lovely_ambition: (hawk: by lime_green_luv)
[personal profile] lovely_ambition


It had been a week since Steve watched Anton and Victor Hesse escape. His team had eyes on them until fifty yards out, but there had been a series of rigged explosions set to detonate after them. While the shrapnel was dying down, they had gotten away.

Steve had spent the majority of time at Danny’s hospital bedside with a deck of cards, containers of hospital pudding, and Grace in turns, trying to cheer him up until they released him. They’d brought Danny home three days back. Steve had still been hoping to catch information on the Hesse brothers, and spent every waking moment on the phone with any lead he could track down.

That had been his steady routine until a day ago.

That was when Steve received his orders. He was shipping out. First - to the Mediterranean, and from there, wherever he was needed. His things were packed and all that remained was saying goodbye to his father and debating whether he was even going to tell Danny.

He knew that he should. In the last five weeks, he and Danny had grown close. Steve hadn’t been in possession of many friends in the course of his life, let alone best ones, but Danny had neatly found himself a place in Steve’s life that made it feel as though he had always been there.

Steve was about to leave and he didn’t think he would ever be back. It would have been difficult to face Danny and say those words, so Steve was avoiding the conversation altogether.

Steve had just finished with his duffel bag when he heard the knock at his bedroom door. He glanced over his shoulder to find his father standing there. “Hey,” Steve greeted, moving around the bed to root through the closet and see if he wanted to bring anything with him. “How’s the case going?”

“Our woman from the mainland is coming in this week. Danny’s still out on sick-leave, but Chin and I will pursue Sang Min and try to bring down this smuggling ring,” John said, his gaze turning to the bed in consideration. “When do you leave?”

“Thirty-six hours,” Steve replied mechanically.

John didn’t budge from the doorframe. “And you’re sure you don’t want a going-away party?”

“I just want to go,” Steve said, staring down at his bag and noticing the lack of personal effects as if for the first time. There were no pictures, there was nothing that said that he had anything to come back to. And why would he? For years and years, he had avoided home. He wasn’t like some of his brothers-in-arms. He served his country and it gave him a place to belong in turn. “I have to pick up the trail, but I think they’re going to replace me. I got my chance.”

“And what about your friends? Chin?” John brought up quietly.

“Chin knows. We had lunch yesterday.”

“And Danny?”

Steve hesitated, a pair of jeans in his hand before he stubbornly lowered his gaze and fixated on packing. “Danny doesn’t need to know.”

“I don’t know that Chin took that into account when he told Danny this afternoon that you’re leaving. Sorry, son. It’s been set in motion,” John said apologetically. Steve gripped his t-shirt tighter than before, and had the feeling that he wasn’t going to get away with not talking to Danny. “Chin thought that you two were close. Was he wrong?”

“No,” Steve sighed, shaking his head. “It’s just more complicated than that. I guess I’ll drop by and say goodbye.”

“At least say goodbye to Grace. I know she’s little, but you’ve become a constant in that little girl’s life,” John said, a grave look flickering over his face. “I know Danny would be upset if you left without a word, and I don’t need a sulking detective on my hands for the next two weeks.”

“You really think he’d be upset for two weeks over me?” Steve asked dubiously.

“I think it would be closer to two months, but I’m giving Williams a little benefit of the doubt, here.”

Steve pushed more of his clothes into the bag, sliding knives and automatic rifles away. He would see Danny when he was done packing. He’d pick up a bottle of wine, or maybe a six-pack of Longboards, and try to smooth over the fact that he’d intended to leave without even telling Danny that he was going.

It sounded easier in his head, Steve found, as he stood on the doorstep of the Williams house, staring up at the imposing door. He had a pack of beer in one hand and a small rattle in the other, with a pink bow wrapped on it – presents for both Danny and Grace, like he could bribe his way out of this one.

The Camaro wasn’t even in the driveway. There was a chance, possibly, that it wasn’t Matt who was out. Maybe he and Danny and Grace had gone out for family time and Steve could just blow this off, head back to the house, and start putting together the boxes of paperwork. Yeah, he would do that, he decided, turning away from the front porch.

He didn’t make it off the stoop in time, though. He heard the creaking of the heavy door opening behind him and turned to see Danny standing there with his hands in his pockets, giving Steve a dubious look.

“Of all the things I thought about you, of all the things I could have said about Steve McGarrett, I really didn’t think being a coward was on that list,” he said. “Get in here.”

Who was Steve to disagree?

He made his way inside, trying to figure out if Danny was pissed at him. He offered the beer out to Danny, followed by the rattle. “I brought this for Grace,” Steve said, staring at it and giving it a small practice shake. “Where is she?”

“It’s ten at night, Steve,” Danny reminded him with a bemused smile, pushing the beer into the fridge. “Where do you think she is? She’s sleeping. God bless my baby girl if she can make it through the night,” he added, closing the door with his hip and staring at Steve considerately. “Chin told me that you’re going back for your next assignment. Guess that was always coming, huh?”

“Yeah, this wasn’t permanent,” Steve agreed, taking a deep breath and trying to force it past the lump in his throat. He just had to keep reminding himself of things like that – he was always meant to leave, he was never supposed to meet someone like Danny Williams. And yet, here he was, ignoring everything that he’d been feeling because of the people he served and the ones he was returning to in less than thirty-six hours.

He had been fighting images of Danny splayed naked on a bed, pressed tight in his arms, laughing in the bright early morning sunlight and wearing yesterday’s clothes.

It was harder to fight those images when Steve had one night left on the island. Danny stood less than three feet away from him, and no one was there to convince him that he couldn’t (shouldn’t) do this.

Steve gripped his fist tighter, staring as Danny idly wandered the length of his kitchen, tidying as he went.

“So how come Chin Ho had to tell me?” Danny asked, avoiding looking at Steve as he folded dishtowels into neat and precise shapes. “Thought we were getting close, I thought that, maybe, you and I were getting along really well. Was I wrong?”

Steve exhaled a long breath that he’d been holding in. “No, Danny. God, no, you’re not wrong.” He stepped closer, shortening the distance between them.

No one would know.

Matt was out, Chin wasn’t liable to stop by, and his father knew he was going out and having one last hurrah in Hawaii. Grace was asleep and no one would know if Steve indulged in what he’d wanted for so long.

One more step forward and Steve was within an arm’s reach of Danny. He took advantage of that fact by lifting his palm and brushing it against Danny’s neck, his thumb tracing the path of a muscle up to his jaw, licking his lips as he stared down the distance between them. “I’m only here for one night,” he warned. Say no if you want to, was implied when Steve kept his fingers resting against Danny’s cheek.

Danny didn’t move.

He didn’t even speak.

“We’re not looking for something permanent,” Danny said, reaching his hand up to press atop Steve’s, clasping on firmly with a kind of desperation. “Unless you were willing to offer that. We like you, Steve.”

“You and Matt?”

“No,” he said. “Me and Gracie.”

That was all Steve needed to be convinced that this was a good idea. He closed his eyes and dove in, his fingers sliding into Danny’s gelled hair and grabbing on firmly, bringing him forward to be kissed harder than Steve had kissed anyone in years. Steve pulled away, breathing raggedly, pressing his forehead to Danny’s as he tried to catch his breath.

“Are you okay? You’re not hurting, you can breathe?”

“Steve,” Danny muttered, fisting his hands up in the fabric of Steve’s t-shirt and hauling him in closer. “Shut the hell up.” That was all the warning he got before he was drawn into another kiss and mechanics took over, things he hadn’t done in years since his last one-night stand with a man.

He shifted until his back was pressed up against the marble of the kitchen island, sliding both palms down the backs of Danny’s thighs until he could get a good grip and lift him up, spinning them until Danny was the one supported on the counter.

“Steve...” Danny begged. “I don’t exactly have protection, and Matt doesn’t leave it lying around.”

Steve leaned in to kiss Danny desperately, his brow furrowing. “I don’t have anything either,” he groaned, sucking Danny’s lower lip between his own and losing himself in the act of kissing Danny as deeply as he could, forgetting about the drawbacks of this impulsive act. “I could...” he offered, trailing off and gesturing to the side. “I mean, I could leave and get some.”

Danny’s hand gripped at Steve’s shirt, yanking him in tighter. “You’re not going anywhere.”

“Danny, I only have tonight.”

“We’ll make do,” Danny insisted.

If that was the case, then Steve had an idea of where to start. He pushed Danny’s knees apart, fingers swift in unbuttoning his jeans and sliding them down. He got one hand under Danny’s ass to leverage him up, yanking his jeans down lower. “When is Matt getting back?” Steve asked, pulling Danny’s t-shirt off and throwing it aside, leaving hot impressions of lingering kisses up Danny’s torso.

“He’s not,” Danny said, sounding giddy. “He met some girl, texted to say he was going back to her place. It’s you and me alone, so long as we don’t wake Gracie.”

That was all Steve needed to know. He shifted lower, one hand on each of Danny’s knees to get comfortable, making sure that he had enough room to lean over and take Danny’s dick into his mouth, shallow and attentive. Steve had never been able to deep-throat, but his skills with his tongue had always been enough to make up for it.

It definitely didn’t hurt his ego when Danny leaned back and gripped the kitchen sink tightly, head tipped back towards the ceiling. His mouth fell open and he let out practically silent cries; Steve didn’t know if that was just how he always was or whether he was being considerate of Grace.

He realized, his mouth on Danny’s dick, sucking and enjoying the rude slurping noises that came with it, that he really wanted to find out.

That was a definite mark against casual.

Steve put thought and planning and tomorrow out of mind, choosing instead to focus on the way Danny threaded his fingers through Steve’s hair and tugged tightly, like he was attempting to exert some control. He focused on the shape and feel of Danny’s dick in his mouth, on his balls, and the way Danny’s face looked as the pleasure of the moment started to overwhelm him.

Yeah, they needed lube and condoms, but this wasn’t half bad either. If Steve could have this and a promise of searing kisses like the ones before, he could definitely stretch those out through the time he had left.

Danny’s hand in his hair tightened and Steve peered up to check on their progress.

“Steve,” Danny managed, stuttering out the word quietly. “Steve, I’m gonna.”

“Yeah,” Steve replied, searching Danny’s body over with his eyes and taking him in – enjoying every inch of him that he had to offer. “Yeah,” he reiterated, this time with much more meaning. He got his mouth right back on Danny’s dick and coaxed him along with a flattening of his tongue, curling it and gripping Danny’s thighs tightly.

It had been a while since he’d swallowed, but stupidly, he had the notion that he was going to impress Danny with this. He backed away on his heels, wiping at his mouth with the back of his hand, and didn’t need much encouragement to lean right back into Danny’s grasp and indulge in another long kiss.

He only pulled away when he could feel the beginnings of a laugh at his lips. “What?” Steve whispered.

“Nothing, we just, we managed this without waking up Grace,” Danny whispered back, both hands tangled up in Steve’s hair. “I can’t believe you’re only doing this before you leave at an ungodly hour of the night tomorrow,” he sighed, shaking his head. “You have piss poor timing, McGarrett.”

“I wasn’t going to say anything at all. Chin forced my hand,” Steve protested stubbornly.

“Wonder why he did that?”

“Wait.” Steve furrowed his brow. “Did you guilt-trip me into coming here using my father?”

“How else was I going to see you before you left, huh?”

Steve pulled a face, tweaking Danny’s earlobe and fumbling with Danny’s pants to get them back on. “And was this what you had in mind, huh? You thought that I’d come over, say goodbye, and we’d round out the evening by me blowing you on the kitchen island?”

Danny ran a palm through his hair as he shrugged. “Admittedly, I sort of thought that we’d talk and I’d cop to my gigantic crush on your lovable ass. Then you’d make a lot of consternated and pained faces and I would see you off at the door. That or we’d get really drunk and pass out together. Seeing as none of the above happened, do you want to go upstairs to my bedroom so I can get you off?”

“You make it sound so romantic,” Steve deadpanned.

Danny made a considerate face, pretending to check his wrist for a watch that wasn’t there. “I don’t see you saying yes...”

Steve rolled his eyes and grabbed hold of Danny’s hand, pulling him off the kitchen island in a hurry. He didn’t even bother to pick up the strewn clothes around the room on their way up to the master bedroom, more occupied with stripping off his jeans and boxers and inching up the bed so that Danny could get his hands on him.

With the both of them horizontal and height disparities done away with, Steve indulged in as many fumbled gropes as he could. He began to lose his sense of time with an endless array of kisses, only breaking away to grab Danny’s wrist firmly enough to leave marks, guiding Danny’s hand into the exact position and speed that Steve liked to jerk himself off.

“Control freak,” Danny breathed out the words against Steve’s ear, pressing a long kiss to his neck and obeying Steve’s tacit commands. Danny’s hand was calloused, rough enough to evoke new reactions from Steve, but familiar in the speed that it seemed like they’d been doing this forever.

Steve closed his eyes, mouth parted slightly. Danny was shifting, still, pressing one knee in between Steve’s thighs and getting a good grip on his dick as he pumped it, fast and hard, ignoring the slow rhythm he had going before.

“Danny,” Steve babbled. “Danny. Danny, Danny,” he warned, his breath hitching. “Not much longer...”

Not much more before he was coming all over Danny’s stomach, earlier than he had anticipated. Steve’s brow grew pinched and he stared up at Danny apologetically. “What?” Danny asked, voice hushed.

“Usually,” Steve said, “I last longer.”

“Guess I’ll have to find that out,” Danny said, but then he seemed to realize what he had said aloud and a discontent expression flooded his face. “Or not. What with you leaving tomorrow and all. Nice timing, Steve. I feel like I need to mention that again.”

Steve didn’t bother responding with words, burying his face against Danny’s sweaty neck, wrapping both arms around his torso and holding on tightly. He had just hours left before he had to leave, and he had already made his mind up about what he would be doing during the majority of them.

“Have Matt take Grace to the zoo tomorrow morning,” Steve murmured against Danny’s chest, pressing kisses in between words. “We’ll go out and get supplies, and then you can find out.”

“I see the Navy took you for more than just your brawn and your looks,” Danny said with a hint of approval. “You’ve got a brain behind that pretty face.” He shifted, just enough to poke several fingers in against Steve’s side, making him recoil. “You gonna let me up?”

“Nope,” Steve said, eyes falling shut.

Exhaustion was coming on strong now that he had gotten what he wanted. Steve couldn’t imagine that he would have any trouble sleeping tonight. He shifted enough to settle at Danny’s side rather than beneath him, tugging the blankets up.

“You don’t mind if I spend the night?” Steve asked past a large yawn. He peeked one eye open long enough to see Danny fiddle with the volume controls of the baby monitor before getting out of bed to change his clothes, tossing the old ones in the hamper. He was back in bed before Steve could ask ‘how are you still wearing ties in this climate?’ and gave his answer in the form of pulling Steve closer to him.

“We’ve got big plans in the morning. You’re not going anywhere. Well,” Danny said, amending his words. “Not for the next twenty-four hours, at least.”

Steve set his mind to ignoring whatever was coming after those twenty-four hours.

He focused on the feel of Danny’s body under his while they slept, and waking up to him in the morning. Steve occupied his fingers with trailing over the fabric of Danny’s pyjamas, burying a grin into the pillow when Gracie’s soft cries changed their morning plans.

“Matt will be by soon,” Danny promised, on his feet instantly as he bowed to his paternal instincts and headed straight for Grace to take care of her.

Steve had made this bed and he intended to lie in it as long as he could. He spent blissful hours there with Danny and Grace, first thing in the morning. When Matt took her off of their hands, Steve showed Danny that not every time had to be as quick as the first time, and when they were exhausted beyond that, Steve did his best to trap Danny in bed using only the blunt force of a good embrace.

“Don’t you have to go, soon?” Danny mumbled tiredly, tracing patterns against Steve’s naked chest. “Thought they were picking you up at the airport in a couple of hours.”

“They are,” Steve said, staring at the ceiling and shifting into Danny’s touch. They had fooled around an hour back and the sheets still smelled of sweat and sex, but Steve had no intention of wasting time cleaning up.

His thoughts had turned back to his things and the lack of personal effects within. It was bugging him enough that he wanted to say something about it.

“Danny,” he said, his brow furrowed. “I have a favor to ask you. I’ll understand if you say no.”

Danny groaned and flopped over onto his back, pushing his hand through his hair. “Why do I have this bad feeling about what you’re going to say next? You’re going to ask for a lock of my hair, aren’t you?”

Steve paused, just long enough to pull a face of disgust. “Danny, I’m not a serial killer,” he said irritably. “No, I want. I want a picture of Grace.” He wanted a picture of Danny, too, but that was risky and complicated if anyone found it. He could have a picture of Grace and Danny could write something on the back and he would have a connection back to them.

Even if he still hadn’t decided what he was going to do, he would have a way to remember them.

Danny’s eyes softened, a smile lighting up his face and making him look barely older than twenty-one. “Yeah, I think we can manage that.”

Steve leaned in to steal a kiss because he couldn’t bear to go another second without doing it, the moment too perfect. “I hope that people have told you how gorgeous you are,” Steve said, incredibly seriously. “Because it’s true, Danny, it’s so true.”

“You’re gonna give a man a complex here, Steven,” Danny said, sitting up to root through his drawers. “Look, you’re leaving in a matter of minutes. Can we stop before things get too deep and you end up making me maudlin for the next few months?” He leaned over further, his shirt straining against his shoulders. “Aha! Here! Found it!” He sprawled back and presented Steve with a small four-by-six of Grace when she was just an infant. “This was from before her christening,” he said fondly, stroking the picture with her fingers.

“Write me something,” Steve said. “On the back, write something for me. I won’t look at it until I get to my next destination.”

Danny was giving him a look of disbelief, but Steve was determined.

He shifted his weight to grab a pen from the other nightstand, foisting it into Danny’s palm. “Danny, write. I’ll look at it and it’ll be something to remind me of you.”

“Steve, you keep saying this is only one night. I’m not an idiot,” Danny said, even though he had bent his head over the picture and was writing as loose locks of hair fell over his forehead. “I’m not reading into this. I know you’re not coming back.”

The weight of that truth sat heavily on Steve’s chest, but he didn’t say anything about it. Instead, he waited for Danny to finish, folding up the picture reverently and sliding it into his back pocket. “Thank you,” he said, checking the time and knowing that he couldn’t delay much longer.

The next few hours passed in a blur. He dressed and packed while Danny watched silently. He didn’t allow a single thought about the situation at hand and chose to think only about where he might be stationed next. He said his goodbyes to Matt and to Grace, and then he was in the front foyer with Danny and a taxi waiting outside to take him to the airport.

“So,” Danny said, pressing his lips together tightly. “Am I ever gonna see you again? Truthfully?”

“Truthfully? I don’t know,” Steve answered, mimicking Danny’s tone. “I wish I could say yes.”

“If wishes were horses...”

“Then you’d have that pony for when Gracie inevitably asks?” Steve teased. He rolled his shoulders back to try and disperse the tension, but it didn’t do much. “I don’t want to make a promise I can’t keep.”

“So don’t,” Danny said, his tone deceptively light. “We’ll be here.”

“Remember, Danny,” Steve said, hefting his bag up in his hands and holding on tight. “You wait for someone great.”

“Yeah,” Danny said. “Or we wait for him to come back.”

It was a glancing blow and a parting shot all in one and Steve knew that it was designed to hurt. It did its job, but Steve took it in stride, waving as he made his way down the front walkway and into the taxicab.

He brushed his fingers over the picture in his pocket, but he didn’t pull it out to read what Danny had written. “Airport,” Steve said to the driver, calm and professional. He was sliding back to his old life, now, and he had no room for anything but the missions.




At first, it was easy.

His superiors hadn’t changed, and the atmosphere of the service washed over him and brought him right back to the life he was used to. It was like he’d never left at all and Hawaii became nothing more than a strange dream that he flashed back to once in a while, when the heat reminded him of Oahu, or he saw someone in a tie on the base.

He gave up all the information he had on the Hesse investigation and was relegated to research. Steve took it best as he could, choosing to look at it as an opportunity seeing as they were ready to give him other assignments that he never would have received if he was still bogged down with the Hesse case.

He excelled in his tasks and earned commendations in everything he did. He served his country and didn’t think about home until eighteen months had passed and he was brought in for his review.

“You’re doing absolutely fine, Lieutenant McGarrett,” said the Captain who had his record in his hands. “You haven’t taken any leave in a very long time, though, and your superiors believe that you’ve earned some time off. Take a few weeks. We’ve got something highly classified and perfect for you when you return and we want you in top-notch shape.”

“Yes, sir,” Steve said, saluting impeccably and waiting for the Captain to leave the tent before he even gave the suggestion any thought.

The picture in the front pocket of his uniform was starting to burn a hole through the fabric. In eighteen months, he still hadn’t looked at the back, but now that he had been told to take time off, his thoughts naturally gravitated to taking the time to travel, visiting some friends. He could probably catch Catherine in the Gulf and then make his way across the mainland, over the ocean, and land in Hawaii by the next evening.

He took out the picture and flipped it over, unfolding the light crease to look at Danny’s sloping handwriting.

When he saw what Danny had written, Steve didn’t hesitate. He booked a flight straight for Oahu, overlooking any layovers, pit stops, or other visits.

When you’re ready for it, come settle.

Two full days later, he was standing outside Honolulu Airport with only a duffel bag in his hands, staring out into the rainy upper atmosphere and wondering whether it had been a good idea to come back. His heart started to beat faster when the Camaro pulled around the corner and came to a stop outside the arrivals terminal of the airport.

“Well, hello, stranger from the foreign lands,” Matt greeted him with a grin.

Steve pushed his bag into the backseat and wasted no time getting in. He was tanner than the last time he’d been in Hawaii and his hair was shorn shorter from his last mission. He was ten pounds lighter, but he had an idiotic smile on his face for the first time in months at even the idea that he would be seeing Grace and Danny soon enough.

“Well?”

“Well, what?” Steve asked, puzzled.

“Ask.”

“Okay, Matt, I seriously have no idea what we’re doing,” Steve said, pleading ignorance.

Matt gripped the wheel and shifted the car into drive. “Ask if Danny is seeing anyone.”

“Okay,” Steve agreed, rolling his eyes. “Is Danny seeing anyone?” Instantly, he regretted asking, because if the answer was ‘yes’, he knew that he wasn’t going to like it and he was about to spend two weeks of leave-time glowering at a new significant other. If the answer was ‘no’, then Steve was just going to be pissed with Matt.

“He was dating some guy for like, two weeks, but they’re over now,” Matt said brightly, taking the turns to get up to Kahala. “He’s been freaking out ever since you called, though. I swear that he hired some Disney fairies to clean the house, or mice, or whatever animal it is that does the trick. The floors are sparkling. It’s unnatural.”

Steve let himself feel that glimmer of excitement that he’d been ignoring for days. He was coming back, Danny was still single, and they had two weeks to do whatever they wanted.

“And Grace?” Steve asked, his eyes growing wider with anticipation. “How is she? She’s three years old and three months, now, right?” He’d missed eighteen months of her life. It seemed almost impossible when he thought about that much time passing and how different a little person Grace was bound to be.

“Dude, why do you think I know so much about Disney cleaning agencies?” Matt said with a furrow in his brow. “Cinderella is her thing, lately. Danny dressed up like Prince Charming and twirled her around the other day while Kono videotaped it for Ma and Dad back home. You should have seen it.”

Steve forced a smile, trying to ignore the fact that he had missed so much. Eighteen months. He was just lucky that Danny had said yes to him coming back, it didn’t necessarily mean that they were going to jump right back to where they were – though Steve hoped beyond anything that they would.

Steve was so engaged in his own thoughts that he didn’t notice that they’d arrived.

Steve’s heart raced as he stared up at the house, not knowing what to do in this situation. “Did he miss me?”

“Five weeks of pining,” Matt enunciated every one of those words. “Your Dad won the money on that bet.” His amused grin seemed to fade away when Steve’s anxiety was so apparent that it could make Matt Williams sober into a serious mood. “He’s wanted to see you since you left. Now you guys have two weeks. Do you really want to spend it in the car?”

“Will Grace even remember me?”

“Maybe not,” Matt admitted truthfully. “But Danny’s been showing her pictures and telling her stories about you in preparation. My brother, the cop. Everything has a book and a list. I swear, he is this close to writing protocol to follow in the house,” he said.

Steve leaned back to grab his bag from the backseat, holding it tightly in his lap.

He’d faced certain death more times than he could count on fingers and toes, but a house in Kahala was threatening to undo him. Steve really thought that he was made of stronger stuff than this. He glanced over his shoulder to Matt for one last moment of support, and when he got it, he eased his way up the front steps and knocked on the door.

“Steve,” Matt said dubiously, opening the unlocked door and giving it a light push. “Seriously?”

“Daddy! Danno! It’s him, it’s Steve!”

Before Steve could even register what was going on, he’d somehow managed to drop his bag and catch an armful of Grace. Steve’s trepidation practically melted away the moment he saw her. He fell back into familiar habits, supporting her weight and marvelling at how big she’d grown.

Her hair was longer now, uneven jagged edges to her ears and bangs covering her forehead. She was even wearing a brand new pink dress and a bow atop her head to match, which screamed of Danny’s interference.

“Look at you, you’re so big,” Steve said, coaxing her to wrap her legs around his side. “I know you probably don’t remember me, but when you were very little, I was one of your very best friends.”

“Danno told me,” Grace said with a shy smile.

Steve hitched her up a little higher, giving her a fond smile. “Who’s Danno?”

She pointed across the foyer to the living room and Steve followed the direction to see Danny standing there in a pair of navy blue trousers and suit jacket to match, with a light pink button-down shirt underneath that. He wasn’t wearing a tie, but he was still overly dressed. Some things hadn’t changed.

He looked every bit as good as Steve remembered him looking in the numerous (and sometimes so real that it ached to realize they weren’t) dreams that he had about the man. “That’s Danno,” she said, giggling like Steve was silly for not knowing.

“Danno?” Steve echoed, crossing the distance between them until he was practically in Danny’s personal bubble. He wanted to be even closer, but he didn’t think that would be a good way to reintroduce himself to Grace.

Danny shrugged sheepishly, his hands in his pockets. “She could always say ‘dada’, but the minute I tried to get her to switch to ‘daddy’, we encountered several problems of Houstonian level,” Danny said, leaning forward to tweak Grace’s nose. “She couldn’t say it. So, now she calls me Danno instead.”

“It’s cute,” Steve said with a fond smile.

“Yeah,” Danny agreed, his face lighting up with a big grin. “So are you.”

“Cute? I leave for eighteen months and I come back and suddenly I’m cute? See if I leave again.”

“We really wish you wouldn’t,” Danny said and though he was trying to make it sound like a joke, Steve could hear the serious edge behind it.

It would have been too easy to write their relationship off as casual – the kind of thing that you left as a one-night stand. Instead, it looked like Danny had grown attached to an idea and Steve wished he could say he felt any differently. He had stared at the picture of Grace and thought about Danny far too often for it to be as casual as he’d intended it to be.

Things were still complicated, though. Steve still served an institution that would evict him from their ranks if ever they found out about him and Danny.

Besides, Steve still didn’t know if there was a ‘him and Danny’ to speak of.

“You’re looking good,” Steve observed, reaching out to tweak the lapel of Danny’s suit jacket.

While he was doing that, Grace was getting comfortable in his arms. She rested her cheek against his shoulder and Steve had to fight back the overwhelming and nearly instant reaction he had to protect her and never let her go. He only had two weeks and then he had to go back. He couldn’t start thinking of this as his life.

“I wanted to impress this guy,” Danny said quietly, staring at Steve. “So, this. You being here. Does that mean you’re ready?”

Steve stared down at Grace warily. “Grace, honey, cover your ears,” he instructed and waited for her to do just that (humming cheerfully) before Steve felt comfortable continuing. “No. Not fully,” Steve admitted, wanting to be honest. “I’m not ready to give up what I do, and you know I’d have to. I need more time to figure out if we’d actually work.”

“How long do we have?” Danny asked.

Steve was glad that he was seeing their time together as an opportunity. “Two weeks. We have two whole weeks and all I have to do is drop by and see my father once. You can listen again,” he said to Grace, gently prying her hands away from her ears and sharing a bright grin with her. “Other than that, we’ve got...” He paused for theatrical effect, giving Grace a considerate look. “Well, I think we’ve got the petroglyphs and the aquarium and the tall ships in the harbor.”

“The zoo?”

“And the zoo,” Steve agreed with a big grin. “Maybe even a football game? We can swim in the pool here and Danno can even show off those pretty legs of his in a bathing suit.”

“Did I say you could co-opt my daughter’s nickname for me, huh?” Danny protested, but it was mild, at best.

Steve wasn’t expecting what came next.

He was getting ready to retort back with a quip about how he thought it was a good nickname and one that ought to be used as much as possible, when Danny leaned in and pressed a chaste kiss to his lips.

Grace giggled, which at least made up for the fact that Steve had gone absolutely blank.

“Danno, you’re only supposed to kiss the princess.”

“And who says Steve isn’t my princess, huh, Monkey?”

Steve raised his free hand. “I’d like to protest my status as a princess,” he said, but he was still numb with pleasant shock.

Grace was still holding onto his upper arm with firm fingers and Danny was looking at him like they saw each other every day. Steve had stepped back into the shoes of a life he didn’t remember living, but he was being welcomed into it, nonetheless.

He shifted Grace up higher, trying to clear his mind of any doubts. Right now, he and Danny were working on something. Steve had two weeks to enjoy with the Williams family and when he left, it would be hard. He might have answers and he might be just as lost as ever.

He didn’t really see the point of wasting two weeks obsessing over any of this when there were much more interesting adventures to have.

“So,” Steve said cheerfully, his attention on Grace. “What do you want to do first?”

“Everything!”

“Everything, huh?” Steve echoed with a bright laugh. “Okay, well, I better get my everything shoes on.”

tbc

part 3
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