"So," Danny was saying as he entered Steve's house, dispensing with the necessity of knocking. He never had before and certainly wasn't going to start now. "I've been thinking." He put the two six-packs of Longboards in the frig, holding out one for him and one for Steve who took his after drying his hands on a handy towel.
"I hope it didn't give you a headache," Steve said, Danny frowning at him just like he expected.
"Har, har. You are quite the comedian," Danny grumped, following Steve out to the beach and settling in the chair next to him.
"We all have our talents," Steve agreed, scooting his chair into the sun while Danny stayed in the shade.
"And you have more than your share," Danny said, studying Steve with an intensity that Steve could have found slightly unnerving. But he acknowledged it wasn't anything new and turned his attention to the waves lapping at the shore.
"Thanks," Steve said, listening to Danny frown. Yeah, he could hear his friend's expressions. The way his body shifted just so, his head tilted at a slight angle like he was trying to figure it out.
"A couple of weeks ago, I'm watching the History Channel," Danny said like he had just been talking about his TV viewing habits. "And there's this special on. About the history of the US Air Force."
"I'm in the Navy, Danno," Steve said automatically, only half listening to what his friend was saying. Well, maybe only a quarter listening. He'd know if it were important and then he'd respond appropriately.
"Yes, Steven, I know. During this special on the US Air Force of which you are not a part, they were showing pictures of the Naval ship that had the first Air Force planes stationed on it."
"Yeah. It took them a while to build their own carriers," Steve said because Danny had stopped which was generally a signal that Steve was expected to supply some type of comment.
"Thank you, Mr. History Channel. That's what they said. But that's not the point."
"Is there a point? Or did you just want me to know you watch something on TV that's not related to the Yankees or the football Giants?" Steve was silently laughing at Danny and there had been a time when it would have pissed off Danny to no end. But now – now it was how they were. And there was no denying that they were a they. It hadn't crossed over from best friends and partners to anything else but it was just a matter of time. They both knew it.
"They were showing pictures of the Naval officers on the ship," Danny said, turning to watch Steve. "And you were there."
Steve stopped breathing for one second. That was all. But it was enough. "Don't be ridiculous. That was in the 1940s. It was my grandfather."
"No, Steve, it was you," Danny said quietly. No bombast, no baiting, a simple statement. "I went to the library and found all the books I could on the US Navy since it was established. I also found some Civil War photos by Matthew Brady."
"The dude from 'Friends'?" Steve asked hoping like hell his voice sounded somewhere close to normal.
"That was Matthew Perry." Danny stopped, turning to look directly at Steve, trying to catch his eye but Steve would not look back. His obvious evasion made Danny swallow. He'd discovered the truth. Now what was Steve going to do? "You were in some of the Civil War photos, Steve. It was you."
"That's clearly impossible," Steve said, staring out at nothing.
"It would seem that way. But don't think I wouldn't recognize you if you were wearing a pink tutu and a purple tiara. Tell me how you could fight in the Civil War and still be here." Danny continued studying him, squinting in thought. After taking a drink from his beer, he relaxed a little in his chair. "My first guess is that you are a vampire. But not as much as you love the sun."
"Vampires aren't real, Danny," Steve said softly.
"Maybe. Maybe not. The fact is you are apparently immortal. Except I've also seen pictures of you from high school. Not any before that though."
Steve's body was a line of tension, coiled for fight or flight. Danny didn't know which way it would go but if the fight instinct won out, Danny would be the one to pay the price. He wouldn't be happy with flight either but at least he could eventually track Steve down.
"Does the Navy know you are immortal?" Danny asked in coaxing. He kept his voice almost as gentle as it would be when he was trying to calm a hysterical witness. Not quite but it was very close.
"Yes," Steve whispered, closing his eyes for only a moment.
"I guess they'd need to know," Danny said with a nod. "Who else knows?"
"My father did…does. And my mother. But that's all," Steve said, finally looking at Danny, something akin to terror in his eyes. "It goes without saying that you cannot repeat this to anyone."
"I have no intentions of it," Danny said. He took a deep breath, trying to settle down the furious beating of his heart. Suspecting and knowing, it turned out, were two very different things. He needed to process what he had just had confirmed. It was a lot to take in. When he turned back to Steve, he realized he was talking.
"I am an Amaranthine," Steve was saying when Danny managed to focus back on him and not all the sounds swirling aimlessly in his own head.
"An Amaranthine," Danny repeated, frowning. "An immortal."
"Yes," Steve said, the word only reluctantly leaving his tongue.
"How old are you?" Danny asked, hoping to ease into the rest of the information. Date of birth was always a good place to start when finding out about anyone.
"I'll be 35, just like you," Steve said with a forced smile.
"You look 35. But clearly you can't be," Danny reminded him. "When were you born?"
Steve's focus went internal rather than external. Danny could see him considering his next words. He would wait. He was getting the truth and he could be patient. "1477," Steve finally said very quietly.
"1477," Danny repeated, doing the calculations in his brain. "That's…uhm… that's impressive."
When Steve didn't seem inclined to add anything further, Danny went into detective mode. He'd learned the truth but there were a shit-load of unanswered questions. "So you never die? How does this work?"
"I… we do die," Steve said, his voice quiet.
"Then how it is you are still here?"
"When an Amaranthine dies, a Keeper comes and collects our soul. Sometimes our bodies if the disappearance doesn't raise too many awkward questions."
"Okay. You die but you're immortal. Can I please have the Schoolhouse Rock version?" Danny requested, no sting in the words as hard as it was to stay neutral while asking it.
"We are for all intents and purposes…Human. If I get shot, it hurts like hell. I have to wait to recover just like I'm Human. But if I'm shot through the heart or in the back of the head, my Human form dies. A Keeper comes and collects me."
"Then what happens? What does the Keeper do?" Danny asked.
"In the same body?" Danny asked, trying really hard to understand what Steve was telling him.
"Sort of," Steve said. He finally turned enough to look at Danny, an unheard of mix of fear and anger in his eyes. "I became an Amaranthine when I was 14. When my Human form dies, I become 14 again. The Keeper relocates me as a 14 year old."
"Relocates you?" Danny repeated. "You just show up somewhere as a 14 year old and… what… get a job? Take an apartment? How does that work?"
"There are foster parents who take us in. They either know we are Amaranthine or they are themselves," Steve said, waiting as Danny processed the information.
"Your parents?" Danny asked softly. He didn't really want to know but had no choice but to ask.
"The man I called my father is an Amaranthine," Steve acknowledged. "My mother wasn't. Not that she was my birth mother."
"So your father is… out there…somewhere," Danny said, gesturing broadly at the ocean.
"He's in Cleveland," Steve said. "He's 23. He was 22 when he became one."
"Do you talk to him?" Danny had to ask.
"Yeah," Steve admitted. "It's against the rules but the Keepers look the other way."
"These Keepers. Are they like your Guardian Angels?"
"Big Brother," Steve said with a rueful smile. "They don't monitor us constantly. But they know basically where we are and what we are doing."
"Oh," Danny said. "How many Amaranthines are there?"
"In Hawaii, there are 14. There were 15 before Jack was relocated."
"Do you have, like, club meetings?" Danny asked, wondering if it was completely wrong to be making jokes about it.
"No," Steve said, shaking his head. "I can feel them."
"Feel them. Like Obi-Wan?"
"A little like that, yeah. I suspect that George Lucas is an Amaranthine but I've never asked," Steve said with a shrug.
"Would you know? If he were?"
"Only if I met him. If I were on the mainland this time, I'd have some idea how many were there. Not precisely since it's so big. When I was in Australia, I knew there were 45."
"I guess you've lived a whole lot of places," Danny said. "Which would explain your abilities at language."
"I've lived a lot of places. But only if it's mostly populated by Caucasian Humans," Steve pointed out.
"France. I didn't really like it there. They put me in Switzerland once." Steve glanced over at Danny when he laughed. "Yeah. Could I look any less Swiss?"
"Mostly America since it's been established. It's my favorite country. This is the first time I've been in Hawaii. I really like it here."
"So are you 100% Human except for the fact that you can't die?" Danny asked.
"What do you mean?"
"Can you do what Humans do? I know you eat and drink and sleep. Can you have… children?"
"No. But I can have sex," Steve said, watching Danny carefully as he said it.
Danny nodded. Yeah, they'd get there but they still had some territory to cover. "And the Navy is good with this? Having an immortal in their ranks?"
"They actively recruit us," Steve said. "Saves a ton on training. The next time I'm relocated, I'll rejoin and only need a little training to be back up to speed."
"Frighteningly enough that makes sense," Danny said. "And if you die in service to your country, the Keepers can reclaim your body and no one questions that it wasn't recovered."
"Were they mad when you decided to take on 5-0?" Danny asked. "If you die from one of your massive explosions, your body could be recovered."
"They'll reclaim my soul until I'm cremated. Then they'll reclaim my body," Steve said, drinking from his beer.
"That's it?" Steve asked, a smile finally breaking the planes of his face. "I just told you something I'm not allowed to discuss and your response is Well?"
"My response is actually holy fucking shit but that seems overly crude," Danny said.
"Yeah," Steve agreed.
"Have you always been in some form of military?" Danny finally asked.
"Most of the time. In Australia I was a ranch hand. In Switzerland I joined the ski patrol. I died in an avalanche. My body was never recovered."
"And you have all the memories of all the lives you've ever lived." It wasn't an actual question but there was certainly one implied.
"It can get confusing sometimes. Day-to-day it's fine. I can limit my focus to my current life. But my dreams can cover hundreds of years and when I wake up I can't remember when I am."
"I can only imagine," Danny said in sympathy. "You said you became an Amaranthine at 14. How does that work? Like when a supposed Vampire bites you and you become one?"
"I'll tell you but only if you promise you won't laugh," Steve said with a stern frown.
"I promise. Laughing isn't really high on my list of possible reactions at the moment."
Steve nodded. "I contracted the Bubonic plague. My mother's 'sister' was an Amaranthine. My aunt was so distraught at the idea of me dying, she started crying. Some of her tears dripped in my mouth."
"Their tears," Danny said.
"Yeah. We aren't permitted to transfer to Humans but she nearly lost her mind to grief. The Keepers tried to stop it but it was too late. I was already transformed."
"I feel like I should say I'm sorry. But I don't know why I would be," Danny said quietly.
"It's not the worst thing that can happen to a person," Steve said with a seemingly caual shrug. But there was still far too much tesnion in his body to make it actually casual. "Sometimes I'm really tired of living so many lives. But then I meet someone that makes me want to keep going."
"Someone, huh?" Danny teased, leaning closer to Steve. "Have you met someone in this existence?"
"Maybe," Steve said, drawn toward Danny and refusing to hold back from what they both wanted. "Are you sure?"
"Positive. I have been positive for a while now. I'm tired of waiting for your Army ass to get into gear."
"Navy," Steve mumbled as he closed the remaining distance between them and kissed Danny.
Some time later, when they were both mostly awake, curled together sweaty and sated in Steve's bed, Danny rolled onto his side to look at Steve. It was like seeing him anew – still as beautiful but with a weariness that Danny had never taken the time to see. Hundreds of years. That's what he was seeing.
"What?" Steve asked, turning to meet Danny's eyes.
"Do you always have these ridiculous tattoos?" Danny asked, tracing the closest one with a finger. He loved Steve's tattoos but it would never do to actually admit it.
"No. When I'm relocated, I'm 14. I look 14, I've learned to act 14. I suffer through calculus all over again."
"High school, huh? Over and over again?"
"Yeah. I've been class president three times, football quarterback four times, and expelled twice."
"Yeah. I can only take reading Pride and Prejudice so many times," Steve admitted.
"It's an excellent book," Danny suggested with a laugh.
"Not to a 15 year old for the third time."
"I guess not," Danny had to agree. "How did you die the last time?"
"In Iraq," Steve said grimly. "It was fairly horrifying."
"I can only imagine," Danny said, flinging one arm over Steve's very warm, very alive body.
"I was only 23," Steve said. "Jack was pissed. I've never seen anyone yell at a Keeper before. It was quite impressive."
"You were his then too?"
"He was killed shortly after I died. He was transformed at 35 so when he was relocated here, they returned me to him."
"How many times has he been your father?"
"Four counting this last time. I hope next time I'm relocated he's not too old to take me back."
"Nice to have continuity," Danny confirmed.
"It makes things easier. So I don't have to get used to new parents."
"Could you be assigned a child?" Danny asked wondering why. Where had that question come from? He hadn't had any intention of asking it, really he hadn't.
"If I asked for one," Steve said. "I've been a foster father three times. They prefer given children to married Amaranthines."
"How many times have you been married?" Danny asked.
"None. I decided early on that I didn't want that sort of complication. If I die and am relocated, she's still out there somewhere. I can't imagine having three or four widows all mourning my death."
"Oh," Danny said, his head spinning at that news.
"I've since changed my mind," Steve said quietly, turning enough to kiss Danny. "I want to get married for the first time."
"Oh," Danny repeated, his head spinning for an entirely different set of reasons. "Anyone I know?"
"A diminutive, loud-mouth detective from Jersey," Steve confirmed, kissing Danny senseless.
"Sounds like someone I'd hate," Danny said, kissing Steve back with all the love and pent-up passion he'd held at bay until right now.
"Nah. He's not a bad sort, for a mortal," Steve assured him.
"Do you have to have permission? From the Keepers or anything?"
"That's good," Danny said, his smile transforming into a frown as he replayed Steve's words. "I am not diminutive."
"Okay, Danno. Whatever you say," Steve said, kissing away his frowns.
"I am not."
"The average American man is 5' 10". That makes you close to diminutive."
"Just because I am not a gigantor like you, my immortal friend, does not permit you to cast aspersions on my size."
"What if I make it up to you?" Steve asked, rolling on top of Danny and proving that as far as he was concerned, Danny's size was perfect in every way.