slept late for me."
John walked a little further into the room and stopped, as if he was afraid to get too close. "Look, Steve...I'm sorry."
"You're going to have to be a little more specific than that, Dad."
"About last night. I don't have a problem with you and Danny. It's just that you're only here for a month. And I don't want to see either of you get hurt."
Steve studied him for a long moment. He was telling the truth, only not. Something still wasn't right. "We're adults, Dad. We can take care of ourselves."
"I know. I'm sorry. Just," John's pause seemed forced, "be careful. Danny tends to throw his whole heart into things without thinking sometimes."
So he was more worried about Danny than Steve? Or did he think Steve didn't have a heart? That he could hurt Danny, but Danny couldn't hurt him? He was so wrong there, but Steve was being very careful not to admit to anyone just how much he thought Danny could hurt him already--himself included. But he knew, deep down, that he was already in over his head. He'd do just about anything for Danny, including give him up, if it came to that.
Which his father would be counting on, and have no hesitation in using to try to keep them apart.
"Well," Steve said, not letting on that he had guessed his father's game, "I'll keep that in mind. Thanks."
"I am sorry," John repeated.
Steve couldn't bring the words 'I know' to his lips. "Don't worry about it, Dad," he said instead.
"I'm going to go rest my leg for a while. I stocked some sandwich stuff in the fridge. You should eat."
Steve watched John carefully climb the stairs, realizing, in one of the few flashes he'd had since returning, how close he'd come to losing his dad. He didn't want it to be like this between them if something happened to either of them. He wanted to fix it.
He just had no idea how to fix it as long as John was hell bent on protecting him.
He had to find that toolbox. He planned his attack as he ate, then went back through the closets, turning them out, but no luck. The garage still nagged at him, something about it making him think it should be there, so he went through there again, but the search yielded the same results as before.
Standing by the spot he'd originally found it, Steve looked around the room, hands on his hips. It had to be here. His father would've expected this to be the last place Steve would turn upside down, because it was the first place it had been.
So where could he hide it that he would think Steve wouldn't look?
He surveyed the room once more, his eyes landing on the Marquis. Which had a trunk. Where people frequently stored tool boxes.
The keys were hanging on the wall by the door as always. "Nice touch, Dad," he muttered to himself. Because if the keys were there in the open, Steve wouldn't bother to look in the trunk. Or so his dad apparently thought, as when Steve opened the trunk, there was the box, looking as if it had been hastily stuffed in there.
He left it in the trunk, opening the lid and sifting through the contents. They made no sense. Random odds and ends, no patterns, no notes on what they were.
But maybe the notes were on the recorder. Steve hit play.
"I'm gonna have to do this on my own. It's all about the key. I don't know what it's for, but--"
"I should've known that wouldn't work," John said from the garage door.
Steve stopped the recorder, but didn't try to hide anything. "You're right," he said, after a moment. "You should've. Just like you should trust me."
"I do trust you."
"Really, Dad?" Steve's laugh was bitter as he dropped the recorder and a key back into the toolbox. "Because people don't normally hide things from people they trust."
John took a step closer. "I had to--"
"Protect me? From what? Do you have any idea what I do for a living? What makes you think that there is anything I can't handle?"
"There are things you don't know--"
"Oh, I'm very aware of that, thanks," Steve said, slamming the lid shut on the toolbox. "Because you refuse to tell me. And yet when you were on the phone, you made damn sure to give me clues to find this toolbox in case you didn't make it. You've never called me Champ in my life--don't try to tell me it wasn't a clue."
John nodded. "It was."
"So you wanted me to find the toolbox, but you didn't want me to know about it?"
"I needed you to find it if I was gone."
"But not while you're alive?" Steve shouted. "What, you only trust me if you're not around? I'm the second string, brought in to clean up the mess if you screw up, is that it?"
John took another step. "Steve--"
"No." Steve stepped back, hands in the air. "Either you trust me or you don't."
"I trust you."
"Then why didn't you want me to find this unless you were dead?"
John took a deep breath. "Because...." He stopped for another deep breath. "Because knowing what's in that box puts you in danger, and I couldn't lose anyone else to it."
Else? Steve frowned. "What do you mean?"
"You're right," John said with a sigh, scrubbing his face with his hand. "I should've told you. I told myself I was protecting you, but maybe I was ultimately protecting myself."
"You want to know? Fine. I suppose I owe you that. But let's do it where I can sit down and put my leg up. Come on." He turned to go back into the house. "And bring the damn toolbox with you."
Steve grabbed the toolbox and followed his dad into the dining room. As John took a seat, Steve placed the toolbox on the table. He pulled a chair up for John to prop his leg on and took the next seat over. "Okay, you're comfortable," Steve said, with as much patience as he could manage. "Start talking."
"Easier said than done."
"Dad, I swear--"
"Calm down, son. I'm going to tell you what I know. It's just figuring out where to start is...complicated."
"How about at the beginning?"
John took a deep breath and let it out. "Okay. Twenty years ago I started investigating a lead on the yakuza. We knew they'd increased their business in Hawaii, but we couldn't put a finger on anyone bigger than a tadpole in their organization. And tadpoles don't talk--they do, their families get wiped out.
"A couple of years went by," John said, opening the toolbox and taking out a stack of postcards, "and I was head of organized crime, but I had precious little to go on when it came to the yakuza. And then I found someone who was willing to help." He laid the postcards out in front of Steve. " These were from a contact in Japan. He was carefully trying to give me a name."
Steve frowned at the random stick figures on the cards. "I don't get it."
"Well, no, you never did have the patience for Sherlock Holmes," John said with a hint of a smile. "But it's a code from one of the books. It gave me enough to come up with a name."
Steve frowned at the postcards. "That name sounds familiar."
"It should. He's got money in every corner of every island in Hawaii."
John nodded. "I started digging on Noshimuri, but I had to be careful. His brother, Koji, was a cop."
"Was. He quit years ago. Apparently enforcement for his brother pays better."
Steve lifted his eyes to meet his father's. "So if you knew all this twenty years ago, why are they still out there?"
"Because I pushed too hard and too loudly. And learned about my mistake the hard way."
"I'm not following," Steve said, when his father didn't continue right away.
"I was getting close," John said, more slowly now, "and starting to make an impact on their business. The yakuza doesn't take kindly to that."
John reached into the toolbox and pulled out what looked like more postcards. "Apparently the yakuza decided to get rid of me," he said quietly. "So they rigged my car. Only I wasn't driving it."
Steve blinked, frowning, waiting for John to explain. When he didn't, Steve said, "And?"
"Your mother had the car."
Which made no sense. His mother had died in a car accident. The cop who'd come to the door had said so. Except he hadn't. Steve had answered the door, but the cop had asked to see John alone. John had relayed the message once the cop was gone.
No. John had lied once the cop was gone. And then told Steve and Mary the same lie for the rest of their lives.
"It wasn't a car accident. They were after me, and they got her by mistake." John laid the other postcards on the table, and Steve realized they weren't postcards, but pictures. Of a car bombing.
His mother's car bombing.
His mother had been in that car. That burnt out shell of a car with nothing left but a charred frame was the last place his mother had taken a breath.
"I can't...I don't even...." The chair screeched across the wood floor as Steve shoved it back to pace across the dining room, needing the length of the table between himself and his father. "How could you lie to us? All these years, and you never told us the truth!"
"What was I supposed to tell you, Steve? 'Hey, your mother was murdered because of me, but don't worry, you'll be fine, I promise.'? The safest thing for you and your sister was to know nothing."
"Safe? You think it was safe, sending us out there every day when they wanted you dead? How did that help? We should've known to be on the lookout!"
"What, so you could live your lives in fear of something I intended to make damn sure to protect you from?"
Steve slammed his fist on the table. "We should've known that we needed to protect ourselves from your mess! You clearly weren't up to the job!"
John flinched, but Steve couldn't quite find it in himself to feel bad about it. Eighteen years and his father had lied to him every single day of it. Lied to Mary. To everyone. Had every person they knew lie to them, too."
"Did Joe know?" Steve asked quietly.
"Did. Joe. Know."
John's lips thinned. "Yes."
"I can't even...I don't even know what to say to you."
"Hear me out before you say anything else."
Steve waved a hand, more to give himself time to process what he'd already heard than in any sort of magnanimous gesture.
"The governor is giving me a task force," John said. "Full immunity and means, and the ability to finally dig into the Yakuza and get the bastards responsible for this." He took a deep breath. "And I want you to join me."
Five minutes ago Steve might have been honored at the invitation, excited, even. But now? "No."
"Steve, just think about it."
"Think?" Steve took a few steps back before he turned, arms folded over his chest, to stare at the model ship behind him. "What do you want me to think about, Dad?" he asked, turning on his heel to face his father again. "Whether to stay in my job where I'm respected and not lied to as opposed to joining a task force that's already been lying to me for 18 years before it even existed? Not much to think about."
"No! " Steve wanted to punch something, and his father's face was starting to look like a really good target. "I can't even deal with this right now," he said, storming past his father with a curt, "I'm taking the truck," as he headed for the door, grabbing the keys on the way out.
Danny pulled in beside the Silverado and killed the engine, pocketing his keys as he got out of the car. When he'd stopped by the McGarrett house and John had filled him in, Danny had thought he might know where to find Steve.
Sure enough, Steve was inside the bar, sitting at the same booth he and Danny had occupied the night before. Danny waved at the waitress for a beer as he sat down opposite Steve.
"I thought you had Grace," Steve said without looking up from his drink.
"I did," Danny said. "And I watched her be the best recorder player in the history of the recorder. And then she wanted to stay at Laura's house with the rest of her friends, so I dropped her off and went by to see you."
"I'm not home."
Danny frowned at Steve's glass. "How many of those have you had?"
"Not enough." Steve looked up through his lashes at Danny. "How'd you find me?"
"Well, I tried calling you, but I didn't get an answer."
"I turned the phone off."
"I figured that after I talked with your dad."
Steve finished off his whiskey. "And what did he tell you?"
"He told me about your mom," Danny said quietly, pausing for the waitress to bring his beer and take Steve's glass, and his request for another. When she was gone, Danny continued. "I'm sorry."
"At least he didn't wait eighteen years to tell you," Steve said. "Guess that rates you higher on the list than his kids."
"Steve--" Danny waited for the waitress to put down Steve's drink and walk away again. "He had his reasons."
"What reasons could someone have for lying to their kids about their mother's death for half their lives, Danny?"
Danny took a sip of his beer as he contemplated what answer could possibly be good enough. "I didn't say they were good reasons," Danny said at last, "but he wasn't doing it to hurt you. He was trying to--"
"I swear to God, you say 'protect me' and I'll punch you."
"And you'd have a good reason for that, I suppose?" Danny said mildly.
Steve shot him a look. "It's not the same thing and you know it."
"No, but it made my point."
"And what point was that?"
"That sometimes people do stupid things. Doesn't make them bad people. Just means they made bad decisions."
Steve leaned back in the seat, pulling his glass back with him and taking another drink. "Eighteen years, Danny," he all but growled. "Eighteen years that he let us think she died in a car accident."
"Would it have been easier knowing?" Danny asked. "Would it have been easier if you'd known about the bomb? If you'd been wondering if you or Mary might be the next casualties while blaming your father for her death? Or," Danny asked, remembering what John had said about Steve after his mother's death, "if you'd lost your mother and spent every waking moment worrying your father would be next?"
"That's still not the point," Steve said, but Danny noticed there was less heat behind the statement this time.
Danny shook his head. "It is the point. You were 15. Mary was 12. Your father made a choice to try to protect you until you were old enough for it not to hurt you."
"And when did he think that was going to be - when we were 90?"
"I'm sure he just didn't know how to tell you after a while, and it was easier to just leave it alone."
"How very noble of him," Steve bit out, finishing off his drink before leaning forward once more.
Sighing, Danny leaned in, placing a hand over one of Steve's where it rested on the table. "When you have kids," Danny said slowly, "you'd do anything to protect them. And it doesn't stop just because they grow up. You always look at them and see that baby you held the moment it was born. Even if they're 90."
"It's not right. You should be honest with your kids."
"Right, like telling them there is no Santa Claus or Tooth Fairy?"
"Well, no, I don't mean that. But important stuff."
Danny raised an eyebrow. "Santa's a pretty big lie, my friend. An expensive, 10-year or more lie. That's not important?"
Steve leaned back again, pulling his hand out from under Danny's. "Again, not really the point."
"But it is," Danny insisted. "You do whatever it takes for your kids and damn the consequences. And you find yourself doing stuff you'd have sworn you'd never, ever do when you were a parent, and not even feeling bad about it. Because you love your kids and you want to protect them."
"He was still trying to protect me at 34, Danny. I'm a fucking Navy SEAL and he wouldn't tell me until I forced it out of him. I mean, what if he'd died? What if Hesse had shot him? Would I have been floundering around in the dark with no idea what any of that damn toolbox meant or what kind of danger it held? How is that protecting me?"
"That's an excellent question," Danny said, knowing what had really happened, and how Steve would probably feel if Danny hadn't been just in time--the second time. "What if he'd died that day? Would you give a crap if you found out he'd lied to you? Would it even matter in the face of never seeing him again? What if instead of coming home to help him recuperate, you'd come home to bury him?"
Steve's eyes were a little wild by the time Danny finished, one hand gripping his glass so tightly Danny worried it was going to break. "I--"
The waitress interrupted, asking Danny if he wanted another beer, and he declined. "Sir?" she said to Steve. "Shall I get you a sixth one?"
She was looking at Danny as she said it, so he figured that was really meant for him to try to stop him. "He's done," Danny said. "Thanks."
When she'd left the check and walked away again, Steve let out a ragged breath. "I have nightmares," he said in a low voice, eyes unfocused. "Ever since that call, a nightmare that he dies. That Hesse shoots him. It was so real I thought it had really happened that day until you got on the phone and told me he was okay. I really thought Hesse had shot him."
He didn't know how to get his point across. Unless.... Steve already knew about Danny's abilities. What if Steve knew how close he'd really come to losing his father? "Um, actually, about that...."
Steve blinked, confusion giving way to something akin to horror. "Danny...did...?" He leaned back against the booth, swallowing hard. "It was a do over, wasn't it?"
It wasn't a question, but Danny nodded. "You have no idea how close it was to being real."
"But I do. I remember it. I thought it was just the stress, that I'd imagined the worst, but it really happened. Oh my God." Steve put his elbows on the table and buried his face in his hands. "Why?" he asked, looking up, fingers pushing into his face just enough to rub. "Why didn't you tell me last night?"
"Because I was a little freaked out at everything that had happened already and didn't really feel like it was the time to bring it up. 'Oh, hey, by the way, that whole do over thing? Yeah, I saved your dad's life.' I mean, really."
Steve huffed. "Good point."
"Finally I have a good point!"
That got something that almost passed for a grin before it faded, along with some of the shock, from Steve's face. "I don't know what to do," he said after a moment.
"Think about this," Danny said. "If I hadn't had a do over, if you'd been coming home to bury him, would you still be so pissed off? Knowing that you'd never see him again, would you want to yell at him if you had a second chance? Or take that second chance in case it's gone before you know it?"
Steve sighed. "Well put," he said, before finishing his drink. "He's got a new task force for the governor--did he tell you? He asked me to join, but I was so pissed off I turned him down on the spot."
"That's too bad," Danny said. "Because I'm going to need a partner there, and I was kind of hoping it might be you."
"You...he asked you?"
Danny nodded. "This afternoon. He said then he was thinking about asking you, so I was a little hopeful."
"He was thinking about asking me this afternoon?" Steve frowned. "Before I forced him into telling me everything?"
"Maybe he was already trying to figure out how to tell you."
He didn't sound completely doubtful, so Danny counted it as a win. "Does that mean you'll give him a chance?"
"He lied to me for years," Steve said. "Sent Mary and me away, missed half our lives." He took a deep breath, eyes meeting Danny's. "But I didn't fight it. I could've--I was of age three years later. I could've come back. I could've pushed. But I didn't. I kept running until Hesse shot him."
"But Hesse didn't shoot him."
"Except I think I knew deep down he had. I just ignored it because it didn't make any sense. That's why I took any flight I could and got here a day early. I just couldn't believe he wasn't dead until I saw it."
Ignoring the part of his brain that was still trying to process the fact that Steve had relived two of Danny's extra minutes that they knew of, Danny focused on the problem at hand. "So does that mean there's a chance I may have a partner?"
"Maybe. I don't know. I have to think about whether I can do this. Whether I can trust him. And there's my job--it'll have to be worked out. The Navy isn't like a normal job. You can't just resign."
"I'm sure your father and the governor knew all that before he offered you the job."
"Still. I need to think." Steve pushed his empty glass away. "And probably on a little less alcohol."
Danny smiled. "Come on," he said. "I'll give you a ride home. I can bring you back to get the truck tomorrow."
"Dad'll be pissed about not having the truck."
"He's earned a little difficulty," Danny said. Because while he understood the reasons John might've had, he had no trouble understanding Steve's anger. And thought John might be getting off easy in the end.
It got a laugh out of Steve, who pulled out his wallet and dropped a few bills onto the check. He stumbled a little as he put his wallet back in his pocket, and Danny put a hand on his back to steady him, leaving it there even when Steve was fine.
He could feel the heat of Steve through his shirt, and he remembered all too well how good his skin had felt the night before. He wanted to feel more of that skin. Wanted to touch and lick and taste.
Steve hiccupped as they walked out, and Danny didn't hide his smile. He'd have to save the tasting for a night when Steve was sober.
The ride to the house was silent, Steve clearly lost in his own thoughts. When he pulled to a stop, Steve turned and leaned in without hesitation for a kiss. He tasted like whiskey and sex, and Danny gripped the console and the shifter to avoid grabbing onto Steve and keeping him in the car.
"I should go," Steve murmured against Danny's lips.
A few kisses later, Steve pulled back, reaching for the door handle. He had the door open when Danny stopped him. "So does this count as date number two?" Danny asked.
Steve laughed. "Ask me again tomorrow."
"I will. Night."
Steve stood on the porch and watched Danny pull away until the lights faded into the distance, resisting the urge to go after him. Not just because he wanted Danny--though he did--but also to avoid the conversation he suspected he'd be having once he walked through the door.
Maybe he'd get lucky and his dad would be in bed. So he'd open the door, and if John was asleep, he'd walk right back out and down the road until he found the house with Danny's car parked in front of it.
That gave him the push to turn the knob and push the door open. He hadn't even stepped both feet inside when he saw his father sitting in the chair nearest the door. "You're still up," Steve said, closing the door and leaning back against it.
"I was waiting for you," John said. "Did Danny find you?"
Steve nodded. "He drove me home. The truck's still at the bar."
If he'd been hoping that would pick a fight, he was wrong. "It's fine," John said, waving his hand. "I'll get it tomorrow. Better that than you drinking and driving."
"Son...." John looked uncertain, not a look Steve was familiar with on him. He only remembered it once, the day his dad told him he and his sister were being sent away. "I'm sorry."
"For which thing, Dad?"
John pushed himself out of the chair, moving behind it to lean on the back for support. "Everything. I'm sorry for not telling you sooner about your mother. I'm sorry for trying to keep everything from you. And I'm sorry for not telling you a lot more. I shouldn't need a gun to my head to make me tell you how proud I am of everything you've done."
Steve's bottom teeth were trying to push themselves into the top ones. "No," he agreed. "You shouldn't."
"I've made a lot of mistakes," John said. "But I'd like to try working with you to bring these guys down. You, me, Danny...I think we have a shot."
"I don't know, Dad." The 15-year-old boy in him wanted to jump at the chance to work alongside his father. The Steve who'd grown up resenting being shoved aside, however, he wasn't so sure.
"I understand," John said, limping across the room to stop less than a foot from Steve. "The toolbox is on the dining room table," he said quietly. "Look through it. Listen to the tape. Think about it. And let me know in the morning if you want to stay and figure all this out."
He wasn't sure if that meant figuring out the case, or figuring out where he and his father went from there. "Okay," Steve said, because if he was going to insist on being treated like an adult, he should act like a reasonable one.
John put his hand on Steve's shoulder, giving him a weak smile. "Thank you." At Steve's nod, John said, "Good night, son."
Steve managed a hoarse good night as his dad turned and made his way slowly up the stairs.
When he heard the bedroom door close, Steve pushed off the door and went into the dining room. The toolbox was wide open, spilling secrets all over the table. Steve looked through the various items, but the only ones that actually made any sense were the postcards and the photos.
He forced himself to look at the bombing photos again. He'd had too much experience with explosives not to be able to picture the car as it went up in flames.
After one last look, he put the pictures aside, face down. He couldn't think straight if he was looking at them. And he had a lot of thinking to do.
The tape recorder was lying in front of the toolbox. Steve sat down at the head of the table, took a deep breath, and hit play.
The first pale rays of sun were just starting to filter into the room when Steve turned the recorder off. He'd long since lost the emotional buffer of alcohol, and he'd felt a lot of his father's grief in his recording. How he'd given up his kids to chase the men who'd taken so many family members away, Steve's mother being only one of many.
A day ago he'd have said his father had never wavered in his determination to keep his kids at a distance. He'd have sworn that the man hadn't been bothered by it. But the man on the tape was haunted by his decision, even if it fueled his work. He wasn't going to let that sacrifice be for nothing.
And yet it almost had been. If Danny hadn't been who he was, if he'd been just seconds later his first time, a minute might not have been enough.
And Steve wouldn't have either parent anymore.
He put the recorder down and stood, stretching his body, stiff and sore after hours of sitting on a hard dining room chair. He couldn't even think of sleeping just yet, so he'd need to substitute food for a nap.
Steve was nearly done with the pancakes when his father came down the stairs. He walked into the kitchen, hovering just inside the doorway, giving Steve a guarded look. "You're up early."
"I never went to bed," Steve said, before turning his attention back to the stove. "Are you hungry?"
"I could eat."
"Good. Have a seat."
He heard the chair scrape as he piled pancakes onto a plate before taking it over and putting it on the table in front of his father. He waited for the rest to cool, getting them both coffee before he brought his own plate to the table and sat down opposite John.
"So," John said, as he cut his pancakes with more care than the job warranted, "have you made a decision?"
"Depends." Steve held his father's gaze intently. "You think you can put aside your instinct to protect me and let me do my job if we do this?"
John nodded eagerly. "I can. I know you're more than capable of taking care of yourself, Steve. That was never a doubt. I just didn't want you to be collateral damage in my mess."
"It's not a mess. It's a case. And we're going to solve it."
"Does that mean you're in?" John asked.
Steve waited until his father had left in a cab to get the truck--he'd insisted, as if it was some sort of gesture to make up for things--to call Danny.
"So was there any bloodshed?" Danny answered.
Stepping out onto the lanai, Steve laughed. "And a good morning to you, too," he said. "How'd you know it was me?"
"You texted me your number, remember?"
"You have it memorized already?"
"No, I saved it to the phone. You call, it pops up your name. That's how cell phones work."
Steve couldn't remember the last time anyone had made him laugh as much as Danny did. Or want as much. "You saved my number? I'm touched."
"Yeah, uh," Danny's voice lowered a little, "you never know when it might be handy to have a Navy SEAL in your pocket."
"There's a joke in there about handy and your pockets, but I'm too tired to find it," Steve said after a moment.
Danny made a sympathetic noise. "What happened when you went inside?"
"We talked," Steve said, making his way down the beach to sit in one of the old chairs by the water. "I spent the night thinking. And this morning I accepted his offer to join the task force."
"So I get my partner after all?"
There was no mistaking the pleasure in Danny's voice. "If you still want me."
"Oh, babe, there are so many ways I can go with that one." The note in Danny's voice sent warmth through Steve's body. "Speaking of which, are we still on for dinner?"
"If you're still free."
"Grace just got home from her sleepover. I have to take her to Rachel's this afternoon, and then I'm all yours."
The images that went through Steve's head at that made him pause for a moment. "So," Steve said, clearing his throat before continuing, "where are we having dinner?"
"Actually, I was thinking I could cook."
"Yes, I cook. This surprises you?"
Steve tilted his head back, smiling up at the sun. "Everything about you surprises me."
"Good. I like to keep you on your toes." Steve could picture Danny's face as he said that, all smug and smiling, and incredibly sexy. "So, dinner at my place at seven?"
"Sounds good." He'd just as soon go over there now, but Grace was there and Steve didn't want to intrude.
"Should I come get you?"
He was really going to need a car soon. But not for this. "You're only a couple of blocks away, yeah?"
"Okay. Should I come get you this afternoon to go get the truck?"
A little sad for the lack of excuse to see Danny sooner, Steve reluctantly told him no. "Dad's gone to get it."
"That was good of him."
He didn't think he was imagining that Danny sounded a little put out about it, too. "Yeah, he's a prince."
"He's our boss."
Oh, God. Steve hadn't thought of it that way until just now. "Is it too late to back out?"
"Yes. You're stuck with us. Like it or not."
Whatever his issues were with his father, however, Steve couldn't be unhappy at the idea of being stuck with Danny. "Well, I suppose that's not all bad."
"You'll be much more enthusiastic later, I promise you."
And that voice was definitely full of promise. "You have a big house, right?" Steve asked.
"It's a good size."
"Good. Just wanted to make sure there'd still be room in there for me with your ego."
"Babe, that wasn't ego. That was a fact."
Laughing again, Steve pushed out of the chair as he heard a voice in the background of the phone--Grace, he assumed. "You have to go?"
"Yeah, Grace can't find Annie."
"Dolphin Trainer Annie. Long story. Anyway, see you at seven?"
"Yeah. Looking forward to it."
"Oh me, too. Believe me."
Danny hung up, and Steve put the phone down on the chair, dropping his shirt on top of it before he ran out into the ocean for a swim.
Steve had changed clothes three times by 6:30, finally settling on a medium blue button down and black dress pants. The shirt made his eyes look blue, and the pants were comfortably tight in a way he hoped would have Danny staring.
Might as well make sure there were no illusions about what he was expecting.
He went downstairs at 6:45, hoping his father would be napping, but no such luck. He was sitting on the couch, a notebook in hand, when Steve reached the first floor. "Going out?" John asked.
Steve nodded. "Don't wait up," he added, bracing himself for another round of 'do you know what you're doing?'
To his surprise, however, John just said, "Have a good night," and went back to his notebook.
Frowning, Steve muttered a thanks and turned to walk out the door. He spent the five-minute walk to Danny's wondering why his father was suddenly butting out. He'd come no closer to an answer when he knocked on Danny's door.
Any thoughts of his father flew straight out of Steve's head as Danny opened the door. He was wearing gray slacks, a white shirt, and a blue tie that perfectly matched his eyes, and Steve couldn't help staring.
"Are you going to come in?" Danny asked after a moment. "Because it would be kind of awkward for you to eat standing at the door."
"Sorry," Steve said, giving himself a little shake. "I was just...hi."
"You were high?"
Steve laughed. "No. I mean--" His brain caught up with his ears and he realized Danny was mocking him. "Funny," Steve said. "Can I come in?"
"I'd appreciate it if you did," Danny replied, stepping back and holding the door open. He'd barely managed to close it again before Steve felt himself being pressed against the wall beside it. "I think the neighbors might have gossiped if I'd done this on the porch."
Before Steve could ask what, Danny was pressing his whole body into Steve's as their mouths met. He could feel the heat of Danny's body from shoulders to knees, making him wonder just which direction the bedroom was in and how few steps they could take to get there.
"Hi," Danny said against Steve's lips after a minute.
"You greet everybody like that?"
He felt Danny grin. "Only hot Navy SEALs who look like they stepped off the cover of GQ."
"Get a lot of those on your doorstep, do you?"
"Oh, at least once a week," Danny said, his lips moving against Steve's neck now. "They're like Girl Scouts and Jehovah's Witnesses, always turning up around dinner."
Steve's hand slid up to the back of Danny's neck, but Danny pulled out of his grasp. "Speaking of dinner," Danny said, as if he wasn't flushed, lips swollen, and breathing heavy, "we should eat."
Food was the last thing on Steve's mind. "Or we could eat later."
"Absolutely not." Danny grabbed Steve's arm, pulling him through to the low-lit dining room, where the table was set for two. "The food's better fresh," he said, maneuvering Steve into a chair. "And besides," Danny added quietly, leaning down until his lips were touching Steve's ear, "you'll need your strength for later."
Danny went through the door Steve presumed led to the kitchen, leaving Steve to adjust himself under the table. Maybe food would calm him down a little and he'd make it through dinner without embarrassing himself.
By the time he was halfway through the meal, Steve realized Danny had no intention of letting him calm down. On the contrary, the entire meal seemed designed to drive Steve crazy. It was like food as foreplay.
"How's the meat?" Danny asked, just after pulling his fork out of his mouth in a way that made Steve wonder what his cock would look like with those lips wrapped around it.
"Excellent," Steve replied, trying his best to give no hint of what dinner was doing to him. He didn't think it was working, judging by Danny's smug look, but he was trying nonetheless. But two could play at that game. "Very tender. Did you spend a lot of time beating it?"
Danny's eyes lit up, which only fueled the heat that had been running through Steve's body since the moment Danny had opened the door. "Ages," Danny said, licking his fork.
Steve absolutely did not whimper a little in the back of his throat. "Time well spent," he said, and his voice was absolutely not hoarse.
"Time for dessert." Danny rose, trailing his fingers along Steve's arm casually has he walked by to get to the kitchen.
Steve was hoping for a very small dessert, but the chocolate mousse Danny put in front of him was a generous portion. He tasted it, humming with surprise at how good it was. "This is delicious."
"At the risk of damaging your opinion of me," Danny said as he sat back down, "I didn't make the dessert. Never had the patience to get the hang of mousse. But I like it, so I found a place that does it justice--which is no mean feat in Hawaii, let me tell you."
"I promise not to judge," Steve said, licking another spoonful into his mouth, "if you promise to tell me where you got it."
"Be a good boy and maybe I will," Danny said before putting a spoonful into his mouth and sliding the spoon back out slowly.
Steve's mouth went dry, and he covered by putting a larger spoonful in his own mouth. As good as the dessert was, he wanted to finish it quickly to get to the real main course--Danny.
Danny, however, was having none of it, tasting small bites and licking the spoon until Steve was so hard he was worried he might actually hit the table getting up from his chair. But at last Danny finished his dessert and took the empty dishes back into the kitchen.
Steve jumped up when Danny was gone, not caring if Danny could see how much Steve wanted him in the way his cock was pressing against his zipper. Danny came back into the dining room and didn't stop until he was pressed up against Steve's body. "Wanna play chess?" Danny asked.
"Danny," Steve said, and he couldn't even care less how broken his voice sounded, especially not when Danny's face practically sparkled with delight.
"Maybe not chess, then," Danny said, stepping back. Steve was about to pull him back in, but then Danny grabbed his hand and led him down the hall to the bedroom. They were barely through the bedroom door when Steve grabbed for Danny, pulling him into a long kiss.
"Danny-" Steve said against Danny's lips, "can I--please--"
"You can do whatever you want," Danny said distractedly, his hands mapping Steve's ass.
Steve sighed in relief, reaching for Danny's tie, his fingers slow and fumbling, finally managing to get the damn knot undone. He whipped it off Danny's neck and tossed it aside, going to work on the buttons.
Too many fucking buttons, and after the third or fourth, Steve gave up and pulled, feeling the fabric give way. He yanked the shirt off Danny's body and then finally, thank God, had his hands and mouth on Danny's skin.
His body was a thing of beauty, and Steve made it all the way to Danny's shoulder before he realized how much easier this would be if Danny were horizontal. He pushed Danny back until he landed on the bed, Steve landing beside him less than a second later, his lips immediately finding their place and working their way down Danny's torso.
Danny refused to be outdone, however, and Steve wasn't even to Danny's navel when he had to stop at the feel of Danny's finger. His hand had made it under Steve's pants and underwear and was pressed against Steve's hole, as if waiting for permission.
"Danny...God...." Steve pushed back against Danny's hand, silently begging, even as Steve slid his tongue across Danny's stomach, Steve's fingers hastening to get Danny's slacks out of the way enough that Steve could get his mouth on Danny's cock.
His first view of Danny's cock took his breath for a second, and then his mouth was on it, savoring the taste and feel. His breath hitched and he paused for a moment as Danny slid a finger inside him, but the resulting fire only made Steve suck harder, determined to make Danny come first.
That resolve was tested when Danny slipped two fingers inside--and when had he even had a chance to make them so slick? Steve wondered, but the thought slipped from his mind as quickly as it had come. He didn't care, as long as Danny kept pressing inside him from both ends, the dual stimulation of Danny's cock pressing against the back of Steve's throat and Danny's fingers pushing deeper inside him with every thrust too much for Steve to stand anymore.
He came hard, his pants still up around his hips, his mouth still wrapped around Danny's cock. He vaguely realized that Danny was still thrusting, and after a few moment's haze, managed to get his hand wrapped around Danny's cock instead, stripping the length hard as Steve's mouth nuzzled the tip.
Danny didn't last long with that, and Steve moved just in time, watching Danny fall apart while Steve's hand milked him through it. He was even more gorgeous than Steve had thought possible like that, all that cockiness and self assurance gone, nothing but raw animal beauty showing through.
Steve watched until he had to close his eyes and flop onto his back, completely and utterly spent in every way possible.
Danny felt as though his brain had disappeared, so he supposed he could be forgiven for not noticing for a few seconds how his harsh breathing had taken on a weird, vacuum-sealed world sound that he'd never forget.
"Fuck!" He looked at his watch to see that the second hand was completely stopped. "Fuck. Fuck." The words sounded hollow and weird, but since no one was going to hear them, there was no point in worrying about it.
"What the hell?"
Danny's head whipped around to see Steve staring at his own watch, eyes wide open. "You--you're not frozen."
"Uh, no, but my watch is." Steve looked around the room. "And so are the curtains, and the ceiling fan."
"Fuck." Danny rolled to his knees, folding his legs under himself as he looked down at Steve. "I'm sorry, this only happened twice before that I remember. I didn't even think I caused it."
Steve was staring at Danny with a look that made him want to take back the last minute to keep this from happening. Except Steve would remember, so it wouldn't do any good. "I don't think you did cause it," Steve said slowly.
"I think it was me."
"What?" Danny said, more sharply. "How would it be you?"
Steve shook his head as he sat up, scrubbing his face with his hands before pulling his knees in tight, circling them with his arms to keep himself upright. "When I was a kid," he said carefully, resting his chin on his knees, "I used to dream time stopped--or Mom told me it was a dream anyway. And then the day my mom died, when Dad told us...it was like everything just froze. I've heard so many people say that it was like everything stopped when they heard that kind of news that I talked myself into believing it. But this is exactly what it was like."
The fan started again, the wind from the curtains and the sound of their watches loud in Danny's ears. "You were fifteen when your mom died?" Danny asked softly.
"Yeah. Just about to turn 16."
Danny thought back. "What was the date?"
"The day your mom died."
"February 15, 1992."
Fuck. "That explains that."
Danny bit his lower lip. He'd thought nothing could really surprise him anymore--certainly nothing in relation to his powers--but this.... What if Steve didn't buy it?
"Okay, this is going to sound weird--"
"I'm pretty sure nothing could sound weird at this point."
Which was a good point. "February 15, 1992, I was making out in a car with Patty Simpson." He paused just a second to enjoy the caveman face Steve made at the mention of Danny making out with someone else. "And time just stopped."
"She was that good?" Steve asked, looking even more put out.
"No, she wasn't--actually, it took me less than a month to realize how bad she was. But that's not the point."
Steve's brain seemed to get off the idea of Danny with someone else and back on track. "That was when I found out Mom died."
"And when time stopped." Danny took a deep breath. "Or, more accurately, when you stopped time."
When Steve didn't say anything else, Danny put a hand on his arm. "But?"
"So many times over the years when I was doing my job that could've helped, all the lives I might have saved, and...nothing. I didn't even remember it until just now."
"Maybe you couldn't," Danny offered gently.
Danny's hand slid down Steve's arms to pry one of Steve's hands away, lacing their fingers together. "Maybe you blocked the ability out because of the association with your mom's death."
Steve blinked at him a few times before blowing out a long breath. "Maybe." He fell back onto the bed, pulling Danny down with him.
Danny landed on his side, one hand still holding Steve's. The other he used to prop his head up. "You okay?" Danny asked after a moment.
"Yeah, I just..." Steve smiled ruefully. "Not really how I expected our first time to end, overshadowed by this."
"That was overshadowed by nothing, babe," Danny said, leaning down for a kiss. "Believe me, I'm never going to forget a second of it--and not because of what happened after."
"I don't know," Steve said, free hand moving to the back of Danny's neck, keeping him close enough to kiss again. "I'm sure I could do better."
"Better might kill me," Danny muttered against Steve's lips.
Steve managed a smile in between kisses. "I think you'll live."
"I think we should try and find out."
Steve woke up feeling as if there was a heavy electric blanket covering him. He breathed deeply, inhaling a scent that was definitely not a blanket, one that made him smile and burrow down under the warmth, fighting consciousness.
That warmth was moving, however, and Steve blinked his eyes open reluctantly, any sense of displeasure at waking up ending when he realized the blanket was actually Danny, sprawled across Steve's body.
He could get used to waking up like this. He'd lived his whole life without even knowing Danny existed, but after just a few days, it was getting harder to imagine life without him. He didn't want to. Of course, now that he'd taken the job working for his father, he might not have to.
Unless his father used that job to separate them.
But if he was planning to do that, he wouldn't have offered them jobs as partners. Then again, maybe he was planning to use that against them. Maybe if they were partners, they couldn't be together. Maybe John was counting on both of them having a sense of duty that made them choose work instead of each other.
And maybe Steve had spent too long in Naval Intelligence if he was seeing manipulative motives in his father's every move.
He felt Danny shudder before he started moving again, his head lifting just enough for Danny to blink sleepily at him. "Morning," Danny said as his lips widened into a blinding smile.
"Morning," Steve replied.
Danny stretched his neck up until his lips touched Steve's. A few kisses later, Danny let his head drop to Steve's shoulder, mouthing the skin there. Steve gripped Danny's hair, keeping him there, shifting his own body so they moved against each other, sweat-slickened warmth providing just enough friction between them. His cock bumped lazily against Danny's as they moved, and Steve let his hands drift down to Danny's ass, pulling him in tighter on each thrust.
Lips tasting every inch of skin, Danny moved slowly back up Steve's neck to capture his mouth once more. It was so good like this, a slow, sweet build, that it took Steve by surprise when it suddenly spiked, pleasure thrumming through his body as he held Danny close, pushing into him through his orgasm. Danny was thrusting with small, fast movements by the time Steve could breathe, and Steve slid a finger between Danny's cheeks, circling his hole a few times before carefully dipping one finger inside.
"Fuck!" Danny thrust against Steve's body hard as he came, lips losing contact with Steve's and pressing sloppy kisses down the side of his cheek. Steve held onto him until he stilled at last.
It took him a moment to realize that everything was going on as normal. The world hadn't taken on that muffled, underwater sound, and the fan kept spinning. "I guess we don't have to worry about stopping time every time we do this?" Steve said.
"I can't decide if that's a good or bad thing," Danny said, lifting his head for a kiss.
"So," Steve murmured against Danny's lips several kisses later, "do you happen to have a shower?"
He felt more than heard Danny laugh. "I have a shower big enough for two," Danny said, his mouth somewhere near Steve's ear.
"Feel up to joining me in it, then?" Steve asked.
"That's the second best idea you've had since we woke up."
Danny climbed sleepily to his feet, pulling Steve off the bed and leading him by the hand to a door Steve hadn't even bothered to notice on the other side of the room. It opened onto a bathroom with a large shower. "Big enough for two?" Steve said. "I think you could fit five in there if you tried."
"Kinky," Danny said, using his hold on Steve's hand to tug him closer for a kiss. "But I think I'll stick to two, if that's okay with you?"
"I think that's wise," Steve said, the thought of sharing Danny with anyone already something that made him far more pissed off than it should. He'd only known the guy for a few days.
Danny turned on the water, testing the temperature for a moment before stepping under it, pulling Steve into it as well. It felt amazing, almost as amazing as Danny's skin where it brushed against Steve's, clean, wet and warm. He'd wondered what it might be like to see Danny swim, now he was dying to know. The man was gorgeous wet, water emphasizing every line of every muscle, his hair forced out of that too-perfect slicked back look into something more human and touchable.
Steve couldn't resist burying his fingers in that hair and messing it up a little more. "If you're going to do that," Danny said mildly, "you could at least use some shampoo."
"Well, if you insist." Steve grabbed the bottle of shampoo, working the lather through Danny's hair until Danny was leaning back against him, eyes closed, humming with contentment. Steve's cock twitched, but sadly he hadn't recovered quite enough to do anything about how much this was turning him on just yet.
Danny moved away and rinsed his hair before taking his turn at cleaning Steve up. They didn't seem to be able to stop touching each other. Even when they were out of the shower they dried each other off and kept stopping in the process of getting dressed and getting distracted by each other's body. Steve wanted to fall back into the bed and spend the rest of the day memorizing Danny's body, but they had too many other things they had to do.
Maybe Danny wouldn't mind if he spent the night again. And the next night. And the next, and the next, until he just never moved out.
Too soon for that kind of thinking, though, and he knew it. Didn't stop his brain from thinking it, but he knew better than to bring it up. Just like he knew better than to try to seriously discuss the whole time stopping thing. He wasn't ready to talk about it just yet, and he had a feeling Danny wouldn't have any trouble bringing it up if he was, so he guessed that went both ways.
They'd have to talk about it sometime, and soon. But not this morning.
They ate cereal side by side at Danny's kitchen island, shoulders and arms brushing, while Danny read the paper, stopping to comment on stories that managed to get the two of them into discussions--and occasionally disagreements, but never heated ones. It was cozy and comfortable and so far removed from any experience Steve had ever had that he kept thinking it should be freaking him out. Only it wasn't. He was fine with it. He could imagine long stretches of time where this was his life.
"So," Danny said, as he folded up the paper and put it aside, "does your Dad know where you are, or should I expect ninjas to rappel from the roof at any moment to rescue you?"
Steve laughed. "I told him not to wait up. Hopefully he understood what that meant."
"Why, Lieutenant," Danny said, leaning into Steve, warm and solid, "did you come over here planning to seduce me?"
"It's Commander," Steve said. "And I thought I came over here because you promised to seduce me."
"Fair enough." Danny leaned in for a kiss. "Not that I'm in a hurry to get rid of you," he said, his tone more serious, "but you probably should make sure he knows where you are."
Steve sighed. "I'm a big boy, Danny."
"I know that. And so does he." Danny leaned his chin on Steve's shoulder. "However, he took a big step in pulling you into the investigation. I'm just saying that it might be nice to make sure he doesn't completely flip out and think you've been kidnapped or murdered the next day. Wouldn't do much for his progress in trusting that nothing's going to happen to you."
Eyes closed, Steve tapped his fingers on the counter a few times. "You're right," he said at last. "I should probably go home and change anyway. Maybe go for a quick swim."
"Oh yes, God forbid a day go by without that--your gills might get rusty and the rest of the SEALs might kick you out of their club."
Steve couldn't help but laugh at the cocky grin on Danny's face. "Okay. I'll go home if you agree to come over for lunch."
Danny glanced at the clock. "I have to go pick up Grace in an hour."
"Okay, that lets out lunch. What about dinner? I haven't had the chance to show you my ahi grilling skills yet. And you could bring Grace." The silence stretched just a little too long, until Steve added, "Of course, if you don't want her around just yet, I under--"
"No," Danny said quickly. "That wasn't it. Sorry. I was just going over routine in my head to make sure we'd have enough time to get her settled and in bed on time, or if I was going to need to see if Rachel minded me picking her up early."
Steve's muscles unclenched a little. "Oh. And the verdict?"
"I think we'll be fine." Danny leaned in for a kiss, and Steve took several before letting him go. "Okay, you need to go now," Danny said, his grip on Steve's bicep saying otherwise, "or I won't be on time to get Grace, you won't get your swim, the SEALs will boot you and all will be lost."
"Right." Steve took another kiss. "Going." Another kiss. "Really."
"Go." Danny let go of Steve's arm and led him to the door. Several kisses beside the door later, Danny opened it and all but shoved Steve out. "I'll see you soon," Danny said, leaning out the door for one last kiss before closing it firmly between them.
Steve tamped down on the urge to go back inside and made himself turn around and head home instead.
When Steve walked in, the house was quiet. Maybe he wouldn't have to make any explanations--it would certainly be easier than the lecture he was sure his father would have prepared. He went slowly, quietly up the stairs, checking over his shoulder to watch for his father, all the while cursing himself for acting like a teenager sneaking home after curfew.
He made it to the top step and turned towards his room when his luck ran out.
"Late night?" his father said mildly.
Steve turned to see John standing in the doorway of his room. "Yeah," Steve said, steeling himself for whatever came next.
"Glad you're home," John said, turning to go back into his room.
Wait, what? "That's it?"
John turned back. "What else should I say?"
"Nothing," Steve said, "but given how you've taken every opportunity to try to warn me off Danny, I figured you'd have something to say."
John closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "I wasn't warning you off Danny."
"'He has a daughter. You have a job. You'll be leaving.'" Steve folded his arms across his chest. "That ring a bell?"
"I wasn't warning you off Danny," John said again. "I was worried that he might convince you to stay."
Which was what had happened, but only after his dad had already asked. "But you sent him to convince me."
"After I accepted the fact that you're an adult and I couldn't keep protecting you."
"Oh." Steve processed that for a moment. "Oh. So you're okay with Danny? And me?"
The faint smile on John's face held a hint of sadness. "Danny's wonderful. I hoped he'd find someone. And it was pretty clear stopping the two of you would be a losing battle the moment I saw you together."
Steve could feel himself blushing, something he thought he'd outgrown at 16. "It was?"
"Like trying to stop a volcano," John said. "So no, I don't have any problems with it."
"Oh, um...thanks." The words felt wrong and inadequate, but he didn't know what else to say. "He and Grace are coming over for dinner, if that's okay. I thought I'd grill."
"Great." Steve jerked a thumb over his shoulder. "I'm gonna go for a swim."
He thought about saying that swimming wasn't for fun, but then he realized how much he'd enjoyed it again since being back. "I will," he said instead, before heading to his room to change.
Danny picked Grace up from Rachel's right on time. When they were safely buckled into the car, he asked her where she wanted to go for lunch.
"Can we go to the Hilton?"
"Okay, the Hilton it is."
They were settled at a table at the Hau Tree, food in front of them, when Danny decided to prepare Grace for dinner. "Remember Uncle John's son, Steve?" he asked.
"Duh, Danno, you've only mentioned him a hundred times this week."
That had to be an exaggeration. Though, as he thought about it, probably not much of one. "He and John have asked us to come over for dinner tonight. You okay with that?"
"Great! I mean, good. So we'll go home, get cleaned up, and go over there. Okay?"
"Can I eat my lunch first?"
Danny rolled his eyes. "Can you eat your lunch first? Of course you can eat your lunch first. What do you think I brought you here for?" He reached out and snagged a French fry off her plate. "Of course, you'd better eat it fast, or I might eat it for you."
"Danno!" Grace pulled her plate closer. "Eat your own!"
"Okay, fine, if I must. So tell me about Laura's sleepover," he said, letting her chatter wash away any nervousness about tonight. She was going to be fine. He was going to be fine. Everything was going to be fine.
By the time Danny and Grace arrived, Steve was dry and dressed in jeans and a t-shirt. He'd been to the store to get fresh fish, and even texted Danny to find out Grace's favorite kind of ice cream. Which had led to a series of texts that had quickly degenerated into something that left him wishing they were meeting up to be alone.
Except that he really did want to meet Grace. He'd never been so nervous about meeting a kid before. She clearly meant everything to Danny, and if she didn't like him....
She would like him. He would make sure of it.
Steve answered the door at Danny's knock. He squatted down to be on eye level with Grace as Danny introduced them. "It's great to meet you, Gracie. Your dad talks about you all the time."
"He talks about you a lot, too."
Steve looked up at Danny, who was blushing. "It's a...it's a long story," he said, rubbing the back of his neck and laughing a little.
"I look forward to hearing it." Steve looked back at Grace. "You like ahi, Grace?"
She nodded in that serious, bobble-headed way of kids that always made Steve a little dizzy. "I saw one once--they're huge!"
"You're right, they're really big. And pretty tasty."
"But it also doesn't grill itself, so I guess I'd better go put it on the grill, huh?"
She nodded and he pushed on his knees to stand up. "We're on the lanai," Steve said, looking at Danny, wondering at the face Danny was wearing. Half amused, half distracted, as if he wasn't even sure himself what he was feeling. Or maybe he just didn't want Steve to know.
Steve turned and headed out back, sensing Danny a few steps behind him. John was sitting at the table, but he pushed himself up to greet Danny and Grace as they came out onto the lanai. Steve watched as his dad gave Grace a hug and answered her questions about his leg carefully and with half truths, still managing to make Danny the hero, despite Danny's protests.
Smiling, Steve turned and went into the kitchen to get the fish. He'd just closed the fridge door and turned around when he found himself face-to-face with Danny. "Hi," Danny said, that same soft face he'd been wearing at the door still in place.
"Hi." Steve cleared his throat. "Grace is fantastic."
"She is," Danny agreed. "And so are you." He leaned in for a kiss, careful not to dump the plate of fish between them.
Steve resisted the urge to drop the plate and grab Danny instead. "I, uh, I need to put this on the grill."
"Yeah." Danny stepped back to let Steve pass, but Steve could feel the weight of Danny's gaze on him all the way back outside.
The ahi was delicious, and Steve had dug out a recipe for a rice dish his mother had made that had his dad looking a little nostalgic by the end of dinner. Grace ate her chocolate ice cream with loud thanks and a lot of enthusiasm as Steve, Danny and John worked on a bottle of scotch John had apparently been saving for a special occasion.
Steve wondered what was so special for a moment, before he looked around the table and realized that yeah, it didn't get much more special than this.
Danny sat back, sipping scotch with enjoyment. They were sitting over the remains of dinner, talking, Grace's head propped up by her hand as she tried valiantly to stay awake, and he couldn't remember the last time he'd had such a good time just having dinner.
The company clearly had something to do with it. He loved having Grace around, especially when she was with people she felt comfortable with. She'd clearly taken to Steve, and had been telling him stories all night. He'd listened as if she was giving a State of the Union address, and if Danny had thought he was incredible before....
"Danno, can we?"
Danny blinked at her. "Can we what, Monkey?"
"Go swimming here this weekend? Pleeeeease, Danno?"
"Yeah, Danno," Steve said, and Danny would swear his eyes were laughing at Danny. "Please?"
God help him, he couldn't even be annoyed by Steve calling him that. He thought it was cute.
He was so fucked.
"Of course we can go swimming. As long as Steve here promises to keep an eye on you."
Steve looked startled for a second before nodding, looking very solemn. "I'll make sure nothing happens to her."
Danny suddenly had the feeling Steve meant less 'while she's swimming' and more 'ever, for the rest of her life.' He held Steve's gaze for a long moment until John cleared his throat.
"Grace, can you help me take the dishes in?"
They moved, and Steve blinked, releasing Danny. Steve pushed his chair back and stood, Danny following suit. "Thanks for dinner," Danny said quietly.
Steve glanced at him, a soft smile on his face, as he started stacking dishes. "Thanks for coming. And for bringing Grace."
"I'm glad we came." Danny grabbed Steve's arm, pulling it away from the dishes, sliding his hand down to run his fingertips over Steve's palm, making him shiver. "You could come over a little later."
Steve glanced inside, then focused back on Danny. "What about Grace?"
"She'll be asleep. I'll explain you're staying over. She'll be fine with it."
"Are you sure?"
Danny nodded. "It'll be fine." It had to be, because he didn't really want to spend the whole night wide awake wishing he was two blocks away.
Steve's eyes darted to the house again. "Ask her if it's okay, and if she's fine with it, text me and I'll come over."
Heart thudding in his chest, Danny could only lean in for a long, but not nearly long enough, kiss. "I'll text you," he murmured against Steve's lips, "but I'm sure it'll be fine." He heard John and Grace heading back from the kitchen and stepped back. "It's clear she likes you."
"So far," Steve said.
"Gracie's not fickle."
"Pulling out the SAT words, Danno?"
"Who said you could call me that, anyway?" Danny said with no heat whatsoever.
Steve cocked an eyebrow. "I need permission to use your nickname?"
"No one else calls me that but Grace...and you, apparently," Danny conceded.
It was worth it for the breathtaking smile he received in return.
John said good night from the lanai, telling Danny to come over in the morning to talk about work after Grace was off to school, and Steve walked Danny and Grace to the door. "Thanks for dinner, Steve," Grace said. "It was awesome!"
"Anytime, Gracie," Steve said, squatting down beside her.
She threw her arms around him and hugged him, and Steve looked up at Danny as if Christmas had come. "Good night, " she said as she let him go.
Steve gave Danny a smile. "I'll text you," Danny said.
"My phone's not going anywhere," Steve said, patting it where it sat in his pocket.
"Okay." Danny stared at him for a moment, then shook himself. "Right. Home." He grabbed Grace's hand. "Let's go, Monkey."
With a wave to Steve, they stepped off the porch and turned towards home.
Grace chatted away about dinner as they walked, and Danny couldn't help but notice that every other word seemed to be 'Steve.'
"I get the feeling you had fun," Danny said when she paused for breath.
"Yeah! Can we go back again tomorrow?"
Danny laughed. "Maybe," he said, as he unlocked the front door. He led her inside, locking it behind him before he squatted down to look her in the eye. "Grace, how would you feel about Steve being around a lot more?"
"Are you kidding? That would be awesome!"
"Would you be okay with him staying with us sometimes?"
She nodded enthusiastically. "He can have my room if he needs it."
"That's okay. He can stay in my room."
"Oh." She frowned a little, and he braced himself for what might come next. "Are you and Steve like Ben's dads?"
"Ben Kamaka at school. He has two dads. They sleep in the same room all the time."
Danny blinked a few times. "Uh, yeah, something like that," he said after a moment. "So you're okay with that?"
"Yeah." She smiled at him. "Can we make Steve pancakes?"
"Not tomorrow. You have school."
"We'll see." Danny gave her a hug. "Danno loves you, you know that right?"
"Duh. Love you, too."
He let her go and stood. "Okay, go get your bath. Bedtime in half an hour."
She ran off towards her bathroom and he watched her go, waiting until he heard the water running before he took out his phone and texted Steve.
Wanna come over in about an hour?
Within a minute, he received a reply.
See you in 59 minutes.
Pocketing his phone with a smile, Danny went upstairs to change his sheets while Grace finished her bath.
Grace had been asleep for about fifteen minutes when there was a soft knock at the front door. Danny turned off the TV and hopped up to open the door. Steve stepped carefully inside, as if he had to sneak up on someone. "Grace asleep?" he whispered.
Danny rolled his eyes. "You're not going to wake her up if you talk low or step normally on the floor. Once she's out, she's usually out."
Sheepish looked good on Steve, Danny decided. "And hi," he said, leaning in for a kiss.
"Hi." Steve wrapped his arms around Danny, kissing him as if he was never going to stop.
He did, eventually, though, pressing his forehead to Danny's. "I've been wanting to do that all night."
"Well, come down the hall and you can do that all night," Danny said, wiggling his eyebrows.
Steve laughed. "Maybe not all night--we have some work to do tomorrow."
"Okay, then a good portion of the night."
"Deal." Steve took one more kiss. "Just that?" he asked.
Something was weird about his voice, and it took Danny a few seconds to work out his meaning. "No, not just that. I'm sure we can think of a few other things to do. Quietly."
"I can do quiet," Steve said, giving Danny a squeeze before letting go.
"Well, not too quiet," Danny said, grabbing Steve's hand to pull him towards the bedroom. "Come on."
Steve woke up to the feel of Danny's lips on his neck. He couldn't remember the last time he felt this good on this little sleep. He'd had adrenaline rushes when he was on an op, when sleep wasn't an option, but he'd never felt this good.
"Gotta go get Grace up for school," Danny muttered against Steve's collarbone.
"I should go," Steve said, pushing up on one arm.
Danny pushed him back down. "Stay."
"What am I, a puppy?"
"Do you really want me to answer that?" Danny said with a grin.
"No." Steve kissed him. "But I really should go. I should get a swim in before we start looking at the case." And if he didn't leave soon, he'd keep Danny from getting Grace to school by not being able to keep his hands to himself.
Danny sighed. "Fine."
"I'll see you in no time." He wasn't sure who he was consoling--Danny or himself.
"Right." Danny pulled him in for a kiss. "You'd better go now, though," he said, flopping onto his back and tucking his hands under his body, "before I change my mind."
Steve rolled off the bed and found his clothes, scattered on the floor where he'd dropped them between the door and the bed. When he was presentable, he turned back to the bed, sitting down beside Danny and leaning in for one last kiss. "I'll see you in a little while. Tell Grace I said hi."
Danny had barely finished knocking on door when Steve pulled it open. "Hey," Steve said, hair still wet from his swim, Danny assumed, and a goofy smile on his face. "I thought I heard your car."
"Yeah, I just dropped Grace off and thought we might need a car, so I came straight here."
"Come in," Steve said, stepping back and letting Danny through the door. He closed the door, one hand already reaching out to pull Danny in for a kiss.
"Where's your dad?" Danny asked between kisses, feeling a little too old to be caught kissing by anyone's father.
Steve nipped at the bottom of Danny's lip. "He's on the lanai." Steve pulled back, and Danny let him go slowly. "Come on."
He followed Steve through the house, admiring the view. Steve had put on cargo pants and a t-shirt, likely straight out of the water, if the wet patches on the pants were any indicator. And no one should look that good in cargo pants.
Danny forced his attention off Steve's ass, looking at John as he said good morning.
"You boys ready to get to work?"
"Yes, sir," Danny said, in unison with Steve.
John pushed himself to his feet, leaning on the table a little as he went around it. "HPD delivered the evidence first thing this morning," John said, as Danny and Steve followed him into the dining room.
"I'm sure they loved that," Danny said, picking up a file.
"Oh they were very polite and cooperative," John said, his tone matching Danny's.
"I take it inter-agency cooperation is the same everywhere?" Steve asked.
Danny looked at Steve--something he really needed to avoid doing a lot if he was planning on working, since it tended to derail his thoughts. "You could say that," Danny replied. "They're not going to be thrilled with us for taking over."
"Then they should be better at their jobs."
"Don't let them hear you say that," Danny said mildly, opening his file. He read halfway through the page and stopped. "Doran."
He looked up to see both Steve and John watching him. "Fred Doran," Danny clarified. "A case I worked not long after I got here. Never solved, but he was suspected in a murder, only the gun was never found, so they had nothing to link him to it. Turns out the bullet that came out of your leg," he said, nodding at John, "was from the same gun."
"So you think Doran knew Hesse?" Steve asked.
Danny scratched the back of his neck, recalling what he knew about Doran. "Well, Doran's big thing is guns. HPD has never been able to make anything stick, but it's a sure bet he's a small arms dealer, to say the least. So if Hesse got on the island and needed a gun, there are a lot of people who would've sent him Doran's way."
"Then let's go talk to him."
Steve was already rounding the dining room table, but Danny stopped him with a hand on his chest. "We can't just go talk to him," Danny said. "We need backup."
"We don't need backup to talk," Steve said. "I just want to ask the man a few questions."
"Oh. You just want to ask the man who probably has a whole cache of weapons at his house a few questions," Danny said, shaking his head. "Is that all?"
Steve shrugged, and damn it, Danny was going to have to build up some resistance to that mischievous look on Steve's face. "Words are sharper than knives, Danno."
"And bullets are more deadly than words," Danny muttered. He looked at John--the man had to know his own son. If he said they should go, Danny wouldn't argue.
"Go talk to him," John said. "See what you can find out. But by the book."
The last words were directed at Steve, and Danny didn't miss the way Steve stiffened at the subtle order. Danny wondered what he'd gotten himself into, but one more look from Steve and he realized he hadn't really had a lot of choice, so he might as well go with it.
"Okay," Danny said, throwing his hands in the air. "Let's go."
One of the few things Jersey and Honolulu had in common was the sheer amount of time it could take to get short distances. Danny was unaccustomed to finding himself in the passenger seat of his own car, but when Steve had pulled him close and reached into his pocket, Danny's brain had gone offline just long enough for Steve to steal his car keys.
The fact that Danny had just let it go was a clear sign how far gone he was.
Not that there hadn't been a number of signs already. He'd practically invited Steve to move into his house, and he'd known him less than a week. He and Rachel had moved fast, but they'd been young and stupid, and Danny had thought he would know better next time.
Except he couldn't find it in himself to be worried, or see how he could've done anything differently. The thing between them was just there. Like their gifts.
Which was something else they should probably talk about.
"So," Danny said, settling himself against the door a little so he could look at Steve, "we should probably talk."
The words sounded casual enough, but Danny was a detective, and he saw the way Steve's hands tightened on the steering wheel, and how his jaw tensed. "Okay, this might sound odd, given everything that's happened the last few days, but I can't tell if you're more worried I'm going to want to talk about the case, us, or the fact that we're apparently superheroes."
This time there was no mistaking the fact that Steve tensed even more on the superheroes comment. "We're not superheroes," Steve said, eyes firmly on the road, as if it was bumper to bumper on the Turnpike in ice and his life depended on it, instead of the H1 headed out of town. "We may have some weird abilities that we can't explain, but we don't need to be looking for costumes and picking out names."
"Shame," Danny said with a grin. "Captain Cargo Pants has a nice ring to it."
That at least got a laugh out of Steve, and his hands loosened their death grip on the steering wheel just a little. "Seriously, Danny, what is there to talk about?" He glanced quickly in Danny's direction before looking back at the road. "Unless you know something about this I don't."
"You mean were we both born in radioactive hospitals or brought to some secret lab as babies?"
"You read entirely too many comics."
"And yet I notice you knew exactly what I was talking about."
Steve's lips twitched. "I was guessing?"
"You keep telling people that--they'll probably buy your attempt to hide your inner geek--but I know different now."
"Oh, do you?" Steve glanced at him again, eyebrow raised.
Danny nodded. "I do," he said gravely. "You may look like some Greek statue, but at heart you are glasses, calculators and pocket protectors, my friend."
Steve grinned at him. "You think I look like a Greek statue?"
"Give me a break--you own a mirror."
"Yeah, but it's just me in it," Steve said with a half-shrug. "Not really hugely special in my book."
Danny decided he'd fed Steve's ego enough for one conversation. Besides, he'd managed to get sidetracked from his real topic. "I wouldn't say that," Danny replied. "I don't know anyone else who can stop time."
"I thought we weren't going to talk about that."
"No, you said we weren't. I said we needed to."
And just like that, all the tension was back. "Can we at least wait until we're done with Doran?" Steve asked. "I'd rather focus on the arms dealer, if you don't mind."
And if you need your powers while we're just 'talking' with the arms dealer? Danny wondered, but he didn't say anything out loud.
There'd be just as much time on the return drive.
Doran's neighborhood, and Steve was using the term lightly, was the kind of place he'd seen in some of the lesser-developed countries he'd worked in as a SEAL. It bothered him to see neighborhoods like this in the US. The poorly-built homes and people who had so little completely went against the image that everyone thought America represented. He should know--he'd dealt with enough "entitled, arrogant American" comments overseas for a lifetime, and by people who lived in better accommodations than this.
Then again, if you wanted to hide that you were making a lot of money as a gun runner, and ensure a place where people didn't ask questions, this was the place you'd live.
He pulled carefully up near Doran's place, cutting off the engine and pulling out the keys. As he reached for the door, Danny stopped him with a hand on his arm. "Are you sure this is a good idea without backup?"
"I have back up," Steve said with a grin. "You."
Danny rolled his eyes and shook his head, but he got out of the car. Steve only caught 'crazy' and 'death wish' in the mumblings that followed, and was wise enough not to let Danny see his amusement.
Doran had a set of rickety, and probably very noisy steps that lead up to his front door. Fortunately, he was having a rather loud argument with his girlfriend, so Steve figured he wouldn't hear them. Still, he stepped very gingerly, just in case, letting Danny go ahead of him while he watched Danny's back.
Unfortunately, the argument ended at just the wrong moment, and the girlfriend practically hit Danny with the door as she left in a huff. Danny's quick thinking had her as silenced as he could get her a second later, but Doran had stopped yelling, and stopped stomping through the house, which was a bad sign. Even worse was when Steve realized the girlfriend had bitten Danny's hand and gotten loose. The moment she yelled, "Cops!" Steve knew what was coming.
He didn't know what happened next, though. One second everything was happening at hyper speed, the next, nothing was happening at all. The first crack of gunfire stopped abruptly, as did the music, chatter, chickens--everything stopped.
Except Danny, who was staring down at Steve in surprise.
"Fuck!" Steve said, his voice sounding oddly muffled and loud at the same time. He ran up the steps and shoved the girlfriend out of the way, barging into the house and tipping a frozen Doran onto the floor before sitting on him. He had a hard time moving him, but he managed to get his hands pulled behind him and zip tied.
"Danny!" Steve jumped up and almost ran into a bullet frozen in midair. He grabbed it and ran outside, throwing the bullet over the porch onto the ground. Danny had the girlfriend zip tied with her arms around one of the posts on the porch.
Steve grinned at him, surprised at the adrenaline rush, so different from acting when everything was chaos around you, but no less exhilarating. "Nice work," Steve said.
"Nice work?" Danny was grinning back, shaking his head. "You're the one who stopped time. Nice work."
"Speaking of which, time's about up--wanna help me with this guy?"
They went back into the house, and Steve knelt down next to Doran, placing his knee in the man's back. As quickly as everything had frozen, it started up again, Doran's hands twitching as if they were still holding the gun.
He started wriggling, turning his head to get a look at Steve. "What the fuck?" he said, and Steve couldn't help but laugh a little at the complete confusion on Doran's face.
"What?" Steve said, as innocently as he could manage. "Something wrong?"
"How the fuck did I get down here? And where's my gun?"
Steve shook his head sadly. "I think that blow to the head when you fell must've been worse than we thought." He looked up at Danny. "I should really be more careful next time."
"Yeah, definitely," Danny said. "You clearly have this under control--I'm going to go make sure the banshee out there doesn't go anywhere. And while I'm at it, I think I'll call for actual back up. Don't, uh...do anything crazy?"
"You mean like this?" Steve said, leaning on Doran's back until he yelled.
"Yeah, exactly like that. By the book, remember?"
Steve blinked at him until he turned around and left, muttering again. When he was gone, Steve turned his attention back to Doran. "How did you know Victor Hesse?"
"Listen, I've had a really weird week, and I'm not in the mood to play games, so you can tell me how you knew Hesse, or I can take you to a cell and show you some of the really interesting interrogation techniques I learned overseas. The Chinese, they have this new thing no one's supposed to know about, where you take the person's lip, and--"
"I didn't know him!" Doran said, and he'd stopped trying to wiggle away. "I barely dealt with the guy. I got a call from a smuggler, who told me to give the dude a gun when he came, I gave him the gun, and my associate paid me later. That's all I know!"
"Who's this associate?"
Doran started struggling again, as if maybe he thought he'd catch Steve off guard. "Sang Min," he said, after a moment--and some additional weight from Steve. "His name is Sang Min."
"Where can I find him?"
"I got no idea." When Steve's knee pressed in again, Doran yelled, "I swear, man, I don't know where you can find him. He don't exactly print business cards with his address--he ain't in that kinda business."
When nothing else was forthcoming, Steve stood up, pulling Doran none too gently with him. "Okay. I'm going to take you to a cell, and if we can't find Sang Min, I'm going to visit you and give you a firsthand demonstration of that Chinese technique I was talking about. And I hope you like eating through a straw after I'm done."
"I don't know nothin' else!"
Steve pulled him towards the door. "Sure. That's what they all say until they see their lower lip over their nose."
HPD arrived and took custody of Doran and his girlfriend. Steve made sure Doran heard him tell the officer to put him in a cell that could be easily cleaned if Steve had to visit him later. Doran's claims that they'd been one place and then another in the blink of an eye had Steve mimicking smoking pot at the officer, who just rolled his eyes at Doran as he shoved him into the back of the cruiser.
As soon as Danny was in the passenger seat, Steve took off towards Honolulu. "We need to find Sang Min," Steve said before Danny could talk.
"We do," Danny agreed. "Do you have a way to find him that you failed to mention earlier?"
"No." Steve glanced at him. "You've been a cop here longer--don't you have any CIs?"
"I haven't been here long enough to make any contacts." Danny folded his arms over his chest. "You were in Naval Intelligence--don't you have any contacts?"
Steve considered the potential issues of calling Cath from the car with Danny around. What the hell--might as well get the past out in the open. "Maybe." He picked up his phone and found her number and pressed it, letting the call go through to the car.
On the first ring, Danny nearly jumped out of his seat. "When did you have time to hook your bluetooth to my car?"
"I thought we might need it on the drive back, so while we were waiting for HPD and you were talking to Grace, I synced it."
Danny blinked at him. "I--" He pushed his hand through his hair. "You--"
Cath's voice through the speakers cut him off. "Hey, sailor."
"Hey, Cath. How's the high seas?"
"Be better in about a week--we're due to hit Oahu. Got some time free?"
Steve would've had to close his eyes completely to miss the change that came over Danny. He supposed it was stupid to hope that a detective wouldn't catch that. "Um, yeah, we need to catch up on a few things."
There was a long pause on the other end. "I see," Cath said at last, because she was at least as good a detective in her own way as Danny. "So what did you need?"
"We're trying to track down a smuggler named Sang Min. Name ring a bell?"
"Nope. What's he smuggle?"
"Not a hundred percent sure, but I think people."
He could already hear her tapping on her keyboard. "Let me see what I can find out and I'll call you back."
"No problem. Oh, and Steve?"
"When I call back, I expect to hear a very interesting story."
He hung up and focused on driving, even though he could see Danny getting more annoyed by the second. "So," Danny said finally, his frustration evident in his voice, "Cath?"
Steve nodded, keeping his face as blank as he could. "Catherine. A friend in Naval Intelligence."
"A friend, Steven?" Danny sounded amused in a way that totally wasn't. "Do all your friends answer the phone, 'Hello, sailor?'"
"Well, I am actually a sailor, Daniel. That's what they call people in the Navy."
"Okay, Danny," Steve divided attention between Danny and the road. "I'll tell you about Cath, and then you can tell me about Dr. Gabrielle Asano."
Danny opened his mouth, then closed it again. "What did you do," he asked after a long moment, "run a background check on me?"
"Actually, no," Steve said. "Dad mentioned your girlfriend when he was trying to get me to give up on you."
"Then he might have intentionally neglected to mention that we broke up a month ago. Also," Danny added tersely, "she never answered the phone 'Hello, sailor.'"
"Well of course, that would be silly, you're a cop. She'd say, 'Hello, officer.'"
"She didn't do that, either."
Steve gave him a longer look than he probably should've while driving, before putting his eyes back on the road. "My point is that we both have pasts. But they're not the present."
"'Cath' sure sounded like she thought she was."
"Cath and I are just friends who occasionally had benefits. There's nothing there to break up, because we weren't really together. She just hadn't heard yet." Steve gave him another look. "I have been a little busy the last week."
Danny took a deep breath and let it out slowly. And loudly. "All right," he said, finally, "past in the past."
"And speaking of time and past and all that, how about that thing where you stopped time earlier?"
Shit. "Can't we just go back to talking about ex-girlfriends?"
"I thought you said she wasn't your girlfriend."
"Then there's nothing to talk about. Except, oh, right, you stopped time back there."
"Are you saying if I hadn't, you wouldn't have gone back and fixed it after you got shot?"
Danny shrugged. "Maybe, maybe not. Sometimes mine works, sometimes it doesn't. How about yours?"
"How the hell should I know? I don't even know what I did. One second everything was normal, and then you were about to get shot and everything...wasn't normal."
"Except us," Danny repeated.
Steve ran a hand across his hair and down to his neck, rubbing at the tight muscles there. "Look, I don't know how I did what I did. I just know I'm grateful you're not hurt and we got the guy. What more is there to talk about?"
"But if we could figure out how we trigger our powers," Danny said, "then maybe we could use them with more accuracy. Maybe it wouldn't be so hit or miss."
"That's great in theory, Danny, but I don't know how I did it. You were in danger. I wanted to protect you. It just happened."
Danny drummed his fingers on the car door. "Like it just happened that first time we had sex."
"So maybe yours is tied to emotions."
"But yours isn't?"
Danny scoffed. "Unlike you, SuperSEAL, I am in touch with my emotions. They're out there all the time. If it was just emotions, I'd be able to roll back time every time someone called me 'haole.'"
"Maybe that's the problem," Steve countered. "Maybe you're so emotional your powers think you're the boy who cries wolf every five seconds."
"How does that even make sense?"
Steve's phone rang, Catherine's picture on the screen. Steve hit talk. "What did you find?"
"A big bunch of nothing," she said. "Whoever this guy is, he's covering his tracks well, or someone's covering them for him. I think a few of the intel boys would like to know what you find, though, seeing as how a smuggler may have been operating right under our noses and we didn't know."
"Okay, I'll fill them in on whatever we find, if there's any point."
"Steve. Don't do anything stupid."
Danny snorted. "Like telling him that'll help."
Steve winced into the silence before Cath said, "It never does, and yet I always try. But I'm gathering you'll figure that out."
"Oh I've figured it out," Danny said. "And yet I keep trying. Danny Williams, by the way," he said, raising an eyebrow at Steve, who kept his twitching fingers firmly on the wheel so they wouldn't hit the end call button.
"Catherine Rollins. Nice to meet you, though we really must meet in person. Beers on me."
"I will take you up on that," Danny said, smirking at Steve now.
"Great. Next week. Steve can give you my number. Good luck catching your smuggler, Smooth Dog. Bye."
She disconnected, and Steve slumped down into the seat, wishing Honolulu was a lot closer. At least they were closing in on Pearl, which meant it wouldn't be that much further.
"Smooth Dog?" Danny asked after a moment. "Smooth Dog?"
"It's my nickname from the SEALs." Steve bit the words off, but Danny didn't get the hint.
"And how did you get that name, exactly?"
Steve gave him as long a look as he could while driving. "It's classified. I could tell you," he said, "but then I'd have to kill you."
"Never mind. I'm sure the story can't be anywhere near as funny as the ones I'm coming up with in my head."
Steve was sure it wasn't, but he wasn't about to give that impression. He turned on the radio, flipping through stations until Dr. Hook came on, and he turned it up.
"Seriously?" Danny yelled over the music. "Torturing me with music is not going to make me forget your nickname, Smooth Dog. Even music as bad as this."
Steve gave him a grin and started singing along.
"I'm just saying that your obsession with easy listening is definitely an area we need to work on," Danny said as they walked up to the house.
Steve grinned sunnily at him. "Or maybe you'll just have to accept that you have the hots for someone who loves 70s music."
"Not just 70s music. Easy listening," Danny said on a groan. But he didn't deny the rest of it. Because there was no point in denying the truth.
They walked through the house, finding John in the dining room looking at files. "Any luck?" John asked, looking up at them as he closed a file.
"We managed to take down Doran before he could shoot Danny," Steve said.
"And whose fault was it that he was about to shoot me?" Danny asked.
Steve gave him a look that made Danny want to smack him and kiss him at the same time. "Well, you did go running up to the door."
"The door that I told you repeatedly we shouldn't have gone up to without back up."
"Are you saying we'd have fared better if HPD had been there to watch us?"
Danny thought about that for a moment, imagined there being witnesses to Doran being upright and shooting one second, on the ground with his hands behind his back the next. "Doran gave us a name," Danny said, deciding to ignore the argument in favor of working the case. "Sang Min. A smuggler that may have gotten Hesse onto the island."
"What's the connection?" John asked.
"Sang Min paid Doran to give Hesse the gun," Steve answered. "Trouble is, we're having a problem locating Sang Min. Doran didn't know where to find him. I talked to a contact in intelligence, and they've never heard of him."
Danny positively did not glare at Steve at the mention of his contact. "Do you have any contacts who might know where we can locate him?" Danny asked John.
"I've never heard the name, but a lot of my contacts are old. I haven't really gotten in with the new guard." John scrubbed at his face in a move that reminded Danny of Steve. "I know someone who might be able to help, though. Chin Ho Kelly."
"The Kukui High quarterback?" Steve said at the same time Danny said, "The dirty cop?"
"He wasn't dirty," John bit out.
Danny held his hands up. "Sorry. I don't know him or anything about the case. Only what I'd been told."
"First rule to remember in police work. People lie."
"Fair point," Danny said.
"And yes," John said to Steve, "the Kukui High quarterback." John looked at Danny. "Chin was a legend until Steve broke all his records."
Danny shook his head. "Star quarterback?" he said to Steve. "Why am I not surprised?"
Steve shrugged. "I'm naturally athletic."
Every single response that came to Danny's mind was so inappropriate to say in front of Steve's father, and he could tell by his smirk that Steve knew exactly what was going through Danny's mind and finding it very amusing. Shooting Steve a 'you will pay' look, Danny asked John, "So do you know where to find Chin Ho Kelly?"
"He works security at the Mo."
"Will he talk to us?" Steve asked.
John nodded. "I think so. You two go talk to him. I want to finish going through this stuff and see if there's anything we missed."
Steve frowned at John. "You don't want to come with us?"
"My leg isn't up to riding up to Pearl and traipsing all over the Mo looking for Chin," he said. "And someone needs to read the actual files--I know better than to think you'll read them all when there's action to be done."
It was said teasingly, but Steve tensed up nonetheless. "Okay." Steve turned to Danny. "Let's go," he said and marched out without another word.
Danny waited until they were in the car--and he was somehow still the passenger in his own car--and out onto the road before he brought it up. "You know he was teasing, right?"
Never had anyone sounded less sure of anything. "He was joking, Steve. Seriously."
"He said in a tone that made it clear he did not," Danny said. "What gives?"
Steve glanced at him, then fixed his eyes firmly back on the road. "I've read so many files I lost count. I was known for being the most informed person on our missions. Hell, I was in Naval Intelligence. And he acts like I've never been able to read one file."
"That's not what he meant."
"No, you don't. So stop it." Danny put a hand on Steve's thigh, feeling the tension that ran through his entire body. "He meant that given a choice between reading a file and actively doing something on a case you'd pick action every time. Was he wrong?"
Steve sniffed loudly. "No," he said finally.
"I didn't think so. It wasn't an insult. We all have parts of our jobs we prefer and parts that we do well even though we don't like them. He was just dividing the team into its strengths to help the case. That's all there was to it."
He felt Steve relax just a little bit. "You think so?"
"I know so. I know his leadership style. I've worked with him a lot in the last six months. He's good at identifying what people are best at and building the strongest team accordingly, then using them to their best potential." Steve gave a strangled half-laugh, and Danny studied him closely. "What was that?"
"I was just amused," Steve said, glancing Danny's way. "That's pretty much what my Navy file says about me."
"How did you read your Navy file?" Steve raised an eyebrow with a half-smirk, and Danny realized he knew that look. "No, wait, let me guess. Classified?"
"You catch on quick, Danno."
They drove up to the shuttle stop at the USS Missouri, Danny flashing his badge at the volunteer who started to tell them they couldn't park there. As they walked through the rows of flags, Danny stared up at the ship, trying to picture Steve in Navy camo, working on a ship like that. "You ever sail on one of these?" Danny asked.
"That's a battleship," Steve said.
When he didn't say anything else, Danny said, "That's not an answer."
"The last battleships were decommissioned when I was still in high school," Steve replied. "Is that an answer?"
"Hey, don't get testy with me just because I'm not up on my Naval history."
"Don't worry," Steve said, flashing him a grin, "you have time to learn."
Before Danny could respond, Steve tapped him on the arm and pointed at the canteen. "I think that's Chin."
They caught up with Chin as he was telling off a kid who apparently had maybe stolen something. The kid was only too happy to run off when Steve interrupted. "Chin Ho Kelly?"
"Who's asking?" Chin said, then his eyes narrowed as he studied Steve's face. "Steve McGarrett?" he said, face breaking into a smile.
"Long time no see," Steve said, shaking hands with Chin before putting a hand on Danny's shoulder. "This is my partner, Detective Danny Williams."
Danny didn't miss the wariness that crept into Chin's expression at the word 'Detective.' "So what does the HPD want with me?" Chin asked, sounding suddenly tired.
"Not HPD," Danny said. "Not anymore. Steve and I are part of the governor's new task force. We work for John McGarrett."
At that name, Chin's expression cleared. "John's a good man," he said. "I heard about his leg. How's he doing?"
"Much better, thanks," Steve said. "We were hoping you could maybe help us with something we're working on, though."
"Sure. Not sure what good I could be, though--I'm a security guard."
"But you were a cop," Steve said, "and by all accounts a damn good one."
Chin nodded. "Until they drove me off the force. So, I repeat, not sure I could do you any good."
"Maybe, maybe not." Steve looked at Danny. "Tell him about Doran. I need to make a quick phone call."
Danny frowned as Steve walked several feet away, dialing his phone. He filled Chin in on what had happened earlier with Doran, all the while keeping one eye on Steve and his relatively short phone conversation. "So we were hoping," Danny was saying as Steve joined them again, "that you might still have a few contacts, maybe an old CI or two who might know something."
"I might," Chin said. "But he won't talk to you."
"Then go with us," Steve said.
"I have a job."
Danny was pretty sure the look on his face matched the one on Chin's. "I can't just quit my job, McGarrett," Chin said.
"Sure you can. We're offering you a better one. On the task force."
"I thought your father was running the task force."
"He is." Steve held up his phone. "I just talked to him to make sure he was okay with it before I offered you the job."
Chin stared at him for a few seconds. "You heard the part where they drummed me off the force, right?"
"Danny told me the whole story on the way up here. Did you take the money?"
Chin stared some more. "Just like that?"
"Just like that. My father doesn't believe you took it, the evidence is thin, even for circumstantial, and I don't believe you took it. Danny?" Steve asked, looking at him.
Danny shook his head. "I don't think you did, either." Not that he had any evidence to the contrary, but everything in his gut said Chin was a stand up guy.
Chin shook his head. "You don't know what you're getting into," he said, pulling his radio off his belt, "but okay."
Chin had given them directions to a shave ice stand on the edge of Waikiki. They beat him there, because Steve drove as if he was trying for the Indy 500, and were waiting for him in the car. "So," Danny said, staring out at the throngs of people on the beach getting fried to a crisp, "you just decided to offer him a job?"
"I asked Dad first."
"Which actually alarms me even more. Because I would have expected you to just offer it and then worry about the consequences later."
He heard Steve shifting in the seat and turned to find Steve looking at him. "I didn't want to offer him the chance and then have it taken away," Steve said. "So I took the precaution."
"Good to know you can actually take precautions on the job," Danny teased.
Steve rolled his eyes then straightened, peering out the window. "There's Chin. Let's go."
Kamekona wasn't very impressed with Danny or Steve--even after Steve showed off his bizarre Hawaiian language skills--but he did give Chin information on how to contact Sang Min, though even he apparently had no address.
"Let's go regroup," Steve said. "You know where my dad lives, yeah?" he asked Chin. At Chin's nod, Steve said, "We'll meet you there," and got into the car.
"It's simple," Steve said as they got out of the car at his dad's house, "we send someone in to pretend they want to bring their family over, once we get him on tape, we squeeze him for information."
"It's cute how you think it's that easy," Danny said, falling into step beside Steve as they walked up to the front door. "But where are we going to find someone to do that?"
Steve opened the door, and stepped through, Danny close behind. "There's an entire police department," he said, spotting Chin pulling up to the house and waiting at the door. "How hard can it be?"
"How hard can it be? Let me tell you how hard it can be. No, wait, I'll let Chin do it." Danny waited a couple of seconds for Chin to get into the house. "Chin," Danny said, the three of them starting through the house into the dining room as he spoke, "Steve here thinks that we can easily find a trained police officer to go undercover and trap Sang Min into making an illegal smuggling deal."
"Right." Chin raised an eyebrow at Steve. "You do know this is an island, right? And not a particularly big one?"
Steve tamped down on the urge to hit something. "Your point?"
"That everybody knows everybody when it comes to cops and robbers. We need undercover work, we usually bring in someone from the mainland. We have deals with LAPD and a couple of other southern California departments. But it takes time to set up."
"We don't have time. Doran or Kamekona let it slip we know about Sang Min and it'll be all over."
"What will be all over?" John asked. Steve noticed he had stopped looking at the files and had the tool box open, random pieces from it spread out around the table in front of him.
"Any chance we have of making a break in this case," Steve replied. "We need to move now if we're going to catch Sang Min before he holes up somewhere because he knows we're looking for him."
Danny put his hand on Steve's arm, and Steve let the warmth break into his focus just a little, taking a deep breath. "We all agree on that," Danny said. "But sending someone in that they recognize and blowing the whole thing not only gives us away, it's likely to get a cop killed. Is that what you want?"
"Of course not." Steve started reviewing a mental list of Navy people who could do the job, but no one he trusted was anywhere near enough to the island to help.
"I have an idea," Chin said slowly. "My cousin graduates the police academy in a week. She's good. And because she's not officially a cop yet, they won't know her. She's too new."
Steve frowned. "If she hasn't even graduated the academy yet, she's too new to be going undercover."
"No, brah, trust me. She's good. And she's our best shot, unless you can think of someone else?" When Steve couldn't come up with another option, Chin pressed the point. "At least meet her. See for yourself."
Steve looked down at his father, who nodded. "Okay, where can we find her?"
Chin checked his watch. "At this time of day? Queen's Beach."
"Then let's go."
Chin climbed into the back of Danny's Mustang, and Steve took the driver's seat, grinning at Danny's put-upon sigh. "Why am I not allowed to drive my own car?" Danny asked.
"You were the one who let me get the keys, Danno," Steve said unapologetically.
"No. No, I did not let you get the keys. You distracted me and took them and refuse to give them back."
"And yet I notice that, for all your complaining about it, you haven't actually asked for the keys back."
Steve heard Chin laugh from the back seat and glanced at him in the rearview mirror. "Nothing," Chin said, grinning. "Just wondering how I missed the news that a Navy SEAL and a cop tied the knot."
"Funny," Steve said, but he couldn't help a little sense of satisfaction at the idea that he and Danny already fit that well together. He wasn't crazy enough to push it and risk Danny's ire, but he liked it nonetheless.
It was a short drive to Queen's Beach, and Chin had relatively little trouble finding Kono, despite the fact that she was out on a board. When he pointed her out, however, Steve could see why. Her form was light years better than anyone else on the water.
"She's talented," Steve said.
"Three years on the pro circuit before she blew out her knee," Chin said with pride. "When it was clear she wouldn't be able to surf as a pro anymore, she decided to reinvent herself as a cop. Unfortunately," he added, his voice turning darker, "she's family. Which means she'll never be taken seriously by HPD."
Steve's next sentence was interrupted by Kono getting wiped out by some idiot who'd jacked her wave. "Ouch," he said, wincing sympathetically. "I'm sure she's good," he continued as she got up immediately, "but she has no street experience. Are you sure she's ready for something like this?"
Before Chin could say anything, Kono jammed her board into the sand and stalked over to the man who'd knocked her down. Steve heard her yell something, and then she decked the guy, who was easily twice her size.
He went down like a rock.
"Okay then," Steve said.
Kono spotted them and ran over, smiling. He watched as Chin greeted her, admiring their close relationship. He and Mary might have been like that as small kids--he barely remembered--but he hadn't even talked to her in months.
Chin introduced Kono to Steve, then to Danny, who seemed to have a hard time letting go of her hand until Steve growled his name. Kono's eyes were as amused as Chin's as she turned her attention back to Steve.
"Your cousin says you're graduating the police academy in a week," Steve said. "How'd you like to earn a little extra credit?"
Kono's eyes narrowed speculatively. "I'm listening."
Chin rode off with Kono to put their plan into action, leaving Steve and Danny alone on the drive back to the house. "She seems like a good choice," Danny said, thinking about how easily she'd decked that guy, and the strength of her grip when he'd shook her hand.
"Yes, we could all see how taken you were with her," Steve replied.
Danny frowned at him. "Is that jealousy I detect?"
"I don't know what you're talking about," he said in a voice that only confirmed Danny's suspicions.
"Seriously? It's okay for you to flirt with your former fuck buddy, but I shake someone's hand too long and you go Neanderthal?"
"I did not flirt. And I didn't go Neanderthal."
Danny waved his hand dismissively. "Whatever, Captain Caveman. You just wait until we need an anthropologist on a case."
He watched as Steve opened his mouth, before he tightened his hands on the wheel and closed it again. A moment later, he said, "You have to pick up Grace soon?"
Danny checked his watch and winced. "Yeah, I'll have to leave as soon as I drop you off, which means I will need my keys back."
"I could drive you."
"As much as I--and Grace, I'm sure--would love that, you need to fill John in."
"Right." Steve shot him a glance. "You can bring Grace over for dinner if you want, though."
And really, he'd mock Steve about how much he wanted Danny around, except Danny felt the same way. He wondered if it was just the normal first blush of a relationship, or if it had something to do with their powers. And if that was what had drawn him to Hawaii and to Steve somehow. "Sounds great," Danny said. "Should I pick anything up on the way back?"
"Nah," Steve said, then laughed softly to himself.
"Nothing," Steve said, shaking his head with a grin. "I just had the sudden realization that Chin was totally right."
Danny had to think for a moment before he remembered Chin's marriage comment. "Oh, God," he said, leaning his head against the window. "You're right."
But it didn't bother him in the least.
Steve left Danny with restored control of his driver's seat, leaning in through the window for a few kisses that he couldn't resist taking. He watched until Danny drove off before going into the house.
John was standing at the window. "Danny coming back?" he asked, joining Steve to walk into the kitchen.
Steve nodded. "He had to go pick up Grace from school, but they're coming back for dinner."
"You could've gone with him."
"No, I thought I'd come fill you in." He left out the fact that it was Danny's idea. "Chin's cousin looks good. I think she'll be able to pull it off."
"She's not too young?"
Steve opened the refrigerator, checking to make sure there was enough food for dinner. "No," he said, closing the door after grabbing two beers. "I get the feeling she may have had to deal with her share of comments over Chin's situation the last few years, and she clearly held her own on the pro circuit. I think she can handle whatever gets thrown at her."
"Good." John leaned against the table as Steve handed him a beer. "Think we should request her for the task force after she graduates?"
"Probably, especially given her relationship to Chin. I have a feeling HPD would be wasting an excellent cop." Steve opened his beer and took a drink. "We'll see how she handles the op, though."
They went into the dining room, which had become their makeshift office, and went over the plans for the next day until Chin called. Steve answered, relieved when Chin told him Sang Min agreed to the meet, and told him to have Kono meet at their house early the next morning before hanging up.
"We're on," he told his father. "They'll be here at 7 tomorrow."
Steve looked around the dining room. "We're going to need somewhere other than this to work at some point."
"Actually, I heard from the Governor earlier. Our new HQ should be ready early next week in the Supreme Court building."
Steve blinked. "The Ali'Iolani Hale?"
"No, the US Supreme Court," John teased, but he was smiling. "Yes, the Ali'Iolani Hale. We could do worse."
"She's definitely taking this seriously, then."
"You thought otherwise?"
Scratching his neck, Steve moved the evidence around on the table in front of him. "No, it's just...." He eyed his dad. "Something seemed odd between the two of you at dinner. There was something under the surface that I couldn't figure out."
John looked as if he was choosing his words carefully. "I trust the people on our task force," he said slowly, "and maybe one or two other people at HPD. Anyone else I treat with caution."
"You think the governor is dirty."
"I think that there are a lot of things that don't add up in the government at a number of levels. Doesn't mean she's involved."
"Doesn't mean she isn't."
John acknowledged that with a slight inclination of his head. "It's a possibility. But one that needs further careful exploration before we do or say anything."
"Don't want to spook the suspects," Steve said, nodding. "Got it."
Taking a long drink of his beer, John eyed Steve until he had to force himself not to squirm under the scrutiny. "You've turned into a fine detective," he said at last. "I mean, I knew you were amazing at your job, I guess I just never realized...well, it's one thing to hear reports. It's another to see it in action."
Steve took a drink while he tried to figure out what to say to that. "Thanks," he said after a moment. "It's nice," he added slowly, "getting to work with you. When I was a kid, there was something so mysterious about what you did. As I got into Naval Intelligence I started to understand it more, and I...." He rubbed a hand at the back of his neck, studying his beer for a moment before looking up at his father. "I wanted to talk to you about it, but I didn't know how."
"I know, and I'm sorry." John leaned forward, putting his hand on Steve's wrist where it lay on the table. "I pushed you away to protect you from all this, and that was my mistake. Once you were old enough, you deserved the right to decide for yourself if you wanted to be involved. But no parent ever wants to let their child near danger."
Steve let out a little laugh. "Danny hammered that point home for me, thanks."
"He said when you have kids you'd do anything to protect them. And having met Grace I understand a little better."
John gave Steve's wrist a squeeze before sitting back. "I think you and Danny are good for each other," John said. "I'm sorry I tried to stop you."
"It's okay," Steve said, because even though it wasn't at the time, it was now. "I think you'd have had better luck stopping a tsunami," he said honestly. "I tried to resist for all of a day before even I knew there was no point."
"Is that a bad thing?"
"No. Not at all. I'm not sure it would have happened at all otherwise, you know?"
To Steve's surprise, his dad laughed. "I know, believe me," he said. "Your mother was the same way. I was hell bent on giving everything I had to the force and not endangering a wife and kids along the way. But Doris...she didn't take no for an answer. I didn't have it in me to resist for long. And giving in was the smartest thing I ever did."
"Even with the way it all turned out?"
"Even with. Who's to say how it would've turned out otherwise?"
"Good point." Steve took another long draw of his beer. "Whatever happens with Danny," he said, "I don't think I had any other choice. Not really. And I'm okay with that--even if the idea of needing someone else is not high on my list of things to do with my life."
John smiled. "Only in needing someone else do you find real freedom."
Steve tried to place the quote, but couldn't. "Who said that?"
"I don't know, but it's true nonetheless."
The front door opened, and Steve could hear Grace chattering away as she and Danny walked through the house into the dining room. Steve looked around to make sure no upsetting pictures were lying around, but the table was safe.
"Steve!" Grace squealed, running around the table to give him a hug. "Are we going swimming?"
"Uh...what did your dad say?" he asked, looking up at Danny.
"I told her she'd have to ask you."
Steve heard his father's chair scrape the floor as Grace finally let go. "I'll fix the steaks," John said, "and go over the plan with Danny. You go play fish with her."
"Okay, kiddo," Steve said. "Swimming it is."
Steve ran a hand over Danny's shoulder as he walked by on his way to get his suit. When he came back, Grace was in her swimsuit, her hand on the lanai door. "Let's go!"
He let her drag him out to the beach and into the water, keeping one eye on her at all times while sneaking glances at the lanai, where his father and Danny were talking and grilling. He caught Danny's eye frequently, giving him a smile when he did.
Grace, as it turned out, was easy to talk to. She talked constantly, about anything and everything, letting him know when his input was required. He wondered if all eight-year-olds were this easy to talk to. He answered questions about the fish that might be in the sea around them, and whether tsunamis were really as tall as skyscrapers and as fast as racecars. He also promised to get her to the top of a mountain if one came.
By the time she'd tired out, dinner was ready. Steve led her back up to the lanai, where Danny was waiting with two towels, one he tossed to Steve, and another he used to dry Grace off. She threw her sundress back on over her bathing suit and sat down to eat with them, but by the time dinner was done, she was nodding off, propping her cheek up with her first.
"I think it's time to get her home," Danny said, smiling at Grace in a way that made Steve's stomach flip. When a slightly different, but no less warm, smile was directed at him, Steve swallowed hard. "You coming with us?" Danny asked.
Steve nodded, glancing at his father. "Let me just clean up a bit first."
"I'll get it," John said. "You go on."
"No, it's okay," Steve said. "I'll help."
Danny pushed back his chair. "I need a few minutes to get her into bed anyway," he said, picking Grace up and settling her in his arms. "Just come over when you're done."
"I'll help you with the door," Steve said, leading the way back through the house and holding open the front door. He went to the car, opening the passenger door for Danny to put Grace into the seat.
Danny reached up to pull Steve's head down for a kiss. "See you in a few minutes."
He left, and Steve went back into the house to find his father already clearing things away. Steve jumped in to help, clearing away the last of the dishes and taking care of the grill. His father was putting the dishes in the dishwasher when he rejoined him in the kitchen.
"Is that the last of it?" John asked as Steve handed him one lone fork that Grace had apparently knocked under her chair.
"Then you should head out."
John turned around, leaning back against the sink. "Yeah. Go see Danny."
"Dad...." Steve moved forward, giving his father a hug for a long moment before pulling back. "Thank you."
John gave him a bemused smile. "That covers a lot. But you're welcome."
Danny had just come downstairs from putting Grace to bed when he heard the faint knock at the door. He opened it to find Steve on the other side. "I left it unlocked," he said. "You don't have to knock."
"Oh." The look on Steve's face made it clear he'd never even thought about that possibility. "Okay."
Clueless should never look that adorable. Danny shook his head, leaning in for a kiss before leading Steve over to the couch and dragging him down beside him. "Hi," Danny said, twisting himself until he could lean in comfortably for a few more kisses.
"Hi," Steve said against Danny's lips between kisses.
Danny tasted his way across Steve's cheek to his neck before he sat back a little, frowning. "You took a shower."
"A quick one, yeah. I was still a little salty from the ocean."
Danny was absolutely not pouting. "You didn't wait for me?"
"Sorry," Steve said, leaning in to capture Danny's lips. "But I can take another one. In fact," he added, lips trailing back to speak in a low voice right at Danny's ear, "I'm sure I missed a few spots that I might need help with."
Shuddering at the voice and breath in his ear as much as the images those words provided, Danny grabbed Steve's hand. "I will happily take you up on that," he said, pulling Steve to his feet and leading him back to the bathroom off Danny's room.
They were drowsing in bed much later, legs tangled, sheets kicked off the bed, hands absently roaming across skin, when Danny asked, "So what were you and your dad talking about earlier?"
"Mmm?" Steve said, clearly too busy learning the contours of Danny's left elbow to put much effort into the question.
"Earlier, when Grace and I got to the house. You looked serious."
"When don't I look serious?"
"More serious than usual."
Steve laughed. "We talked about a lot of things. The case. My mom. You."
"Me?" Danny looked up to meet Steve's eyes. "What about me?"
"Nothing much, nosy." Steve kissed him on the tip of the nose for emphasis, laughing at the glare Danny gave him in return. Steve told him a little about the conversation with his father, and how they'd bonded--Danny's word, not Steve's--over police work and relationships.
Danny kissed Steve on the chest, the nearest skin he could find, when he was done. "Good," he said. "I'd hate to see the two of you at odds for long. It was eating at him, I could tell."
"What about me?"
"You, too. But I'd known him longer, and I could tell it was hard having you so far away--and not just the miles. Fathers and their kids," Danny said with a shrug. "It's a thing."
Danny nodded. "A thing."
"You and Grace seem close," Steve said after a moment. "She's a great kid. And you're a great father."
"Yeah, maybe...I don't know."
Steve tilted his head at what looked like an uncomfortable angle to look down at Danny. "You don't know?"
"Well, there's the fact that any given day I could get myself killed chasing after some meth-head scumbag. Then what kind of father would I be?"
"I always looked up to my father for that," Steve said. "Even with everything else, I admired that about him. That he had the strength to do that, no matter what the cost might be, and all the sacrifices involved. I'm sure Gracie will feel the same way."
"Maybe. Either that, or she may think I'm just a selfish son of a bitch. Because the truth is...I need this. I need to do what I'm good at, and be reminded I'm good at what I do. And I need to know that this power I have is here for a reason. From the moment I realized what was going on, I knew I had to do something with it, y'know?"
Steve was silent for a long time. "I can't help wondering," he said eventually, "how many lives I could've saved over the years if I hadn't blocked it out, or whatever I did."
"You didn't know," Danny said. "You can't beat yourself up. Believe me, I've been down that road all the times that I tried to rewind and it didn't work."
Danny could tell from the tone that knowing was making no difference in Steve's massive guilt complex. He also knew from experience that it would take time to reconcile everything. He couldn't make that happen. But he could help distract Steve when he started to brood too much.
He rolled over, half on top of Steve, hand drifting down Steve's chest and across his abdomen. "So, that thing about SEALs not really needing a lot of sleep--is that true?"
"Maybe," Steve said with a half smile. "But don't cops need sleep?"
"Ever hear of stakeouts? It's our own version of Hell Week, only it's every other month."
"In that case," Steve said, thrusting into Danny's hand a little, "let's see what we can do with all that time we don't need to sleep."
The thing about criminals is that when you chase them long enough, you stop expecting them to be smart. Danny had drilled Kono on all the usual possibilities that could come up that morning until Steve had dragged him away, leaving her in John and Chin's hands, but anyone who'd ever done undercover work knew you couldn't account for every possibility.
Like sand. You'd have to be pretty paranoid to suspect someone of being a cop because they have sand in their hair in Hawaii. Kono covered, but Sang Min had connections they didn't know about--connections in his own precinct that he would be tracking down later. And she was made.
And then Steve, being completely insane, had driven their surveillance truck through the wall to protect Kono. Danny spent the next few minutes trying to take out the bad guys and keep himself alive, but everything came back into focus when he heard Steve yell, "No!"
The firing had stopped, and Danny looked around, expecting Steve to be hit, but he wasn't. He was standing over Sang Min, who was lying dead on the floor. Danny ran over to him. "What happened?"
"He's dead." Danny had never seen such a desperate look on Steve's face. "He was our only chance at finding out who's behind all this."
Danny knew he didn't have time to waste. He reached for his control of time and a second later, they were in a firefight all over again, only standing next to Sang Min, who Steve immediately disarmed and knocked to the ground.
The guns stopped again, and Danny heard John calling out from the truck checking to see if everyone was okay. When everyone was accounted for, Danny let himself breathe again. Steve had zip tied Sang Min's hands behind his back, and was hauling him to his feet as he came around.
John was limping over the rubble with Chin and Kono to check on the rest of Sang Min's men. Danny followed Steve over to an adjoining room that hadn't been damaged. Steve pulled out a knife and slit the zip tie holding Sang Min's hands before shoving him into a chair. When he'd used two more zip ties to secure Sang Min to the chair, Steve straightened.
"Stay there," he said to Sang Min, as if he could go anywhere. He turned and joined Danny a few feet away. "You okay?" he asked Danny.
"I'm fine. How are you?"
"I'll be better when this asshole gives us the name of who hired Hesse." Steve took a deep breath, rubbing his eyes with one hand. "Thanks," he said quietly, "for...." He moved his hand around in a circular motion that Danny interpreted as 'rewinding.'
Danny put his hand on Steve's shoulder. "No problem. Now we just have to convince him that it's in his best interests to tell us what we want to know."
"I might have an idea how to do that," Steve said, staring a corkboard on the wall. He pulled out his phone. "Be right back," he said as he walked out a side door.
John joined Danny at the edge of the room. "Kono's outside coordinating with HPD. Chin's bringing the audio so we can show him what we've got on him." He looked around, frowning. "Where'd Steve go?"
"He had to make a call, apparently," Danny said, nodding at the door.
Chin walked in with the recorder, placing it on a table near Sang Min and hitting play. Sang Min's voice came through the speakers. "Getting them out of China is easy. Paying for it, that's the hard part."
"Laser audio surveillance," Chin said. "Wires are so last century."
"I'm gonna sue you for entrapment," Sang Min said, having the balls to sound amused. "And when I'm done collecting, I'm gonna find that little hottie you sent in here. And this time, I'm gonna be less of a gentleman."
And really, if Chin hadn't smacked him upside the head with an ashtray, Danny would've done it with the nearest solid object himself.
"That's police brutality!" Sang Min shouted.
"I didn't see anything," Steve said from the doorway, where he'd clearly been standing at least long enough to see. He looked at Danny. "Did you see anything?"
Danny shrugged. "Not a thing." Danny turned to John. "You?"
"You're all gonna pay when I sue this whole department!" Sang Min pulled at his restraints, but it didn't do any good. "That son of a bitch hit me!"
"You want to file a report, you're going to need a witness," Steve said calmly. "Do you want to file a report?"
Sang Min glared at him. "I wanna go to jail now."
Steve continued to look at him calmly, and that look was starting to concern Danny. "As soon as you tell us who hired Hesse to come after my father."
"Hesse didn't need a reason--you had his brother. That's what we call motivation."
"Maybe. But Hesse didn't have the contacts to get the info and come here--I know, I hunted the man for years, and I'd have gotten wind of it. There's someone else behind it. Tell me who it is and where to find them."
Sang Min sat back, giving his best stony look. "I don't know anything."
"Well, see," Steve said, moving to the corkboard, "I do know something." He reached up and pulled down a picture off the board. "This is your wife and kid, right?"
When Sang Min just raised an eyebrow, Steve said, "Do you know where they are right now? I do. Your wife is getting her nails done on Kalakaua Avenue. And your boy is at his private school in Diamond Head."
Sang Min was looking less smug now. "You wanted to go to jail?" Steve asked. "You're going to jail. For a long time. Your family is about to lose a husband and a father. In my eyes, that makes them your victims. The trouble is, the law doesn't see it that way. Your wife, she's from Rwanda. She'll be sent back--they both will. If they're lucky, they'll make it to a refugee camp. And your son? Seven's old enough to hold a gun for the Hutu militia."
Steve shoved the picture at Sang Min, who looked as if he might cry. "I can prevent all that," Steve said. "But I don't help people who don't help me."
"What kind of cops are you?" Sang Min said, his voice breaking.
"The new kind."
After a moment, Sang Min nodded. "Okay. Okay."
"Give me a name," Steve said.
Danny heard John make a sound, and turned to look at him, but John waved him off, so he went back to watching Steve.
"Where can we find Wo Fat?"
Sang Min closed his eyes. "Building on King and Alakea--the one with the construction up top. On the penthouse that's being renovated. He's making a deal there before he leaves. I've got him on a freighter tonight at Honolulu Harbor at ten."
"What kind of deal?"
"I don't know. Meeting his banker or something. He didn't tell me and I didn't ask."
"Now, I think. I can't exactly see my watch. But anytime now."
Steve looked at Danny for a long moment before turning his attention back to Sang Min. "Chin's going to take you to a cell," Steve said slowly. "And if I find out you're lying, I'm going to video tape your wife and kid leaving the country and bring you a copy."
He turned and looked around. "Where's Dad?"
Danny looked behind him, but John was gone. "He must've gone outside."
"Chin," Steve said nodding at Sang Min, "you got this?"
Steve tapped Danny on the arm and led him out the door. Kono was talking with an HPD officer, but stopped when they walked up. "Have you seen my dad?" Steve asked.
"Yeah, he got into a cruiser and took off like a bat out of hell."
Steve stared at Danny in dawning horror. "He went after Wo Fat."
Danny was already running for the passenger door of the nearest cruiser before Steve snapped out of it and ran for the driver's side door.
Steve drove as fast as he could as Danny tried over and over again, save for one call for backup, to get John on his cell phone. He'd had no luck by the time they pulled up to the building, another cruiser already there, lights still flashing. Steve jumped out of the car, not bothering to shut the door, Danny close on his heels.
They jumped into one of the main elevators, but pressing the button for the top floor did nothing. Danny grabbed Steve's arm and pointed at a sign. "Top five floors accessible from freight elevators only."
"Fuck!" Steve raced back out of the main elevator, finding the freight elevator tucked away in a corner and jabbing the button.
"Your dad's a smart man," Danny said, while Steve continued to hit the button, as if that would make it come faster. "He's not going to get into a situation he shouldn't, not without backup."
Steve turned and gave Danny a look. "This is personal for him. You think he's going to rationalize every move?"
The elevator dinged, saving Danny from an answer, and they jumped inside, hitting the top button. Steve checked his gun for lack of anything better to do, willing the elevator to go faster.
They jumped off as soon as the doors were open enough to let them out, running out onto the top floor, finding an area laden with construction materials and equipment. There were no voices, but Steve could hear a strange, strangled sound from the other side of the floor.
He ran over, blinking several times at the person on the ground, but it didn't change the fact that it was his father, lying there, a growing patch of red spreading across his beige aloha shirt. "Dad!" Steve holstered his gun, dropping to the floor beside his father to rip his shirt open and look at the wound.
Too much blood. There was blood everywhere, and Steve put his hand over the wound, but the blood just kept flowing over his fingers. "Danny!"
Some sort of large fabric appeared in front of Steve and he grabbed it, pressing it hard against the wound. "Dad, come on. Hang in there."
He saw his father swallow, felt his hand on Steve's wrist, just above where it held the cloth on the wound. "Steve."
"Hang in there, Dad. Help is on the way." He'd heard Danny talking in the background, and assumed it was to call an ambulance. "Queen's is just five blocks away. They'll be here any second."
"It was Wo Fat," John said, his voice sounding thinner by the second, and Steve gathered him closer, until John's head was resting on Steve's lap. "You have to go after him."
"HPD was right behind us," Steve said. "They'll find him." He darted a glance over his shoulder to see Danny on the phone, but his eyes were on Steve, and he nodded at Steve as he talked. "He won't get away."
John's chuckle came out as a raspy cough that made him wince, and Steve pushed even harder on the wound. "He always does," John said, making Steve frown.
"How do you know?"
"Toolbox," John said, and his grip on Steve's wrist was almost painful. "In the toolbox."
"Okay, Dad, you can show me when we get home."
John shook his head. "I'm proud of you, son," he said quietly, and Steve had never had flashbacks to missions before, but he was having one now, to that phone call thousands of miles away.
"I'm proud of you, too, Dad."
There was another squeeze on his wrist, fainter than the last. "You and Danny..." John said, his words interrupted by a coughing fit that made Steve's chest hurt in response, "you're good. For each other. For Hawaii."
"Yeah, and you'll make us better. Just wait and see."
John shook his head, and Steve wrapped his arm more tightly around John's shoulder. "Come on, Dad. Stay with me."
"I love you, son."
"Love you, too, Dad, but we're gonna have time to--"
Steve felt the difference. John's hand went slack around Steve's wrist, his eyes becoming unfocused and free of pain, and his body going suddenly limp. "Dad! Don't you fucking die on me!" Steve let him down onto the floor and moved over him to start CPR.
He didn't know how long he'd been doing it before he felt strong arms encircle him from behind. "Steve. Let him go."
Steve stopped compressions, staring down at his father's lifeless face for a long moment as he felt everything shift, that weird silence descending, as if the world had been plunged under water. Everything else went still except Danny, whose arms were still around him, his mouth pressed against the side of Steve's neck, saying words Steve couldn't even comprehend.
A minute must have passed, because things started moving again, the world continuing on, except for his father, who was still as motionless as he had been when time had stopped.
Steve let Danny pull him to his feet and away from the body as paramedics went to work, but he knew it wouldn't make any difference. No one could cheat death twice.
He closed his eyes, unable to look at the scene anymore as he leaned into Danny, taking comfort from his warmth.
Steve's arms were straining to make every stroke as he swam the last 50 yards to shore. As he trudged out of the surf onto the sand, he saw Danny standing on the lanai, waiting. And watching.
Nothing new there. Danny had been watching every minute of the three days since Steve's father had died, carefully waiting for Steve to break. But Steve had no intention of breaking.
"Hey," Danny said, as Steve stepped onto the lanai. "How was China?"
Steve couldn't help but laugh--Danny was good at managing that. "Still there," he said. "Sorry, I'd have brought you some rice, but I forgot my dry bag."
"It's okay, we can order out later, since Hawaii has decent Chinese."
Steve stopped in the middle of drying his hair, one eye covered with the towel. "I didn't know you liked Chinese food."
"There are a lot of things you don't know about me yet," Danny said.
Which felt weird. Because it was like they'd known each other for a hundred years in some ways, and then Danny would reveal something that totally surprised him. "Someday you should have real Chinese food. In China," Steve said, surprising himself with how much he wanted to be the one to take Danny there. He wasn't usually keen on revisiting areas that held such memories of operations, but he had a feeling Danny could make a lot of places new again.
"You ready for this afternoon?" Danny asked, his voice growing softer.
Steve nodded, covering his whole face with the towel, even though he was dry enough. He had to go upstairs and shower and put on his uniform and go say goodbye to his father. Mary had called to say she couldn't make it in time, something about a new job and being unable to get time off, which Steve wasn't quite buying.
He couldn't blame her, though. If this had been ten days ago, and the call he'd had with his father had gone differently, he'd be feeling the same kinds of resentment and regrets.
Instead, he was standing here with the man who'd saved his father. Who'd saved Steve from a host of resentment and regrets, and who Steve was starting to think could save him from lifetime of the same.
Sliding the towel off his face and down around his neck, Steve stepped forward until he was pressed against Danny, ignoring Danny's protests about getting him wet. "You're wearing shorts and a t-shirt," Steve said, leaning in for a kiss. "You'll dry."
"Okay, but if you do this every morning before we go to work, when I'm dressed appropriately, I'm expensing my dry cleaning bill."
The thought of Danny being there every morning before work left a warm feeling in Steve's gut. Danny lived a couple of blocks away with his daughter, sure, but he was renting, and his lease was up in a couple of months. And Steve now owned a house--or he would soon enough.
"We have a lot of work ahead of us," Steve said, keeping his ideas about living arrangements to himself for the time being.
"We do." Danny was back to that watchful gaze that Steve had learned not to frown about the last few days. "You're sure you want to stay and run the task force? I mean, I know you told the Governor you had to, for your father, but--"
"But nothing. Wo Fat's still out there. And the governor may know more than she's letting on." Steve leaned forward and rested his forehead against Danny's. "I have to do this. Not just for Dad. But because it's right, and I can."
Danny smiled, but it didn't quite reach his eyes, Steve could tell, even when they were this close. "Okay. Then that's what we'll do."
He wondered if Danny had the same apprehension at the idea of the two of them being apart that Steve did. He'd never met anyone in all his travels that had a gift like either of theirs. And that sense of connection between them was impossible for Steve to ignore. He didn't want to be separated from Danny, he wanted to stay and explore their gifts, maybe find out where the hell they'd come from.
Most of all he wanted to stay and explore Danny. He thought maybe Danny felt the same way about being separated, and wondered briefly what might have happened if Steve had decided to go back to the SEALs. If Danny would've enlisted just to follow. But Steve didn't want that. He needed Danny to challenge him, and the Navy would never allow that kind of environment.
Besides, that would have taken them both away from Grace, and Steve would never allow that.
"Come on," Danny said, tilting his chin forward until their lips met. "We need a shower."
Steve sniffed. "You seem clean enough."
"You need a shower, then," Danny said, "and I feel like joining you. Got a problem with that?"
"No problem with that ever," Steve replied, stealing one more kiss before he let Danny pull back just a little, grabbing his hand and leading him through the house to the stairs.