Of course, Danny thinks. Of course Steve is still working when he swings by his office that evening. It's half past seven; Chin and Kono went home hours ago, and he himself is headed that direction. Yet there Steve sits, hunched over his desk doing that thing with his pen and his teeth and his furrowed brows that Danny's trying really hard not to notice, because he figured out a while ago that some thoughts are appropriate to have about his partner, and some definitely, definitely are not.
He's under no illusion that Steve didn't hear him come in, even though he doesn't look up. He just keeps right on working, typing things into the computer with one hand and thumping his pen – he's taken it away from his mouth, thank God – against the folder in his lap.
Danny takes it as an invitation to come on in. He stops just inside the door, leaning back on the frame and crossing his arms.
"Why am I not surprised?" he says to no one in particular.
Steve looks up, and it's as if he's noticing Danny for the first time. "You're still here?" he says. He sounds and looks genuinely surprised.
So much for thinking Steve heard him. Danny thinks he might have to revisit the whole Super SEAL thing; his partner's slipping.
Although, looking at him, Danny's wondering if maybe there isn't another explanation. He takes in the bloodshot eyes, the almost sallow look in Steve's cheeks, and the all-around haggardness of his normally alert partner, and he sighs.
"What are you doing?" His tone is more resigned than anything, but there's some exasperation, too. Steve is probably one of the smartest people Danny knows – and if anyone tries to quote him on that, especially Steve, Danny will deny it till his dying day – but he's also sometimes one of the dumbest. This, Danny fears, is going to be one of those times.
Steve raises an eyebrow and holds up his folders. His expression says he thinks Danny is the slow one, but Danny knows better. "What does it look like I'm doing?" he says.
Danny decides not to get annoyed at the unspoken 'duh' in Steve's voice. "It looks like you're doing paperwork."
"Wow," Steve replies, "you really are a detective." He's wearing that cheeky little half-smile on his face now that probably would've annoyed Danny a lot more if he wasn't just happy to see some life back on Steve's face.
It does still annoy him a little, though.
Pushing off the wall, he folds his arms across his chest and moves to stand just in front of Steve's desk. "But see, that would be stupid."
"Why, Danny? Why would that be stupid?" His voice is just shy of patronizing, but again, Danny has decided he's not going to get annoyed. He's been annoyed enough for one day, thankyouverymuch; now, he just wants to go home and wash the lingering fish smell off and collapse in bed.
But there's a part of him – an annoying part that isn't quite as small as he wants it to be – that won't let him leave until he knows Steve's off the clock. It's the same part that sees the shadows under Steve's eyes and tells him to take him home. Immediately. Drag his Navy ass out of the building if he has to, because it's clear to anyone with eyes that Steve needs to be sleeping, not sitting at his desk doing paperwork that could just as easily wait until morning.
He doesn't, though. At least, not yet. He'll give Steve a chance to come to his senses before he resorts to that, for both their sakes. Steve's got his pride to consider, and Danny…well, after the day he's had, after everything that happened on the boat – excuse him, the dingy – he's not sure he trusts himself around a tired, defenseless Steve. It's not that he thinks he'll do something he'll regret; more, that he thinks he'll regret something he can't do, and knowing that kills him.
So, instead, he dons his patient parent smile. "Because it's seven-thirty, Steven."
"Actually, it's seven forty-one." He's trying to be a wise ass; Danny can tell. But it comes out flat and worn out, and it's all Danny can do to ignore the creeping feeling in his gut that there's something more wrong here than just a long day's fatigue.
"My point being, normal people don't work at seven thirty or seven forty-one. Normal people, like me, have lives outside this place," he gestures vaguely around himself, "and do not hide in their office after hours."
"I'm not hiding," Steve protests, and the look on his face is dangerously close to a pout.
Under normal circumstances, Danny would probably get a kick out of seeing Steve the Super SEAL pouting like a five-year-old, but he just looked so…pitiful. It was hard to be anything more than sympathetic.
"What about Catherine?"
"What about her?" Steve says. It comes out more as a sigh than anything, and the way he drops his pen in favor of pinching the bridge of his nose is decidedly not a good sign.
Danny frowns, but decides not to mention it. "I don't know, babe. It's a Friday night, she's your girlfriend—"
Steve interrupts him with a finger. "Not my girlfriend."
"Right, I forgot. Navy SEALS don't have girlfriends; they have things."
Steve looks like he wants to say something, but he doesn't, which is in and of itself worrying. Danny knows he's the talker of the group, but Steve isn't exactly the king of restraint. He's holding back, which either means he's too tired to argue, or he's decided to let Danny have this one.
Danny considers checking the window. If the sky's falling, he wants to have time to call Grace and tell her he loves her.
But no, he's being dramatic. The sky isn't falling – that'll be the day Steve voluntarily shows up to work in a tie and pants that don't have pockets at the knees – and as far as he can tell, Steve's day is just finally catching up to him. It was about time, too; Danny's had lapped him an hour ago.
"Whatever she is," he continues, "shouldn't you be out with her instead of crossing your eyes with this stuff?"
Steve looks up at him, and now that he's closer, Danny can see just how bloodshot his eyes really are. "This stuff?" he says. "This 'stuff' is the paperwork on the murder-turned-boatjacking-turned-murder again." He sits back at that, looking up at Danny like he's grown a second head. "Aren't you the one always getting on my case about doing my paperwork?"
"Yes," Danny admits. "Yes, I am." Steve starts to get that smug, 'well, okay then' look on his face, but Danny cuts in before it can stick. "I do not, however, remember telling you to stay three hours late to do said paperwork. Because that, my friend, would be…." He gestures for Steve to pick up where he left off.
Steve rolls his eyes. "Stupid?"
"Ding, ding, ding. Give the man a prize."
"I'll settle for an Advil," Steve mutters. It's definitely meant to be a smart remark, but Danny gets the feeling there might be a kernel of truth to it.
He pushes off the desk. "That can be arranged," he says, and not-so-subtly, he reaches over and flips the folder closed.
"What the hell?" Steve snaps indignantly, but Danny's already giving his computer monitor the same treatment.
"Office hours are eight to five, babe. Come back later."
"Since when did you set the office hours?"
"Since I don't look like microwaved SPAM."
"Considering your feelings on SPAM, that actually hurts, Danno."
"Well, maybe these will ease the pain." He doesn't ask, much less wait for permission before reaching into Steve's top desk drawer where he knows he keeps the painkillers. Practiced hands find the proper bottle without really looking, and he promptly shakes out a couple pills into his hand. "Here."
Steve stares at him for a second. "Remind me again who the boss is around this place?"
"You are, of course," Danny says. "As long as it's convenient for me."
That gets a bit of a laugh out of Steve, if only a bit, but Danny'll take it, because damned if Steve doesn't look half dead.
"Well, boss, you're not setting a great example," Steve mutters, but he's taking the pills Danny offered him, so Danny doesn't have many complaints.
"SEALs in glass houses shouldn't throw hand grenades."
Steve downs the last of something in his mug that Danny hopes is water and says, "Or words to that effect."
"Or words to that effect," Danny confirms. "Now, up."
"Up. Yes, up. Because I've had a long day, and I'm not rolling your ass out of this building. So," he waves his hands demonstratively, "up."
"And you're a pain in my ass. Now that that's out of the way, can we go? Please? Or do I have to make you?"
Steve laughs a little harder, but stops pretty quickly, and if Danny's not mistaken, there's a little bit of a wince on his face before it's replaced with a smirk. "You finally gonna show me the Jersey Slip?"
In that moment, Danny can think of about a hundred things he'd like to show Steve – and yeah, okay, maybe a few of them involve handcuffs – but not only is it not the time nor the place, but he's had a bad enough day as it is without having almost 200 pounds of pissed off Navy SEAL socking it to him. Steve is his partner and his best friend; that's all. And that's enough.
He's hoping, if he tells himself that enough times, he'll eventually start believing it.
Swallowing the lump in his throat that seems to have sprung up, Danny shoots Steve a dry look. "Quick," he says, "call an ambulance. My sides are splitting."
Steve just smiles and shakes his head. He starts to stand, though, which is good.
Right up until Danny sees that wince again. And this time, he knows he saw it. Steve may think he's all mysterious and enigmatic and sex— he's not gonna go there; that way madness lies – but Danny's learned to read him. He recognizes the rigid set of his shoulders through his blue button-up, the way his jaw stands out beneath the shadow of his scruff. He knows that, somehow, someway, Steve's hurting.
"Maybe that ambulance isn't such a bad idea," he says.
Steve looks at him strangely. "You okay, Danno?" He sounds genuinely concerned, and Danny's torn between thinking it's cute that he's worried about him, and thinking his partner is certifiably insane. Which, he guesses, isn't all that new or special, but the contrast is interesting.
He settles somewhere in between. "Come on," he says, "I'll give you a ride home." He's already heading to the door when he says it, because he knows for a fact that Catherine dropped him off here after their lunch at Kamekona's, and his truck wasn't in the parking lot. If Steve wants to go home, which, despite his tough guy act, he clearly does, he's got one option that isn't a taxi, and Danny's it.
"I'm driving," he hears Steve call behind him, and resists the urge to smile to himself. See, it sounds like Steve's being a Type-A controlling bastard, but really, it's his way of saying, 'you win this one, Danno, but I, Commander Steve McGarrett, am too stubborn to admit it.'
When they get out to the car, though, and Danny tosses Steve his keys over the roof, Steve nearly drops them. It's like his shoulder catches when he reaches up, like it doesn't want to go much higher, and that's it. That's all Danny can take.
"Okay, give them back."
Steve looks at him like he's gone crazy. "What?"
"The keys," Danny says. "Give them back. You're not driving."
"Are you mad at me?"
"No. No, I am not, in fact, mad at you. Although the fact that that's where your head went makes me wonder if you've got some sort of guilty con—no, you know what? Never mind. I don't want to know." He walks around the hood of the car and holds out his hand. "The keys."
Steve furrows his brows. "No."
"No?" He leans back, folding his arms across his chest. "Sorry, was that 'no' I can't have my own keys back to my own car?"
"No," Steve retorts, his expression a mix of petulant and indignant that was funny to see on the face of really anyone old enough to have facial hair, "that was a 'no' whatever I just did that made you ask for your keys back was not my fault. And I can't be punished for it," he adds matter-of-factly.
Danny resists the urge to throw his arms up in the air, and settles for an eye roll instead. "Again with the guilty conscience. Seriously, Sasquatch, just hand over the keys. You're not driving."
"Yes I am."
"No, you're really, really not."
Steve's eyes are wide and his nostrils flare, and he's looking at Danny like he's the one being unreasonable. "Why not?"
"Because your rope burn's showing."
Steve opens his mouth, presumably to sputter out another retort, but then he seems to realize what Danny just said, because he's going to fix his shirt.
"You do realize that I've already seen it, right?" he says. "So trying to cover it up like a hickey in high school's kind of moot." And a little bit insulting, but Danny tries not to take it personally. Steve has a tendency to shrug off injuries; Danny blames it on the Navy. And that's if a family life that would make Dr. Phil run screaming hills wasn't enough to do it. That's not something he can fix, though, at least not right now. They're getting better – Steve's getting better, at least with him, but he knows that sort of thing doesn't happen overnight.
No, an ocean full of emotional trauma is a little ambitious for one night, so he focuses on something a little more manageable. "Come here," he says, reaching for Steve's shirt.
He's not altogether surprised when Steve pulls back.
"It's fine, Danny." Steve's voice is clipped. Danny knows the tone is telling him to back off, but Steve doesn't scare him. At least, not on purpose.
"Let me be the judge of that," he says. This time, when he reaches for Steve's shirt, his partner has nowhere to go, and he manages to get hold of the lapels. He's careful; he's had a few rope burns in his time, not the least of which was that time Steve fell over the cliff, and he wouldn't wish them on his enemy.
Well, no, that isn't exactly true. But he certainly wouldn't wish it on Steve.
"Don't 'Danno' me," he scolds, but it's halfhearted at best. He's unbuttoning Steve's shirt, and this isn't at all how he'd imagined it, but his heart is still pounding in his chest and he's willing his fingers not to shake. The thought that, underneath that shirt, Steve's hiding injuries should be enough to sober him, but, well, it's not. Steve always has some sort of wound hidden just beneath the surface – physical, or otherwise – but it's part of him, and Danny's finding he likes Steve just the way he is.
Even if he annoys the seven bells out of him sometimes.
This, for instance, is one of those times. "Jesus Christ," he breathes when he gets Steve's shirt unbuttoned. It occurs to him that they're in the parking lot of Headquarters, and he should probably be a little more sensitive about that, but for one, there's no one there and the part of the lot they're in is pretty secluded; and for two, Danny's too busy wincing for his partner's sake to give a rat's ass.
There's a welt on Steve's left shoulder, and from what Danny can see reflected in the window behind Steve, it comes up from about his spine at an angle, gets deeper up around the top of his shoulder and his collarbone, and tapers off less than an inch above his right nipple.
It's not hard to figure out where it came from.
"It's just a little rope burn," Steve says. If anything, he sounds exasperated, and maybe a little bit tired.
No, scratch that. He sounds a lot bit tired, and from the way he's leaning back against the Camaro, he feels every bit as tired as he sounds. He sure as hell looks it.
Somehow, that doesn't do anything to sooth Danny's ruffled feathers. "A little rope burn?" he says. "Babe, have you looked in a mirror recently?" And in case he hasn't, he grabs Steve by the upper arms and turns him around.
He isn't expecting that to hurt him, but he catches his wince in the reflection.
It's all he can do not to beat his head against the roof. As it is, he's still holding Steve's arms – albeit a little softer – when he leans his head forward and tries to take a few deep, soothing breaths. It's a little bit Lamaze for his tastes, but he figures if it can get a woman through childbirth, it might be able to get him through an afternoon with his impossible partner. Might.
"Pray tell," he begins when he's pretty sure he can do so without yelling, "is there a part of you that doesn't hurt?"
Steve gives a one-sided shrug that he feels more than sees.
Danny straightens. "Was that a yes, or a no? Because I'm gonna need a definitive answer, here, otherwise I'm going with my gut and taking you to the nearest hospital." He's threatened to do it a few times, but he's never actually made good at it.
"Danny?" Steve's reversed the roles; he's turned around, and how he's holding onto one of Danny's arms with one of his own, and he's looking at him like he's in hysterics or something. "It's a rope burn. No one in this world has ever died from a rope burn."
"I bet you'd be surprised."
"I bet I really wouldn't," Steve says. His voice is measured, and Danny's having a hard time figuring out if it's his 'explaining to a kid' voice, or his 'calming a worried relative voice' because they sound a lot alike, and he's really better with Steve's faces than his tones. "I'm just a little sore, Danno."
The reasonable voice in Danny's head points out that, yes, that probably happens when someone swims a mile hauling a person and a boat – sorry, dingy, again – and then has to turn around and out-swim a shark. But he's still not quite ready to let this go, even as Steve's shrugging his shirt back on. He doesn't bother buttoning it, but Danny wonders if that's more because he can't be assed, or if it's because it hurts when it brushes the burn. He thinks about telling him to just leave it off, but he realizes that's probably not wise for either of them.
"At least tell me you'll get it patched up," he says. "None of this 'rub some dirt on it, leave it to air out' shit, because I don't trust that water. Knowing your luck, you'd probably catch scurvy or something."
Steve actually laughs at him for that, which he guesses is kind of deserved. He knows you can't catch scurvy from the water, but it's the first ocean-y disease that came to his head. Besides, he finds he doesn't really mind that laugh. It's quiet, barely shakes his shoulders, even, but he grins that cheek-dimpling grin and shakes his head, and Danny can breathe a little bit easier. He's a little sore, a little scuffed up, but he's okay, and that takes a weight off Danny's shoulders.
Still, "Maybe you should have some sort of supervision tonight," he says. "Make sure you don't die of infection in the night or something." He doesn't have Grace that night, and he wants to offer, but at the last second, he thinks better of it. "Maybe you should call Catherine." He wonders, as soon as he says it, if it's physically possible for him to actually kick himself.
He's almost relieved when Steve shakes his head. "She can't come."
Danny raises an eyebrow. "You got some sort of telepathy thing going that I don't know about? 'Cause that…that was pretty—"
"She's your girlfriend, babe. Clearly no one's ever explained this to you, so I'm gonna try and make it very simple for you." He holds his hands out, ready to gesticulate appropriately. "When you love somebody, and they're hurt, you want to help." He speaks slowly, as Steve had earlier, though his is definitely the voice meant for a child. "But you cannot help, unless you know that person is hurt."
Danny ignored him. "Do you—do you see where I'm going with this, Steve? Because I can explain it slower if—"
"She's busy," Steve repeats, and this time, Danny gets it. It's the same kind of 'busy' Steve is when he can't tell him where he is or what he's doing or when he's coming back, and he recognizes the pain in Steve's eyes as he averts them and mutters something under his breath.
"I'm sorry, what was that? We can't all have superhuman hearing, so you're gonna need to speak up." He's aware he's being harsh, but something about seeing that look in Steve's eyes – the same one he's seen in the mirror a few times too many – over Catherine hurts.
Steve takes in a deep breath and lets it out in a sigh before he raises his eyes. "I said, she's not my girlfriend." But then he seems to lose some of his gusto, because the rest is quieter. "And she doesn't."
"Doesn't what?" He and Steve need to have a conversation about clarity later, because this is taking entirely too long.
"Doesn't love me. Catherine…she doesn't love me. Not like that, anyway."
That…Danny isn't expecting. It seems more than one wound is getting exposed tonight; this one, though, seems a hell of a lot deeper than a rope burn.
For the second time that night, Danny's swallowing a lump in his throat. He knows he's gonna regret this, but he asks, "What about you?"
Steve chuckles. "I don't love me, either."
Danny thinks he's joking, but maybe he isn't, and that's not okay. But that's a can of worms for another time, when Steve's not in pain and Danny's not so raw and worn out.
"What I meant was, do you love her?"
Danny probably doesn't wince, he thinks, but it's a close call.
Steve, though, doesn't seem to notice, because he keeps on, "But I love her the same way she loves me. We're friends; we have a thing. That's what I keep trying to tell you. It's not—it's not like that."
"Then what's it like?"
"Are we really having this conversation right now?" Steve says incredulously.
"No, no, we are not having any sort of conversation right now. It's only a conversation when both sides contribute something."
"Well, what do you want me to say, Danny?" Steve's close to shouting, and Danny can only think that, wow, this escalated quickly.
And yet, his voice is right on par with Steve's. "I just want to know what the hell's going on with you. You keep doing one thing, and then saying something completely different."
"How?" Steve snaps, and he's definitely got his aneurism face on, now. "How is it any different?"
"Oh, I don't know, Steve. Do you go around screwing all of your friends?"
"Clearly, I don't."
Danny's next retort dies on his lips. The implications of Steve's words are clear enough: you're my friend, and I'm not screwing you. And there's a look in his eyes as he says it that Danny can't quite place, but he knows it's nothing good.
Steve seems to realize it, too, because his puffed up chest recedes a little bit, and he rubs away the aneurism face with a hand, replacing it with something much more tired and resigned.
"I'll call a cab," he says, dropping Danny's long-forgotten keys into his hand before he slips past Danny and starts walking.
It takes a few seconds for Danny's brain to catch up. His chest is aching, and there's a lump in his throat the size of Staten Island, but he's watching Steve walk away, and no matter what was said, that's the one thing he doesn't think he can stand to see.
"What are you doing?" he says for the second time that night. His voice isn't as steady as he would like it to be, but it does the trick.
Steve stops, turning around and putting a hand on his hip. "I told you what I was doing."
"Yeah, and I said I'd give you a ride home." He nods towards his car. "So get in."
For a second, Steve looks like he's going to refuse.
"Please, Steve. Please, get in the car."
He's not sure if it's the sound of his voice that did it or the fact that he said 'please', but after a moment, Steve finally gives up. His shoulders slump, and he starts back towards the car.
The car ride is silent, which is a new and altogether unwelcome thing. When he pulls up at the McGarrett house, Steve can't seem to get out of the car fast enough.
Steve doesn't look back at him once as he walks to his door, doesn't even raise a casual shaka over his shoulder.
Steve doesn't see Danny bury his head in his hands and wish like hell they were still on that boat, trying to catch his first tuny fish.