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Hello, Again

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When Steve steps out from the prison’s gate, the morning sun is shining on his face, right at that position in the sky where all there is, is brightness strong enough to blind, and the tease of warmth over the night’s coolness. The wind blows on him, slight and gentle, barely a touch on his skin. Suddenly he’s so damned exhausted, he’s dizzy with it.

The hands that he raises to scrub over his face may shake a bit; he pushes them through his hair to rub at the ache in his neck. Brings them back to press against the burn in his eyes. He blinks past the dots caused by the pressure, squints through the sunshine and sees his team gathered near their, and his, vehicles. The SUV is parked to the right of his truck, the Camaro to the left.

Chin and Kono are standing on either side of Danny; the three of them are leaning against the bumper of the Silverado. Kono’s looking worried and tense, he can see her hands gripping tight to her crossed arms. Chin’s got his hands stuffed in his pockets; from where he is, Steve can see his shoulders are rigid under his shirt.

And then there’s Danny. Danny who’s looking the picture of calm. Danny who’s looking right at him, and Steve’s too damn far away to read what those eyes are saying.

He’s pretty sure he’s screwed.

It’s a staring contest, and if you asked him, Steve couldn’t tell you how long it lasts. But then Danny’s pushing himself up off the bumper, is rubbing Kono’s arm and smiling at her. When she returns it with a small one of her own, Danny turns to Chin, claps a hand on Chin’s shoulder—Steve sees him relax, but just barely—and the two exchange nods. He knows there’s something there, wonders what he missed. Wonders for a second if he really deserves to know before he pushes it down.

He’s not sure what he’s expecting when Danny starts walking his way. He doesn’t know what’s going to happen when his partner is standing in front of him. He finds himself counting Danny’s steps, one, two, and three. He can feel his heart picking up with every step that brings Danny closer. He can’t let himself wonder why. Not yet. He’s already too damn close to breaking.

Finally, Danny’s in front of him and lifting a hand. Steve controls his reflex to block the punch—damn it that it’s a conscious effort—and blinks in surprise when his partner thrusts that hand into his cargo pockets.

“Danno?”

He’s proud that it came out only as amused, and steadier than he thought it would’ve.

“Keys, Ninja-man. Hand ‘em over.” There’s no anger in the tone, no hint of a wild rant.

Steve is worried. And Danny just keeps patting and digging.

He’s quiet while he tries to remember which damn pocket he put them in. Then he realizes something and can only offer Danny a low curse.

His partner looks at him in confusion, before understanding flickers through his eyes. “Well, at least you turned the ignition off.” A slight smile comes over Danny’s face as he removes his hand and gently wraps it around Steve’s arm and tugs him towards their waiting teammates.

Steve is really worried.

“Danno?” This time it isn’t as amused, but he could’ve patted himself on the back for still keeping that bone-deep exhaustion and creeping trepidation out.

“Home, Steve. Let’s just go home.” There was something in Danny’s voice, and Steve tried glancing out of the corner of his eye. All he could see was the still present tilt to Danny’s lips and slight crinkle to his eyes.

“Kono, Bossman left his keys in the truck. Take it to Casa de McGarrett.”

Kono gives a snappy nod, tries to put a little snark into the “Sure thing, other-Bossman.”

Steve can appreciate the effort. He doesn’t miss the fond look Chin flashes her way either. Good, he thinks. Whatever happened was nothing fucked up enough to mess with that duo. As he wonders if maybe this whole in-control-Danny is a tell of how badly he messed up his own partnership, he only just catches Danny asking Chin to follow them.

“Ho, brah.” Chin says as he claps a hand against Steve’s shoulder, a look Steve can’t decipher crossing over his face. “We’ll be right behind you.”

Danny nods, Steve can just stand there. It’s not even fumes at this point. “All right, Cinderella. Your pumpkin’s issued its resignation. This ball is over.”

“Aww, but Danno.” Steve all but falls into the passenger seat when Danny opens the door for him. “Why you gotta crash in on me like that?”

And there it is. That flash of something other than calm. But then it’s gone again.

“That seems to be a trending thing nowadays.” And then the door is shut and Danny’s walking around to the driver’s side.

All Steve can think is, oh shit.

It’s a quiet drive back. Danny doesn’t talk, Steve doesn’t volunteer to. It’s not tense; he tries to wonder why and fails miserably. He doesn’t realize he’s fallen asleep until there’s a voice at the edge of his hearing.

He knows how messed up he is when it’s a slow pull to consciousness. He opens his eyes to Danny leaning towards him, voice low and gentle. Soothing. Something like relief rushes through and he blames exhaustion for the prickling of his eyes.

“Hey there, partner.” Danny’s voice has a tone to it. Something that’s under the soothing. Steve can almost place it…but just almost. “Think you can do a couple dozen steps?”

“Yeah.” Just the word dragging out of his throat makes him wince. There’s an ache at the base of his skull, and when he raises his arms to rub his fingers against his scalp, tightness—sharp and raw—races through his chest and around to his back. The moan is out before he has a chance to bite it down. He feels his body tighten against the cramping and it’s all enough to have his eyes watering.

“Steve?” There’s a hand on his chest but all he can do is squeeze his eyes against the onslaught and attempt to breathe through the waves. “Shit.”

He doesn’t know what happens after that, but suddenly his door is open and Danny’s there, hand back on his chest. “Just give it a couple. Looks like that little nap was enough to let an emergency landing and ninja army catch up to you, huh?”

Steve can hear how Danny tries to make it light. But he can also hear the worry and the…something else.

 When the pain tempers down to a harsh ache, he opens his eyes to see Danny crouched at his side, Chin right behind him and Kono just over Chin’s shoulder. The three of them are looking tense and worried. And trying not to look like they are tense and worried.

He opens his mouth to say something about that, but then the fact that Danny was squatting dawned. “Danny, your knee.”

There’s a look that can only be described as affection that passes over Danny’s face. Chin grins and shakes his head and he can hear Kono choke off a snicker.

“You were in a plane crash today, babe. My knee is fine.” And then Danny winks. “But I’d love that concern when you’re making me leap buildings and scale fences.”

Steve doesn’t have a chance to respond to that, because Danny’s pushing himself to standing and holding his hand out. “Up and ‘em, Super-Seal. You stink and you’re needing to rest up for a little discussion.”

Ah. Yup. Called it.

He tries to make his body move. Could’ve actually wept with relief when it was just sharp twinges that travel through his muscles as he swings his legs out. He uses the door and Danny’s hand to brace himself as he pushes himself from the Camaro— ignoring his muscles screaming and cursing and just all-out making their displeasure known. He figured he won until he took his first step and his legs buckled and if it weren’t for Chin, he and Danny would’ve gotten very personal with the gravel of his driveway.

Son of a bitch.

He didn’t know he said it out loud until he heard his breath puff out with it.

Jesus fuck, he hurt.

“We got ya, brah.” Chin’s voice is steady and sure as he pulls Steve’s arm over his shoulder.

Kono’s rushing past them as Danny slings Steve’s other arm over his own shoulder. She takes the front steps two at a time and holds the door open, trying not to look like she’s fidgeting.

It’s a testament to how well they work when the three of them—with their damned different heights—manage to get into the house without anything, or anyone, ending up broken or damaged.

Well, more so than originally anyway.

“All right,” Danny starts and nods at Chin, “I got him. Gonna throw his ass in the shower and make sure he doesn’t crack his damn head open. You two good?”

“Yeah,” Kono’s got a smile on. The edges are a little tense, so Chin leans into her and lays a hand on her shoulder. They exchange some kind of silent conversation before she turns back to them. “We’ll run to the store and grab all that stuff. Go easy on him, brah.”

Danny only winks at her.

“Stuff?” Steve asks as Danny leads him to the staircase. Maybe they won’t notice the grip he’s got on the railing. “What stuff?”

“You shut up and move. Now.”

Steve doesn’t miss the fond looks the cousins flash their way before they turn towards the door. All he can feel is complete and utter relief that his sudden departure hasn’t seemed to have changed too much of anything between his team and himself.

By the time Steve is standing in his bedroom, his legs are shaking and he thinks he’s got Danny supporting most of his weight. He’s not sure how he’s going to manage getting out of his clothes, but he figures he’ll manage.

Danny’s close enough as he is and it’s been so damn long and he’s in so much fucking pain and he’s got this horrible, wonderful feeling that Danny can make it all better.

He got Wo Fat. It’s all over now, except he knows it was too easy, and it’s not over, not nearly. For now though, he can sleep and he wants Danny to stay and he’s got no self-control left to not ask him but he’s too raw and tired and it’s all been too much and he just can’t, so he won’t.

Except, Danny has other ideas. Of course he does.

He opens his mouth exactly once to tell Danny he’d be fine and Danny only stares at him as he crowds into his space. When Danny makes a motion with his hands that Steve takes to mean that he needs to raise his arms, he follows it with no argument. Except, his arms refuse to rise any higher than shoulder-level.

After a few seconds of him—manfully of course—biting through the pain, Danny rolls his eyes and says with no little amount of exasperation, “God, you’re difficult.”

He reaches both hands into Steve’s cargo pockets, and damn it, Steve wants so much but there’s just nothing left in him. It’s only a second or two before there’s an ‘Aha’ and Danny’s pulling out his tactical knife.

“Love that you’re a boy scout, Steve.” And then he’s getting a hold of Steve’s black shirt and making a clean, quick slice right down the middle. Steve can only stand there, exhausted and sore and wishing things were different.

He hears Danny’s sharp inhale as his partner tugs the torn shirt from his shoulders. Sees the way every line in Danny’s body goes rigid, the way he clenches his jaw. The color drains from his face only to have red start creeping up his neck and into the tips of his ears. He says nothing as he drops the shirt like it’s poison.

Danny raises his hands and Steve can’t quite control the shiver as gentle fingertips barely brush against the assortment of bruises he’s sure pepper his chest.  Wo Fat knows some moves; he doesn’t need a chain and abandoned bunker in the jungle of North Korea. His fists and feet can do a damage all their own. His little aircraft escapade had done its share before Wo Fat even got started.

There’s a twist to Danny’s lips that makes Steve wonder if they’re sharing similar thoughts. The scars from the cattle prod have only just started to fade and Steve feels it all too well when Danny’s fingers stutter then press a slight touch harder on the skin. It’s a numb kind of feeling; the nerves aren’t quite what they used to be on those patches of skin.

“Emergency landing, Steven?” Danny seems surprised when the words burst out of him, rapid-fire and terse. “I saw the damn satellite link. Fuck emergency landing. You were in a plane crash.” The second part is almost choked and when Danny lifts his head, Steve is mesmerized by the hot blue gaze that locks on to his face.

Now he sounds angry. Now he sounds pissed off as hell. But his fingers are still gentle, and as they skirt over the cut on his brow then over to his other cheek, Steve allows himself to lean into the touch. His eyes fall close as Danny flattens his hand and cups his jaw.

“You’re such a bastard, McGarrett.” The harsh words are belying the damned tenderness of his thumbs rubbing back and forth. “You don’t get to do this again, do you hear me? You and your fucking ‘Dear Danno’ letter. Fuck your need to do everything by yourself, without goddamn back-up, because that worked so good for you all those months ago right? You didn’t keep in touch, you son of a bitch. You can take your damn mahalo and shove it up—”

It doesn’t hurt when he pulls Danny into his arms. There’s no pain when he wraps his arms around Danny. All he can feel is warmth and home.

“I’m sorry, Danno.” He wants to say this was something he had to do. For himself. For his mother, his father. For Mary. He wants to say that he couldn’t do his job until he could get his head straight again. Not the way his team needed him too. He couldn’t be the partner Danny needed with all of that shit running through his head.

But…road to hell. And he’s said it all before. Half of him will stand by it until his dying breath. The other half…is just so, so tired.

“I had to tell Gracie, Steve.” Danny’s voice is muffled against his shoulder. “Gracie.”

All Steve can think is, oh God.

“My daughter cried herself to sleep because she knew she might not see her Uncle Steve again. Because he had to look for somebody by himself and her dad wasn’t there to watch his back. Because I brought you back the first time and my baby girl knew we wouldn’t have that kind of luck again.”

Because his baby girl had to grow up too fucking fast and all those child-like ideologies got taken away from her the day she got tied up in a storage container.

“Danny.” Steve only holds on tighter. Turns his face into Danny’s hair. “Danny.”

“No, you need to hear this. Because you need to stop doing this to us.” It’s said as Danny steps back, hands cutting through the air. “When are you going to figure out that when you run off and do this stupid shit, your family is fucking terrified all that SEAL-luck is going to run out. You can’t make me do that to Gracie again. You can’t do that to me again.”

And it seems like Danny can’t control himself anymore as he shoves Steve roughly.  It knocks Steve back a few steps, somehow he manages to keep his feet under him, but then Danny’s stalking forward and hauling him back in again.

“Chin pulled up the footage of the wreck while you were processing Wo Fat.” Danny’s arms tighten around his shoulders and Steve just closes his eyes and leans into the support. “Goddamn it, Steve. There were pieces just spread all over the place. There was fuselage in trees. Trees were missing trunks, Steven.  Some parts were still smoking.”

Steve won’t say anything about the damage that they couldn’t see. He wonders if the bodies are still in the wreckage, wonders if the families will ever know the truth. “I’m home. I’m back. I’m back.” It’s the only thing he can say; maybe if he does it enough, it can make that twisting band in his chest unravel. And if he reaches up and cups the back of Danny’s head to bring him that much closer, well, he doesn’t see a problem with that. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, Danny.”

“Then stay.” As soon as the words are out, Steve can feel Danny stiffen. It’s all he needs to know that Danny never meant to say the words. It’s proven when Danny steps back and his arms fall away. His face is shuttered and his eyes are dark. He looks as if saying those words—as if putting it out there, as if putting himself out there—hurts him more than he can say. As if he’s waiting for a rejection that’ll just rip him apart and maybe if he starts shutting it down now, the damage won’t be as bad.

But Steve is so fucking tired of ruins and destruction. And so he steps up to Danny, doesn’t doubt for a second that he’s not about to make a mistake—not when Danny’s looking at him like that. Danny’s great at making his feelings known. At any given time and without condition. All of HPD, every crook, hell, probably half of New Jersey, knows it. He’s even better at knowing just what the hell he wants and how he wants it taken care of. But right now? He looks like he’s feeling so damn much at one time, and he doesn’t have a fucking clue about what to do with any of it. So, no. Steve never even questions if it’s a bad move.

He just places a hand on Danny’s cheek and leans in. It’s the easiest damn thing he’s ever done in his life, it’s the best damn thing he’s ever done. Because Danny’s lips part unhesitatingly under his own and they just fall together. Seamlessly. Of course they do. It’s how it’s always been. Under all the explosions—through them and after them—they work. God knows what holds them together, but some of the best things in life have no reason to them.

It doesn’t last long, goddamn it. It can’t. Steve has no idea how he’s still upright. When they part, all Steve can do is rest his forehead on Danny’s. For seconds, they only share air.

“You’re such a bastard, McGarrett.” It’s a repeating of his earlier words, with none of the heat and yet so much more of it. “Why are you such a damn bastard?”

He can’t resist as he feels his lips curve in a smile. “That’s classified information.”

Danny makes a quiet sound. Something like disbelief, something like breaking into thousands of irreparable pieces. But when Danny kisses him again, it’s also like something settling into place, and Steve knows…there’ll be no ruins from this.

It’s a blur after that. He remembers fingers making quick work of his pants. He remembers warm water on his shoulders. He remembers the gentle sweeping of something over his body, remembers opening his eyes to see dark, soapy water trailing to his drain—dirt and blood and almost twenty years of bad, bad, and worse.

Most of all though, he remembers lips tracing after the something. Soft and tender and slow, and he’s wishing it could be enough to erase it all. He thinks maybe one day, it will.

But then that cascade of water has stopped and Danny’s drying him—so gently still. Steve has to brace his hands on Danny’s bare shoulders—and when did Danny get rid of all of his clothes too?

It’s a question he doesn’t have much time to ponder because Danny’s leading him out of the shower and walking him towards the bed. He falls into it unceremoniously, muscles still protesting any kind of movement—but less so now now that he’s looser. From the shower or the feel of Danny against him or that pure exhaustion, he isn’t sure.

What he does know though, is that it’s through some mixture of all three that he falls into darkness before he thinks to make the effort.

When he wakes, he’s alone. For a second, he wonders if it was all a dream. And for just a second, his world crashes. But then he moves his head and when he feels an answering ache, it’s all right again. It’s a thought he almost laughs at.

Experimentally, he stretches his limbs out. It’s nowhere near as bad as it was, more of an irritating soreness—he knows it’ll worsen once that cushion of sleep wears off, but oh well—and he wonders where his bedmate is. Almost as if on cue, he hears a voice floating up to his window. Pushing himself up, he sees board shorts and a t-shirt hanging over his bedframe and painkillers and a glass of water at his nightstand.

He smiles and stands, is grateful when his legs hold. When he passes by his mirror, he has to stop and do a double take. His entire torso is more angry red than tan. Large and deep discolorations pepper his chest, hug his ribs and curl around to his back. He tries to twist around to take a look at the damage back there, but shooting pains have him changing his mind quickly. The cuts on his face aren’t too nasty looking, but they’re in vivid contrast against his skin and the dark under his eyes.

He looks like shit. He doesn’t look at the mirror again as he tugs his clothes on.

It takes a little bit of time to navigate his way down the stairs,. The pain’s nothing he’s never felt before, though he can say he’s never been in a plane crash. Rough landings from jumps? Sure. Crawling out from nose-diving planes he piloted? It was a first.

Kono sees him from over Chin’s shoulder on the lanai, a big smile widens her lips and she waves.  Chin turns around, flashes him an outstretched thumb and pinky with a slight wink.

Danny though. Danny throws his hands up. “See, called it. What did I tell you? Four hours. That’s all he’d be good for. Four hours.” Taps at the imaginary watch on his wrist as Steve sits at the nearest chair, it just so happens to be right at Danny’s side. “Honestly, McGarrett, would it literally kill you to turn off your ‘Danger Will Robinson’ for longer than half of what us normal humans need to function? I promise you the world won’t end. We,” he waves his hand in a vaguely circular motion that kind of encompasses Kono and Chin, “can take care of it. I know you may find it hard to believe, but we—well Chin and I, sorry babe,” he winks at Kono, “how long have you been out of diapers—“

Kono cuts him off with a slightly predatory smile, “How about I show you?”

Danny’s quiet for a second, “You know what, you’re right. Please accept my apologies and stop planning my, I’m sure very painful, demise. But anyway, Chin and I, and our warrior princess, have gotten along just fine without Commander McNuts overtaking our lives and forcing explosives and other questionable means of police action into every nook and cranny. And should the world end, you have hammered enough ridiculous alternatives to proper police procedure, we could probably figure something out. You aren’t listening to a word I’m saying, are you?”

Steve turns his head from where he laid it on the back of the chair  somewhere after the ‘warrior princess’ part and opens one eye, “Sure I am. Explosives and proper police procedure.” He grins, and doesn’t even try to ignore that feeling in the center of his chest.  “Just basking, Danno. It’s been a quiet month.”

And just like that, Danny deflates and reaches out to lay a hand on Steve’s arm, thumb rubbing absently. “You’re a goof.”

Out of the corner of his eye, Steve sees Chin and Kono exchange a look. Something a lot like glee crosses over Kono’s face, and he thinks she might’ve just choked back a squeal if that cut off sound coming from her vicinity is any indication. Chin just raises an eyebrow in long-suffering amusement.

“How ya feelin, Boss?”

Steve looks over at Kono, moves his shoulders, testing the pain. Yup. The stiffness was starting to move back in. He controls the wince, but figures he didn’t do a good job of it when Kono’s eyes slide over to Danny.

Danny gives a groan, “You’re an idiot. Where’s your pain pills? Shut up. Pills. Location.”

Steve waves his hand over shoulder towards his house, “Over there, somewhere.”

“You’re an idiot.”

“You say such sweet things, Danno.” He thinks Danny does something from behind him, because Kono snickers and Chin shakes his head.

It’s quiet, companionable silence for a minute or so. Then Kono starts fidgeting. “Hey boss?”

Ah. Steve doesn’t have to guess what she’s about to start.

“I get it, Kono. I’m not going to get on you about you being a cop, and now that his father’s dead, he’s head of the Yakuza. I’m sure he,” Steve nods at Chin, “has already given you that talk. Are you aware of the consequences should the shit hit the fan?”

She only nods. But of course she isn’t. She’s young and in love. And love makes you do stupid, stupid things.

“All right then. Conversation over.” And he closes his eyes.

The silence after that isn’t as comfortable as it had been just minutes before. And he knows he can’t just leave it there. He opens his eyes again and sits up to lean his elbows on his knees. Looks at Kono straight on. “If it weren’t for you, he probably would’ve killed me. He had the man who killed his father right in front of him; he had his father’s men right at his back. But you stopped him.” He had to make sure she knew that. Because he understood being on the other side.

“You talked him down. And he listened to you. I know all about fury and revenge. You don’t give a damn about how far you’ll have to go, or the people you have to go through to get there. Until something comes along, something worth more than revenge, and all of the sudden, that decision’s not so cut in stone anymore.” Steve hates that her eyes start to fill with tears. “You saved my life, Kono. Thank you for that. Whatever happens from here,” he tilts his head at Chin then back at the house, “we’ve got your back. We’ll be here.”

She says nothing, just walks over to him, leans down, and wraps her arms gently around him.  He can feel her breath at his ear as he returns it, “We really missed you. Welcome home.”

“Hey now, what’s going on?” Danny’s voice comes from behind him. “I leave you for five minutes and now you’re making women cry. What is the matter with you?”

Steve hears Kono’s quiet laugh as she leans back up and steps away. “I can take him, other Bossman.”

“Are you sure? Because just say the word, I can make sure he doesn’t get his surprise.”

At that, Steve tries to look over his shoulder into the house. His neck muscles immediately twinge. “Surprise?”

He hears the thundering of footsteps seconds before the shouting voice. And damned if his heart just drops, then picks back up again, rapid and pounding.

“Uncle Steve!”

He makes a move to get out of the chair but a look from Danny stops him cold.

When Grace is in front of him, cheeks pink in excitement, hands squeezing tight in front of her, all but vibrating, and just beautiful and pure and maybe not so innocent anymore, but there’s a light in her eyes that just pierces straight into him and he has to blink past a sudden burning in his eyes.

He offers her the biggest smile he possibly can as she lifts her hands and brushes her fingers on the side of his face. “Gracie-girl. How are you?”

“You’re home! Danno said you had to go away. And I was really scared you weren’t going to be ok.” She leans in close. “But I knew I had to be really brave, just in case Danno needed to be scared like I was. One of us had to be brave, right Uncle Steve?”

She was such a perfect, perfect child, he could only nod. The tightness in his throat wouldn’t allow him to say much.

“He also said you were hurt, and that I had to be really, really careful if I touched you. And I really want to give you a hug. But I don’t want to make you hurt any more. I missed you a lot and so did Daddy. He was so mad for a couple days, but I think that was because he missed you so much. I think he wished he could be with you in case you got hurt, so he could take care of you and make sure you didn’t get hurt too bad. But he didn’t want to leave me and Uncle Chin and Auntie Kono in case one of us got hurt. He said you were a crazy ninja and that you had managed just fine before he came along and tried to knock some sense into your head. And he said if you weren’t perfectly fine, then both of us would just have to bust your chops. Are you hurt really bad, Uncle Steve?”

God, he’s wrecked. He’s just…completely undone. All the words just fall out of Grace, like she just can’t hold them back anymore. As he looks at her, rocking back and forth, he knows that words aren’t the only things she’s fighting at holding back. He hazards a look at Danny and feels gut-punched at the look on his partner’s face. It’s all love and despair and wonder.

It’s everything that’s been wrapping a tight band around his own heart and so, so much more.

He reaches out to Grace, puts his hands on his shoulders, tugs her closer to set her on his lap. “You know what, Gracie-girl?” He doesn’t care that his voice is choked. He sees Chin turn toward the beach, but there’s a tightness to his lips and when he hears something that sounds like a sniffle from a Kono as she too turns away, he knows why. He looks back to at Grace, trails a finger down her nose, tries to sooth the worry away. “I’m not perfectly fine. I’ve got a lot of bruises and I’m achey all over. But I’m not hurt really bad, just a little bit. Do you know what would make me feel so much better?”

She shakes her head quickly.

“If I could get one of those hugs you’re so good at. You know the type, the one that makes your dad go all quiet.”

“And squishy?”

The laugh he hears behind him sounds a bit like a sob.

“I think the squishier, the better.”

She doesn’t hesitate; she just leans into him, and wraps her arms around him, so, so slowly and even more gently. It’s only when he’s got an arm around her back and a hand at the back of her head, bringing her closer does she hold on tighter.

If he turns his face into her hair a second too late to hide the tear the escapes his control, he’s perfectly okay with that. He feels Danny lay a hand on his back, heavy and warm; feels Grace settle into him carefully, one arm still over his shoulder and he just closes his eyes and leans his head against Grace’s as she nestles hers into his neck.

He’s not sure how long they sit there, but when he opens his eyes and looks past Danny, he’s surprised to see Rachel standing there. Arms folded in front of her, entire posture serene and unobtrusive.

She gives him a small smile when their eyes meet. “Commander, welcome back.”

“Rachel, hi.” He feels a sudden nervousness come over, “I’m sorry, I don’t—” He looks down at Gracie and just the thought of moving her makes his chest tighten all over again.

“She’s missed you.” Rachel waves a hand at him. “She’s been awfully worried. Are you well?”

“I—” he wraps his arms tighter around Grace, “I’m getting better.” He can’t find any other words. “Rachel, I—thank you. Just…thank you.”

She only nods, “Grace darling, be good for the Commander and your father. I shall see you a bit later.” She walks towards them and kisses the top of her daughter’s head. Hers and Steve’s eyes catch again as she leans back up. Steve can’t name what he sees there, but whatever it is, settles the nervousness and all he feels is abject gratitude. “I love you, darling. Feel better, Steve.”

“Rach, wait.” Danny steps towards her, “You don’t have to leave. Stay to eat. We’re gonna throw some steak on, Chin’s got some skills with a grill. Damn islanders.”

The laugh she gives is soft. “No, no. I won’t intrude. She doesn’t have to be back at any certain time. If you would like, she can spend the night. Just give me a ring when you’ll bring her back.”

Steve sees the look Danny gives her is a tender one. “Hey. Thanks. For bringing her.”

She’s quiet for a second. “Daniel…you’re welcome.”

And with Grace calling a ‘Bye mommy!’ after her, she’s gone.

Grace doesn’t leave his side for more than a few minutes over the next several hours.  She’s always in his line of sight; it takes barely more than a second’s glance out of the corner of his eye to see her. Or maybe it’s always him in her view-line; maybe it’s her making sure that should she step away, it’ll take only a second to find him again.

She crashes sometime after sunset, had started drooping against his side from where she sat between him and Danny and between one breath and the next, decided to give up and in. Steve, honestly, has no idea how he hasn’t joined her yet.

He shifts to gather her in his arms, but Danny makes a disbelieving sound in his throat. “What?”

Danny rolls his eyes, “You can barely keep your head up, McGarrett. The both of you are getting put away. Say good night, Steve.” He nods his head at Chin and Kono who’ve already started gathering plates and cups up. The grill has long since simmered to merely smoking.

“Good night, Steve.” It’s a chorus of three voices that makes Danny sigh.

“Not amused, people. Really. Not amused.”

Chin says something in Hawaiian that makes Steve and Kono laugh unashamedly.

“What? How is that even fair? Never mind, shut up, I don’t want to know.” He waves his hand, but the grumpy tone is at odds with the smile he’s trying not to show.

“Go, brah,” Chin makes a ‘shoo’ motion with his hands, “Kono and I got this. You guys,” the words said him and Danny, but Chin was only looking at him, “take it easy. We’ll take care of things at the office. You can’t go leaping buildings looking like that, brah.”

“I’ve got handcuffs and ties,” Danny says, “I’ll figure something out.”

Kono snickers, “I bet you will. Good night, boys.” It’s said after she’s kissed Grace’s forehead and is pushing the men into the house.

It’s as if they’ve done it a thousand times before. As if it’s something comfortable, a routine they fall back on at the end of the day, every day. Settling Gracie into bed, tucking the blankets over and around her. Brushing light kisses against her skin.  There’s no awkward movements as they try to figure out who goes where and does what. They just do.

All Steve can think of is all the fucking time they’ve wasted.

It’s not long before they’re both lying in bed, facing each other. Steve can feel his body getting heavier, feels his eyelids trying to lower. He doesn’t know why he’s fighting it; he just knows he wants to stay awake just a little bit longer.

“How is this going to end?” Danny’s voice is quiet, a whisper that barely travels in the darkness.

Steve reaches for him, pushing and pulling and tugging until Danny’s back is against his chest, a warm and solid presence. “I don’t know, D.”

“I know I can’t ask you to stay. I know I can’t ask you to never leave like that again.” He sounds resigned. Maybe a little angry.  But mostly just accepting. “My daughter loves you. Even though you’re insane and I’m sure you have questionable ideas as to what constitutes a proper play day with an eight year old. My ears are still ringing from when I told her you were home. The phone vibrated from the force of her excitement, Steven. My daughter loves you and she wants you here. Not god knows where, crashing planes and hijacking helicopters, but here. Where you drive her father batshit—not her words, obviously, my baby’s too pure for that—but at least you have back-up.”

“And what about you, Danno? What do you want?”

Danny takes almost a second too long to answer. “You. Anyway I can get you. I just want you.”

Steve gathers him even closer, buries his nose in Danny’s hair. “Then you have me. Whatever way I can give you,” however he knows how to, “you have it.”

He’s been fighting wars so damn long. He’s been bruised and broken, he’s covered in scars and a burn or two. He’s fucked up, he knows he can’t make promises, Danny knows he can’t ask him to make promises. He knows he might not be able to stay, as much as he wants to, as much he as he needs to, but for now, until he just can’t anymore—because fighting wars is all he knows how to do—he’ll stay here with his hot-headed, too much of everything partner, a group of people who just effortlessly situated themselves in his life, and little girl with dancing brown eyes and her father’s smile.

All of that he can fight to stay for. He’s been fighting for the past for so many years now, for what he’d had.

He can damn well fight for this, for what he’s got now.  Because yeah…fighting for what he loves is all that he knows.

You could’ve at least said hello.

He remembers Danny’s voice as he said it, it was an easy tone, almost unconcerned. Those eyes though…the memory of those eyes and everything in them was much more complicated. He wonders if he’s got enough in him to ask Danny about it.

But then Danny’s turning around and pushing him onto his side. The fingers of one hand begin to card through his hair and the other rest right above his heart. “Sleep, babe.” Then there are lips at his temple. “You’re home now.”

And just like that, he feels consciousness fleeting, but he threads his fingers through the ones caging his heart. “Hey Danno,” it’s a quiet, quiet whisper; it’s all he can offer for now.

Danny shakes his head as a grin crosses his face. “Yeah?”

“Aloha.” He tries to put everything he’s feeling into that one word. Wishes he could use words Danny knew, wishes Danny could understand the one he just used means so much more than hello, more than love.

But maybe it’s perfect because Danny raises their joined hands to his lips, whispers into the skin right at the center of his, “Aloha.”

With that, Steve sleeps.