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Gun Oil And Petals

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Steve feels this biting itch behind his chest again. A spot he can't reach with his fingers to scratch. It almost hurts. Danny looks straight ahead at the running TV. A housewife show about how to start crafting presents like potholders and baking Christmas cookies flickers across the screen. Who in God's name would ever need such useless interior decoration stuff? And why isn't there a football game on or at least, a decent horror movie?

Danny's choice of the TV program bewilders Steve ineffably. He fumbles with the cushions but can't punch them into the right form and fluffy shape. He shuffles and grunts, and shuffles some more. The itch stays.

Danny mutes the TV and Steve feels a steely look on his face. It renders him motionless. It's like a game. When Danny's eyes turn on him, he pretends to be super chilled, maybe a tad annoyed, slouching as if he has just found the right position with the pillows. Steve hides the uncomfortable sensation of having thousands of ants crawling under his skin.

"Steve, sit quietly or get up and do something else but don't shift and shuffle and sputter. You make me want to climb the walls. You don't need to sit with me to watch TV. But I want to watch this report. So? Please?" Danny says patiently but with a warning undertone.

Steve finds finally a comfortable position and drawls impatiently. "Really? This crap? Can't we watch something else? Don't I have a say in it? We could play paper, scissors, rock. And the one who wins chooses what to watch. It's a good idea."

"Excuse me?" Danny's eyebrows are already too high up his forehead.

Are they already there again? What's happening between them? The last few evenings have been filled with tension that gives Steve some serious headache. He has already waded into dangerous waters with questioning Danny's choice of the moment. They've had some harsh arguments about the TV program and who the remote control belonged to. It's not Steve's but he can't let it be.

Steve flaps with his hand to underline how offended he is to be forced into watching this. "What is this even? Why would you want to watch how to knit potholders? Jesus Christ, Danny, I'm cringing so hard inside. Tell me that's a joke! You can't be serious about this crap!" Steve laughs out loud and wiggles his eyebrows.

Danny's face closes off and Steve knows that has been the wrong thing to say. But fuck, what's the matter with Danny?

Steve's bored to death being forced to sit here instead of chasing some waves together or running to the Ko 'Olina Lagoons to exhaust himself. Danny's a good runner too, even if he always bitches about how much he hates running. But he always comes with. They could even add a quick swim in one of the lagoons for an extra calorie-burn and a cool-off. That would be so much nicer and cooler than the shit they were doing sitting at home.

Steve knows, he would need a workout planned in hell to control the silent screams in the back of his head. Danny's not in a good mood. And that's the reason why the screams get louder. And the rising bad mood between them doesn't help shit for the twitching, high-strung muscles and this freaking disturbing itch. The more Steve tries in this clumsy, rude way to reach Danny, the more Danny seems to withdraw.

Steve heaves air into his lungs, disguising his heavy breathing to demonstrate how bored he is. He even stretches his arms over the head. But he actually tries to control the cold grasp of the beginning panic growing behind his chest. Danny's not only in a bad mood. He's not even angry anymore. Danny seems shockingly uninterested. The lack of honest attentiveness cuts pieces out of Steve's stoic patience. Somehow, during the last three weeks, he's sensing how Danny has begun to push him out of a center of an inner world Steve has taken almost for granted.

The way Danny behaves scares Steve in a place he has no control over. And he has no idea how to make it better. Whatever he says only digs a deeper hole for himself. And Danny is settling into a place Steve can't follow because Danny doesn't let him. And this . . . this turns Steve's heart into a hard, nervous beating pulp. He can't seem to control the stupid, hurtful things he blurts out in an attempt to grab Danny's attention.

Stupid mistake.

"Now what? You just stay quiet? Am I such a jerk that you don't even want to talk to me? I mean . . . come on, Danny. Not again. Don't tell me, you're sensitive. Are you sensitive right now? Oh boy, you totally are." Steve sighs dramatically and chuckles to emphasize the ridiculousness of the moment.

"Are you done?" Danny asks neutrally and conversationally.

Steve should know the warning signs by now. But sometimes, he just doesn't get it. And he doesn't also know what's going on in this sexy, blond head. Danny needs an apology otherwise he'll give him the silent treatment and Steve can't deal with that either. He hates it. It makes him want to strangle someone. And sometimes, this someone is Danny. Because how can someone be so fucking sensitive without the slightest sense of humor?

"Am I done?" Steve mocks Danny and makes faces at him. "Sometimes, Danny, it would do you good to loosen up a bit. Make some stupid, funny jokes, have fun, enjoy life. I mean look at your face." Steve repeats this flippant gesture with one hand. "Your face is all grumpy, looking wrinkly. And you're so no fun. Has anyone ever told you that?" Steve slaps Danny's thigh for good measure and folds his arms over his broad chest. "There are better solutions to spend a Saturday afternoon together." He grins and hopes for a sharp reply back.

But Danny only purses his lips, makes this strange motion with the neck as if he needs to pop a joint but stays relaxed and . . . stays fucking silent. Steve feels the pulse in his gut but ignores another clear alert signal.

Silence is bad, so bad. It's not only bad in the sense as in Danny's not pleased with him but silence also acts as a trigger. Steve keeps the mental issues he has brought back from his service under wraps. Instead, of sharing his fears and inner horrors, Steve leaps into a word gush to fill this creepy silence and to make the inner screams shut up.

He twists on the couch to have a clear sight on Danny's face. "Look, I didn't mean to offend you, okay? But I rather go jogging or climbing some mountain, chasing some awesome waves with you than sitting here and bore my freaking pants off. At least, let's watch a football game. Have you recorded the one from last Saturday? The Green Bay Packers against the Pittsburgh Steelers? And I hope you bought beer. I could use one or two after this hellish week. And it would be nice to know if you're coming now. The guys are eager to meet you. Don't give me the hurt puppy eyes. Your knee isn't that bad. Pop a few pills and you're as good as new. By the way, I'll plan to have you on my team. Huh? Sounds fun, right?"

Danny doesn't reply to Steve's machine-gun talk.

Steve's jittery by now, buzzing like a firecracker and he gets the red flags from all frontlines now. Danny's jaw is set. Shit. Steve feels the ants under his skin and the fast-rising pressure in his chest. Danny's slipping away. How has that gone down the drain so fast? He had been so sure to have everything under control. Shitshitshit.

Danny scratches his head with the pinky, holding on to the remote control. He's way too unresponsive and his mood is flat like the sea before a monster wave is going to tear the smooth glass surface apart. It uses all of Steve's concentration not to bounce both legs.

"No, I haven't recorded the game and if you don't like sitting here with me and watching this stuff then you're free to go and do whatever pleases you more. I really have no clue why you're even here, Steve."

Steve pulls a face and listens.

"And don't ogle at my boxes full of Christmas decoration with this crazy stare. They don't offend you and no, there's no need to blow them up or burn them in the backyard. They're not the reason why I don't join one of your SEAL induced workouts. My body is just not made for this hellish strain. I can't keep up with you. I don't even want to try."

"Blow up your Christmas stuff? I haven't – "

"Yes, you have. I can read all of your faces by now. I know you're not a homely guy. You're not made for this lifestyle. You like a man cave in the literal sense of the word. And you need action like a surfer needs the water. But unlike you, I estimate a cozy home. I don't need your approval to get excited for Christmas and I don't need to go wreck my body in my spare time. Are we clear?"

"Excited for Christmas?" Steve scoffs with this touch of disgust. Who needs ornaments and in-house cut-off trees when the world is on fire and there are way more pressing items than decorating a stupid tree? "Not gonna blow up your Christmas boxes. Just don't get the fuss about it." He hauls in some air because his chest doesn't want to unclench.

Danny taps the remote control against his thigh. His bare thigh because he wears shorts, one leg elevated to go easy on the twisted knee. He even has a cold pack on the hurt joint fixed with a bandage around the knee to keep it in place. It's all a little bit too dramatic for Steve's taste. It's just a twisted knee.

"As you can see, I need to rest."

"I can see that." Steve can't shut up, folding his arms and sucking in his bottom lip to chew on it.

But Danny ignores that comment. "And I told you already a week ago that I won't join you on your crazy mission to replay a war scenario with Paintball guns in a staged compound to get your adrenaline through the roof. That's your way of having a fun time. Not mine."

God, why does Danny have to make it such a big deal? Steve wants to punch a hole in the wall because he can't stand that Danny's hurt. And it's not because he worries too much, no. It's because Steve can't deal with the low-level toughness Danny dishes out.

Steve would have never thought Danny's anything else but an athletic, badass cop who takes a beating before breakfast as if it's a piece of cake. Even with the constant complaining, Steve has first-hand witnessed what Danny's capable of. So, what the fuck is going on? This here? Sitting on the couch, on a Saturday afternoon, watching housewifey stuff with all the annoying hype about upcoming Christmas? And on top of that, there's this insignificant booboo. Danny's a dude for crying out loud.

Steve can't deal with this strange situation. It puts him off-kilter. He has the constant need to clench his fists. He needs some serious action very soon or he's going stir-crazy in Danny's living room. And has Danny just offered him to leave? With the 'if you don't like it you can leave' shit? Is this a hint with the telephone pole to hit the fucking road because Danny's fed up with him? Is that what he has meant?

That thought makes Steve shift onto the couch. He masks the sudden spike of anxiety as nervous hyperactivity. He jumps up.

"I'll go get some beers. You want some?"

Steve doesn't want to leave. Danny hasn't meant it that way, right? Should he ask again? Nah. He doesn't wait for Danny's answer.

He's going to drink a beer with Danny, hang out some more and try again to talk him into joining their fun operation. Paintball battles are incredibly helpful in reducing inner stress. And there will be pain and shouting, and chaos to ease the high-strung mental state Steve can't seem to shake off over the weekends. His spine is rigid when he walks over to the kitchen.

Steve fetches two Longboards from the fridge. He shakes his head in mild bewilderment when he spots the garden accessories through the French doors all piled up in the small backyard. What is Danny planning for fuck's sake? Does he undergo some strange midlife crisis where he must nest? Steve's eyes search the kitchen until he spots the old stained metal can with the gun oil, he has placed there last week. It has been more a reflex of odd sorts to keep it here instead of taking it back home.

It has something to do with being seen, having a place on this side of life, like having a foot in Danny's door. Maybe? Like he wants to put a claim first so Danny's kind of taken. Yeah. It's definitely not coming from a sane perspective on how to approach a possible relationship. Steve can't name it and if he tries it causes the headache to flare up. He doesn't think too closely about all that.

He's also ignoring the fact how some of his shirts have found their way into Danny's hamper, or the extra pair of jogging shoes he has forgotten deliberately one morning. Danny washes his clothes without a comment. His jogging shoes are put neatly next to Danny's on a mat on the tiny terrasse. And the old can is still standing there.

The checkpoints are set and still undisturbed, secure. Steve exhales shakily.

It calms something inside him to scatter his belongings in Danny's home. He hopes Danny would just roll with it. He's a bit on edge about what will happen if Danny forced them back onto Steve to take them home.

At this moment, Steve realizes the change of scenery around the stained can of gun oil. A few twigs with lovey, creamy blossoms from a Plumeria have been placed in a water glass next to the old metal can. It's arranged like a still life on a painting. It shows caring, protectiveness even. The sight ups Steve's heartbeat. He turns around. There's too much happening in the pit of his stomach he can't process.

Flowers. Christmas. Sitting around with a booboo. And now this.

Steve can't read Danny and it drives him crazy. How can someone cause such a spectacle over an overstretched ACL? Seriously, man up Danny. Okay, he can think that, but he can't tell him that.

Steve's intentions are good until he walks back into the living room to hand Danny the beer bottle. Steve gets so mad again for him being hurt and sitting around. Because this means Steve has to get through the Paintball battle and the evening on his own. More precisely without Danny. He's going to be with his guys but there would be no Danny by his side.

Nothing that can't be fixed with a good portion of Tylenol or heavier stuff. There's a reason pain meds exist.

"Come one, Danny, be a good boy and pop some painkillers and you're as good as new. It's just a booboo. Don't be a spoilsport. Freddie has asked if you're joining us tonight. Let's give'em hell. Huh?" Steve plops back onto the couch and hauls his feet up to park them on the coffee table.

"No pain meds and no Paintball. I told you that already, Steve and it's final. I'll have a beer with Freddie next week."

"You're boring," Steve mutters before he takes a pull from the bottle. "What's with the plant pots and the garden equipment in the backyard? Isn't Christmas enough? Do you plan to decorate the entire house with home-grown plants, too? What's next, Danny, huh? Martha Stewart and a cooking blog?" Steve kicks his shoes off. "Where is your masculine toughness? Live a little, have some fun. Let's wind down from the week, huh?" He disguises the new go on the topic with a low chuckle, slumping into the corner of the couch.

Danny doesn't unmute the TV. Steve waits. Danny doesn't touch his beer either. But he shifts and faces Steve after a minute.

The vibe coming off Danny doesn't mean good news. Steve is sure Danny's hurt again. He hasn't said anything bad. He has just been joking.

Steve waits and wiggles his feet in a melody playing in his head. He gets rarely nervous. But now, he's jittery. And that's something he's not used to. In the field, nothing can shake Steve's calm. The more heat rises the calmer he gets. But that has been before he has met Danny. And this is private fucking life. He's not good at it. Danny's the first person who causes a dull pulsing in his ears with a single move of his hand. The bitter taste is back on Steve's tongue.

"Instead of staring a freaking hole in my head you could just get it over with and give it to me. What did I say this time? Your mood is a minefield these days, Danny. Do you know that?" With the nervousness, there's always the anger flaring up.

Danny throws the remote control onto the coffee table. He tips his head back and nods along as if he has concluded a big detail. "I'm not one of your team guys, Steve, or ex-team guys."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"I know you're always in each other's personal space with your remarks. Snarky, sassy, cocky. How did Freddie call it once? Good-natured harassment? Yeah, that's how you guys talk to each other. Always, all the damn time." Danny blows out air, his lips are red and moist. "I don't want you to talk to me like this. You're wild, hard, and relentless and you ask me just to be like that, too. But I'm not. I never will be. Not 24/7 at least. In my downtime, I'm anything but that. And it's none of your business what's with the knitting and plant stuff in my backyard." Danny shifts and adjusts his knee into a more comfortable position.

"You never share. I've had no idea you're into this disturbing housewifey stuff."

"Why do you care?"

"I'm just curious, okay? I don't get it, Danny. Your knee isn't broken or twisted. It's sore. You could totally come today. But I don't get it, you rather sit here with an ice pack on your knee, watching TV about how to fucking knit. It's a bit too much, okay?" Steve complains and kicks his shoes onto the ground after he has toed them off.

"I want you to leave," Danny says with a dangerous calmness, too even, too smooth.

Steve's alarm bells go off with a shriek in his head. "You want me to leave?" He asks fake-shocked and laughs it off. Danny can't mean that.

"I won't say it again, Steve. I'm deadly serious. You have no right to insult me in my own home because you're blown out of proportions male-ego can't take the fact that your work partner knits. Fuck you, Steve McGarrett, and your arrogance and ignorance."

Steve pulls his feet off the coffee table and interlaces his fingers with his elbows resting on his thighs. He talks to the coffee table. "Then why don't you explain it to me, huh? It would make a huge difference instead of kicking me out." He waits and hopes for the chance to stay.

"I'm not sure if I even want you to know."

Whoa, that stings.

"I apologize for the way I go about treating you as if you're a team guy. It's meant as a compliment. And I'm sorry. Sometimes I forget."


Steve shakes his head. He can't follow. "What about Gracie?"

Danny flattens the hem of his shorts, not looking at Steve. "She's the reason I learn to knit, or to crochet because it's a school project they're working on. They're having some sort of bazaar at the end of the school year with homemade products. She's into yarn and stuff and has a lot of fun crafting. They want to decorate their booth with flowers and stuff, and because money is always short, the parents agreed to grow plants and flowers in pots to be ready by the end of the year. And Grace is so into this new hobby."

"I didn't know that." Steve kind of gasps in shock.

"You don't ask, Steve, you only assume and jump to conclusions. The same with the Christmas stuff. It's Christmas in two weeks. I won't have Grace for Christmas this year but I don't want to miss out on those special moments with my little girl."

Steve's knuckles turn white. He could kick himself for being so ignorant again.

"My home is her home too. I want her to learn to have traditions, beautiful moments that count because it's all about family and love. She's a girl, meaning I want her to know how a cozy home looks and feels like. I want her to grow up in the best way so she can pass on all the good stuff to her children in the far, far future. I'm not ashamed of anything, Steve. And I definitely don't need a Navy SEAL sitting on my couch, drinking my beer and constantly insulting me, my lifestyle, and my little girl's world because he gives a shit about normal civilian life, okay?"

"I'm sorry, Danny." Steve answers contrite with a growing stiffness in his neck. Shit. "I'm really sorry. I haven't thought about that. I apologize for being rude." He tries.

"I don't need to explain this stuff. Not to you. You know I'm a father of a seven-year-old girl. What would you expect me to do? Buy her a slingshot and teach her how to knock out the street lights?"

"Jesus, no! Of course not. But you could have just told me all the rest." Steve understands how tremendously wrong he's been to judge so lightly.

"You feel ashamed of me."

"What? No!"

"Don't lie to me, Steve. I know you do. It makes you squirm so hard to sit with me, thinking I'm a wimp. You look around and you only see stuff women would do. It scares you. I see it in your face how uneasy it makes you feel. The flowers? These things? My knee?" Danny waves his arm to encompass everything. "This is all for Grace. And I know, it's super girly and female-y. And I don't care. Do you know why, Steve?"

"Nope, I don't know." Steve stares at his feet and digs his toes into the carpet.

By now, Steve can't fight off the stiffness that's crawling up his neck. He has fucked it up. He knows it. He's not allowed to mock Danny's interests and make fun of Grace. And he has never had the intention to do that. It hasn't been in the forefront of his mind that this could be about Gracie. Shit.

"She's a girl and girls like different things than boys. I have one child and she's my life, okay? She's my daughter and I go wherever she goes. Her interests are my interests. When she gets all excited about how to knit, I want to learn it too because I want to be able to help and support my girl. Rachel isn't fond of handicrafts. This project is huge. The teachers have asked the parents to help. And here, I am, gathering intel on this new project. Does this answer your questions?" Danny turns his head to dart him a stern look.

Steve's bottom lip juts out. "I could help." He adds quietly.

"I'm not interested."

The seconds were like fleeting moments Steve tries to hold back with his heart. The ache is back.

"Please, leave."

"You don't mean it." Steve must try. He doesn't want to go.

"Yes, I do because this isn't the only thing, I'm sick and tired of. The other thing is how you push me to wreck my body to be a part of your war games. I have no idea why you want me there. You know I got nothing on you guys. You're SEALs, no matter if retired or injured. You're the freaking best. Why would you even want me there?"

"Your knee is – "

"Stop right there before I get really angry. My knee, Steven – "

Danny does that thing with his fingers Steve knows from other Italian guys. It looks hot but kind of strange and very intimidating, too real for his taste.

"I'm sorry, okay?"

" – My knee hurts. And because I don't want to end in a hospital to get a robot knee fixed, I stay off that joint. I don't want to ruin my body just to prove how badass I am. I want to be able to run after Grace, to take her for her first dance, and to walk her down the aisle if one faraway day she finds a nice, decent man who is good enough for my fantastic girl. Do you get that with your thick, adventurous, action-addicted skull, Steven?"

"I get it." Steve's mood is subdued. How hasn't he been thinking about that? "Are we good now?" Steve wants to grab the remote to unmute the TV.

"I don't know. I told you I want you to leave, and I meant it. I have no idea why you hang out with me on the weekends. I'm no fun, not into ammo and gun talk, and I keep away from the shooting range and any other war game compound. And I don't like your good-natured harassment talk. I don't get it."

Steve clenches his teeth so hard he's astonished not to feel his teeth grinding to powder. His vision begins to act funny.

"You always want to compete, all the time. I don't need that. I'm okay with who I am. I'm a father and adventures and shit aren't on the top of my list, anymore. Staying healthy and mobile is. I can't be your distraction until your ex-team buddies arrive. I need a cozy home to return to after a crazy day at work. And besides, Christmas is a big tradition in our family. I love it. The mood and all. And I'm just fed up with how you always make fun of everything, Steve. I'm sorry, war is over for your guys. And I'm sorry the Hawaiian scumbags aren't that more active. And I'm sorry Christmas offends you in every way. But I like peaceful weekends where nothing happens."

Steve can't answer. Emotions clog his throat. He's so angry with his own stupid self. He stands up as graceful and as calm as possible.

Danny doesn't lift his head. His palms rub over his thighs as if he's nervous too. It feels like they're breaking up and they're not even together.

"Can I leave my stuff with you?" Steve can't form the word 'gun oil'. It's the tenderness with how Danny has placed the flowers around it that makes Steve's hands shake. "Or do you want me to take my stuff home? Maybe it offends your flowers." Steve wants to kick himself for not being able to stop teasing. "Sorry, I didn't mean that."

"I know you sleep outside under the bushes sometimes because the house or the too close walls makes you uncomfortable. I know you've been through horrible stuff I can't even start to fathom but I would never make fun of you or tease you about what you're going through right now, after being out of the teams, doing the job of a cop."

Steve stands rooted to the spot. He doesn't want to listen to Danny. Steve knows he's right. He's such a jackass.

"We complete each other as partners at work. We work flawlessly together. But private life is just not a match." Danny clears his throat.

"You want me gone forever?" Steve tries to sound funny but he almost chokes on the words.

"Now, you're the dramatic one. Of course, not." Danny drags his hand through his hair. "Just for today. You can come back anytime when you learn to let me and my lifestyle be."

Steve waits not knowing what to do with his hands but Danny keeps looking straight ahead. He bends down and opens the shoelaces to slip back into his sports shoes.

Danny doesn't say goodbye or tells him to come back tomorrow. And Steve tries to make himself invisible. The shame about his behavior and the punishment to have to leave let his face burn.

Steve doesn't look back. The door closes with a soft click and the feeling of being banished settles heavy and dark in his chest.

He has no idea that Danny buries his face in his hands the moment Steve's out of the house. He has no idea how Danny tries not to break into a million pieces when he accepts the mean truth that he would never meet Steve's expectations. That he would always be measured at the unachievable rank of being a SEAL and seeing the world through military schooled eyes. Even though Danny is a brilliant cop it's not even remotely close to being a SEAL.

Steve has no idea how hurt Danny is about the fact of not being enough when they meet in private. He has no idea how angry Danny gets about the stupid blurry sight when the emotions threaten to swallow him whole. And he has no idea about Danny picking up the phone to make two calls. One is to his mother and one is to book a flight to New Jersey to spend Christmas with his family.

And Steve has no idea about how much Danny wishes to pull Steve into a warm, tight hug to make him feel better. How much he wants to kiss the pain away and the haunted look in Steve's eyes.

Steve has no idea how much Danny yearns to just hold his hand to make him feel better.

Steve has no fucking idea.

The bitter taste at the back of his throat makes Steve swallow thickly. He walks with his back ramrod stiff and his gait somewhat wooden to his truck. The Paintball battle would help him focus on painful bruises and tactical advantage. He wants to win this game. He shoves the emotional tornado in the back of his mind and locks it behind a wall. His military training always serves him well.

He has three hours to kill. He jams the phone in the holder and dials Freddie's number.

"What's up Smooth Dog?"

"You're up for some warm-up rounds at the shooting range?"

"Yeah, cool. Let me finish up at home first. Kelly wants me to go with her to get the weekend shopping done. I'll meet you in one and a half hours, okay?"

"Sure thing. I'll be there."

Steve dials Todd's number. He is always up for anything to distract his mind. Just as Steve.

"Yo, Steve, tell me you have some good shit going."

Steve chuckles. A man of his taste. "Shooting range, in thirty minutes. Let's find out how good you are."

"I'm all game, baby." Todd laughs roughly. "My girlfriend is on a spa trip with her mother. I need to get out of the house. Glad you called, buddy. Meet you in thirty."

Chapter Text

Steve's drenched in sweat after the Paintball battle. He pulls a fresh navy blue shirt and a clean pair of board shorts and slippers from his go-bag he always keeps in his trunk. He changes swiftly and throws the dirty boots, and the camouflage cargo pants next to the duffle bag, and shuts the trunk lid.

All the guys but Freddie have left for a fun night in town, planning an old-fashioned, solid pub crawl. Steve is not in the mood to get wasted. And Freddie has promised Kelly to come home after the bonding time with the guys.

"What's your plan for tonight?" Freddie rubs his hair dry with a clean towel.

"I have no plans. Don't know. You're heading home?" Steve rolls his shoulders and groans. The two-hour fight settles as deep fatigue into his body. He welcomes the calmer state of his mind. Finally, he can unwind. He ignores the flairs of pain shooting from the lower back up to his shoulders.

"Yeah, why don't you come with me. Let's drink a beer, chill. I'm sure Kelly has prepared some late-night snacks. You're hungry?"

"I could eat." Steve swallows a grown when he slides behind the wheel. He shouldn't have jumped from that roof onto the small balcony. His back hasn't taken the fall well. Luckily, he has worn his high-ankle boots, but he feels the impact of the landing in every bone in both feet.

"Okay, then, see you at my place." Freddie shoots him a grin, gets in the Jeep Cherokee, and peels off the gravel parking area.

"Sure, see you in a bit!" Steve calls over to Freddie's Jeep when he drives by. He curls his toes and flexes his feet to check the stiffness in his legs. Three days and he would be less sore.

Steve leans back, exhales tiredly, and watches Freddie's taillights disappear. He plays with the car keys in the ignition. Should he call Danny? He feels like the world's biggest jackass after he has let out some of the pent-up energy that has made him act like a giant dick. Danny deserves a huge apology. But maybe not tonight. He shouldn't push his luck. He stares into space for another minute before he blinks back into the present moment.

Steve starts the engine and drives slowly out of the parking area lost in thoughts, steering with only one hand. With the other hand, he kneads the hard cords of his neck muscles. He has overdone it tonight.

It's dark and the night sky blinks with thousands of stars. If he hadn't pushed Danny that hard into a corner with all the bad things, he has said he would have had the permission to go back to Danny's place.

Steve takes his time to drive to Freddie's house.

"Where have you been? You got lost somewhere on the way?" Freddie waits on the lanai, dressed in boardies, a shirt with a Navy print, and slippers. Two cold beers are already waiting on the table.

Steve tries not to hobble. His back is screaming, his muscles are cramping up. Sleep will be a bitch tonight. "Yeah, I just didn't feel like speeding. Where's Kelly and the kids?"

"She's with the neighbors, sitting and chatting. The kids have a sleepover with their friends and she wants to make sure they're okay. She made sandwiches for us."

"She's the best. That's great." Steve walks over to sit down slowly and controlled not to pull a sore muscle.

"You hurt your back."

"I'm fine."

"I know you are but you were stupid enough to take that risky jump instead of running up the stairs."

"I took the opportunity to take the shortcut. I took three guys out. A reason why we won."

Freddie hands him a Longboard. "Yeah, and I know your back hurts like a motherfucker. Anyway, you kind of gone wild tonight. What's up?"

"Nothing," Steve loses his slippers and heaves his legs up onto another chair, biting down on the pained yelp that wants to escape.

Freddie stays quiet, not pushing but Steve senses how he's being watched. His brother knows him too well. And since they're not on active duty anymore, Freddie seems to have made it his responsibility to check up on Steve and reign him in whenever he thinks it's time to prove that he's still worthy to wear the Trident. And not only that, recently, Freddie breaches too often his emotional set boundaries without even caring if Steve gets pissed at him.

"I thought you hang out with Danny tonight. He wasn't part of the game but you could have gone back to his place. Is there a reason why you're sitting here instead of Danny's couch?"

"Nah. He's hurt his knee. He needs to rest."

Freddie stays quiet and Steve hopes he lets this one go.

"You could have still watched TV together, hang out at his place instead of being home alone. What did you do?" Freddie asks but it's like a dance they know so well.

Steve knows that Freddie knows he's not going to answer that question. But Freddie keeps doing it, asking shit that makes Steve want to jump up to get rid of the sudden spike of nervousness. He runs his thumb over the label on the bottle. If Danny really means something to him, he must get his shit together.

Steve gives himself a push. "How do you and Kelly talk?"

"What do you mean?" Freddie lets his legs fall open and grunts low when he searches for a better position.

Steve's desperate enough not to chicken out. "I don't know, like about everything? The kids, the daily stuff, I don't know. I mean, we talk, you and me, and I never think about what I say. I know you'll get it. You don't get mad when I joke and give you good-natured shit, or just shit. You know. I just – " He stares at the beer bottle, at the trees surrounding the garden, at everything else but Freddie.

"Who did you steamroll into the ground with your pushy attitude?" Freddie chuckles and burps up.

Steve scoffs. He puts the bottle on the table. He needs to fold his arms over his chest for this talk. "I don't steamroll people into the ground."

"God, you're such an arrogant bastard, Steve." The smile is audible in Freddie's statement and that smile feels like a word-cuddle.

It's what they do. It's meant as a compliment but also as a reminder.

"Is that why you aren't at Danny's tonight?" Freddie asks in this soft, honest way and it all but pins Steve to the spot. No more hiding.

"He kicked me out," Steve confesses with a hot face.

"You have definitely been pushy." Freddie doesn't laugh at that. He gives Steve a pensive look though and that's never a good sign. "Is that why you've been so aggressive and reckless in the game tonight? Not caring if you'd break your fucking legs? I don't mind a good gunfight, but you acted as if we're on a mission."

Steve ignores that statement too. "So, how do you guys talk?"

Freddie takes his time to answer. "Normal. I don't know what you want to hear, Steve. You know we live in two worlds, you and me and all team guys. When I'm with you guys, I just talk. We have our jokes going and I guess, no one gets them but we. The way we deal and behave is only known to us. Team guys talk like team guys do. No one gets that better than team guys." Freddie laughs low. "Does that make sense to you?"

Steve's shoulders shake. He laughs quietly. "You're doing great. Keep going."

"And with Kelly? I definitely can't talk with her like I do with you. She would kick me out. Hell no, I would be divorced by now. I just . . . be a good husband, try to be with her, make her feel loved and cared for. Listen when she tells me stuff. I don't know. Help raise the kids. We're doing great."

Steve stays quiet. Kelly's a woman, a great, tough military spouse. She has Steve's deepest respect. Danny's no team guy and no military spouse but he's a cop, born and bred in Jersey. That's rough too. But Steve gets it. It's unfair to even expose Danny to the team speech. The embarrassment cuts into Steve's heart like a serrated knife.

"Is that why Dann kicked you out?"

"Yep," Steve stares ahead. He doesn't want to pretend anymore. He has fucked up. It's simple.

It still shocks him a little how much Danny's hard attitude is still scaring him. The way he has closed off and just made him leave still burns in his chest. Steve needs Freddie's advice and hopes Freddie would sense it somehow, so Steve doesn't have to ask embarrassing questions.

"You think lesser of him because he's not a team guy?"

What? Steve's eyebrows are tightly knitted together, his eyes drop to his arms. "He's an outstanding cop. No, fuck, no, I don't think lesser of him because of that. Jesus. Is that how I act?"

Steve slowly realizes that he's afraid of being too much for Danny. Just the way he is, being a SEAL and carrying that fuck-load of experience. He has served too many years to be unaffected by the countless missions and deployments. And let's be honest, he has been fucking pushy, like the arrogant alpha male that he knows he is.

Freddie's next question comes so out of the blue, Steve freezes instantly.

"Then why haven't you asked him out yet?" Freddie asks quietly.

If Steve had taken a pull from the beer he would be choking by now. The heat catches on his skin fast. How in the hell does Freddie know? Steve stays quiet.

"Danny understands you better than you think, Steve. And he doesn't take your shit and that's a good thing. You must have been a real asshole if he has kicked you out. Don't fuck it up with him. He's good for you."

Freddie's become mellow. Fuck, he normally doesn't express concern like this. It means Steve is in a bad place. He hates to hear it like this. Steve's tongue-tied. They aren't normally that intimate and open with each other, not about their love life. He grabs the bottle and empties it.

"Danny can take it, you know," Freddie adds quietly.

Steve knows, this sentence is not about his shitty way to communicate in private, it's about all other issues. It's about him being interested in Danny to be more than a work partner and a good friend. Steve wonders what Freddie and Danny talk about when they have a beer together.

"Do you sleep?"

"Jesus, Freddie. What's with all those questions tonight." Steve mutters a bit off. "I don't know. As good as you, probably. No, fuck, no I don't sleep." Steve sighs and drives a hand through his hair.

"Do you at least take the Ambien to get some hours of rest?"

"Yeah, yeah, I do."

"And start renovating your dad's house instead of sleeping outside under the bushes like you're in a damn jungle. It's been months, Steve, you can't keep that up. It's not good for you. Get your head straight, okay? You had your crazy face on, tonight. And you know what that means. You burn the candles at both ends."

"Do you have more advice you want to heap onto the pile?" Steve grumbles annoyed. He's so damn good at ignoring everything. He scratches at the label on the bottle.

"Fix the shit with Danny and ask him out. It's about time. Stop pushing people away. Especially him. Evolve, for Christ's sake." Freddie gets up not waiting for an answer. "I'm hungry, come on, let's eat and watch a game." Freddie pats Steve's shoulder and snatches the bottle from his hands before he walks into the house and out of earshot.

"Danny doesn't know how I feel about him," Steve mumbles to himself.

And after tonight he's not so sure if he has pulverized his chances. And he's not ready yet to process the talk he's just had with Freddie and all the uncomfortable shit his brother has made him listen to.

Steve's not used to having such honest, private conversations with Freddie. But Freddie takes the whole Steve's into his work partner and should ask him out on a date in stride. No, it's even better, he seems to be super chilled about it. And he knows so much more than Steve would have assumed and it's unsettling how Freddie gives a shit who he loves. His brother is more concerned about him still needing to sleep as if he's deployed.

Steve rubs his neck and waits for his face to cool off before he follows Freddie into the house.


Steve's antsy to meet Danny on Monday morning after the weekend.

He has texted Danny on Sunday around midday if he would want to drop by Kamekona's shrimp truck for a snack. But Danny has texted back he has been busy, and they'd meet on Monday morning at the office.

Still now, Steve isn't sure what to think of that text. It's not that they hang out all the time or spend each Sunday together. But he has hoped for a beer and a chat where he could have apologized. He has spent half an hour debating if he should just drive over to Danny's place and knock on the door. But to his own shame, he has always found an excuse to postpone the short trip until it has been too late. One of the many excuses has been how he wants to start to respect Danny's wishes.

Instead of being with Danny, Steve has weeded his overgrown backyard to prove himself that he's not completely useless when it comes down to doing common housework. He has ignored his aching and still exhausted back muscles.

He's satisfied with how neat and inviting his backyard looks after the primitive makeover. He has also started on some ideas to plant new bushes and flowers to turn this neglected piece of land into a blooming secret garden for Grace. And maybe this has also something to do with the wish to impress Danny. Maybe it's more of a peace offering or to lure Danny down here to hang with him at his place.

Despite that Steve has slept like shit a new kind of vibe is buzzing in his gut. At least, he hasn't been camping outside. With the wildness gone in his backyard, he also has packed up his sleeping bag. Freddie's concern about his sleeping habits is still flashing as bright as a headlight in his mind.

Steve shakes his head and boots up his computer, waiting for Danny to show up. He's not prepared for the jolt racing up his spine when Danny walks in. His steps are still slightly uneven with the hurt knee but other than that, Danny just looks like always. He even brings malasadas for everyone. His smile seems to be a bit too bright or plastered to his face. Steve can't say.

Steve types in the password and logs on. His heart beats in his throat. The talk he's had with Freddie rushes back to the forefront of his mind. Wow, he kind of wants to hide in the office not sure if his face will give him away the second Danny looks at him.

Something has shifted over the weekend and Steve isn't in full control anymore. And he hasn't figured out yet how to go from pushing Danny away with being all the time in his face, team guy speech on the tip of his tongue to drive him mad, to want Danny to feel comfortable and accepted. Danny might end up thinking he's seriously concussed.

How does Steve turn from being a jackass and a hyper Alpha into someone who's showing a side he has no freaking clue himself about how this should feel like? Where is he hiding the good shit the one, he needs to woo Danny, huh? He has no freaking idea.

And from all the pictures or odd metaphors that could help only one example pops up in front of his inner eye . . . and that's the picture of an old, stained metal can with gun oil he has smuggled into Danny's kitchen that is surrounded by creamy Plumeria blossoms, and some petals that have fallen off. And what does this image express? That he's the center of Danny's attention? He's the one needing the love or what? Has no one written any books about this complicated stuff?

Steve kind of doesn't feel the ground under his feet anymore.

He lifts his head when Danny pushes the glass door open wiggling with a coffee to go from Steve's favorite Barista at Ali'i Coffee.

"You don't eat malasadas so I've brought you your favorite coffee." Danny smiles at him.

It's unsettling how Steve only realizes now, how Danny always looks out for him with those lovely little gestures he has never really and truly appreciated.

"Wow, that's, uh, that's nice. Thank you." Steve gets up but Danny signs him to stay seated.

"Don't mention it. Hey, ah," Danny stops, puts the coffee on his desk, and taps with the tips of his fingers on the desktop.

"You okay? How is your knee?" Steve tries to sound genuinely interested.

Is it weird to ask that? Danny kind of looks very suspicious. Maybe he thinks he's joking? Shew, Steve feels how the sweat starts to pool in his armpits.

"Yeah, I'm fine. My knee's doing okay, getting better. You don't want to know about my knee, though. No, no. Let me finish." Danny cuts Steve's attempt to throw in a word or two. "I'm here to, uh, apologize. The coffee is a peace offering. I uh, I'm sorry I jumped at you like that. You know, on Saturday. That was out of line."

"Danny, you don't have to – "

" – yes, I do. I'm off because my time with Grace is limited and holidays are important. And I would have wished to at least have some hours with her on Christmas day. So, I'm sorry. I said some rude things to you. That wasn't fair." Danny nods and is about to turn around.

"Hey, Danny, wait," Steve jumps up and bumps into the edge of the desk with how he hurries to get to the other side. "I owe you an apology too. I pushed. I was a dick and I've had no right to say the things I've said. So, I'm sorry." Steve's lips were so dry.

"Thank you."

But Danny doesn't stay for a chat. He doesn't ease the pressure on Steve's chest by telling him to come to hang out at his place tonight instead he's walking backward, jerking his thumb over the shoulder. "Let me catch up before the morning briefing."

Steve adjusts the holster and the badge. "Yeah, uh, are we good?" He juts out his chin and waits.

"Yeah, we're good." Danny nods and smiles but without his eyes and pushes the door open by leaning into it. "See you in five."

The coffee doesn't taste as creamy and strong and delicious as usual. Steve sits back down. He has thought he should feel better, but he doesn't. He's not sure where they are or if they're back being okay. Maybe they just need to start working and forget about that weekend.

Chapter Text

The week gets busy with a new case about money laundering and two dead prostitutes who lead to a ring of human traffickers. The team pulls three all-nighters with a long stakeout survey in the car, gathering data watching the suspects' house that belongs to one of the alleged wire-pullers. They switch the teams every six hours to keep the concentration focused and steady.

Steve is content with just sitting next to Danny in the car during the darkest hours before dawn. He knows where Danny is, right by his side. He knows he's safe and he's with him, breathing is easy and smooth.

Steve's not sure if he wants to use this confined space to try and make a go at the other task . . . to ask Danny out. Freddie's sentence rings in his ears twenty-four-seven about dating Danny. But it's also the encounter from a few days back that turns the words on his tongue into a sticky mess. And they are still at work. Maybe Danny gets upset when he mixes the private parts with the work parts.

They seem to be okay together. As far as Steve knows they're back to some banter, getting along fine with their work routine. At least, he's not in Danny's face all the time, and he tries to focus on treating Danny as his partner of Five-0 and friend, and not as a team guy.

But somehow, Danny doesn't care that much. Steve picks up at the dent in their communication. It's strained, a bit forced maybe. And Danny doesn't complain and argue so often anymore. He just leaves Steve be and rolls with whatever Steve has going. And Steve can't work out what is off. He has never chewed so much on his bottom lip.

Steve can't believe how much courage this task is asking of him. And he doesn't seem to get his shit together because on the third night he still hasn't made the move.

It's so much easier to rig a door than to form the words, make Danny turn his head and actually say it out loud, right in his face when he's looking at him. Steve turns the sentences over and over in his head. And the more he creates possibilities about how to phrase it, the more he thinks he can't do it. What if Danny says 'no'? What then, huh? At least, without coming out and tell Danny right up to how he feels about him, there's still the hope that he could have a chance if he asked. But if he had Danny's negative answer, he's not sure if he could stomach that.

So, Steve keeps rehearsing sentences in his head: Do you want to go out for a beer? No, that's not obvious enough. I want to date you. Sounds like a threat. Great. Not working. Will you go out with me? Whoa, that makes it so real. Will you come on a date with me? God . . . Maybe less straightforward. How about dinner tonight? Shit. That can't be so difficult. Let's go on a date. No, wrong approach. I'd like to take you out. Better. But the word 'date' should be in there somewhere.

Steve blows out a soft stream of air through his nose. His neck is stiff again. Words. It's only about words. That shouldn't be so damn difficult. Seriously. His pulse rises to a constant high. It's unsettling.

Danny holds a high-resolution camera with a very expensive lens in front of his face. He adjusts the lens before he takes more pictures of the guys outside the gate. They are close to finding out how the girls are getting moved from one house to the next.

The only sound in the car is the constant, soft clicking of the camera trigger. Maybe he would get the words out by the end of their shift and actually have the guts to ask Danny out for a beer on Friday night. He doesn't have to go for broke and blurt all in one sentence. They could go for a beer, and he could go from there, test the waters and his flirting ability. He has earned his nickname 'Smooth Dog' for a reason. He could make that fly. Yes, he's positive he could make this work.

"If we can wrap up this case before Christmas, I'm going to take three days off," Danny says into the quiet of the car.

That information catches Steve so off guard he jerks hard. "Three days?" He exclaims with a rough voice. He has no control over how his words sound like an accusation. "Why would you want three days off?"

Steve doesn't look up from the screen where he has the live feed going of their hidden camera that surveys the entrance of the house. His face is hot. His eyes slide shut for a second.

"Why?" Danny smiles into the word as if Steve had made a joke. "Because it's Christmas next week," Danny replies with a shrug. "Grace stays with Rachel and Stan. I don't feel like spending the holidays with palm trees and beach life. I want to visit my folks to spend the holidays with them. I haven't seen them for months." Danny doesn't turn around. He's focused on taking pictures.

The shared information produces instantly a queasy feeling in Steve's stomach. His eyes snap up and he's frowning hard. "You want to go to Jersey for the holidays?"

Click. Click. Click. Danny doesn't even lower the camera. "Yes, that's what I've just said. I want to celebrate with my family. It's always a big happening, every family member goes on a pilgrimage to gather at my parents' house. It's important to us and I miss that. I miss them."

"And what about us?" Steve stills, his attention is parted between the task and Danny. He doesn't catch Danny's wincing and he doesn't realize he has just said 'us'. Steve watches a car approaching. "We've got movement. Kono, Chin are you in position?" He easily switches to work mode.

"All clear, boss." Kono's answer comes clear and sharp over the radio.

"What do you mean, what about us?" Danny's question has this genuine astonishment, even a slight wonder to it like he can't understand why Steve wants to know this.

"I thought you wanted to celebrate with the ohana, at Kono's place." Steve hides his yearning for the time he would love to spend together with Danny by pretending it's all about the ohana feeling.

Danny doesn't reply right away and Steve zooms in on the face on the screen. "Gotcha." The satisfaction vibrates as a low sound in his throat.

Danny shakes his head just a little and Steve knows, it's not the right time to discuss this but then Danny adds more.

"You'll be fine. Kono and Chin will understand why I'm with my family and you won't miss me, Steve. You don't like Christmas anyway and you said, Freddie has invited you to join his family on the holidays. You won't be alone." Danny explains rationally, twisting on his seat to follow the movements of their suspect on the small screen.

Steve has to drop the discussion. They are about to move in. And maybe he was stalling, using the moment to ignore the knot that is building up in his stomach. He can't really look over at Danny.

"Let's see how this case goes. I don't know yet if I can approve your leave."

Steve wants to deny Danny those three days just because he's so selfish and so damn starved, wishing to move on, to change the thing they have going. He only dares to fantasize about it and he craves to have more of Danny. But he knows he's being unfair. He knows it. But, of course, he won't keep Danny from going. He's not an asshole. But he has hoped they could fix some of that broken trust. He knows he's only saying those things because he already feels the endlessly long, long hours spread out of him without the safety of Danny's presence.

"Freddie just wants to make sure I won't stay alone during the holidays." Steve has hoped for a few good movies with beer, lots of good food and some couch cuddles with Danny at his place.

"If we can wrap up the case I don't care if you approve or grant me my days off. These are my official due days and I'll take them." The incredulous chuckle swings along with Danny's calm words. He overrules Steve's order with a click of his tongue, completely not respecting Steve as the head of the team.

"What if we get assigned to another case? What if terrorists plan to attack during Christmas? Or a chemical bomb pops up in a shopping mall and a mass panic spreads like a bush fire? You know well enough how holidays are a magnet for stupid, crazy stuff."

"You can call me if the moon is about to crash on Maui and threatens to create a Tsunami that's going to hit the Jersey shore. Other than that, I know you'll survive without me for three days." Danny finally places the camera in his lap and turns to look at Steve. "I need this, Steve. It's my family. I miss them." Danny's plea is masked but so there in a silent request to make Steve understand.

"And they celebrate Christmas the way you like." Steve tries to smile, tries not to look like someone who's going to be left behind. "Kamekona is great at organizing parties, though."

"Come on, Steve, I want cold weather. Maybe I get lucky at it snows. I want my ma's famous stew and my pop's awful eggnog. I want all the stuff we do during these special days, including the family arguments about how to decorate the tree and the complaints about the presents. I need no sand, no ocean, and no heat for this year's holidays. I want Jersey Christmas. The whole shebang. Don't turn this into another stupid argument, please?"

Steve caves, chewing on the inside of his cheek. "You want to get away from me, don't you?"

The camera twitches with the way Steve's question bounces off Danny's frame in the darkness of the car. Steve waits for Danny's reaction. He waits for Danny's way to fend off his stupid question. To assure him he's going to miss him. But nothing comes and when it does it's not what Steve has gambled for.

"We always argue. You drop by and you complain until you leave again. At least, it feels that way for the last two weeks. As you said the other day, I'm no fun to be around. I know, you explained it to me. We said we're sorry for the way we've said all those hurtful things. But it's better this way believe me. I'm not good company during Christmas without my family. And I really miss my folks."

"You're deflecting my question." Steve's focus is on the screen in his lap but his heart almost beats out of his chest.

Danny clears his throat and Steve tightens his jaw steeling himself for what's coming.

"Yes, I need a few days away from you. I don't want to jeopardize my work relationship with you. I'm just off. It's like I don't know what you need from me, what I can give you to have a chilled evening. It's like we can't relax in each other's company. That's, uh . . . we're great partners. And I want this to stay like this. Maybe . . . maybe we have to hang out with different people for a while. We get on each other's nerves, and I don't like it. It hurts, okay? I like you too much, so . . . "

Steve hopes his voice won't fail him. "I didn't mean the things I said, okay? I'm really sorry it makes you feel as if you have to go away to get some distance between us. That's not what I want. Sometimes, I forget you're not a team guy. It's how close I am to you. I like to be around you, with you . . ."

God, he gives away too much. Danny has become a center Steve has no words to describe how much he needs this. Love has never struck him. And he has no textbook to follow any procedure. He needs Danny to know how he makes him feel. Steve rubs his forehead with a fist.

"Look, Steve, that's a nice thing to say. But I don't know how to translate the constant complaints into compliments. You get scared when a man doesn't act like a fearless warrior all the time. I don't need to sleep at the beach or in the jungle, huddled up in a wet blanket just to prove I'm tough. You don't need to like my private side. I just ask you to accept it without rubbing my weakness in my face all the time you're hanging out with me."

"I never said you're weak or that I don't like your private side." Steve presses out. "Give me some slack, okay? I haven't found my footing yet and I've been hanging out with savages and the toughest guys on the planet for years. I guess I need more time to settle into being not in the Navy anymore." Steve wants Danny to understand and says things he hasn't even processed for himself. "I can help you decorate the tree for Grace?" Steve's hot and he's grateful for the lack of light in the car.

"Thanks, Steve but no. Next year maybe. I don't know. It's not important anymore." Danny picks up the camera again. The strain in his voice makes Steve's lips go thin turning into one desperate line. "If you don't want to approve my leave because of whatever reason when there's no major big case I will just leave. Do whatever you think it's necessary. I won't hang out the team to dry. You know that. You will be fine."

Steve gets the impression the temperature has fallen a few degrees. He shivers. And he knows it's not because it's cold but he still can't admit to himself why it freaks him out knowing Danny will be so far away for a few days.

"You're not looking to get your old job at NWPD back, are you?" The sudden thought contains a fear Steve tries to control with all his strength.

Danny's shoulders slump forward. "Jesus, Steve, it's only a Christmas break. I will be back in three days. Grace lives here. Of course, I'm not looking for a job as a cop in Jersey. What are you thinking? What is this? I'm loyal. I wouldn't do that!" Danny sounds shocked. "I'm your partner, for crying out loud. Don't you think I would discuss this with you if I had such a major change in mind?"

"I don't know, Danny. I learn that you keep a lot from me." Steve's so hurt he says the most stupid things.

"Now, you're being ridiculous, and pouting doesn't suit you."

The discussion gets interrupted with the black van driving up to the entrance gate. When the back doors get pulled open and three young girls are being rudely hauled out of the van, Steve gives the order to move in.

"Guys, this is it. Move in."


That night Steve can't sleep. Like most nights. But it's worse.

He also struggles more than usual to fall asleep the next night. They have wrapped up the case. It's only a couple of days until it's Christmas. Danny has called him today. He's packing. His flight to Newark will take off tomorrow at 4:45 pm. He will land in the early morning at Newark Liberty International Airport where his dad will wait for him to pick him up and take him home.

Of course, Steve hasn't said 'no'. They have been at this new beach bar called Duke's Waikiki Barefoot Bar with the team to celebrate the successful work on the case and to wish Danny an early Merry Christmas. Steve hopes he hasn't been too clingy, too much in Danny's personal space. And of course, he hasn't had the courage to ask him out. But he can't shake the feeling he's about to lose something he's not ready to let go of. Although he doesn't really have it. And Danny just leaves for a short vacation.

Steve's not okay.

He forces his focus out onto the dark mass of the ocean. He knows he's going to follow Danny. He has already booked his flight. He needs to make sure Danny's fine. Seeing Danny silence the noise inside him. But Steve also knows, he needs to see if Danny has someone on the mainland who is worth taking the effort to fly for over nine hours, one way. Maybe it's not only his family he misses.

Steve's jealous and hopeless in love and anxious for being too late. He is going to take a lot of risks by flying over to Jersey but that's the only way he knows how to tackle life. He's lovesick, the bad kind and he has no idea how to court a great guy like Danny. No freaking clue how to win him over.

Steve sits in the battered wooden chair close to the ocean with a glass of water waiting until the sun's light is going to pierce that darkness so he can head out for a swim.

Danny wants to spend the official holidays away from him and Hawaii. He knows Danny misses his family. Steve envies the strong bond Danny has with his parents and his siblings. He has Aunt Deb and Mary, of course, but they won't make it to Hawaii over Christmas. He would have wished Danny would have mentioned how much it would suck to be away from Hawaii, his ohana, and especially Steve.

Steve worries about how Danny might feel when he's back home. Danny would never just jump ship to go back to work with NWPD. He has assured him he wouldn't leave. Grace lives in Hawaii. But Steve's thoughts are drenched in worries and this fear to lose, to have messed up his chance because Danny has admitted he needs to get away from Steve for a few days.

He doesn't know how to make Danny understand that he was the center of his world. He has done such a bad job in letting Danny know how much he needs those weekends and evenings at Danny's place. The world outside the Navy seems only to make sense when he's together with Danny. Not even his team guys and brothers can silence that noise in his head. Steve knows, they hear the noise too. Each of them needs someone on the outside to keep them grounded and sane.

Steve has never believed he would ever need anyone. He has been a firm believer in getting it done with the support of his friends and brothers. And besides, there hasn't been a single person who would have matched his expectations. Until Danny.

Steve's still kind of shocked how successfully Danny and his cocky, broad-shouldered, loud, ignorant toward any military knowledge attitude still sweeps him off his feet. The self-esteem this man emanates takes Steve's breath away. Danny's not afraid of any damn thing. He has started to fucking knit to help his daughter. Warriors don't always wear a shield and a sword. For the life of him, Steve hasn't calculated the possibility to ever meet someone like Danny.

And on top of everything, to make the whole messed up situation even worse, Danny doesn't meet Steve's expectations at all. He outruns them by miles and outperforms every detail Steve has ever imagined. Danny exceeds any benchmark. He's a dreamboat. And Steve's not sure when he has messed his chances with Danny.

He drinks the glass of water and works hard to suppress the fear. The unwelcomed truth is that Steve is no match for Danny.

Steve forces the water down his throat trying to wash the sharp pain away that got stuck there.


"You really think, this is a good idea, boss?" Kono sounds skeptical. "Danny wants a timeout from work – "

"He won't even see me." Steve presses the heel of his hands into his eyes. He has no patience to discuss anything private with Kono.

"Boss, why then fly 10 hours to sit across the street to watch Danny so he won't see you? That's even creepy for you."

"Kono, please. I just need to know if you and Chin can manage the office on your own for two or three days. I must ask you. I can't just leave. It's only for three days tops."

"You know we can, boss. Chin and I will keep the flag flying. No worries on this front. And don't worry about the Governor. She's out for her own Christmas holidays by tomorrow afternoon. But I have to remind you, Danny is taking the holidays off to be with his family. He wants to be alone with his family. That's the reason he wanted to go in the first place."

Steve wants to hit the desktop with the flat of his hands, loud with a nasty thump but he keeps his limbs in control. "What's that supposed to mean?" He asks fake-controlled and calm.

Kono sighs, watching him with a twisted understanding in her too young eyes. She sits down in slow motion keeping her gaze on Steve. "I know you hate such kind of talks but to be honest, Chin and I are quite fed up with how you guys handle the tension that seems to have put up camp between the two of you. I don't know what's going on but try to settle it."

Steve studies his fingernails. "That's why I want to fly over. Maybe it's easier to talk when we're away from Hawaii. I don't know. It's my fault he wants to be alone."

Steve feels disorientated, losing his grip on what's coming next. So far, he hasn't been at work without Danny by his side. Jersey was no distance but to Steve, it feels like Danny could just as well be on the moon. He hates to sense this hollow space where Danny has used to be and he's only gone for a few hours.

Kono keeps dishing out unwanted, much-needed advice. "I know that you know that Danny needs this timeout. We've had a crazy year. No one really has had enough downtime to recuperate, regroup and sleep more than five hours in a row. Don't go against Danny's wish. You could need a break, too, boss. You came straight out of the Navy and you haven't had one day off. It shows. Sorry, to be so blunt but you look exhausted."

Steve stands up. "I'm fine. Nothing I haven't been trained for." He can't with how Kono protects Danny. As if he was a danger to Danny's equilibrium. "Does he want to apply for a job?" He reins in the volume of his voice. "Why are you so keen on keeping me here?" Steve braces his hands against the desk, supporting his upper body, feeling weary and tired as if he has made the list for the circus five days in a row.

Kono stands up and comes standing right in front of him, her arms braced against the desktop just like Steve, staring straight at him, eyes dark but filled with understanding. "Danny's with his family, celebrating Christmas. He's not looking for a new job. If you need to go? Go. But in a very rare case that Danny spots you and confronts you, you better start talking about why you're really have gone against Danny's wish. Meaning, you need a bulletproof argument. No hiding behind ass-jokes and lame banter anymore, boss."

Steve stays quiet. A pencil catching his entire focus and he waits until Kono leaves the office. She's way too young to talk with such a serious, wise tone. And what the fuck has she meant with a 'bulletproof argument'? No one knows. How does she know how he feels about Danny?

And maybe he just wants to sit with Danny in one of his favorite bars, Many's maybe, and have a beer or two.

Chapter Text

Danny wakes up to the scent of Jersey. The slightly left open window lets in some of the cold, crisp winter air. The constant traffic has the air smelling faintly of exhaust fumes, but there's also the scent of possible snow and somewhere in between he also tastes the Atlantic Ocean on his tongue.

Danny's home.

He lies in bed. He's warm and comfy. He can sleep in as long as he wants. He's awake though but enjoys the luxury to nestle deeper into the bedding. He rubs his face over the pillow and just relishes the feeling of being with his family. But his mind wanders off ending up in the same corner since he has landed in New Jersey. No, that's not entirely true. His mind has been wandering off into the same corner the moment he has left his house in Hawaii.

He listens to the sound coming from the kitchen. His mother is preparing breakfast. The smell of freshly brewed coffee wafts high up the stairs right through the door left ajar to his old room.

Danny loves to wake up to the sound of a house full of people. His people. He needs this but it throws him the way he feels off, not feeling the vibes entirely in the way he has imagined. And, also, this constant dull throb in his chest doesn't want to die down.

His beloved streets of New Jersey are right at the doorstep. He should feel fine. Great even and jumping with joy because he's back home. It's freaking Christmas tomorrow and his family hasn't forgotten a single thing. There's a tree, the house is bending with decorations, baked cookies are piling up in the kitchen. There's lots of alcohol, his mom has great dinner plans for the festive days and he gets all the love and affection he has missed.

His people are doing fine. They're healthy, they look fantastic, especially his mom. Matty has become a freaking beau, sweet and handsome looking. Loaded as fuck and seriously successful. Danny has talked with him last night. They'll meet later today. Christmas shopping is on the list, just as is having a coffee with Christmas toppings and some unhealthy, fatty, too sugary pastries while strolling through the crowded streets. Danny wants to inhale so much of everything at the same time.

He should be ecstatic.

His dad has had tears in his eyes when he has come to pick him up at the airport yesterday. He hasn't let go of him for a solid minute. His dad is normally not into hugging the stuffing out of him, but something has made him do it and Danny has enjoyed every second of it.

But on the ride home, Danny has felt a strange melancholy. It worries him. He loves to be home. But something is missing. He hasn't been prepared for how his hands always feel kind of empty.

Danny has thought being away would help. But it has made everything worse. He loves to be back in Jersey. But every moment, however small or big, makes him understand one thing with glaring clarity. He cannot outrun this.

His heart can't calm down. The moment he has boarded that plan until this very minute there is one thought in his mind that can't be drowned out by anything.


Danny groans and rolls over onto his back. He buries his nose in the fluffy bedcover. Why?

Why does he have to feel this way? Why does he have to fall for the toughest, emotionally stunted guy in freaking Hawaii? Steve's an animal in everything. He's too focused, too handsome, too trained, too much 'yo brah, howzit'?

Danny can read Steve quite well but in one field he pats in the dark coming up empty every single time. Emotions. Steve and honest, raw, admitted emotions like being into someone, falling for a guy. Being interested in a life together, living together. Downright relationship stuff. Does he do this? Is Steve even interested? Are romance and love even a thing in Steve's world? Does he want this? Craves it?

Sweet Jesus. Danny can't tell shit. He has no idea. He has tried to find out about it but it's like studying woodlouses. He doesn't get them either.

Brothers are touchy-feely. That much Danny knows. He sees this every time Steve meets Freddie. They hug. The grab c'mere-I-wanna-squeeze-you kind of tight embrace happens every time. And sometimes, when they're high on adrenaline they give each other rough hair-tousling that ends with an affectionate kiss to a sweaty mop of hair. Danny has seen all of this. They're brothers, bonded for a lifetime and they also love as fiercely as they fight and honor their code.

But that's not the love Danny wonders about. And that's definitely not what Danny feels for Steve. And that's where the problems start.

Because when Danny thinks of Steve, he wonders how Steve's wet tongue would feel in his mouth. How Steve would react when he would press a hairy strong thigh between Steve's legs to make him open up. Danny wonders about how the hollow of Steve's corded throat tastes like on his tongue. And Danny thinks about how he breathes in the scent that is tucked between Steve's strong shoulder blades while the heat of Steve's ass clenches down on him. And that's . . . not what he should think about right now.

Danny groans low and has his eyes firmly shut. Oh fuck.

He's still too much chicken shit to just turn around on the couch and face Steve. Ask him if he's the only one here to get those vibes or if Steve is getting them too, and why aren't they making out already? God, he could end up with a broken jaw. But it would be totally worth it. But again, chicken shit right here.

It's hot under the thick, fluffy comforter but Danny doesn't move. He needs to analyze and to feel, to tick off boxes in his head because so far there has never been enough time to assess all the tiny, big, and casual masked moments with Steve that have piled up in his mental Steve file. Because Steve's always a step too close, always right beside him, annoying the shit out of him with how he tries to make Danny believe, he's got everything under control and just likes to hang out at Danny's place, with Danny, like seven days a week.

Steve wants to make Danny believe he's fine, always fine. When he's anything but. Also, when his hands shake, and when his eyes fly into every corning of Danny's house when too little light illuminates the darker corners. And Danny sees how Steve wants to hide that.

But Danny also knows Steve might not realize how he follows Danny around when they're off duty. Steve presses into Danny's personal space and gives him a hard time with everything just for good measure. And Steve confuses the living daylight out of Danny, especially when the mask falls for a moment.

Danny has gotten some glimpses of what lies beneath the bright, goofy smile, the jokes, and the hard back slaps and biceps squeezing, and the lingering press of Steve's hand wrapped around Danny's neck.

Danny has gazed into the confusion and the hollowed-out space in Steve's eyes before he has pulled up the wall again, locking him out.

Yes, Steve hangs out always at his place. True. But come on, who wants to live in such a mausoleum that is his dad's home? Steve has the streak of an earthworm when it comes to the skill of how to decorate a home to turn it into a warm, cozy, and safe place. And Steve doesn't care. As long as he has the ocean right at his doorstep and enough food for the next meal, he's fine.

And maybe Danny just imagines things because he wishes them to be true. And so far, Steve has made one thing clear, how much he wants Danny to behave as if he's one of his fearless, strong, and resilient comrades in arms. Steve wants him to be kind of a brother. And Danny's sure it would make things easier because Steve would know way better how to deal with Danny.

And there's just so much Danny can take when his best friend and secret crush complains ongoingly how weak, pathetic and no fun Danny is. Danny has had to end it. That's not a corner he wants to strand with Steve. They can't just keep nagging and fake argue all the damn time. It's so tiring and so not what Danny wants.

Danny crawls out from under the warm bedcover and swings his legs out of the bed to get up. He sits, hunched over, with his hands in his bed-mused hair, and orders his thoughts to just stop doing this self-destructing exercise.

He knows he's been too hard on Steve. He has been hurt by Steve's complaints and he just couldn't take it anymore. And instead of talking to Steve he has kind of kicked him out. And this is something he must fix again. He has been sulking and licking his wounds like he can't take punches from Steve. And that's just pathetic. Danny has been raised better. Steve needs him and Danny is still learning to detect the cries of help Steve sends out in this weird form.

Danny knows he also needs the time off and away from Steve to get this mess in his head straightened out. He needs to talk to Steve and let him know how he feels about him. Get things cleared up and maybe it will be easier or the most challenging thing ever to keep working with Steve once he has confessed his love to him.

Danny has no fucking clue.

He sighs and reaches for the phone instead to check the messages. No texts from Kono. She's Danny's back-up. She has the task to watch out for Steve. She's Danny's eyes and ears back home because a small voice in Danny's head tells him his boy won't be okay. Because where would he go to spend his evenings, especially with Christmas around the corner when Danny's not around? But Steve still has his ohana which is looking out for him.

Danny tries to calm the nervous wave in his stomach. Steve can look after himself. Jesus. But he also knows the role he plays in Steve's life. Danny's his anchor and the guideline to follow in all cop-related topics. And also, for the private sector, he's Steve's guide rail. Danny knows that but he wishes things would be different, much different. He wants to be all of this and so much more if Steve only would let him.

Danny juts out his bottom lip, exhales loudly, standing up like he's having a plan. It's a hot shower and then his ma's famous breakfast buffet with different flavored pancakes and porridge and gallons of strong coffee. He doesn't want to eat healthy over Christmas. He wants to taste his childhood and happy times.

Danny ends up on the couch, stuffed full and sleepy again. His dad sits in the recliner with his feet propped up. And it's the world's best feeling to lie around in soft sweatpants, a warm, cozy hoodie, and wool socks, watching a baseball game with his dad while his ma plans the big dinner for Christmas. Bridget will drop by later with Eric to get ready for the big grocery shopping tour.

Danny's at peace for a moment, feeling good. His lovesick heart is beating along and there's no text from Kono. So far, everything seems to be alright.

"Daniel, come sit with me for a moment." His mother says walking into the living room. She looks at him with a fond but determined expression on her face.

Danny can't imagine what could be wrong. What has happened between the light breakfast discussion and the silent happiness of him and his dad watching the game?

"Ma? Why are you looking at me like this? Something wrong? Do I need to ring up some old buddies of mine at NWPD for an emergency shopping tour? Is the main ingredient missing? Or have some presents caught fire?" Danny jokes and smiles over to his mom. His satisfied body is still nestled between the throw pillows and the warm blanket.

His mom's smile widens at that. "Christmas is safe, no, nothing like that. But we need to talk. You and me, Daniel. Come, sit with me." His beautiful-looking mother doesn't elaborate and that gets Danny all itchy.

"Why what's up?" Danny grunts and ignores how his stomach kind of drops. He presses his head into the fluffy pillow and keeps his eye on the baseball game playing on the TV.

"Let's talk in the kitchen and get up. I want to look at you when we have our little chit-chat." His mom kind of gives him a wink and a hidden smile before she turns around to walk back to where she has come from.

Danny stares bewildered after her retreating back. What is the pressing matter? Has Eric done some stupid shit? Has he gotten a girl pregnant? This immature jerk? Danny would freak the hell out if he had done such a stupid thing for Christmas. His eyes snap up when his dad throws over a few words without looking up from the game on the TV.

"You better go, son. You know how she gets when she sounds like this." His dad pats Danny's feet under the blanket with an amused and sympathetic streak around his eyes. He smiles and just leaves Danny to his fate.

"I've made hot chocolate with your favorite marshmallows, Daniel." His mom calls over from the kitchen.

"I'm still full of breakfast, Ma!"

"It's almost Christmas. Hot chocolate is always on the menu." His sweet, lovely, caring mother singsongs a bit louder so Danny can't miss her.

"Okay, okay. I'm coming!"

His mother shoves a full mug of his favorite hot chocolate topped with his favorite little marshmallows swimming in the brown, sweet liquid over the table. "Sit down and get comfortable, Sweetheart."

Danny heaves a sigh. There is no escape from his mom's inquisitions. Yesterday, it has been Bridget and today it's him. They always joke about the annual review meeting. Mom's talks are feared because she wants the truth, and nothing goes by her. So, you better sit and answer or you'll be sitting till the evening, getting grilled until she knows why you're sad, annoyed, depressed, or wearing the same sweater as last year. Danny stirs carefully around the small white fluffy clouds swimming in the hot chocolate.

And he has so hoped he could keep his game face on.

But the fact is, his mom knows his game face and a game face always signals trouble otherwise the game face wouldn't be needed. And Danny always falls for it, hoping he could fool his mom. But it never works.

"What is it, Ma?" He gives in and capitulates. He's afraid of what she might going to ask. He's barely ready to admit it to himself and he's not sure if he wants to talk with his mother about it.

"Why did you come, Daniel?" She sits down and takes his hand in hers. "Don't get me wrong, Sweetheart. I love to have you with us on Christmas. But I know you, Daniel. I know my child. So don't try to sneak around, trying to hide it from me. And don't look at me like that. You've come because you need your family. Either you're homesick or lovesick. Which is it?"

God, she's good.

She tilts her head and eyes him with the same expression as when he was five and hit his knee so badly it bled. And it twists something inside Danny's chest. Moms have that look that undoes the toughest guy. Danny gives in but not totally.

"I've missed you, guys," he breathes onto the hot chocolate to cool it down, not looking up. His cheeks are red. His mom still holds on to his hand. It gets awkward. "Can I have my hand back, Ma?"

"Mm-hmm," his mother studies him with eyes as wise as an old shaman before she lets go of his hand.

Danny tries all tricks to look relaxed, at ease and grins up at his beautiful mother and tries not to shuffle on the chair. Her gaze says clearly 'don't underestimate me'. And Danny's shoulders slump a tiny bit because deep inside, he wants his mother to know. She would make everything better. She knows what to do or at least gives him the advice to move on. The burning ache in Danny's heart would subside once his mother's words would ignite a new hope.

"I know you've missed us, Darling, but that's not why you hang out in your sweatpants on the couch, demanding homemade cookies, my stew, and grandma's lasagna. Last night, you were entirely happy watching old tearjerkers with your dad. You're a grown man but you behave like you're a little boy again excited for Christmas. Okay? That's not what you usually do. My alarm bells are going off whenever I look at you." His mother uses her gentle voice.

Danny knows that she knows he needs this. He will be forever thankful for his mom's tender heart and her wisdom. He waits, nervous again because he's about to pour his heart out to his mother like he used to do as a teenage boy.

"Now, why don't you try again?"

As Danny has predicted. There is no escape.

"I'm not okay." He murmurs into the hot chocolate.

"Yeah, that's not really breaking news to me, Daniel. I know that already. Why don't you tell me why you're not okay?" His mother looks so kind, so sweet and innocent even, but Danny has learned to never underestimate her steely backbone with which she holds the family together.

His shoulders slump even more, he put his chin in his hands, staring at the funny wooden pattern of the table. "I'm in love with the wrong person, okay?"

"Lovesick, then. If you tell me who this person is I could help to clear the emotional mess." His mother goes to pour herself a cup of coffee and sits back down with the steaming beverage in her hand, obviously planning to sit a while longer.

Danny needs her advice but it's still his mom and how to start talking with her about Steve? And that he loves him?

"Who's it? Someone from work? Is that the reason why you flew all the way over? To get some distance?"

"Am I so easy to read?" Danny was almost offended. He has thought he has his face under better control.

"I'm your mother, Sweetheart. You can't hide anything from me."

"Promise me not to freak out when I tell you." Danny feels the blood rushing to his face. His cheeks are burning seconds later with how intimidating it still is to realize how much in love he is with Steve.

He's shy and holy shit, now it's the time to confess, to come out to his mom, like just telling her his heartache gets caused by a muscled, good-looking, six-foot-something guy. But his mom again beats him to it.

"It's Steve, isn't it?" She reaches for his arm, tugs a bit, and Danny gives in and lets her hug his forearm with both hands.

Danny feels his face redden even more. And that answers enough for his mom.

"It has to be him. You always talk about him and somehow, he's always at your place when I call. You have a very special tone when you talk about Steve. I know you love him. Are you already together? Did you have your first serious argument?"

His mom squeezes his arm with so much affection and understanding it makes it hard for Danny to remember he's a grown-ass man and not a small boy. He can't fucking break down like a lovesick teenager. He should do much better.

"He, uh, no. We're not together. I mean . . . no, he doesn't know that, uh, that I'm into him. And we, uh, we fight all the time. I think it's a thing we have. He's Special Forces, mom. He's elite material. He's a SEAL and he can't really cope with normal life. His brain is wired to life-threatening action all the time. Doing normal stuff like cooking or folding laundry scares him. So many things scare him, and he rather let people skin him alive than to ever admit that he's scared."

"That's quite extreme to say it like this, Daniel. But I have a hunch where you're going with this."

Danny sucks in a deep breath. "As for me, I love unmanly things like flowers, plants, and a cozy home. And doing crazy stuff like knitting and buying yarn because I have a daughter and she's into that stuff. I love no actions over the weekends, and I don't mind being a normal person when I'm off duty. That freaks him out. I'm afraid, we're not a match. I really tried but he can't stand my way of living. I don't even know if – "

"My boy, have you ever tried to talk to Steve? Tell him how you're feeling?"

"No, come on, Ma, he always complains and mocks my way of life when he's at my place. He thinks I should man up and I don't want to. I'm a father and I don't need to prove how badass I am while I cook or watch a game on TV. I'm scared to talk to him. I wished I could give him more, but I can't change who I am. I'm no SEAL. I'm not military and never will be. So, what's the point?"

"He might surprise you. All I know is that he's a soldier and they come back broken. Maybe – "

"You watch too many romantic movies, Ma, where broken heroes are saved by the one and only and they live happily ever after. I can't imagine that Steve would want this from me."

His mom laughs with this sweet little noise she makes. "Danny, you're a grown man but you sit in my kitchen, pouring your heart out about a man you love but you're not even willing to tell him how you feel. How can that not be an issue? Take him on a date and you know how to deal with the situation. Maybe he wants you to make him less scared but he has no idea how to ask you."

"And then what? Trying to find a new job because my boss isn't pleased how I'm lusting over him if it doesn't work out?"

"Why do you always have to be so dramatic?" His mother pushes herself up from the chair and goes to the sink to rinse out the cup.

"It's just how it is, okay? There's nothing romantic in there. I told Steve we need a break." It hurts to even say it out loud. His mom has her back turned to him and can't see how Danny blinks rapidly.


"And he hangs out at my place all the time but I don't make him feel okay. He's not okay with me. He nags all the time, and I don't get why he can't just accept that I'm this kind of man. I'm not a warrior or a superhero. That's his genre and he always wants to pull me into his world. But I can't."

The sudden wave of sadness is huge. Danny rubs a hand over his chin. "I don't want to risk the friendship we have. We're great at work together. And if that's all I get, then that's how it is." He ends and looks at the hot chocolate. He has lost all appetite.

"Have you ever thought about the fact that he might be afraid that he doesn't fit into your world? With how he is? That you might think he is too wild? Maybe that scares him the most?" His mom faces him again.

"What do you mean?" Danny says shocked with how he hasn't thought about that possibility.

"Maybe he's afraid he won't match your expectations? He loves action. He's trained to serve and be the best of the best. How to switch that off? I have no idea. But I would say it means something that he always spends time at your place. He chooses you, Daniel. Has that proof ever occurred to you? And maybe, Steve has no other approach than to nag and poke hoping you would adjust to fit into his style of getting through the day. It makes him less broken when you are crazy together."

Danny stares wide-eyed at his mom. There must be a special streak of wisdom that gets awakened when a woman gives birth to a child. Why does his mother always know what to reply when he's in a dump and his feelings have abandoned him?

"No shit." He mutters not daring to hope what it could mean if that was the case.

"When is your PT? How's your knee by the way?" His mother wears this secret smile. Mission accomplished

"2 pm. Carl is doing a great job. It feels better already after only one session. That's another reason why I've come to stay with you. My knee."

"I know, but you also have physical therapist in Hawaii." His mother can't be fooled. "Will Matty go with you this afternoon?"

"Yes, we need to go shopping. Matt wants to buy more presents. You know how he loves to spoil us."

"Okay, don't be late. We're having dinner at eight. And we need some more decoration done until tomorrow. I need you guys to fix the chain of lights over the front door. Some lights only flicker. You have to look at it, okay? And the tree needs more ornaments. Bridget will sleep over with her boys and Stella arrives tomorrow around noon. We need to get the rooms ready. And Aunt Ella and Uncle David will arrive around midday. Don't stroll too much, Daniel, okay? I need you both here to help me with the preparations."

"You got it, Ma," Danny slides from the chair and puts the mug in the sink. It's empty. He has forced it down because his mom has made it especially for him. He turns and kisses his mother on the cheek. "Thanks for being the best mom in the world."

"Mm-hmm," she holds him back with soapy wet hands. "Promise me to call Steve. He might be in a bad place. He's an ex-soldier, holidays are always hard on them."

His mom always has to top it. Tear glisten in her eyes. For her, Steve's a boy with emotional pain, lost on Christmas day with no one to celebrate with. She can be dramatic too, but her heart is the most giving one Danny knows.

"He has his ohana, Ma. He's not alone. The guys will look after him. I told them so. I put Kono on Steve-watch just to be sure. But, okay. I'll call him. I promise."

His phone rings while he's brushing his teeth. "Kono? What's up? Do you have a case? Do I need to get back asap?" Danny answers breathlessly with a toothpaste foam smeared chin.

"Hey, Danny, no. I just . . . look I just want to give you a heads up."

"About what?" Danny feels his neck tensing up.

"Steve's on his way to you."

"Come again?" Spit mixed with toothpaste drops onto the floor. Danny holds on to the toothbrush while he talks to Kono. The mix of pure delight, horror, and nervousness makes him sway on his feet. "Steve's flying over? To Jersey?"

"Look, I've pinged his phone. I can tell you his exact location once he's landed but yes, he's on his way. He'll land in about an hour."

The line is silent except Danny's loud nose-breathing. And he's sure Kono hears his heart thumping twice as fast.

"Danny? Are you still there?"

"In an hour?" Danny whispers with a rigid spine. Now, he starts to panic. "Why the hell haven't you called me earlier?" He swallows and coughs terribly with the mint taste in the back of his throat.

Kono exhales like she has expected this question. "There's no need in getting you all nervous and unsteady, letting you wait for ten hours until Steve would have landed. And before you even ask. Yes, I have talked to him but you know how impossible it is to reason with him when he has his mind set on something. He needs to come to you, make sure you're okay."

Danny flops down on the toilet lid. "You know it's not about to check up if I'm okay."

"I know," Kono said with the same wisdom woven around her words like his mom has expressed earlier. "He needs to see you to stay on course."


"I'll get back to you, Danny. And if you meet, talk, okay? The tension is thick enough and I and Chin would be pleased and calmed knowing you guys are doing okay . . . together without fighting all the time." The line gets disconnected. Kono hasn't even waited for him to reply.

Danny stares at his phone. His shirt is ruined with toothpaste foam stains on it. Steve is on his way to Jersey? Landing in one hour? Snow, and Christmas, and Steve? How has Kono phrased it? He needs to see you to stay on course.

Danny almost tastes the hot chocolate on his tongue his stomach twists so hard.

Chapter Text

Danny fails to concentrate on the workout. His knee is much better thanks to Carl, his personal trainer. He's doing a great job. And thanks to the rest he has given his leg propped up and with his hurt knee cooled. But he can't help how he breaks the concentration. His look flies over to the area with the big glass front doors to check every guy and gal who enters the gym.

"You okay, Danny? Are you expecting someone?" Carl asks him with a chin dip and a short glance to the door, handing him a cold bottle of Gatorade. "You're clearly somewhere else with how you are not paying attention to the exercises."

Danny doesn't miss the smile ghosting over the personal trainer's lips but also the furrowed look he shoots him. And there is this off-vibe, and the slight offense Carl takes in Danny's lack of concentration. Danny can tell this good-looking, ripped, clean-cut guy struggles with how he doesn't impress Danny enough to keep his eyes on him.

Danny reaches for the Gatorade. "Actually, I'm not really waiting. I'm just scared they'll find me here. I'm not ready to meet my work issues when I'm on holiday." He answers lightly, faking a good mood while the heaviness in his gut turns cold.

It's none of Carl's business what occupies Danny that much he can't really stay in the moment with how to bend his knee.

He gulps down the cold, refreshing drink, trying not to swallow it down the wrong tube with how his body jerks the next second. He has just spotted a blue ball cap and a very familiar shape sitting outside on a freaking bench across the street in freezing temperatures as if he waits for the goddamn ice cream truck to drive by.

"Hey, thanks, Carl. I appreciate what you've done for me on such short notice." Danny pulls his entire focus back to his personal trainer.

His heart beats wildly and he breaks out in a sweat instantly. It costs him a high amount of inner strength to chat a bit more. Danny knows Carl has the hots for him but he's not up for any of this. No flirting. No hidden gestures. He's just not interested.

It's hardly possible to compete with a wild, dark-haired guy who's built like a brick house and has his grip on any gun perfected. And Danny kind of could get off by only looking at Steve's steady hands hugging as sidearm like he's been born with it. So, Carl ain't got nothing on Steve and Danny feels sorry for how hard the guy tries.

There has been a life before Steve, but Danny senses the lack of colors and the missing of strong emotions when he imagines a life with no Steve in it. He doesn't want to deal with a life where there's no strutting, arrogant, annoyingly self-confident SEAL in it who has brought back a weird, wild and rough intensity of passion into Danny's life.

"I'm happy to help, Danny. I know your body from the time you busted that knee and tore your ACL. I'm always there for a friend. Keep up the exercises and you're as good as new. Don't neglect stretching and the specific workout for the stabilizer muscles of the knee. Your knee can't afford it."

"Will do, Carl, and thanks again for your time. I really appreciate it. And sorry for being so distracted. This time of the year it's always tough with how the stress level rises." Danny grabs Carl's outstretched calloused hand and gives him a good, strong shake.

Danny watches Carl walking over to the staff room where he's likely getting ready for the next client. He likes the guy. He's handsome and an extreme athlete seriously disciplined and about the same height as Danny. When he has been living in Jersey, he might have been interested in flirting and checking out his chances. Carl has been shyer the first time they have met for PT.

Danny's not up for any game anymore. It's time to come clean with Steve. Danny checks the bench again. Yes, Steve's outside, sitting close to the entrance to the park on the other side of the street. He doesn't wear much to protect his body against the freezing cold winter air. And that puzzles Danny even more. Steve knows how to organize and keep prepared for any situation. Everything about this picture turns Danny's inner alarm system on the highest level. Something's wrong.

First, why is Steve here? Second, why does he look as if he had just grabbed a too-thin windbreaker and drove to the airport to jump onto the next flight to Jersey? Third, why is he sitting outside instead of coming into the gym where Danny is? Because Danny knows he's been spotted.

Everything about this situation is terribly unsettling and very irritating. Danny doesn't want to admit why he hesitates to just jog over to Steve and slap his shoulder, telling him what an idiot he is for sitting outside. Something about the balance he senses between him and Steve is so fragile right this moment that he has to evaluate every step carefully.

In his mind though, Danny pulls Steve to his feet and herds him inside into the warmth. He wants to feed Steve hot food and wrap him in a blanket to warm him up. Steve looks like he's freezing. But then again, he's a SEAL and would take horrible offense if Danny undermined his ability to adapt to some minor change of the surrounding temperature. Danny knows Steve doesn't even feel the cold. He's too freaking trained and he would endure hell twenty times over just to prove he could.

That's one of the reasons why Danny loves him so fiercely. The sour strong taste at the back of his throat starts to hurt. He shouldn't have downed the whole bottle of Gatorade.

But, instead of doing something, Danny tries to sort the mess his heart sets loose. His phone vibrates lying on the towel and shakes him from his stupor. He picks up and instantly relaxes.


"Did you expect Steve to call you?"

"Yeah, something like that, I guess? I don't know." Danny exhales, hoping Kono doesn't hear how his voice trembles. His heart goes a mile a minute.

"You okay, Danny?" Kono's voice tells him already that she knows.

"I don't think so. It's just . . . God. Kono, I see him, okay? He's right here, in Jersey. I know you said he's on his way, but it freaks me out because he's in the eye-sight of my goddamn gym!" Danny hisses dealing with a twinge of heartache and a serious case of nerves.

He even has his back turned to the front door still itchy about Steve's freaking ninja skills. Steve might sneak closer to eavesdrop without being seen and he could be listening from a corner without Danny knowing he has moved.

"I wanted to give you a heads-up," Kono pauses meaningfully, "but you sound off. I mean, okay, Steve's there with you. Why are you still talking to me? What are you waiting for? Why don't you call him?"

"Something doesn't feel right. I'm glad you warned me that he's coming. I might have freaked out completely otherwise. Something is stopping me from just walking over to him."

"What's up with you? Why?"

"He wants me to see him, Kono, okay? That's up with me. It's a warning, or I don't know. But it's not how Steve behaves, and I listen to my gut right now, okay? He sits outside on a bench. In winter. It's freaking Jersey meaning it's fucking cold. Why is he so insane? Why is he even here?" Danny kicks the steel frame of the bench press.

Kono chuckles. "You left to celebrate without him. He would follow you everywhere. He doesn't care about the temperature and what normal people do during winter. He sits there and calms down because he has found you again. He needs to be close to you. You should know that by now." She murmurs softly into the phone and Danny hates to listen to the wisdom of her words. He gets angry.

"No, Kono, and that's the truth. I don't know that. Why would he do something like that? Hawaii is safe. He has his ohana looking out for him. Freddie's there, his brothers. For crying out loud. Why traveling to Jersey? I'm freaking back in two days. We only argue. He doesn't love me that much."

Danny tries to keep his voice down. But he gets seriously agitated with how Kono makes him the center of Steve's world. Or a beacon for Steve's troubled mind to hold on to. He's not sure how he should feel about that.

"Danny, don't make me say it. You can't be that dense. I know you get it. I understand why Steve doesn't analyze his actions. Private life is still a DShK he tries to take out before it turns him into pink mist. But you, Danny, you know what's going on – "

"A DShK, Kono? Seriously? You can't be more ridiculous to compare Steve's life outside the Navy to a freaking DShK." He murmurs wild-eyed while he drags one hand through his hair.

"It's just a metaphor so you get it – "

" – and just for the record, I didn't just run off and left him behind. I told him why I wanted to go to see my family. He knows what's going on – "

" – he doesn't, Danny. That's why he just jumped on the next plane. He's afraid you're leaving for good, or you'll change your mind once you're back home. Or you might meet an ex-boyfriend or whatever, okay? You left to be away from him. Don't you get it? And besides – "

Danny waits for Kono to continue but she has no interest to elaborate on that. "And besides what exactly, Kono?"

She sighs and Danny can hear her thinking. She's not a curious one and so far, she has always left him and Steve to deal with their private mess.

"I could use a little advice. Please?" Danny begs.

"Okay, because you seem to need the emotional shove and because I love you two too much for watching how something so beautiful goes to waste because you guys are so damn bullheaded that – "

" – a simple advice would be sufficient, Kono," Danny urges.

"Okay, you make me say it. Soulmates don't always come in the shape and color you think they should."

"You lost me," Danny stutters bewildered. "Soulmates?"

"Breathe, Danny, breathe for me. And promise me that you guys will figure this out while you talk with each other and don't get caught up in a stupid staring match and who lasts longer in enduring the silent treatment. I have enough of that. Please. Do. Talk. I can't stand the way anymore Steve paces a ditch into the floor of his office when you're not here. He's unhinged, dark, and ready to risk too much. I'm not even sure he knows how scary he looks."

Kono pours so much information through the receiver it kind of kicks Danny off balance.

"What are you talking about, Kono?" Danny grabs the towel, waves Carl goodbye on his way out, and walks through the gym to get to the shower and changing area.

Suddenly, he gets the impression time is of the essence and he has not a single second to waste. A deranged nervousness shoots up his spine.

"Kono? Please?"

"Talk with him. There's a reason he flew over to you, meeting you on your turf. That's a confession. And you know how hard it is for Steve to express anything emotion-related. He can't stand to be weak."

"He has his brothers. They are his pack. I annoy the shit out of him." Danny doesn't trust the new sensation in his chest.

"Open your eyes, Danny. You know what this means coming from Steve. Don't make me say it. You're the emotionally more mature guy in this relationship. Fix it and don't break Steve. He can't take it. Not from you."

Danny almost hiccups. "I would never want to break him. Jesus. What are you even implying? And why did you use the soulmate card?"

But the line goes dead. Kono has just hung up on him and has Danny staring down at his phone. Her last sentences feel like a sucker punch to the gut. Fuck.

"Why does everybody know?" He mumbles with legs like jelly.

Change of plans. No relaxing steam bath for him today. Not with Steve lurking outside, keeping a freaking eye on him, being unhinged and so not okay. So many things have led to exactly this moment with an emotionally unstable Steve who has to leave Hawaii to get to Danny.

Danny showers, swears under the water spray for being too blind and too sensitive. He changes in record time. His heart beats up in his throat the whole time.

But when he steps out into the freezing cold Jersey weather, dressed fittingly to meet the current icy winter temperature in a warm dark brown woolen coat, a cashmere scarf, and leather gloves lined with lambskin and a black knitted cap he can't spot Steve. His eyes sweep the place three times but there's no sight of a tall, broad-shouldered man with a ball cap and this stupid attractive strut he would recognize anywhere.


Danny has no idea why Steve has left. Maybe he hides? Danny's phone goes off in his coat pocket. He fumbles to fish it out, heart racing but it's only Matt who's calling.

"Matty, what's up?" Danny answers with a stronger voice than intended

"Whoa, you must have had one hell of a PT."

"Sorry, I didn't mean to be so rude." Danny rolls his shoulders.

A smile peeks through Matty's words. "I'm almost done with the Christmas shopping. Are you up for a cup of coffee outside the Java Love Coffee Bar?"

"Why don't we meet in front of the Town Book Store. They have a coffee cart outside. I want to buy Ma a new cooking book. On her Christmas list, there's something with the title 'The Hamptons Kitchen'. I want to get it for her, okay?"

"Yeah, okay, let's meet there. Let's say half an hour? You okay, Danny?"

"I'm fine."

"Did Carl come on to you? Was he trying to get into your pants again? Is that why you're tense?"

"Could you just shut up?" Danny scoffs, walking fast, getting out of the way of all the people on a shopping spree. "Carl's fine. He's a great physical therapist. And you know I'm not looking for an easy fling. Not my style. He got the message already last time. We're good."

"It's Christmas, gets everyone in a funny, cuddly, overly emotional mood. You sound off though." Matty says softly still poking.

"I'm good, Matty. I need coffee and something to eat. I'm starving. And don't buy too many gifts. Ma freaks out when you spend that much money."

"Hey, I love to spoil my family, and what's the purpose of being loaded when I can't spend it on my beloved ones. That's my Christmas gift to myself. Nothing compares to your excited looks and flushed cheeks when you unwrap my presents." Matty singsongs happily.

"Last year you bought me super fancy clothes and I still feel I don't fit into them. I'm wearing a cashmere scarf that must cost as much as my monthly rent on the rock. It's just insane."

"Come one, Danny. It keeps you warm, right? You look gorgeous in those clothes and besides, I don't want you to freeze your ass off while you're back home. You're acclimatized to tropical weather now. You're like a tourist visiting Jersey over the holidays and snow is scary. You wear more layers than I've ever seen on anyone." Matty laughs.

Danny wears a bright smile on his face. "Make sure you're one time, Matty," he shoots back before he hangs up.

He loves his little brother so much and Matty's right. The damn expensive cashmere scarf is perfect, like a heating pad around his neck. He buries his chin into the soft woolen material and walks faster. Danny's eyes go everywhere. He can't spot any blue ball cap among the crowd of people he tries to get past. He can't shake the feeling that he's being watched.

Steve's following him. Danny feels it like a light touch between his shoulder blades. He tries to relax. Steve going to show up on his terms. What a control freak but Danny accepts to play by Steve's rules. Danny pulls his shoulders up.

It feels nice to walk through the cold winter air. The town is embellished and richly decorated with festive Christmas trees and garlands made of pine and green hung with ornaments and candles. Christmas songs are playing in every store, around every corner and the air is filled with the scent of orange spice and cinnamon, hot chocolate, and gingerbread.

Danny loves the mood and the brimming energy, the hectic and the smiles. He thinks of Steve and how he has been sitting alone in the cold. The loneliness this moment has emanated makes Danny lose his attention and he bumps into a guy carrying at least ten bags full of presents. He mumbles an apology.

Steve's a grown man. He's fearless and he doesn't like the seasonal spirit. The whole festive mood must get on his nerves for so many reasons. Danny almost wears a dent into his brain over the question of why Steve has flown to the mainland. Danny could just call him to ask. But he still hesitates. Maybe Steve doesn't want him to know he's here. But if that was the truth Danny would have never spotted a single dot of Steve. He would just stay invisible. But he has sat out there, right in the open. Ah, shit.

"Matty!" Danny spots his younger brother who's waiting for him next to a high table with two steaming large paper cups of hot, creamy, cinnamon-flavored coffee and two pieces of Christmas cake. "Oh man, you're the best." He steps close and pulls Matty into a short hug.

Matty laughs good-naturedly with his face pressed to Danny's cheek. "I know what you like and you have one hell of a sweet tooth." He let go of Danny and gestures at the sweets on the table. "Dig in. The book store is overflown with people. Let's have a coffee first before we go in."

"Every year it's the same madness but I still love it." Danny eats and sips his coffee with obvious relish. After five minutes of satisfying munching, he looks at Matty and stops short. "What are you staring at?" He asks Matty with his mouth full.

Matty jerks his chin into a direction behind Danny. His eyes fixed on a spot. "Do you know this guy? He looks fishy. He looks at you as if he knows you. Never seen him before. He just stands there."

"Who?" Danny's stomach plunges and he lets the cake drop from his fingers.

"The strange, dark guy with the ball cap? No gloves and a red nose. I would freeze in this flimsy jacket he's wearing. Maybe he's drunk."

Danny swallows convulsively to get the cake down. Oh, Sweet Jesus.

"Now, he's walking straight towards us." Matty sounds alarmed and straightens up.

Danny spins around and has one second to steel himself for Steve.

"Hi, Danny," Steve's voice sounds rough from the cold or from the disuse. His lips are dry and flaky from the cold.

"What the hell are you doing here?" Danny instantly hates himself for saying this. "That's not what I wanted to say, Steve." The taste of coffee and cake gets mixed with the sharp spike of adrenaline and it makes Danny feel queasy. He's surprised and shocked equally by the gloomy, stormy look in Steve's eyes.

Steve's eyes rake over Matty in a dangerous, threatening way. "That's why you wanted to spend Christmas in Jersey?" There's a wave of anger in Steve's demeanor Danny hasn't experience so far.

"What?" Danny doesn't pay attention.

He takes in the super thin, inappropriate windbreaker Steve's wearing. His red ear lobes are already tinted with a hint of blue. Steve carries a bag but wears no gloves. His knuckles are an angry red. His hands must be ice blocks by now. He wears no scarf, just cargo pants, and a ball cap.

"Who's he?" Steve makes a rude chin-jerk in Matty's direction.

"Are you at least wearing a sweater?" Danny has to stuff his hands into the pocket of his coat. God, he wants to touch. "Aren't you cold? Jesus, Steve. It's winter." Danny thinks about taking off the warm cashmere scarf, too exasperated about how aggressively Steve stands, bulky and intimidating, in front of him. "And who is who?"

"You could have told me, you know?"

"What is this guy talking about, Danny?" Matty demands to know.

"Gimme a second, Matty."

"Matty? Wow." Steve grimaces and steps even closer. He looks scary with the way his darkened eyes take in Matty.

"What is going on Steve? Told you what?" Danny wants to reach out to touch Steve. He needs to feel him, calm him. "Hey, where are you staying? Why didn't you call? Why are you even here?" Despite the good intentions he has felt after the call with Kono, Danny feels the anger surging up. It's like always. He feels defensive and that's just unfair. He hasn't done anything wrong.

But Steve stays stubbornly silent, ignores Danny's questions but pins Matty down with only his typical Commander Lieutenant stare, intimidating like hell.

"Steve, an explanation would be really helpful." Danny tries with a gentle voice.

"I thought you trusted me," Steve murmured, the hurt sips through and Danny's even more lost what the hell is going on.

Matty steps up to stay next to Danny and has the guts to be right in Steve's face. "Pardon me, dude, but you're fairly rude, okay? Who the hell are you? And how do you know Danny? Are you fucking drunk?"

"Matty, please don't. You can't do that. Not with Steve. Step back. Now." Danny pulls Matty back, very aware of the way Steve's shoulder muscles bulge. "Steve please, calm down and back off a little, would you? Nothing is going on here."

Steve ignores him completely and keeps standing right there. "I ask you again, Danny. Who's this guy? Did you come for this Beau? Is he the reason you don't want to celebrate with me? With us?"

Matty elbows Danny and points at Steve. "Beau? He thinks I'm handsome! Well, thank you." His brother has the nerve to be delighted.

"Shut up, Matty. He didn't mean it as a compliment."

"He didn't? But who is this crazy guy? He knows you, Danny. Do you know him?"

Danny sighs. "Steve, meet my brother Matty. And Matty, meet my partner, Steve McGarrett."

Matty breaks into laughter. "Oh, God! I can't believe it! What a stand-off. I finally have the honor to meet you! Why didn't you say so? Steve, God! Danny talks so much about you. It's so great to finally meet you. You have a way to make a first impression. Holy mother. Whoa, you have me scared there for a second. I almost peed my pants." Matty stretches his hand out to greet Steve properly.

"Your brother?" Steve breathes and takes Matty's hand while his eyes glass over so abruptly it's painful to watch.

Danny has never seen Steve crash. Not right in front of his eyes, and not like this. Not because of emotions. Never like this. The shame colors Steve's cheeks a deep red. The shift in the air from the sudden emotional change has Danny dig his heels into the ground. This is not good.

"Steve, you okay?" Danny steps forward not yet daring to touch Steve.

Steve blinks, sets his jaw, blinks even more, and takes a step back. He stumbles as if he caught an invisible hit. Danny spots the desperate tight grip on the shopping bag Steve's carrying. He lunges forward and circles his fingers around Steve's upper arm right above his elbow. The trembling has already started.

"Hey, what's up, Danny? Isn't he okay?" Matty comes closer.

"I swear I didn't know he's your brother," Steve whispers, moving his lips and keeps blinking. He wants to wind out of Danny's grip.

"It's okay, Steve. Nothing happened. It's fine. I'm here. I've got you. Hey, come on. I won't let go. Steve. "

"I'm sorry, Danny. I'm so sorry." Steve murmurs ready to do something stupid like running off with how his muscles tense up.

"Danny, what's going on? What's wrong with him? Steve, hey, sorry. Did I do something wrong?"

"When was the last time you have eaten something, Steve?" Danny stops Matty from walking closer.

But Steve only stares at Danny with this pained look on his face, not really understanding what Danny's asking.

"Shit," Danny mumbles and tightens his grip around Steve's arm. "Matty, I need you to do exactly as I say, got it?"

"Why? What – "

"Steve's crashing. I can't explain to you why. He's developing a panic attack. He's hypoglycemic and his stress hormones are caving in. Too much noise, too many people. Too much stress. He's zooming out. Soldier here, okay? Not good. I need your help." Danny's hastily spoken words string together. He grabs Matty by the coat collar to get his full attention.

"Shit. I have . . . I'm sorry. What, what do you need?" Matty's eyes flicker over to Steve and he steps closer to Danny. "What do you want me to do?"

"Go and buy some food, cake, cookies. Whatever. And hot chocolate, large, two cups. To go. And a bag so I can carry it. Be quick."

"Okay, you got it, Danny." Matty pivots on his heel and storms over to the coffee cart.

Danny watches him go and sees how he elbows his way through the waiting queue.

"Danny, let me go. I'm sorry. I won't bother you anymore. I'm – "

"I'm right here, babe. I'll get you out of here in no time. We go somewhere quiet. We sit and talk and I want you to eat something. I'm not going anywhere, Steve. Let me be here for you."

Danny's hand tightens even more around Steve's arm. He places his hand against Steve's chest. Shudders have a tight hold on Steve's body. His teeth start to clatter. The cold kind of attacks hard with the rage gone and with the embarrassment on the forefront Steve loses control.

"Look at me Steve, just stay focused. Matty buys some food and then we're out of here."

"I saw you with the blond in the gym," Steve mumbles, giving in to Danny's pull. He can't control the hard shaking.

"That's Carl. He's a great physical therapist. He took care of my knee. He made sure I'm back in shape to save your sorry ass and watch your back." Danny smiles and hopes Steve would lift his eyes. But he keeps staring at his shoes.

"I apologize. I made such a fool out of myself. Let me go. I won't bother you further. I'm sorry." Steve grinds out between his clattering teeth.

"Not an option. Sorry, no. You stay right where you are. It's okay. Nothing happened."

"Danny, please."

"Stay with me, three more minutes. You need food. I need to get you warm. Just, hold on."

And Steve waits, giving in and Danny counts the seconds, his fingers like a steel band around Steve's arm. Steve could shake Danny off easily but he chooses not to and Kono's words echo in Danny's mind.

Danny hears Matty's strong voice. He rattles off a list with his demands. He buys cake and hot chocolate despite the grumbles and complaints of all the other waiting people. Matty throws in fifty bucks for the inconvenience and Danny hears him apologize to everyone, saying something similar to 'he's one of our guys, he needs our support' and panic attacks and soldiers in general.

Danny smiles up at Steve. "We're going to be okay, you and me."

Steve stays silent and stiff. Danny knows how much Steve wants to hide for how he's assumed things, again. But it doesn't matter anymore as long as Danny can be there for him.

Matty rushes back. "Okay, here you go, Danny. Hot chocolate, cake, and cookies. I hope it's enough. And here," Matty hands Danny the bag.

"What are you doing?" Danny's eyes widen when he sees Matty taking off his woolen cap, slips out of his gloves and unwraps the scarf from around the neck, and shoves it into the bag with the food.

"Make him wear that, okay? Steve needs to get warm and here – " Matty pulls out a key and stuffs it into Danny's coat pockets.

"What's that for?" Danny glances down and back up to Matty.

Steve doesn't participate in the conversation. He's not doing well. Danny is tensed up and feels the inner stress Steve's going through. He's antsy and wants to leave.

"It's the key to my condo. Do whatever you need to do and bring Steve to Ma's tonight. Bring him home. It's Christmas. He's not staying somewhere where he's alone and he's not traveling back tonight. But you can't miss out on Christmas, either. So, bring him home." Matty cups Danny's face and smiles at him.

Danny presses his lips together, overwhelmed by so much understanding and warmth. "Thank you, Matty."

"For what? I'll buy the cookbook for Ma. Don't worry a bit. Now go."

"You're the best brother in the world." Danny's voice is rough.

"I know," Matty smiles at Danny and pats Steve's shoulder with a caring touch. "I'll see you tonight, Steve."

"Come on, Steve, let's get you out of all these people. We go for walk to sit in the park. You'll eat something and we'll see how you're doing, okay?"

Danny tugs at Steve's arm and pulls him closer. "I'm right here, Steve. You're going to be fine."

Danny sets a steady pace. Steve follows him blindly. It's a fifteen-minute walk. When they arrive at the entrance of the park, the cluster of people has become a trickle of single pedestrians. It starts snowing and somewhere in the park there's a choir singing Amazing Grace.

Chapter Text

Danny doesn't let go of Steve's arm. His tight hold loosens a bit with the way Steve leans into him, lets Danny guide him, trusts him. Steve's blind faith despite what they have been through moves Danny to his very core. The far-away Christmas tune adds more seriousness to the situation.

They don't talk much. Actually, they don't talk at all. Steve's not in any condition for a conversation while they kind of run from the scene to get to a peaceful place with no people, no distraction, and as little noise as possible. Danny's senses are focused on Steve. And he knows to come down from this sudden, energy-draining panic attack Steve needs a low-stimulus environment to gain back control over his body.

Danny's afraid Steve might want to bolt once he doesn't feel that weak anymore. It's another reason for his almost desperate grip around Steve's elbow. He won't allow Steve to run because this man has seriously one of the bravest hearts ever. And it costs Danny a lot of self-control not to stop and yank Steve into his arms, rock him to make him feel better, tell him how much he loves him, and how damn grateful he is that Steve has decided to follow him to Jersey. Because Danny would have never had the guts to make such a dedicated move on Steve.

Everything at the proper time.

"You're with me, big guy?" Danny asks in the strained silence between them, walking close to Steve, checking up on him with his softest voice.

"Look, Danny, I can . . . you don't have to . . . I mean, I'm sorry." Steve's teeth still clatter and his bicep bulges instantly.

"You're not going anywhere without me, Steve. I've got you. Let go, you've found me." Danny side-eyes Steve's face. He looks pale, cheeks too red, all the exposed skin shows an angry red color. This must hurt for sure.

"It was stupid to come to Jersey – " Steve tries hard to sound reasonable, to save some of his dignity.

" – it was the bravest fucking thing ever, Steve." Danny's response comes like a shot. He doesn't have the nerve to let Steve go into this self-punishing. "Do you hear me? You're the bravest man I've ever met, Steve." He adds hoarsely and loses his tight control over his voice.

Steve's answer comes through his body and how he melts into Danny's lead. How his arm muscles relax and how he even presses his shoulder into Danny's as if he can't stand another second without touching a part of Danny's body.

"I didn't know what to do," Steve whispers.

"You did the best thing ever, babe. You came looking for me. You have so much more heart and courage than I have. And I'm the one who's so sorry to have put you through all this." Danny squeezes down where his fingers stretch wide around Steve's arm. "Don't worry a bit, good-looking. I need to get you someplace safe so I can feed you."

Danny's face burns with the courage that has him say this last sentence. He can't look at Steve, but he sees how Steve turns his head in a dawning realization. And again, Steve leans even more heavily into Danny's lead.

"Where are you taking me?"

"We're already here. It's the park opposite the gym. You sat on one of the benches earlier today. I saw you. I'd recognize your shape anywhere. You wanted me to see you, correct?"

"Yeah," Steve mumbles, hanging his head as if he did something wrong.

"You did great. I was too afraid, too shy to come out to get you. And when I finally got my shit together you were gone." Danny apologizes.

"I saw you with the blond guy and I didn't know what to do." Steve can't hide the blaring insecurity and the pain that lies beneath that confession.

Danny has answered that before, but he knows Steve needs it again, hearing the unimportance of that meeting. "He's just a personal trainer and he fixed me so I can be there for you again, strong and unharmed. Okay? Come, babe, let's talk when we're someplace quiet."

Danny needs to look at Steve when they talk more. He gets all worked up with how he still has to dodge the few pedestrians who take the shortcut through the park. Danny wants time alone with Steve.

Thick snow begins to fall. What has started as light white flakes ends in a silent white sensation. The snow starts to cover everything. It's stunningly beautiful. Danny knows Steve's shaking not only from the adrenaline dump but also because he's freezing. And he can't hide it anymore. His body leaves him no choice. Steve's condition worries Danny a lot.

He steers Steve to an unoccupied bench. The falling snow has already covered the seating surface. He can't sit there with Steve. Impossible. It's dangerous to keep him out in the cold. They will look like snowmen after ten minutes if they sit right there with the snow falling from the sky.

"Steve, let's turn around. I want to call a cab. I need to get you someplace warm like Matty's condo. It's irresponsible to stay out in the cold. It's snowing and you're not wearing much – "

"Not yet, Danny. I can't go inside. I just need a moment." Steve tries to fill his voice with strength but he still trembles hard. "We need to talk."

"I know we do. Okay, I trust you. You tell me when you can't take it anymore. Don't be a hero today. I really mean it."

Steve huffs and Danny assumes he wants to laugh about what he just said.

"I'm no hero, Danny. I'm a stupid ass and I was such a dick the way I behaved. Matty must think the worst of me."

"Come on, don't be so hard on yourself. You don't know Matty, but I know you impressed my brother deeply. He thinks you're the most badass guy who exists. The way you stood there, giving off these rough, wild vibes? Babe, you looked like you could take on the world with a one-man army."

Danny wants to say more but he still processes the last moments with Steve's jealousy, downright in the open, when he has seen Danny talking to Matty. Kono has been right all along.

"Danny – "

" – not yet, Steve, before we talk, I want you to eat something. Look, there's a bench under a tree. At least we have some protection from the falling snow. We don't stay longer than ten minutes. After that, I'm done negotiating. I don't want you to get sick or worse, lose an earlobe or your pinkies to the cold."

"Don't be stupid. I won't get frostbites just because of a little snow in Jersey." Steve is being Steve.

Danny shakes his head, squashes the worries about Steve's fingers and little toes, and forces himself to just trust his partner's experience.

The bench under the big tree is covered in a thin silver layer of snowflakes. It's romantic with how it was quiet, the park almost abandoned now with everyone buying last-minute Christmas presents and with the falling snow. The scene looks right out of a movie. But Danny knows they still have the hard part in front of them. The talking. He's not sure yet how much Steve wants to reveal once he's in better shape.

"Sit down, babe, and let me do my thing. Don't fight me on this one, please." Danny lets go of Steve's arm and his hands feel instantly empty. He clenches his fist and inhales silently.

"I don't want to fight you anymore Danny. I didn't come to argue. It's hard when you're angry with me. And besides, I'm not up for a word match with how I feel. Fuck, Jersey is really cold." Steve puts the shopping bag onto the bench and lowers his stiff body to sit down. He plops down ungracefully and blows into his fists to warm his freezing cold hands.

Steve has just admitted that he's cold. And that he's not doing well when Danny's mad at him. Danny's chest clenches at those confessions and the admittance of weakness. He has to be the strong one, now. Steve has done his part. It's his time to make him feel safe.

"Here," Danny puts the bag from the coffee cart down and unwraps his cashmere scarf from around his neck. "Can I?" He turns to Steve and waits, holding the scarf bundled up to keep the warmth inside. He doesn't want to do anything without Steve's permission. If they do this thing, he wants to do it right from the beginning.


"I want to put the scarf around your neck. Can I?"

Steve bends his head in a silent invitation for Danny to go on. "You're going to be too cold without it, Danny. Matty has put his scarf into the bag for me."

"That one is cold. It snowed on it and besides, I want you to wear mine." Danny wraps the woolen material, still warm from his own body, around Steve's neck. He notices the tiny twitch with how Steve takes in the first confession about how much Danny is devoted to him.

Steve keeps completely still. His eyes flutter shut when Danny's knuckles graze over bare skin. Danny makes sure the warm cashmere scarf slips under the collar of the windbreaker. Steve's skin is super cold and red.

"Lift your chin," Danny pulls the zipper down and flattens both ends of the scarf down Steve's chest to keep him as warm as possible before he zips the jacket close again.

It's an intimate, caring gesture. Danny's heart thumps in his chest with how physically close he stands in front of Steve. Steve shoots him a strange, strong look from under his lashes. He has a running nose and angry red ears. And he still tries to warm his hands. Danny takes off his lambskin-lined leather gloves.

"They might be too small but they're warm. Matty has bigger hands, but his gloves are cold, and these here are warmed up, ready for you. Come, put them on." Danny waits until Steve thankfully pushes his cold hands into the warm gloves. They don't really fit. "You won't win a prize for the best dressed man on the streets, but it'll do." Danny chuckles.

"Thanks, Danny," Steve rasps, clearly moved.

"Here, drink this, it's still warm. Not hot, but it will warm you up from the inside." Danny picks one of the hot chocolate paper cups from the bag and shoves it gently between Steve's gloved fists. "Your body is ice cold. We have to warm you up gently otherwise it's going to be freaking painful."

"I'll be fine," Steve says too compliant. He drinks the still warm beverage with a thirst and hunger. He drinks it in two big swallows.

Danny hands him the second hot chocolate cup which Steve takes without a fuss. He's still out of it that's why Danny can feed him like a baby. Steve doesn't make a scene, doesn't tease and mock, doesn't jump up, brimming with energy, doesn't knock the cup out of Danny's hand, too offended by how he gets fed. Steve just sits there and tries to get warm, still too cold to really ponder about how Danny can have his overprotective way with him.

And with a sudden lurch in his stomach, Danny thinks of another possible explanation that might be true. The one where Steve finally can give in to Danny's care without feeling ashamed and weak or unmanly.

With shaky hands, Danny unwraps a greasy large piece of what looks like a chocolate fudge pie. One of Matty's favorites. Sinfully sweet and delicious. "Eat, babe. Your body needs energy. Matty bought the right stuff. You can survive for a week on these quantities of calories."

"I don't even care how it tastes. It will get me warm again. The cold's a bitch." Steve coughs and trades the second emptied paper cup for the juicy pie. He stuffs his mouth full.

Steve's skin color is slowly changing again to a healthy shade, and his lips turn from a blue red to a bright red. Danny dares to check Steve's temperature with the back of his hand pressed gently against his cheek. Steve doesn't stop chewing and even leans into Danny's touch.

"I'm glad you're here," Danny admits and reaches for the shopping bag to move it.

"You mean it?"

Danny's not used to the honest shyness Steve shows off. He senses Steve's side glance more than he sees it.

"Yes, I mean it," Danny isn't that courageous but Steve has made his first move by following him to Jersey. Now, it's his turn. "What's in that bag you carried the entire time? Your clothes? A piece of soap and spare undies?" Joking is still the choice to break the ice for the more serious stuff they need to address.

"Nope. I travel light." Steve's complexion gets flushed.

"Light? Like with your credit card and passport only and nothing but the clothes you're wearing?" Danny can't believe Steve has jumped on a plane without even thinking twice. This indeed indicates a serious meaning.

"Mm-hmm," Steve bites off a large chunk of cake. "Christmas presents." He jerks his chin in the bag's direction.

"Christmas presents?" Danny asks dumbstruck.

"In the bag. For you." Steve's cheeks are colored in a deep red by now. He lowers his gaze with the concentration on the cake. He starts to bounce one leg.

Danny hopes his voice won't fail him. "You bought Christmas presents for me?" He can't catch up fast enough with how he gets to know Steve's shy, sweet side of his personality.

Danny peeks into the bag and lifts the paper that covers the content. What he sees seriously knocks the wind out of his lungs. The unmistakable paper to wrap cut flowers catches his eyes. But the red sea of roses makes him go completely still. Danny's fingertips touch satin-like half-open blossoms of deeply red, breathtakingly beautiful roses. They must have cost a fortune. And they're not made to stay too long out in the cold. But Danny doesn't care about such a minor detail. He can't even count the numbers, they're so many.

"You bought me roses? Red roses?" Danny clears his throat. He blinks and curses silently for being such a sap. Steve could have just as well shouted at him that he loves him. It happens with purpose when a guy buys another guy red roses. There's one, very clear meaning behind that message.

"You like flowers. I wanted to get you something that puts that beautiful smile on your face." Steve's voice is a daring but timid tease. And this little, sweet smile on Steve's lips almost undoes Danny on the fucking spot.

Is Steve flirting with him? Here on that hard, cold bench, munching chocolate fudge pie, in freaking Jersey while it's snowing?

"Are you joking? Because if you are . . .I mean, uh, are you? Please don't be a tease right now, Steve, and – " Danny hopes that this here, the thing that's happening between them, is the real deal. He can't do this if Steve doesn't mean it. He has to ask because so far, teasing has been all they have been doing when the situation has gotten more serious.

"I'm not joking, Danny," Steve whispers and stops eating. His hands sink down into his lap. He crumples up the empty tin foil. "I didn't fly all the way to Jersey to tease you more about things that are important to you. I get it, okay?"

"Okay," Danny lets the word fall through pursed lips, too occupied to catch up on Steve's gorgeous, insecure behavior. He's so damn serious and sweet. Danny barely can't with how the emotions make him almost lose his balance. Steve is trying to talk about feelings. Feelings he has for him.

Steve waves with his hand in the direction of the bag. "And fancy teacups," he rubs his nose, hiding his eyes from Danny. "Japanese teacups, and, uh, your favorite tea. At least, I hope it's your favorite tea." Steve exhales through tight lips. His face is red with the warmth coming back.

Danny's heart beats almost right out of his chest. His eyes are glued to Steve's gorgeous, beautiful face.

"It's Japanese green tea the lady said from the shop. High quality. Sencha Tea, simple loose leaves." Steve murmurs in a haste, not looking at Danny. He fumbles with the tin foil.

"How do you know that I like to drink tea? And which flavor?" Danny is gobsmacked by this information.

Steve shrugs, looking nervous. "I saw your tea set once in one of your kitchen cabinets. But I've never seen you drinking tea. The bag with the leaves was almost empty. And there was a crack in one of the cups. Why do you drink your tea alone? You've never mentioned anything about tea."

Danny feels as if he's in a free fall. Does Steve have any idea what those presents mean to him? "I prefer to drink my tea alone for different reasons." He breathes and pulls Matty's scarf from the bag to wrap it around his neck just to have something to do. Danny smiles over at Steve.

"Why never with me?" Steve expresses how much he's hurt about Danny hiding such stuff from him with how his shoulders sag ever so slightly.

Danny steps closer. "I love my tea, Steve. The whole ceremony to drink tea starts with boiling the water, setting the tea tray, getting the cup ready, the pot, the leaves, watch the water pour over the dry leaves. It's a kind of meditation. It means a lot to me to have this peaceful way with it. It calms something inside me. And I like to sit on the couch, reading a book, and relish my tea at the right temperature." Danny hopes he can make Steve understand.

"I see," Steve sounds really hurt.

Danny knows Steve feels left out. "Come on, Steve, you know how much you enjoy giving me a hard time about everything remotely cozy and fluffy and relaxing." Danny breathes a small laugh. "I didn't want to drink tea in front of you or share it with you. Maybe it's pathetic but I know I would have been too hurt by your teasing. And I know, Hawaii and hot tea don't match but I love it. And even if the teasing had been meant good-naturedly. You would have had a feast making jokes about it. About me sitting there, drinking tea like an old, tottery guy. That's why it's always cold beer when you're with me."

Steve picks the tin foil to pieces. "I've never meant to hurt you."

"I know," Danny takes a decision. It's now or never. "I can take some mocking, Steve but not all the time, not constantly with everything. You had me believe you can't stand me," Danny smiles, his lips cold and a bit numb, "that I'm not enough, that I'm too soft."

Steve stares down at his hands, his chest heaves with how he tries to breathe in a lungful of air. "I'm sorry. It was never my intention to make you believe that."

Danny sniffs. He pulls his woolen cap from his head and steps closer to where Steve sits and dips his chin. He hides his face from Danny shielding it with the ball cap.

"I, uh– " Steve shifts on the bench throws the trash into the coffee cart bag, and rubs both hands across his thighs. He takes the gloves off. "I never drink tea. I don't read for fun. I don't like to meditate. I don't know how to enjoy a weekend off. I was . . . I didn't know, I, uh, I like to hang out with you. I mean, I would love to drink your tea. It's just – "

"C'mere, babe," Danny steps between Steve's legs, nudges them further apart, and shuffles closer. "I should have risked a broken jaw way earlier but I was too much of a chicken shit." Danny puts a finger under Steve's chin, making him lift his head so he can see his eyes.

Steve looks at him, dark and vulnerable. His green-greyish eyes are soft and honest, letting Danny see. "A broken jaw?" Steve's lips are chaffed. "Why?"

"For doing this," Danny takes gently Steve's ball cap off. The flattened hair makes Steve look even more vulnerable. His forehead has an imprint of the ball cap's rim. It looks as if he has even slept with it.

"A broken jaw for taking my cap off?" Steve asks cautiously.

"No, for this," Danny leans in and kisses Steve's temple. The skin is cold under his lips. Danny inhales Steve's scent. He smells like he hasn't showered for some time, but all Danny smells is a hunger to belong and yearning, hope and love, and so much devotion his knees almost give. He lingers a second longer and nuzzles Steve's hair with his nose before he pulls back and slips the woolen cap over Steve's head, adjusting it gently. Steve holds still, looking at Danny. He sits in reverent silence.

"This keeps you warmer," Danny murmurs and frames Steve's face with both hands. He leans in and kisses Steve on the mouth, soft and slow.

Steve whimpers and goes still. His lips are cold and dry. Danny feels the quiver and deepens the kiss, thumbs grazing over Steve's cheekbones. Danny hugs Steve's face for a long, long time. He opens up a bit and tastes the sugar and chocolate on Steve's lips. The kiss is chaste, dry, and sweet. When Danny pulls back, he senses how Steve swallows hard. He straightens up and pulls Steve to his feet. Steve's fisting Danny's coat sleeves. They both look the same. Red cheeks and a running nose parted lips and with blown eyes. Their breath is a cloud in the cold air.

"You okay?" Danny shakes with how he has finally done it. He has kissed Steve.

"I would have never broken your jaw over this." Steve looks wrecked and wants to pull Danny closer.

Danny's hands slip from Steve's face to come to rest spread wide on Steve's chest. "How is this going to work, Steve? Between us? I mean . . . will I be sufficient? Will you get bored with me? Are you bored with me?" Danny laughs nervously. "I just need to know because God . . . you have no idea what you mean to me."

Steve holds on tight, clinging to him. His eyes express so many feelings. "I was so afraid I messed up, Danny. I thought you kicked me out for good. You were so angry and cold. It scared me." He gasps for air, so wound tight. "I thought I lost you." Steve's an open book. He lets Danny see everything.

"You can never lose me but you're a SEAL. Steve. I don't want to compete with you in our downtime, not when I'm my very private self. I don't want to hide who I am, babe. I kicked you out because it hurt too much how you wanted a different Danny – "

" – I never wanted a different Danny. I was scared I was too much for you. I only want you, Danny. The way you are." Steve pulls Danny closer, still afraid he could lose him.

"Do you really mean it?" Danny digs his fingers into Steve's thin windbreaker.

"Yes, I do."

"I always hoped for the right moment to tell you that I have feelings for you. But I feared you would just punch me in the face. I can't just turn them off, you know?"

"Danny, I would never have just punched you in the face for that." Steve gets nervous.

"You said so many times how bored you are, how lame I am. I – " Danny wants to believe but he's still skittish. God, he loves this man so much but what if?

"Danny, listen."


"There's . . . you're not lame. You're perfect. And . . . and, you make the noise go away." Steve shakes when he confesses it. "Please, just don't . . . don't send me away ever again, Danny. Please." Steve sets his jaw. His face is a mask of concentration and fear.

"I won't, babe, I won't. I'm so sorry I did." Danny frames Steve's face with both hands. "I'm so sorry. I've never meant to hurt you." He whispers. "And I won't send you away ever again. I promise. But – "

"But what?" Steve almost growls, still on edge.

"I still like to do unmanly things." Danny pauses. "I love traditions and I like decorating the house for Christmas. I love to stroll and to window shop and to sit in a coffee shop dressed in stupid fancy clothes Matty bought me last Christmas. And sometimes I enjoy not doing much. I'm scared this isn't enough for you."

"Danny, I'm okay with that." Steve looks right into his eyes. "I'm okay with that." He says it like a prayer.

"Would you let me buy a Christmas present for you? I would love to buy something for you, too. I thought about that for a long time. I want it to mean something. But I couldn't stand the teasing if I bought the wrong stuff. And maybe you would get sad or even angry. What if I piss you off with how I do things?" Danny gets worked up over the arguments they have had. He has still some doubts. "You mean too much to me to fuck this up, Steve."

"Danny, shhh, come one. Hey, we're good." Steve shakes him a little but Danny holds on to his face. "I tell you what you can give me for Christmas." Steve looks deadly serious.

"And what's that?"

"Your homemade cookies," Steve raps, seemingly moved he says it out loud.

Danny sucks his bottom lip between his teeth. "Okay," the word is as silent as the falling snow.

"Look, Danny," Steve lets his gaze drop, breathing silently with his fists curled into the fabric of Danny's coat. "I'm not good at this, talking about emotions and stuff. I just – "

"I love you, you idiot." Danny pulls Steve's face down. "I fucking love you. That's what I've wanted to tell you all along. I fucking love you."

They kiss. It's rougher, dirtier. This time Steve's tongue slips into Danny's mouth explores wetly and demandingly. Both pant hard when they pull away. Steve's hands have found their way around Danny's face, holding it carefully. He looks awestruck.

"I, uh," Steve swallows and licks his lips. His eyes are dark pools of hope and Dann watches how his pupils go wider, blacker as if Steve has come to a decision. "I want you to hold me down when you fuck me."

Danny hums deep in his throat, sways a bit while they hold each other's face.

"I want you to fuck me, Danny, and I need to feel your hands holding me down while you do it. Because . . . because when you're there with me nothing else is there and, uh –"

Danny breathes.

" – and I know, I'm too much but I know you can handle me. I want you to handle me because you would never harm me. Or leave me. So, hold me down and fuck me." Steve breathes with snowflakes on his lashes.

And Danny walks into Steve's chest, shoves his forehead into the cold material of Steve's too thin jacket. "I can do that, baby. I'm gonna fuck you deep, gonna hold you down and kiss your lips raw and I'll make you come." Danny reaches for Steve's hands and entwines their fingers his face still pressed against Steve's chest. "Is this . . . Jesus, Steve, is this your way to tell me you love me too? Huh?" Danny tilts his head back to look at Steve.

"Uh-huh," Steve leans in and kisses Danny with heat and hunger.

"Then come, let's go catch a cab." Danny's ear buzzes he's so turned on.

"Where we're going?"

"Matty's condo," Danny says and tugs at Steve's hand.

Danny slips on Matty's cap and Steve clamps down on Danny's warm hand. Steve follows him with the same blind trust he has shown him from the moment they've met. Danny feels the weight of his cock and the twitch in his strained abs while walking.

Steve carries Danny's Christmas presents in the bag while Danny leads the way. Danny can tell that Steve is nervous from how his hand squeezes their interlinked fingers, and from the slight shaking he can't control.

Chapter Text

The windows of the cab are steamy, and Steve can't see anything from the downtown scenery of Jersey. It's a stop-and-go ride to Matty's condo. Steve starts to get hot. The heating blasts on the highest level but he basks in the newfound warmth. His muscles begin to relax and loosen up.

The skin on his hands burns with how the body tries to balance the extreme temperature switch. Steve holds Danny's hand sandwiched between his. His side is glued to Danny's body from shoulder down to the knee. The backspace in the cab is tight and there's not much space for Steve's long legs. It's not really comfortable and he shifts quite a bit.

Danny twists on the seat his face inches away from Steve's. "What is it, babe? You okay?"

Steve is still in awe of how much his world has changed in the last fifteen minutes. It's the most beautiful thing to get lost in Danny's eyes. Steve can read so much of Danny's gaze now that he can look as long as he wants. And just because he can, Steve leans in to capture Danny's lips with his mouth. The kiss sends jolts of want down Steve's spine.

"I'm sweating like I entered a freaking sauna fully clothed," Steve murmurs with his breath ghosting over Danny's lips. "I'm so hot I want to lie in the snow to cool down. The cab driver must think we need to defrost."

Danny laughs into the kiss before his lips seal Steve's mouth to kiss him with need. He entangles his hand from Steve's hold and cups Steve's face. "Your face feels warm again." Danny smiles against his mouth.

"How long?" Steve asks, tracing Danny's bottom lip with his tongue.

Danny swallows a gasp and whispers. "We're almost there. Ten more minutes." Danny pulls back an inch, his face flushed.

Steve's dick has gotten a little thicker seeing the look of arousal on Danny's face. Danny is the most handsome man he has ever met. "I'm so thirsty," Steve whispers back.

Danny chuckles, leans in, his body presses hard against Steve, and places an open mouth kiss to Steve's throat, right underneath his jaw. Steve slips deeper into the seat, swallowing the moan he wants to let out. He has to stop his hips from rolling. No mating dance in the cab.

Danny nibbles at his skin. "Ten more minutes and you can drink as much water as you want. And we can get out of the wet clothes. It won't stop snowing until tomorrow midday. Traffic is going to be a nightmare." Danny's lips linger over the sensitive spot on Steve's jaw.

"Is this your idea of dirty talk in a cab?" Steve groans, his hard-on bulging his front, "because you get me hard with your talk about snow and fuck – " Steve shuts his mouth, clamps down on another moan.

Danny laughs. The sound rough and low in Steve's ears. His tongue is tracing wet stripes alongside Steve's jaw. Steve swallows a gasp.

"You'll know when I talk dirty, baby." Danny breathes.

Steve wants to palm his hard dick. "Ah, fuck," he mumbles with a smile on his lips and settles back in the seat.

He takes Danny's hand and hugs it again with both hands, holding on for the rest of the ride. Danny's thigh rubs deliciously against Steve's leg. Steve lets his legs fall open an inch and breathes through his nose. He feels the low pulse in his abs. He's hard since he has told Danny that he wants to be fucked. He has dreamed about saying those words to Danny, dreaming about how he will react, how he will grab him, force him to hold still. And now, Steve is moments away to just have it. Have Danny fuck him, love him.

Steve squashes Danny's hand to control the lust that is growing, heating his gut from the inside. His cock getting thicker, straining against the tight seat of the pants. He keeps his hips still. Sweat runs down his spine. Steve closes his eyes for the rest of the ride. He only turns his head twice to press a kiss on Danny's face. He's still wearing the woolen cap but Steve shudders with how this new intimacy makes him feel whole. And how it comes naturally as if both have only waited to finally have the permission to do it.

Matty's condo is nothing that Steve has expected. This dude is rich. Fucking hell. The loft is huge, like a football field size kind of huge, stuffed with fancy, modern art, and furniture Steve has had no idea even exists.

"Whoa, your brother has some taste and the money to indulge himself. What's he doing again?" Steve stops dead after Danny has closed the door. He puts down the bag and takes off his boots and his jacket, pulls off the cap, and unwraps Danny's scarf from around his neck. Jesus, he's burning with how his body produces heat.

"He's a banker, doing big business with firms and whatnot. He's a financial advisor and has the talent to sense good, solid business. He invests money and gets rich with it. He's a workaholic, has no private life, and is happy with it. He enjoys life and women." Danny shrugs out of his coat, takes off the cap, and kicks his shoes off.

"I need to drink some water now, Danny, or I'm gonna die of thirst." Steve whines.

"Come on, babe," Danny takes his hand and pulls him through the huge space to a part where a modern kitchen is stocked with everything one could wish for.

The kitchen island in the middle is the actual cooking stove. Everything looks as if it's ready for a live cooking show going down every noon. Steve is impressed by the beauty but can't imagine living like that. Everything is too hipster. He needs the ocean right at the doorstep and easy stuff. No fancy stove and shit.

Danny hands him a bottle of water, tempered, not cold. Steve grabs it like it's manna from heaven. He can't stand the taste of chocolate in his mouth one second longer.

"Would you love to live in such a place?" Steve asks, looking over at Danny, and starts to drink greedily straight from the bottle.

Danny doesn't answer and Steve knows from the way he looks at him that Danny senses the deeper meaning behind his question. Danny steps up, kicks Steve's feet apart to step in between his legs. Steve jerks with pleasure when he feels Danny's knuckles trace the shape of his abs. He almost swallows the water down the wrong tube. Danny doesn't say a word. He's just wearing a secret smile on his kissable lips. He watches how Steve drinks the water. A few drops run down Steve's chin. Steve doesn't stop gulping down the delicious liquid. Danny keeps rubbing over his abs with the back of his hand, just being there.

Steve moans satisfied when he has quenched his thirst. He wipes with the back of his hand over his mouth and places the empty bottle in the sink. He catches the loud belch in the crook of his arm. "Sorry, that had to get out."

Danny just shrugs in a sexy way, gazing at him as if Steve's the most beautiful thing in the world.

"Do you?" Steve wraps his hand around Danny's neck. He's not sure what he should do or think if Danny loves this place.

Danny falls against him. His weight pins Steve to the kitchen counter. Steve stares into Danny's eyes. His hard-on gets pressed into Danny's bulge. Steve's breathing is shallow. The scent of sex hits him square in the chest.

"No, fuck, no. I don't want to live in such a place." Danny answers Steve's question while he pulls Steve's shirt from his cargos, rucks it up, and slips both hands underneath the shirt.

Steve dives in to capture Danny's lips. His abs twitch uncontrollably with Danny's searching, deftly hands. He pushes his tongue into Danny's mouth, moans darkly, and cants his hips to just feel Danny's hardness.

"Your skin is still cold to the touch, Steve." Danny's fingers dip into strong muscles and make Steve arch his back. He rolls his hips into Danny's.

"I'm so hot, it's crazy. God, I love to kiss you." Steve drags one hand through Danny's hair, fists it, pulls his head back, and makes him part his lips, cupping his face with the other hand.

Danny is pliant but pulls back. Steve's thumb rubs over Danny's bottom lip, holding his head between his hands. His attention is on Danny's wandering fingers. The way they skate over his sides and run up, flickering over his nipples. Steve hisses and pushes forward feeling the length of Danny's hard-on.

"Danny," Steve shudders with how Danny awakes an angry, wild desire in him.

When Danny unbuckles Steve's belt, snaps open the button, and unzips him he almost goes cross-eyed, sucking hungrily at Danny's upper lip, licking, kissing him messily and open-mouthed.

"You have to shower, Baby, you reek." Danny gropes his ass and holds him in place, rolling his hip into him.

"Okay," Steve gasps with parted, red-kissed lips. "Will you join me?" He stops kissing Danny. He catches his breath with his forehead leaning against Danny's. "I do whatever you say." He's so hard. Danny is holding him upright. "I'm sorry I stink."

Danny's hands hold his ass. His strong fingers knead the firm muscle and pull ever so slightly, parting Steve's cheeks. And Steve stops breathing for a second.

"I'm not only joining you, Baby. I'm the one who's going to shower you, making you smell clean in all the right places." Danny sucks Steve's needy moan right from his lips and kisses him wet and bossy.

Steve's knees buck and Danny pushes him back against the kitchen counter. He rucks up Steve's longarm shirt and the tank top underneath and pushes everything up, exposing Steve's abs and chest.

"Lift your arms, Steve," Danny demands.

And Steve melts into Danny's guidance, stretching both arms over his head for Danny to yank off the shirts. Danny drops them to the floor and leaves Steve topless.

Steve is shocked about the raw lust racing through him when Danny sucks his nipple into his mouth. His head hits the kitchen cabinet with a bang. "Oh, fuck, Danny. Jesu – " Steve's breath is ragged, "I can't . . . gah, oh fuck."

The tip of Danny's tongue flickers over the hard knob of Steve's puckered nipple. He bites and nibbles and drives Steve crazy. Steve cups Danny's neck and holds him with a shaky hand. He's so hot he's burning. Steve's head drops and he presses a whimpering kiss into Danny's hair. He's so hard he could cry.

"Danny, oh, Danny," Steve pleas.

"I'm here, Baby. I've got you. Come, let's go shower." Danny takes Steve's hand and pulls him away, leading him through the wide-open space to the bathroom at the other end of the loft.

The bathroom is huge, lined with sandy-colored marble tiles or some other expensive material. The shower is as big as Steve's entire bathroom at home and has more than one showerhead. He slows down when Danny switches the lights on. The light is too bright and for a moment Steve suffers a case of nerves.

Wow. Steve has to suck in air through a tight throat. His wet nipple Danny has sucked seconds ago makes Steve realize that he's just a moment away to step into the shower with Danny. Danny has said he wants to lather him up, touch him, wash his hair, make him smell nice. It's, ah, Steve fights the need to lean against the door jam to catch a short break.

Danny turns around, not letting go of his hand, and checks up on him with only a glance. Danny smiles when his fingers circle around his neck to pull him down for a kiss. A sweet, slow kiss to give Steve time.

Steve shivers from the force of the unleashed emotions and from Danny's fingers digging down Steve's pants and underwear. Warm, firm hands cup Steve's bare ass again. Steve takes Danny's face between his hands, angling his head to kiss him deeper, with passion and need to make him feel how much this means to him. But Steve's senses follow Danny's hands and how he pushes down his pants. Steve's erection springs free. He sighs into Danny's mouth, sucking at his tongue.

Danny winds out of Steve's hold, pulling his lips free. Steve doesn't let go, his eyes are unfocused on Danny's face.

"What . . . what's, uh, something wrong? You . . . you okay?" Steve whispers, staying naked in front of Danny with his pants pooling around his ankles.

Danny's fingers spread possessively around his waist. "I'm fine. I just . . . are you with me? Am I too fast, Baby?" Danny's hands skate over Steve's sides and come to rest on his chest, squeezing his pecs gently.

Steve shakes his head. "No, not too fast." He swallows.

"You still want this?" Danny's thumbs draw soothing circles into his skin, right beside his sensitive hard nipples

"Yes. God, yes. I want this."

"Step out of your pants." Danny bends his head and places a soft kiss on the sweet spot at the base of his throat.

Steve shivers, knowing Danny must feel his fluttering pulse. He gasps and kicks his pants and underwear away. His eyes follow Danny's hands and how he shrugs out of his sweater. He's mesmerized by the play of Danny's muscles when he unbuckles and unbuttons his jeans with steady hands. He pulls them down over his ass and kicks them away to come to stand in his naked glory in front of Steve.

Steve thinks Danny has the most beautiful, thick cock in the world. He's hard, looking stunningly hot. He's hairy, too and Steve loves it. He hisses and grinds out a wrecked moan when Danny steps closer and takes him in hand. Steve's eyes drop to watch Danny giving his pulsing hard cock a few tugs.

"You okay with this?" Danny asks with his hand around Steve's neck. His thumb presses his chin up to make him look at Danny.

"Yeah," Steve can't express what he's feeling. Angry want and deep-running burning emotions clogging his throat. He furrows hard, moving his lips, wetting them with the tip of his tongue.

Danny gets it. "You tell me when it's too much."

Steve bobs his head and dares to touch, too. Shaky fingers skitter over Danny's chest hair, knuckles rub over sensitive nipples. Steve catalogs every twitch, every moan from Danny. He can't keep his eyes open when heat, painfully sweet, surges up from his cock. His stomach melts and the low groan of lust sounds strange in his own ears.

The skin on Danny's hard cock feels like silk and Steve senses the rushing of blood in the angry vein on the side. The weight in his hand makes him drop his head onto Danny's shoulder. He rolls his hip, shudders, and sucks at the strong cord of muscles on Danny's neck.

Danny leads him wordlessly into the big shower. Steve sees the faucet, the knobs, and fancy stuff but he knows Danny takes care of how to turn on the water in this hyper-modern shower cabin. His lips roam over warm skin. Steve inhales Danny's private scent behind his ear. He takes in the sinful swell of Danny's ass, the strong, broad back, and how Danny keeps Steve pressed to his front.

Steve can't make out the words Danny whispers into his ear. He would be fine with dying on the spot, held by Danny's arms, his bare chest rubbing sensually against his own chest. Steve licks a broad stripe up Danny's throat when their cocks touch.

Steve knows Danny's hungry for every kiss. He can't help but pushes back into Danny's wandering hand when Danny explores his ass.

The water spray hits him too cold at first. He jerks hard and gasps a curse mixed with a laugh.

"Oh, shit! Sorry, Baby," Danny shouts and laughs with his face pressed into the strong curve of Steve's throat. "I always forget how this fancy shit works. Hold on. It should get warm any second."

Steve kisses Danny roughly, feeling Danny's hard-on rubbing over his thigh, brushing against his dick. He can't think beyond anything but fucking and how he's ready for Danny, how he can't grasp how this is really going to happen. He feels his asshole in this hyper-sensitive, turned-on way. The heat pools in the pit of his abs. He senses how Danny's girth and length will opening him up, will force its way into his body. And he can't wait to be taken, to submit, to show Danny how much he means to him.

The warm spray is like a prayer getting answered. The blessing of getting warmed up with hot water gets topped by Danny's caring hands. Steve goes willingly wherever Danny's hands move him. He bends his head, steps out of the spray, lets Danny lather him up.

Steve founds himself standing flat against the wall, arms outstretched to the side, pressed to the wall with Danny's cock between his ass cheeks. Danny's strong fingers massage his scalp, washing his hair. Steve groans under the onslaught of the tender touch. The sensual hotness of these different types of arousal has Steve whimper. His legs tremble with the force to hold still.

"Don't move your hips, Baby," Danny murmurs into his ear, holding him upright with one arm around his waist.

"I'm not . . . not moving, Danny, I . . . " Steve wants to turn his head, but foam runs down his face and he can't open his eyes.

"Hold still, let me do everything for you." Danny coos next to his ear.

Steve feels Danny's soapy hands around his dick and his balls. His blind somehow, extradited but the fear of not being in control turns into a sweet, torturing desire making him stand on shaky legs. He hears himself whine and pant, murmuring words he never even allowed himself to hear in his thoughts.

"Touch me, Danny, please. I need . . . I need to feel you in my ass. I can't wait . . . don't want to wait. I can't – " Steve wants to turn around. It's too much and too little at the same time.

But Danny shoves him back, one hand pressed right in the middle of his back, and the other slips farther down between his ass, rubbing circles into his clenching pucker.

"Don't move, Steve. I've got you. Let go. Just let got, Baby. I'm here. I take care of you." Danny's arm winds around his chest again and Steve gets pulled back under the hot spray.

The lather washes down his back and when Danny's finger enters his ass, slipping inside, Steve almost loses it. He pushes back, his chest heaving. He has waited so long for this, this relief, this freeing.

"Danny, please," Steve pushes himself onto Danny's pumping finger. It's not enough. "Danny, don't . . . please, gimme more. I need more." Water runs down his face. He clamps down on Danny's arm that is wrapped like a steel band around his chest. "Please," he calls over his shoulder, desperate and needy.

Danny only tucks him closer to his chest. Where does this strength come from? Steve's chest feels constricted, captured and Danny pulls his finger out. Steve almost gets mad.

"Nononono, Danny!"

"Shhh, Baby, don't get worked up. I'm here." Danny's soothing voice always reaches his ear.

Steve's hand finds grip, braced against the tile again and he lets go. Danny holds him upright. When more fingers open him up Steve keens with his head thrown back. His knees shake under the strain to keep his hips still. He's so hard it hurts and Danny doesn't touch him there. He feels Danny's fingers in his entire body. His ass is so sensitive. It gets him turned on with so much desire pumping through his body his ears begin to buzz again. He could come on Danny's fingers alone.

Danny slips out of his ass, lets the water wash everything away, and makes him turn in his arm.

"You're with me, Steve?"

Steve grabs Danny's face. He kisses him rough and wild, trying to express what he feels, what he can't say with words. His hands are almost violent on their way to explore Danny's body, to give this desire a valve to level the inner pressure.

"I can't wait any longer. Please, Danny, fuck me."

"Not in the shower, Steve."

Danny turns off all the knobs. The water stops and the sudden silence hit Steve's senses. He blinks but Danny's tongue is in his mouth and he relaxes into the kiss again.

"Towels are on the right. Towel yourself off and don't slip on the floor."

"I know how to get dry and how not to crack my head open on the floor." Steve grumbles.

"I know, Baby, but normally you don't have pupils blown like you're about to combust and you can't think straight with how you want me to fuck you. I tell you to mind your steps. Just do it."

Steve can't control his breathing like the air suddenly has too little oxygen. Danny says everything with the same soft voice but beneath his words flows a power that makes Steve want to surrender. It's so damn hot. Steve has always known Danny is an Alpha who would drive him crazy.

But that's why Steve instantly relaxes because Danny takes care of him and keeps him safe.

Steve can't touch himself. He's so sensitive it's almost uncomfortable. He drops the towel onto the floor and waits for Danny's next instruction. Danny grabs his chin and pulls him down into a long, lingering, sweet kiss.

"I need it rough," Steve presses out. He can't stand any kissing now. "I want you to fuck me, Danny. Please." He whines.

"I know, Steve but I need you to be ready, physically. I can't just ram my cock into your ass. You know that too. The more you're turned on the looser you are. So, stay with me and just let me do everything. I don't want to hurt you. Even a SEAL's asshole is tender. Now, shut up and go lie on the bed, ass up." Danny explains and orders him away.

Steve gazes into Danny's eyes and sees the same passion, the same fire, and a pool of emotions mixed with a devotion that makes his eyes prickle. "I love you," falls out of his mouth. He can't hold the words back.

Danny's breath stutters and he presses his lips together. Steve blinks and leans in and places a soft kiss on Danny's lips. He's messed up with how the words just tumbled over his lips. His heart races.

"I love you too," Danny whispers moved, "now, go, lie down because I can't wait to make you mine."

Steve watches how Danny moves naked around the bed. His erection bounces with every step. He's gorgeous. Steve grinds down onto the mattress, searching for friction. He watches with hooded eyes how Danny opens drawers, rummages around until he has found what he has been looking for.

The mattress dips when Danny crawls up to join Steve. He nudges Steve's legs apart and Steve obeys with a low groan.

"Ass up, Steve," Danny's hands rest against each cheek and Steve pushes higher up. He wants to pull his knees under him to get on all four.

"No, stay like this," Danny stops him from moving further up.

Steve flops back onto his stomach, face mushed into the bedding, fisting the material. He writhes before he holds still, his mouth open, his eyes scrunched shut. Danny parts his ass, watches him, the cool air on his wrinkled skin makes his face burn with need and shyness.

He ejects a low cry when Danny runs his fingertips over his most intimate spot, splayed wide for him to see everything. The next sensation is cold and then it gets slippery, smooth and the rubbing is ongoing. Danny's finger enters him again.

"Spread your legs for me, Baby," Danny pries him open with more fingers, Danny's knees force his legs to stretch wider. "Lift your ass for me."

And Steve does, his voice is hoarse and he can't stop moaning.

When Danny's fingers leave him empty again, Steve turns his head and peeks over his shoulder. "Danny?"

"Getting ready for you." Danny sounds dark, nervous. "I need you to tell me when I hurt you."

Steve watches how Danny slips a condom on. He clenches his ass in anticipation and sweet fear. His abs are strained with what is coming next.

Danny drapes his body over Steve's back, aligns his hard cock with his ass, rubs it between his slick cleft. And again, Danny winds a strong arm around Steve's torso, makes him come up onto his elbows, ass high up. Steve pushes back into Danny's crotch, begging silently.

"Almost there, Baby," Danny kisses him on the back of his sweaty neck.

Steve's skin is on fire when Danny's head pushes against his hole. He exhales, forces himself to relax, lets his asshole go soft. "Danny – "

Danny grunts, his arm gets replaced by two strong hands, fingers digging into Steve's muscles. The iron grip of Danny's hands keep him in place when the head of Danny's cock pushes in. Steve holds his breath and waits. The burn is real, keeping him grounded. He grunts and loosens up a bit.

Danny pushes further in. Steve feels the wet, slick glide, feels how his entire gut gets filled and spread wide. "Oh, shit, oh fuck . . . go, Danny, fuck – "

Steve can't move his hips. Danny holds him in place with a steely determination and so much strength. The picture of Danny's hands holding a gun floats in front of Steve's eyes. He has imagined this exactly like it's happening. He pushes back, carries his weight on his elbows, cradling his face in his hands. His throat is too tight for all the sounds he wants to make.

Danny pushes in deeper and deeper and Steve grunts with how the stretch burns. He has never been so full in his entire life. Full and grounded, held and being kept safe. He wells up, his breath comes in shallow gasps.

"You feel amazing. God, Baby . . . you okay?" Danny's hand skates over Steve's back. "You okay, huh? Shit, you're hot and tight and shit."

"I'm okay, Danny. Just . . . move, Baby, move. Fuck me." Steve dares to shoot Danny a look over his shoulder.

Danny looks wrecked and tender and worried.

"I'm okay, Danny."

The first thrust is slow and Steve forgets how to breathe. His spine is liquid like hot oil. Nothing exists but Danny's thick cock in his ass and this utter sensation to be loved, to feel how his body takes the slow thrusts from Danny.

Danny takes him in this position, his hands around Steve's hips, holding him in place while his hips begin to move faster, snap harder.

Steve is a mess. He sweats with how Danny's cock massages his insides. He wants to spread his legs more, wants to open up as wide as possible for Danny to take him, own him, ride him.

"Oh fuck, oh God, Danny, Danny, Danny – " Steve shouts and groans.

Danny is a strong man and his cock rubs time and again over the right spot in Steve's ass and lets him jerk hard. He cries out in sheer lust. His body is too small for this amount of arousal. "Danny, fuck, I'm gonna come. I'm gonna come," Steve sobs and fists his cock only to get his hand slapped away.

"I fuck you, Baby. You come for me." Danny's speech slurs with how he pants. His thrusts stay steady, getting rougher. He reaches for Steve's cock and jacks him off while he fucks his ass.

Steve comes with a strangled cry. His vision whites out and his entire body stutters. He comes all over Danny's hand and the sheets. He can't control the convulsion of his orgasm. It drains him but his body keeps twitching and jerking.

"Ahhhhh, fuck, Danny, fuck!" Steve shouts.

Danny pounds into him and pushes him down hard with one hand on the small of his back. Steve can feel the swell of Danny's cock, feels the exact moment when Danny's orgasm tears through him.

"Ah fuck, Baby, fuck. I'm coming," Danny's cock pulses deep in his ass and Steve buries his face in his hands.

When Danny collapses on Steve's back, his hands can't grab Danny's arms fast enough to pull him down as close as possible. They lie like this for a moment, breathing heavily with their skin slick from sweat. Steve feels the hard thudding of Danny's heart against his back. Steve kisses Danny's fingers and doesn't let go of his arms.

The position is uncomfortable but Steve's ass keeps Danny inside him. He needs this moment. Danny's lips found Steve's and they share an open mouth kiss, tongues licking, searching. Steve's heart answers to the wonderful way how Danny buries his face at the side of his neck.

They don't speak. Steve is overwhelmed and the post-orgasmic haze makes all the love he feels for Danny so raw and huge. He would burst into tears if he tried to speak. He keeps kissing Danny's fingers.

Danny slips out of his ass. "Need to get us cleaned. Stay," he pushes up and kisses the back of Steve's head.

Steve's out of it and follows Danny's movements with his ears. When Danny climbs back up onto the bed Steve rolls around and pulls him onto his chest and reaches up to kiss him.

"You're my everything," Steve whispers into Danny's ear. He kisses his face, runs his hands through his hair. "You're my everything," Steve says with wonder in his voice. "Thank you."

Danny nestles deeper in his arms. "For what?" His voice wavers.

Steve is thankful to know Danny fights with the emotional wave, too.

"For giving me a reason to go on. For being you." Steve wants to say more but words won't come easy. For loving me, for wanting me.

Danny caresses his face and just gazes into his eyes.

Steve would want to say so many cheesy things but maybe later when it's dark and there's only his voice whispering tender, sweet words of love into Danny's hair. The night is the right time for this. And Christmas. But everything is still so new. Steve is overwhelmed. He tells Danny how much he loves him with how he engulfs Danny with his arms.

Danny rests his head on Steve's chest. He throws a leg over Steve's hip, pins him down, and pulls him closer. "I love you so much."

Steve draws lazy circles on Danny's back and whispers the declaration of love back into Danny's hair, while his heart flutters. They doze off until Danny wakes up again, checks the time. "Half an hour, Steve. We have to get ready in thirty minutes. I need to strip the bed before we go. And my parents are waiting for us at home, okay?"

"Okay, yeah. I didn't mean to crash your big Christmas dinner with your family."

"You're my family now, Steve. And you don't crash anything."

"Mm-hmm." Steve nuzzles Danny's forehead. He smells like home. The words sink in. Too big to process right now.

"Can we make a deal?" Danny entangles himself from Steve's demanding arms and watches him with his head braced against his hand, elbow propped up.

"What deal?" Steve's fingertips trace Danny's lips. He waits.

"Christmas dinner at the Williams' house is quite a happening. It's loud, funny, chaotic, and too much Christmas spirit all over the place. I know this might be a trigger for you or you might want to flee the scene.

"And?" Steve kisses Danny playfully, maybe also to distract him. He doesn't like to be addressed on his weakness.

"We decide on a code right now. I suggest colors."

"Colors?" Steve rolls his hips up and kisses the gasp from Danny's lips.

"Green stays for 'good', orange for 'not okay', red for 'we need to leave now'."

"Okay?" Steve smiles not really listening.

"That's not a joke, Steve. You know a panic attack or anything else can hit you any time in unusual surroundings. The Williams' traditional Christmas dinner is one of these unpredictable situations. It might hit you from one second to the other. I'll check up on you regularly and you have to be honest with me."

"I am honest with you." Steve draws his eyebrows together, trying to smoothen the wrinkles on Danny's forehead.

"Okay, Baby, so when I sense any discomfort you're feeling and I'm going to ask you what color you will be honest, Steve. I mean it."

"I promise, I'll tell you the right color."

"Good," Danny exhales and climbs back on top of Steve.

They make out until Danny says it's time to get ready.


The evening is a lot to take in. Danny hasn't exaggerated. It's overly emotional with the Christmas songs and the love Danny's mother welcomes Steve into the family. Everyone pulls him into a hug, kisses his cheeks, even Danny's father. He learns this is an Italian habit.

Matty laughs and hugs him several times. Danny's sisters go all mother-hen on him, feeding him, serving him Eddie Williams' eggnog, making him feel like he has found a new home. Danny's uncle thanks him for his service. Danny's father does the same deeply moved and with tears in his eyes. Steve gets yanked back into another hug. He has no idea what to say.

The food is delicious and he can't stop eating. He's warm until he's too hot because Danny's mother gifts him a hand-knitted jumper and he puts that cozy, warm thing on instantly to show his gratitude. It's a furnace. Danny says she mass-produces them just to have an extra gift for an unexpected guest.

Danny never leaves his side. No one finds it strange to address him as Danny's man or Danny's boyfriend or partner. It's love so who cares. Steve starts to get dizzy.

The wave of sadness is inevitable. Steve misses this incredible family spirit with his own family. He knows why he has never given a shit about Christmas because like this he has never had to face the hurt and the losing of his family at such a young age. He has always loved Christmas when his world has been whole and his mother alive, living in Hawaii with his sister Mary and his dad.

Steve can't follow the conversation anymore. The laughter gets too loud and his chest tightens dangerously fast.

"What color, Steve?" Danny appears out of nowhere, making him look at him.

Steve tightens his jaw, averts his gaze. He hates when the control gets yanked out of his hands by his memory and his fucked-up mind. He can't run away from these issues. "Red." He turns his head and looks straight at Danny. He doesn't want to hide from Danny. Not anymore. "It's red."

"Okay, let's go for a walk." Danny pulls Steve up and out of the soft chair. "Ma?" He shouts over his shoulder.

"Danny, Sweetheart? Where are you going?" Danny's mother follows them into the narrow hallway.

Steve is putting his shoes on.

"We go for a walk. Half an hour maybe more, okay? We'll be back for dessert."

Steve feels Clara William's eyes on him. He can't explain anything. He just wants to leave. He feels how his vision narrows.

"Take care of him, Danny. We love you, Steve." Clara Williams turns around and goes and shields Steve from any further questions by other worried family members.

It's still snowing. The world is white and silent. It's gorgeous and magical. They walk and they don't talk. At one point, Steve takes Danny's hand in his and pulls him into a small alley. He presses Danny up against the wall and hides his face in the crook of his neck. He just stays like this, breathes into Danny's skin, and lets Danny hold him.

"I know that Stan has bought a great, super expensive dollhouse for Grace. And I love that her step-dad has made one of her big little girl's wishes come true. But I'm Grace's dad and I want to make her happy. So, I have this idea – "

Steve nestles deeper into Danny's hug. With his eyes closed, Steve lets Danny's voice wash over him.

" – because in Grace's Hula dance class one of Kawika's nieces is part of the group, too and she's one of Gracie's friends – "

"Kapu Kawika?" Steve mumbles.

"Yeah, Kapu Kawika and I have this idea to build the girls a treehouse with all the precautions of course but Grace would go nuts about it. That's something I want to make happen for the girls. I know they would love it. And I would be 'Daddy of the year'. I have the ideas, Kawika has the tree and you have the skills. Wanna help me build it?" Danny draws his lips over Steve's cheek. "I know Kawika would love the idea too. I met him a few times when I picked up Grace."

Steve rocks into Danny. "You want me to help you build a treehouse for Grace and Kawika's niece?"


Steve smiles and circles his arms around Danny. "We build them the best treehouse in the world."

"I hoped you'd say that." Danny searches for Steve's lips and kisses him.

When they part, Steve's heartbeat is back to normal and he doesn't have the feeling that the world is closing in on him. "What's for dessert?"

"Tiramisu and about five different flavored, sinfully delicious Italian ice creams."


Three weeks later

The gang hangs out at Danny's place because every member of the Five-0 team and the Kapu helps to renovate Steve's house. It's not habitable for about three weeks. Steve stays at Danny's place. They hang out together to discuss the final details for the treehouse.

Steve rushes into the kitchen to fetch more Longboards. He listens to the laughter outside when he spots a card leaning against the gun oil can. It hasn't been here last time he checked. He walks closer and picks the card up. He turns it. It looks like a postcard from a gift shop with these sayings printed on the front. The gun oil can is always surrounded by different flowers, some petals are strewed around the can. It's always a new flower arrangement. Sometimes, it's a single blossom but the metal can never stands alone. It moves Steve every time he sees it.

Steve bites his lips and reads the text. His stomach is tense and his heartbeat spikes a bit. He inhales with a shudder. There's a sentence written on the front. What makes him want to sit down is not the text or that Danny has spotted this card and felt the urge to buy it and to put it next to the little still life in the kitchen but it's the knowledge that he's the chosen one. The gun oil and the flowers . . . that's him and Danny. Steve knows this.

And the card. God, he loves Danny so much. The saying on the card tells something that Steve feels too. The card tells him Danny thinks like this of him. And this moves Steve to the very core. With the card in hand, he goes looking for a pen. When he has found one, he sits down and adds a line to the saying on the front. He writes his own wisdom next to the print. And it's his declaration of love to Danny. And it's the truth.

Steve's heart thuds when he puts the card back. He feels the part of him that is still settling, giving him an inner direction. He only can do all this, easing into the process of transitioning because Danny is right by his side.

Steve smiles, turns around, and walks back outside into the sunshine and the easy chatter of his friends. With the Longboards in hand, his eyes search for Danny.

"Baby, where have you been?" Danny slips his arm around Steve and pulls him down into a soft kiss.

"To get more beer." Steve smiles into the kiss and doesn't care about the catcalls from his friends.

Dust dances in the ray of sunshine pouring in from the kitchen window. The cone of soft light wanders over the table with the sinking of the sun until it grazes over the silent moment on the table, where a can of gun oil, a few lovely twigs from the Plumeria, and a card are arranged to a message of love.

The card says: When you fall in love with a person who gets you without words you know you've found your soulmate.

And Steve has added another line in his neat handwriting: and mine makes the noise go away. Love you, Danny. S.