Characters: Steve/Danny, Grace
Word Count: 3,086
Notes: For fawkesielady_ed. We were talking about this a week or so ago, and hey, I finally finished it :) Thanks to padfootthegrim for a quick beta!
Summary: Grace asks Steve a favor, and Steve obliges.
The tone of voice should tip him off, really, because it’s that just-too-innocent one, the one that says buddy, I’m about to toss you a curveball, promise you’ll still play when I’m done. Steve, however, is not used to that particular tone from this particular person, so he turns from where he’s washing the breakfast dishes and smiles and says, “What’s up, munchkin?”
Grace, predictably, frowns up at him. “I’m not a little kid any more, Steve.”
“Your dad still calls you Monkey,” Steve points out in what he feels is a reasonable tone. “You don’t yell at him for that.”
Grace sighs and rolls her thirteen-year-old eyes dramatically, but Steve can see the smile tugging at her lips. “I have accepted that Danno will never, ever stop calling me that. Not even when I’m forty.” She says it like it’s a dirty word, and Steve tries to hide a smile and a wince at the same time, because he’s past that particular landmark now.
“Anyway,” she continues, and that innocent tone is back, mixed somehow with something that’s a little nervous, maybe a little embarrassed. She’s quieter when she goes on. “Um. I have a favor to ask?”
Steve gestures grandly, something he’s picked up from Danny, no doubt, as he leans back against the counter. “Ask away,” he encourages.
“I… there’s this dance in a couple of months,” she says hesitantly. “Like, it would be prom if we were in high school, but they call it the grade eight formal. The girls wear nice formal dresses and the boys wear suits, and it’s kind of a big deal, you know?”
Her eyes are huge and clear as they look up at him, so Steve nods, even though he can’t imagine a school dance being that big a deal. He also can’t really see where this is going.
“And the thing is,” Grace goes on, “well, I’m really kind of clueless.” The sentence ends much more quietly than it started, and Grace spends a minute looking down at her hands before glancing up. Steve isn’t sure what the look on his face is saying, but it makes Grace clarify, for which he’s grateful. “Dancing, Steve, I don’t know how to dance.”
“Oh,” Steve replies, pieces clicking into place as he recalls a giggling Mary regaling Danny and Grace with stories about Steve’s high school football injury during a visit a few months ago, how he’d had to take ballroom dancing classes to strengthen the tendons and ligaments, how he’d come home after each class and swept his little sister off the couch and twirled her around the living room, step-step-step one-two-three rise-and-fall, until Mary was breathless. And of course it had led to demonstrations, and Mary remembered the steps as well as Steve, and they’d ended a foxtrot around the living room with a dramatic dip that had Danny laughing and whistling as Grace clapped.
“You want me to teach you how to dance?” he asks the girl in front of him, and her face immediately brightens.
“Please,” she almost begs, as if Steve is going to say no to her, as if he could. “Please, Steve, I just – I don’t want to look dumb at the dance.”
“I’m pretty sure the kind of dancing I can teach you isn’t going to help you at a grade eight formal,” Steve tells her. From what he remembers of school dances, it’s mostly the stiff-armed, awkward swaying-while-you’re-barely-touching kind of thing. He’s pretty sure there aren’t going to be boys lining up to ask Grace to waltz.
Her face falls. “Okay,” she says, and that tone, God, it’s straight out of Danny’s mouth, the one that manages to portray that she’s all at once crestfallen and terribly disappointed and might never recover from the heartache that Steve has just inflicted upon her, and before Steve can think about it, he opens his mouth and adds, “But I’ll show you anyway.”
The happy smile back, and there’s a little squeal of delight as Grace launches herself at him and squeezes him tightly around the stomach. Steve returns the embrace automatically, holding Grace to him with his non-soapy hand as he dries the other off on a towel behind him. He’s just got his other arm settled around Grace’s back when Danny walks into the kitchen, fastening his tie around his neck.
“What,” he says as he stops a foot away, “there’s some sort of hug fest, a hugging convention going on in the kitchen and I wasn’t invited, is that what’s going on here?” But he’s grinning, little lines around his eyes belying his amusement as he watches his partner and his daughter, and Steve and Grace reach out at the same time to draw him in.
God, Steve loves mornings like this.
The thing of it is, it’s kind of hard to get the lessons in. Between Danny’s custody schedule and Steve’s hours with 5-0, the first lesson doesn’t happen for two weeks.
“Steve,” Grace complains as he adjusts her hand against his tricep yet again, “this isn’t dancing.”
“Frame is important,” Steve tells her, setting her shoulders. “If you don’t keep your frame, you won’t have any idea what moves I’m going to lead. You have to keep your frame.” It’s at least the tenth time he’s told her this, but her arms keep going limp after a few minutes, and they have to stop moving in their basic box so Steve can put her hands back where they need to be and set her shoulders up again.
Grace lets him position her, and before long, they’re moving again, rocky little steps in pattern. There’s no music playing; there’s no need, not when Steve’s counting a beat as he moves with Grace, back and forth in sets of three. She relaxes into it after a while, stopping the glances she’d been giving her feet and just moving as Steve leads her through the motions.
He grins down at her after a few minutes of getting it completely right. “Ready?”
“For what?” Grace asks diplomatically. It’s a fair question, but Steve ignores it entirely as he moves his feet a little differently, leading them through the rotating box step that takes them slowly around the living room. The smile on Grace’s face is catching, and Steve smiles right back down at her as they finish their circuit around the room.
The clapping from the general vicinity of the staircase startles them, and they both turn to see Danny sitting on the bottom step, looking in. “Very nice,” he says, eyes on his little girl. “Looks like you’re getting the hang of it, Monkey.”
“We’re waltzing,” Grace tells him proudly. “We got all the way around the living room.”
“I saw,” Danny tells her, eyes crinkling around the edges as he beams at her. “That’s really good for your first lesson, isn’t it, Steve?”
“Sure is,” Steve tells her, finally dropping his hand from her shoulderblade with a smile. “You did great, Gracie.”
Grace turns the puppy-dog eyes on him immediately. “Can we try to music?” she asks, and Danny’s already turning on the stereo system and scrolling through the iPod that Steve has already loaded with a few playlists of dance music. Danny selects one and the strains of a practice waltz he’d found online fill the room.
Grace cocks her head to the side and squints for a few seconds, listening, and Steve feels her fingers tapping out the rhythm on his arm.
“Good,” he encourages, pulling her back into frame and starting the steps again.
Grace is a natural follower; Steve tries a few subtle variations, little things that he hasn’t yet shown her, and her feet follow him perfectly. She knows it, too, from the look on her face, happy with a little edge of triumphant. Steve ends the dance with a spin and a dip – not proper waltz etiquette, one stolen from salsa and the other from swing –and Grace laughs up at him as Steve pulls her back up, grinning.
“Thank you,” Grace tells him, still laughing as she hugs him. “Dad, did you see? He dipped me at the end!”
Danny laughs and replies as he walks into the kitchen to start working on dinner, and Steve pulls the furniture in the living room back into order before joining them.
Later that night, when Grace is asleep in her own bedroom, Danny curls into Steve’s chest. “Thanks for, y’know, teaching her that,” he mumbles, already half-asleep.
Steve smiles into the mess of Danny’s hair. “She’s our kid,” he says simply. “Like I was gonna tell her no.”
“You better tell her no if she ever asks you for shooting advice,” Danny threatens, but it’s just words, a statement he’s made a thousand times. “Or if she wants you to take her hang-gliding.”
“I’m perfectly qualified to teach her both of those things,” Steve points out, sliding easily into the banter that he enjoys so much. “Would you rather she go hang-gliding with someone you don’t know?”
“I’d rather her feet stay firmly on the ground,” Danny replies, but the stern effect he was probably going for is ruined by the yawn that ends the statement. “None of those throwing tricks with the dancing, okay?”
Steve snorts a little. “She’s good, Danny, I’ll give her that, but she’s nowhere near ready for anything like that.”
“Good,” Danny tells him, and then Steve shuts the light off, and that’s the end of that.
Time passes. Steve teaches Grace about waltz and foxtrot and swing dancing; he’s grazed in the thigh during a sting in April, so he sits on the couch for three weeks and talks Danny through the moves. And yeah, Steve has to re-teach most of what he’d attempted in that time, but it makes his partner and their daughter smile, so it’s all worth it.
Grace starts bringing a pair of shoes with her to dance in – low heels, black, with a delicate-looking clasp above her ankle. Steve takes the time to inspect them, but they’re sturdy, well-balanced. She’s not going to slip in them. She’s better than that.
“So,” Danny says one night as they’re sitting on the couch, in that same too-innocent tone that Grace had used all those months ago. Steve, however, has caught wise to it by now, and therefore just levels a look at Danny. “That dance is soon.”
“Two weeks,” Steve agrees, because yeah, he knows exactly when it is. Grace wants to iron out the half-step turn he’d tried to teach her a few nights ago; she can handle it, Steve knows, but for some reason, she keeps stepping in the offbeat. “Why do you bring it up?”
Danny shifts. “They’re, um. Looking for chaperones.”
Steve laughs. “Grace would kill you,” he points out. “Nobody’s going to ask her to dance with her overprotective dad there.”
“Dads,” Danny shoots back, hint of amusement in his eyes. “I signed us both up, babe.” He smiles a little wickedly at what has to be a look of horror on Steve’s face. “Think of it this way: I will give you full permission to use your crazy-ass ninja stunts on any kid who treats her with anything less than the utmost respect, okay?”
“I’m not going to break a kid’s arm for asking Gracie to dance, Danno,” Steve says patiently. It might be good, he thinks; at least this way, there will be someone there for Grace to dance with, even if it is her dad. Stepdad. Whatever.
“Okay,” he says aloud, and Danny grins at him and kisses his temple as they turn their attention back to the television.
Grace looks absolutely beautiful.
Her dress is a deep sort of red, the kind Steve associates with really good wine, and every detail of her has been attended to – nails painted, hair curled, light makeup on her face. He can hear Danny swallowing beside him and puts a hand on his partner’s shoulder as he beams at Grace, coming down the stairs in Rachel’s house.
“You look great, munchkin,” he tells her honestly. “Let me take a picture of you with your dad, okay?”
Danny recovers beside him and walks over to give her a careful hug and kiss on the cheek. “No more high heels,” he mock-threatens. “You’re already too tall.”
“Daddy,” she laughs, leaning up the tiniest bit to kiss him on the cheek.
“You look beautiful, Monkey,” Danny tells, her, the smile on his face so wide it might just split his face in half.
“Take your photographs, Danny,” Rachel’s voice comes from the top of the staircase. There’s only amusement in her tone; they’re friends, now, Danny and Rachel. “It wouldn’t do for Grace to miss the dance.”
Danny scowls at her, but his eyes are smiling. “Right, pictures,” he says, sliding his arm around Grace’s shoulders and aiming them towards Steve, who snaps a few shots. Rachel comes down the stairs and takes the camera from him, motioning to where Danny and Grace are standing with a smile.
“I’ll take a few of the three of you,” she tells him, so Steve walks over and slips his arm around Grace’s other side and beams as Rachel snaps the photos.
Then they’re escorting Grace to the car, tucking her carefully in, and driving off.
The dance is being held in the reception room of a local hotel; it’s nice, actually, not at all the hokey kind of thing Steve remembers from his own school dances, but he supposes that’s what private school tuition buys you. Grace glides over to a group of girls almost immediately, giggling and talking at a speed Steve won’t even pretend to be able to decipher.
“Come on,” he says to Danny, taking his partner by the elbow and leading him to the refreshments table. Danny grabs a bottle of water and takes a few sips, eyes tracking Grace like a hawk.
Steve laughs. “Let her be, Danno,” he says gently. “She’s having fun, she’s with her friends, there’s no boys anywhere near her.”
“Yet,” Danny replies, but he turns to glance at Steve. “God, when did she grow up?”
“She’s going to be fine,” Steve tells him, and oft-repeated sentiment, and Danny sighs.
“She is,” Danny finally agrees. “Come on, let’s go chaperone.”
It’s a pretty boring hour spent quietly making fun of the music before Grace whirls up in front of them, eyes sparkling. “Steve!”
“Gracie,” he replies, smiling at her. “What’s up?”
“The next song, I requested one, will you dance with me? Please,” she adds, as if Steve needs any extra convincing.
The strains start up, something slow and light easy in three-four time. Steve bows gallantly and takes Grace’s hand.
“It would be my honor,” he says, leading her out to the dance floor and spinning her once before bringing her up into frame. Steve waits a moment before taking his first steps, leading them gracefully around the floor. Grace nails the half-step turn that’s been giving her such trouble and smiles at him when she returns to the closed position, and Steve can’t help the way he beams back. They finish the dace with a sweeping spin and a curtsy, and then Grace’s arms are around his back, hugging him fiercely.
“Thank you,” she tells him, and as Steve hugs her back, he can only think, no, thank you, munchkin.
“She’s pretty good, isn’t she?” Danny asks softly when Steve returns to his side. He’s got the proud papa smile on his face, and Steve can’t blame him at all.
“She really is,” he agrees, and he knows Danny hears that he doesn’t just mean the dancing.
It’s another hour before Danny nudges him, suddenly tense, and Steve reaches for the gun that isn’t there as he turns, already scanning for a threat. “Grace,” Danny hisses, and Steve immediately locates their daughter in the crowd, talking to a boy her age. His face is beet-red as he speaks, and after a minute, Grace smiles and grabs his hand.
Danny tenses further.
“Relax,” Steve soothes. “Chill out, Danny. That kid knows we’re here; there’s no way he’d try anything stupid with us watching, right?”
“Slow song,” Danny grits out, “they’re playing a slow song and he’s dancing with-”
The boy holds his hand out in proper frame and Grace takes it easily; their other hands clasp around shoulder and arm, and the boy smiles hesitantly as he begins to lead a somewhat-clumsy foxtrot.
Danny’s mouth nearly falls open in shock, but there’s not a sound escaping his lips.
The boy’s steps increase in confidence by the time they reach the first wall; he’s smiling when he and Grace glide past where Danny and Steve are standing. At the end of the dance, he twirls Grace around a few times, his face lit up as she laughs. She says something to him and his face stutters, eyes flicking nervously to where Steve and Danny are, and Steve grabs Danny’s arm in anticipation as Grace takes the boy’s hand again and pulls him over.
“Danno, Steve, did you see?” she asks breathlessly, eyes bright. “This is Hoku, and he learned how to dance from his sister.”
“It’s nice to meet you,” Hoku stammers out. “I – Grace is a really good dancer.”
“It’s nice to meet you as well, Hoku,” Steve says smoothly before Danny can squawk at him. “Your sister taught you to dance?”
“Yes, sir,” he replies. “She teaches at a studio near Waikiki.”
“Nice,” Danny finally says, and it doesn’t sound too strangled. “That’s – really nice, Hoku.”
“Daddy,” Grace says, in that half-fond, half-exasperated tone that they both possess. She smiles at them again before turning to Hoku. “Let’s see if they have something we can swing dance to, huh?”
The boy’s eyes light up. “They should have something with a good beat,” he agrees, and then they’re off to the DJ’s table, looking through music books.
“Relax,” Steve says again, but when he looks down, there’s a smile on Danny’s face.
“She’s really something, isn’t she?” he asks, nothing but pride in his voice.
“Yeah,” Steve agrees with a smile and pride of his own, “she really is.”
Ballroom dancing is, in fact, used as physical therapy for some specific forms of leg injury. This is how my ex, who was on the football team for half a season til he blew his knee out, learned to dance.