Beta: the incomparable engel82. I’ve messed with this since she saw it, so any remaining mistakes are my own.
Genre: Angst, H/C, First Time, Future Fic
Warnings: Language, PTSD, brief discussion of past graphic violence
Word Count: 3,921
Summary: They’d been going ’round in circles for what felt like a lifetime. Planets in orbit around an unseen star. Ships swirling around their own personal Charybdis; centripetal forces keeping them from flying apart, but making it impossible to come closer together. Until now.
Author’s Note: Written for round 2 of the shoot_the_curl challenge for dreamwind83’s prompt:
“I’m getting old and I need something to rely on /So tell me when you’re gonna let me in /I’m getting tired and I need somewhere to begin”—lyrics from Keane’s “Somewhere Only We Know.”
The title is also a line from the same song.
They’d been going ’round in circles for what felt like a lifetime. Planets in orbit around an unseen star. Ships swirling around their own personal Charybdis; centripetal forces keeping them from flying apart, but making it impossible to come closer together. Until now.
Danny stood in the doorway to the old McGarrett house—a silhouette—the sun at his back in sharp contrast to the interior that was at once both dim and cool by comparison and warmly inviting. Despite the intervening years, it felt like the place had never changed—same dark woods and masculine furnishings; same couch; same sunny kitchen with its freezer perpetually stocked with peppermint patties. The blood spatter and crime scene tape from John McGarrett’s murder was long gone, and Danny’d lost track of the number of times Steve had patched up the walls to cover bullet holes, but the spirit of the place was the same… as were its scars and secrets.
“Steve?” Danny called, head cocked to one side, listening for the telltale thump or shout that would signal Steve’s presence.
The door was unlocked, and the alarm wasn’t set. Danny was going to give Steve a piece of his mind about that as soon as he found him. Who cared if it was the hundredth time? Maybe one of these days it would sink in, and the crazy goof would remember to set his alarm all the time, and not just when Danny reminded him.
“Steve? Babe, are you here?” Danny called again, crossing the room with quick strides. He paused at the base of the stairs, peering into the shadowy stillness of the second floor. It was possible Steve was up there, sleeping. That’s what any sane person would do given the circumstances. But Steve wasn’t just anyone, and his sanity had always been in doubt. If he was truly sleeping—and knocked out on pain meds—he might not have heard Danny calling. Then again, Steve taking his prescriptions as recommended was about as likely as him following doctors’ orders and resting, which meant it wasn’t likely at all. And if Danny did go up and check, chances were Steve would lash out when he finally awoke, and no one wanted to be on the receiving end of a super ex-SEAL who felt threatened. That would end in pain and tears for everyone.
They’d both had enough pain and tears to last a dozen lifetimes.
Hand on the railing, he lingered, only to turn away. Danny could always check the bedroom later if he didn’t find Steve in one of the usual places.
Danny wandered, letting his feet lead him along the familiar path out onto the lanai and down toward the water. The old, familiar chairs were set out in the sand, just beyond the high-water mark, waiting for Danny and Steve to take their places—kick back with a few Longboards while they bickered about life and looked out over the water.
—A thousand conversations, a million meaningful glances, stolen touches, skin on skin. A hundred ways it almost happened, but never quite did—
They’d been stuck in the same holding pattern for a decade, and damnit! Danny wanted to come in for a landing, needed to know what was on the other side of the door, across that invisible line in the sand. Call him selfish, but he had perspective now, and as familiar and safe and constant as their friendship had been, he couldn’t live like this anymore. Call it perspective, call it perfect clarity—Danny’d had a taste of it nine years ago when Steve got himself arrested; he’d come closer to understanding what it meant when he found Steve burned and bloody, chained up in the back of a truck a few miles on the wrong side of the North Korean border; and he’d caught glimpses of it over the years every time one of them got themselves caught in some impossible situation. But he hadn’t figured out what it all meant, not until now. Now that he knew, every minute felt like dying. He had to find Steve, had to tell him, get past this invisible wall between them…
But Steve wasn’t here, and there was no sign of him in the water, swimming laps out among the waves, so all Danny was doing was delaying the inevitable. And like pineapple on pizza, that kind of procrastination wasn’t on Danny’s menu. Eh, at least he wouldn’t have to berate Steve for getting his stitches wet.
Without another thought, he set out for the house, made his way up the beach with swift, determined strides, and slipped back inside. There was one other place to check.
Ten years ago last week, Danny had stood at the other end of this garage, pulled his service piece, and shouted his way through a confrontation in which McGarrett changed both their lives forever. If he’d known then…
No, Danny thought to himself, shaking his head for emphasis. Meeting Steve McGarrett was both the best, and the most infuriating, thing to cross paths with Danny’s life. Whatever happened, he didn’t want to imagine his life any differently.
It took a minute for his eyes to adjust and make out the shapes and corners of the garage. As inside the house, there were no lights on—Steve favored natural light even when artificial lighting would make a lot more sense—and the windows were small and mostly obscured by tools and assorted odds, ends, and detritus. Sure enough, Danny could make out the lump of the Mercury (the ancient hunk of metal was still temperamental, and Steve still insisted on constant tinkering to keep it running) and the outline of Steve hunched over its open hood, his right hand clinging to the frame with a death grip as he tried to loosen something in the engine compartment one-handed. As Danny’s eyes adjusted and the room became clearer, he could see Steve squinting in consternation as he groped around under the Mercury’s hood.
Danny stopped and stared, taking in the familiar image, ignoring the incongruities, and feasting his eyes on the comforting sight of Steve puttering around his dad’s old car.
He blinked. Steve winced, and the spell was broken.
Steve’s outline was far too small, skinny—frail, if Danny was honest—his grease-stained, gray Navy t-shirt and cargoes hung loosely on his frame, his body too angular thanks to lost muscle mass. It was clear he wasn’t leaning over to get better access to whatever auto part he was assaulting, but because he was physically incapable of standing up straight. The more Danny’s eyes adjusted, the clearer became the shiny-pink of the still-healing scar that snaked its way out of Steve’s shirt and up his neck. Steve leaned forward, grunting with pain, and Danny caught the white flash of the bandages on Steve’s abdomen that peeked out when as Steve’s shirt rode up.
Danny held his tongue.
Steve kept struggling, leaning farther forward and straining so hard his legs were shaking.
With a sigh, Danny broke his silence. “You’re gonna pull your stitches,” he said softly.
To his relief, Steve didn’t flinch or jerk, just stilled and slowly, cautiously straightened, setting down the tool he was clutching in his left hand, using his right to unsteadily push himself out from under the hood.
Danny had figured Steve knew he was there, but he’d been… worried. Maybe the toll of the past few months had managed to dull Steve’s reflexes. It was good to see some things really didn’t change.
“Danno. You tryin’ to give me a heart attack?” Steve panted, wiping sweat from his forehead with the back of his left hand.
“Hah, funny. That’s usually my line,” Danny said, attempting levity as he jammed his hands into his pants pockets to hide his nervousness. How Steve could even joke about heart attacks after what he’d been through— Danny forcibly shut down that train of thought and schooled his features into what he hoped was an approximation of his usual faux apoplexy.
“What’s with you?” Steve asked with a nod.
Huh, apparently he hadn’t succeeded. “What’s with me? What’s with me? Steven, nothing’s with me. You see, I was planning to pick up my partner from the hospital this afternoon. He was getting sprung after being stuck in that place for two months. So, like a normal, sane person, I thought I’d give him a ride home, help him get settled. Only, half an hour before I’m supposed to pick him up, I get a call from Kono saying my partner has checked himself out. Called a cab and just headed home.”
Steve blinked, obviously nonplussed.
Danny took a few steps closer, unable to contain his hands any more. “And then I get to his house to make sure he’s okay, and what do I find? His door is open and the alarm isn’t set, and when I finally find him—” Danny indicated the garage with a big encompassing gesture, “—he’s in the garage, working on his car.”
Expression flickering between his “constipated face” and “utterly bewildered,” Steve protested, “I’m just changing the air filter.” He pointed at the offending part—a soiled air filter—that was perched precariously on top of the radiator. Giving Danny a sheepish grin, he reached out and picked up a rag draped over the fender and began wiping of his hands. He flinched with every movement.
Something didn’t add up. Danny looked at Steve, at the car, and back at Steve. “What the hell? That’s like a five-minute repair. Even I know that. I’ve been here for ten minutes calling for you, and something tells me you’ve been in here a lot longer than that.”
At least Steve had the good grace to blush, the deepening crow’s-feet around his eyes crinkling as he did so, sending a rush of warmth and overwhelming emotion racing up Danny’s spine at the sight. “I, uh, might have dropped a wing nut. And then it got stuck?”
“Dropped a wing nut? Was there, oh, bending or crawling, or reaching involved in its retrieval?” Danny asked, voice rising.
“There may have been.”
“And weren’t bending, crawling, and reaching on the list of prohibited activities Dr. Olsen gave you?”
“They may have been,” Steve repeated.
Danny gaped. He’d promised himself he wouldn’t let Steve side track him into one of these debates again, but it turned out, like most prospects involving Steve, that was much easier said than done.
“Danny,” Steve began, his tone surprisingly affectionate. “I’m fine. See, didn’t even pull any stitches.” As he spoke, he lifted his t-shirt as an offer of proof, showing Danny the spotless white bandages covering most of his belly. Steve smiled, weak and hopeful, and for a moment it was okay, familiar, just like any other time one of them had been hurt on the job (which was far, far too often), but then it all slid sideways, and Danny was back there.
Gunshots. An explosion that sounded suspiciously like a grenade going off. Screams. Running. Danny’s feet pounding across the concrete floor of the warehouse, oblivious to the smoldering fragments of broken shipping crates and the crunch of shattered glass. Steve lying still, motionless. Steve in an ever-expanding pool of blood. Steve bleeding out beneath Danny’s hands. Hands hot and sticky with the blood gushing from Steve’s wounds, while his knees grew cold and wet, pants getting stiff where he knelt in the cooling mess covering the floor. Trying to figure out how to do chest compressions without making anything worse. Catching Kono’s eye as she tried to keep Steve’s guts inside his body. Seeing the same hopeless realization painted all over her face that Danny knew in his soul, but refused to acknowledge. Screaming for Chin or Lori or someone to call a goddamn bus and get the fucking paramedics here. Praying to gods he didn’t believe in because there was no way, no fucking way…
Danny didn’t remember the next bit anyhow. The looks the paramedics gave him. What he said; what he did; where he was? Kono told him he rode in the ambulance with Steve. That they didn’t even try to pull him away. They said he’d probably never remember.
Danny was okay with that.
Doctors. Queen’s Medical Center. People giving them a very wide berth. Nurses trying to make Danny come with them. Danny refused. A trauma surgeon coming to take him into family counseling. Danny demanded Kono come with him, and the door closed behind them with a note of finality. Like being sealed in a tomb.
Bleak facts and bleaker statistics: three gunshot wounds; shrapnel from the grenade. The perps had used armor-piercing rounds with sharp, unyielding titanium cores, and they’d torn through Steve’s vest like it was tissue paper. Blood loss. Collapsed lung. Ruptured bowel. Risk of sepsis. Steve arresting three times during surgery. Medically induced coma. The list of horrors went on and on, and Danny would always remember being shocked at the end of that first conference when the surgeon told him to call Mary right away because there might not be much time. Shocked, because those words meant Steve was still alive, at least for now.
The world rushed back into Technicolor after that. Everything was too-bright, too loud. Danny could taste his fear and the salt of his sweat; he could smell the tang of antiseptic that permeated every surface. Pain etched in around the corners of his awareness and his skin felt too tight. Every touch an agony. And it was only then he realized why those nurses had been trying to get his attention.
He’d been covered with blood. Most of it was Steve’s, but some of it was Danny’s own. He had glass shards in his knees and splinters in his hands, abrasions all over that he hadn’t even felt. They cleaned him up and life went on, Danny oblivious as they talked about prophylactic measures and the risk of blood-borne illness. He wasn’t worried about that. He was trying to figure out what this all meant.
“Danno… Danno, Danny?”
Steve’s concerned voice broke through Danny’s fugue state, and he came back to himself, here in the present. Steve’s garage with its familiar sights and smells. Steve, on the mend, standing in front of him.
Funny how it was Steve who’d been shot and blown up, Steve who’d almost bled out in Danny’s arms, Steve who was lucky to be alive, but it was Danny who was stuck with flashbacks.
Danny tried to shake it off with a joke, but the look of fear in Steve’s eyes reminded him of what he’d come to say in the first place. “I—I can’t do this anymore,” he proclaimed, running both hands through his hair and tugging—same style as always, just a little thinner and sprinkled with gray.
“Can’t do what?” Steve asked, bewildered. “Danny, are you okay?” he asked when Danny started pacing, gave a frustrated growl that morphed into a moan, and slammed his fists down at his sides, making his starched chinos snap with the movement.
The sound startled Danny. He froze midstride and turned, slowly, to face Steve. “No,” he hung his head, shaking it for emphasis. “No, I’m not.”
The hesitant touch of Steve’s hand on his shoulder was the catalyst he needed. He looked up and met Steve’s eyes, heart clenching at the loss and confusion he saw there.
“I wasn’t being reckless,” Steve said defensively, an edge in his voice, as he started to step back.
Danny could see Steve’s walls going up. Reflex. Protection from rejection and everyone he’d ever loved eventually leaving him. Danny knew the score; Steve’s walls were impenetrable battlements. Give him a second and he’d surround himself with a moat and pull up all the drawbridges—Steve, an island no one could reach.
“No!” Danny shouted. It came out more forcefully than intended. “No,” he repeated, more softly. “That’s not—I know you weren’t reckless. You did everything right. We all did everything right. By the book, cautious. But we still almost lost you… I almost lost you…”
Danny chanced a glance at Steve and found him looking wary, half-guarded, a little pinched, and—and maybe a little hopeful, too. Even if he was imagining it, the idea of hope gave Danny the strength he needed to continue. There was no backing out now. Sure, he might torpedo their friendship or their working relationship, but then again, no. That just wasn’t possible. Steve and Danny were inseparable. They’d fought together, bled together. Suffered loss together and held each other through the pain and tears, and there was nothing—nothing short of death—that could drive them apart. (Even then, Danny had his doubts.) So, he had nothing to lose, but everything… Everything he’d—they’d—denied themselves…
“Our jobs are dangerous, you know that. This isn’t the first time—” Steve protested, only to break off, because they both knew that wasn’t true. It was the first time any of them had come that close to oblivion. They’d cheated death before, but not like this… This was closer to resurrection. “I’m not going to quit—”
“I’m not asking you to quit,” Danny said, finding his voice. “I’m not quitting either. Face it; we’re married to the job. I’m a cop, and you’re—you’re a cop, who’s actually a freaky super-ninja-SEAL who has to save everyone, no matter the cost…” He took a deep breath and steadied himself. “That’s part of what I love about you.”
Steve’s eyes flashed, pupils dilating, eyes opening wider. He was surprised, but not unhappy.
“Yeah, I said love,” Danny continued, his voice cracking. “I love you, Steven J. McGarrett. Face it; we’re no good for anyone else ‘cause no one else understands why we have to do what we do, no one else knows us the way we do. When was the last time either of us had a real date, forget about a relationship?”
Steve’s expression flashed through constipated into recognition, and he gave Danny a small nod of acknowledgment. It had been over a year for both of them.
“When we first met, I wasn’t sure…” Steve began. “DADT was still in effect, but I thought— We were working towards something, we almost had something, but then Matt… and you and Rachel…” Steve’s words were halting, as if time and all the false starts made him doubt if the emotions and affection had ever really been there.
“I know. And we’ve been… circling each other ever since. Not getting closer, not drifting apart. We’ve just been stuck—and I can’t take it anymore. I almost lost you. You were in a coma for a week, and that gave me a lot of time to think about the decade we could have had together.” Danny swallowed hard, reaching out for Steve, and resting his hand against the uninjured side of Steve’s neck. “I’m not getting any younger, and neither are you. What do you say we stop wasting time and do what we should have done ten years ago?” He put every ounce of hope and love and earnestness and belief he possessed into his voice, and hoped Steve could hear it.
“Are—are you sure?” was Steve’s cautious reply.
Danny’s made his best imitation of a fish and stammered, “Am I sure? Am I sure?” He realized belatedly he was starting to flap his hands around and rant, took a breath to steady himself, and placed both hands on Steve’s shoulders squeezing lightly, cognizant Steve was barely staying upright and would fall over if hit with a stiff wind, let alone a friendly pat. “Of course I’m sure, Steve. I’ve spent two months thinking about this, beating myself up because I almost didn’t get to tell you. You and me—” he pointed back and forth between them, “this isn’t going anywhere. I used to be afraid acting on my feelings would ruin our friendship. But that’s not gonna happen.”
“Not gonna happen?” Steve echoed.
“No. This is forever, babe. If three bullets and a grenade and the combined efforts of every scumbag, crime lord, and lowlife in the State of Hawai‘i can’t keep us apart, a little thing like your suicidal tendencies or my ranting isn’t going to make a dent in our relationship.”
Steve still looked doubtful.
Fuck it! Danny thought, throwing caution and subtlety to the wind. He leaned in, reaching up to cup Steve’s head, and tilted it down to meet his lips.
It should have been awkward as first kisses went. Danny felt every inch of their half-foot-plus of height difference. He was standing on tiptoe—because Steve didn’t have the balance or flexibility to really stoop down to meet him—and trying not to lean on Steve—because Steve couldn’t really take that kind of pressure on his still-tender surgical scars. Steve’s lips were dry and a little chapped thanks to two months of dehydrating, processed hospital air, and his skin was too warm, a reminder of the low-grade fevers that still plagued him most afternoons. But what they lacked in grace or timing they made up for in enthusiasm and technique, and after the first few seconds, when Steve’s tongue darted out to sneak a taste of Danny’s mouth, that all faded away, and they were left with the perfect feeling of finally. The world could be ending and Danny wouldn’t care—neither of them would. The kiss deepened, and Danny cradled Steve closer to him, taking Steve’s weight as his exhausted, trembling limbs and over-taxed balance finally gave out.
When they were both out of breath and Steve was starting to sag, Danny broke the kiss, looking up reverently into Steve’s eyes. Brushing his thumb against Steve’s lips in awe, he asked, “How ‘bout we take this inside so you can lie down—the guest room maybe, so there’s no stairs?”
Steve smiled, then glanced back over his shoulder, “What about—”
“It’ll still be here when you’re better. It’s not like anyone else is gonna drive it.”
Steve still looked skeptical.
“Come with me, and I promise you, me and Gracie will help you finish your repairs, soon as you’re cleared to actually be on your feet,” Danny said with a smile.
“You and Gracie?”
“Yeah, she’s got Fall break coming up. Rachel suggested she should spend it with us, see her Uncle Steve, make sure he’s okay. It’ll be a family thing,” he added before he realized what he’d said. “Ohana, babe.”
“Okay,” Steve agreed finally, “just—will there be more—”
“More…” Danny said, pretending not to follow, and grinning when Steve made a frustrated whine. “More kissing, yes. If you come inside right now, I promise there will be more kissing. Anything more strenuous will have to wait until you have proper medical clearance, but yeah, all the kissing you want.”
With a nod, Steven set off for the door, dragging Danny along with him. Three steps later, he asked, “Are you sure?”
But Danny just laughed and squeezed his arm, too happy to protest.
Being with Steve, it was terrifying, but not nearly as scary as the prospect of losing him forever without having taken this chance. At least now Danny knew if the world ended tomorrow, he’d have no regrets. And when it came right down to it, that was all he could really ask for.