By Darth Stitch
DISCLAIMER: Woe is us. They ain't mine. Will be putting them back nice and neat in the toybox once I'm done.
DISCLAIMER TO SAVE MY SOUL FROM GOING TO HELL IN A HANDBASKET: Slash. Of the Steve/Danny variety. Or you could take it as Pre-Slash too. Yes, really, we're going there. The show just gives me too much ammunition for it. Too late guys, the Slash Ship has SAILED!
It's midnight and Steve McGarrett still can't sleep a damn.
He's too wired, too keyed up to sleep. And honestly, he should be enjoying blissful slumber right now – they've all earned it today. He's found himself hosting an impromptu sleepover with his entire team. They're all here at his house today, including little Grace. Rachel was surprisingly accommodating, only bending down to give her daughter a hug and admonish her to "be good for your father and Steve" before leaving the little girl in their care.
After the past harrowing couple of days, it's not surprising that they're all reluctant to leave each other's sight. Kono is in Mary's old bedroom; Chin is sacked out on the couch. Danny and Grace are in Steve's childhood bedroom. They are all here. They are all safe. His ohana, his family were all right.
But when Steve closes his eyes, he can still see it quite clearly – the gun, aimed at Danny's head, the knowledge that Petersen was one of those who wouldn't hesitate to kill a hostage, much less a cop, the memory of Hesse doing the same thing to Steve's father and Steve, a world away, helpless to stop the fatal shot.
This time, he'd gotten Petersen with a quick, clean shot to the head, taken him down before he could kill Danny, taken him down in that precise second before the man decided to pull the trigger. But in that split second, Steve had seen all the horrifying possibilities unfold. Danny dead, the inevitable moment when Steve would have to tell a little girl that her father was gone forever, burying Danny with all due ceremony, living with the knowledge that Steve had failed one more person that he loved.
One second was the difference between Danny in the morgue and Danny sleeping in his house now.
Steve is sorely tempted to just slip into his old room so he could watch Danny sleep, just take comfort in the knowledge that Grace still has her father to give her hugs and tell her that she was loved. It wasn't much to ask, was it? It wasn't as if he could tell Danny that he loved him, that he wished he had the privilege of being able to hold him close for as long as he wanted, not just the quick, "hug-between-best-friends" that they had shared some hours ago.
He comes out to the lanai, just watching the sea, hoping that the gentle, continuous lapping of the waves against the sand will help soothe him and chase away the horrible might-have-been's. And it's a sign of how tired he was that he is startled by a familiar, well-loved little voice.
Once upon a time…
Well, that's how Danno and I like to start our stories, even when we're not really reading from a book and we're making them up. It's fun and Danno tells really funny stories and it's always good to tell stories when you've got warm milk and cookies.
Drink your milk, Uncle Steve. It'll make you feel better. I know I do. Danno says I gotta drink milk so I'd grow up nice and tall. He says he didn't listen to his Ma about the milk thing and look where it got him.
Don't laugh, Uncle Steve. Danno's kind of sensitive about the height thing.
Of course, you can't get any bigger. You're a grown-up already! You're so silly.
Once upon a time, there was a Prince who lived in a Castle by the Sea.
Danno says that instead of being charming, this Prince happened to be tall, dark and homicidal. I'm not sure what homicidal means, but Aunt Kono tells me it's got something to do with the fact that this Prince likes throwing the bad guys into the shark tank instead of the dungeon. I guess it's because he thinks the tiger sharks and the Great White do a better job of guarding the bad guys.
See? Now I've got you smiling, Uncle Steve!
At this point, I always have to tell Danno that he should at least add "handsome" because most Princes are supposed to be handsome and he always rolls his eyes and tells me I'm too young to be thinking about handsome Princes. Honestly, I don't see why he has to be worked up about this, as long as they don't act like Prince Charming who goes around kissing sleeping princesses and that is kind of creepy, if the princesses don't know him. And this Prince doesn't do that stuff, because he's actually very nice and he's an officer and a gentleman, although it used to be that he didn't know how to smile.
Oh? You didn't know that, Uncle Steve? Well, this Prince used to be all sad and serious and brooding and he totally forgot how to smile. That's because there were a lot of sad things that happened to him in his life. He lost his Mommy when he was very young and his Dad was slain by an Evil Pirate.
The Prince caught and slew the Evil Pirate much later, with the help of a brave Knight. This Knight became his best friend, although he would yell at the Prince a whole lot whenever the Prince forgot to bring back-up. See, the Prince didn't know this, but the Knight only yells like this at the people he really loves. That's because he cares about them and doesn't want them to get in trouble.
Oh, so the Prince knows about the whole yelling thing now, Uncle Steve? That's good. Yeah, the Knight talks an awful lot and he uses lots of big words. It was because of the Knight and his little girl that the Prince finally learned to smile and even laugh, because he wasn't all sad and lonely anymore.
Danno says that the very special thing about the Prince when he smiled was that it seemed like you had your first peek of sunshine after one of those very long and very gloomy rainy days. It just made everyone who saw it feel warm and happy too. The Prince didn't know this but the Knight and his little girl did lots of things so that they could get the Prince to smile more.
But the Knight and the little girl weren't the only ones who made sure the Prince never forgot how to smile. The Prince had other friends too – the Good Wizard and his cousin, the Dragon Rider, who loved to spend days catching the winds on her flying Dragon. Together, all of them protected the Prince's island kingdom and kept the people safe from bad guys and monsters.
But one day, an evil wizard came to the island kingdom and he brought potions that made people feel good but would make them sick in the end. The Prince and his team were on the case – they knew they had to catch this evil wizard and stop him before everyone in the entire kingdom started getting sick.
Danno told me that the Prince was all for throwing the evil wizard to the Great White Shark who hung around the shark tank but the Knight told the Prince that although it did sound like a good idea, they really had to follow proper procedure.
"Think of the paperwork you're going to give him," said their friend the Good Wizard, who was very wise. "You know how the Knight hates it when you make him do all that, Your Highness."
"We could give it to the rookie," the Prince suggested. He was actually joking, but Danno says when this Prince makes jokes, he looks like he's dead serious so people think he actually means it.
"Ain't happenin', brah," said the Dragon Rider, who happened to be the rookie, whatever that means.
The Prince sighed but he knew he had to give in. Even he had to follow proper procedure sometimes.
More cookies, Uncle Steve? Aunt Kono really makes great chocolate chip cookies.
But then, a Terrible Thing happened. The Evil Wizard came and took away the Knight and locked him up somewhere secret and hidden. Everyone went looking for their friend the Knight. The Good Wizard looked in his crystal ball for any clue that the Evil Wizard might have left behind and the Dragon Rider took to the skies to see if she could find the Evil Wizard's hideout from the air.
The Knight's little girl was very scared that she would never see her Daddy again. But the Prince promised her that he would bring her Daddy home, just like you promised me that you'd bring my Danno home when the bad man got him. And he told her the very same thing that you told me about being brave.
You said that even though we're scared and we want to cry and run away, being brave means we have to do our duty the very best way we could. And that my duty then was to take care of my Mommy, because she was pretty scared too.
The little girl wished she was a Knight already, so that she could help the Prince and his friends find her Daddy but the Prince told her she still had to grow up a little bit more and that right now, the best way she could help was by trusting all of them that they'd bring her Daddy home.
Finally, the Good Wizard found that the Evil Wizard's secret lair was this old, crumbling house in the middle of the jungle. The Prince, the Good Wizard and the Dragon Rider flew there and fought the Evil Wizard's minions. The Dragon Rider was pretty good with a bow and arrow and she never missed a single shot. And the Good Wizard blasted evil minions left and right with his magic spells.
Of course, the Knight wasn't exactly going to be waiting there like a damsel-in-distress. Because he's a Knight, thank you very much, and he's been in this whole Knighthood business for a pretty long time, with 87 quests under his belt, before he came to live in the Prince's pineapple-infested paradise island kingdom. And he just knew the Prince was going to do something perfectly crazy, involving lots of explosions, just to rescue him. The Knight knew he had to get out of there before the Prince did something really silly, like blow up the whole island, for example.
Not that the Prince would actually do something like that, but it's kind of hard to argue the point with the Knight.
Now I've got you laughing, Uncle Steve. Was the last part something I heard from Danno? Well, Danno's got a lot of things to say about the Knight, especially since he started hanging out with the Prince. Danno doesn't say it but I think I've figured something out about the Knight and the Prince – Aunt Kono agrees with me 100 percent.
Oh, I'll have to tell you that part later. We have to get to the Good Parts of the story first.
See, the Evil Wizard made the mistake of leaving the Knight alone in his prison cell and he had gone outside the first time all the commotion began, what with the Prince and his friends coming in to rescue their friend. The Knight hates to admit this, but he took a page out of the Prince's Handbook of Crazy and managed to get himself free.
Uncle Steve! Honestly, you're worse than Aunt Kono. You're going to get the hiccups; what with you laughing this hard.
Yeah, I think the Knight's pretty funny too.
Of course, the Knight wasn't going to hang around in the Evil Wizard's lair, it being bad for his health and he really, really wanted to go home to his little girl and maybe sleep for a week. And he could tell, judging from all the explosions and crazy things happening outside, that his friends were out there and while the Knight knew the Good Wizard and the Dragon Rider made excellent back-up for the Prince, he also knew that the Prince was very worried about him.
"Did you really think that you were going to get away?" said the Evil Wizard, who suddenly appeared out of nowhere.
"Seriously, you're going to use that line?" answered the Knight. "You sound like a third-rate villain from a Z-grade movie. And you're not going to accomplish anything by killing me, you realize. You'd just make the Prince very angry and believe you me, you do not want him angry. The Incredible Hulk's got nothing on a Prince with Navy SEAL training gone into full-on berserk mode."
The Evil Wizard looked a bit surprised at that but honestly, Uncle Steve, he was trying to go for Really Scary at this point. "Save your clever lines for your last prayers instead."
"Oh my God," said the Knight. "I refuse to die at the hands of a Z-grade movie villain who really, really sucks at dialogue. No. Ain't happenin' brah!"
The Knight actually had managed to get a hold of a tire iron, which would come in real handy since his sword got confiscated. And he was getting ready to swing it at the Evil Wizard, who was about to hit him with some spell or the other.
But the Evil Wizard fell down dead, because he'd been struck down by the Prince, who came just in the nick of time.
"Nice timing," said the Knight. "You couldn't have come in about 15 minutes ago, before he started to subject me to the Worst Villain Dialogue Ever?"
The Prince stared at the Knight, because he was doing that joking thing that grown-ups do that say one thing but mean another. What do you call that, Uncle Steve? Oh. Sarcasm. And if the Knight does that, he's being sarcastic? And snarky? Okay. New words of the day!
So the Knight's being sarcastic and snarky and all the Prince could think of was that the Knight was one second away from being turned into a frog or something worse forever.
"He was about to hit you with a spell," the Prince said slowly.
"Tire iron," said the Knight, lifting his temporary weapon. "I had him in my sights. And I would've ducked."
"No," said the Prince and I guess he was getting mad. "You. Were. Going. To. Get. Hit. And you were going to get cursed or worse…and I am not going home to your eight year old daughter and explaining to her that HER FATHER TURNED INTO A FROG! OR A NEWT! WHAT THE HECK WERE YOU THINKING?"
Honestly, I think the Prince said a bad word but Danno says that this story should at least rate a "PG" rating so we're not supposed to cuss.
The Knight stared because the Prince did not rant. Never. Ranting was not his thing. The Knight did all the ranting in their relationship and that was because he was really good at words, while the Prince wasn't.
The Good Wizard and the Dragon Rider had come in at this point and they were staring because in all the time they had known the Prince, they had never seen him lose his temper like that.
"You think we ought to jump in at this point, cuz?" asked the Dragon Rider.
The Good Wizard shook his head. "I think it would be safer for our health if we do not incur the wrath of His Royal Highness."
"Hey," said the Knight and he was trying to make the Prince feel better, even though he felt the world kind of tilted upside down, because really, the Knight was looking forward to ranting at the Prince but the Prince beat him to it. "I'm ok. They're ok. The bad guys are dead. We've got lots of paperwork to do and I get to go home to my baby girl. I'd say this counts as a win, right?"
The Prince was still very upset. "You are all staying at my palace with me. At least for tonight. We'll grill some steaks, order pizza and no, I won't put pineapple and ham on your share, Sir Knight, so don't look at me like that. And your little girl is waiting for you at my palace. That's it. End of discussion. Royal decree, got it?"
And because the Prince was showing signs of going back to his old, broody, Not-Smiling self and because everyone understood that they'd all been scared silly that day, they all agreed.
The way Danno ended this story was that the little girl was very happy to see her Daddy alive and they all had a sleepover at the Prince's Castle by the Sea with lots of food. They got to laugh and tease and joke around, and they got the Prince to smile and laugh a little bit. And the Prince did feel better, because he had his family with him and they were all safe and sound.
And that was how we left them, because the Prince and the Knight would still have more adventures, because that's how they are – heroes brave and true. Hopefully, that's not going to happen until the Knight had gotten to sleep for at least a week and got a hug from his little girl.
But this is the part I've figured out and like I said, Aunt Kono says I'm right on the money. The truth is, all the ranting and the yelling and the arguing that the Prince and the Knight did were the ways they told each other "I love you." The thing is, they're both boys and they're silly, so they're not about to say the words out loud to each other. So, this isn't like your normal fairy tale, where the Prince saves the Princess and it's true love and they kiss and they live happily ever after.
The thing about the Prince and the Knight is that they'll keep on saving each other and argue and yell and rant and then laugh and be silly together, because that's how they are and that's how true love is, even if it's not exactly between a Prince and a Princess like in most stories. Maybe eventually, they'll figure things out and we'll get some kissing done soon, although Danno says I'm too young to think about the kissing stuff.
Maybe we'll get the kissing parts done in the next story.
Steve had just spent the better part of an hour being entertained by his favorite little girl and her unbelievably vivid imagination. He certainly recognized "the Prince," "the Knight" and their friends and knew it was Gracie's way of coping with the traumatic events of the day. And since Danno evidently helped Gracie make up the story, it was probably Danny's way of coping as well. Lord knew that it had helped Steve immensely.
At least until Grace got to the end and to the parts that she evidently created all on her own, without any help from her father.
"This was not supposed to be a kissing story," came another familiar and well-loved voice. "You know perfectly well that this was not a kissing story, Grace Anne Williams."
Steve turned, with a sinking heart and knowing he was most likely blushing all over, to see Danny Williams coming up behind them. He felt slightly better knowing that Danny was just as red as he was. Even the tips of his ears were red, which Steve found completely adorable and he carefully steered his mind away from going that dangerous path.
Grace pouted. "It should be! There's always kissing involved when you've got a story about true love!"
"Gracie," said Danny gently. "It could just as easily be a story about true friendship. That's not a bad thing, is it?"
Danny, Steve knew, was giving him an out. He was giving both of them an out and if Steve had any common sense at all, he'd take it and have done with the whole thing. But he slanted a look at Danny and saw how Danny was carefully not looking at Steve at all and the way his hands were shaking just a little bit as he pulled out a chair and took a seat beside Grace and Steve at the table.
And Danny was still blushing.
Steve could only think about that one, horrible second between Danny here, with him and Grace now and the bleak terrible Might-Have-Been.
And in that instant, the decision was easy to make. As easy as taking his next breath, counting the next second.
" 'True love is the greatest thing in the world,' " Steve quoted. "I'd take it, even over an MLT – a mutton, lettuce and tomato sandwich, where the mutton is nice and lean and the tomato is ripe. Or even if it was a BLT."
If Steve had to take a quote from somewhere, he could never go wrong with a classic.
"Danno makes the best BLTs ever!" Grace volunteered, giggling.
"I'd still take true love over Danno's BLT's," Steve said stubbornly.
"You haven't tasted my BLTs – how would you know?" Danny shot back.
"You could make them for us tomorrow and for the rest of our lives but I'd still take true love over your BLTs, Danno."
Danny looked as if he was about to gear up for an argument and Steve knew only one way to forestall that. Even if Danny might end up slugging him for it later, out of Grace's sight.
Steve kissed him. It should have been fast, as stolen kisses went but Danny kissed him back and the sweetness of it left them both breathless and weak in the knees, even if they didn't exactly do anything more inappropriate than what an eight year old girl would see in a Disney Princess movie.
"See?" Steve whispered shakily. "Better than a BLT."
Grace cheered. "I knew it!"
Danny facepalmed but he wasn't quite hiding that shy, utterly embarrassed and completely adorable smile. It just made Steve want to kiss him again. "Oh my God. Since when did this fairy tale suddenly get hot pink flamingo gay love in it?"
"Flamingoes?" Steve blinked.
"Everything's better with flamingoes," Danny shrugged.
They both burst out laughing.
"You know what would make this story even better?" Steve said, still wheezing with laughter.
"Knock yourself out, Steven," This from Danny, wiping tears from his eyes.
"Sharks with fricking laserbeams!"
"You two are so silly," Grace sighed even as they laughed and kissed each other all over again.
And so it was that the Prince and the Knight finally confessed their love to each other, much to the delight of the Knight's little girl and their two friends, the Good Wizard and the Dragon Rider.
The Good Wizard was especially happy because he apparently collected on lot of bets that day. And I'll take this moment to tell you, Monkey, that betting on people's private lives is Not a Good Thing to Do. I'd say that the Knight was all for throwing the Good Wizard into the shark tank but I suppose that's not going to make the Dragon Rider very happy and she's got a mean Roundhouse Kick, you know.
What about the Prince? Oh I would say that the Prince definitely smiled more often, which wasn't very good for the Knight's concentration, this being a Major Distraction of Epic Proportions to him. The Knight suspects that's half the reason why the Prince does that, because he just loves to drive the poor, long-suffering Knight out of his mind –
Um. Okay. Where was I before Steve just kissed whatever was left of my brains away?
Well, Monkey, the Prince, the Knight and the little girl now lived happily in the Castle by the Sea. There's always going to be another adventure but happily ever after's always a good way to end the story for the day.
Good night, Gracie. Remember, Danno and Steve love you.
AUTHOR'S END NOTES: I blame Bel and fan fiction in general for the flamingo and shark exchange. It just happened. I swear to Ceiling Cat. My Muses are nuts, I tell you. Nuts!
Also, the "true love" quote and the classic Steve is referring to? Well, if the title hasn't given it away yet, then it is from The Princess Bride. The title of the fic is from the soundtrack of that lovely, lovely film. As you wish, indeed.