MCGARRETT PUBLISHING TO COME HOME
Anyone who’s been around Honolulu for long enough knows the story of John McGarrett – a literature professor turned entrepreneur. At twenty-three, he started McGarrett Publishing Incorporated and gave young writers a chance in the market. Ten years later, he opened the doors to his first bookstore. The rest is history. Several years ago, Steve McGarrett, John’s only son, took over the business when John suffered a stroke and in a move that speaks highly of Steve’s commitment to his roots, they’re coming home and bringing a heavy stimulus to the Honolulu economy with them.
Some opponents say that by establishing a larger corporate presence, several smaller independent stores are poised to go under, but Steve was quoted as saying: “We’ll take care of our ohana and make sure that everyone is looked after. We’re going to get along great.” Optimistic words considering home office for the publishing company only moved from the mainland four weeks ago and the company is still seeking evidence that they have a stronghold in the market.
McGarrett Publishing hopes to open their new downtown location by December.
Steve divides his life into chapters – beginnings segueing into endings.
He thinks of chapter one as his childhood that ended too soon after his mother’s car crash and his father’s laser-like focus on the business, sacrificing all else. Chapter two is where things get rough; where Mary starts to rebel and Steve’s looking for an anchor.
What better anchor in the world is there than the United States Navy? Chapter three is his service (punctuated with the highest highs and the most terrifying of lows), which comes to an abrupt end as soon as Steve gets a phone call that says his father had a stroke and he might not have much time.
John had survived, but Steve’s days in the Navy were over.
Suddenly, chapter four begins with a flourish, bringing Steve new friendships, partners, and responsibilities. He makes several bad relationship choices and a couple of suspect business decisions (including his latest decision to break ground in Oahu; a decision that’s, so far, yielded him two breaks in his nose).
Floundering in the midst of his own story, Steve turns anywhere he can for help. It arrives in the most unexpected of places. He’s been searching for places online for recommendations about people he might be able to find with like interests and minds when he stumbles into the over-thirty chatroom and ends up discussing what drew him to books in the first place.
Steve writes about the first time he read the Hobbit and discovering the cheap thrill of a Crichton novel -- I’m well-aware of the surrealism of the pieces, he promises his chat-partner, someone he knows only by the moniker of ‘DevilsandDust’. His own screen-name is ridiculous and it’s why he should never have hired Nick Taylor and then let him near his computer (Seal Over Water is not a clever play on Bridge Over Troubled Waters and Steve will go down swinging in that fight).
The hours pass without him even realizing and Steve stares at the history of the conversation on his screen, caught in the epiphany that he’s laid out a full thesis on why he loves literature the way he does and how it’s because of the escape it’s provided through all the hard times in his life. Resentful as he might be at his father’s accident, he’s surrounded by books and that brings him closer to the memory of his mother reading him Roald Dahl or the precious way that his father opens a book.
The next day, Steve comes to work a calmer man. He might not be giddy about the oncoming uphill battle for Oahu’s book market, but he’s accepted it.
Two days later, he goes searching for DevilsandDust in the same chatroom, but he doesn’t show.
Three days after that, Steve feels an overwhelming (and surprising) sense of relief when he opens his inbox and sees that his DevilsandDust found him. Chapter five of his life feels like it’s just around the corner. Steve might still be seeking out a comfortable niche in this new life, but he knows that the past is past and the future is his to create.
Hey, uh, hi. So I feel a little bit like an idiot right now, but, if you don’t try, you’ve already failed, right? The other night, that chatty-thing; I really liked talking to you and I hope you aren't freaking out or anything, but
I would it's just you said something, something that kind of rang a bell for me. You said that where you lived there's hardly any seasons at all, which, okay, it's probably because of where I'm from, lived in the area most of my life until not long ago, and for me having seasons is one of the things that keep you on your toes. There’s something that gets me about the idea of the life of a leaf, just a simple old leaf on a tree. I mean, it’s nothing much, but it goes through a hell of a lot in the course of a year, from birth to death before it happens all over again.
Fall is my favorite season, though. My mother, she had this saying, this thing, it goes like: ‘Season of mist and mellow fruitfulness’. I think it's some poet that her grandmother taught her as a kid, all the way from the Old Country. I always thought it was beautiful. It’s fall now, but I honestly can’t tell for all the miserable heat of my current home. It’s enough to make me scream, some days, though I’ve sworn not to do that since I’ve already pitched a fit about so many other inane things – inane is not my choice of word, but my coworkers. They tend to think I’m inane a lot of the time.
And yes, I know, I’m rambling. You're probably wondering what I've been smoking, and I swear to God I'm not a stalker. I just--look. It's not often that I find someone who gets my football metaphors on the first try, is all, the way that you did the other night. So maybe, if you're willing, I--it would be nice if you wanted to talk. You know. Sometimes. No strings, no names, no addresses, no personal details. Just you and me, two people somewhere out there, talking.
You said that you thought that no season had a leg-up on fall the other day and ever since you did, I can’t stop thinking about it. I know that some places in the world don’t have a traditional fall, but I’ve been to enough of them that I know what you mean. It’s that crispness in the air and the way the leaves give way. I can’t stop thinking about it and as a result, it means I can’t stop thinking about you.
I know it’s forward. My ex always said I could be forceful and partially creepy when it comes to new friendships, so please don’t take it the wrong way. It just means that ever since you mentioned the season, it’s become linked in my head to you. Is that strange?
It doesn’t feel like fall where I am, but it definitely feels as if change is on the horizon. It feels like I blinked and suddenly everything is different. My family is embarking on new paths, my friends are settling down with kids, and work is more hectic than ever – I changed careers some time back and I know we shouldn’t get too personal, so I’ll leave it at the fact that this new job is as stressful as the old one, sometimes, which is saying something.
I feel like I need one constant place in my life where I can be and feel like myself. And maybe that’s here with you. I’m being forward again, I’m fairly sure. I apologize, but at the same time, I’m not sorry. If you’re going to run screaming, you’ll do it now and we’ll both know.
Wherever you are, whatever the leaves look like outside, I hope that the air is crisp and the day is treating you well.
Yeah, no, I'm not gonna run screaming, although I may yet live to regret it. The truth is that the people I work with, I mean, I love them to death, but they--I can't talk to them, not about the million random things that occur to me all the time, they'll look at me like I'm insane, they tend to do that. And maybe it's not fair to unload all that crap onto you, and maybe I should get a Twitter or something, but the truth is, I have goofy thumbs, and talking to you just seems nicer in some way. Like I'm waiting, storing up all the little bits and pieces of my life just for you, because for whatever strange reason, I think you'll get them. Probably I'm going mad; some days I think my job will get me there all by itself, not to mention my family, real and not. Still, I'll take the option for as long as you're willing to give it to me.
Two peas in a pod, huh.
This morning I woke up early, by some bizarre coincidence, usually I'm scrambling to get showered and dressed and out of the door, but nope, this time I was up a full half hour earlier than my alarm, and I even managed to head into the coffee shop before work and not attempt to scald myself in the rush. It's cool outside today, certainly cooler than it's been the past few weeks -- the weather here is too hot for my peace of mind, I hate the way my shirt sticks to my back all the damn time. It's September; surely the heat will let up already?
September always makes me think of school, of kids nervous and bouncing in the mornings, when you have to wrestle with them to get them to brush their teeth and eat their breakfast while they dodge your questions about whether they've finished their homework. It makes me remember the smell of my first school, watercolors and play-doh, pencils in every shade of the rainbow, fresh notebooks and pristine pages soon to be filled with whatever nonsense kids can think of to dodge paying attention in class. For all that I was never a model student, I miss how easy it was.
You say goofy thumbs and now I have this visual image of you in my head roaming the streets of Disneyland. It’s alarming, but endearing at the same time. Are you the kind of guy who hates words like 'endearing'? I never know. I guess this is the best way to find out, though. Usually I’m the ‘rush first, ask questions later’ kind of guy. My ex hated it. My ex before that really hated it. In fact, I’m pretty sure they have meetings about that habit of mine. It wouldn’t be so bad, but they invite me to them.
Here’s an example: the way you’re talking about school sounds like you have first-hand knowledge, so I’m going out on a limb and saying that your screen-name is a complete red herring and you’re actually a schoolteacher. Am I off? My work has been tense lately, though it’s all because of other people’s projects. Everyone gets so stressed out, so easily, over the most inane of things. It’s actually pretty funny, sometimes. And then there are the days when I hate being in that kind of environment. It makes me think about flying a helicopter high as I can and jumping out of it (with a parachute, obviously. I’m not really suicidal).
Anyway. Whatever you’re doing during the days, here’s hoping that those goofy thumbs don’t get in the way.
TO: Chin Ho, Toast
What the hell is up with the Boss? He didn't even yell when Toast bumped that display over.
TO: Kono, Chin Ho
Yeah, man. It was creepy. Dude's normally strung like a hair-trigger crossbow. Last week he almost took my head off for messing up the shelving in 8-12 fiction.
TO: Toast, Chin Ho
Toast, I don't wanna know how you know that. You're messing up my world view.
TO: Kono, Toast
FROM: Chin Ho
Guys, leave the man alone. So he's in a better mood. Could be Grace did something nice before school this morning.
TO: Chin Ho, Toast
Hah, nice try, cuz. He's been like that for a week. I love Gracie, she's my favorite, but kid's as stubborn as her Dad. It can't be all her.
TO: Kono, Toast
FROM: Chin Ho
Whatever it is, he'll tell us when he's ready. You know pushing him is the last thing you should do if you want him to tell you anything.
TO: Kono, Toast, Chin Ho
Don't you people have work to do? Where's the last copy of Ballet Shoes, I can't find it anywhere and I know for a fact that we've still got one somewhere.
The first time that Danny Williams met Steve McGarrett – aka, ‘The Competition’ – Steve had walked away from the meeting with a broken nose and Danny with his wounded pride. It had been bad enough that their respective friends keep running interference ever since so they don’t have another face to face.
As far as Danny’s concerned, it’s so far from what he needs that it’s not funny. He’d settled down and found a home for Grace and just when he was getting comfortable, the rug got yanked out from under his feet just because some asshole with his Dad’s money thought that his ‘market research’ meant he could waltz into Danny’s territory, his home, and take over.
God, Danny hates dealing with this shit.
At first, he ignored it. It was nothing more than rumor that McGarrett Publishing would break ground and put a massive chain-store around the corner from him. Then, things started to get real and Danny began to get desperate. Now, with every passing day, he spends longer hours at the store, he makes sure he gets all the time with Grace that he can manage, and he always (always) sends off his daily email to one of the few people in his life that keep him sane.
Somewhere, the truth is practically laughing in Danny’s face and he just doesn’t know it yet.
Endearing? Seriously? Okay, uh, I'm flattered, I guess. Even if you make me sound like a nine-year-old girl. But that's okay, I can live with that, for reasons I will not go into (suffice to say that no, your theory about my screen-name is quite wrong, but I do have a completely legitimate reason to know as much as I do about the subject). As for the ‘rush first, ask questions later’ thing -- well. I suppose it doesn't really affect me at the moment, but if ever we do meet, let me tell you it would be prudent to check that instinct, unless you want to get a lecture.
I also suppose it's only fair to tell you that I, uh. I tend to talk. A lot. It's a genetic thing, okay, none of my siblings can get a word edgeways with our Ma when she gathers a head of steam; so if you find some of these emails going off tangent, you'll know why. Growing up with one brother and two sisters means that the loudest gets their version across of whatever disaster we'd concocted between the four of us, and most of the time manages to implicate the others before getting punished. Not that it worked; our Ma's always been pretty sharp-eyed when it comes to who started it.
This morning it occurred to me that it's getting close to Halloween. Yes, I know there's almost a month to go, but see, in my line of work it pays to be prepared. Tomorrow after work, I'll go down to the market and peruse their pumpkin selection. The earlier you start, the better the pickings, after all. I've yet to figure out what I'm going to wear on the night, though. Anything other than leprechaun, I guess -- don't ask. All I'm going to say is that it was a memorable occasion. I was thinking a cop -- it'll go down a treat with my customers. Do you celebrate Halloween? What are you planning to wear?
Please make sure the parachute is functional, if you're insane enough to go jumping out of flying machines. I'd hate to lose my conversational partner. I’m kind of getting attached to you. Are we supposed to say things like that? Ah, well, too late to take it back now.
Siblings, huh? I have the one in the form of a sister. She’s great except for all those times that she’s … not. Which isn’t to say I don’t love her, but my sister can be a heart attack and a handful, which is saying a lot considering the same words have been used in reference to me. I like to take it as a compliment. When we were kids, we always used to go trick-or-treating together and my sister managed to steal half my candy by the time we got home. I always threatened to give her an Indian Burn, but she’d just cry to our parents and win. Why is it that tears always win?
As far as Halloween this year goes, I’m a fan, but I’ll probably be too busy to actually do anything. I’m sure I’ll have a fun-sized (aka, sad-sized) bar shoved into my hand the day after while I go over financial reports, but that’ll be the amount of celebrating I do. Besides, my house isn’t exactly in a prime location for trick-or-treaters; not unless mermaids have started to look for candy.
That’s sort of personal, isn’t it? You can just forget I said that. Or not forget. I know that we’re still technically strangers, but it’s not so much information as it is a broad picture. Right? Right.
So, am I ever going to learn that completely legitimate reason, or are you keeping me in the dark on that one? Is this a need-to-know basis sort of thing? I’m good at guessing, I could just keep doing that. Secretly, you’re a child at heart? You watch too much of the Disney channel? You’re an Uncle? You have a love-child? Or, maybe, and I’m just spit-balling here, you’re secretly a nine-year-old that I’ve been emailing with this whole time.
In the afternoon light, Danny feels like he’s got his own personal wonderland of fiction around him. Sure, his bookshop isn’t the biggest of spaces (made frequently known to him by the fact that he continually winds up taking out half the merchandise on the shelves while trying to negotiate his way down children’s fiction), but the wooden floors give a satisfying creak and the way the light spills in the bay window at the front of the shop illuminates everything as far as the eye can see.
It might not be corporately synergistic (or whatever the hell it is those people call it), but Danny thinks it’s damn well near perfect. He’s lost in thoughts of this perfection and how certain online people might appreciate it when he finally realizes someone’s trying to talk to him.
Chin's voice catches Danny by surprise, even though he's aware that Chin sounds like he's been saying his name for a while.
"I'm sorry," he says ruefully. Thinking about how his Seal might at this very minute be enjoying the book Danny recommended is throwing him off his game, and it's certainly not professional behavior at all. Mind on the game, Williams. "What is it?"
"Nothing urgent. I just wondered where you wanted the shipment of the new Cassandra Clare book. It just got here, all fifty copies."
Danny hums contemplatively. It'll be a bestseller, that's for sure -- Clare's books always are, especially with the teenagers. "How about we take down that picture book display and set it up on that table? Drag it closer to the front, too."
"All right," Chin says easily, but he's still watching him. Why is he still watching him?
"Was there anything else you needed?"
"Well, then, do I have something on my face?" Danny asks with a little bit of an edge to his voice. Chin is freaking him out.
"Possibly," Chin says.
"What is it?"
Chin grins, showing more teeth than Danny's comfortable with. "You're smiling, brah. And you didn't complain once about the vampire angle in the latest of the endless supernatural teen romances."
Danny pulls up short. "I didn't?"
"Must have been distracted," Danny says, fighting a blush determinedly climbing up his face.
"Uh-huh," Chin says, and oh god, Kono sidles up to them from the spelling books section, and here's Toast now, popping up from Popular Science like one of those meerkats Gracie was watching on TV last night.
Danny watches all of them warily. "Okay, what is going on?"
"Dunno, boss, what is going on with you?" Kono says cheerfully. There's a glint in her eye that is truly frightening to Danny's peace of mind.
"Nothing is going on with me," he insists. The skeptical glances he's getting are not reassuring.
"You've been in a great mood recently. We thought you might want to share what put you in it," Kono returns sweetly.
"I have not--"
"Yeah, you have," Toast says. Coming in his laid-back drawl, the statement is all the more accusing.
Danny stares at the three of them. They stare back.
"Aw, boss, have you gotten yourself a girlfriend? Is that why you're all secretive and stuff?" Kono chirps, a grin stretching her face.
Danny fidgets uncomfortably under the others' gazes, then sighs. When they get like this, the best thing he could do was come clean.
"It's nothing, I don't even know why you're making such a big deal out of it. There's just this guy I got to talking to online. We met in that thirty-something chatroom you're always waving under my nose," he adds belligerently at Chin.
Chin looks surprised, but cautiously pleased. "That's great, Danny."
"Just because he's a guy doesn't mean he's not your boyfriend," Kono insists.
"His online boyfriend," Toast adds, cleaning his nails with a screwdriver he'd pulled out of god knows where.
"Oh no, that can't be good," says Kono, eyeing Danny's flush. "Don't you know anything, boss? He could be a vicious psychopath killer!"
Danny sighs. While he harbors his suspicions that a man who jumps out of helicopters for fun can't be entirely sane, he's not going to say anything of the kind. It would only fan their misplaced concern.
"He's not a vicious psychopath killer."
"How do you know?" Kono says worriedly.
Yeah, Danny, how do you know? And bear in mind that "He doesn't sound like one" isn't actually evidence of anything.
"Well, for one we've agreed on no personal details, and so far he hasn't pushed."
The others look confused.
"So you're not having wild monkey cybersex with him?" Kono says, voice tinged with disappointment.
"Kono Kalakaua!" Danny says, scandalized.
"Hey, it's a valid question."
"Chin Ho Kelly!"
"Saying everyone's names like that isn't actually going to make you sound any more levelheaded," Toast remarks. Well, at least it isn't about sex. "But you want to have hot monkey cybersex with him, right?"
Danny has his mouth open, but before he can sound like an old spinster again, Kono interferes.
"Has he sent you a picture? Is he hot? I bet he's hot." She thinks for a moment. "It's probably fake if he is, though. What are the chances?"
Danny decides he's done with this conversation.
"One, 'no personal details' includes photographic evidence. Two, we are not talking about this anymore. No, I don't care what other disturbing thought you've had, we have work to do, we are professionals, and as such we do not interrogate our boss on his sex life."
"Can it, Kalakaua, before I have you shelving Paranormal Romance for the next week."
Kono wisely heeds the warning in his voice. God, subordinates. They'll send him round the bend one of those days.
Jenna’s been hired by a lot of corporations over the years, but this is the first time that she’s ever been brought out to Hawaii. Even if the analyzing that they’re looking for is pretty basic, she’s never going to turn it down.
“...because,” she’s telling her boss over the phone. “Hawaii!”
“I heard you the first time,” he assures her. “They’re not exactly scamming you when it comes to the money, either. Do a good job, Kaye. Let’s get in good with the McGarretts and maybe they’ll think of us every time they have new expansion plans. Last I heard, they were going to try and break their way into the European and Asian markets if their saturation of the US works out.”
“You got it,” Jenna promises and gets back to work.
She’s been doing this for so long that she has a set routine that works for her. She takes the pictures, writes her report, and then she makes a couple of visits to get the lay of the competitor’s land. Ohana is small and it shouldn’t pose a threat to the McGarrett store, but it’s an island and there are factors like loyalty at play.
It’s on her second visit that she meets the owner. At the time, she doesn’t realize that’s who he is, because he’s just roaming the store and suggesting books, but later she’ll find out that Daniel Williams owns the whole thing and is the roadblock in the way of the McGarretts' path.
“You know,” Danny’s saying as he gestures to the book in her hand -- a copy of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. “I don’t care what anyone says. There are some books that stand the test of time and those span ages when it comes to entertainment value, and I stand by the fact that the Narnia series is definitely one of them.”
“What if you don’t like the Christian allegories?” Jenna challenges curiously.
“It’s fiction. I mean, hey, if you want to get annoyed about a messianic lion, that’s your prerogative, but I think the actual plot holds up beyond that.” He shuffles the pile of books in his hand to extend it out to her. “Danny Williams. Speaking as a father and an employee here, I feel like I’m qualified to recommend anything for an enterprising reader.”
“Then, I might have to hit you up,” Jenna says, shaking his hand.
They don’t meet again in the days to come, but Jenna’s picked different times to arrive. She meets Chin and Toast -- who both have very different book recommendations -- and then she meets Kono. That last meeting flusters her slightly, but mostly because she’s unsure as to what someone so strikingly and stunningly beautiful is doing in a bookstore selling novels to kids.
Jenna must really be off her game, because she thinks she said that one out loud.
“Surfing accident,” Kono explains with a mournful smile. “When I busted my knee, Danny offered me the job here. I never looked back.”
It’s this and more that she takes back to the McGarrett office when she officially wraps up her report on Ohana and its staff. She’s sitting with the thick folder in her hands, her attention split between Rachel Edwards and Nick Taylor -- she’s sort of genuinely unsure which of them she should be more wary of -- and waiting for the rest of the meeting to join.
“Catherine’s unavailable,” Nick says distractedly, texting on his Blackberry. “She’s out in the field gathering some intel for our marketing department.” He shoots off the text to whoever he’s talking to, glancing up briefly to give Jenna the shortest of appraising looks before he turns to Rachel. “Where’s Steve?”
“Should I know?”
“For all that you swear to have nothing to do with him anymore, you seem to have him tracked like a poodle,” Nick drawls sarcastically.
Rachel rolls her eyes, but she presses several buttons on her cell phone and purses her lips together. “I don’t think he’ll be joining us,” she notes. “It seems the young McGarrett is out scoping the competition and we do know how he likes to engage,” she says with great disdain. “Can we get started?” she demands of Jenna.
She snaps to attention, ready to share her information while reluctant to actually complete the job and head back to the mainland. It’s Hawaii, and it’s so nice out here. She spares a quick thought to Ms. Kalakaua and the offer she’d made to take Jenna surfing, but shakes her head to set that thought aside as she loads up her presentation and presents it on the screen.
“This is Ohana, a small family-oriented bookshop,” she begins, with pictures of the layout, the sections, and each employee who currently works for the store. “It’s run by a man named Danny Williams, who cobbled together the funding from his siblings, parents, and some suit money. He was injured while in the police academy,” she explains. “The judge ruled that the accident was the fault of the organizers. It’s a tidy sum, but Mr. Williams has invested it fully in this store, which he opened, quote, 'for my daughter; the light of my life', unquote.” She flips through the other employees quickly, finishing up her presentation by discussing potential market saturation and numbers.
“So? Bottom line?” Nick coaxes.
“They don’t have the manpower or the money to take down McGarrett Publishing in an all-out war,” Jenna says as she turns off the projector screen. “That said, the talent pool is actually pretty deep over there. I’d advise taking on the staff that don’t pursue other ventures and offering them positions. You’ll save on training costs and build up loyalty in the area.”
“Good,” Rachel says, glancing up from her phone. “Nick, we have a problem.”
“What kind of problem?”
“A Steve problem.”
Nick sighs. Jenna wonders just what kind of company she’s wandered into, but she keeps her mouth shut as she starts to assemble her papers. “What did he do this time?”
“Attracted several photographers, if nothing else,” Rachel says, turning her phone around. Jenna takes her chance and leans forward to see what she’s talking about -- which is pretty self-explanatory the minute it gets turned around. It’s Danny Williams in the picture and he’s arguing with a tall man in a suit, the both of them looking heated and far beyond any kind of logical reasoning.
That, Jenna guesses, must be Steve McGarrett.
He’s younger than she expected -- also more attractive, but she’s a little wary to say that aloud.
“Nick...” Rachel starts warningly.
“I’ll go collect him.”
“Try and both come back in one piece. From what I hear, Williams is something of a pit-bull.” She flashes a smile that should look charming, but Jenna gets slightly unnerved by how calculating and sharp it is. “Shame that I met Stan and married him. Danny seems to be just my type.” Nick’s barely paying attention to her as he packs up his briefcase, and Jenna’s left wondering just what kind of action she’s set in motion with her research. “Ms. Kaye, thank you for this,” Rachel says, turning to her and offering a pleased smile. “We’ll issue the check and we’d like to keep you on retainer until we break ground. Would you be amenable to staying in the area until the store is opened?”
She’s faintly aware that she looks like an absolute idiot as she grins away, but she’s just been asked to stay in Hawaii and get paid for it.
“I think, I think that I could manage that,” she says, tucking her research under her arm. “Will I get to meet Mr. McGarrett at any point? I really would like to go over some of this information with him.” Namely, what will happen with Danny Williams, who seems too good an asset to lose in a cut-and-dry bankruptcy case that looks like it’s forthcoming if nothing chances.
“We’ll try and set up a meeting,” Rachel says, on her feet and already distracted by a new text. “That is, if he hasn’t been found guilty of assault,” she says, clearly a warning in Nick’s direction.
“I’m on it,” Nick shouts back, already out the door.
“Good!” Rachel replies, looking pleased as punch. “Ms. Kaye, I’ll have you set up in the Hilton under our retainer. You won’t have to worry about a cent. Your work is already invaluable, and I’m glad you’re staying on board.”
“Anything I can do to help,” Jenna says.
The minute she gets back to the hotel room, she gets her bags settled, takes the opportunity to marvel at the view, the champagne that’s been left for her, and the spacious nature of her room. When she’s done, she digs out her cell and the small scrap of paper on which Kono had scribbled her number.
“Kono? It’s Jenna. Things have sort of changed and I was wondering if that offer of a surf lesson was still open...”
Yes, I am secretly a nine-year-old girl. You have found out my biggest secret, what will I do with myself?
Joking aside, this is kind of a personal fact, so if you don't want to know, feel free to skip this paragraph. But, actually, I am a divorced father-of-one. My daughter is nine, and trust me when I say endearing isn't the half of it. She's the apple of my eye, and a few other things besides -- at least when she isn't driving me insane by growing up far too fast.
So now you do know my big dark secret. I hope it won't put you off, but part of the reason I've decided to come clean is so that you know what you're getting yourself into. Not that you're getting yourself into anything. Uh. I'm not--there's no--look, you're under no obligation to even acknowledge this. In fact, just forget I even said it, oh god. Big mouth, remember.
Oh, screw it. We keep apologizing to each other about revealing personal stuff, but here's the deal -- I like it. I like getting to know you, one snippet at a time. Me and my daughter, we like puzzles. So, how about this for a rule? Whatever you want to tell me, I want to hear it. And if you would rather I didn't go into (even more) personal details myself, now would be a good time to tell me (and stop me from making an even bigger fool of myself, please).
So, mermaids. G (that's my daughter; I won't tell you her name, just like we discussed, but it would be nice if you didn't make me type out 'my daughter' every single time with my aforementioned traitorous thumbs), she likes mythical creatures. So far she has been a princess, a fairy, a witch, an angel, a kitten, and this year she wants to go as a dragon -- which I fully support. She looks so cute, it's probably unhealthy for my insulin levels. But I would not be at all surprised if next year she wanted to go as a mermaid, seeing as how we've recently moved to this island in the middle of nowhere, and she keeps getting ideas from all the horrible beaches that surround us. She would totally track you down for candy, if only she knew.
Speaking of, fun-sized candy? That is a crime against nature, my friend, okay, it should be made illegal on planet Earth. Right, since I don't know your address, I want you to go to the nearest supermarket and buy yourself the biggest piece of candy that you like best, and I want you to pretend it's from me. And you will eat it, all right, none of that 'saving it for later' crap. Halloween is for overeating and making oneself sick on candy, okay, that's how I was brought up, and you won't tell me any different. So there.
You’re a Dad? Wow. I wouldn’t have pegged you for one. Which isn’t to say that you’re bad at it, I guess you just come across as … not-one? You shouldn’t listen to me, though. My track record is pretty bad when it comes to family. My father and I have a strained relationship and it’s not like things with my sister are much better. This is all a way to say that I like that new rule. It’s not like I think you’re bound to stalk me, so why not share some personal information? Some.
You’re seriously sending me out for candy? Here’s another personal something: I’m kind of a health freak. I’m not saying I live on greens and whey, but as far as candy goes, it’s a once-a-year type of deal. For you, though, I’m pretty sure I can make an exception. Maybe tonight, I’ll head to the supermarket and buy something that I can indulge in -- what’s a man without a guilty pleasure or two?
Maybe I’ll even buy some for my dog. I have a dog, by the way. That’s just one more piece of personal information I might never have mentioned. He’s good company, but the truth is? You’re better -- not to compare you to a dog or anything.
I hope, too, that you take a moment to buy yourself some candy instead of just spiking your insulin levels with your daughter’s cuteness. And enjoy it -- for me.
Have you seen Steven lately? He’s smiling. I’m concerned.
The last time he was so happy, he’d just liberated a country. Should I call the in-house psych consult?
Not yet. I’ll use my womanly wiles on him and see what’s going on.
Last I heard, those wiles didn’t have much effect on him, or have you two gone from ex to current?
Hardly. I’m not the type of woman to have affairs, Nicholas. Go back to doing your job before our new location falls through and we have to go back to the mainland, hats in hand.
Danny sits in his back office, silently seething. He is so furious he can't actually find words to explain it, which is a dead give-away of his state of mind. That--that bastard, Steve McfuckingGarrett, what has Danny done to deserve him? McGarrett's taunts ring in his ears still, arrogant and conceited, 'Competition for McGarrett Publishing? I'd check to see the size of who you're picking on, might come as a bit of a shock'. Fucker.
It's quiet in the shop, dusk settling in the air. It's not very likely that they'll still get buyers coming in -- school has long since let out, and the afternoon rush has been and gone. Danny feels restless, exhausted but wired, adrenaline still pumping through his veins, making it impossible to relax. He throws the pencil he's been playing with back on top of the desk, runs unsteady hands through his hair, pushes back his chair and stalks out of the door, in the direction of the till.
The others are clustered around it, looking intently at the computer screen and wearing different levels of worried yet amused frowns. Danny doesn't bother to muffle his steps as he stomps over, and the others jump a little guiltily. Kono isn't fast enough to slam down the lid of her laptop, and Danny sees a glimpse of himself and McGarrett arguing like rabid dogs over a bone. He scowls.
"Hey, boss!" Kono tries. Chin rolls his eyes at her; he can see Danny's mood from where he's standing behind the counter.
"Don't you 'hey boss' me. Why the hell didn't you say something when he first came in?"
The three of them fidget.
"We didn't think he'd be like that," Chin says at last, something a little lost in his voice. "I used to work with his Dad. He was a tough nut, but he never lost his temper like his son. Seems like Steve's got the McGarrett stubbornness down pat, though."
"The guy's an asshole," Danny says mulishly, opening the laptop back up to look at the scene again. A damn attractive asshole, but an asshole all the same. There's something mean in his eyes, anyway, and he's not that pretty. Danny wrenches his eyes away from McGarrett's long, lean-muscled torso, wanting to smack himself in the face. "He wants to close us down."
Nods from the other three, with various degrees of hangdog expressions.
"He never used to be like that," Chin says helplessly. "I knew him back before his father’s accident, before he went to Harvard Business School and got all touchy and cutthroat. He was a nice guy. Great sense of humor."
"Uh huh," Danny says, disbelief loud and clear in his voice. "I'm never buying that. He's a fucking machine, did you see him today? I bet it's all bottom line with him."
Silence falls as all four stare at the screen, where McGarrett is sneering at the front of Danny's shop. Toast winces, and Kono gets this militant light in her eyes.
"You're not actually going to give up, boss?" she demands.
"Hell no," Danny snaps back. "I'm going to fight this fucker all the way down."
"Good. We're gonna go to the mattresses."
Danny beams at her in approval. He's always liked Kono's violent streak, when it's not directed at himself.
Danny locks up that night with a new purpose in his life.
This might sound weak and pathetic to you, but I have small dreams. I lead a small life. I've made my peace with the fact that I won't bring about world peace, or put an end to hunger. I run a small shop, but every day I see the impact I have on my customers, the smiles on their faces, the dreams in their eyes, and I realize that I might not be anyone special, but those kids sure are. And maybe I won't invent the cure to cancer, but one of them might, one day, if only they never let anything stop them, if they keep pushing, always. I don't know how to stop pushing myself, but at least I'm doing something worthwhile.
I'm sorry, too much? I had a horrible argument with The Competition today, this guy with a computer chip for a brain and a cash register for a heart. I could see it in his eyes that he thought I was so far beneath him that he could crush me under his heel any moment he felt like it. And the worst thing is, he's probably right. Compared to his company, my business is tiny, irrelevant. I'll be fucked if I let him roll me over, though. No, he needs to learn that he can't have everything in the world just because he snaps his fingers and says so.
...Oh God, I really am sorry. You don't want to hear that, I'm sure. But I feel so close to you, like I can tell you anything; just by typing this I feel better already. At least you don't think I'm silly and insignificant -- or if you do, for the love of God don't tell me.
Here's a funny thing. I always moan about being far, far away from proper civilization on this godforsaken spot of land, but today my co-workers were just as incensed as me at having someone challenge the little place we've carved out for ourselves here. I guess, without realizing or looking for it, I've found a family for myself again. And for that I couldn't be more grateful. I can only hope you have people like that around you, too -- they are a treasure.
Family’s important. I’ve never been too close to my own, but I know that it’s something I’ve always looked for in my friendships and relationships. I like to think that I’ve found it, but sometimes I’m reminded of how cutthroat and ruthless the people around me can be. I try to keep up with them, but it always feels like they know it’s an act and that if they knew how much of a pushover I can really be, they’d never want me around.
I have a crazy idea. Some people say I’m known for them, but this one might really take the cake, so hear me out.
Do you think that we should meet? I can’t help wishing that I could do more every time I get an email and things aren’t working out for you. I hate being useless and I hate watching the people I care about get hurt. Yes, this means I care about you -- as much as you can care about a nameless string of letters that you’ve only met on the internet. We’re both local, you seem like you could use a friend, and I can always use a cup of coffee.
So, what do you say?
What do I say?
I say yes.
Let’s do this. Let’s meet.
Rachel’s been lurking outside the elevator for the last few hours with books in hand, waiting for her ex-boyfriend to arrive. Typically, Steve has such military-precise punctuality that the fact that he’s six minutes late is cause for worry. The second cause shows itself almost immediately when Steve beams idiotically as he arrives on the next lift up.
“Good morning,” she says, extending a tea from the local shop to him. “Your meeting has been cancelled, I’m still on your arse about the fact that you’ve yet to secure permits from my new husband, and why are you smiling like you just got laid?” she asks suspiciously. “I was with you until midnight last night and we discussed nothing that would get you this excited.”
“I can’t be happy?” Steve replies.
“No,” Rachel informs him. “No, Steve, you can’t be. In fact, for six months of our relationship, I actually thought it might be physically impossible for you to smile longer than ten seconds.” She shakes her watch loose and checks it. “And ah, see, now we’re bordering on two minutes. Is it sex? Are you joining the Navy again?”
Steve reaches out to take the books from her arms. “Rachel, I’m happy. That’s it. There’s no mystery behind it, I’m just happy.”
“Yes, but why,” she wonders. “You realize I’m anticipating the other shoe dropping and I’d like to get ahead of that. We have a deadline, Steve, and if your happiness causes us to miss it, I’m going to be incredibly mad at you.”
Steve stops in the doorway of his office, sips his tea, and smiles enigmatically. It’s driving her absolutely insane. “Rachel, since when aren’t you incredibly mad at me?”
“We’re exes, I’m supposed to be,” she retorts. “But this is a new level. My bonus is riding on this project and if your erstwhile new tryst interferes, I may have to poison someone.”
“You sound psychopathic when you say stuff like that,” Steve says mildly as he rounds his desk, tugs at his tie, and sits down to start the work of the day.
She shrugs blithely as she watches him settle in, taking her usual perch on the side of his desk in order to help pilfer through the paperwork of the day – keeping a weather eye out for the forms she’ll have to steal, lest Steve get tired and start filling them in haphazardly as he has been known to do. “What’s her name?”
“I don’t know.”
“Steven Jack McGarrett,” Rachel says, as shocked as she is delighted. “I didn’t peg you for that sort of man.”
“No, I mean, I actually don’t know,” he clarifies. “I met this guy, I think it’s a guy at least, in a chatroom for thirty-somethings, and we started to email each other. It’s not weird.”
Rachel gives him a look that implies that she’s yet to decide if it is.
“Rachel,” Steve practically growls at her impatiently. She supposes that she ought to let this go. They’ve all been under a great deal of stress as they try to open a new location of McGarrett & Family Books in downtown Honolulu, especially given the resistance of Williams’ Ohana, but they’ll win out in the end.
They always do.
“You’re happy,” she allows with a generous wave of her hand, stealing away several forms from Steve’s desk, “If slightly stupid. Steven, it’s the internet. How do you know this person isn’t a crazed psycho killer? Or what if it’s a thirteen-year-old girl? Or both?”
“We’re meeting for coffee in a few days,” Steve says. “He’s local and we’re meeting and if it is a psycho killer or a thirteen-year-old, you’ll be my first call. Okay?” he asks, in that horrifyingly placating tone he always uses when he treats her like an infant. She loathes that tone. It’s one of the many reasons why she dumped him.
She dislikes this idea. On the other hand, being this happy seems to have reduced his misgivings about edging out the new small business.
Give an inch, get a mile, she supposes.
“Well, let’s make sure that we develop a system of emergency bird calls,” she insists, pursing her lips to display her disapproval. There’s a certain part of her that is well eager to be there lurking in the bushes, but she has the feeling that Steve won’t take well to that. Though, it’s not really up to him, is it?
“So, you actually have no idea what this man looks like?” she asks. “Not even a picture? How are you supposed to know who he is?”
“He’s bringing a copy of War and Peace with him.”
“War and Peace?” Rachel echoes. “And you’re thinking of dating this man?”
“It’s a joke, Rachel,” Steve says, his brow pinching in that adorable little way he has when he starts to get irritated and no furniture in the general vicinity is safe. “I mentioned that I’m not very good with obeying the rules--”
“I’ll say,” she snorts.
He shoots her a dirty look, but takes in a calming breath and continues. “-- and so he said that he’d bring the book with him since I’d know him by it and he refused to wear a red rose.”
“Still, if you did have a picture, I could have vetted him for you,” she says wistfully. She’s remarried and found her own happiness, but Steve is still woefully single, despite all his hints that he’s ready for something serious. “Can I be there for the date?”
“Rachel, you scared me and we were together,” Steve points out. “You’re not scaring away my new guy.”
“Yours? Isn’t that a bit early in the game to be getting so Steve about it?”
“The day you verbed my name is the day a little part of my soul died,” Steve says, a mournful look on his face. “Do not stalk my date. Do not run a background check on him. Do not suggest a double date. Do not wear that little silk number and throw me off my game the day of.”
Rachel holds up both hands as if in innocent protest. She had truly only been thinking of doing maybe two of the four suggestions.
“You have to swear that I get a full recap the night of, unless you’re bending your rules and plan on taking him back to the USS McGarrett.”
Steve lets his head fall into his waiting hand, a heavy sigh on his lips. “It’s a yacht and it’s called The Mercury.”
“Whatever you say, Steven.”
He looks surprised to have lost this conversation. Rachel finds it rather endearing. After all, they’ve known each other for five years and dated for three of them. At this point, Steve should be accustomed to losing. It’s practically part of his daily routine.
Danny arrives for his date exactly half an hour earlier than he’s expected to meet his writing partner. Then, he remembers that this isn’t a date, they’re just meeting – even if Danny has started to feel like he doesn’t even trust his team at the store as much as he trusts a man whose name he doesn’t even know.
He’s pretty sure there are diagnoses for this and none of them are positive.
Danny sits at a little table in a quaint restaurant in downtown Honolulu. He’s wearing a black suit, a blue tie, and he’s carrying War and Peace. He looks (and feels) like he’s about to go on a date and there’s a part of him that’s genuinely not sure if he wants to correct that idea or to watch for the Sea Lover Water to show up and for Danny to inform him that it’s what he wants. He arranges the book on the table carefully so it shows, so that it’s turned outwards and the title is visible from the front of the restaurant.
They’ve grown so close, so quickly, and Danny doesn’t think one dinner is asking too much.
Twenty minutes to go. Danny orders his first drink.
At fifteen, he flags down a waiter and gets a basket of bread brought over.
Ten minutes. Danny makes sure his watch is set to the right time, just in case it’s managed to get ahead.
Three, then two, then one, and it’s time. He’d made it pretty damn clear that he’s going to be at the back of the restaurant with the book on the table. Sure, he could’ve attached a picture, but there’s something to be said for the mystery of it. It’s not that he’s expecting perfect punctuality, but soon the minutes start to bleed by. Danny pushes the book listlessly, thumb covering up part of the ‘peace’ title and he starts to come to terms with the fact that he’s been stood up.
It’s thirty minutes after they were supposed to meet and no one’s here.
And thirty-one minutes after their meet time, Steve McGarrett shows up at his table, drink in hand. “Daniel,” he greets. Danny glances up, his grip on War and Peace tight enough to snap its spine. There’s something there, lurking in Steve’s expression that Danny can’t put a finger on. It’s like he’s working hard to keep that smile on his face, like there’s something strained behind it.
Fuck if Danny knows what’s going on. He’s the one who’s entitled to feeling a little crappy given that the one hopeful thing in his life (apart from Grace) fell apart thirty minutes ago.
“Steve,” is Danny’s terse reply, trying not to notice the fact that Steve’s well-dressed and the suit fits him impeccably.
“I’m going to sit here,” Steve says to the waiter. “Can you move my tab from the bar?”
“No, you will not…” Danny starts to protest, but it’s a lost cause. Steve’s already sat down in the chair meant for Danny’s date, who is thirty-three minutes late, and who Danny is mad at. He’s almost madder at his pen pal than he is with Steve McGarrett -- almost. “I’m expecting company.”
“I’ve been at the bar for the last half an hour,” Steve says and Danny looks up quickly enough to see the wince and the press of Steve’s lips, but he dismisses tracking that thought in the face of how actively furious he is with the world right now. “Think you got stood up, D.”
“At least I haven’t been here drinking alone. What, is your money not keeping you warm at night?” Danny taunts, latching onto the first insult that crosses his mind. It’s weak and he knows it, especially given that Steve’s got his blackberry on the table, open to his email. He’s probably working late, destroying some more dreams in his off-time. “I didn’t say you could sit with me.”
“You’re just going to leave? You have a drink and you’ve got bread. Besides, my team is telling me that I should make an attempt to bridge this gap between us.”
“They think you’re an asshole and they’re tired of the bad publicity you’re raking in,” Danny translates, crossing his arms over his chest as he glares at Steve with all he’s got. “Basically.”
“…Basically,” Steve agrees after a moment’s pause. “So, who were you waiting for? Date?”
“None of your business.”
“Because,” Steve continues, like Danny hasn’t said anything at all, “You’re dressed for a date. Actually, you’re dressed for a funeral. Why are you wearing a tie?”
“Because,” Danny grits his teeth and gets out, starting to debate the fastest way to get out of the restaurant. He might have to knock some chairs over, but a little chaos will be worth it to get the hell out of here. “Because I thought I was going on a date with someone that I like andtrust, someone I thought was a decent enough guy to come here and have dinner with me, but instead, I get…” stood up. Even if he managed to cut himself off, it’s too late.
The damage is done.
He sneaks a look at Steve’s expression, expecting a flood of smug terrorizing arrogance, but it never comes. Instead, there’s something like sympathy and guilt.
“Stop it,” Danny says.
“You. Looking guilty. It’s not your fault that he didn’t turn up. He probably got one good look at me and bolted. I’m not exactly Mr. July,” Danny admits with a snort. He’s six inches too short, put on thirty pounds too many after having Grace, and he hasn’t been able to sleep since this whole battle for his store began. He probably looks like the living dead. “You should go back to whatever it is you were doing before you got here. You know, sucking the lifeblood out of some other poor storeowner.”
“We’re offering you a buyout package and jobs for your team,” Steve says heatedly.
“You’re destroying the thing I love second-most after my daughter.”
There’s a long and awkward silence. Danny feels somewhat vindicated that Steve doesn’t seem to have a ready reply to that. Danny toys with the idea of ordering food because he’s not ready to admit this night is a total wash.
“You’re not, you know,” Steve finally speaks.
“You’re not as plain as you think you are. Danny, you’re…” Danny watches in growing horror (and hope) as Steve’s expression contorts into something like thoughtful and pained sympathy, tinged with something that he can’t name. “You’re gorgeous.”
“I’m … I’m what?”
“You heard me,” Steve mutters. At least the scowl on his face is easy to read. There’s no mystery in that. Danny’s too busy being gleeful about what Steve has just said – never mind that it’s actually helped his mood somewhat, but it’s something that feels pretty clearly like blackmail. “Look, Danny…”
“No, I’m not done with this,” Danny interrupts. “Gorgeous, huh? Gorgeous enough to get stood up. I’m apparently gorgeous enough to catch the attention of someone who is trying to ruin my life and can’t even let me have a goddamn night to myself! Do I need to call the cops on you, McGarrett? I will,” he warns. “My sister’s in law enforcement. She’ll be down here so fast that your tattoos will jump.”
Maybe he shouldn’t have mentioned the tattoos, because it tells Steve that he’s been looking at them.
“Call the cops, Danny,” Steve insists calmly. “It worked out so well for you last time.”
“If you really didn’t want me sniffing around you, you could make a telephone call to those nice cops that you think are on your side and get a restraining order.”
“And what?” Steve asks, breaking one of the pieces of bread in half as he munches on it, using the other half to point at Danny. “Miss these riveting conversations?”
Danny laughs – which is a generous word for what he’s doing, since it’s little more than a derisive scoff. “I can’t believe how much of an asshole you are. It’s a shame they don’t have annual awards for this sort of thing. You could definitely clean up.”
“Nah,” he drawls, eating that other half of the loaf. “You’d give me too much competition.”
It’s not until later when Steve picks up the bill and leaves Danny without so much as a goodbye that he realizes that his calming and decent date with someone that he really liked had turned into dinner with the absolute devil.
“Unbelievable,” Danny mutters.
All the way home, he’s consumed with ire. Every second that passes turns someone new into the villain in the piece. It’s easy to be pissed at McGarrett, obviously, because McGarrett is trying to kill Danny’s business and now he’s lurking around Danny’s personal life and causing chaos there, too.
He’s pissed at his e-pal, too. With every step back to his shitty apartment, he gets angrier. Steve would’ve never had the opportunity to barge in if Danny hadn’t been stood up. And why? They were getting along. Danny actually thought, actually believed, that he’d finally managed a decent friendship.
--maybe something more than that even.
Instead of seeing it to the next level, instead he got screwed over and not even close to any good way. By the time he gets home, he’s still so incredibly angry. He boots up the computer and without thinking (without a single regret) he writes the email that he’s been mentally composing since the moment that McGarrett sat down and made Danny feel all of ten inches tall.
I realize that writing this as soon as I got home may be a mistake, so bear with me. Fuck you. Fuck you and your nameless cowardice. Screw you for standing me up like that, for getting my hopes up, and for making me think I’d found someone who understood me. You gave me optimism and then you ripped it away like it’s your job. You’re no better than McGarrett, who was there, and as much of an asshole as ever.
I blame you for putting me in that situation, incidentally.
So, yeah. Fuck you.
You’d better have one hell of an excuse for why you weren’t there.
And, on the off-chance that you do, I am hereby apologizing for every nasty thing I said. If you don’t have an excuse, then please go to the top and read it again, with an extra helping of righteous rage.
The local newspaper has ran an article this morning about Danny Williams’ bookshop. It means that after both deserting Danny on a date andhaving a date with him (and after reading that nasty e-mail in his inbox that he’s pretty sure he deserves), he ends up staring at the newspaper and the picture of Danny for a little longer than he ought to.
He’s so caught up wondering whether he should reply to Danny’s angry email or move on and call it a loss that he doesn’t hear Nick enter his office.
Steve shoves the newspaper under the new profit and loss statements, clearing his throat as he tries to regain a sense of balance.
Nick raises a brow. It’s hard to put one past the man, given how long he and Steve have known each other (not to mention their history in the Navy). “Thought you stopped looking at porn at work after Rachel caught you that one time and made your life hell.”
“It wasn’t porn.”
“They were shirtless.”
“It was a charity calendar!”
“Of hot cops?”
“Okay, okay, rage-face, what’s the deal, then? What are you hiding?”
Steve knows that it’ll be unearthed whether he likes it or not. The one chance he has of controlling the situation is now. He digs out the newspaper from under the accounting statements and extends it to Nick.
Nick doesn’t seem to get the problem. “Okay?”
“I’m feeling bad about what we’re doing to Williams’ store.” He needs to keep it impersonal. The guilt’s already begun to eat at him and it will only grow worse if he lets it. Every time he thinks about Danny, he thinks about how he’s screwing over his professional life and managed to interfere in his personal one without even realizing it.
Nick folds the paper in half, putting a crease in the photo of Danny. “This isn’t the first store we’ve run out of business. Why do you care now?”
“How sad is that, Nick?” Steve scoffs. “Shouldn’t the question is, ‘why didn’t I care before?’”
“When the hell did you grow a heart?” Nick demands.
“I don’t know, but you’re definitely more of an asshole from my new ‘big heart’ vision,” Steve replies easily, shooting Nick a disbelieving look. “Seriously? You need a reason? Unemployment. Upsetting the status quo.”
“—and offering employment opportunities, lower priced books, and ten percent back to the community, per your orders,” Nick cuts him off. “I think we need to have a drink.” Nick takes a cautious look at Steve’s face. “Maybe three or four.”
When Steve doesn’t respond quickly enough, Nick grabs him by the upper arm. “At attention, soldier.”
“We were Navy, Nick,” Steve says.
“And now we sell books. Talk about a waste of our talents.”
“I’d agree with you, but you’re insulting my father’s legacy,” Steve points out, on his feet and being frog marched out the door to what he suspects will be the nearest bar. In this case, that’s the lobby downstairs. “You didn’t have to follow me out of the service.”
“Of course I did. You’re too nice without me, you would’ve let the competition flourish under your feet and then where would your father’s legacy be?” Nick says and sure, he’s smug and he’s overbearing, but Steve hates to admit that he’s also right.
“I’m still allowed to feel guilty.”
“And it’s what makes you a better man than me,” Nick agrees, giving Steve the last push needed to get him into the lobby bar. “Bartender. Liquor this man up, it’s a literary emergency.” Steve’s look of disbelief doesn’t prompt even the slightest bit of shame in Nick, which is pretty much what he’s come to expect of the man. “What’s this about? Is this only about shutting Williams out of business? There’ll be opportunities for his team to work with us.”
“It’s not just that,” Steve says, fingers hooked on the neck of the bottle of beer. “I stood someone up last night.”
“Okay,” Nick draws out the word. “You’re Smooth Dog, I doubt it’s the first time. Why’s that got you so worked up?”
“You can’t tell anyone, Nick, not a soul about this,” Steve says. “Swear?”
“I mean it, Nick.”
Nick laughs, shaking his head incredulously. “Okay. Okay, I swear on your latest tattoo. Tell me.”
“The guy I stood up, the one I’ve been emailing? It’s Danny Williams, the guy we’re putting out of business.” Put like that, Steve feels even guiltier than before, which is impressive because he didn’t think that he could actually feel worse.
Nick’s not saying anything, but he’s got that look on his face that Steve hates.
“I swear, you give me any more of the ‘you’re such a fuck up’ look and I will punch it off your face,” Steve warns.
“You wouldn’t. You’re civilized now and apparently wooing crotchety local business owners.”
“Crotchety? Nick, he’s not an eighty year old man.”
“No? Because sometimes he writes us letters that sound like it,” Nick replies. “What’s the big deal? Are you upset that he hates you and you’re not going to get him in between your sheets? You’re already feeling guilty for what the company is doing, which leaves personal guilt. Would said personal guilt have anything to do with the fact that Rachel told me about your internet date last night? The one you were back suspiciously early from and smelling of some ungodly mainland cologne?”
“I crashed my own date.”
Nick shakes his head. “No, not getting it,” he says, ordering another two beers. “Explain.”
“Danny thinks his internet date stood him up and I crashed the table. He doesn’t know that I’m the SEAL over water,” Steve explains, grabbing for the second bottle of beer before it’s even across the counter. “And yes, he hates me. That was definitely clear last night.”
“So?” Steve echoes. “So, the one person who I’ve connected with more in the past few months than in years is my competition and he hates me enough to have taken a swing at me. What the hell am I supposed to do?”
“Easy option, you don’t do anything. You stop emailing your Jersey pal and you go back to the business,” Nick says. “As your business partner, I highly recommend this option. However, you’re Steven McGarrett and I know you, so I know you’ll be pursuing option two, the hard way. The one where you doggedly and determinedly invade his life until he’s completely and totally codependent on your presence.”
“I don’t always do that,” Steve protests weakly.
“Explain me, then.”
“Honestly, Nick. No one can.”
It’s almost too much to think about. Steve knows that Nick’s trying his best to help him, but at this point, he’ll settle for the alcohol that Nick’s offering to tide him over with. He sticks around for another few bottles, reaching no actual conclusion apart from the fact that he still doesn’t know what to do.
So maybe he will go with option two: sheer domination. He can decide along the way.
By the time he gets back to his yacht, he’s barely walking a straight line, but he opens up his computer and heads for the fridge for one last beer to help him with the mess that’s inside his head.
It’s one of the oddest things that Steve’s ever dealt with in his life. He’s got two images in his mind – that of Danny Williams, The Competition and now he has Danny Williams, The Sane Port in the Storm. Danny’s emails had been the best part of each and every day (and he guesses they still are, but he’s trying to ignore that fact).
The two images refuse to merge together easily and no amount of alcohol is helping his case. In fact, all it’s done is helped to make Steve a little more maudlin than before, which is why he’s got his email account open and an article about Danny Williams in another tab.
It’s also why he’s about to do something he really, really shouldn’t.
But then, since when has Steve ever played by the rules? He’s no doubt had too much to drink by the time he sends the email, but it’s out there and it’s in Danny’s hands, now.
I’m an asshole.
I wish I had an excuse, but I don’t. I saw you and it’s not that you aren’t gorgeous and it’s not that I don’t like you, but I got scared. I wish I could write about some crazy thing that prevented me from making it, but nothing did. I’m sorry that my fear paved the way to you having such a crappy night.
I’d understand if you never wanted to write to me again, but I need you to know that I’ve been honest with you in every one of these emails.
Danny’s fairly sure that the universe is out to get him. He overlooks tissue-mountain to his right, unopened emails from a traitorous bastard to his left, and looks towards the first pile of books that were moved from his life’s work into his apartment, straight ahead. It’s like he’s stewing up some good ol’ fashioned home cooked misery with the best recipe he’s got.
He blows his nose and adds to the mountain (for a second, it wavers, but then comes back to strength). He’s sick and he’s tired and he’s long past willing to deal with either of those things.
It’s why, when there’s a knock at the door, he’s too tired to berate them away. Instead, Danny bleats out a miserable, ‘if you’re a hallucination, you’re early. I’m only cooking up a mild fever right now.’
There’s a pause and then a quiet snuffle that might be an exhalation or might be laughter.
“Also, if you’re a creepy stalker who gets off to the sound of my voice, now’s a good time to confess,” Danny adds as he sprawls out under the warmest afghan blanket in his possession, eyeing the door with a sigh. The bolt’s undone and the lock was never put in place. Kono must have forgotten when she left. “It’s open, but be warned, I’m armed.”
With tissues, yes, but Danny doesn’t have to specify. The germs he’s cooking are probably deadly biological warfare, anyway.
Danny reconsiders the whole ‘hallucination’ thing because the minute that the door’s opened, Danny could swear he sees Steven Bastard McGarrett step inside with a gigantic lily arrangement masking that pretty face of his.
Not that Danny’s noticed that Steve has a pretty face. If he has, it’s only because he’s thought about punching it until it’s not nearly so nice.
“What are you doing here?” Danny mutters gruffly, swathing the blanket tighter around him as he gets to his feet and closes the door behind Steve, like he’s somehow paranoid that someone’s going to see this happening and splash it all over some kind of front page.
Though, Danny might be even more delusional than he first suspected if he thinks anyone actually gives that much of a shit about the book business.
Steve turns and nearly takes out half of Danny’s kitchen with the offending flower sculpture. “Kono told me you were sick.”
“And you came to finish the job?” Danny asks warily, keeping a weather-eye on that monstrosity that Steve’s wielding. “If I have to have Chin write an obit that says I was licked by a lily, I will haunt your ass.”
Said ass is clad in jeans a size too tight. Danny’s trying not to notice, but it’s one of those obvious things like the sun and the ocean and how Jersey is superior to most States in its obviousness. Danny grimaces and pulls the blanket tighter, effectively cutting off his view of said perfect ass.
It’s the delirium. It’s kicking in. Life as he knows it will never be the same.
“I was--” Steve trails off, pulls a face that Danny can’t put a name to, and sets the floral arrangement on the table. “You should be in bed,” he says, grabbing Danny by the shoulders and forcibly manhandling him in the direction of the bedroom.
Danny’s bedroom is a mess currently and he actually can’t believe that Steve might be about to see it -- and that he actually cares.
“Whoa, hey, what’s going on? No,” Danny argues, prying himself forcibly away from Steve’s scary-weird death grip on him. “No, what are you doing here?” he asks, unearthing his finger from the blanket to poke it in Steve’s face. He wants answers and he wants to know why the big business asshole is currently in his hallway.
“Kono said you were sick,” Steve replies like he’s only programmed to say certain things and that’s number one with a bullet. “I was worried.”
Danny gives a huff. “You were -- you were worried. That, that is rich, my friend. That’s rich, coming from you. You destroy my livelihood, you take away my job, you pry apart my family, and now you’re worried,” he says in the midst of a new sneezing attack, “because,” sneeze two, “I have,” three and here it comes, “the sniffles!”
Steve wordlessly hands out a tissue.
“Thank you,” Danny says, barely holding back a growl.
He may hate the man (except he doesn’t completely and totally), but he still remembers his manners.
“Danny, lie back down. I’ll make you some soup,” Steve says, pressing a strong hand to Danny’s shoulder and effectively forcing him to lie back. Danny doesn’t want to lie back. Lying back is what will lead him down a path of weakness and he doesn’t want that. Steve’s one of those guys that doesn’t take no for an answer, though. “And you can tell me about this, uh, this online jerk? The one who stood you up the other night.”
Danny gives Steve’s back a miserable look. “Not only do you ruin me professionally, now you want to torture me personally?”
“It’s called conversation,” Steve replies. “People do it.”
“Funny, I didn’t think you were people.”
Steve isn’t paying attention. He’s in the middle of digging through Danny’s cupboards -- on his hands and knees, no less -- and giving Danny all kinds of inappropriate fantasy fodder. He gives up on protesting, lets out a miserable whine of a groan, and slides down under the covers. He doesn’t even want to know what Steve’s doing, but he has a bad feeling about all of this.
“Steven,” Danny sighs.
“What are you doing?”
“Where are your pots?”
Danny should be worried that this is just the first step in a really complicated home-invasion by the competition. He should be, but some unknown force takes hold of his lungs and pushes out, ‘Just under the counter’ for him. He’s left assuming that this cold must come with some kind of alien that burrows its way into his system and starts unearthing deep thoughts that should never exist -- like how hot Steve McGarrett is for an asshole or how kind he’s being. “What are you doing?” he asks, again.
“Whenever I was sick as a kid, my Mom always used to make me chicken soup and read to me.”
“Yeah, thanks, McGarrett, but I’m not twelve,” Danny deadpans.
“Are you seriously telling me that you don’t think soup would be nice right now?” Steve asks, sliding one of Danny’s aprons over his neck. Standing there with that frilly pink thing covering his torso and his hands on his hips, he looks like Mary Poppins, if Mary Poppins were raised in some kind of military junta.
Danny bites back a comment on the apron. “Soup would probably be nice,” he concedes. “There’s a packet in...” he trails off as he watches Steve start to haul out broth and vegetables and more. “Okay, is this some elaborate plan to poison me with the healthy food groups? Have you been talking to Chin about my sodium intake?”
“You’re sick, Danno--”
“Do not call me that.”
“--and for the sake of your team, I’m going to help you get better. Besides, there’s a job kind of thing that I want to talk to you about.”
“I’m sick,” Danny protests weakly. “I’m tired. Can you please not work up the seething loathing I have of you? I don’t think I could manage it.”
Steve glances over his shoulder, smiling like he’s Prince Charming and not actually the devil incarnate (which Danny hasn’t ruled out yet). “Seething, huh?”
“Furious,” Danny agrees tiredly, clutching the blanket tighter to his body. “Terrifying.”
“You haven’t kicked me out,” Steve points out as he unearths a wooden spoon.
Danny entertains exactly two disturbingly realistic fantasies involving that spoon before he comes back to reality. “I wouldn’t take that as a sign,” he says, smiling wearily as he closes his eyes. “I’m too weak for it, is all.”
There’s no response from Steve for a long while. At first, it’s worrying. Danny only realizes that he’s fallen asleep when he comes to at the smell of a hearty soup on the stove. The sun’s gone down and Steve’s gotten rid of the frilly apron. He’s seated just to Danny’s right, studying him like he’s a puzzle.
“What?” Danny asks, voice muffled with sleep. He wipes at his mouth with the back of his hand to rid himself of any drool (acceptable, only because he’s sick) and stares back at Steve, albeit in a very bleary fashion. “Do I have something on my face?”
“Are you seeing anyone?”
“Where did that come from?” Danny asks in disbelief. “And no. No, I’m not seeing anyone. I thought there was someone, but...”
“What kind of someone?”
“What are you, the Spanish Inquisition?”
“Were you expecting me?”
“Nobody expects it, asswipe,” Danny retorts with a growl. “And anyway, there was this guy and we got along great and I thought, I thought we had a thing, but then when we arranged our date, he stood me up, which you already know the story of. So, you know. It sucks for him, because I’m a catch.”
“I know that you think that I’m the devil incarnate,” Steve says, his attention solely focused on the soup before him as though it’s a critical object, “but there’s this book-thing and you, Daniel, are the sole person I know who’s an expert.”
“Daniel?” he echoes. “What is this, my scolding? Are you asking me on a date, Steven?” Danny tries to ignore the thrill that pushes through him at even the prospect. He shakes it loose and reminds himself of the company he’s currently keeping.
A date with Steve is a date with the devil -- enemy territory.
Danny blows his nose before shaking his head. “I’m sure I’m busy.”
“I haven’t even told you when it is.”
“I’m a busy man,” Danny says, hoping that the barb lands where it’s meant to. “And even if I weren’t seeing someone, what makes you think I’d want to see you?”
He doesn’t really mean it. He wishes that he could take it back, especially the instant he sees the instantaneous and too-brief look of hurt on Steve’s face. That cutting remark has landed exactly where it’d been meant to and Danny feels bad. Hell, he feels more than bad. He’s moved right into feeling like a complete and utter asshole.
“Shit,” he exhales. “I didn’t mean it like that, I’m just...not seeing anyone, Steve, okay? I’m still trying to pick up the pieces from feeling like I’d met someone who really got me and ended up a shallow bastard or too scared to meet me or whatever happened. I need time after that.”
“So, definitely no on the book gala?”
“Don’t you have that Rachel person?”
Steve looks back at Danny like he’s just suggested he dye his hair in boiling acid. “That...wouldn’t go well.”
“And what about your consultant? Jenna?”
“I’m pretty sure she’s taking Kono.”
Danny makes a face, muttering under his breath about traitorous employees, and pulls the blankets tighter. Against his better judgment, he has to admit that the soup Steve is making is starting to smell incredibly appetizing. He peers over Steve’s shoulder, drifting forward on his heels.
He doesn’t realize how close that puts him to Steve until he can smell the scent of his aftershave, even with his plugged-up nose. It’s intoxicating and it makes Danny pause, give a strangled kind of sound, and rethink his decision.
“This book-thing? It’s that charity event, right?”
“And it’s for the kids.”
“One hundred percent for the kids,” Steve agrees, lips quirking up before settling into neutrality.
That sole moment is enough for Danny’s pushover side to kick in because of how ridiculously and powerfully adorable it is. It, in combination with his fever, make Danny do a stupid, stupid thing.
“Yeah, I’ll go with you.”
The look on Steve’s face at Danny’s change of heart is stunning and actually knocks Danny off-balance, sending the weight of his body onto his heels. He manages to catch himself, but it’s too late. He has the feeling that Steve, somehow, has managed to worm his stupid way into Danny’s life.
“On one condition,” Danny says before a sneeze takes hold.
“Anything. Name it, Danny, anything.”
“You have to wear a tie.”
Steve reacts with great displeasure and Danny takes indecent smugness in the delight it fills him with. He’s not going out of this fight empty-handed.
It’s been several weeks since Danny went on the non-date with Steve and for some insane reason, Danny’s seen the man every single day of those past two weeks.
Worse than that? Danny’s kind of enjoying it.
Steve’s been taking him to all sorts of insane culture-experience stuff on the island. There was the football game and the hike and the drive up the highway. They’ve gone fishing and now Steve’s walking him down an farmer’s market. Grace is at the shop participating in one of the last lecture series they’re ever going to hold and Danny is starting to suspect that he’s on a date.
He casts a covert look Steve’s way and does his best to subtly check him out. In the white linen button-down (that’s oh-so-unbuttoned) and the slightly-too-tight pair of jeans, Steve’s not exactly bad to look at.
And he’s smiling in this adorable fucking way that makes Danny feel like he’s gone insane for thinking so.
“Okay. Okay, so, I get that baseball is apparently off the table if we don’t want to end up in a fist-fight. So,” Steve says, as they meander through the stalls into the tropical fruit section. “Worst relationship.”
Danny totes the bag of vegetables higher up on his arm, wrinkling his nose. “I feel like I win this one because I knocked up my high school sweetheart and while I got the best miracle of my life out of that, convincing your nineteen year old girlfriend to carry a kid to term when she already kind of hates you takes the cake,” he says. “Top that, my friend,” Danny says, poking his finger emphatically against Steve’s shoulder. “Not to mention, baseball to relationships? Is there a rule that says everything has to be zero to sixty in McGarrettland?”
“Would you rather go back to discussing the Yankees’ current season?” Steve points out.
“God, no. Jesus. So, what about you? What’s the worst thing that ever happened to you? You have too much sex with someone?” Danny teases. “Someone call you pretty too often?”
“Actually,” Steve says as he takes two long strides until he’s ahead of Danny. “I was in a relationship with a guy I went through training with and when someone asked, he told. There was a huge ordeal and I managed to avoid getting discharged dishonorably, but by the skin of my teeth. He hasn’t spoken to me since. Then, Dad had his stroke and I left anyway, but he vehemently denied existence of the relationship even after I was out of the service.”
“What an asshole,” Danny says, having been stunned in his tracks. “Not you. Well, not most of the time. The guy. He seriously did that? What happened to honor amidst the Army?”
“Whatever,” Danny says, waving a hand dismissively. “Well, you got the best revenge. You live well and he’s probably scrounging around in the mud of some war-torn country. Sure, he may be a national hero, but you, you close people’s bookshops and bring books to children at a cost-cutting price that drives the little guys out of business.”
Steve shoots Danny an annoyed glance. “I’m employing you as soon as the store opens. I hired your team. I made our children’s section into a replica of your store. Danny, what else do you want?”
“Nothing,” Danny admits with a smirk. “I enjoy the look on your face. It’s almost like your brain is having little baby aneurysms.”
Steve lets out a weary sigh and takes the lead again, picking through stalls and gently squeezing tomatoes and melons and stroking his thumb up the length of other vegetables that have Danny suspicious that he is doing this on purpose.
“So,” Danny says, to get his brain away from the train of thought that involves Steve’s fingers and phallic objects not so much in the vendor’s stalls. “You left your dreams of the Navy behind and I got single fatherhood. I still win. I got Grace out of it.”
Plus, somehow he’s managed to have one of the most successful men (and attractive, at that) take him under his wing.
“Hey, so,” Danny says, giving Steve a light tap on the hip as he guides him towards the aisle with the freshly baked pastry products. “I’ve been having a few ideas about events we can host over the next few months. Tell me what you think...”
Then, without warning, Danny gets the email.
It should say a lot about the fact that after he reads it, he doesn’t go to Chin or Kono, doesn’t ask Grace what he ought to do. No. Instead, his first thoughts are of Steve.
That’s how he knows he’s really in trouble.
I know I don’t have a right to ask this and I know we haven’t been writing as much lately, but I think that I’m really ready this time. I think I’m ready to meet. Will you give me another chance? All I’m asking for is an hour of your time. If you want to meet me, I’ll be waiting for you in Diamond Head Park, by the cave paintings at five PM.
Danny is beginning to think that Steve doesn’t actually have a job. Ever since he took a position with McGarrett Books, Steve’s been his shadow. He’d even, at one point, decided for him that they would be work partners. “You like books that make you think,” Steve had said, “and I like books that are entertaining.”
Danny had felt that Steve completely deserved the punch to the arm that Danny had delivered.
Today’s no different and Danny’s starting to wish that Steve would be anywhere else.
“What’s wrong with you today?”
Great, and it’s obvious that Danny needs some time alone. “Nothing. I just need to think and it’s sort of hard to do with your giant ass looming over me.” It’s that email. It’s the email that Danny opened this morning and it’s the email that he hasn’t stopped thinking about. The Sea Lover wants to make amends for the last time and he wants to meet.
For months, the only person in Danny’s life that seemed to understand and absorb all of his troubles had been his e-pal. They’d had some kind of connection.
They still do (maybe, it’s not like they talk that much now), but the trouble is that after months of having Steve shadow him like a focused puppy, he’s starting to experience something that could very well be Stockholm Syndrome.
Or, more realistically, Danny’s realized that Steve McGarrett isn’t all that bad of a guy – plus, it’s not like he’s bad to look at. He hasn’t gotten around to telling Steve any of this because as soon as he gets close, they end up in the middle of one of their constant arguments. Yesterday, they’d spent thirty minutes bickering over the color of the shave ice truck outside the store.
Plus, it’s not like Danny has any guarantee that Steve feels anything for him. Danny got this job out of pity and Steve’s constant stalking probably amounts up to nothing more than guilt.
Still, Danny can’t stop his gaze from lingering a beat too long on Steve; can’t stop thinking about the color of his eyes and how they match the ocean on a crystal clear day. He can’t stop thinking: ‘I want this’. He wants the arguments. He wants to curl up at night and press cold feet against Steve’s calves while they talk about the recently released books. Hell, he kind of even wants to let Steve read kid’s books to Grace.
They have disturbingly similar tastes, Danny’s found.
That email is sitting in his inbox and Danny doesn’t know what to say. Sorry, thanks for being the only support I had for a while, but I’m ready to move on? Or maybe a nice I’m half in love with a doofus who keeps trying to make up for shutting down my livelihood. He thinks that one fits nicely with the general theme of masochism Danny’s lived his life by.
Maybe he could just write back: Yes. I’ll be there.
Three hours later, on his break, he does exactly that.
His next shift, he makes the mistake of telling Steve what he’s done. Steve makes a face like he’s sucked on a rotten lemon, which should make him less attractive, but Danny’s in the unfortunate position where he’s started to think Steve looks good no matter what his face is doing. “Didn’t this guy stand you up?”
“Once,” Danny replies. “Also, he explained that.”
“He was scared or something. Look, I thought second chances were a thing, I’m pretty sure at least half of these kid’s books would tell me about the virtue of giving someone a second chance,” Danny complains sharply, digging through the boxes of new shipments that arrived. “Why do you care?”
Steve shrugs, carefully making sure that he doesn’t make eye contact with Danny – and he would know, since he’s trying to meet Steve’s gaze. “You deserve better than someone who was too scared to show up at a restaurant, Danny,” he says quietly.
Danny wants to scream in agreement, pin Steve up against the nearest shelf of books, and ask how Steve feels about treating him right – thatsoup he’d made and the careful way he’d stayed at Danny’s side at the charity event and the way he always brings Danny malasadas for breakfast even if he hates them personally and the daily visits Steve made to him in the week between Danny’s store closing down and Danny starting work with McGarrett books.
God, Danny aches with how much he wants the man right next to him.
Second chances, he reminds himself. He’ll never feel good if he doesn’t at least try and get some closure with his Sea Lover. Thing is, Danny keeps thinking back to the emails and letting himself drift into some kind of fantasy world where it’s been Steve all along, where he’ll show up at the cave paintings and there Steve will be with his dopey grin and one of his endless white t-shirts.
In short, Danny’s basically an idiot.
“Yeah, well, it’s not like people are lined up around the block for me,” he points out. “Am I good to leave fifteen minutes early to get there in time?”
“I have a better idea.”
“Oh, no,” Danny says as Steve vanishes. Steve’s ‘better ideas’ have never been good in any way and this one isn’t shaping up to be so great either. “No, no, no, I’ve had to cope with your better ideas and I don’t think my heart can handle it and why do you have my keys?”
Yeah, Danny’s right about the fact that he’s not going to like this.
But Steve’s already out the door.
“Hey! Those are the keys to my car! Who says you get to drive my car?!” Danny demands as he charges after Steve, all-too-aware that he’s fighting a losing battle. He makes it outside in time to have Steve open the passenger side door in what’s probably meant to be gallant.
It’s kind of a jackass move.
“This is my car,” Danny says, of the Camaro.
“You’ll be too nervous to drive,” Steve replies, as if he’s being thoughtful. “I’m doing you a favor.”
Danny could swear and he could steal the keys back from Steve, but there’s probably some secret SEAL trick he’s got that could render Danny unconscious within three moves, so maybe he ought to avoid that. Instead, he gets in the passenger side and slumps over in the seat. “Are you going to shut up for the ride?”
“Nope. Where are we going?”
Danny tells him and earns exactly twenty seconds of blissful silence before Steve’s attention drifts from the road and over to Danny. “What’s so great about this guy, anyway? I mean, apart from the fact that you’re crawling back to someone who stood you up.”
“What is it with your obsession over that event? Jesus, you’d think you were the offended party,” Danny says with a disbelieving scowl. “The guy stood me up, but I liked him. I like him,” he corrects himself, hoping Steve won’t notice the slip-up. “He listened to me and he got scared and that’s human. Okay? So I’m giving him a second chance and if it’s not what I want, then…”
And it won’t be what he wants, because what he wants (who he wants) is sitting opposite from him and taking the time out of his schedule to drive Danny to his date. Steve McGarrett is so goddamn perfect even with all his imperfections and it makes Danny want to scream with frustration that he needs to see this through first.
“Some of us,” Danny says, calmer than he’s been in a very long time which tends to act as a Williams warning signal, “are not as attractive as you are. Some of us do not have billions of dollars in our bank account and exotic pets and massive boats and some of us have to cope with what life is ready to give us. So yes, Steven, I’m doing this because right now, what I want? It’s just not there for me.”
There’s that strange expression on Steve’s face again. It’s been prevalent so often lately that Danny’s almost asked Jenna for some consultation advice about ‘what the hell is that face’, but he keeps quiet.
“What if you could have what you wanted, Danny?”
“Then I would take it, no questions asked. I would take it and I would keep it and I would never let go.”
He’s so riled up that he doesn’t even realize they’ve arrived until Steve leans over and nudges him lightly. “You ready for this, Danno?”
“God, no,” Danny scoffs, but at least he’s being honest.
They sit in silence and Danny realizes he’s going to have to inevitably move. The problem is that when he does – when he gets out of this car and goes to the meeting place, he’s going to meet someone who gets him so fully and absolutely, but who Danny can’t make himself think of first anymore. It’s Steve invading his thoughts and fantasies and Danny’s not sure he wants it any other way.
“We can go home, Danno,” Steve says.
“I have to do this. I’m not going to stand him up, I’m not that kind of guy,” Danny says, determined and stubborn and it’s enough bravado to get him out of the car. By the time his mind catches up to the forward stalk, he’s halfway to the cave paintings and figures he might as well do this.
It’s five minutes to the meeting time that Danny’s mind decides to go haywire.
Things like should I have dressed up more? and what if I’m out here to get murdered? cross his mind and continue until they’ve each had a thousand little thought babies and Danny’s officially gone crazy.
It’s distracting enough that fifteen minutes slip by and Danny doesn’t notice that the Sea Lover is late a-fucking-gain until ten minutes have passed. “Asshole,” Danny growls. “Twice. I can’t believe I fell for this twice.”
“In my defense,” comes a voice from across the plain, “I had to make sure your car was locked. You never would’ve let me live it down if I’d let it get broken into.”
And now Danny’s actually gone crazy because that sounds like Steve. That voice is Steve’s and that’s Steve walking over the hill towards him looking every bit as good as he did in the car here and he’s talking like Danny ought to understand, but right now Danny’s lost.
“If you’re going to hit me for the restaurant, I’d like to point out that I technically still showed.”
“You crashed your own date!” Danny accuses hotly. “What the hell? You’re the sea lover?”
“Actually, I’m a SEAL,” Steve says, closing the distance between them (much to Danny’s great panic because there are a lot of things he’s thought that can now come true, but he finds himself slightly wary about how they’re about to happen). “A SEAL over water?”
“And Devils and Dust is better?”
“It’s Springsteen! It’s holy!” Danny shouts.
Steve looks down at him with great dismay. “I’m going to have to kiss you to shut you up, aren’t I?”
Danny opens his mouth to counter that with another argument. He thinks about poking Steve in the chest and picking a fight. Then, he looks at Steve’s lips (pink because Steve keeps wetting them with the tip of his tongue) and the way he’s angling his body towards Danny, and he thinks that there’s nothing he wants more than to kiss that lunk of an idiot standing in front of him.
“If you don’t kiss me soon, I’m gonna start going through the catalogue to explain the genius work you don’t underst…” Danny hotly retorts, grinning while he ramps up to the rant. His idiotic smile doesn’t diminish when Steve leans in and kisses him for the first time.
It’s better than punching him, that’s for sure.
Steve keeps one hand on Danny’s shoulder when he eases back and that pink tinge to his lips is now accompanied by a beyond-gorgeous flush in his cheeks. Steve has never looked so goddamn good to Danny.
“I wanted it to be you,” he admits, exhaling out in relief and joy and a dozen other things he can’t mention. “You stubborn, frustrating, gorgeous idiot.”
“Coming from you, Danno, that’s high praise,” Steve says, placing a quick peck to Danny’s lips. “Come on. I’m taking you out to my boat and I’ve warned Kono that she’s going to be babysitting Grace all night. We’ve got a lot of catching up to do.”
And that’s the best idea Danny’s ever heard.
Hey, get that hot ass of yours over to children`s books. There`s a group of boy scouts here, you`ll fit right in.
Not because of the ass thing, right?
No, Steven, not because of the ass thing. They’ll love it. You can teach them how to tie ropes and take over small nations.
I love how you always think of me when it comes to coup d’etats.
Yeah. I love you too, Steve.