As Christmases went, on a scale of one to ten, this one, Danny decided, sucked more than any other since Rachel told him they were getting a divorce. He didn't think that was possible. Then Rachel took his baby girl off the island to Las Vegas, denying Danny of the one thing that made this place bearable during the holidays.
Because as long as he had Grace, it didn't hurt quite as much that he was away from his family and Christmas in New Jersey.
He sat on his surfboard, rocking with the waves because what the hell else was he gonna do here in Hawaii on Christmas morning? It's not like it was a holiday for him, not with Grace several thousand miles away. What else was there besides sleeping in and waking to nothing but his own disappointment and hurt?
Steve had politely asked him to come to dinner last night but Danny wasn't into pity. Or Doris and her sharp looks and even sharper words. No, that had disaster written all over it and for the sake of their friendship and staying partners at Five-0, Danny decided showing up at the McGarretts wasn't such a hot idea.
Steve had it wrong anyway— Danny didn't watch Miracle on 34th Street. He much preferred Jimmy Stewart and It's A Wonderful Life. He went through a six pack of beer while eating Chinese food out of cartons in his apartment after talking to his family back in Newark. He kept it upbeat for them, especially his mom. He saw no point in letting them in on the fact he couldn't be more depressed right now.
Steve called a few times earlier in the evening but must have given up or got busy. Probably both because Danny wasn't answering.
So this was Christmas in Hawaii for him. Him sitting on a surfboard, bobbing on the waves as he stared out at the horizon. This was what his life had come to.
He wasn't sure why he’d come out here. It wasn't like he really liked surfing. He did it for Grace. Okay, and maybe as an excuse to get out with Steve but that didn't explain why he was here. Although here was a better alternative to the apartment right now. Or so he reasoned.
He remembered when he first came to Hawaii, how outcast and alien he felt here. Looked at with suspicion when he was at HPD. He'd been miserably alone until McGarrett showed up. Steve, who along with Kono and Chin made things more bearable. Made Hawaii, if not home, not so lonely.
But Steve couldn't fix everything and Danny didn't expect him to. Danny screwed up his marriage all on his own. There were no second chances. Where he was, right now, was part of the consequences.
Danny ducked his head and sighed. He didn't belong out here. Sadly, the thought that he no longer knew where he belonged couldn't be dodged.
Deciding to paddle back to the beach, he turned and then sat back up on his board, startled.
Steve bobbed on the waves, watching him. Danny had no idea how long he'd been there, silently watching him. Leaving Danny to his thoughts but not alone.
Danny should have known better.
Steve looked like he always did when out on the water— like he was born to it. He had such an easy careless grace that made Danny feel awkward at the best of times. He looked incredible, lean and hard and handsome, reminding Danny of their differences.
"Hey." Steve spoke softly, giving Danny a gentle smile.
Danny looked away from the understanding in his friend's eyes. "Why are you here?"
"Seriously? This from you as you sit on a surfboard? Danny Williams of New Jersey?"
"I had nothing better to do." Danny couldn't even bother to put some bite behind the words. "What's your excuse?"
Steve, with little effort, maneuvered his board beside Danny's, still facing each other, knees touching. "Someone I care a great deal about is alone on Christmas."
Danny didn't say anything, just kept his head down, hands flat on his board. He ached so much and right now, he was so incredibly vulnerable. He didn't want Steve to see him this way. And see other things that Danny kept a tight lid on.
"I was just going in. See if I could find someplace open that serves breakfast, you know?" Danny shook his head. "Flirt with a waitress and leave her a big tip…" he trailed off.
"Don't run from me."
"Can't, babe, we're in the middle of the ocean." Danny tried for flippant, but it fell flat.
He flinched when Steve touched his face with the back of his hand, flushing and jerking away. "Don't do this." Danny hunched his shoulders, unable to look at Steve. What the hell was he doing? Tossing a bone here?
Danny swallowed against the thought that he was in just enough pain that he'd take it. How pathetic was his life?
"You keep pushing me away." Steve rested his hand on Danny's thigh, the touch so hot Danny thought it would burn a mark. "Maybe it's time you stopped being afraid of me."
Danny shook his head, the ache in his chest spreading. He wanted so much, but Steve was right—he was afraid. Terrified. And today, today, oh god, why today? He had so little to fight back with.
Steve slid his fingers under his chin with surprising gentleness. Traced the edge of Danny's jaw with one fingertip and Danny dared to look up. Steve watched him with those changeable slate blue eyes, eyes that right now hid nothing from Danny. Eyes that held so much of love and promise. Danny wanted to shrink back from that but instead he could only stare back.
Steve reached up, framing Danny's face in both big hands, brushing one thumb over Danny's cheek. Horrified, Danny realized Steve was brushing away tears. Before he could jerk back, Steve leaned in, brushed his lips over Danny's cheek before capturing his mouth in the sweetest of kisses.
The dam broke, Danny moaning softly, unable to resist. Steve swept his tongue over Danny's lips and Danny opened to him even as he reached out, sliding his hands up Steve's arms to his shoulders.
When they parted, they nuzzled, rubbing cheeks and noses, Steve sweeping soft kisses over Danny's face, licking Danny's tears away.
"Come back with me…" Steve whispered. "I don't want you to be alone. Not today. Not ever again."
Danny could only nod, lost on the tide of emotions that stole all his reason away. Steve pressed a kiss to his forehead, threading his fingers through Danny's hair. He'd resigned himself to being miserable today and instead was given the gift of unconditional love. "Merry Christmas," he finally managed only to be rewarded with Steve's gentle smile.
"Mele Kalikimaka, Danny."