Title: Free to Fly
Summary: Danny's next lesson takes him deeper into the water and into his shifting relationship with Steve. Neither situation turns out to be as simple as he'd prefer.
1 WEEK LATER: THE SAME BEACH
Frustrated once again, and wondering if it could ever be any different with his obstinate, obdurate partner, Steve pushed a hand through his hair and persisted with his argument.
"Danno... I swear you won't."
"Yeah, I will!"
"I won't let it happen. Besides, we'll only be in three or four feet of water..."
Danny roughly pushed up the long sleeves of his t-shirt, brushed at his knee-length shorts, even though they hadn't yet touched sand, and fought the urge to stamp his foot, despite the knowledge that he was basically throwing a tantrum.
"I want 'em, damn it!"
"Danny, you're a grown man. I refuse to let you do this with a pair of pink Disney Princess floaties on your arms."
"That board is laughin' at me! I'm tellin' you, I get out there on that thing... it's gonna flip me and I *will* drown! I don't care how they look, I want protection!"
"And if they bust? What're you gonna tell Gracie?"
"I'll buy her a new pair on the way home." Danny enunciated precisely through clenched teeth. "Gimme."
Steve sighed and shook his head then laid his surfboard gently on the sand. It took him a few minutes to come up with an alternative, but he wasn't at all sure Danny would react better to his new idea, so he presented it carefully.
"Okay, okay. There is one other option. No floaties on this one either... but it should make you feel secure enough that you won't want them."
Danny squinted and studied his partner skeptically.
"You sure you're ready to hear it?"
"Anything's gotta be better than me gettin' anywhere near your durfboard."
"Surfboard, Danny. Surfboard."
"You say potato, I say gaudy plank of death. Now talk, Super-Seal."
"Excuse me? Do I *look* like a plastic bowl you put leftover beef stew in?"
"We're fightin' over nick-names, now? Guy could get whiplash from the speed you change subjects. Just tell me what this new idea is, will ya?"
Steve hesitated, still annoyed at Danny for disrespecting his board, but eventually he spoke up again.
"I can hold you."
"Hold me? No, you can gimme some details, that 's what you can do."
"It's a way of helping people who're afraid of swimming. I put one arm under your stomach and one under your legs. That way you feel safe while you get used to the water and learn the basic crawl stroke."
After battling occasional vivid fantasies about Steve for the past few days, the final word of the other man's explanation had Danny blushing and coughing, but he ducked and turned away to hide his reaction. "Danno?"
"Yeah, yeah, I uh... I heard you. You sure you're strong enough? Maybe I should wear the inflatables anyway..."
Steve smiled, stepping away from the shoreline and back toward the beach so he could grip Danny's hands.
"The water does most of the work. It's safe, I promise. I would've done anything to protect you *before* all this... before these new feelings started between us."
"Now the instinct's even stronger. Understatement of the century. Don't get me wrong, I like it. I don't totally get it yet, but so far I like it."
"Me too. So trust me."
"You know I do." Danny responded quietly, his gaze fixed on their entwined fingers.
"Then c'mon. That's it." Steve praised, walking slowly backward into the ocean and drawing Danny with him. "Close your eyes, like before. Focus on the sounds, the scents... the warmth of the water. Good. Just a few more steps... one more... perfect. Feel good?"
"I don't know. It's, like... tuggin' on me. My balance is off."
"You'll adjust. Relax and breathe slow... that's good. Now... you've seen people get baptized in lakes and pools, right?" Steve asked, gently moving Danny into position beside him.
"I guess. Yeah, probably."
"Same idea, except instead of goin' back, you bend your knees a little and lean forward."
"You mean just... face first? In the water?"
"I told you, my arms will be under your body. You'll be totally safe and you don't have to put your face in until and unless you're ready. Okay?"
Danny drew and expelled a few swift, deep breaths. The idea of Steve touching him in any way, even innocently, only inflamed the compelling, vaguely erotic images in his head, but he shoved them fiercely into a mental jail cell and slammed the door. He was fully aware that he'd never survive the lesson if he allowed his imagination and his treacherous libido to keep sidetracking his thoughts.
"Okay. I'll give it a shot."
After two aborted attempts, Steve grasped Danny by the shoulders and locked their gazes together.
"You've gotta let go, here Danno. I said I wouldn't let you get hurt and I meant it. No pranks, no stunts. I *will* support you. I *will* look after you."
Danny gave a shaky nod. "We good?"
"Alright. Let's start the other way, after all, huh? Maybe that'll be easier."
Sweeping his arm under Danny's legs, Steve hefted the smaller man up and cradled him gently, then slowly lowered him into the water on his back. Danny flailed a bit at first, but Steve murmured reassurances and his partner gradually calmed. He spent twenty minutes or so getting Danny used to the water lapping into his ears, and occasionally over his mouth or nose, before explaining the basic movements of the back-stroke. Once the other man had that somewhat conquered, his teacher finally managed to get him to flip over and confront the slight waves close up while learning the Australian crawl.
"That's it, Danny. One... two... three... turn and breathe. One... two... three... turn and breathe. You got it. Up for getting your face in the water yet?"
"No... no way. Next time... maybe... I'm over an' out for today..."
Helping Danny settle on his feet again, Steve wrapped an arm around his back and guided him back to dry land, as his partner's gas tank seemed to be past empty. Danny proved him right by dropping to his knees in the sand then collapsing onto his side, panting heavily. Steve knelt close, facing him.
"I... I don't... get it. I hardly... did anything. How come I'm... exhausted?"
"Overcoming fear takes a lot of energy."
"Try... all my energy. Hey. I did pretty good, yeah?"
"You were incredible. I'm proud of you, Danno." Steve replied as also shifted into a reclining position and reached out to lightly brush Danny's disheveled hair away from his face.
"Floatin' on my back like that... it was..."
"What? You know you can tell me."
"Yeah, that ain't it. I'm tryin' to figure out the right word. Peaceful is the closest I can come, I guess. Since I split with Rachel... I forgot what the word means. Who coulda known water would be the thing I needed all this time? All it ever did before was stress me out."
Danny slowly pushed up onto one elbow and gazed intently at his partner. "You know... when we met and started workin' together the last thing in the damn universe I thought you could be was patient. Word never crossed my mind. Last time we were here... and now the swimming thing. I don't understand."
Steve leaned in, kissed Danny's brow and laughed.
"I've got no clue, either. You just bring it out in me. I wanna take care of you... show you everything I love out here, the beauty of the islands and the great people. And someday I want you to show me the best parts of your home, too. Maybe I finally get that the only way it'll all happen is if I give you the time and space you need to run things through your computer and decide that believing in somebody is safe again."
"Home?" Danny echoed, slightly confused.
"New Jersey? Where you were born, knucklehead?" Steve teased, ruffling Danny's damp hair.
"Right, right... yeah. The water in my ears leaked into my brain, I guess, an' I kinda zoned, there, for a second. I was, like, 'What's he talkin' about? This is home.'"
Steve kissed him again, full on the mouth this time, then whispered in his ear.
"You don't know how much I want that to be true... but almost everything you are, everything you know, is there. I'd never ask you to give up the possibility of going back."
"I thought about doin' it every day at first. Not anymore."
"Hey, flowers get ripped out all the time, right? Accident, vandalism... whatever. They don't want it anymore than I did back then, but it happens. The cool thing is, you put 'em in fresh dirt, give it a lotta love and patience... sometimes they grow new roots. If a geranium can do it, I sure as hell can."
Steve's eyes widened.
"Danny. Did you just... did I hear..."
"Yeah, I said it... but don't push, okay? I'm not sure what it means anymore. Time and space, remember?" Danny told Steve, touching the other man's face hesitantly.
"Oh yeah, all you want. Take as long as you have to."
"Thanks. Damn it, you're givin' me that look, McGarrett. Quit. " Danny protested weakly with a wary smile.
"What look is that again?"
"You know damn well what look. The one that says you ain't had a meal in days an' I'm a medium rare T-Bone."
Steve felt his breathing speed up and grinned wickedly.
"With a baked potato and an ice cold beer."
"If you don't want me to..."
"You know I do." Danny repeated, echoing his earlier affirmation of trust in his best friend. "The whole past week, I've had this... I don't know. Craving? The dreams drive me insane at night and my mind keeps slippin' off track at work. I get lost in these weird thoughts... pictures of you an' me doin' stuff I never imagined. It kinda freaks me out."
"The same monkey's been on my back since we first kissed, Danno, but I've never..."
"You're scared if we try to make it real, you'll mess up. Me too."
"I don't much care right now. You?'
Steve shook his head. Danny grabbed Steve's wrist and dropped onto his back in the sand, pulling the other forward with him. He let go, then, for a long stretch of seconds, simply stared up at his partner with a myriad of emotions flickering like lightning in his eyes and over his face. Steve, now utterly sober and focused, reached across Danny's body, braced himself in the sand, and leaned in to kiss the younger man once more. Time after time, a momentary break for mutual, almost synchronized, gasps of air was followed by a renewed joining of mouths and tongues. Time after time, their passion for each other, and for the shocking new feelings they shared, built and built until Danny turned his head away slightly and loosed a keening wail.
"Steve... God, I..."
"What? You know you can tell me, Danno. Tell me what you want me to do..."
"I'm dyin', here! Anything, Steve... anything, just make it now! Please!"
Briefly shocked into indecision, the brunette paused, holding his breath, then cautiously slid his leg between Danny's and began gently using his thigh to produce rhythmic pressure where his lover so clearly needed it. Abruptly, Danny arched up against him, alternately roaring and cursing as he achieved release. Steve followed a short time later, thanks to Danny offering him the same gift of solid muscle and bone to drive himself against.
The moment Steve's mind began to clear and he understood what had happened, guilt flooded in and, mumbling regrets, he tried to pull away. Luckily for them both, Danny's reflexes were first-rate and he was able to halt the retreat by wrapping one arm around his lover's waist and holding on tightly.
"Oh... oh no, I'm so sorry, Danny. I didn't mean... I shouldn't have.. shit, shit, shit..."
"Don't. Just stop, okay? We both wanted it, baby... wanted and needed it. We had to take the next step sometime."
"Too fast, too soon..."
"Not accordin' to my body. It's been ready for seven whole days." Danny countered, sitting up, his arm still firmly attached to his new lover. Steve followed suit, gazing powerfully at the other man, searching for even faint signs of distress.
"Yeah. What say we go let the ocean clean off the sand and the gunk we just covered ourselves in? Then it's my turn to buy dinner."
"Okay. One thing I have to know first. Are you always... like that? So vocal?"
"Pretty much. Why?"
"Just making mental notes to buy soundproofing material for both our bedrooms."