“How did you two meet?”
“Through work,” Danny said with a fond grin. “Big jerk needed someone looking after him, to keep him out of trouble.”
“That’s not how I remember it.” Steve wrapped his arm around Danny’s shoulders and squeezed.
Mrs. Patcow was eating it up, a big grin on her face. “And now you’re married?”
Steve proudly flashed his wedding band. “Best thing I ever did.”
Danny looked up at him, his face full of open affection. Steve started to move in for a kiss when Danny’s expression morphed into one of fear. The explosion was reflected in his eyes, a bright flash the presaged a rumble that Steve felt more than heard.
And then the world fell away amid screams and heat and pain.
“Your dad finds his zen in other ways.” Steve could only imagine what Danny would say if Steve asked him to do Tai Chi.
Grace nodded knowingly. “He likes to argue.”
Steve laughed, but he was also struck by her insight. She was right: Danny’s rants and hand-flailing gave him the same kind of emotional release that Steve’s Tai Chi did. Truth be told, Steve enjoyed those little arguments as well.
“You always do that.”
“Smile like that when we talk about Daddy.”
“…down, sir,” someone said. “We’re on our way to Queens Medical, and you’re restrained for your safety.”
Steve became aware of the familiar whup, whup, whup of a helicopter rotor, and felt a fresh surge of panic. Whatever happened had been bad enough that he was being medevac’d off the Big Island and back to Oahu.
“Danny,” he wheezed.
“Is that your name?”
He tried to shake his head but he couldn’t move it. Must be strapped to a backboard, he thought. If he’d been home, the medical transport staff would’ve known him, would’ve known to look for Danny.
“Husband,” he panted. He could feel himself slipping away again. He fought it. Where was Danny? Was he hurt too?
“Sir, can you tell me your name?”
Steve tried to tell them, but the darkness took him before he could get the word out.
It wasn’t the first time someone had suggested that Steve and Danny were more than just work partners. It had even been kind of funny the first time. With the way they bickered Steve could even understand the comments.
But it kept happening. And more and more, Steve had to admit he wanted it to be true. He wanted Danny to be his in a way that was deeper than friendship, closer than partners. But he never said anything, because Danny had never shown any interest in men. And hell, even if Steve’s feelings were reciprocated, that was no guarantee of happiness; he’d learned that the hard way. It was better to accept Danny’s friendship and not risk everything on a maybe.
Danny was the one Steve turned to when he was hurting, or when he had good news to share. Danny was the one who’d track him down halfway around the world and bring his sorry, broken ass home. Even if Steve couldn’t have all of Danny, he had the most important parts. And that was good enough.
“Danny,” he ground out from behind clenched teeth.
“He’s on his way, Commander,” someone said, and Steve was relieved. They knew him here. “Just hold on.”
“I know it does. Just as soon as we get a look at you we’ll take care of that, okay?”
Steve bit his bottom lip, unable to nod because of the c-collar.
“Commander, do you know what happened?”
“That’s right. You’re doing great.”
Steve didn’t feel great. He felt exposed as they cut his clothes away, and horribly alone. His husband wasn’t there to let him know everything would be okay.
“Let’s focus on you right now, okay?”
“Look around, Danno.” Steve’s gesture encompassed the whole house. “Beach front property? This is prime real estate. And it’s more than big enough for the three of us.”
“Did you ever think that maybe I don’t want to raise my daughter in a house that’s been so frequently riddled with bullets?”
Shit. He really hadn’t. Of course that would be the first thing in Danny’s mind. That actually hurt, that Danny would reject Steve’s house, even if their conversation wasn’t serious. Yeah, maybe it had been the scene of his father’s murder. But so much more had happened there: so many happier memories from when his parents were both still alive, and newer ones, like watching Grace play on the beach, while he drank Longboards with Danny out in the yard.
Something of what he was feeling must’ve shown on his face, because Danny reached out and grabbed hold of his arm.
“Hey, don’t do that.”
“It’s a good house,” Steve said.
“Yes it is. It’s a very good house, and you’re right, I shouldn’t judge it based on one or two violent incidences. Grace loves coming over here.”
Steve thought maybe Danny was mocking him, but the man’s face was an open book radiating only sincerity and apology.
Then of course, a moment later he ruined it. “Are you feeling sensitive right now?” Danny teased, squeezing Steve’s arm.
Steve smirked and rolled his eyes. “No. I’m feeling hungry. You want to get some lunch?”
Steve drifted back to consciousness to the familiar sound of a heart monitor. He felt weak, drained, but the pain was muffled. That was a definite improvement.
Cautiously, he opened his eyes. The lights in the room were dimmed, and though the curtains were closed it was clearly dark outside.
Danny was in the other hospital bed, curled up on his side. Even in the dim light his face was clearly bruised, and he had stitches on his forehead. Steve’s gut twisted.
“Danny,” he rasped. The heart monitor started beeping faster as Steve attempted to get out of bed. He was hampered by his IV line, the catheter he only just became aware of, and the pain that was trying to claw its way through the morphine.
He fell back against the bed, gasping, and was suddenly surrounded by uniformed hospital personnel. One was a male nurse he recognized but couldn’t remember the name of; the nurse’s ID lanyard was twisted around backwards and offered no help.
“Take it easy, Steve,” he said. “You’re not ready to be up and around quite yet.”
Steve kept struggling.
“You know, me sharing a room with you was supposed to keep your ass in bed, babe.”
“Danny?” Steve pushed weakly at the nurse until he had a clear line of sight. Danny was sitting up in his bed, looking equal parts concerned and relieved. It was such a familiar expression that Steve couldn’t help grinning at him. “Hey.”
“Hey yourself.” Danny grinned back at him.
It was enough for Steve, who let himself be examined while Danny kept up a running commentary of everything that Steve had missed.
“The Scolaro’s moved sooner than we thought they would. They blew half the marina. Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly given our usual luck, it was the half we were standing on.”
Steve flinched away from the fingers on his sensitive left side, hissing in a breath between his teeth.
“Shrapnel,” the male nurse said.
“You were lucky,” Danny said solemnly. “It’s mostly superficial, and none of your internal organs got punctured. Neither did your thick SEAL skull.”
“And you?” Steve kept his focus on Danny while his examination was completed.
“My Neanderthal partner threw me on the ground. Cracked my head something fierce, but probably saved my life.”
“Definitely saved your life,” the nurse said with a grin. “Isn’t that what you two do?”
“That’s why I married him,” Steve said proudly. He may have lost his clothes, but they hadn’t removed his wedding band. He rubbed it absently against his pinkie finger, the weight of it comforting against his skin.
There was a moment of silence in the room, and then Danny looked up at the nurse and shook his head almost imperceptibly.
“Rest easy, Steve.” The nurse – Keoni, Steve suddenly remembered – covered him back up with the thin hospital blanket. “I’ll be back to check on you. Till then, you need to stay in bed. Okay?”
“I’ll make sure he doesn’t move,” Danny assured him.
When they were alone again, Danny slid out of his own bed and shuffled stiffly across the room to Steve’s. He was lucky enough not to be hooked up to any machinery. “You doing okay, partner?”
Steve held out his hand, not understanding when Danny hesitated a long moment before he took it. “Danno?”
“Steven, do you remember why we were at the marina?”
“I…yes?” Steve thought he did, but the intent way that Danny was looking at him was making him unsure. “We were working a case.”
“That’s right.” Danny had his free hand wrapped around the bedrail. He wasn’t wearing his wedding ring. “We were working undercover. Do you remember being undercover, Steve?”
Steve tightened his grip on Danny’s hand, his unease growing.
“We’re private detectives,” he said hesitantly. The words sounded right, but they felt off somehow. “We do a lot of undercover work.”
“No, babe,” Danny said softly. “We’re the Five-0 task force. We were pretending to be private dicks for the case we were working. I think your brains got a little scrambled by that blast.”
Pretending. That knocked something loose in Steve’s head, a snippet of remembered conversation that had him flushing and yanking his hand out of Danny’s.
“I’m sorry, what? You want us to be pretend gay for a case? Are you out of your mind?”
He was devastated. The wedding band, which only moments earlier had provided him comfort, was now a cold, heavy weight on his finger. A reminder of all the things he wanted that he knew he couldn’t have.
“It’s fine. Sorry. I just…forgot.” Steve turned his head away from the pity he was sure he’d see in Danny’s eyes. “Tired.”
Danny stayed by the bed another minute or two before he sighed and shuffled back across the room. Steve stayed awake, letting the pain in his side burn through the morphine while he grieved a relationship he never had.
He’d taken off the wedding band, but he hadn’t been able to get rid of it.
Steve remembered it all now. How their cover story had been his idea; how he’d had to talk Danny into doing it. How easily they’d pretended to be a couple. In that moment before the marina blew up, Steve had thought he saw something in Danny’s eyes. Something real. He’d been deluding himself.
He’d also been deluding himself that Danny would be content to just pepper him with text messages. Steve woke up from a nap to find his partner sitting on the end of the bed, reclined back on his elbows like he had nothing better to do.
“Not to seem ungrateful,” Steve said, rubbing a hand over his face. “But what are you doing here?”
“Well, let’s see,” Danny said brightly. “You were recently injured, and when you didn’t respond to any of my texts I naturally assumed you’d suffered a massive internal hemorrhage and died. So I came to check.”
Danny’s tone was light, but his expression was neutral. He looked at Steve through heavy-lidded eyes.
“Yes, I can see that. So why were you ignoring my messages?”
Steve shrugged with his good right shoulder. “Didn’t feel like talking.”
“Wonderful. Then you can listen.” Danny sat up, legs hanging off the side of the bed.
“Danny, I don’t –”
“I know you don’t, but you will anyway. I’ve had some time to think about this and I decided to bestow upon you the fruits of my mental exercise.”
Danny always did have a way with a turn of phrase. Despite everything, the normalcy of it made Steve bite back a grin.
“My undercover experience isn’t extensive, but I never had any trouble keeping the false persona separate from the real me.” Danny leaned forward, the neutral expression replaced by a focus that had Steve squirming.
“I didn’t fuck up –”
Danny held up his hand. “Let me finish, please. My point is, I never forgot who I was supposed to be. But…this time…” Danny took a deep breath and for the first time showed how nervous he was behind the stern gaze. “This time, I wanted to be the person I was pretending to be.”
Steve tried to parse that, but it was like he had a mental block. He knew what he wanted it to mean, but was absolutely certain he was misunderstanding Danny’s words.
“Danny,” he said a little desperately.
Danny reached out and grabbed hold of Steve’s ankle, the warmth of his hand bleeding through the thin sheets. “Thing is, Steven, I always figured you for a pretty straight arrow, if you know what I mean. You’ve got the whole super SEAL thing going for you, and Catherine with the whole friends-with-benefits thing. And I figured if I let you know the kind of not-safe-for-work thoughts I was having, that I’d find myself on the wrong side of a choke hold.”
“I wouldn’t!” Hell no, he wouldn’t. Not ever. Danny was having thoughts about him? About them together? It made him feel dizzy, and his skin felt too hot.
“The look on your face at the hospital, when you realized we weren’t married. That just about killed me.” Danny squeezed Steve’s ankle, and gave him a tentative half-smile. “So I was thinking. If you’re on board, and I’m on board…maybe we can take this thing for a test drive?”
That was...if Danny meant what Steve thought he did, then that was almost too good to be true. “You’d want that? Really? With me?”
“Do you not know me? Am I the kind of person who’d make a spur of the moment decision about something this important?”
“What if it doesn’t work?” Steve asked. “What if we screw it up?”
“Then we screw it up, agree it was a bad idea, and go back to just being partners,” Danny replied. As if it would be that easy. “I don’t need any more regrets in my life, Steve.”
That was a sentiment Steve could get behind. And if he’d been feeling like his old self, he’d have grabbed Danny and pulled him up to the head of the bed and had his wicked way with him. Until he’d healed, though, they’d have to take things a bit slower.
He held out his hand, just like he’d done at the hospital. And this time Danny grabbed hold with no hesitation.
“I knew you were smart,” Danny said. He moved himself up to sit beside Steve and they just stared at each other for a long moment.
It didn’t seem quite real, Steve finally getting Danny the way he’d wanted for so long. And as much potential as there was for disaster, deep in the heart of him he felt they could actually make this work. Danny knew him better than anyone ever had. Steve trusted him with his life. It wasn’t much of a stretch to add his heart to the mix as well.
“Danny,” Steve said, and it was more breath than actual word. He leaned in, Danny meeting him halfway, for a kiss that was infinitely sweet and slow and full of promise.
Danny cupped Steve’s face with one hand, thumb stroking along his cheekbone, and Steve closed his eyes against the unexpected burn of tears.
“It’s alright, babe,” Danny whispered against his lips. “I’ve got you.”
“You always did,” Steve whispered back. “You always will.”
“I hijacked Danny’s case. And Danny,” Steve said with a grin.
“Pretty sure this is just Stockholm syndrome,” Danny put in. He was holding hands with Steve, their fingers tangled together.
Steve’s Aunt Deb smiled at them, and raised her glass of champagne. “Trust me, honey, what you two have is the real thing. I wish you every happiness.”
Everyone around them echoed that sentiment, glasses raised. Steve looked down at Danny, knowing every emotion he was feeling was written on his face, and saw it all mirrored in Danny’s blue eyes. He leaned in for a kiss, careful not to spill his own champagne when Danny’s arms encircled him.
“Husband,” Steve murmured in Danny’s ear.
“Not yet, you big lug.”
Tomorrow couldn’t come soon enough.