Word Count: 36,974
Characters/Pairings: Steve, Danny, Kono, Chin, Rachel, Grace, OCs; Steve/Danny
Summary: A string of mysterious deaths lead Steve and Danny to the remote forests of the Big Island; the case becomes a fight for survival when they encounter dangers they never expected.
Warnings: Mild action violence, mild supernatural horror, gay man love, what the movies like to call 'adult situations', adult language, character whumpage, the author being boundlessly self-indulgent, UST, and shameless tropes are shameless.
Disclaimer: Steve, Danny, Kono, Chin, Rachel, Grace, Mamo, and Hawaii Five-0 are © CBS Broadcasting Inc. Steve and Danny's depthless love belongs to EVERYONE. All content is fictional and for entertainment purposes only, not for profit.
[Previous: Part 3 | Glossary/Reader's Guide/DVD Extras]
~ ~ ~
Most of the day passed Danny in a haze of exhaustion and delirium. Steve continued with his seemingly endless collection of SEAL stories, but Danny barely heard him. It was all he could do to stumble forward, putting one foot in front of the other, leaning weakly against a tree– or, when one was not available, Steve– when the coughing fits overtook him. He was dimly aware of their changing surroundings: sun followed by fog followed by drizzling rain followed by sun, and the canopy closing in again, sparsely-forested lava giving way gradually to mud and ferns and mossy logs and permanent shade. A few times he heard strange sounds coming from the dense undergrowth, indistinct voices or distant, haunting music. Another time they passed through a patch of air that was unnaturally, icily cold and heavy with the stench of fish; the mongrel dog's hackles went up and she growled low and menacing in her throat, and didn't stop until they'd left the spot a thousand yards behind them.
Their pace seemed as punishing as ever, but Steve called for more frequent breaks, which Danny accepted gratefully. And everywhere they stopped for more than a few minutes, a hazy, indistinct shade, or sometimes two, emerged from the forest and hovered near Danny, silent, watchful, curious. Danny gave up trying to chase them away and merely watched them back, a cold feeling worming its way under his skin, maggot-like.
The sun wheeled its way slowly across the sky, occasionally emerging from behind clouds or peeking through gaps in the canopy. Danny wearily tracked its progress, measured it against the burning in his chest, the pounding in his head, and prayed for nightfall.
Inevitably the forest did grow darker, although Danny couldn't be one hundred percent sure that wasn't due to the black spots that clouded his vision. Steve stopped abruptly and Danny pulled up short, lifting his head wearily; they had stepped out from beneath the trees into a small clearing of sorts. Steve glanced at his watch and then looked around the clearing; the ground was relatively flat and free of logs, thickly carpeted with grass and sedges. “We'll camp here,” he decided, swinging his backpack to the ground.
Danny dropped his as well, groaning with relief. “And where the hell is 'here', anyway?”
Steve squinted, thinking. “I'm guessing... Mountain View area? Or where Mountain View should be, anyway.” He shook his head. “I'm willing to bet Olokui's heading for Kalapana.”
Danny resisted the urge to lie down and curl into a ball. “We gonna catch him?”
“Soon, I think,” Steve said. “We're definitely gaining on him. I don’t think he knows he’s being chased.” He glanced at his watch again, then jerked his thumb over his shoulder. “I'll go for firewood. I might be a little longer than usual... this forest's pretty damp, dry wood's going to be hard to find.”
“Yeah, yeah, go, I'll be fine,” Danny croaked, shooing Steve with his hands. “I'll get camp set up.” Steve gave him a long, searching look, then nodded sharply and took off into the undergrowth.
Firmly refusing to let himself sit down, knowing he'd probably not get up again, Danny slowly and doggedly set up camp at the edge of the clearing, closing his eyes and leaning against a broad ‘ohi‘a trunk when the inevitable coughing fits shook him. Steve did not return, and Danny collected water from a marshy pond in the center of the clearing, fired up the camp stove and started boiling water for ramen; the darkness closed in and Steve still did not return, and Danny sat on a log, hunched in on himself, the dog curled up at his feet, and waited.
Danny's eyes adjusted to the dark, and by the faint light of the stove and the waxing moon he could just see to the far edge of the clearing. A handful of the pale, silent ghosts drifted out of the trees, collecting at the corners of his vision; Danny studiously ignored them, staring into the black and coughing. He waited.
The brindle mutt's ears perked up, and she lifted her head, staring into the trees on the far side of the clearing. She wriggled with excitement, her tail thwapping vigorously; a moment later a small white dog trotted out of the trees and she leapt to her feet, running over to it. Danny watched in bemusement as the two dogs barked and sniffed and circled each other excitedly.
After a few moments the white dog took notice of him, its ears perking up. Danny dug in his pack for some jerky, offering it and clicking his tongue; the two dogs bounded eagerly over to him, snapping up the pieces of meat with wolfish hunger. Danny gave the new dog a good looking-over, ruffling its ears; it was another mutt, male, and healthy-looking. “Where'd you come from, huh?” he rasped.
Both dogs perked their ears and glanced away, and Danny looked up; there was a woman standing at the edge of the clearing.
Danny eyed her apprehensively. She looked solid enough, but Danny had had just about enough of creepy ghost-ladies since whatever-it-was that Maka had done to them, and he wasn't about to assume that she was actually something that lived and breathed, much less that she was friendly. In the faint light he could see that she was Hawaiian, with long, thick, black hair; she wore a crown of leaves and flowers– haku lei, his mind supplied absently– and a robe or dress of some stiff, pale material. She was of indeterminate age, and barefoot. The woman said nothing, merely stood motionless beneath the trees and stared at Danny.
Danny chewed on his lip, wishing Steve were there. After a few moments he decided to chance a conversation. “...Is this your dog?”
The woman whistled sharply, and the white dog leapt to his feet and ran to her, circling her ankles and gazing up at her lovingly, whining in the back of his throat.
Guess that answered that question.
The woman still said nothing, and made no move to come closer. The brindle mutt lay still and quiet at Danny's side, solemn and watchful.
Danny could hear the ramen boiling. He coughed against his forearm and wondered what to do. What the hell, he thought, I'll chance it. “Are you hungry?” he asked. “We've got noodles.” His heart thudded in his chest; he gestured with his hands. “Come, sit.”
The woman stepped forward, then, the little white dog trotting at her heels; when she reached the stove she hitched up her skirts and sat with grace and dignity on the log Danny had laid out for Steve. The white dog plopped down at her feet and panted happily, pink tongue lolling.
Still feeling like the woman was going to attack him at any moment, Danny spooned ramen into a bowl and held it out to her. “Soup?” She stared impassively; he held up a water bottle. “Water?”
The woman inclined her head, accepting the bottle and taking a sip. Danny stared at her. She stared back.
There was a rustling in the bushes and Steve appeared, a small pile of dead wood in his arms. “Most of this stuff's pretty damp, I don't know how well it will burn—” he started to say, and then the light of his headlamp swept across the woman and the little white dog and he froze. He stared, then inhaled sharply. “...Danny.” His voice sounded tense and brittle.
“Uh, yeah, so we have some visitors,” Danny said nervously, and coughed. “...I don't think she speaks English. I gave her some water.”
Steve stared and stared; then, slowly and smoothly, as if trying not to disturb a dangerous animal, he approached the stove and carefully laid down his bundle. He knelt next to the stove and stared at the woman, swallowing audibly. “...Danny.”
The woman stared back at Steve, seeming almost amused. She took another sip of water.
Steve shook himself, turning and digging through his pack with almost frantic haste. Danny started to feel vaguely alarmed. After a few moments he pulled out the box of smokes and the little bottle of gin. “Um,” he said. “Uh, would you like a drink? Or a cigarette, ma'am? Madam?”
The woman smiled. She accepted the bottle, unscrewing the lid and taking a swig. “Thank you,” she said, in a rich, deep voice.
“Hey,” Danny said. Steve turned wide eyes on him, and Danny shut his mouth with a clap.
Steve held up the box of smokes and the woman smiled again and took it, peeling off the cellophane and shaking a cigarette from the box. Steve fumbled for a lighter, but she calmly placed the cigarette between her lips and held her cupped hands up to her mouth. There was a flare of orange light and she inhaled deeply, breathing out a cloud of smoke with a satisfied sigh.
Danny stared; the woman glanced at him briefly. When she glanced away there was a split second when her eyes seemed to glow fire-red, brighter than the end of her cigarette; a moment later her eyes were dark again. Danny's mouth went dry.
The woman offered the cigarette box back to Steve. He shook his head. “Keep it,” he said. “I don't smoke.”
She smiled. “Of course you don't.” She glanced at Danny again. “And neither do you, at a guess.” She tucked the box into a fold in her robes, looking amused. “You're very well prepared.” She took another swig of the gin, then offered the bottle to Steve, raising her eyebrows.
Steve looked startled. “Uh, sure,” he said, taking the bottle. He took a small sip, then handed the bottle to Danny, staring at him meaningfully. Danny sipped and immediately regretted it, coughing painfully. Eyes streaming with tears, he handed the bottle back to the woman.
The woman clucked her tongue, eyeing Danny with distant sympathy as she took a drag on her cigarette. “...Well,” she said. “Let us have some light while we talk, shall we?” She gathered a handful of Steve's damp twigs and placed them in front of her; she covered the sticks with her hands, then lifted them away, and the wet wood burst into cheery flames. Danny thought he smelled a whiff of sulfur, there and gone. Steve absently thumbed off his headlamp.
The woman regarded them calmly, pulling deeply on her cigarette. “...How very interesting to see you both here,” she commented. “I don't believe I've ever found a haole walking this path, much less two of you. It is not a doorway that is easily found.”
“We had some help,” Steve explained. “From a friend. Maka‘awa‘awa Kilauano-Rice.”
“Ah,” she sighed, “a Kilauano. That explains the dog. A good family, the Kilauanos; very respectful. I have always been fond of dogs.” She looked thoughtful for a second. “I believe I know this Maka‘awa‘awa. He brought me some fat chickens a few months ago.”
The woman took another swig of gin, then offered it to Steve again. He hesitated, then shook his head. “No thank you. Help yourself.”
She turned to Danny, raising her eyebrows. “Better not,” he rasped, coughing into his fist.
“Of course.” She sat back, eyeing them speculatively. “And what business brings you here, I wonder?”
“We're chasing a criminal,” Steve said. “A murderer. Elika Olokui.”
“Ahh... Olokui. A pig family.” She sneered slightly. “I know this Elika as well,” she said, then turned her gaze on Danny. “...And that explains you.”
Steve rubbed his hands together nervously. “Please,” he said, and hesitated, considering his words. “...Olokui is greedy and selfish, a wanted criminal, a killer, a negative influence on his community. We're here to bring him to justice, and... he's our only way out of here... our only way to get Danny to a hospital.” He swallowed. “If it suits you... if there's anything you could do, to help—”
“Hmmmm,” she interrupted, watching him with hooded eyes. “I don't usually care to involve myself in your little squabbles.” She spoke with just the slightest tone of rebuke.
“Of course not,” Steve agreed hastily.
“Hmm.” She took a drag on her cigarette and watched them in silence. Steve fidgeted. Danny tried, with very little success, not to cough.
The woman smoked the cigarette down to the filter, then stubbed it out. “Well,” she said. She turned to Danny and smiled. “Thank you for feeding my dog.”
Danny blinked. “You're welcome,” he replied. He blinked again and she was gone.
Steve let out a long breath, slumping a little. He ran a hand through his hair.
“So, um,” Danny rasped. “That was....” He trailed off.
Steve nodded. “Pele. Yes.”
“Well, okay then.” Danny coughed a couple of times. “...She seemed nice.”
Steve laughed at that, a hysterical giggle.
The ramen had gone lukewarm and soggy, and they ate it in silence. Their tense interview with the volcano goddess over, Danny came down from the adrenaline; he felt almost delirious with exhaustion, but his coughs continued to shake him, and he knew he wouldn't be able to sleep. “I'll take first watch again,” he croaked; Steve thinned his lips and nodded.
Steve slipped into his sleeping bag and lay down, and Danny settled in next to the fire, trying to make himself as comfortable as possible with the constant coughs rocking him. He ached, everywhere he ached, every single inch of him a different flavor of pain: the acid burn in his lungs, the sharp throbbing in his head and behind his eyes, the dull fatigue in his legs from the miles and miles of this God-forsaken island he'd dragged himself across.
The night was quiet and still. The sky was overcast, reflecting the dim lamp of the moon; something a little lighter than rain and a little heavier than mist dampened the air, chilling Danny despite the fire and his fleece-lined jacket. And the silent, watchful ghosts were a constant presence.
Danny tried to ignore them, but it was impossible. There were half a dozen of them now, hovering around him in a loose circle, wavering uncertainly. They seemed to want to come close to him, yet were for some reason afraid to; occasionally one would drift to almost within an arm's reach, only to waft away skittishly. And always, always they stared at him with the blank suggestion of eyes.
It was starting to drive Danny crazy. His head pounded and spun; he wanted to curl into a ball and cry or sleep for a year, he wanted to be home where it was warm and dry and safe, but he was here in the dark, cold, damp woods and he felt like death warmed over and things just kept staring at him. What do you want? Danny thought, glaring, throat too sore to speak out loud. What do you want from me? Coming out of the woods and staring with those empty eyes, where do you all come from, what do you want? Just get it over with, whatever it is, get it over with or go, what is it, what are you waiting for?!
The ghosts flickered, staring back.
Danny coughed. And coughed again, and kept coughing, harder and harder. He couldn't breathe. His vision swam. He coughed and a sharp spasm bent him double. Danny's eyes widened. Something was wrong, something was different. He was falling over and his ears were ringing and something was choking him, he couldn't breathe, and he felt nauseous and he put a hand to his mouth and coughed, and something wet and foul-tasting dislodged itself and he could breathe again, great gasping breaths that made him cough more.
Steve was there, supporting him, holding him up, babbling a worried litany, “Cough it out, Danny, cough it out, there you go, breathe, breathe Danny, I've got you, I've got you, just breathe....”
“Oh God,” Danny moaned. He kept his eyes squeezed shut; he could see the flare of Steve's headlamp behind his eyelids. He coughed weakly. “Oh God.”
“I've got you, Danno. Just. Breathe,” Steve murmured hoarsely, then broke into a long, whispered string of what were probably swear words in some language Danny didn't recognize.
Danny swallowed; his stomach heaved. He didn't want to open his eyes. He forced them open anyway, pulled his hand away from his mouth, looked at it in the headlamp's dancing indirect beam. “God,” he choked. There was a stone in his stomach. “God. Steve. What is that?”
A dark, viscous fluid coated the palm of Danny's hand. Steve swore viciously.
“Steve, what is that?” The beam of the headlamp was now fixed squarely on Danny's hand. Danny tried not to panic. “Steve. That isn't blood.”
It wasn't blood. The sputum on Danny's hand, on his lips, was as black as tar.
~ ~ ~
The coughing fits continued, but now when Danny coughed, flecks of inky-black goo speckled his lips and chin. He shivered violently, and there was no lying down lest he drown himself, so Steve wrestled Danny into position, sitting Danny with his back against Steve's chest, sandwiched between Steve and the fire, the two of them wrapped up in the sleeping bags. Danny was too exhausted to resist other than to comment, “Little spoon again,” in a dry rasp; Steve did not reply. The dog lay with her chin on her paws and watched them mournfully, occasionally emitting an anxious whine.
Danny's head swam. He felt dizzy, weak, both cold and hot. His thoughts slipped, frictionless, through his skull, difficult to catch or follow. Steve was warm against his back; when Danny coughed, Steve's arms tightened around him reflexively, but he did not speak. He sat tensely in a long, cold, and stony silence.
The taste of fear grew sour in Danny's mouth; he tried to swallow it. “Babe,” he croaked, “I don't feel so good.”
Steve's silence broke. “We should've listened to Maka. He knew, he knew, and I knew too, that kid took your hair, that's what the stories say, hair, fingernail clippings, any part of you, Olokui got to you and now—” He stopped abruptly, as if his throat had closed up. He swallowed. “Danno, I'm sorry. I'm sorry, I should've listened to Maka, I shouldn't have brought you with me.”
“Don’t be a fucking idiot,” Danny rasped. “None of this is in any way your fault.”
Danny felt Steve's forehead press against the back of his head. “...We'll catch him, we'll catch Olokui and he'll fix this. I'll make him fix this.”
Danny chuckled weakly. “I just bet you will, Steve. And it will be fucking terrifying to see, but I think under the circumstances I might enjoy it a little—” He broke off into coughing and didn't stop for a long time. Steve held him, miserable, his large hands squeezing down unconsciously around Danny's arms.
When Danny finally stopped coughing he was overcome with a sweeping wave of nausea. He clenched his eyes tightly shut and tried to breathe through it. His head hurt. He couldn't think.
The nausea passed. Exhausted, Danny leaned his head back against Steve's shoulder. “...Babe.”
Steve cleared his throat. “Yeah?”
“I want you to promise me something.”
There was a long pause. “...What's that, Danny?”
“Promise me—” Danny's throat tightened. He swallowed around it. “Promise me you'll take care of Grace. Promise me you'll look after her for me.”
“She'll need someone to– to teach her how to play football, and to scare the boys away. I know I can't depend on you to keep her out of the ocean, but for God's sake keep an eye on her—”
“Danny!” Steve's arms had tightened around him, almost painfully. “Shut up, what are you talking about, you're not going to– you're going to do all those things for her, Danny, you are.”
“I know, Steve, I know, I'd like to, but things are getting a bit scary here, and just in case—”
“No.” Steve protested, raw and fierce. “No, Danny. Not gonna happen. You do not give up on me, you hear? You do not give up. You're going to be fine. We're going to catch Olokui and we're going to fix this. You're going to be fine.”
Danny took a deep breath, coughed it out again. “Okay. Okay, Steve. I'm not giving up, okay? I don't want to go anywhere, okay, I'm not done here. But.” He swallowed. “Just. Please. Just in case, I– I need Gracie to be okay, please, can you just– promise me, can you do that for me, please.”
Steve was silent for a long, miserable moment. “...Yeah, Danno. Of course. You know I will,” he promised hoarsely.
Danny coughed, wincing. He wiped his mouth, refusing to look at the smears on the back of his hand. “...Okay. Okay. Thank you.” He clenched his jaw, stared into the fire, refused to look at the pale, transparent figures swaying in the dark beyond it. “And. You take care of yourself too, you hear?”
“Danny.” Steve's voice was anguished.
There was a lump in Danny's throat, squeezing it shut, making it hard to speak. “I know, I know, I just– I worry about you sometimes. You do crazy things, babe, you know?”
There was a pause. Steve exhaled shakily against the back of Danny's neck, almost a laugh. “...I like to see the look on your face.”
Danny snorted. “Sadist. You've taken years off my life.” He winced as soon as he said it, wishing he could take it back, rephrase it. “...Hey. I want– I want to thank you. For—” He struggled for words, brain sluggish and hazy with pain and exhaustion. “...I'd be lost without you, Steve. I wouldn't have made it this far on my own.”
Steve breathed carefully, slow and even. “...I lean on you too, Danno. More than you think. So don't– don't you go anywhere, okay? Don't you dare.”
Danny started to reply, but was overcome by a coughing fit that lasted several minutes. When it wound down Steve squeezed him briefly, saying, “No more talking, Danno. Try to rest, okay?” Danny nodded and closed his eyes, leaning more of his weight into Steve, trusting him to carry it.
~ ~ ~
Danny fell into a kind of half-sleep, dreaming fitfully. He opened his eyes once, tensing when he saw glowing red eyes peering down at him from the dark branches of the trees above him. Steve shushed him, murmuring, “I know, Danny, I see them. Go back to sleep.”
When he woke again it was morning, the forest around them dim and gray but comforting in its visibility. Danny had shifted sideways in the night, his ear pressed against Steve's chest just below his collarbone, Steve's heartbeat a solid and steady metronome. Steve must have felt Danny stirring; “Good morning, Danno,” he whispered.
Danny shifted, put some distance between them (regretfully). He looked fuzzily up at Steve's face; Steve stared gravely back. His eyes were dark, chocolate brown; a bird screeched and Steve glanced away, and his eyes were blue-gray. “...Why do your eyes keep changing color?” he slurred.
Steve returned his gaze to Danny, looking amused. “You want to talk about my eyes?”
“They were sort of... greeny-blue before. Weren't they?”
“I think of them as sort of... hazelly-blue. They change color a lot, depending on the light, what I'm wearing.” He shrugged.
Danny considered this. “...Figures. Even your eyes are difficult and contrary.”
Steve snorted, his amusement growing. “You're just jealous.”
“Jealous? Listen, sweetheart, your eyes are very pretty and all, but I have broken hearts with these baby blues.”
Steve stared at him, unfathomable. Danny watched, fascinated, as he swallowed. “...I bet you have.” Steve shook his head. “All right, get up. As hilarious as this is, let's get some breakfast in you before you get any more loopy.”
They ate breakfast quickly and packed up camp, Steve stealing more of Danny's things, even tying items to the outside of his pack; Danny was coughing too hard to even try to complain.
Danny passed the day with even less awareness than he had the day before. He heard strange growls from the forest, and a couple of times, laughter; he ignored them. The world narrowed down to the sensation of the burning in his lungs, the pain in his throat and chest when he coughed, the foul taste on his tongue from the black slime he coughed up, and an endless, indistinguishable monotony of putting one foot in front of the other. When he lifted his head to look beyond his feet he found Steve looking back at him, face etched in creases of sympathetic pain. The dog had disappeared some time early in the morning.
When they halted for lunch, Danny couldn't eat. His stomach was twisted in a painful knot, and he coughed so hard and so frequently he could barely swallow water. Steve ate, and Danny wrapped his arms around himself and coughed, and stared at the ground so he didn't have to see the haunted look in Steve's eyes, or the crowd of translucent spirits that drifted around him, just out of reach. There were at least ten of them now.
There was a rustling in the bushes, and the brindle mutt appeared, carrying something in her mouth. She dropped it at Danny's feet and sat back on her haunches, looking between Steve and Danny expectantly. Danny poked at it, squinting quizzically; it was some sort of fern, strange-looking, with long, smooth, strap-like blades. “Whazzat?” he rasped, then squeezed his eyes shut through a fit of coughing. The dog whined and poked at the fern with her nose.
Steve crouched down, inspecting the plant. “For the cough?” he asked. The dog thumped her tail. Steve frowned. “What are we supposed to do with it?”
The mutt leaned forward, gingerly tearing off a piece of leaf with her teeth. She made a great show of chewing on it for a minute, then spat the fibrous remains out onto the ground. She sat back and stared at them.
Steve frowned at the plant, then tore off a piece, offering it to Danny. “Here, Danno. The magic dog wants you to chew on this.”
Danny put it in his mouth and bit down, making a face. “Tastes like grass clippings.”
It seemed to work, though. As they walked on through the forest, Danny still felt cold and tired and achy, and his head still pounded, but the coughing fits came less frequently.
The day wore on. They walked through drier forest, following the path Olokui had hacked through thick, brambly thickets of uluhe fern, then breaking out onto bare lava and fields of cinder. It was a cloudless afternoon, but the horizon was vague, obscured by a smoggy haze. Danny caught whiffs of sulfur. “Kīlauea's East Rift Zone,” Steve commented. “Let's hope we made a good impression on Madame Pele.”
They passed in and out of dense kīpuka. Steve grew tense and alert. “We're getting close,” he said. “These machete marks are less than an hour old. We've almost got him.” Danny barely heard him, merely stumbled numbly in his wake.
The sun was low in the sky behind them when they reached the edge of an immense cliff. Rivers of lava poured down the steep slope, frozen in time, and spread below them on a vast lava plain in braids of black and silver; beyond was the blue ocean.
Steve squinted, peering out over stark fields of lava. “Take a break, Danny,” he suggested, setting his pack down.
Danny didn't need to be told twice. He dropped his backpack, knees crumpling beneath him; he closed his eyes and leaned against the pack, deep, labored breaths interrupted by weak bouts of coughing.
“There's a lava flow,” Steve announced abruptly. “Molten lava, coming down the pali to the east of us. I can see the steam.” Danny's head spun; Steve's voice sounded very faint, as if he were hearing through cotton. “That's gotta be a new fissure; we passed Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō to the west and we didn't cross any lava. The activity's been confined to the inside of the cone....” Steve trailed off, then gasped. “Olokui! I see him! He's down on the coastal flats!” He sucked in a long, sharp breath. “That's a new eruption, he couldn't have known about it. Kalapana's on the far side of the flow– he's cut off!” Danny knew he should feel triumphant, but everything felt so very far away....
Steve was crowing. “Thank you thank you thank you Pele. We've got him, Danny! We've got him!”
Danny's world tilted; very dimly he felt himself hit the ground. Everything was black. Steve's voice was distant, and sharp with alarm. “...Danny!”
Danny knew nothing more.
~ ~ ~
“Shit shit shit! Danny!” Steve fell to his knees next to his fallen partner, mindless of the scrapes cut into his knees by the sharp lava, his heart thudding with panic. “No no no, Danny, don't leave me now, not now, we're so close!” Heart in his throat, he put his ear next to Danny's lips, watching his chest. He gusted a huge sigh of relief; Danny was breathing, just barely. “Danny come on, wake up, come on now.”
Danny was unresponsive. Steve scrubbed his hands through his hair. He looked at Danny's pale, sickly face. He looked around at the group of pale shades that were materializing around them. He looked at Olokui, a speck on the lava plain below them. “Shit,” he breathed.
Lips set in a firm, determined line, he rolled Danny into the rescue position, on his side so he wouldn't choke. “Watch him,” he told the dog. He pointed a finger at the cluster of ghosts. “You. Don't touch him,” he snarled. He gathered up Danny's hand, clutching it in a white-knuckled grip, releasing it and smoothing a hand through Danny's sweat-damp hair. “Don't die, Danno,” he whispered. “I can't lose you. Don't die.” He bent down and pressed a kiss to Danny's temple.
Then he stood, and he ran. Steve flew down the face of the cliff, a thousand-foot ramp of gleaming pāhoehoe. He slipped a few times and fell, rolling to his feet and racing on, heedless of blood and bruises. The burning in his lungs didn't matter. Only Danny mattered, and Olokui.
Steve reached the coastal flats. The sun had disappeared behind Mauna Loa; the lava plain was bathed in twilight. Olokui was visible in the distance, standing still, gazing at the flow of new lava that stretched between him and Kalapana. Steve gritted his teeth. He ran.
He ate up the yards in long strides. Olokui was almost within shouting distance. There was a rustling, a dark shape in the corner of Steve's eye, and he ducked instinctively. Claws raked across the top of his head as an ‘alalā swooped past him; wheeling in the sky, the raven made a beeline for Olokui, croaking hoarsely. Olokui turned, saw Steve pounding toward him across the lava. He dropped his pack, grabbed his rifle, and ran.
“ELIKA OLOKUI!” Steve bellowed, pelting after him. “FIVE-OH! STAY WHERE YOU ARE!” Olokui didn't stop. Steve drew his weapon. He was gaining on him, slowly.
They neared the new flow. Pāhoehoe stretched across the plain, the lava’s solid crust gleaming silver, but glowing red in the cracks and creases and oozing sluggishly at the edges of the flow, toes of glassy molten rock slowly expanding the flow’s boundaries. The air grew hot and pungent. Fires raged where the lava encroached on clumps of vegetation, incinerating shrubs and palms. The bass booms of methane explosions echoed menacingly.
Olokui reached the flow and did not stop, sprinting across its silvered surface. Steve clenched his jaw, put his head down, and followed.
The air was oven-hot. The surface was solid, but Steve's boots felt tacky as he ran; he could smell the rubber soles melting, burning. He shielded his face from the heat with one arm, wondering how long he had before his boots burned through. Running across the lava was stupid, suicidal. He needed to end this quickly. “Olokui!” he yelled, and fired a warning shot. Olokui didn't stop.
Olokui ran into a small kīpuka encircled by the new flow. Steve followed; fire blazed in the shrubbery all around them. A methane explosion boomed in the distance. “Olokui! This is your last chance!”
Olokui spun, bringing his rifle to bear. Steve skidded to a stop, taking aim with his pistol. “Stand down, Olokui, drop your weapon!”
Olokui sneered. “You not dead yet, haole? I can fix that for you.”
Steve tightened his grip. “I'm warning you.”
“How about your friend, he stay alive still yet? I bet he not feeling so hot,” Olokui taunted.
Steve saw red for a moment. He swallowed down the anger. “You did that to him. Either way, Olokui, you're going down, but we can work out a deal. If you cure him, take back whatever it is you did, I can see about getting you a more lenient sentence.”
“With what evidence?” Olokui scoffed. “No, see, dis is what not goin' happen: I not goin' get arrested, I not goin' have one trial. That would be one pain in my ‘ōkole, and more exposure than I like have. I get better things for do. I tell you what goin' happen, haole.” Olokui's voice lowered with menace. “I goin' shoot you right here. You goin' die, and then your friend, he goin' die. Maopopo?”
Steve narrowed his eyes. His finger tightened on the trigger.
“Your funeral, haole.” Olokui shifted his gun.
A loud BOOM shattered their stand-off; Steve saw blue flame and shielded his head, hissing with pain as he was pelted with shards of burning-hot rock. When he lifted his head, Olokui was laid out flat on the ground, lying still, surrounded by chunks of smoldering stone. Steve holstered his gun, running over to him. Olokui was bleeding from his scalp; Steve smelled burning hair and flesh. He coughed, smoke stinging his eyes; the lava and fire was closing in.
Steve knelt, gripping Olokui's arm and hauling him over his shoulders in a fireman's carry. Then he turned toward the cliffs, toward Danny, and ran.
The journey back seemed tortuously long. It was getting dark and Olokui was heavy, the cliff tall and steep, and all Steve could think about was Danny waiting at the top, cold and pale, dying.
“No,” Steve panted, and pushed harder.
Finally he crested the top of the cliff. Danny was surrounded by a cluster of pale ghosts, a dozen at least, staring down at him; Steve let out an inarticulate yell of rage and they scattered. Steve dropped to his knees, carefully sliding Olokui to the ground, crawling over to Danny in frantic haste. He checked for breathing, pulse; both were weak and uneven, but present. He turned to Olokui, felt for a pulse.
Olokui was dead.
“No,” Steve whispered, despairing. There was no point trying to revive him. Blood congealed around a large dent in his skull. He was already starting to go cold.
Steve bent over Danny, pressed his forehead against Danny's shoulder, squeezed his eyes shut. “No no no. Don't die, Danny. Don't die.”
The brindle mutt barked sharply; Steve looked up at her. He blinked, and a woman stood there instead; Hawaiian, middle-aged, with a handsome face that was somehow familiar. “Steve,” she said urgently, “you must come quickly. Danny's almost out of time. Maka's waiting on the other side; he's brought someone who can help. I can show you the way.”
Steve glanced at his suspect, at Olokui's dead body. “Quickly!” the woman insisted, picking up her skirts and running a little way along the cliff.
Steve lifted Danny and followed her, leaving Olokui behind.
He followed the woman along the edge of the cliff. Night seemed to fall impossibly fast; darkness closed around him, a pitch black tunnel, until all he could see was their strange guide, running ahead into the dark and gesturing at him to hurry. His lungs burned and his muscles ached, but he barely felt it. Just hold on, Danny, he thought, a desperate litany, hold on, hold on, hold on....
It seemed distant at first, a dull throbbing that he felt as much as heard. The noise was familiar, somehow, and he strained to hear better, but it was as if his ears had been stuffed with cotton. A strange, shivery sensation passed through him, like cobwebs brushing past his face, and then—
A deafening engine roar, bright lights blinding him, a buffeting wind– rotor backwash. A helicopter.
Steve felt dizzy with relief. “Help!” he shouted out, hoarse, chest heaving. “I need help here! Someone—”
“Steve!” someone shouted. Kono's voice. A silhouette passed in front of the helicopter's lights and then she was there next to him, eyes wide and frightened.
“Kono!” Steve gasped. “It's Danny, he's dying, he needs help—!”
“Lay him down, quickly!” Another familiar voice– Maka. He and Kono helped Steve gently lower Danny to the ground.
“He needs a hospital,” Steve panted.
“No,” Maka said, “he needs Lilinoe.”
Steve's eyes were starting to adjust to the light. An old Hawaiian woman came forward, kneeling next to Danny and placing a hand on his brow. She spoke in rapid, urgent Hawaiian to Maka.
“Back up, we need to back up, she says we need to make space,” he said. When Steve didn't move he grabbed his arm and gently pulled.
Steve shook him off. “No! I”m not leaving him.”
“Steve. Lilinoe is a kahuna ho‘opi‘opi‘o. She specializes in removing death curses. She will help Danny, yeah? But she needs us to give her some space, so that the curse doesn't enter someone else.”
“Come on, Steve,” Kono murmured in his ear, tugging gently on his arm, and Steve relented and went. They backed off several paces, and Steve watched with his heart in his throat as the old woman laid her palms on Danny and began to chant, rocking back on her heels occasionally to make complicated gestures with her hands. Kono was quiet and still, clinging tightly to Steve's arm, whether to comfort him or herself Steve wasn't sure.
Steve felt like he couldn't breathe around the lump of lead in his chest. “I can't lose him,” he said, feeling almost like he would break just thinking about it.
“I know,” Kono said, barely audible over the helicopter engines, “I know.”
Steve forced himself to look away from Danny, tried to distract himself from the torture of trying to guess whether Danny's chest was still rising and falling with breath and life. He took in the markings on the helicopter– a police chopper– and the uniformed pilot standing by the door, looking on solemnly. He looked for Maka, had trouble finding him until he spotted him at the edge of the light, embracing the woman who had led Steve back from... wherever they had been... who had been his and Danny's guide and protector in the form of a small dog. Seeing her now together with Maka, the family resemblance was unmistakable.
She and Maka exchanged words, their murmurs lost in the wind and engine noise. She glanced at Danny, then looked to Steve, smiling and nodding comfortingly. Then, casting a last, smiling glance upon Maka, she turned and walked away, vanishing into the dark. Maka came over to stand by Steve and Kono.
“Maka...” Steve said, “that woman....”
“I did tell you I would send help, yeah?”
“Who is she?”
There was something about Maka's eyes that gave him a faint air of sadness. “...She was my sister.”
Kono glanced between the two of them, eyes squinted in confusion. “What woman?”
Steve merely shook his head. “What are you guys doing here, anyway? How did you find us?”
“My skill is in dealing with spirits, yeah?” Maka said. “I sent my sister to go find you. After that it was only a matter of following the pull between us. I would have come sooner, but it took time to contact Lilinoe on Ni‘ihau– no phones on that island, yeah?– and then bring her to the Big Island, and then also I had to convince your friends in Honolulu to help me.” Kono bit her lip apologetically.
Maka cast a sidelong glance at Steve. “What happened with Elika Olokui?” he asked.
“He's dead.” Steve looked away, his gaze inexorably drawn back to the prone form of his partner, laid out like a corpse in front of his only hope of survival– a woman Steve had never met. In the stark light from the helicopter, it was hard to tell: did Danny look paler? Was his heart still beating? What would Steve do if it wasn't?
What would he do without Danny?
“Please,” he whispered, a broadcast to anyone or anything that would listen, “please.”
~ ~ ~
Danny emerged slowly from a deep, dreamless sleep. He was warm; the air was dry, with a strange scent to it. Disinfectant. I'm in a hospital, he thought, and was propelled into wakefulness. He blinked his eyes open, then squinted painfully; the room was dimly lit, but even so his eyes needed adjusting. He shook his head groggily, trying to clear the cobwebs from his head.
There was a strange pressure on one of his hands. He turned his head to look and held his breath; Steve was slumped in a chair next to Danny's hospital bed, asleep, dark smudges marring the skin beneath his eyes, his hand clasped tightly around Danny's. Before Danny could even think about how not to wake him Steve shifted in his chair, his eyes opening and immediately finding Danny's. He smiled, a worn, tired stretch of the lips; it was the most beautiful thing Danny had ever seen. “Hey,” Steve murmured.
“Hey,” Danny croaked in reply. His throat still felt raw, but he realized with a sudden thrill that he was having no trouble whatsoever with his breathing. Steve must have seen something in Danny's face, because he smiled wider.
“What happened? ...What day is it?” Danny rasped.
“December twenty-third,” Steve told him. “And in a nutshell... you passed out. Olokui's dead. The dog was Maka's dead sister; she showed me the path to get back to... here.” Steve gestured vaguely. “There was a helicopter waiting on the other side. Kono was in it, and Maka, and a woman from Ni‘ihau who specializes in reversing death curses. ...She got to you just in time, Danny.” He said this last more quietly. He swallowed. “We had you medevaced to O‘ahu. You're in the Hawaii Medical Center; the doctors can't find anything wrong with you. You're fine. You're going to be okay.”
Steve looked like he was trying to reassure himself as much as Danny. Danny squeezed his hand, and Steve smiled. Danny smiled back. “So, uh, I guess I owe this lady a thank-you card. ...Specializes in removing death curses, huh? That’s convenient.”
“Old friend of Maka’s, apparently. ...Oh, hey, you’ll appreciate this. I memorized her name. Lilinoekekapahauopānī‘au.”
Danny blinked, then laughed. (He didn’t cough. It felt wonderful.) “Seriously? Is that her name or her life history?”
Steve grinned back at him. “That’s just her first name, I didn’t even try with her last name.”
A loud, sudden tap at the window interrupted Danny’s train of thought and his heart rate skyrocketed, adrenaline coursing through his veins as his eyes searched for the source of the sound. He found nothing and willed his breathing to slow; it was probably just a leaf or something hitting the window, blown by the wind.
Steve looked similarly rattled, but he squeezed Danny’s hand. “Maka fixed it,” Steve assured him, “fixed us. He closed our piko again. He says we shouldn't see anything we didn't see before. And, you know, vice versa. They shouldn't see us. ...Or so he says.”
Danny let out a long breath. “Thank fuck,” he said with feeling.
Steve's eyes were dark and serious, a liquid blue-gray. “Danny,” he said. He swallowed. Danny couldn't look away from his eyes. “...I'm glad you're okay.”
They were still holding hands.
Steve smiled slowly, soft and fond. “I'll be right back,” he said, and stood up from the chair, releasing Danny's hand. He strode from the room, and Danny bit down the urge to call after him.
Alone in the quiet room, Danny’s eyes scrolled over the walls, searching every corner. Did those shadows seem like they were... crawling? Did the air smell strange; did those sounds belong? Danny shook himself. He was just being paranoid, there was nothing in the room. Maka fixed him, he didn’t have to worry about ghosts and creepy-crawlies anymore. And. He was alive. Steve was alive. He and Steve were back in civilization, and he was tired, but he wasn't coughing, and his head didn't hurt, and his lungs didn't feel like they were slowly filling with liquid. He was alive.
There was a soft knock on the door. Chin and Kono hovered in the doorway, grinning fit to burst; Danny grinned helplessly back. “God, it's good to see you guys.”
Kono strode over to him, her eyes looking suspiciously wet. “Danny,” she said, and held his face in her hands, and kissed him soundly on the forehead. She sniffed. Danny beamed.
“I heard you almost died,” Chin said, following her into the room; he still had a bit of a limp. “Try not to do that again.”
“I'll do my best,” Danny rasped.
Chin smiled and clasped Danny's hand. “Good to see you, brah.”
“Danno!” Grace burst into the room, throwing herself onto Danny's bed and wrapping herself around him. Danny hugged her fiercely, pressing his face into her hair.
“Oh, Monkey. It is so good to see you. I missed you so much.” He held his baby girl and closed his eyes against a rush of feeling, of desperate love and relief and gratitude. When he opened them again Rachel was standing at the foot of his bed, wiping at her eyes and offering up a fragile smile. Chin and Kono were still standing at his bedside, and Steve leaned in the doorway, surveying the scene with a small smile. His eyes met Danny's and didn't look away.
~ ~ ~
None of the doctors' tests could find anything wrong with Danny, and he felt fine– better than he had in days– so the hospital released him. He hugged Grace, and kissed her, and told her how much fun they were going to have on Christmas Day. He submitted to a fierce hug from Rachel, blinking in surprise. He said goodbye to Chin and Kono. Someone had brought his car around, and he leaned against it in relief; he was going home. Steve fidgeted and hesitated by his truck before nodding decisively. “Goodnight, Danno,” he said. “I'll see you tomorrow.”
Danny held his breath for a moment. “...Yeah,” he said. “Goodnight, Steve.”
He drove the Camaro home through the well-lit, bustling streets of Honolulu, taking in the cheery Christmas lights adorning windows and coconut trees. It all felt exceedingly surreal; earlier that day Danny had been crawling through a tractless jungle, menaced by spooks, and dying. It was late, and he realized all of a sudden that he was exhausted.
Danny parked the Camaro, toed off his shoes, stood looking around his apartment. He was alone. It was dark, the amber glow of the nearest streetlight blocked by that one mango tree. Over the distant noises of the city he could hear crickets. A gecko chirped from some unfindable corner of the ceiling.
Danny walked around the apartment, turning on every single light. He switched on the TV, turning the volume up loud, and sat on the couch, spine ramrod-straight. He stared blankly at the screen and tried in vain to relax, fighting the urge to jump at every faint noise and turn to look at every shadow in the corner of his eye.
His cellphone rang; Danny jumped, then fumbled for it, turning the TV volume down. “...Hello?”
“Hey.” It was Steve.
“McGarrett?” Danny squinted at the glowing numbers on the clock; it was nearly midnight. “What the fuck? Do you know what time it is?!” He had never felt so relieved in his life.
“You're not asleep,” Steve pointed out.
“How do you know you didn't wake me from a beautiful dream, huh?”
Steve snorted. “Danno. All your lights are on.”
Danny blinked. He strode over to his window and peered through the blinds. Steve's truck was pulled up to the curb. “...Steven, why are you parked outside my apartment in the middle of the night?”
“I couldn't sleep,” Steve admitted. “I've just been... driving around. Driving around town. I sort of... ended up here, somehow.”
“Uh-huh.” Danny pressed his head against the window. “...So are you coming in, or are you going to sit in your truck like a stalker?” The door of Steve's truck opened and Steve stepped out, waving; Danny hung up the phone.
Danny opened the door to find Steve standing on his step, grinning sheepishly. Danny fought the impulse to stumble forward, lean into him. He raised his eyebrows. “Steven, I want you to know, you are kind of creepy.”
“I brought beer,” Steve said, hefting a six-pack of coconut porter and totally ruining his 'just driving around' alibi.
Danny opened the door wider, sweeping his arm in an elaborate gesture of welcome. “Well then, what are you waiting for? Come in, come in!” Steve grinned.
Steve set the beers down next to the couch, raising his eyebrow at the late-night action movie on the television screen. “Explosions and car chases, Danny? This stuff is still interesting to you?”
“I find it relaxing,” Danny told him. “Nothing they do is half as crazy as the shit you put me through.”
Steve grinned wider, then wandered toward the kitchen. “Got any food?”
Danny collapsed on the couch, sinking back against the cushions. “Yeah, probably. Help yourself.”
Steve reappeared after a moment, holding a plastic bucket. “...You have a gallon bucket of haupia ice cream,” he said. He was wearing the 'I'm judging you' face.
Danny stared evenly back. “Yeah, and? Coconut is Gracie's favorite flavor, okay, what do you want from me?”
After a moment's consideration Steve shrugged and vanished briefly, coming out of the kitchen with the bucket and two spoons. Danny snorted. Steve ignored him, sprawling across the couch and taking up way more space than was really necessary. They were pressed together from shoulder to thigh, which was both electrifying and deeply comforting.
Steve popped open a can, passed it to Danny, bumped it with his own. “Merry Christmas, Danno,” he said.
Danny looked at the clock. It was after midnight, now; it was Christmas Eve. “...Merry Christmas, Steven.”
They watched the end of the mindless action flick, then sat and watched the next one, chortling at the gratuitous stunts. The ice cream melted; Danny watched Steve suck a stray drip off his knuckle and felt a jolt in the pit of his stomach. He could feel Steve's body heat burning through the thin layer of their clothing; he tried to keep his eyes on the screen. At some point the cans of porter were all empty, and Steve retrieved more beers from Danny's fridge. They sank into the couch cushions, smooshed into each other, boneless and relaxed.
The movie ended. It was late. Danny switched the TV off. Steve was loose and floppy and warm next to him; frowning in concentration, Steve flailed one of his legs, knocking a can over. “...I don't think I can drive home,” he announced with grave seriousness.
Danny smiled with lazy fondness, ruffling Steve's hair. “Of course not, you goof, you're staying here. ...Again.” Steve tilted his head, smiling at Danny. Danny's hair ruffling had turned into something more like a scalp massage. “...We should just get you an extra toothbrush already.”
Steve's eyes were the bluest Danny had ever seen them. He forgot to breathe for a moment.
Steve leaned in and kissed him.
The kiss was soft at first, somewhat tentative. Danny's instantaneous reaction was to press into it, to wrap his arm around Steve and hold him closer. Steve moaned low in his throat and the kiss was something else now, fierce and desperate. He rolled, crawled across Danny, straddling him, pressing him down into the couch. He kissed like he was suffocating and Danny was air.
Danny broke off, smearing kisses across Steve's jaw, attacking his neck. Steve's hands were everywhere. “You scared the shit out of me,” Steve breathed, pressing the words urgently against Danny's skin, his voice trembling and broken. “Don't you do that again. Don't you go almost dying on me again, Danno.”
“Babe,” Danny gasped.
“Danno,” Steve groaned into Danny's mouth, chasing the words with his lips. Danny clung for dear life, his fingers digging into Steve's shoulder blades, twisting in the fabric of his shirt.
They clawed at each other, pressing in as if they couldn't get close enough, trying to crawl into each other's skin. Steve's groin pressed against Danny's for a moment and Danny hissed, electricity shooting up his spine. Steve's eyes went dark, and things reached a tipping point. Suddenly Steve's hands were tearing at Danny's shirt, clawing at the buttons; Danny was yanking, pulling at Steve's t-shirt. Steve obligingly lifted his arms and Danny peeled it off him, revealing the large swathes of inked skin that Danny had coveted for longer than he cared to remember. He indulged himself, licking a wet stripe across Steve's tattooed shoulder.
Steve made a frustrated noise; he was having trouble getting at Danny's buttons. He ducked his head, bit into the skin where neck meets jaw; Danny groaned, arching back against the couch. Triumphant, Steve freed the rest of the buttons, shoving the shirt back over Danny's shoulders, dipping down to suck a drop of sweat from Danny's chest. Danny growled and tore at Steve's belt; Steve went for Danny's, their hands bumping and getting in the way of each other. Danny got there first, yanking Steve's belt entirely free of the belt loops and shoving his cargo pants down over his hips; he wrapped his hand roughly around Steve's heavy cock and Steve shuddered and groaned, his hands losing dexterity.
Impatient, Danny wriggled and shoved at his loosened trousers one-handed. Steve recovered, kissing Danny hungrily, his teeth scraping Danny's lips raw. He yanked Danny's pants down around his knees and pushed him sideways, pressing him down so that he was lying on the couch with Steve sprawled over him. Steve lowered his hips and their cocks slid against each other, and Danny saw white behind his eyes.
They whimpered and gasped, rutting against each other helplessly, pulling at skin with hands and lips and teeth. “Danno,” Steve moaned, panting hot breath against Danny's ear. “God. I want you to fuck me.”
Danny's cock twitched violently, and he slammed his head back against the arm of the couch. “Jesus. Steve.” He panted helplessly. “I don't have any– Steve, I'm not going to last that long,” he rasped, his voice hoarse and broken.
Steve pressed his face into the side of Danny's neck, tasted the sweat there. “Next time,” he whispered.
Danny groaned. “Fuck,” he swore. He wormed a hand between them, wrapped it as far as he could around both their cocks, reveled in the way Steve shook and gasped. It was all too fast, Danny wasn't going to last but there was no stopping it, they were both of them too desperate to slow down. Danny stroked and squeezed, pressing his mouth to Steve's in sloppy, open-mouthed kisses.
“And the time after that,” Steve breathed, “I'm going to tie you to my bed with one of your own ties.”
“Jesus, Steve,” Danny hissed, and the wave of heat that was building up inside him crested and he squeezed his eyes shut, tense and shaking as he came.
When he could breathe again Steve was pressing wet kisses across his cheekbone. Danny curled forward, sank his teeth into the meat of Steve's shoulder, bit down. Steve swore and thrust hard against Danny's hip, once, twice, then pressed his face against Danny's shoulder and came, gasping. When it was over he collapsed on top of Danny, heavy and sweating.
Danny dropped his head back, chest heaving as he tried to catch his breath. A helpless grin spread across his face, huge and slightly loopy. “Babe,” he panted, “what the hell took us so long?”
He felt Steve's lips stretch into an answering grin against his shoulder. “I have no idea.”
~ ~ ~
Danny opened his eyes, and for a few moments he was hopelessly disoriented, his sleep-fogged brain completely unable to process the information it was presented with: the sunlit face of Steve McGarrett inches away from his own, peacefully sleeping. He took stock: yes, this was his fold-out couch-bed in his apartment he was lying in, yes, Steve was lying in it too, and yes, they did both appear to be completely naked– ohhhhhh. Right. Danny's memories of the night before started to come back, and he stifled the urge to laugh hysterically.
He took another few seconds to confirm that he was actually awake. To be sure, the situation he currently found himself in did bear a startling resemblance to some of your classic fantasy scenarios– it was Christmas for fuck's sake. But the longer he lay there the more likely it seemed that Yes, That Actually Happened.
After a few more seconds Danny came to the conclusion that he needed some distance from the situation in order to think, so he began to extricate himself from the bed, attempting to be as stealthy as possible. He supposed he should've known it was futile from the start; his feet had barely touched the floor when Steve stirred and blinked his eyes, mumbling incoherently. “Breakfast,” Danny said by way of explanation, finding and tugging on his discarded boxers, and fled to the kitchen.
As an escape plan it wasn't effective for long; Danny barely had time to get the eggs out of the fridge and put a pan on the stove before Steve wandered in, clad in his own boxer-briefs. Steve took in Danny, the eggs, and the frying pan and got a Look on his face that set off all sorts of danger alarms in Danny's head. “Hey, now—” he started to say, tensing up, and then Steve tackled him, attempting to physically wrestle him away from the eggs. The resulting scuffle was embarrassingly brief; a minute later Danny had been banished from his own kitchen, glaring at Steve as he cheerfully poked at some scrambled eggs with a spatula.
“My eggs aren't that bad,” Danny grumbled.
Steve grinned at him, unrepentant. “They're pretty terrible, Danno.”
They sat down to eggs and toast and coffee, and, okay, Steve's eggs were light and fluffy and perfect, Danny could admit to that, but there was no call for Steve to be so smug about it.
Steve and Danny chewed in silence for a bit, shoulder to shoulder at Danny's kitchen counter. Completely distracted by the process of getting caffeine into his bloodstream as quickly as humanly possible, Danny was a bit startled when Steve spoke, apparently out of the blue. “...I was scared.”
“Huh?” Danny screwed up his face in concentration, attempting to extrapolate the context for this announcement. “...In the woods?”
Steve shook his head, apparently deeply fascinated by his toast. “What took us so long. Well, what took me so long. I was scared.” He shrugged.
Danny considered this, his lips twisting into a wry smile. “I thought Navy SEALs didn't do scared.”
Steve looked up, finally. His lips twitched, but his eyes were serious. “I am man enough to admit that if there's one thing in my life that deeply terrifies me, it's you.”
Danny raised his eyebrows. “Am I really that scary?”
“Yes.” Steve's eyes returned to his plate, where he was mangling some perfectly innocent proteins and carbohydrates with his fork. “...I was scared of what you might say, what you might do. Scared of losing you. But.” He swallowed. “I almost lost you anyway, and that was... so much worse.” He brought his eyes up to meet Danny's. “I don't ever want to have to see you that way again.”
Now it was Danny's turn to drop eye contact. He rubbed his hands together anxiously. “I feel you, babe. I'm... kind of glad it was me. I don't think I could bear to watch something like that happen to you.”
Steve's voice was quiet and small. “I couldn't.”
Danny glanced over at Steve; he was withdrawn, hunched in on himself, distress and uncertainty written across his face plain as day. Danny was sometimes a coward but he was rarely an idiot, so he took a deep breath, steeling himself; time to man up, Williams. He slid a hand across Steve's broad shoulder to the back of his neck and squeezed slightly, forcing Steve to look him in the eye. “Hey,” he said. “I was scared, too. I don't want to lose you either.” He cracked a smile. “I mean, you don't exactly ping my gaydar, if you know what I'm saying.”
Steve raised his eyebrows, giving Danny an incredulous look. “ ‘Gaydar’, Danny, really?”
Danny smirked. Steve snorted. “Honestly, though,” Danny said, “look at you, I mean, you’re... you.” He gestured vaguely. “Mr. Tough Guy, likes-to-punch-at-least-five-people-in-t
Steve smiled a little. “This coming from you.”
Danny offered up a wry grin. “Touché.” Then he frowned a little, stabbing a finger at him. “Seriously though, Steve, what are you thinking here, even if I wasn't completely loony about you, what do you think, I'd kick you to the curb? What do you take me for? You're my best friend, you dick.”
Steve was grinning at him. “Completely ignoring the hypocrisy of that statement....”
The grin stretched wider. “You're not worried this will totally ruin the friendship?”
“Never happen, babe. You're stuck with me.” Danny leaned in close, quirking his eyebrows. “Although I'd be willing to give that a try....”
“Totally ruined,” Steve agreed, and kissed him.
~ ~ ~
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