"Danny, I need to see you in my office."
They had wrapped up the case of the missing corpses and were finishing up the inevitable paperwork. Danny looked up from his computer, studying Steve as Steve did the same. Steve's expression betrayed none of his thoughts and that in itself sent danger signals pinging around Danny's brain. Because 95% of the time, Danny had a fairly good idea of what Steve was thinking from his expression, his body language, the tilt of his head. None of Steve's tells were on display. That made Danny uneasy.
"Sure," Danny said, hoping he was hiding some of his trepidation. He tried to review everything that had happened in the case that was odd even by their standards. But nothing came to mind. Surely he would have heard if the governor had called and reamed them a new one. There wasn't any reason for him to that Danny could imagine.
He followed Steve into his office not failing to notice that the blinds were slotted closed. This never bode well even though Danny had never before been the one on the other side of the 'do not intrude' signal 5-0 respected.
"Sit down," Steve said, gesturing to his couch. Danny did it automatically, looking up at Steve as he perched on the edge of his desk. Danny stomped down the impulse to talk. The non-expression on Steve's face warned him that they were on Steve's turf. This was Steve's show. Only Steve was allowed to talk at the moment. "This is about your attitude at the heiau," Steve said, never one to mince words or dance around the topic. Despite Danny's attempts to 'civilize' him by introducing the niceties of society like 'please' and 'thank you' and 'how are you today?'
"I thought we covered this already," Danny said without the vehemence that would normally accompany him defending himself. The fight in the car wasn't enough? They had to talk about it again?
"I get that you don't believe in anything you can't see, smell or touch," Steve said with an unfamiliar edge of anger – personal anger. Not that kind that made Danny secretly smile inside because he knew Steve sometimes had only two settings – smiling or killing. This was personal. Steve was mad at Danny. "But can you see smell or touch oxygen? Do you refuse to believe it's real? What about electricity? If you flip the switch, you know the lights will come on. But you can't see smell or touch electricity." Steve stopped, watching Danny consider what he had said. Danny's expression didn't change which Steve knew meant he was fighting Steve's words.
"Scientific fact. That proves oxygen exists. Electricity. There are formulas and equations for that. I don't have to see those to know they are real," Danny finally replied. His voice was an unnatural monotone, no hand waving. No pacing to reinforce his words.
"What about the sperm that made Grace? You didn't see or touch it. But you know she's your daughter." Steve knew he'd stepped over the invisible line by the color that rose in Danny's checks, by the muscles that clinched in Danny's jaw.
"Don't you bring Grace into this," Danny warned. "You want to give me a dressing down for my attitude. Fine. I'm man enough to take it. But my daughter has no part of this. Don't ever bring her up to prove your point."
"Understood," Steve agreed, not otherwise backing down. "You complain all the time about being called a haole. And yet you continue to disparage this island at every opportunity. You don't even attempt to understand it. You are an outsider because you choose to remain one."
"You aren't native," Danny said in clipped tones. He did not want to hear anything else Steve had to say on the subject. He made himself remain seated. He recognized that as much as he considered Steve a friend, his best friend, he was still the boss. There were certain lines that you just did not cross. Although Steve had neglected that rule by mentioning Grace. That would be addressed more thoroughly when this was over.
"I know Toast called me that. Making fun of me. But I still don't know what it means."
"This is what I'm talking about, Danny. You don't even try," Steve said. His frustration was making it impossible for him to sit still. He had to pace in front of his desk, wishing he could shake open Danny's eyes. His stubborn refusal to adapt was not harming just him. It was hurting the entire team. That's what Steve couldn't understand. "Don't you think that everyone knows you don't try? That you look down your nose on how we dress? What we eat? That we spend our free time swimming or surfing? That doesn't make us slackers."
"I never implied that it did," Danny said.
"Your attitude implies it. We don't wear ties. We don't have turnpikes and toll roads. That doesn't mean we are the ass-end of civilization as you so clearly believe." Steve stopped, turning to look at Danny. His face was still fiercely red, his eyes wide, the vein on the side of his neck threatening to explode any second.
"All this because I don't believe in ghosts?" Danny asked. His voice was quiet, his tone hard. That was not a combination that Steve liked to hear. It meant that Danny was hurting and angry and confused.
"That's not it. It's your lack of respect. For the traditions of the island and her people. Entering the heiau without the blessing of the priest was disrespectful. As disrespectful as desecrating a church. There was a time it was a church." Steve held up a hand to stop Danny's building protest. Danny stilled, staring at Steve, his body lines of hard anger. "It doesn't matter what you believe. Not in this instance. You violated sacred ground. And you dismissed it. Thousands of years of tradition - you determined were not important. Can you imagine how that makes you look to them – to us?"
"Maybe I don't care how it looks to them," Danny said, exploding off the couch and standing toe to toe with Steve who drew up to his full height to effectively loom over Danny. That did not slow Danny down. "I had a job to do. We all did. We shouldn't be slowed down by some voodoo hocus-pocus. I didn't hurt heiau. I didn't desecrate it. And if my investigation methods are no longer good enough for you I will gladly put my request for a transfer on your desk for your signature."
"Where will you transfer to, Detective?" Steve growled, his own anger rising to the surface despite his attempts to hold it at bay. "Do you think the natives on the Police Force will take you back? After the way you acted? Good luck if that's what you believe."
"I think you have a very high opinion of yourself, Commander. That you know what's best and I'm just some poor slub from Jersey who can't investigate his way out of a paper bag," Danny retorted. He knew he was yelling but his restraint was gone.
"I don't think that. What I think is that this is your home now. It's about fucking time you started acting like it," Steve yelled back.
Danny froze, all motion stilling in his body. Even his breathing stopped. "Are we done here?"
"For now," Steve said, staring down at him with eyes that would see through a lesser man.
"Permission to be dismissed, sir."
"Go. Let me know when you're ready to return," Steve said, pointing at the door.
Danny inhaled sharply looking as though Steve had punched him. Steve was almost sorry that he had said that but Danny needed a wake up call and Steve was the only one available to provide it. Steve couldn't say he was surprised when he felt Danny leave not just his office but headquarters. He looked out his window in time to see the Camaro peel away from the curb.
"Steve?" Chin said quietly, standing in the open door.
Steve turned, defeat in the slumped line of his shoulders. "I may have gone too far."
"Not from where I'm standing. I don't get why he won't accept this is his home," Chin said in disappointment.
Steve shrugged. "I don't know."
Chin shook his head before gesturing to the main doors. "Kono already took off. You want to join us for beers?"
"No. But thanks," Steve said. He didn't like turning down their Friday night tradition of drinks and laughter to chase away the hard spots of the week but he wasn't feeling especially sociable right now. It wouldn't be the same without Danny there at any rate.
"All right. If there are any benevolent gods listening, I won't see you until Monday."
"Right," Steve agreed with a nod, watching Chin walk away. After making sure everything was closed down and locked up, Steve drove home.
Steve was a little surprised when there was a knock on his door at 9:45 that night. Not alarmed but neither was he expecting anyone. He opened it to find Danny standing on his front stoop. "Hey," he said knowing it sounded like a question. He hadn't expected to see Danny until Monday if then. He had thought about all that he had said and regretted the way it went down. He could have done a better job of explaining rather than letting it devolve into a yelling match. He was trained to lead men. Not degrade them or belittle them. Danny had always been an exception in his mental rule book and this time, regretfully, had been no different.
"You were right," Danny said without preamble. His hands were deep in the pockets of his faded jeans, a well worn tee in place of his normal button up shirt.
"I was?" Steve asked, not sure what he had been correct about. And he was more than a little distracted by this Danny – rumpled and loose and…forlorn.
"I don't try. I don't want this to be home. And I'm an ass."
"Yes. Yes. No," Steve said, eliciting a tiny smile from Danny. "I'm glad."
"I need to make amends. I need to…" Danny waved a hand, not in one of his normal gestures when he had to use his hands to supplement his vocabulary. This was a request for help, for Steve to try and fill in the blank space.
"I can't make you kama`aina."
"'Native or long-time resident,'" Danny quoted. "I googled it once I figured out how to spell it."
Steve nodded, both at the definition and that Danny had looked it up. It was a tiny step but it was a step forward. "What do you want?"
"Let's say there are gods who watch over the islands. I believe in oxygen. I believe there may have been times you were deprived of it for too long. But that's not the point," Danny said with that smile that Steve would pay money to see. The one that said 'I'll insult you all I want but I will kill the first person who does it that's not me.' "I don't think they accept human sacrifices. I have a few potential humans we could offer up. But barring that, I need to… be absolved, I guess."
"Are you telling me? Or asking me?"
"Requesting. I trust you. There is no one else I'm comfortable asking this of, admitting it to," Danny said.
"And you're sincere."
"I wouldn't be standing on your front stoop if I weren't," Danny reminded him, looking up at Steve with his eyes hiding nothing.
"There is a ritual called kapuku. It literally translates 'restoration to life of the dead.' It is also used for rebirth, renewal."
Danny nodded, his eyes never losing any of their honesty, their soulful openness. "What do I have to do?"
"Come back tomorrow morning at 8:30. It will take all day. And possibly Sunday. It depends on how open you are to the renewal," Steve said, his voice warm and reassuring, nearly a caress. Danny wanted to wrap himself in that voice and pull it tight around him.
"All right. 8:30," Danny agreed.
"Shower before you come. Don't eat or drink anything between now and then. Except water."
Danny nodded. "Do I need to bring anything?"
"Something that represents home. A talisman," Steve instructed.
"Home as in Jersey?" Danny asked. Steve's only response was to gaze back at him, one eyebrow raised. "Okay." Danny would figure it out. That was on him.
"You could have called," Steve said quietly. Danny turned slightly so that he was looking out over Steve's yard instead of directly at his friend.
"This seemed like an in-person conversation," Danny admitted with a shrug. "And I had been out driving."
"Looking for ghosts?"
"Echoes," Danny said, turning back to look up at Steve who nodded although he didn't exactly understand. "Good night. And thanks."
"Good night, Danno," Steve said, watching him return to his car. He didn't retreat into the house until Danny was out on the street, tail lights no longer visible.
At 8:30 precisely, Danny knocked on Steve's door. Bursting in as was his usual custom would have been wrong, too forward. They were inhabiting different roles today. Rituals had to be honored and held in their appropriate esteem even if he wasn't a true believer. He understood that the process had to be followed. Knocking was the first step.
Danny pretended his palms weren't sweating even as he dried them on his jeans. He ignored his dry mouth and the sweat droplets rolling down his sides.
He tried to swallow when Steve opened the door. This was a Steve he wasn't sure he recognized. He wore a crisp white shirt, the long sleeves folded back twice at the wrists. The creased black trousers were not formal wear but looked as though they belonged to a tuxedo. They were a startling contrast to the ubiquitous cargo pants and Danny didn't quite know what to make of the sight that greeted him. This Steve made him feel incredibly under-dressed although he was barefoot which should have been incongruous but wasn't. He did wonder briefly if there was time to run home and change. Or if now was a good time to simply divest Steve of his clothes and admit those barely hidden feelings Danny had for his friend.
"I'm sorry," Danny finally said in a strangled voice. "I thought this was the McGarrett residence."
Steve laughed, his eyes doing that crinkling thing at the corners. "You have the right place." Steve's voice was nearly a caress, calming Danny instantly. Steve wouldn't allow anything bad to happen to him. Today or tomorrow or ever. Steve had him. "Come in," Steve said, stepping back to allow Danny to enter the living room. Once the door was closed, Steve turned to Danny, studying him with a critical eye. "Just because you came doesn't mean you can't change your mind."
Danny gave those words the consideration they were due. Steve was not going to force him to do anything. There was great comfort in that knowledge. That was why Danny could trust Steve, no matter what might be asked of him. "I have no intentions of changing my mind," Danny told him, resolve and certainty in his tone. He was way too pleased when Steve nodded.
"There may be parts of this ritual that make you uncomfortable. And that is to be expected. I won't ask anything of you that you aren't willing to give. If you begin to feel overwhelmed, you are to tell me pahonua. It means safe refuge," Steve explained in the same soothing tone.
"I need a safeword?" Danny asked. He couldn't say he was surprised by it. He just wanted to make absolutely certain he understood what it was Steve was telling him.
"You can call it that," Steve said. "I want to make sure I hear what you are telling me if any of this becomes too intense. This is about renewal, rebirth. It will be emotional and difficult."
"All right," Danny agreed.
"Do you agree to follow my instructions?"
"Yes," Danny responded, knowing it had begun, that he was swearing an oath.
"What will you say if you need to pause?" Steve asked gently.
"Pahonua," Danny said hoping he had pronounced it correctly.
"Do you have any questions before we begin?"
"No," Danny decided. In truth he had approximately six thousand questions but he was certain they would all be answered before the day was out. The ones that weren't were of no consequence and could be left alone.
Steve nodded in approval before silently leading him into the backyard. "You neglected to bring the talisman," Steve said when they were standing where the grass gave way to the sand. A few steps away, the beach held a large blanket with a flat pillow directly in front of a chair. There was also a huge beach umbrella shading a swath of the blanket.
"Oh. I have it right here." Danny reached back and took it out, handing it to Steve.
Steve could only laugh when he saw what Danny was holding. "Your Jersey driver's license," he said as he took it from Danny's unresisting hand. "Of course."
"I should have surrendered it. But…" Danny shrugged. He knew Steve understood.
"Come," Steve instructed, stepping onto the blanket and sitting gracefully in the single chair. Next to it was a small table covered with a dark cloth, several objects of various sizes hidden beneath. "You may kneel. You may sit. You may stand. You may not leave the blanket without permission," Steve told him, looking up at Danny where he stood before his chair. "Do you understand?"
"Yes," Danny acknowledged, looking down at the pillow. He didn't think kneeling for any length of time was realistic so he lowered himself to sit on it. He shifted to make it conform to the muscles bunched under his jeans before stilling to look up at Steve, his expression open. Steve's knees were on other side of him but not touching him, not crowding him.
"Tell me how you are feeling," Steve instructed, his arms relaxed on the arms of the chair. He sat easily, no military training betraying itself.
"The sand is warm under my legs. There is a breeze from the ocean preventing me from being too hot in the sun," Danny said, considering all of the sensations. "The breeze smells like the ocean."
"Not what you are feeling," Steve said in the same soothing tone. "How you are feeling."
Danny took a deep breath at those words. That question was much more difficult. He'd rather return to talking about the weather. He avoided looking up at Steve as he tried to corral his scattered thoughts.
"Are you nervous?" Steve finally asked, understanding the difficulty Danny was having. He used a gentle finger under Danny's chin to tilt his head up so that Danny had no choice but to look him in the eye. That made Danny feel exposed emotionally and in some way physically. Perhaps because he did not have usual work attire behind which he could hide, shelter himself. The emotional exposure was by far the harder of the two to handle.
"Yes," Danny admitted, the word barley more than a whisper.
"Why?" Steve prompted, maintaining eye contact. He felt Danny's unease and released his chin, waiting as Danny tried to form his answer.
"The unknown. I don't know what is going to happen," Danny said down to his knees now that he had been released from looking up at Steve.
"Would I do anything to harm you?"
"Never," Danny replied immediately. "I trust you. It's the not knowing." He felt Steve nod.
"Are you hungry?"
"I should be. But I'm not," Danny said, shrugging one shoulder.
"Because you are nervous?"
"I think so," Danny decided. "I'm thirsty."
Steve nodded again, reaching over onto the table for a sport bottle that rattled with ice. He held the spout to Danny's mouth so he could drink all he wanted. "You only need to ask."
Danny nodded, licking his lips to collect the last of the water. "Thank you."
"Did you shower before you came?"
"Yes. You told me to," Danny said.
"Did you touch yourself? Your penis and your testicles?" Steve asked. He could see the surprise jolt through Danny before he settled once again.
"Not any more than necessary. The usual," Danny said in a low voice as though he had done something wrong by washing thoroughly.
"Does the question embarrass you?" Steve asked with a considering tone.
"Yes," Danny whispered.
"It doesn't need to."
"Why did you ask?" Danny inquired, peeking up at Steve who was looking down at him with an expression akin to amusement.
Steve waved it away with one hand before putting it back on the arm of the chair. His long, elegant fingers hung over the end of the armrests, taunting Danny and making him want…. "When was the last time you had sex?"
Danny didn't react to this question. He did consider it for a moment. "Does masturbation count?"
"Intercourse with another person," Steve clarified.
"Six months, more or less," Danny said after counting it up in his head.
"Yes," Danny said quietly. He wasn't proud of it but there it was. Not that Steve didn't know. He was pretty sure that if he did have any secrets from Steve by the end of the renewal they would all be laid bare.
"When did you masturbate last?"
"Thursday night," Danny said.
"You were drunk Thursday. You could barely stumble to your bed," Steve said with a hint of amusement.
"I woke up at 2:30. I had to pee. One thing lead to another," Danny said with a shrug.
"Will you tell me the mental images you use when you touch yourself?" Steve asked.
There was no expectation of an answer and Danny was pretty sure he could refuse. He cleared his throat before responding. "I'd rather not say," he finally said. He couldn't see how the answer was relevant to the renewal and decided he didn't need to have his fantasies exposed.
"Tell me why you are refusing," Steve coaxed.
"I don't see how it's relevant," Danny said. "I'm not dishonoring Hawaii by jerking off."
"Do you think about Rachel?" Steve asked, clearly trying an end-around.
"No. Not since the divorce," Danny said, knowing the answer was going to come out sooner than later. He supposed it was inevitable at any rate.
"Explain why you are undergoing this renewal," Steve instructed, the abrupt change of subject leaving Danny momentarily unbalanced.
"I need to accept Hawaii. As long as Grace is here, it will be my home too," Danny said.
"Why have you resisted? Why do you have your heart closed to all Hawaii is?" Steve asked.
"I don't fit in here. This isn't where I'm from. Everything is so…." Danny stopped. He hadn't meant to start down that path. That way danger lurked.
"Everything is so what, Danny? Finish what you were going to say." It had the firmness of an order to it, no choice in the matter.
"Strange. Different. This could be a different planet. The language isn't the same. The weather never changes. The food isn't what I'm used to." These were not confessions that came easily for all that Steve already knew.
"Isn't variety the spice of life?"
"When it's included in the familiar. Maybe I like boring," Danny looked up when Steve laughed. "What?"
"You are many things, Danno. Boring is not one of them," Steve assured him with a warm smile.
"When you were still serving," Danny said, catching Steve's eyes to see if this was allowed. Steve nodded for him to continue. "Didn't you ever feel…unteethered - from traveling all the time? Never sure what time it was. All the different languages. Food that was never the same from one meal to the next."
Steve turned those words over in his head, giving them fair consideration. "Sometimes," he finally said. "We had to guard against it. Because we could become unteethered, like you said. The guys with families – wives, children, even parents – handled it better in some ways. Their families were their constant, as was missing them."
"I'm sorry," Danny said softly, biting his lower lip.
"What for? I can't regret the way my life turned out."
Danny nodded at that, watching as Steve reached below the cloth on the table. Steve took out an old fashioned mason jar and a pouch that rattled softly as he handled it. He gave the jar to Danny who held it without question, the glass smooth and cool against his palms. The pouch Steve opened and emptied out into his cupped hand, filling it with small pebbles. "These pebbles represent New Jersey," Steve explained, putting the pouch back on the table and holding the pebbles in his two palms. "Take a pebble, tell me what it represents about New Jersey you miss, and drop it in the jar." He leaned forward slightly, his elbows resting on his knees as he offered his hands to Danny.
Danny studied the pebbles before picking up one. "My family," Danny said, dropping it into the empty jar and listening to the hollow ping. "Really good pizza." He added a second pebble. "Snow. My friends on the force. People who talk like me. The Yankees. The Giants." One pebble dropped in for each item. He paused before selecting another pebble. "Can it be something I hate?"
"If you miss it," Steve said with an amused smile.
"The traffic when we went down the shore. Stupid parkway tolls," Danny said, adding another pebble. "Concerts at the Meadowlands I didn't hate. Going to New York for the Broadway shows."
"You never attended a Broadway show," Steve said, laughing openly at him.
"But I could have," Danny said, smiling for what felt like the first time in hours. "Going to the mall."
"We have malls," Steve said.
"You don't know malls until you go to Paramus," Danny told him. "I hated going but now I miss being able to."
"Okay. What else?"
"The Metropolitan Museum of Art," Danny said.
"Did you ever go?"
"No but I always planned to take Grace," Danny said wistfully. Steve could only nod at that. "Skiing in the Adirondacks. Skating at Rockefeller Center. Yes, I did," he said before Steve could ask. "I even had my own skates. Most of us do…did."
By the time his list ran out, the jar was about two-thirds full, more pebbles left in Steve's hands. "Are you done, at least for now?" Steve asked.
"Yes," Danny agreed, looking at the jar that represented the first 34 years of his life. "Before I moved here, Washington DC was the furthest I'd been from home."
"Your family never traveled?" That it was the exact opposite from his experience was left unsaid. Yet it did speak to how different their lives and their resulting outlooks were.
"Pop never felt like he could leave. There was never money. With all of us kids, it would have been really expensive. And complicated. I went to Washington on a school field trip."
"New Jersey was all you ever knew," Steve said in acknowledgement.
"It was all any of us thought we'd ever need. I'm sure that's one of the things that attracted me to Rachel. She was exotic. Different. What she saw in me is still a question," Danny admitted.
"I could answer that. But I'm not sure you're ready for those truths," Steve told him.
Danny shook his head, as much in request as denial. He wasn't ready for Steve to say anything just yet. It was too soon, too much.
Understanding Danny's need for silence on the subject, Steve reached under the cloth to bring out a bright pink shovel, one that Grace used when she played on Steve's beach. The Disney Princesses that had been on the flat surface were nearly worn away. Danny still smiled at the sight of it, accepting it when Steve offered it to him.
"Use the shovel to scoop up some sand," Steve instructed. He waited as Danny did it. "Tell me one thing you love about Hawaii."
"Grace is here," Danny said without hesitation.
"Pour some of the sand into the jar." Steve watched as Danny tipped the shovel, allowing the sand to stream over the pebbles. "What else do you love?"
"You are here," Danny said quietly as though he was hoping Steve would not hear.
"Pour the sand," Steve said, not otherwise commenting. After Danny had done it, Steve prompted him for another reason he loved Hawaii.
"The incredible weather. Even if it does annoy the hell out of me." He automatically poured the sand over the pebbles. "Everyone here is so nice. Like the sunshine has entered their souls and brightened them too." He added more sand, considering his next item. "Helicopters."
"Helicopters?" Steve repeated. "They have helicopters in Jersey."
"I don't know anyone in Jersey who can fly one," Danny said, glancing up at Steve. He hoped Steve understood what he was really saying even though he wasn't entirely sure he did himself.
"I can fly planes too," Steve said with a warm smile.
"I've never witnessed that," Danny said.
"Would you like to?"
"Only if you promise not to steal the plane," Danny said, making Steve laugh.
"I promise. I can borrow one at Hickam. I'll take you up soon."
"You won't make me parachute out, right?"
"Not unless you want to," Steve promised. "What else?"
"Kono and Chin Ho. Amy and Billy Hanamoa. Swimming with the dolphins with Gracie."
"Danno don't swim," Steve teased.
Danny ignored him, scooping up more sand before pouring it into the jar. "Learning to surf. I just wish I was better at it."
"You will be."
"The ocean for all it pisses me off what with it being everywhere."
"We are on an island," Steve reminded him with the laugh barely suppressed.
"The stars at night. You can barely see them in Jersey because of all the artificial lights. The jungles because they are so beautiful and so different from anything I've ever known before."
"Anything else?" Steve asked patiently.
"Not right now," Danny decided, holding the jar while returning the shovel to Steve.
"Do you know why I had you do this?"
Danny thought about the question, not that he hadn't considered it while he was doing it. He glanced up at Steve as if hoping the correct answer would be on the other man's face. Steve gazed back at him, waiting. "To prove that there are good things about Hawaii?"
"In a way, yes," Steve agreed. He touched the lip of the jar, drawing Danny's focus to it. "I wanted to remind you that there is room for New Jersey and Hawaii in your heart and your thinking."
Danny studied the jar, recognizing that Steve had an excellent point. Even if his heart was filled to overflowing with his former life, there was still room for Hawaii. Except. "The pebbles are hidden by the sand," he said quietly, almost regretfully.
"Shake the jar," Steve suggested. That settled the sand away from the pebbles, leaving their edges exposed. "Even when you couldn't see the pebbles, you knew they were there."
"Yeah," Danny agreed, shaking the jar again and exposing more pebbles. "Do you want me to give up the pebbles and fill the jar only with sand?" Danny chanced a glance up at Steve, glad he didn't look angry. Curious was the best way Danny could label Steve's expression.
"Is that what you really believe I think?" Steve asked.
"I don't know," Danny admitted.
"Do you want to take out the sand and only leave pebbles?" Steve countered.
"I don't know," Danny repeated more quietly.
Steve shook his head. "Why didn't you go with Rachel when you still thought the baby was yours? Rachel was taking Grace back to Jersey. Back home. But you stayed."
"You needed me," Danny said. That was the only explanation that was possible. The only one he had to give.
"You chose me over Rachel. Over Grace. Over the baby. Over New Jersey."
"Yes," Danny whispered.
"Why?" Steve asked. He had leaned forward in his chair, staring unblinking at Danny's bowed head. "Answer my question."
"How is my reason relevant to dishonoring the heiau?" Danny asked a little louder, the line between his eyebrows showing his concentration on the questions hanging between them.
"You are fighting Hawaii," Steve said. "I want you to figure out why."
Danny looked again at the jar, at the pebbles and the sand that coexisted so easily, so naturally. Was it possible for him? To accept that the sand belonged with the pebbles? "Where are you going?" Danny asked when Steve stood up, looming over him.
"To get us something to eat. I'll bring it down when it's ready." Steve reached under the table for the bottle of water. "Drink all of this."
Danny nodded, accepting the sport bottle and holding it in his left hand, the jar in his right. "I need to pee."
Steve shook his head. "Not yet. I won't be long. Don't leave the blanket," Steve reminded him, turning for the house and not looking back as Danny stood to stretch the muscles of his legs.
Danny could think of nothing but what Steve had said about fighting Hawaii, about the reasons he hadn't returned to New Jersey when Rachel had. If he were brave enough to admit it to himself, he knew there was only one reason he hadn't flown to Jersey. Steve was in Hawaii. And Danny could not leave him. Not when he had been arrested. He could not imagine leaving him now. And that had turned into hating Hawaii because he couldn't hate Steve. He didn't want to admit that there was anything in Hawaii worth giving up Jersey for but in truth he already had. His loyalty now lay with Hawaii, so long as Steve was here.
What if Stan decided to move his company and therefore his daughter to places unknown? Would he leave Steve to follow Grace? How did one divide one's heart? Stay for Steve or leave for Grace?
He watched Steve return from the house, as always admiring the line of his body, the way he exuded such authority that no one could refuse him anything. The night Steve was arrested, Danny had seen a broken, uncertain Steve and it had nearly killed him. That was when he knew that staying while Rachel went to Jersey was the only decision he could make.
"Hey," Danny said, looking up at Steve when he stepped onto the blanket. "If Stan decided to move to Timbuktu, what would I do?"
Steve sat in the chair, one plate of fruits and vegetables on the arm. "What would you do?"
"It's not solely up to me," Danny said.
"Why not?" Steve asked in challenge.
"You're going to make me be the one to say it, aren't you, you smug bastard. Because you are too emotionally stunted to even admit it to yourself."
"Admit what?" Steve retorted, staring up at Danny. Steve made himself remain in his chair because he knew Danny needed the distance and the superior position of being able to look down at him.
"I'm in love with you. You are in love with me," Danny nearly shouted at him.
"Okay," Steve replied, watching and waiting.
"Okay? That's it? Okay?"
"You're right. Is that what you need to hear?" Steve asked.
Danny deflated, sitting on the pillow, his head cradled in his hands. "What if Stan takes Rachel and Grace away?"
"We follow," Steve said as though it was as simple as going to the grocery store.
"You'd give up 5-0, your house, Hawaii? For me?" Danny asked.
"You gave up New Jersey and what you believed was your unborn child for me. From what I understand, it's what you do when you're in love." Steve's smile said he understood a lot more than he was willing to let on.
"Yeah, I guess it is," Danny said softly. "What now?"
"That depends on what you are asking me," Steve said, looking down at Danny with a new, tender expression, one Danny very much appreciated.
"Can we kiss? Or… I don't know. Go on a date?"
"Yes but not yet. We aren't done here," Steve reminded him.
"I know that I was fighting Hawaii and that's why I was so…uncharitable. Doesn't that render this unnecessary now?"
"If you want it to be," Steve said, not making the decision for him.
"God, could you just answer one question?"
"I could answer them all but what would you learn from it?"
"You love doing this to me, don't you?" Danny said in hard accusation.
"What is it I'm doing?" Steve asked calmly making Danny want to beat him.
"Are you going to eat all that?" Danny asked, ignoring Steve's last question. He was eyeing the plate of food, his stomach finally deciding it was ready for nourishment. Telling Steve the truth about how he felt settled the butterflies that had been filling up all the spaces where food normally went.
"I was planning to share if you're hungry," Steve told him, picking up a grape and popping it into his mouth. "Are you hungry?"
"Yes," Danny confirmed, looking at the food and knowing that he was not allowed to reach for it himself. Not without Steve's permission.
"Here you go," Steve said, holding a cube of cheese level with Danny's mouth. Danny accepted, uncertain how he felt about being fed. On one level, it made him feel cared for. On another, he felt like a dog who was receiving a treat for good behavior. He took the next piece of cheese and intentionally wrapped his lips around Steve's fingers before backing away. He kept his expression unchanged when Steve gasped very quietly. Good. Steve was not as unfazed by all of this as he liked to pretend.
They ate in silence. At least they exchanged no words. There was plenty of communication between them as there always was. Words were useful but not always necessary.
When the food was all eaten, Steve looked down at Danny who met his gaze steadily.
"I still need to pee," Danny reminded him, a hidden laugh in his voice.
Steve nodded. "Take your jeans off and go in the ocean."
"I'm not… you aren't… no. Just no."
"Why not? No one is going to notice. It's not a pool."
"Your briefs will dry in no time. How is it gross." Steve asked, one eyebrow raised in question. And possibly mockery.
"It's gross," Danny repeated, nothing further to say.
"All right," Steve said, leaning back in the chair, loose and lazy.
"Steve," Danny said. If they hadn't still been involved in the kapuku, Danny would be ranting at Steve. His respect for the tradition and the process made him hold his tongue.
"Go to the house," Steve conceded, shaking his head in something akin to disappointment. "Refill this while you're there."
Danny nodded, accepting the empty water bottle. "Do you want one?"
"Yes," Steve said. He was squinting up at Danny, a questioning look on his face.
Steve shook his head, turning his focus to the ocean. "Come straight back."
Danny bit down on the retort that almost left his mouth, crossing the hot sand to enter the cool, dark house.
It didn't take long for Danny to return to the blanket, handing Steve both water bottles. "Thank you."
Steve put the bottles under the table without otherwise acknowledging him. "I am going to ask you 12 questions. You are permitted to refuse two of them. Any two you choose. Once you use your passes, you are required to answer." He looked up at Danny who looked a little pained. "Do you understand?"
"Yes. Am I permitted to ask what sort of questions these will be?"
Steve looked steadily up at him. His silence was his only response.
"I see," Danny said.
"You aren't to argue with me about them. You are to answer them," Steve said.
"Are you going to answer them?" Danny asked.
"I'm not the one undergoing the renewal."
"Then they are related to my behavior at the heiau?"
"Directly. Or indirectly."
"And if I refuse to answer them at all?"
Danny sighed knowing he had lost. "No. I'm not refusing."
Steve nodded, turning his focus out to the ocean. "If you don't believe in any form of higher being, why did you use the sign of the cross before I entered the MMA fight?"
Danny paced away at the question, stopping on the far side of the blanket to stare out at the ocean. "I was raised Catholic."
"Did you consciously rebel against what you were taught or has time worn it down?"
"Time. Divorcing Rachel. Grace is a gift from God, if He exists. Most of His other gifts need to be returned postage due."
"Do you think I am weak or foolish for believing in a power higher than myself?"
"No," Danny said, shaking his head. "I understand why you receive comfort from the belief. It would be harder to do some of the things you've done if there wasn't a reason greater than because the government told you to."
"For God and country," Steve confirmed.
"Yeah," Danny had to agree.
"Does Rachel believe in God?"
"Yes. She takes Grace to church. She doesn't say anything about the fact that I don't. It may have been one of the first wedges in our marriage. Not church exactly. But that she asked that God protect me. And I couldn't believe that it would make any difference."
"It's comforting to think there is a heaven," Steve said. "That when I die, I'll see Mom and Dad again."
"I can't believe there is anything after life. When it's over, it's over."
"That's a sad outlook," Steve said with no judgment in the words.
"Do you recognize that because you don't believe doesn't make it universal?"
"Yes," Danny said. "Belief is more universal than not."
"You also gave Kono a St. Michael's medal at her swearing in," Steve reminded him.
"Some habits die harder than others. There's no harm in it. And maybe it will help. She's not Catholic, right? Maybe it doesn't mean anything to her."
"It means a lot to her," Steve corrected. "Especially since you gave it to her."
Danny shrugged at Steve's words, neither agreeing or disagreeing. He couldn't say with any certainty if Kono had kept the medal he had given her. He supposed Steve's words meant that she had.
Danny turned to look at Steve who had an expectant expression on his face, as though Danny had not responded to one of his questions. "I guess I didn't hear you."
Steve held his gaze, seeing the truth in Danny's eyes. "You have checked out."
"No. I'm with you. I was thinking about Kono and the medal. I didn't intentionally ignore you."
Steve nodded. "Have you ever had sex with a man?"
Danny was sure Steve expected him to be surprised by the question but he wasn't. It was inevitable, as inevitable as telling Steve they had already fallen in love. That confession was a cake walk compared to answering this one. "No," Danny said very quietly.
"And that embarrasses you," Steve guessed.
"No. Not embarrasses me. I don't want you to think that I don't want you because you would be my first. My first and last. I can't risk having us fall apart. I know I wouldn't survive. I doubt you would. And it would break Grace's heart."
"I'd be your last." Steve repeated the words with a smile, making them sound like a promise.
"I'm not looking for a tumble from you. I want you completely or not at all."
"Then we are on the same page," Steve assured him. "Are you worried about your first sexual experience with me?"
"There is no reason I should be," Danny decided. "You'll be… well. You won't rush me. I'm taking it for granted that you have at least some experience. Any experience is more than I've had."
"I'll know what we're doing," Steve agreed.
"And I need to know that I'll be your last. No more friends-with-benefit booty calls from Catherine."
"Booty calls," Steve laughed. "You don't use that language in front of Grace."
Danny shrugged, smiling at him in innocence. "No more."
"No more," Steve agree. "I don't share and I doubt you do either."
"Not at all. My car, yes. Clothes off my back if you could wear them. Sure. But not you. You will be off the market and off limits," Danny told him.
"Same for you," Steve responded. It sounded like a thinly veiled threat but Danny had no intention of crossing back over that line once he and Steve had. He was not a cheater in any aspect of his life and Steve would be no exception to that rule. "Once we do it am I going to have to worry about you having the 'big gay freak-out'?"
"Did you just 'air-quote' me? Because in the year and half I've known you, you have never used air quotes before," Danny said, not able to contain his laughter.
"I use air quotes. When it's appropriate," Steve told him.
"You never have before. And we have spent nearly every waking minute together since you railroaded me into being your partner. I'd have been witness to it if you had ever used air quotes before this minute right here."
"Why is this so funny to you?" Steve asked, laughing. "And that's not one of the 'official' questions." He could not stop himself from putting air quotes around 'official' just to make Danny laugh.
"It's just so unlike you is all," Danny said. "And no, I'm not going to have any size 'gay freak-out'."
"Good," Steve said in relief. "I won't either."
"I wouldn't expect you to," Danny assured him. "You have 4 'official' questions left." His air quotes were hugely exaggerated, just because he could.
"I can count," Steve laughed.
"Just making sure you weren't planning to throw in any extra. Can I ask you one? Not to play tit-for-tat but because I want to know something specific."
"You can ask. I don't promise to answer," Steve told him.
"Once we're together, really together, will you try to be a little less reckless? I already die inside a little each time you hurl yourself into a fight with no regard for your personal safety."
"I am who I am, Danno."
"I get that. I don't want you to change who you are. Change how you think. Even now if you get hurt you think it impacts only you. But that's not true. You aren't a SEAL when you're with 5-0. You are more important than any arrests or rescues. Will you at least begin to think that way? Please?"
"I can only promise to try. I've lived a solitary life a long time. Self-protection isn't high on the list of SEAL priorities."
"'Leave no man behind.' Doesn't that include yourself?"
"It's not that simple," Steve said. "You need to sit under the umbrella for a while. You're starting to pink up."
Danny looked down at his arms and nodded in agreement. After moving to the shade, he regarded Steve with a level gaze. "You are indispensable to 5-0. To all of us."
"I don't have a death-wish if that's what you are implying." The smooth practiced tone of those words meant it was not the first time he had said them. Danny wondered how many other people he had said them to. And how many of those were 'mental health professionals.' Even SEALs had to have psych evals, surely.
"Maybe you don't now," Danny said in the same even tone. "That's only changed recently."
Steve's eyes narrowed and his jaw clinched. Danny could see him forcing himself to relax, the tension slowly draining away. "I may have been overly reckless at some points in my life."
"Some points?" Danny repeated. "Like any time you are awake?"
"We don't need to finish this discussion. This is your renewal, not mine."
"That's fine. If you don't start showing signs of caring as much for you as you do everyone else, we're going to have an interference."
"Interference?" Steve repeated, eyes narrowed in confusion. "You mean an intervention?"
"Yeah but Seinfeld always called them interference," Danny said with a shrug.
"Seinfeld? Who is Seinfeld? Your shrink?"
"Oh right. You don't watch TV. Except for Guns Gear and Ammo."
"There is no such show," Steve said. "And you are not planning an intervention for me no matter what you call it."
Danny shrugged, no other reaction forthcoming.
"Are willing to be more open and accepting of everything that Hawaii is?"
"I am willing to try," Danny said with the air of a promise. "I get what you are saying. I do draw the line on pineapple and ham on pizza."
"I know that's non-negotiable," Steve assured him with a smile. "We'll visit some of the less touristy areas so you get to know the real Hawaii."
"Does that include hikes up mountains so you can break your arm again?" Danny asked.
"I'm hoping to forego the arm-breaking part."
"I'd prefer it," Danny said.
"Me too," Steve confirmed. "It did get me an air heart as I was hoisted into the helicopter."
Danny shrugged at him, a topic they had never discussed. He couldn't say for sure why he had done it especially with witnesses present. But he didn't regret it and would do it again in a second.
"How do you know you are attracted to me if all of your experiences have been with women?" Steve asked.
"Review when you asked me about masturbation," Danny said, turning to look out at the ocean instead of facing Steve and his all knowing expression when he figured it out.
"You think about me," Steve confirmed.
"Yeah," Danny agreed.
"You don't need to be embarrassed. It's reciprocal," Steve told him. That made Danny turn to look at Steve to find a warm smile on his face, one that eased some of Danny's tension. He was pretty sure he wasn't in this alone, nearly drowning in desire. The confirmation was a welcome relief. "You had to know I'm attracted to you."
"You throw up your stone walls and no one can scale them," Danny said. "I don't even know what your favorite color is. There are times I can read your mind. But in some ways you are a complete blank to me."
"Blue. The color of the ocean," Steve told him with a warm laugh.
"You know me better than anyone ever has." Danny could see the truth of Steve's words in his eyes. Even if there was a lot about Steve Danny still did not know, he had managed to tear down more barriers than anyone else every had. "We'll work on filling in some of those blank spaces, I promise."
Danny nodded to accept his words, smiling back at him. "I look forward to it."
"I do too," Steve said. "Do you understand why what you said at the heiau was so inappropriate?"
"Yes," Danny said, sitting back on the warm sand beneath the umbrella. "I knew as I was saying it that I should stop. I knew I was out of line. But the words just kept coming and I couldn't do anything about it."
"Then next time count to 10 before you start talking. A challenge, I know," Steve said openly laughing at him.
"Maybe 20 would work."
"Whatever it takes."
"You have one question left," Danny said into the silence. He was ready for the interrogation to be over and for the next part of their lives to begin.
Steve shook his head, leaving the chair to join him under the umbrella. "I'll save it," Steve whispered against Danny's lips before reaching forward to brush their mouths together, only the promise of a kiss. "There may be a really important question I want to ask you."
"I could refuse. I didn't use any of my free passes," Danny reminded him, his forehead touching Steve's so that they were breathing the same air.
"True," Steve said.
"Is the renewal over?" Danny asked softly. "Because I would really like to kiss you right now."
Rather than answer, Steve lowered Danny to the blanket and covered his mouth for a real, searing, soul melting kiss, the first of many. The first step in both their new lives. A true rebirth of the very best kind.