Title: Time It Was (And What a Time It Was)
Disclaimer: Not mine.
A/N: I wrote this for sockie1000, who threw a list of prompts at me to see what stuck. For some reason, my muse gravitated toward The old, wooden chairs on Steve's beach. And this is the result. Thanks to geminigrl11 for the beta :)
A/N 2: This is mostly a character introspective, but it is set during the Pilot and has preseries spec/references. Title borrowed shamelessly from Simon and Garfunkels "Bookends."
Summary: The chairs have been there longer than Steve has.
When Steve thinks of coming home, he thinks of the stretch of beach behind his father's house, with warm water gliding up and down the shoreline and two chairs positioned slightly askew in the sand, overlooking the idyllic scene. It's always sunset in his memories, the sun-aged chairs pale against the irrevocable night.
The chairs have been there longer than Steve has. They are staples of his earliest memories, guideposts of his childhood. He remembers Mary learning to walk on the sand; small, grubby hands reaching for the stable wood to hold onto before she toppled haphazardly on the uneven grains. He remembers birthday parties and the Fourth of July, sitting on the well-worn wood in comfortable anticipation of another day to come.
He remembers his mother seated in one, her hair blowing in the coastal breezes at sunset, staring out over the water while he and Mary swam in the shallows. He remembers his father coming home late, kissing her on the cheek before sitting in the one next to her, their bodies positioned toward each other even if they never made eye contact.
He remembers hearing the news that his mother had died, remembers feeling so lost and alone with nowhere to go but the those two chairs. He remembers curling up in one as best he could, staring out over the water, wondering how it was possible, wondering if it might be real. He remembers looking at the other chair, wishing there was someone to sit there. But his father was at work and Mary was off with friends and his mother was gone.
In the years that followed, Steve didn't visit often. When he did, he made a cursory hello, chatting with his father in the kitchen, but when he invited Steve out into the back to sit and eat, Steve always said no, giving those chairs one last look before telling his father he had to go.
When his father dies, Steve gets the house and everything in it. The chairs are his now, and when he sits in them, he thinks about the times he sat here, the times he could have sat here and didn't, the times he'll get to sit here and his father never will.
He leaves most of the house the way it is. He cleans up a few things and switches out a few others. His own belongings are sparse, and it seems more practical this way. But even as he uses his father's coffee cup and sits in his mother's rocking chair, somehow it's harder to sit in the chairs out back. Every time he tries, he feels more alone than before because there's no one to sit next to him anymore.
After his first day in charge of the governor's task force, he has a cranky partner with a chip on his shoulder and a growing sense that this job might actually be something meaningful. It's not necessarily in his nature to be friendly, but after the day they've had, inviting Danny back to the house to go over the evidence and pop a few beers seems like a natural thing to do.
Danny is hesitant, but only for a second, before he seems to concede that he's not going to get away from this job and he may as well give in. At the house, Danny seems to know where things are already, and after some work, Steve invites him out back for a much needed reprieve.
It's almost sunset, and the sun is low on the horizon. The waters ripple gently toward the beach, lapping over the soft sands in the simple rhythm of Steve's childhood. Danny stands for a moment, with his hands in his pockets. When Steve offers him a fresh beer, Danny takes it, shaking his head.
"Quite a view," he says.
Steve shrugs. "My mom liked the beach," he says.
"If you're into that kind of thing," Danny amends with a small shrug.
Steve rolls his eyes.
Taking a drink, Danny sighs slightly before moving toward one of the chairs. Steve almost says something, but doesn't know what, and before Steve can come up with anything, Danny's already eased himself back into one of the chairs.
Danny takes a moment to adjust himself, as if testing the wood as he settles in. When he's done, he looks comfortable, taking another drink as he looks up at Steve. "Must have been great for dates," he says.
And Steve has to laugh. "Yeah," he says, moving around toward the other chair. "It really was."
Danny nods a little and squints back over the water. Steve hesitates for a moment, remembering all the people who have sat in these chairs who aren't coming back, and then looks at Danny again. It's then that Steve realizes that making sense of the past can't mean sacrificing the future. This job, this partner, this home-they're his now, and he has as much a right to them as he does these broken in beach chairs on this private stretch of beach.
With that, Steve sits down, feeling the contours of the wood conforming to his imprint. This is where he belongs, he thinks suddenly. His eyes linger on Danny. Maybe this isn't the future he thought he'd have, but maybe it's still the one he's supposed to have.
"Me, I personally always preferred the back of a car," Danny continues. He shrugs, making a face, gesturing with his free hand. "Less sand to deal with in the aftermath."
"And have you considered that maybe that's why you're divorced?" Steve returns.
Danny looks at him, a forced smile on his face, but there's still humor dancing in his eyes. "Wow, an actual joke," he says. "I was beginning to think the only things you were capable of were mass destruction and insanity."
Steve smirks. "I may just surprise you," he says.
Danny snorts a little, rolling his eyes and looking back out at the ocean. "Something to look forward to, then," he says.
And Steve has to smile, taking a sip of his beer as he lets himself relax even further and the sun slowly begins to set with the promise of a better day to come.