lovely_ambition: (happy seals are good ones: by nuv0le_rap)
[personal profile] lovely_ambition


It was seven in the morning and a cloudburst had just cleared up when Danny turned up at the McGarrett house, out of breath and soaked to the skin. Steve kept a firm grip on the door and stared at Danny a moment longer than probably necessary, letting his mind drift to indecent places.

At least, right up until Danny barged inside. “The cases, yours and ours,” he said, trying to catch his breath. “They’re intertwined.”

“What? That’s impossible,” Steve said, brow furrowed. He sought out a towel and offered it to Danny, even though he would’ve preferred Danny to stay wet. It was the start of Steve’s fourth week in Oahu as of that morning and he had precious few leads. He was running out of time and before long, it was inevitable that he would be replaced.

John’s case had been seeing slow progress as well, but they needed someone on the inside for their case against a group of human-traffickers and were having issues coming up with someone that they wouldn’t know. It all fell back down to the island being too small.

“Danny, that doesn’t make any sense,” Steve protested. “How can our cases be related? You’re looking into gun-smuggling and human trafficking. I’m dealing with two terrorists.”

“How do you think they got into Hawaii unnoticed, Steve?” Danny asked, more serious than he’d ever been in the weeks that Steve had known him. Steve swallowed hard, trying not to turn the moment into something shallow where he noticed how good serious looked on Danny. “Get inside. Chin’s on his way, and your Dad said he just needs a couple minutes. I need to get Grace out of the car, but then we all need to talk.”

Steve lit up. “Grace is here?”

“Yeah,” Danny said, amused. He held his keys up in the air and jangled them in front of Steve like he was a cat. “The door’s open. Matt’s just getting her ready. You wanna go get her?”

Steve didn’t need asking twice. He grabbed at the keys and bounded down the steps, lifting a hand to wave to Matt from a decent distance. When he got closer to the car, he let the keys fly, getting them over to Matt so that he could reach inside the car and unbuckle Grace from her carrier, lifting her up into his arms.

Three weeks and plenty of time with Danny had managed to do a number on Steve’s affections. He was getting good at denying any kind of attraction, but his fondness for Grace was hard to hide. Besides, he didn’t want to. He lifted her up in his arms, supporting her back and grinning as she tugged on his hair. “Sh-ee!” she babbled, while he carried her in a wide circle and swayed her back and forth.

“I swear, you could score so much action like that,” Matt said with a sad look on his face. “I’ve tried. It’s that line you have to straddle between devoted father and father who can get a night away from his kid and I am so bad at it. So bad. Also, never tell Danny I said any of this.”

“Said what?” Danny asked, coming up behind Steve. “Hey, what’s with this? Monkey, you liking another man better than me?” he asked, poking at Grace’s nose from over Steve’s shoulder. “Are you okay watching her for about twenty? Chin’s still on his way and your Dad is raring at the bit to go over some files. It’s not exactly baby-friendly. Twenty minutes? She might need to be changed.”

“Danny, I’ve done a lot of dirty things,” Steve said. “I can change one diaper.”

Danny stared at him for a long moment, as if he was considering whether Steve was capable of the task. Steve tried to screw up his resolve, curling Grace tighter into his arms.

“I can,” Steve insisted.

“Twenty minutes,” Danny said, but then he was pushing the changing bag into Steve’s hands, heading out onto the lanai to see what John wanted to go over.

Steve was left with Grace. He looked down at her, wondering if all children were so blissfully free of worries. He bounced her gently and tucked the blanket around her tighter. “Come on, if I don’t change you, your Dad is gonna say some mean words to me,” Steve said, pulling a face to make her giggle.

He brought her into Mary’s room and smoothed out the surface of the bed, laying down an old blanket from Mary’s closet atop the patchwork quilt. The bag on one side, Steve slowly sat down and placed Grace reverently down on the blanket. He still felt awkward with her sometimes, though he wouldn’t admit it. She was so small, and not even remotely his, and it made his chest fill up with too many feelings to name.

Grace was quiet as ever, fingers pressed to her mouth so she could suckle at them while Steve unclasped the buttons of her onesie, going through the motions that he had seen Danny perform a dozen times by now. Once she was all clean, the old diaper disposed of, and she was redressed, all Steve could do was stare.

She kicked out her feet and lifted both hands towards him, palms splayed and ten tiny little fingers in the air. Steve slid his palm atop and matched them, big for small, marvelling at the difference between them and how her smallness would only ever be temporary. He and Mary had been this small once. His father and his mother had been in the same position Steve had been in.

Life always went on.

Grace shifted and wrapped her fingers around Steve’s pinky, clasping on tight as she could and pulling it in so she could suck on it. It made Steve laugh and feel lighter in spirit than he had since he got home.

“I may not know what the heck to do about your Dad, but you’re easy,” Steve said, staring fondly at how small and beautiful and perfect she was. Her hair was darkening slightly, as if in direct contrast to how much sun she was getting in Hawaii. “Give you my finger and you’ll love me for life.”

He slid a palm under her back and splayed it where he could support the head, bringing her into his arms to tote her back downstairs.

“Grace would like to know if her father is ready for her,” Steve said, heading out to the lanai. He had been working out there alongside his father before Danny’s sudden arrival and announcement.

Danny looked up from the papers, shoved a heavy set of headphones away, and was on his feet instantly. “Look at that, all cleaned up,” Danny said with a bright grin, taking her back into his arms. For a too-brief moment, he was crowded in Steve’s personal space. He was so close that Steve could smell his aftershave and hair gel.

Their fingers brushed briefly when Steve handed Grace back and he glanced down and away to avoid anyone seeing his pleased reaction. When he looked back up, his father had a knowing look on his face that said Steve hadn’t been as discreet as he’d intended.

“Okay, Danny,” Steve said, willing to jump to a different topic before things got too awkward. “Why are you telling me that the cases are involved with one another? What did you find?”

“Doran led us to a guy called Sang Min. He’s an up-and-comer, hasn’t done much yet,” Danny said, shifting Grace in one arm so he could reach down and slide two pieces of paper out from the large pile. “But he gets people into the country. We’re looking at him for human trafficking, but wouldn’t you know, look what popped up,” he said with heavy sarcasm.

Steve leaned in to take a closer look at the pieces of paper.

They were photocopies of passports and the pictures were unmistakable: Victor and Anton Hesse.

“Your guy knows about my guys,” Steve said, finally seeing a break in his case.

It was what they needed to get both of the cases going. Chin arrived ten minutes later with more evidence, and the hours seemed to fly by as they started to match information. Steve had documents that were useful to the HPD investigation and they had evidence in turn.

By the time the sun had gone down, John was lighting candles on the lanai, and Grace was down for a nap. Steve could see his next move clearly and he was on the phone to his superiors to brief them about the information. Chin, meanwhile, was talking with some mainland departments who could send someone in for an undercover task.

It seemed like there was hope.

“You boys should take the night off,” John suggested, blowing out the match when he finished with the last tiki-torch. “Tomorrow morning, we’re going to be hitting the pavement harder than ever. You might as well go out. Be young.”

Danny shrugged apologetically. “I’ve got Grace, I can’t...”

“My cousin can babysit, brah,” Chin interrupted before Danny could even finish. “She’s great with kids.”

“How old?” Danny demanded.

“Seventeen. She’s been babysitting since she was thirteen and she’s responsible.” Chin pulled a face that Steve interpreted as ‘most of the time’. “I’ll put the fear of Danny Williams into her.”

“I haven’t said yes, yet,” Danny said, throwing both hands up in the air like he was helpless.

Steve leaned over from compiling folders and files for his investigation and stared up at Danny with a desperate and pleading look. While they had managed to find plenty of time to have beers at Danny’s place, they still hadn’t been able to get out. He exchanged a look with Chin that was bordering on amused and diabolical and knew that he had extra firepower in this. “Danny, please,” Steve said. “Come out with Chin and me. His cousin...”

“Kono,” Chin supplied.

“Kono can babysit. The Kelly-Kalakaua family chain is responsible, I know that much,” Steve swore, watching as his father hid a smirk behind a hand. “Come on. Beers with the guys at a bar, we’ll even bribe the bartender to put on whatever team closest to Jersey is playing.”

Danny’s resolve seemed to be faltering, though his grip on Grace remained as protective as ever. Steve imagined that if he were in Danny’s shoes, he’d be in the same position. Losing a wife was hard enough, but it gave just the glimmer of what might happen if you also lost your kid on the heels of that.

Suddenly, Steve was starting to realize that he might be seeing his father’s side of the story in full and vivid technicolor for the first time in his life.

“Danny,” Steve begged again. “One drink.”

He intended to keep Danny around for much more than that, but they could start with one and talk about the case, then move onto more and talk about whatever came up. Steve leaned over and tugged Grace’s small fingers with his own, giving them a tiny wiggle. Chin leaned in closer to their tight circle and raised his brows.

“Ladies?” Chin interrupted. “Are we going?”

Danny gnawed on his lower lip. “Fine, do it. Call Kono and we’ll go out.”

Thirty minutes later, John was packing away all the papers for the night and Steve had changed into a crisp white button-down, black trousers, and a good suit jacket. The door bell had been rung and Danny was downstairs briefing Kono, but Chin was upstairs, pausing outside Steve’s bedroom door.

“Looks good, brah,” Chin said with a low whistle. “What’s the occasion?”

“I’m twenty-six and I’ve been cooped up with paperwork for a month,” Steve replied. It wasn’t the whole truth, but it was close. There was a part of him that wanted to impress Danny and prove that he could wear more than just t-shirts and cargo pants. He tucked his phone and his wallet into his back pocket along with his keys, nudging Chin at the shoulder. “Come on. Let’s go get Jersey a little tipsy.”

He bounded down the steps, intending to say a goodbye to Grace before they left, but before he could get to the back door, his father stopped him in the kitchen.

“Do you really think this is a good idea, Steve?” John asked, his tone deceptively light.

Back in high school, Steve had never made a point of hiding his relationships, whether with girls or guys. Neither his mother nor his father had ever cared, so Steve had to think past the obvious to wonder why his father had reservations.

“Dad, it’s just drinks.”

“If you say so,” John replied.

“Besides, why would it be a bad idea?” Steve asked, his stubborn streak starting to flare.

“You’re leaving soon,” John said. “You’re leaving and he’s going to be here, raising his little girl. Don’t get tangled up and leave the knot behind for other people to unravel. I’m glad to see you and Danny getting along. Leave it that way unless you’re willing to make a good number of changes in your life, which, I don’t think you are, son.”

Steve tensed up his jaw. “One day, Dad, you’re going to have to admit that you don’t know better than me. Not anymore.”

With a bad mood hanging over his shoulders, he brushed past his father on the way to the lanai where a pretty young girl was crouched over the baby carrier, wiggling her fingers and talking rapidly and excitedly to Grace.

“Kono,” Steve greeted, finally recognizing her. “Without your bikini on, I barely know you. What were you, seven the last time I saw you?”

“I rocked it, even back then,” Kono said with a knowing look and a wink Danny’s way. “Hey, Steve, you’re looking pale, brah! What’s the world done to you?”

“Nothing Oahu isn’t fixing,” he said, stepping forward to pull her into a tight hug. “So, Chin tells me that you’re a five-star babysitter?”

Kono nodded seriously, hand to her heart. “I’ve been informed that if anything happens to my charge, I’ll be driven off the island by boards with nails in them.”

“Hey, what am I, a monster?” Danny said mildly. “I’d at least do it with nice new pitchforks.” He smirked, turning to Grace and leaning in to brush a loving kiss to her cheek. “You be good, little miss. I don’t want to hear any stories about misbehaving, okay, Monkey?”

Grace kicked her feet and let out a squeal of a cry. “That means yes,” Steve interpreted, leaning in and wrapping one hand around Danny’s bicep to use for leverage as he leaned in to brush Grace’s hair from off her forehead.

“I’ll be back by two, at the latest,” Danny said to Kono, digging out some money from his wallet. “This is for dinner, I’ll get you money for payment when I get back in.”

Steve relinquished his grasp on Danny, digging out his cell phone to call for a cab while Danny said a prolonged goodbye to Grace and got to know Kono a little better. He took lazy steps and made it to the porch where Chin was waiting, hands in his pockets.

“So, your girlfriend isn’t going to mind you going out with the boys?” Steve asked, straining his memory to recall the name of the girl Chin was dating. “Malia, right? In med school?”

“She’s in her first year of residency,” Chin replied proudly. “And no, she’s actually happy. She has the night off and she says it’ll give her the chance to actually have some peace and quiet. I think I’m missing out on a bubble bath.”

“She sounds great,” Steve said. “She sounds...”

“Intelligent, beautiful, independent, funny,” Chin offered words to fill in the blanks. “Perfect?”

“I think you may be a little blinded by your affections,” Steve noted apologetically.

Chin beamed away like it didn’t matter. “I could say the same for you.” Steve opened his mouth to protest that nothing was going on, but Chin beat him to it. “Grace. I never imagined you were the kind of guy who liked kids. Do you want them?”

“I’ve had exactly two girlfriends while in the Navy,” Steve said. “One of them dumped me years ago and got married. The other told me she’d prefer it if we were friends with benefits. And I like Catherine, so I’m willing to do whatever she tells me we’re going to do.”

“So you’re not here permanently, then,” Chin said. “For sure?”

“I follow whatever orders come in and this is the first time they’ve brought me even remotely close to home. Short of leaving the service,” Steve said with a shrug. “I go where they tell me. I can’t plant deep roots here.”

The cab turned up the street, headlights casting a path on the front lawn. When it got to the head of the driveway, Steve leaned inside to knock on the door.

“Danny, finish up that tenth goodbye of yours, we’re going!”

Steve actually felt good about this. Even if he wasn’t sure what he wanted out of Danny, he knew that a night out on the town couldn’t hurt. He intended to get a little bit drunk, throw his cares to the wind, and work as hard as he possibly could in the morning.

They went to a local bar on the beach where Chin covered the first few rounds. They talked procedure for a while, Steve shared stories of the world, and inevitably they got around to talking about family. “So, what about you, Chin Ho?” Danny asked over the music, nursing his third beer of the night. “You and Malia thinking about getting hitched, having tiny little adorable Kelly babies?”

Chin lifted both hands in innocent protest. “You’re in league with my mother, aren’t you?”

“She’s a wise woman who makes incredible malasadas,” Danny admitted, leaning towards Steve and resting half his weight on Steve’s body. “Seriously,” Danny said, giving Steve a look from his shoulder’s height. “You have got to try them sometime. I swear to god, I didn’t weigh this much when I first got here.”

“That is a lie. Your brother told me you lived on a steady diet of pizza and greasy foods,” Chin accused.

“And this is why I don’t let Mattie talk to strangers,” Danny said, shifting upwards and taking a long sip. “Hey, Steve, Steven,” he said, tapping his shoulder rapidly to get his attention. “You got girls looking your way and eyehumping you. Three o’clock.”

“Eyehumping?” Steve echoed. “Is that even a thing?”

“Come on, go, you’re here on leave, might as well score some action. Besides, you got all dressed up for it and everything,” Danny said, tweaking the lapel of his jacket.

That’s not why I got dressed up, Steve thought, but didn’t say. It was good to know that yes, officially, he dressed up for Danny and not for anyone else, but it complicated matters. Danny seemed determined to get Steve to go and talk to the women, which meant that if nothing else, Danny thought Steve was straight.

And why shouldn’t he? The Navy did a good job of making sure everyone thought as much.

“I’m good, thanks,” Steve said dismissively, turning a brief smile to Danny. “Unless you want to take a crack at them...” He gestured with his bottle over to the two women, trying to cast out a line for information to see if Danny would bite and Steve could figure out whether he swung that way.

“Nah, I told Kono I’d be back at two,” Danny said. “Have to be responsible when you’re a father.”

“You ever regret that?” Chin asked suddenly. “I mean, you’re what, twenty-six now, so that means...”

“It means that Rachel and I got pregnant when I was twenty-four and she was twenty-two,” Danny cut him off. “And no. To answer your question, no. I don’t for a single moment regret having a child. I wanted a whole brood, me and Rach. I mean, sure, we had our fights about my job, but we loved each other. We were supposed to be forever.” Danny stared down into his drink and the atmosphere was officially growing too maudlin for Steve.

“Hey, come on, Danny, you have to be back by two, but who says you can’t dance?”

“I think the council for White Men of America says that,” Danny said dubiously. “Do not make me prove that I don’t have rhythm, McGarrett.”

“Want me to go first, is that it?” Steve asked with a mischievous smirk on his face. He rose to his feet, offering a hand out to Danny with one behind his back, forming the picture of a consummate gentleman.

Danny gaped at him like he was insane. “You have got to be kidding me.”

“You’re only young once, Kono is watching Grace. Tonight, you’re not a Dad. You’re just a hot young guy with girls staring at him,” Steve said, leaning down to forcibly grab at Danny’s hand and pull him to his feet. “Come on, Danny. You’re too attractive and incredible and funny to be sitting here on your own.”

Chin was looking up at the table and giving Steve a curious look. Steve took the opportunity to push Danny to the dance floor.

“Go! I’ll be there in two seconds,” Steve promised. Danny reluctantly crossed the distance and Steve couldn’t help a self-satisfied grin when the two women who were staring immediately left the bar to make Danny a much less lonely man. While that was going on, Steve was going to take the opportunity to find out why Chin was giving him that look. “What?” he demanded, folding his arms over his chest.

“Does Danny know you play for both teams?” Chin asked. “I’m just curious. I know you’re leaving soon, but the way you’re taking a crack at him, I’d think you had designs to get him between your sheets. It’s either that or it’s deeper, which is even more problematic given that you’re leaving soon and he has a kid.”

“Chin, it’s harmless,” Steve assured. “And no, Danny doesn’t know that I go both ways. It’s not relevant information because he and I are friends.”

“Okay,” Chin said, but he didn’t sound very convinced. “You gonna go out there and dance?”

Danny seemed to have found some rhythm, grinding in between both women and looking pretty pleased with himself. Steve sat back down with his beer and a bright grin on his face. “Why?” Steve asked, his good mood apparent from his tone. “He’s having fun, that was my only goal.” He laughed harder when Danny glanced over and raised both brows in a cocky little move. “He can manage without me.”

Chin didn’t reply and Steve took it as a sign of benevolence, that they were finally putting the conversation to rest. From there, they both slowed down on the drinking to the point that by the time Chin left to go back home to Malia at midnight, he was mostly sober. Steve saw him off and Danny came with, lingering outside the bar where the smokers were congregated on the patio.

“You want to head off, too?” Steve asked. “I can call a cab?”

“One more drink,” Danny said, cuffing Steve and dragging him forcibly inside. “Just one more, c’mon, Navy.” He didn’t stop pulling him until they reached the bar, at which point Danny grabbed hold of Steve’s shoulders and sat him down, remaining standing above him. “Two Longboards,” he ordered, sliding a ten on the table. “Keep the change.”

Steve was feeling incredibly good and relaxed. He had the feeling that Danny’s presence was a big contributor to that fact. He let the tension flow out of his shoulders, not minding one bit when Danny didn’t bother to take one hand off of Steve’s shoulders.

“So, you ready for this fight?” Danny asked. “Can’t imagine it’s gonna be an easy one. We’ve got the scum of humanity coming in from all corners of the earth on this. Drugs, guns, bombs, all the fun corners of criminal bingo.”

“I’ve been dealing with the scum of the earth for a long time, but you’re just a detective from Jersey...”

“Hey!” Danny interrupted defensively, a laugh on his lips. “I’ve got thirty-three homicide cases under my belt!” he protested with wide eyes. “Just a detective from Jersey? I’ve seen the worst humanity has to offer, all because they don’t like the TV channel or their marriage has gone south. You think terrorists are worse than seeing what your next-door neighbor can be reduced to? Think again, Navy. I’m ready for this. I’m ready for whatever’s coming next.”

Steve stared up at Danny and maybe it was just the booze, but he had a newfound respect for the man. He already loved his daughter and found Danny attractive, but there was so much more beneath the surface and Steve caught himself wanting to stick around to find out more.

That wasn’t an option.

The minute that Steve put the Hesse brothers behind bars, he’d be gone to a far-off country to do right for his government. He had spent eight years doing it, and for eight years it was a life that had taken care of him. He wasn’t about to abandon it just because he thought he’d met someone worth quitting for.

“Here’s to fighting the good fight,” Steve said, lifting the neck of his beer bottle up.

Danny started laughing, sputtering out chuckles and wiping away at a tear. “Are you serious?” he wheezed out. “Oh, god, you are so lame sometimes, it is a lucky thing you’re attractive,” he lamented, but he clinked his bottle against Steve’s nonetheless. “Here’s to putting away some assholes behind bars.”

Steve hated to admit it, but that did have a better ring to it.

“And to Gracie,” Steve added, a little softer.

“And to my little girl,” Danny agreed, swaying in just that much closer to Steve and staring at him. “You really like her, don’t you? I thought you were crap with kids, but I was wrong. You’ve turned out to be really good with her.”

“She’s a great kid,” Steve admitted. “And she has a great Dad.”

“I dunno, you say that now, but you spend some time with me...”

“I don’t think that would change my mind,” Steve interrupted, wanting to stop Danny’s martyr-act before it even got started. “I’ve spent three steady weeks with you. I’ve liked what I’ve seen, I can extrapolate that I’d like what I see past that.”

“Extrapolate? Steve the Brainiac,” Danny shook his head and gestured at him. “You’re leaving soon, so what does it matter if I’m crappy or great or whatever you want to say about me?”

“Because it matters.” Steve didn’t know why, but he felt like he had to make sure it was known. “It matters that you know how great you are, that you deserve the very best because you and Grace, you deserve to be loved by someone who’s equally as great.” And it didn’t have to be Steve, it wasn’t even going to be Steve, but it had to be someone good. “Promise me that it’ll be someone great.”

“Steve, I’m...” Danny looked flustered as he set the half-empty bottle on the bar. “I’m not even really looking. I mean, yeah, sure, I’ve thought about what’ll happen when I move on, but it’s not a concrete thing.”

“Just promise me you won’t settle,” Steve said. “For Grace. Promise me.”

“Will you leave it alone if I do?”

“I swear,” Steve said.

“Then yeah, fine, we will wait for someone amazing to come along, someone of your caliber, Captain America,” Danny muttered, draining off the last of his beer and sliding the empty over the counter. He squeezed his hand on Steve’s shoulder tighter. “C’mon, speaking of the Monkey, I don’t want to leave her with Kono too long.”

“They’re fine,” Steve assured him.

“Yeah,” Danny sighed out the word. “But I’m not. I don’t like being apart from her this long. Even now.”

That was all he had to say. Steve didn’t argue a single second more, calling a cab for the both of them and making sure that they got safely back to the McGarrett family home. Danny dug out his car keys and stared at them, the cab, and then the house in turns.

“Don’t even think about going anywhere,” Steve ordered. “You and Grace can stay here tonight. We both know you’ll be here by eight tomorrow morning, anyway. You can borrow some of my clothes and we have Grace’s changing bag.”

“Yeah,” Danny said, sounding a bit unsure. “Yeah, I guess.”

That was all that Steve needed to be certain that Danny would be safe for the evening. They were heading into unknown territory and Steve had no idea what was coming next, but he was at least assured that before the morning came, the things he cared most about in Hawaii were safe under one roof.

tbc

part 2
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