Chin had given them directions, told them to give him a head start, and left. As soon as he walks out the door, Steve turns to Danny.
“What the hell was that?”
Danny shrugs. “Cop-to-cop stuff.” Steve raises an eyebrow, and Danny squints at him. “What, what is that, what is that face?”
“What face?” Steve asked, raising the second eyebrow to join the first. “It’s just my face.”
“Just his face, he says,” Danny mutters, gesturing grandiosely. “Just your face, sure, telling me that you think I’m full of shit.”
“Cop-to-cop stuff,” Steve repeats as blandly as he can manage. “Okay, I get that asking him to join the task force is a little unorthodox, but I don’t understand why it would have riled him up like it did, and I’m not even going to pretend to understand why what you said worked.”
Danny starts to move towards the exit. “Imagine you’re with your group, your unit, whatever they call a bunch of seals, what, a harem, you’re with your-” He stops, scowls, starts again. “No, scratch that, we’re going with pack. You’re with your SEAL buddies, whatever, and you take down a huge, I don’t know, terrorist ring, and it’s your op. You with me?”
Steve barely has the time to nod before Danny’s speaking again. “So it goes down great, perfectly, and you’re all slapping each other on the back or chest thumping or however it is you celebrate-”
“You have very strange ideas about the Navy,” Steve tells them as they slide into Danny’s Camaro. They buckle in and Steve pulls the car out of the parking lot, watching from the corner of his eye as Danny speaks with words and motions, all coming together to create a very specific meaning.
“-shooting people, you probably shoot people. Anyway, in the middle of congratulating yourselves, some asshole bureaucrat comes along and says hey, the guns we confiscated from these assholes are missing, and he points his finger at you.”
There’s a minute of silence, of stillness, as Steve processes the scene in his head. He nods slowly, and Danny continues. “And your friends, your buddies, the guys you trusted with life and limb – all of a sudden they’re looking at you like you’re in league with the guys you just took down, just because some random guy with an official title says you are, even though there’s no proof of it. They just ignore the history you have together, ignore everything they know about you as a professional and as a person, and think you’re dirty.”
“Oh,” Steve replies, feeling a little sucker punched as he fills in the blanks. “And I pretty much asked him to just forget all of that.”
“Pretty much,” Danny agrees. “Hence, asshole.”
“Okay, I might have deserved that one,” Steve admits grudgingly. “But what – Chin said that this is it.”
“His last shot to redeem himself, if you will,” Danny supplies. “His last chance to prove he didn’t take the money he was accused of stealing.”
“Do you think he did?”
“Do you?” Danny’s tone is sharp, pointed. “That’s the question here, Steven. No, no, I do not think he took any money, but I’m not the theoretical boss here, so it’s not my opinion on the matter that means something.”
“I don’t know the details of the case,” Steve says slowly. “But Chin – the one who was my dad’s partner before he died, the one I remember all through school – no way, man. No fucking way.”
“Good,” Danny says firmly, resting his hands in his lap. “That’s good.”
They meet Chin at a shave ice stand, are bilked out of a frankly ridiculous amount of money, and have to stand thirty yards away wearing tee shirts big enough to share while the guy gives Chin what they need. It’s a little awkward, standing so obviously against the car; both Steve and Danny have their arms crossed, and they’re not talking, not looking at each other.
The silence is broken by the strains of Under The Sea, and Steve feels his face break into a smile as he answers the phone and takes a few steps from Danny. “Hey, munchkin.”
“Hi, Daddy,” Grace chirps, and he listens as she tells him about helping Poppy repaint a room in the house and something about a unicorn and a dolphin, he isn’t quite sure what, while she wanders around Marilyn’s place. The conversation isn’t long – five minutes, maybe, just Grace checking in with him. He understands her need to hear his voice, after losing Cath, and he’d never deny his baby anything, least of all her need to reassure herself. He’s not afraid to admit to himself that it makes him feel better, too.
“I gotta go, baby,” he breaks in gently as Chin finally nods at the shave ice guy and starts walking away from the stand. “I’ll see you later, okay?”
“Okay, Daddy,” she says solemnly. “Be careful.”
“Of course,” he replies quickly. “Love you, munchkin.”
“Love you too,” she says back, and then he’s sliding the phone into his pocket as Chin walks up.
“Found your name,” he says, and there’s a moment of conferring before Steve and Danny get back into Danny’s car and make their way back to headquarters.
“You don’t have to do that, y’know,” Danny says suddenly, three minutes in. Steve blinks and looks over, but Danny’s eyes are firmly on the road ahead of him. “With Grace. Move away, I mean. It’s not – not the end of the world, okay, I can handle it if you need to talk to your kid for a few minutes.”
Steve’s a little speechless for a minute, trying to wrap his head around the statement. “It’s no big deal for me to just-”
“See, though, it is. Can’t lie to a dad about dad stuff, okay, you should know that. Didn’t matter when Julia called, what I was doing, it was just – she was everything. I would always, always answer the phone, always talk to her, and my partners, they always got it. And I get it, Steve, I do, just talk to her, it’s fine.”
The words spill out like Danny can’t help them, fierce and fast and heartfelt. Steve is torn between protesting and thanking him, can’t decide which is the appropriate response, but he’s saved from having to decide by Danny sliding the Camaro into a parking spot.
“We’re here,” Danny says unnecessarily, opening his door.
Steve leans over before he can talk himself out of it, grabbing Danny’s wrist. “I’m – thanks,” he says, and it feels really awkward for a second, but then the lines around Danny’s eyes soften and he shakes his head a little.
“You’re ridiculous,” he replies as he gets out of the car, and Steve can’t help his smile.
Steve is in the middle of making pizza with Grace when the phone rings. It takes a little juggling, and he’s going to have to wipe the face of his phone, but a few seconds after, he says, “You’re on speaker.”
“Um,” Danny replies, voice a little staticky. “Hey.”
“Hi, Detective Williams,” Grace yells, as if the speaker isn’t going to pick her up from three feet away. “We’re making pizza!”
“Yeah, Danny, give me a second,” Steve says, moving to the sink and nudging the water on with his wrist. He starts to rinse his hands, rubbing them together briskly, as Danny’s voice comes through the phone.
“No, Steve, forget it, it’s not-”
“Shut it, Williams,” Steve says mildly, grabbing the phone and switching the speaker off as he manages to wipe the sauce off and slide it to his ear. “What’s up?”
Steve can hear the hesitation over the line. “I have beer,” Danny says finally. “And Kool-Aid, and an empty apartment that’s driving me insane, and-”
“Door’s open,” Steve interrupts. “You do Hawaiian pizza?”
“Do I do Hawaiian – no, Steven, that, that is a travesty. Nobody actually eats – oh, God, you do, you actually eat that, ham and pineapple, and you feed it to your kid. Okay, you know what, never mind, I’ll just go home and-”
“Danny,” Steve says, a little surprised at how fond he sounds. “I’ll leave it plain, okay? Just get over here.” There’s a little more hesitation, and Steve represses the urge to pinch the bridge of his nose. “You’re already here, aren’t you?”
“Yeah,” Danny replies defensively. “I thought, I don’t know, I just came over. With the beer. And then I picked up the Kool-Aid on the way, the red one, who doesn’t like the red one, am I right?”
Steve has been walking towards the front door while Danny’s been speaking, and by the time he opens it, Danny’s hand is outstretched over where the knob had just been, six pack of Longboards and a grocer’s bag with a jug of Kool-Aid in the other hand, phone balanced on one broad shoulder. He grins up at Steve.
“Um,” he says a little sheepishly, “hi?”
Steve can only stare for a second, slow smile creeping over his own face as his stomach twists and turns, because he’s suddenly realizing how Danny’s eyes soften when he smiles, how one side of his mouth quirks a little higher than the other, how much he appreciates that Danny stopped for Kool-Aid, how happy he is that Danny’s here at all. It’s a monumentally bad idea, the wrong guy, the worst timing, but Steve recognizes the signs anyway as he steps aside and grabs the drinks from his partner’s hand.
“Let’s go rescue the pizza,” Steve says, nodding towards the kitchen. “I left Grace in there, spreading cheese-”
“You left her alone in the kitchen? We’ll be lucky if it’s even still edible-”
“Hey, Gracie makes great pizza,” Steve defends as they walk into the kitchen. Grace looks up from where she’s intently placing shredded cheese on the pizza, piece by piece, and nods.
“I make little crisscrosses with the cheese,” she says seriously, and Steve has to bite his lip to keep from laughing as Danny nods at her.
“That’s one way of doing it,” he agrees, taking the Kool-Aid back from Steve. “Hey, I stopped at the store on the way over, and I don’t know, we’ve never really had the red-or-orange-or-blue conversation, you and me, but I figured-” And he produces the Kool-Aid, watching Grace a little hesitantly.
Grace gasps dramatically and hops from the chair she’s standing on, running over to throw her arms around Danny’s legs and squeeze him tightly. “Thank you,” she says excitedly, twisting until her head is upside down, arms still around Danny’s legs. “Daddy, Daddy, can I have a glass of juice?”
“I wouldn’t call it juice,” Steve says, but he’s already reaching for a cup as he takes the Kool-Aid from Danny.
Grace frowns. “Then what is it?”
“I-” Steve frowns, thinks about trying to explain the finer aspects of Kool-Aid to his five-year-old, and says, “You know what, let’s just call it juice, that works.”
Grace giggles as she rights herself, clinging to Danny’s legs again. “Daddy is silly,” she says brightly, smiling conspiratorially up at Danny, who smiles back like he can’t help it, and if there’s a little twist of sadness in his eyes, Grace doesn’t notice.
“He is,” Danny confirms, smiling a little wider when Grace giggles at him. She lets go of his legs when Steve sets her cup on the table, gripping it with both hands and taking a long sip. When she puts the cup down, yeah, her lips are stained cherry-red, as is the skin around her mouth.
“Tell Danny thank you, Grace,” Steve reminds as he discreetly rearranges the cheese on the pizza and sticks it in the oven.
“Thank you, Danno,” Grace singsongs. She lifts the cup back to her mouth and takes another sip, so she doesn’t see the stunned look flash through Danny’s expression, replaced almost instantly by a small, genuine smile.
Steve doesn’t miss it.
He doesn’t bring it up, though, not then, and not through dinner, not after when the three of them sprawl across the couch and put on the Disney channel. Steve carries Grace up to her room and tucks her in when she falls asleep, and he’s surprised when he gets back downstairs to find that Danny’s still staring at Hannah Montana on the television.
“She’s a great kid,” Danny remarks quietly as Steve settles back into the cushions.
“Thanks,” Steve replies with a soft smile. “I’m kind of fond of her myself.”
It’s really, really weird that Steve doesn’t find this strange at all, sitting in the semi-darkness of his own living room with his partner, a man he’s known for about a week – a man he’s attracted to, yeah – with the muted television offering them flashes into the life of a teenaged pop star, someone whose music his baby girl sings, someone he hopes she has no aspirations to become. It’s peaceful, actually, sitting there with Danny, and Steve can’t, for the life of him, figure out why.
“Julia used to call me Daddo,” Danny says suddenly, and Steve shifts until they’re facing each other from opposite ends of the couch. “It’s why – before, when Grace called me Danno.”
“Sorry,” Steve offers quietly. “I’ll talk to her.”
Danny half-smiles. “Nah, let her. Nickname means she likes me, right, that’s a good thing. Don’t ruin it by telling her I don’t like the nickname.”
“She liked you the second you walked in with Kool-Aid,” Steve points out with a smile of his own. “You let her keep the nickname, she’s gonna adopt you, fair warning.”
Danny laughs and stares at his hands, folded in his lap. “I don’t-” he begins, but lets the sentence lapse, and the silence returns.
“I’m gonna get going,” Danny says a little later, so Steve stands and walks him to the door like any good host would do. Danny pauses on the porch, tilting his head at Steve. “I’ll see you in the morning.”
“I’ll bring the malasadas, you get the coffee,” Steve bargains, and Danny flashes him another smile as he walks down the steps.
Steve closes the door when Danny turns the Camaro on, leaning his head against it as he works the locks and alarm.
Hell, he thinks tiredly to himself, because honestly, how could he be stupid enough to actually fall for his partner?
Danny is already in his office when Steve gets in the following morning; it’s not like Danny’s been late until now, but it still registers with Steve as he’s walking into the building. Danny is sitting at his desk, pen flying across a form of some sort. There are papers scattered across his desk, all with some form of Danny’s chicken-scratch handwriting on them. There’s a paper coffee cup on the edge of the desk in one of those carryout containers; when Steve sets the malasadas down in front of Danny and grabs for it, it’s cold, as if it’s been there for a while.
“What’s up?” he asks, sitting on the corner of the desk. Danny might be the detective in their partnership, but Steve can put two and two together just fine.
“Last night,” Danny says steadily, signing the form with a particularly hard jab and setting it aside before picking up another. “Last night, I went to your house, ate dinner with you and your daughter, watched kids’ shows, let her give me a nickname, and then I get home after what was, all told, a more-than-decent evening, and there’s this picture of Julia and Rachel on my end table, and I can hear my kid laughing in my head and hear my wife’s voice, and-”
Danny cuts himself off abruptly, and when he looks up there’s nothing hidden on his face. No, it’s all right there, all the hurt and vulnerability and want and confusion, plain as anything across his features. It makes Steve suck in a breath, sharp and quick, because maybe he isn’t the only one who’s noticed things like laugh lines and casual touches – and Danny, Danny had been the one to show up in his driveway last night.
But there’s a lot of hurt there with the good, too, Danny’s wife and kid, and then there’s Cath. Steve knows that it’s too much, too soon, too close to what might make them both happy not to be dangerous, so he takes a steadying breath and pushes off of the desk, taking a few steps away.
“Okay,” he says quietly, locking his eyes with Danny’s. Okay, yeah, not now; they both know, though, they’ve both acknowledged that this is maybe more than they thought it was.
Steve forces himself to take three steps away, wrench Danny’s office door open, and walk out.
It’s easy enough to lose himself in the work, to study patterns and dig through old files until they come up with a few solid leads, and it’s early afternoon before Steve surfaces again. He raps his hand on Chin’s door and the other man looks up from his computer screen. Steve relays what he’s found, and there’s enough to go on – there’s a name and a location and, when they call Danny in, there’s a plan, too, and Chin’s got the perfect addition to their team, the last piece of the puzzle they need to find Cath’s killer.
Steve vaguely remembers the cousin Chin’s introducing them to, but his memories of her are of an awkward teenager on a surfboard, trying to figure out how to fit limbs that are still growing onto a board that’s the same size. The woman that Chin calls over to meet them has elements of that girl, sure, but she carries herself with confidence and grace and an ease that speaks to knowing exactly what she’s capable of.
Steve likes her instantly. Danny, he can tell, likes her a few seconds after that, when she lays out the asshole who had cut into her wave like he doesn’t outweigh her by at least thirty pounds.
Chin’s laugh is what gets her attention; she looks up and her face breaks into a delighted smile. And there’s the excited kid that Steve remembers, practically skipping up the beach to toss herself into Chin’s arms, the two of them slipping easily into a mixture of Hawaiian and pidgin and family-ese that Steve could never hope to follow. He catches Danny’s eye roll over where the cousins are chatting.
“I’ve gotta learn some of that,” he says, jerking his thumb at Chin and Kono.
Steve just laughs. “Impossible. That’s not a language, that’s telepathy with sound.” At Danny’s confused look, he adds, “I have no idea what they’re talking about right now.”
“Ah,” Danny says, face clearing like he understands. “My cousins had a thing like that. Twins. They just, and nobody else can even get a word in edgewise, it’s like their own language.” And Danny’s got his own sort of language, Steve thinks, hands flying around his body to punctuate his statements, expand them, cut off his sentences.
“I’ll do it,” Kono says suddenly, and it’s clear that she’s talking to him. He turns to face her, and there’s a serious look on her face. “Chin explained what you need. I’m game.” She seems to hesitate for a second before resting her hand lightly on his arm. “I’m sorry about your wife.”
“Thanks,” Steve says automatically. People make the mistake all the time. He’ll correct her later; for now, it’s not important. “Let’s get you read in, then.”
Kono’s talking to the scumbag before long, transformed from the cool, competent officer she’d been to a scared, trembling young woman. She’s good, Steve thinks – given Chin’s past, too, it might be good for her to be on the task force; HPD won’t be a healthy environment, and while he doesn’t doubt that she can handle herself, he’s a little worried about the possibility of her getting hung out to dry by a partner with an axe to grind.
Steve focuses back in as the guy, Sang Min, orders Kono to drop her dress and takes a picture. It traces back to somewhere in HPD, goddamn it all, but then they’re busting through the doors and there’s gunfire and Kono puts down three thugs with neatly executed kicks. They get Sang Min, cuff him, bring him back to headquarters, and Steve thinks about it for less than a minute before he’s drawing Danny aside and quietly explaining his plan.
Danny looks murderous but agrees; shortly thereafter, they’re in the room where Sang Min is handcuffed to a chair, smirk firmly in place.
“I want my lawyer,” he says confidently as Steve sits.
“Too fucking bad,” Danny snarls at him, standing behind his own chair, gripping the file Steve had given him tightly in his hand. “You don’t get that option here, asshole. Did you hear me read you your Miranda rights, no, no you did not, and I don’t even think this guy knows what they are. You do not have the right to an attorney, asswipe, because you take little girls out of their homes and sell them as sex slaves.” He turns to Steve. “That sound like the kind of guy who deserves an attorney to you?”
“Sure doesn’t,” Steve replies mildly, tipping his chair back a little and folding his hands across his stomach. Shocked, he thinks, is a great look on Sang Min, that combination of surprise and a little bit of fear.
“Here’s the deal,” Danny continues. “This is your only deal. There will be no negotiations, no other offers. You take this or you don’t, that’s up to you, but this is it. You are going to prison. You are going to prison for a long time, that’s not even on the table, my friend, not even close to it.”
“Doesn’t sound like much of a deal,” Sang Min tosses out, and it might sound like he’s saving face, but Steve can hear the undercurrent of tension, of wondering what these crazy cops might be considering if they’ve thrown the Miranda rights out the window.
Danny doesn’t take his eyes from Sang Min’s face as he opens the file and grabs at the photos inside. He tosses them on the table as he speaks again. “I will personally see to it that they’re deported if you don’t help us,” he says, voice clipped and razor-thin. “I will make sure they’re dropped into the middle of militia territory. Your son, yeah, he’s about the right age for their recruiting agency to take some interest, and your wife, she’s pretty, I’m sure someone would toss her into the mud, hold her down, tear her clothing off-”
“Who the fuck are you people?” Sang Min bursts out, eye wide and terrified as he looks at the pictures of his family.
“We need a name,” Steve says calmly, setting his chair back down and leaning across the table. “We just need a name and a way to track that name. You give it to us, you go away, but your family? They stay right where they are.”
Sang Min stares down at the pictures as he replies. “Who?”
They’re walking out ten minutes later, a name and three addresses scrawled onto a piece of paper. Danny is tense, wired, as he tosses the keys to his car to Steve and slides into the passenger seat. Steve is perplexed as he gets into the driver’s seat, before he realizes that Danny needs the ability and the space to rant right now.
“Do not, do not ever make me do that again,” he says, deadly quiet, as soon as the doors are shut. “Using someone’s family against them like that, Steve, do you have any idea, threatening that guy with sending his wife and kid off to get killed – do you even-”
“Hate me for it if you want,” Steve says, just as softly, as he starts the car. “It was effective, Danny, and you’re the only one of us who has what it takes to pull something like that off.”
Danny’s quiet for a while, almost the entire drive to the first address, but when they pull up outside the modest house outside of Mililani, he opens his mouth again. “I understand that this case means a lot to you – getting the guy who got your girl, I get that, do not think that I don’t know where you’re coming from. All I’m saying is, get where I’m coming from a little bit, okay?”
Steve lets out a breath. “Yeah,” he replies. “Okay.”
“Okay,” Danny repeats, sitting back up. “Let’s do this, then.”
The takedown is almost comically simple: their guy, an international fugitive named Victor Hesse, is actually asleep inside the house. There’s no security detail, no alarm system to trip, and he wakes but stays pretty still when Steve puts the gun against his head while Danny slaps the cuffs on him.
“You haven’t figured out why,” Hesse taunts as Danny hauls his half-naked body out of the bed. “You’ve no idea why I killed that stupid whore of yours, have you?”
“Watch your tongue,” Danny says mildly as he leads Hesse from the room, twisting so Hesse’s face slams into the woodwork of the door. “Oops.”
Hesse is still smiling smugly when Danny pulls him back, and something in Steve’s gut twists. “Danny,” he murmurs, and Danny stops short, managing to send Hesse sprawling into the wall. Steve stalks over and pulls the man up, looking into his eyes. And either Hesse is a complete psychopath or there’s something Steve missed, because there’s nothing but smug satisfaction in his eyes.
“What is it that you want me to know so badly?” Steve snarls at the man, shaking him when his smile slips into something even more smug.
“I hope that little girl of yours means half as much to you as my brother meant to me,” Hesse says softly. “I hope you told her you loved her before you left this morning.”
‘Under The Sea’ sounds from Steve’s pocket, and he’s standing there frozen as he hears the song, watches Hesse’s smile widen impossibly further.
“You should get that,” he remarks almost casually. “I hear that it’s important to say goodbye.”
Hesse is suddenly gone, not in his grip any more, and Steve blinks to see Danny letting go of the man, letting him slump to the floor. There’s blood, but it’s not enough to be from a life-threatening injury, Steve catalogues, a little dazedly, as his phone keeps ringing.
Danny’s swearing, words that Steve’s pretty sure Danny is making up spilling from his lips as he roots through Steve’s pants for the phone. He gets it and jabs at the button to answer it just before the song comes to an end. “Hello?”
Steve watches as Danny’s face registers surprise before easing into a grin. He makes a few responses to whoever’s on the other side, ending on an “on our way” before ending the call and tucking the phone back into Steve’s pocket.
“Chin,” he supplies as he looks up. “She’s fine, Steve. Grace is fine, Roger and Marilyn are fine, everyone’s fine. Chin and Kono did a little digging after we flew out of there. You had something to do with getting this guy’s brother killed a few years back, so Chin figured there might be trouble with Gracie. They headed over to Marilyn’s, got the guys who were lurking around outside, they’re all in booking, we get to go home and have pizza.”
“She’s okay?” Steve says blankly, latching onto the only part of the story he can. “Grace is okay?”
Danny’s eyes soften. “She’s fine. I think she’s probably a little shaken up, what with all the police officers and SWAT guys, but she’s fine, Steve.”
“Can we-” Steve swallows, because they’ve got an unconscious suspect in handcuffs less than three feet away and he knows they have to take him downtown, get him booked, everything that goes with the territory, but he needs to see Grace so badly that he thinks he might literally be sick if he can’t.
Danny’s already nodding, though, and at some point he must have called for backup, because there’s an HPD officer walking through the door of the house. Danny points to Hesse and tells the officer to book him with one hand while he grabs Steve’s shoulder with the other, guiding him out of the house and into the car. He fishes his keys out of Steve’s pocket before shoving him gently into the passenger’s seat.
It’s a quiet ten minutes to Marilyn’s house – it should be fifteen, but Danny works some sort of minor miracle and makes it there in record time. Steve is already unbuckling his seatbelt and tearing from the car as Danny pulls up, and Grace is waiting at the door in Marilyn’s arms, straining and wriggling as Marilyn puts her down. Steve falls to the ground as they get close, drawing her tight to his body and feeling her shake against his chest.
“Daddy, Daddy, Nana told me that there were bad men and you were chasing them,” she sobs into his neck. “I was scared, Daddy. What if they got you?”
“They didn’t,” Steve whispers to her. “They didn’t, baby. I’m fine, you’re fine.”
“But you could be gone,” she says clearly. “Just like Mommy.”
And here it is, the part of his job that Steve will never know how to explain to his daughter. He doesn’t know how to explain this to her any better than he did when he was with the SEALs; then he’d mostly let Cath handle it, to be honest. Now, though, now it’s just him, and he’s got nothing to soothe her fears, nothing to calm her down.
“Hey,” Danny says gently, and he’s suddenly kneeling right down with them, steadying himself on Steve’s arm as he looks at Grace. “Grace, do you remember that picture I have at my house? The one you asked about?” Grace nods, face still wet with tears.
“That little girl,” Danny continues. “Do you remember her name?”
“Julia,” Grace whispers.
“Julia,” Danny confirms. “She asked me that once. Do you know what I told her?”
Grace shakes her head.
“Your dad chases bad guys,” Danny tells her. “He does it to protect you because you are the most important person in the whole entire world to him. He doesn’t want the bad guys to hurt you, so he catches them and puts them in jail.”
Grace is completely still in the circle of Steve’s arms. “But what if they hurt him?” she asks after a moment. Her tiny hands are still clutching at Steve’s shirt.
“Well,” Danny says thoughtfully. “Your dad doesn’t work alone, right? You met our friends Chin and Kono.” Grace nods. “And me, well, I never let your dad out of my sight, Grace Face.” He leans in conspiratorially. “Except when he goes to the bathroom.”
It does the trick; Grace giggles and lets go of Steve, launching herself at Danny, whose arms go around her automatically, tucking her against his body and sticking his face into her hair. Steve sees his eyes close, notices the tremble in his hands, but neither man comments on it.
“You’ll keep him safe, Danno,” Grace says with all the confidence and utter belief in a person that a five-year-old can have.
“I will do my very best, Grace Face,” Danny replies solemnly. Grace hugs him tightly one last time and runs back into the house, leaving Steve kneeling on the ground next to his partner.
“Thank you,” Steve says, heartfelt. “Just – I never know what to say to her. I mean, how do I explain that I can’t guarantee I’ll come home?”
“You don’t,” Danny says firmly. “She’s not old enough to hear that, Steve. Give her a little more time to think her dad’s some sort of invincible superhero, okay, trust me on this one.”
Steve stands, leaning down to help Danny up when he winces and rubs at his knee. “I’m terrified that I’m going to do something stupid and get hurt. I – she’s already lost Cath, you know?”
Danny gives him a lopsided smile. “Like I just told her, I’ve got your back, babe. Seriously, you don’t listen to me at all, do you?”
Steve grins and shakes his head. “Grace Face?” he asks instead of responding.
“If she gets to call me Danno, I get to call her Grace Face,” Danny responds.
Steve wonders if it’s weird that he doesn’t mind.
Cath’s death, they find out, was orchestrated to lure Steve back to Hawaii so Hesse could exact some sort of demented revenge on Steve for busting Hesse’s brother, Anton, a few years back. Anton had been running with a group of smugglers dabbling in human trafficking, and when Steve had taken the cell down, Anton had been one of the casualties. The fact that Hesse had been able to get Steve’s name in conjunction with the operation is a little worrying, but for now, at least, everything is over. Steve is really just beyond grateful for his team – without Chin and Kono, Hesse’s men would probably have killed his daughter and her grandparents, and without Danny, Steve would never have even known the attack was coming.
Steve is at a little bit of a loss after Hesse is captured and pleads guilty for a reduced sentence. He’d taken the job as a way to get on Cath’s case, a way to get closure for himself and for their daughter. It’s over now, though, and Steve heads a task force with no tasks. It’s a little awkward, honestly, sitting in the office for a few days after the case, arranging things or hitting the weight room with Chin or sparring with Kono, who will be able to kick his ass six ways from Sunday if Steve doesn’t keep up with his training. He’s almost absurdly grateful when they get a call about a paranoid businessman with NSA connections getting kidnapped in broad daylight – it sucks, yeah, and there’s a traumatized kid, which makes it worse, but it’s something to do.
The team gets closer, somehow; it’s unlike any unit Steve worked with in the SEALs, not even close to any of his experiences. Chin and Kono and Danny quickly settle into place around him, pushing and pulling and tweaking until they work like a seamless machine.
And every night, Steve gets his daughter from Marilyn’s house and takes her home. They grill steaks or make macaroni and cheese or shred lettuce for salad together; Grace has fewer and fewer nightmares. They watch movies and Steve learns to come to expect the color pink in every corner of his life.
Danny comes over, too. Sometimes Steve invites him; just as often, though, Danny just turns up, bringing beer and Kool-Aid or something for dessert. After a while, he’s there more evenings than he’s not, to the point where Steve has found some of Danny’s shirts mixed in with Grace’s flowery socks and his own cargo pants. It’s a little bit of a revelation to him to realize that his partner has all but moved in. It’s even more of a shock when Grace brings it up a few days later.
“Danno comes over a lot,” she says out of nowhere, chasing Cheerios around her bowl with a spoon.
“Yeah,” Steve replies. “Does that make you sad?”
Grace gives him a perfect rendition of Cath’s what are you, stupid? face and very carefully sets her spoon beside her bowl. “Daddy,” she says seriously. “He makes you smile. That doesn’t make me sad.”
“Um,” Steve says eloquently, but then the man in question is making his way through the front door, and the conversation is dropped, at least for now.
Later that night, though, Grace brings it up again. “Is Danno coming over tonight?”
“I think so,” Steve says absently as he checks on the chicken breasts he’s got marinating. They should be ready to go on the grill soon. “Why?”
“I want to talk to him,” Grace replies, and Steve doesn’t think anything of it until he overhears his daughter’s voice through the window later, as he’s taking the chicken off the grill.
“…make my daddy happy, Danno,” comes her little voice.
“That’s good to know,” Danny replies. “Your daddy makes me pretty happy, too.”
“But you yell a lot,” Grace responds, unsure. Danny laughs.
“That’s just how I talk sometimes, Grace Face. I’m not mad at him.”
Ah, Steve realizes. She must have heard Danny ranting at him this morning, something about procedure and rules and rights, things that Steve knows but sometimes ignores in favor of getting the results he’s looking for. He knows the difference by now, six months in, between Danny ranting and Danny actually angry, and this morning had been the former.
It’s quiet from inside, and Steve moves for the door, stopping when Grace speaks again. “I like it when you’re here.”
“I like it when I’m here, too,” Danny says softly. “I’ll tell you a secret, sweetie. I don’t really like going back to my apartment. It’s really empty there all by myself.”
Steve’s feet are carrying him forward before he makes the decision to move, and he speaks without thinking about the words tumbling from his lips. “Stay here, then.”
Danny and Grace both turn to look at him, Danny with surprise and embarrassment creeping up his face and Grace with a smile. “Grace, munchkin, can you give Daddy and Danno some time to talk?”
“Can I watch Finding Nemo?” she asks, and when Steve nods, she skips out of the room. The movie starts up a minute later, and Steve sets the tray with the chicken down on the counter and takes the seat Grace had just vacated.
“See, now, why would you say something like that?” Danny asks, but he sounds unsteady, like he’d say yes if he could only figure out how.
“I do half of your laundry anyway,” Steve tries to joke, but his smile feels a little strained. “Danny, you’re here more than you’re not anyway. Grace calls the end bedroom ‘Danno’s room’ and has for months.” He hesitates. “I hate the idea of you going back to your apartment alone,” Steve continues, staring down at the table now. “You’re more at home here than I think you’ve ever been there, and I’d rather-”
“I don’t know if I can,” Danny says, and there’s still that strange note of unsteadiness in his voice. “When I’m here, Steve, it’s all I can do to not-”
And it’s suddenly there again, what they’d buried all those months ago, sharp and bright and electric between them. It’s in Danny’s eyes, in his expression, and Steve can feel it mirrored in his own face. He reaches out slowly, cups Danny’s face in his palm, and runs his thumb along Danny’s jaw. “Then do it,” Steve says, barely audible above the sounds of the television from the other room, and then he leans in to brush his lips against Danny’s.
Danny’s eyes are closed when Steve pulls his head back, heart thudding in his chest, just waiting. Danny opens his eyes after a moment, and they’re clear and light and fierce as he stares at Steve.
“God, babe-” And then he’s threading a hand up into Steve’s hair, kissing him like his life hangs in the balance. Steve wraps one arm around his waist and keeps the other on Danny’s face, moving his fingertips over smooth skin and stubble and laugh lines until a giggle from the doorway breaks them apart. Grace is standing there, a huge smile on her face, and she laughs again as they stare at her.
“Are we having dinner, Daddy?” she asks, pointing to the chicken that Steve had all but forgotten about. Finding Nemo is still playing in the other room.
“Oh,” Steve replies. “Dinner, right, of course. Set our plates in the living room, Gracie, and we’ll watch the rest of the movie, okay?”
Danny helps Grace carry the plates and cups into the living room before coming back into the kitchen, ready to help Steve with the food. “Hey,” Steve says, catching him by the wrist as he walks around the edge of the counter to grab the bowl of potatoes. “Stay here with me tonight. Don’t go home.”
Danny smiles at him, that tiny, private smile that means he’s really, truly happy about something. “Babe,” he says as he leans in to brush his lips across Steve’s jaw, “I’m already home.”