For two weeks, Steve settles into mundane tasks that are necessary to continue the investigation against Wo Fat.
Every few days, he sits in the van and helps compile incriminating evidence. When he’s not doing that, he’s going over old files, closed and potentially related cases, and calling up witnesses. He and Danny go out for dinner or grab a beer at Steve’s place a few times during the two-week period. Steve uses those non-dates to recharge, get himself back into his determined mind frame in order to solve the case, but keep from slipping off the deep end like the last time.
At least Danny had stayed on the island after the divorce.
Steve doesn’t even begin to doubt that if he screws up again, Danny will find good cause to talk to Stan and Rachel and discuss a departure from Hawaii.
He’s getting ready for just another night in the same routine when the knock at his door comes. Steve checks his watch to make sure he’s not late and abandons his packing to head downstairs, drawing it open to find Danny on his doorstep.
He looks, for lack of a better word, drained dry.
“What is it? What happened?”
“As of nine-thirty this morning, Wo Fat was arrested on the charges of gun running, money laundering, and,” Danny trails off, a smirk on his lips, “reckless driving.” It’s not something Steve had ever considered as a way to get him in, but it seems to have done the trick. “Cameras caught him getting in an accident. He then left the scene, but a witness caught his plates.”
“How long will he go away for on those charges?”
“Well, you know, the DA is pushing for as much time as possible, but even she agrees that we’re not gonna get him there for life. Plus, his organization is still intact,” Danny says apologetically.
“We can dismantle that piece by piece,” Steve says, the determination burning furiously. “He’s been arrested? He’s in jail?”
“Maximum security, given his history and the allegations of murder,” Danny agrees, something like a smile growing on his lips. “Steve, it’s over.” He steps forward, brushing his fingers against Steve’s shoulder and entering the house without asking (or needing) permission. “You okay?”
Steve feels lost. He’s stuck staring forward and trying to reconcile the feeling that he expected to feel on this day and the one he’s experiencing at that very moment. Mostly, all he registers is a gaping void. There’s numbness and not much else.
“It’s not how I thought this would go,” he admits, wondering if he should call Mary and tell her or whether he should wait until a conviction has been ruled on. “Any of this,” he says, staring at Danny and the way he looks awkward in a house that used to be half-his.
Danny leans forward, his fingers brushing against Steve’s torso. For a moment, he just freezes up.
Seconds later, Steve realizes that Danny is going for his cell phone, digging it out of his front pocket – where he always keeps the phone – and drawing it into his palm. “I’m calling Chin and Kono. We just put away the jackass who hurt you. You’re gonna celebrate, even if it’s just a beer with your friends and me.”
Danny doesn’t even consider himself Steve’s friend anymore, and the idea is laughable and horrible all at once.
Steve reaches out to catch Danny’s wrist, pulling him closer and forcibly into the house at the same time.
“It’s not my friends and you, Danny, don’t pretend,” Steve says, his words sharp and cutting, like they always are when he’s trying to make his point clear to Danny. “It’s my best friend and the rest of my friends,” he says. “I didn’t exactly get much of a say when I got served with divorce papers and I’ll admit I felt betrayed, but that doesn’t stop you from being the best friend I’ve had in years.”
The phone is halfway to Danny’s ear as Steve speaks. He wets his lower lip as he watches Danny for a long moment, pulling away to get the beers from the kitchen. He hears Danny’s voice distantly, telling Chin and Kono that the drinks are on McGarrett and to bring company if they want. The next call goes to HPD before Steve can stop him and just like that, Steve’s somehow offered to become host to a whole precinct.
Within an hour, there are people trickling into an open door, taking the beer Steve offers. Chin and Kono arrive with provisions and get the grill going, taking orders and making the lanai the central hub of the party.
Within two hours, Steve’s house is overrun by people he either knows incredibly well or has never seen before in his life.
Danny seems to know each and every one of them. He smiles like every one of them is bringing the sun out from behind the clouds, offering hearty claps on the back and words of congratulations to everyone he sees. Danny’s always been able to be someone’s best friend if ever he put the time and effort into it.
Steve watches him from the kitchen, a bottle of beer in his hand and a fond smile on his lips.
Danny is still the man that he fell in love with, still the one he promised his life to when they eloped and signed their papers. He made a mistake, he knows that, but he’s done his best to fix it since then. He doesn’t know if he deserves a second chance, necessarily, but it’s never stopped him wanting one.
Eventually, the sea of people Danny is working his way through parts and Danny joins Steve in the kitchen, digging out a fresh beer from the fridge.
“Trust you to be avoidant at your own party,” Danny says.
“You’re the one who invited everyone. So, by that logic, you’re the host,” Steve reasons, tipping his bottle back and forth, gesturing with it when necessary. “I’m just enjoying the show in front of me.” His whole body has relaxed, his muscles going lax as though the stress of the case had bled out the moment they caught Wo Fat.
He reaches over with his free hand and nudges his knuckle in against the silk fabric of Danny’s tie. The knot is expertly tied, achieved from years of consistency, and so there’s resistance as Steve works his finger in slowly, hooking the fingertip against the tie and using it to tug Danny closer while he simultaneously loosens it. Danny lowers his gaze, but doesn’t pull away. It’s tacit permission.
It’s all Steve needs.
He tips his head to one side and stares at Danny’s profile as he works through all the wicked thoughts of things he wants to do to the man before him. “You worked on this case for eighteen months,” Steve murmurs, pulling the tie loose until there’s no knot to speak of and the silk fabric brushes against Steve’s palm teasingly.
He wraps it around and around, until he can use his palm and the tie to cup Danny’s cheek and press closer to shorten the distance between them.
“It was important to you,” Danny says. “It was so important that you put aside protocol and everything that I believed in. I didn’t approve at fucking all, Steve, but I knew it meant something to you and you were important to me.”
“Were,” Steve picks out that word and gives it heavy inflection.
He’s closer now than he was before, his other hand putting the beer bottle on the table so it can occupy the small of Danny’s back.
“Are,” Danny says. He bites out the word like it’s torture to surrender, but Steve’s already decided that Danny wouldn’t take over a case for eighteen months if the ‘were’ weren’t an ‘are’ already.
He leans in the rest of the distance and pulls Danny in the remainder of the way, pressing his lips to Danny’s slowly. He lets them rest there a split second as an invitation for Danny to pull away and when he doesn’t move, Steve takes it as further permission to do what he’s wanted to do for years and could only ever dream about.
He forcibly keeps the pace slow. It’s torture and perfection at once to have the taste of Danny’s lips on his again, this reminder of a time when things were right. His eyes fall shut and he forgets the party and the people, only thinks about the warmth of Danny’s skin at his fingertips and the way his shirt is going to wrinkle because Steve’s fingers contract and grasp at the shirt, wrinkling it as he bunches the fabric in his palm.
He’s only focused on the way Danny lets loose a soft slip of a moan and when Steve parts his lips, it resonates within him. He’s only paying attention to the way that Danny presses forward and locks their bodies together, flush from knees to shoulders, while Danny’s hand twines in the hairs at the nape of Steve’s neck and causes a full-body shiver to wrack through him.
“Danny,” Steve moans softly, a dim awareness of the people around them, but that small part of him is quickly and forcefully overruled by three years’ worth of desperate desire.
Something must happen because suddenly Danny pulls away, swiping at the corner of his lips with his thumb and the distance between them grows and grows until there’s a practical ocean between them and Steve doesn’t know what he’s done.
“Danny?” he says again, so different from the last time.
“I can’t do this, Steve. Not right now,” Danny admits hoarsely, bolting away and getting lost in a crowd of people in Steve’s home.
Steve sags back against the doorframe, tipping his head to the ceiling as he processes the familiar sensation of hopelessness pushing through him. He’s well-aware of it, but during a celebration of the one thing he’s wanted ever since he discovered the truth, he didn’t expect to be feeling this lost.
He grabs hold of his half-empty beer and finds his way to the lanai. “Clean up when you’re done,” he tells Chin and Kono. “I’m heading down to the beach.” He waits a moment, then figures he ought to tell them why before they start following him when all he wants is to be process his thoughts. “Danny left.”
They don’t protest and they let him go.
It’s the day he’s been waiting for, the day they bring in Wo Fat to some kind of justice. The problem is that it’s never going to be enough for what Steve thinks is owed.
There’s nothing to make up for that fact and the one person that could have made things tolerable has just walked out the door.
It’s like the past few weeks have been an anomaly.
Steve visits HPD, but Danny is never at his desk. None of the other detectives in the area around him can account for his presence and some suggest that he’s back in New Jersey like they’ve been coached to say so. Danny’s suit jacket lingers on his desk chair and there are half-drank coffees on his desk whenever Steve drops by.
Grace won’t answer when Steve asks if she’s seen him. For a thirteen-year-old, she’s alarmingly good at hiding the truth and Steve tries not to feel a bereft and furious sense of jealousy that he’s not the one having late-night conversations with Danny about what that means and if they should be worried about it.
“Somebody,” he says, at his wit’s end when he goes by the precinct for the fourth time in as many days and no one, not a single soul, can tell him where Detective Danny Williams is. “Somebody,” Steve repeats, his voice getting louder, “has to know where Danny Williams is! Just tell me and I’ll go away.”
He receives the silence of solidarity and he’s never hated it more.
“Fine. If anyone here happens to see Danny in their lifetime again,” Steve says, the sarcasm practically bleeding through every word, “tell him Steve’s looking for him.”
He storms out of the precinct, slamming every successive door as if it’ll give him some kind of catharsis, but it does little more than make him want to slam something harder. Maybe he’ll go to the gun range and fire off a couple of rounds to get the aggression out of his system before he finally breaks and asks Chin to track Danny down.
Out of respect, he’s kept that option off the table for years, but this is taking avoidance a step too far.
If Danny thinks they’re just going to ignore the last few weeks, then he is sorely mistaken. He gets back to his place, ready to make the call to Chin, but is stopped by the presence of the Camaro in his driveway and his door open to the world.
He wanders inside warily and finds Grace sitting on one of the kitchen stools, long legs dangling over the side as she eats a slice of pizza. “You were using up all my minutes bothering me,” she explains with a roll of her eyes, pointing to the beach. “Danno’s waiting for you out there and he said you should have some pizza because you’re wasting away.”
“He didn’t say that,” Steve says in disbelief.
“Okay, he said a lot more and he used his hands, and then he called you a schmuck,” Grace agrees, bugging out her eyes to emphasize the inanity of it. “But it pretty much boiled down to you not taking care of yourself ever since he left.” She gestures out to the beach, cheese dripping off her lower lip before she sucks it back in. Her hair’s blonder than the last time Steve saw her and he’s not sure if that’s because of the sun or whether she’s started to dye it so that she and Danny share more than their facial expressions.
He sets the thought aside and opens the back door to take long strides across the sand until he gets to where Danny is standing, ankle-deep in the sand. He’s not wearing his suit. He’s got on an old Rolling Stones t-shirt and a pair of jeans, and his shoes are sitting atop one of the Adirondack chairs.
“You catch a notorious criminal and they’re willing to give you a week or two. Who knew?” Danny says with a smirk. “Doesn’t mean I’m not going in to tie up loose ends, but it does mean I get forcibly pushed out of the office around noon. Just in time to get home and have my kid tell me I am ‘neglecting my duties as an ex-husband’. I’m pretty sure Rachel taught her that one.”
“You’re here because Grace made you come?” Steve asks, sure that the disbelief is showing on his face in spades and then some. If that’s the only reason Danny has come, then Steve’s not sure they’re even ready to talk.
Danny presses his lips together and rubs his hand over the back of his head. “That first stakeout,” he says, chin tucked to his chest, his gaze on the waves creeping onto the shore, “You did something. You did this thing, Steve, and it made me stop. It was just this little thing and you didn’t even realize you were doing it and that’s what makes it so huge, do you get me?”
“No,” Steve says. “No, Danny, I don’t. Actually, you’re confusing me.”
“I’m saying, I’m saying that you did something that was so you that you didn’t even think about it. It’s just part of your core Steveness.”
“Okay,” Steve says, drawing out that word. None of this is making any sense, but he’s willing to follow Danny along the yellow brick road until they come to some kind of meaning that will suddenly shed some light. Conversations with Danny tend to happen like that. You just have to wait them out and hope that they’ll reach a point, eventually.
Danny takes a deep breath and gestures with both hands. They’re tense and he looks like he’d rather have them wrapped around something to choke the life out of it.
“I feel,” Danny spits out the words like they’re an attack instead of one of those ridiculous ‘I statements’ that a number of therapists have tried to get Steve to use. “I feel like I maybe haven’t given you the fairness of acknowledging that what you did all those years ago is not the person you are today.”
There it is.
Steve feels like his world has narrowed to this moment. The waves are crashing against the breakers and it’s all he can hear before the blood rushes to his head and then, nothing. There’s nothing but the sound of his heart beating fast.
The only reason they had split to begin with had been Steve’s fuck-up. Here Danny stands, admitting that Steve isn’t the same guy that made that choice.
“In that van, when you thought the job was compromised, your first instinct was getting our people out. The Steve that I used to know, the one obsessed with bringing Wo Fat down, screw the consequences, he wouldn’t have done that,” Danny says, something like a hopeful smile burgeoning on his lips. “And fuck, Steve, but that just gives me a lot of hope that even though your rep as an insane idiot has only been growing, that there’s something in you that’s keeping you grounded, even if I haven’t been there to do it.”
Steve is starting to get it. He’s starting to understand what that look on Danny’s face was that night in the van and he’s starting to understand the point.
“You ran pretty fast when I kissed you,” Steve says when he can’t just let that go.
Danny rolls his eyes, his brows knitted together. “What the hell is wrong with you? We’ve been divorced for three years and I was coming around to the fact that the reason I walked away from you doesn’t actually exist anymore. Suddenly you’re kissing me and you think it all just gets fixed because you slapped a bandage over it and kissed it better? No, Steven, no, it does not. What I am saying today, what I am telling you now, it is all contingent on a fresh start, true,” Danny says, finger pointed in the direction of Steve’s chest, “but it is not an invitation to jump right back to where we were. I still see those faces when I close my eyes and I still blame you a little bit, deep down in my heart, but I know you feel the regret of your actions every day and that’s enough burden weighing on your shoulders, Atlas.”
Steve inches closer until he can let his hand reach out to grasp at Danny’s left hand, bringing it up to his lips. He presses slow kisses to the knuckle, pausing when he gets to the ring finger.
There is, faintly, the hint of a pale line – like his ring has been there until very recently.
Steve’s attention is caught there long enough that Danny notices. He pulls his hand away and clears his throat awkwardly. “It was easier to turn away anyone with any kind of interest when I wore it,” Danny mutters. “I couldn’t have you reading into it, so I took it off when I took on the liaison position. I wasn’t ready for anything else.”
Steve has been told that he needs to be respectful of other peoples’ boundaries. Danny had always been clear about that and Steve knows he needs to be careful here in order not to drive him away again.
“So, does that stand? You’re still not ready for anything else?”
Danny pulls a face that just about undoes Steve. It’s the mixture of uncertainty and apprehension on a man who is so set in his ways that he knows exactly what he wants and how he wants to get it. Now, though, he just looks wary.
“I’m twice divorced and not exactly over either of you,” he admits, sounding raw. “Rachel, she didn’t like me being a cop. That didn’t go away. She met Stan, she moved on. You, though,” he continues, casting his gaze to the side as he clears his throat, “You made a mistake that was too big and you did it against my known protests. Except that you’ve grown enough to not do it again, even under similar circumstances. I don’t know, Steve, I really don’t,” Danny admits, pained.
Steve isn’t sure where that leaves, them, either.
He does know what he wants. “Come back to Five-O,” he says, suddenly. He’d meant to start smaller than that in offering Danny a position as permanent liaison between HPD and Five-O, but now that he’s started to think about it, all he wants is for Danny to come back. “I need a new partner anyway.”
“Yeah,” Danny says with a smirk, “I heard you burned through seven partners in three years.”
“None of them were you. They were good, some of them were even great, but they didn’t know when to push me and they didn’t know when to stay silent,” Steve says, which is true of every partner who had tried to fill Danny’s shoes. They’d been technically capable, but lacked the connection with Steve that it really took to make a partnership shine. “Danny, you don’t have to be anything to me except for my partner at work until you’re ready. And I’ll respect that.”
“Like you respected it to begin with?” Danny asks warily. “What with the staring and the baiting and the nickname?”
“We weren’t divorced, then,” Steve reminds him. The tide is coming in and brushing against Danny’s feet, making him creep up the sand and close the distance between them. In the house, Steve can see Grace peering out through the blinds and intruding on the privacy of their moment. “Look, Danny, I need a partner who’ll stick with me. If I can’t find one, there’s a risk of Five-O being shut down. So all I’m asking, all that I feel that I deserve right now, is for you to come back to work.”
There’s a long silence that bodes poorly when it comes to Steve’s request.
Finally, though, Danny seems to turn his attention away from the ocean. He sighs heavily and gives Steve a tired smile. “I’ll think about it, okay? I’ll really give it some good thought.”
“Do you wanna stay? You brought pizza and even though I’m pretty sure Grace is doing her best to eat it all, I heard a rumor that you think I’m too thin,” Steve says, feeling a rush of fondness overtake him as he looks at Danny, knowing that he’s going to think about coming back.
He’s going to consider coming home.
“Skin and bones and horrifying amounts of muscle,” Danny agrees flippantly, rolling his eyes. “Honestly, what have they been doing with you since I’ve been gone?”
“Nobody could replace you, Williams. I thought you’d be happy about that.”
“Yeah, well,” Danny starts, but trails off as though Steve has rendered him somehow speechless. Danny cuffs him by the bicep and tugs him along. “Come on, I even got half the pizza with pineapple on it so you would have something to enjoy. Something to make you smile. Let’s go eat and I’ll think a little more about your offer.”
Steve trails behind Danny and takes the ample opportunity to stare at his ass – which hasn’t grown any less impressive in their time apart. If he’s honest, Steve might even say that it’s improved with age.
“Finally,” Grace says when they get back inside. “Pizza’s cold by now.”
“We’ll make do, Monkey. Go get us some plates, let’s really get this pizza party going.”
Steve catches Danny looking at him in his peripheral view and even if they’re just taking this slow, it’s enough hope that it’s got Steve grinning like he hasn’t in years.
SIX MONTHS LATER
“Oh, Jesus,” Danny yells loudly, gripping at the car’s handle, eyes squeezed as tightly closed as possible. “You’re gonna kill me, you’re gonna kill me and then I’m gonna come back from the beyond to end you, my car should not be going this speed, Steven, what the hell are you doing?”
“I’m driving after a perp, Danny!” Steve shouts at him, patience at its wits’ end. “And we’re only going ninety. You’ve done worse than this.”
“I was at a racetrack! This is a highway!”
“Danny, just hold on, I know what I’m doing,” Steve promises, flashing him an excited grin as he guns it and the car goes skidding around a corner as they chase down their number one suspect in a robbery-homicide case that happened to hit the Governor’s office just the other week.
In the end, they do get their guy. It’s good news, because Steve’s not sure how long Governor Jameson would’ve let him keep up the task force if he couldn’t even retrieve her work-files after a smash-and-grab. Danny’s got the robber on the ground, face-down, and Steve’s feeling pretty damn good after coming off a phone call to the Governor, promising her that everything’s been solved.
“Book ‘em, Danno,” Steve says.
Danny tries to hide it, but he’s smiling. He’s pressing his lips tightly together, but the amusement is still plain as day. “Still an endearment?” Danny too-casually asks. Danny’s got his fair share of tells and the way his lips quirk downwards momentarily in a flash of a frown is as clear an indicator as any that he actually, genuinely wants to know.
“Always,” Steve promises and beams away as Danny hauls the perp to his feet to begin reading him his Miranda rights.