Disclaimer: I don't own them, not today, not tomorrow, not even with hats.
Word Count: 12,574
Summary: It’s the last time Steve sees Danny Williams before his whole world changes. Three years after Danny leaves Steve and Five-O, he comes back, ready to bring Wo Fat to justice.
Notes: Thanks endlessly to gyzym for the beta. The title is from Mumford & Sons' song Awake My Soul.
Steve will never forget this day. As it happens, it’s a blur and a rush, too much at once clouding his rational judgment. When he calms down, he sees the moment for its importance. All he can feel as he and Danny fight is the fury and the rage that goes hand-in-hand with frustration and helplessness.
“If you can’t even respect my advice and acknowledge that I protested this, exactly this, Steve, then I do not know what I’m doing here,” is the last thing Danny says to Steve before he takes off his ring.
Danny is all bravado and bluff (or so Steve thinks) as he lifts his ring in the air, the last rays of daylight catching the gold and glinting. He sets it heavily on the computer table. It’s the last thing he does before walking out of Five-O Headquarters. It’s the last Steve time sees Danny Williams before his whole world changes.
They talk in the coming days. They have to, what with the divorce Danny insists upon. Their communication is limited to phone calls and lawyers acting as barriers. Steve tries to apologize again and again, but it’s no use. Danny transfers out to HPD and avoids Steve as if simple contact would tarnish Danny forever.
It all happens because of one bad decision.
Steve will come to regret it as the worst decision he’s ever made. At the time, he had thought it a necessary evil to get to Wo Fat after years of searching and eluded escapes. After the plan had gone awry and the funerals were held, Steve had relied on one desperate fact: it was Danny. It was Danny and he would come back. He would come to his senses and he’d come back.
Steve had no idea how wrong he could be.
“Heads up,” Chin says when Kono comes into the office on Wednesday morning. “The new one quit.”
Kono’s pace falters, barely in the door. In the five years that she and Chin have been working for Steve McGarrett, they’ve only taken days off in the event of immense and dire physical need, but Chin’s news is reason enough to start taking personal days to avoid the inevitable fallout. She sighs and glances over her shoulder, as if assessing an escape route. “What’s that make? Six?”
“No, seven,” Chin says, joining her at the entrance. He taps her at the elbow and tries to draw her inside before she can think better of getting out. “That’s just the bad news. I have worse.”
“What’s worse than Steve burning through another partner?” Kono asks, irritable in the face of a bad day. She didn’t think she could get so annoyed after a morning spent out on the waves, but Steve seems to always exceed her greatest expectations. “I thought Kahue was going to last. She had that crazy-eyed glint in her eye that Steve always did.”
“She did,” Chin agrees, walking Kono inside with slow steps, “right up until McGarrett zip-lined himself with gun in hand to knock down a murderer before either of them were properly fastened.”
Kono bites back an angry curse and it’s only Chin’s hand at her elbow that stops her from charging into Steve’s office to ask what he was even thinking. “What’s the worse news?”
“HPD wants to bring us in on the tail end of a case because it has links to Wo Fat and they know of our personal history with the man,” Chin says, continuing to walk her into the office. “McGarrett’s not here yet,” he adds, which seems out of place right up until they turn the corner and Kono sees Danny Williams sitting on the couch in her office.
Yeah. This is much, much worse than ‘bad news’.
“Cuz, you should’ve let me turn around and leave when I had a shot,” Kono says, shaking her head.
“And leave me here alone for the fallout? No chance,” Chin says, opening the door to Kono’s office. He’s all smiles instantly and Kono wishes she could be the same, but Danny’s presence at Five-O is only a sign that today is going to be rough.
In three years, she thinks Steve and Danny have physically crossed paths exactly twice. Danny does his best to avoid her boss, despite Steve’s best attempts otherwise. He’d moved house, won’t tell anyone where he lives, and had Toast keep Steve blocked from finding out the new address. Kono doesn’t blame him. The argument that pressed the final nail in the coffin that was their partnership and their short-lived marriage happened because in Steve’s desperation to get the man that killed his parents, he had used innocent people as bait against Danny’s protests.
Two people died in the ensuing firefight.
Kono’s not sure that Danny’s forgiven Steve for that, even now. She’s still not sure, some days, if she has either, but she understands that Steve did it for his family. Danny can be a little short-sighted, but Kono knows that Steve was worried about Wo Fat hurting more people – hurting Five-O and Danny and Grace.
Since then, Kono and Chin have seen Danny socially, but only because he insists there are no hard feelings between them. It’s Steve he wants to avoid, but that détente seems to be ending today.
“HPD sent you over?” Kono asks as she takes long steps into the room and pulls Danny to his feet by grabbing both of his hands and surrounding him in a tight embrace, kissing him once on the cheek. “You look good,” she adds, flicking the end of his tie with her fingers. “Still on this kick, huh?”
“Still presentable,” Danny clarifies with a finger pointed to the knot of the tie. “I will have you know, the new Captain complimented my professionalism just last week.” He leans sideways, grasping at Chin’s hand with both of his to shake it firmly. For now, Kono can pretend that they’re just old friends meeting up, but the storm hasn’t even moved to shore yet.
She glances to Chin, then back to Danny, and bites the bullet. “Does he know you’re here?”
“As of right now, nope,” Danny says, enunciating his consonants heavily. “He was given the message by the Governor that a representative from HPD would be sent over. I tried my best to get out of it, but what do you know, you make yourself an expert on a case and they refuse to send the second-in-command.”
He looks strained, new wrinkles around his eyes that weren’t there three years ago and he doesn’t seem to smile half as much as he used to.
“Look, I don’t like this,” Danny says, shoulders hunched forward as if he’s trying to let his body cave in on itself in order to hide. “But this isn’t about me and Steve. We’ve spent over a year getting to this point. Now we’ve got a real lead on Wo Fat through some gun smugglers and some informants inside his organization that we turned a couple months back. I’m not about to let our history get in the way of that.”
There’s a heavy pause and Kono wonders when Danny’s going to ask the expected question.
In the end, she gets impatient and answers before Danny can even ask. “He’s not fine, you know.” She could lie. She could lie and say that Steve’s thrived with reckless ambition since Danny left him, but it’s not the truth. Steve seems determined to rid himself of every last partner he either chooses or is assigned, no matter where they come from. He’s had too many close calls to count in three years. “He was in the hospital two months ago and his new partner just quit.”
Danny presses his lips together. There’s a slight twitch at the corner of his mouth and he sighs out a quiet, “I know,” before glancing away to the side. “Just because I divorce a guy doesn’t mean I don’t worry, okay? I visited. When I was sure he was out of it, but I visited.”
“And here I thought that was just the drugs.”
The heavy thud of a bag hitting the floor alerts Kono to Steve’s presence in the office. She instantly takes her hands off Danny’s person, like the sound of Steve’s voice has physically caused her to recoil. Steve keeps walking forwards and Danny seems to melt back into the couch, like he’s looking for escape.
“I thought I was hallucinating. I hadn’t seen you in over a year, and suddenly there you were, looking…like you weren’t even real,” Steve says, his forehead knit in confusion.
Danny avoids looking straight at Steve. “I wanted to make sure you were still alive because my daughter was asking about your safety. Don’t make it into something it isn’t.” Steve takes a step backwards, sufficiently burned by the words, and Kono watches the pain flicker over his expression for a matter of seconds before he lets a mask rise up and hide any hint of outward emotion.
“You’re the liaison?”
“That’s me,” Danny confirms. “Files are already on your desk and I’m only here today to make sure you’re aware of the drop-off. I’m heading back to HPD to go over audio surveillance and I’ll be back tomorrow to check in on how far you’ve gotten with the reports.”
Kono feels her stomach twist with something like despair. Danny never used to sound this distant when they built themselves up as a family and used that connection to make the island a better place. The years have changed him or maybe it happened after he passed through the crucible of the incident with Steve, but either way, Danny hasn’t changed for the better.
She’s sure that Steve feels the same as she does, but the boss just looks pissed and she doesn’t want to read too much into it.
Danny gets to his feet, smoothing his hands over his shirt to brush away invisible pieces of lint. “Kono has my work number if you need anything.”
“And your new cell?” Steve asks.
Danny gives a look that clearly says ‘nice try’. “Kono has my work number,” he repeats, the inflection in his words almost chastising, like Steve’s a puppy who’s just done something very wrong. “Chin, Kono, it was good to see you again. McGarrett,” he adds with a nod, “try and stay out of the goddamn hospital, would you?”
And then he’s gone.
Kono doesn’t even know how to process what just happened. Steve looks stunned, Chin seems worried, and she’s…she doesn’t even know what she is, just yet. So instead of worrying about the dynamics of this case, she’s going to focus on the facts. “We should start going over HPD’s information if we want to be able to discuss the case by tomorrow,” she says, breaking the silence.
“Good idea, I’ll get the computer up and running,” Chin says on the heels of her words, as eager as she is to do actual work. He bolts out of the room, but Kono lingers, drifting closer to Steve’s side and resting a hand on his upper arm.
Steve doesn’t shift at the touch. He stays impossibly still, staring out the window to where Danny is getting in his Camaro to drive back to HPD.
“Boss? Are you gonna be okay?” Kono asks gently.
“I’ll make do.”
They all will, she supposes, not that it’s the easiest thing in the world, but they’re Five-O. They excel in the hardest of tasks.
Five years ago, Steve forced Danny onto his task force, learned that his new partner had a wicked bite to go along with all his amusing bark, and got punched in the face when he expected Danny to fall in line. Steve had come out of that knowing he’d found someone who could stay by his side and would challenge him when it mattered, but still follow him when it was important. Their relationship had stayed professional for months until Danny turned up at his doorstep with a six-pack of Longboards and a sheepish look on his face.
“Tell me you’re not tired of waiting,” he’d said.
They’d just laid Meka to rest and Steve hadn’t been sure that it was the right time, but once he kissed Danny, tasted the hint of beer and sweat, he stopped caring. It felt as groundbreaking as it had when Danny had punched him across the face, like a signal from the universe telling him, this changes everything.
Lazy kisses turned into desperate groping and they began to make a habit of it. They made their excuses and escaped from the office to fumble around on Steve’s couch for months before they even approached the idea of sex. By then, Steve had lost count of how many blowjobs and handjobs they’d each racked up in their respective favors.
A year and two months after Danny was forcibly assigned to Five-O, Steve had grabbed him by the wrist, pulled him into a kiss, and said (on a whim), “Let’s just get married.”
Steve got eight months of marriage before it all fell apart. He knows that no marriage ends with one party fully innocent, but Steve knows full well that he shoulders the heavy burden of the guilt. Danny didn’t put the work into fixing it after it broke and Steve knows that being burned once by Rachel had a hand in that, but it doesn’t stop Steve from being furious that Danny couldn’t even give him the decency of a second chance.
At the same time (and this is something he tells himself every time he pulls out the newspaper obits and the multitude of articles about the case), Steve’s not even sure he’s forgiven himself for what he did, let alone that he deserves a second chance from Danny.
They’d been so close. Steve had Wo Fat in his sights and it was a risky gambit, but Steve had been so sure. He’d been so sure right up until the point of Chin’s panicked cry in his earpiece announcing that it was a set-up, that it was a trap, and they had to evacuate the restaurant immediately…
By that point, it was too late.
Suddenly, Steve’s life was a mess of inquiries, articles, and divorce papers on his desk. No matter how many times Steve called to beg Danny to rethink, he never managed to convince Danny to give it a second shot, to give them a chance.
Now here they are, three years later, Wo Fat back in the picture and Danny working on the case with them.
Steve tightens his grip on his pen. He’s tired of going over the same files he’s seen a dozen times already. HPD and Five-O generally share information and with minor exceptions, none of this is new to him. Instead of coming up with a plan, all he’s been doing is thinking about how he can use this case to his advantage.
He’ll get Wo Fat this time. He’ll find him and he’ll earn the justice that he’s been seeking since he learned the truth.
And Danny’s going to help him.
He doesn’t have a choice.
HPD is a swirling rush of activity, but Danny is still and steady at his desk, trying to get hold of someone’s attention. “Hey! Andrew, you gonna have that report for me in the morning?” The younger officer barely stops to nod on his way out of the building, but at least Danny’s got his answer.
Danny’s not even close to being done for the night. When the other detectives don’t have pressing cases and five o’clock rolls around, there’s nothing in the world that could stop them from rushing out the front door to get home to their families. Danny doesn’t blame them. If tonight was one of his Grace-nights, he’d be out of there as fast as you could say ‘oh god, my baby girl is thirteen years old’. Danny doesn’t have Grace for another four days, which gives him four days to obsess over his most recent case and to pour his energy into something other than thinking of Steve before his mind is blissfully lifted of these concerns.
This case gives Danny a bad feeling he can’t shake.
He knows that time has passed, but after what McGarrett did the last time they got this close to Wo Fat, he’s not sure that he wants to see what he’s planned for this time around. Detective Hale stops by his desk on his way out to promise that by noon tomorrow, Danny will have transcripts from the latest wiretaps and upcoming interviews with their informants, which means they’ll be in a better position to evaluate a strategy. While there is hope, there’s a shadow that seems to lurk over everything and Danny can’t decide whether it’s haunting him professionally or personally.
That bad feeling compounds when the last of HPD’s staff files out and Steve McGarrett comes in, a paper bag clasped in his fingertips.
“Three years,” Danny gets out through his tensed jaw, “Three years, I ask you to stay away from me because I had nothing to say to you. What do you think changed that?”
“That changed,” Steve replies, mimicking Danny’s terse tone, “when we started working on a case together. Chin told me you messaged him saying you’d be here most of the evening. I know how annoyed you get when you have to do paperwork on your own, so I’m here to help.” He offers a flash of a tentative grin. “And I brought dinner.”
“Steve, stop it,” Danny begs, the words pushed past his lips before he’s even aware that he wants to say them. “Whatever you’re doing, just stop.”
“Danno, it’s dinner and an offer to help with your paperwork.”
“Did you think that I’d turned into an idiot?” Danny asks, setting aside the stack of forms he’s filling out to make sure that everything in this case is one-hundred percent legit and that Wo Fat won’t get out on a technicality down the road. “Do you think that absence from you has dulled my skills of deduction? Because I’m telling you right now, Steve, they are as clear as ever,” he says, just getting started. “So don’t come in here saying that it’s dinner and help, don’t do that. Because I see you. I see you like I saw you every day we worked together and I can still read you like a book, McGarrett. I can read the way you knit your brows in concentration like I’m a puzzle and you’re just now figuring out where the pieces go. I see the way you’re controlling that smile because you know what that goofy idiot smile of yours does to me and I think you think that if you make a show of restraining it, I’ll find that modesty endearing. But guess what,” he says sharply. “I don’t. I don’t because all I can see when I look at you is the man who didn’t listen to me, who told me that he knew best, and went forward with a plan that I disapproved of. And do you know what happened? You lost my trust and innocent lives and the latter’s worse, but the former, Steve, the former hurt. So don’t come in here with dinner and Danno and those smiles.”
It hurts to be saying this, but Steve needs to hear it. If he’s going to come in here and pretend that nothing is wrong, Danny plans on setting him straight.
“I’m not an idiot. I never have been,” Danny says quietly, losing steam as he finishes.
There’s a long pause and Danny thinks that he’s been too kind with his words, because Steve doesn’t leave.
“You could have given us a shot at talking it out,” Steve says heatedly. “Yeah, I fucked up. I screwed up,” Steve says, getting louder with every word. “But you just walked out, you couldn’t even try.”
“Not after what you did,” Danny says, trying to shut down the conversation before it gets worse. “Stay if you’re gonna stay. I have a pile of forms to fill out and you’ve got a working hand. So help. Help or go.”
Danny isn’t sure why, but that surprises him.
Just before everything went awry, Steve’s favorite time of day was the early morning. Danny moved into his place after they eloped, and every morning meant that he woke with his lips brushing against warm skin, his fingers buried in the mess of Danny’s curled and untamed hair. It was a kind of peace, a sort of love he hadn’t experienced much, and he basked in every moment he had of it.
Since the divorce, Catherine has shared his bed a few times, but for the most part, he wakes up alone.
He wakes up alone this morning as well, but it hurts more than it has for the last thousand nights. Maybe it’s because he spent the night with Danny, working well into the early hours of the morning. Maybe it’s because the scent of Danny’s aftershave is back to driving him crazy and his fingers are itching to touch the stubble of his jaw. He’s been so close and Steve can’t do a thing about it because he’s still not forgiven and he doesn’t know how to fix it.
He doesn’t know if he can fix this.
He rolls over, amassing the sheets in his hands as he stares blearily at the alarm clock and tries to debate whether he should get up and swim or whether he should spend the next hour lazing. He’d gone to bed late, but he’s up early. He’s never been able to break his body of that habit.
Danny had given him such deep shit for that.
“Weekends,” he’d said with a groan of protest, “are for sleeping in. Seven AM is not sleeping in, McGarrett, why did I ever marry you?”
Funny how all those jibes and taunts sting a lot more, now.
In the end, the decision is made for him when his cell rings. Steve groans audibly and grabs at it, yawning as he looks at the call display. DANNY WILLIAMS-MCG.
Funny how he never got around to changing that, either. Danny’s calling him from the old cell phone, the one that he never answers anymore. Steve had always clung to the fact that he kept it as some kind of hope, but maybe that’s reaching too far.
He presses talk as fast as his fingers allow, phone to his ear. “What is it, did you find something, what’s going on?” he asks rapid-fire, bolting from the bed to get dressed as quickly as possible. By the time he gets a t-shirt and a pair of cargo pants on, Danny still hasn’t said anything. “Danny?”
“I realized, when I filed all the paperwork that you helped me finish, that maybe I was a little hotheaded with you last night,” Danny says and it sounds like he’s under duress. If Steve didn’t know better, he’d think someone had a talking-to with Danny about how he treats people and how flies always prefer honey over vinegar.
Steve smirks, glad that Danny can’t see him over the phone. “You? Hotheaded? Never.”
“Hey, asshole, I can hear you smirking,” Danny accuses. “Anyway, I thought maybe I could extend an olive branch and offer you breakfast. The diner just outside Five-O headquarters? I figure there’s no harm in making sure our working relationship runs smoothly. Neither of us can afford to fuck up this collar just because we’re bitter divorcees. Some of us, twice-over.”
“Breakfast sounds good. I can be there in fifteen.”
“Used to be, you could be there in ten,” Danny says after a moment’s beat, something like nostalgia in his tone.
“Used to be, I had a Camaro before someone got it in the divorce,” Steve retorts instantly. “My truck doesn’t make half the time I used to make in your car.”
“Hallelujah, at least he’s calling it my car,” Danny says and Steve might be imagining things, but he’s going to pretend that he hears a smile in Danny’s tone. It’s not much to go on, but it’s just enough to give him hope. “Fifteen minutes?” Danny asks one more time.
Steve agrees and gets there in ten, anyway.
He goes to their booth and takes mild satisfaction in the look on the waitresses’ face when she sees Steve sitting in his regular spot. He and Danny used to come here all the time when they were dating and Lauren, their regular waitress, had their orders memorized. “The same?” she asks warily. “It’s been a long time.”
“The usual,” Steve says. He drums his fingers on the table, switching his hand when he realizes he’s tapping the left hand and you can see the pale line where his ring used to sit.
The divorce might have been finalized years ago, but Steve only recently stopped wearing his ring. He’d been too reluctant to accept that the divorce was going to go through and by the time that it had, Steve had held out hope of tracking down Danny. Except that Danny never answered Steve’s calls on the old cell and Steve could never get a read on what his address actually was, hiding under a ridiculous ‘classified’ entry.
Toast, of course, insisted he knew nothing about any of this, but Steve could smell Danny’s fingerprints all over it.
His last resort had been Rachel, but apparently exes aren’t bound together by any kind of code. She’d kindly told him that if Danny wanted to be found, he’d let Steve find him.
“Hey, you ordered already?” Danny asks as he comes in, sitting down to find a cup of coffee already waiting for him. He takes off his suit jacket and drapes it over the booth, sliding in after it and attacking his coffee like it’s a strategic op. “You have no clue how bad I needed this.”
Steve relaxes back in the booth, gesturing to the jacket. “When’d that start? Hawaii not hot enough for you, you had to add another layer?”
“I got used to the heat, what can I say? Plus, you know, if I want to be Captain of the department when Captain Kamaka retires, I gotta dress the part.” Danny picks up his coffee and takes a slow sip from it. “You dress for the job you want, isn’t that the saying? So, you know, you, you dress like you want to be a model for Eddie Bauer. Which is not a bad aspiration, but all I’m saying is that it wouldn’t kill you to wear an actual shirt once in a blue moon.”
“You’re trying for a promotion? That sounds like you’re putting down roots here.” Steve doesn’t like to think about the implications that Danny is doing that without needing Steve. He knows that Grace tethers him to the island, but Steve had always counted on Five-O doing the rest of the job in getting Danny to stay. “I guess this place does look good on you.”
“Hey,” Danny says quietly, their orders arriving at the table during the long silence that passes between them. “I’m just playing the cards I got dealt. That’s all.”
They sit in silence, cutlery scraping against their plates as they eat respective usual breakfasts. Steve’s appetite is pretty low, but he still manages to put half his food away, never taking his eyes off Danny in the meantime.
“I’m a little surprised,” Danny admits, pressing his napkin to his lips. “I mean, I figured you’d remember my coffee order, I figured you’d still know which side of the bed I like to sleep on…”
“The right, with one of my pillows to curl up with instead of me,” Steve interrupts to prove just how much he knows.
“…I did not expect you to remember eggs over easy with brown toast and apricot jam on one side only,” Danny says, using a triangular piece of toast to gesture in Steve’s direction before taking a large bite out of it. Steve’s attention is drawn to Danny’s lips and he lets it linger there before remembering that Danny’s not here to reignite anything. They’re here to work a case.
Steve clears his throat, forcibly moving his attention to the matter at hand. He can deal with their personal life later. Now that Danny is back in his world, there’s no choice in the matter, as far as he’s concerned.
“We went over the information you’ve compiled. For the most part, it’s similar to what we already have,” Steve says, slipping into officious mode, his tone even and halfway to hollow. “What we didn’t have was the information about the informants. How recent is your information on them?”
“Meeting with two of them tomorrow night,” Danny says. “So, I was thinking, I was thinking that we could use some of Chin’s tech and you and Kono could sit in the van and get some incriminating conversation on tape. It might not be enough seeing as the man’s not an idiot, but it’ll be a start. I figure if we look into the financials, we can pull an Al Capone on him on top of the case we’re building,” Danny adds, sipping at his coffee and letting out a low moan.
Steve shifts slightly, leaning the heel of his hand down against the seam of his cargo pants. Danny still has an effect on him.
Three years apart and Danny still haunts Steve’s dreams often enough to keep him frustrated and panting for him in the morning. It’s no surprise that one well-placed moan is enough to start building up a reserve of desire in Steve’s body, like it’s coming out of hibernation at the behest of the sounds Danny makes.
“Good coffee?” Steve says, settling for a teasing smirk.
“They always did it best, here.”
“Kono can’t do the stakeout,” Steve finally says, digging out enough cash to pay for both their meals. “She did the last one and she has a date. She’d never forgive me if I pulled her out of that for this. And Chin needs to be back at headquarters to compile the information.”
“Which leaves you and me,” Danny says, rolling his eyes and shaking his head in disbelief. “Unbelievable…”
“I didn’t orchestrate this, Danny,” Steve snaps back irritably. “I didn’t even know you wanted to do a stakeout until just now. I may miss you, I may still want you, but newsflash, Danno, this isn’t about you and me. This is about something greater and of all people, you should understand how important it is for me to bring Wo Fat to justice.”
Danny doesn’t seem to calm, but Steve’s well-versed in reading Danny’s minute tics. The crinkles around his mouth soften slightly and his posture slumps. It’s not much, but it’s enough to tell Steve that he’s stepping back from the argument.
“It’s just a night, Danny,” Steve says quietly. “I know you can’t stand the sight of me, but it’s just a night.”
“I guess I’ll bring the food if you bring the coffee,” Danny says reluctantly, watching their waitress take Steve’s money away. “Steve, I don’t…” he trails off and Steve desperately wants to know what’s coming next.
“I don’t hate the sight of, you know, you,” Danny mutters, gesturing idly in Steve’s direction. His gaze is fixated down on the table. “You know, not anymore. There was a time when I couldn’t look at you without seeing their faces, but it’s been three years. We all make our mistakes.”
So why won’t you forgive me? is on the tip of Steve’s tongue, but he doesn’t ask. He stares at Danny balefully, wishing he was better with words and that he could figure out how to ask (beg, plead, anything) Danny to give him a shot.
Steve has said it himself, though: there are more important things at stake than one personal relationship.
“Tomorrow night?” Steve confirms.
“I’ll pick you up in the Camaro.” Danny slides out from the booth, shrugging his shoulders back as he puts the suit jacket on. “And no, Steve,” he goes on, when Steve is just barely opening his mouth to speak, “You can’t drive.”
Steve’s done his fair share of stakeouts since he started with Five-O and they all follow the same pattern. They get a van from HPD with an overly-cutesy cartoon on the side and then Five-O has to upgrade the tech to boost the signal. Despite department changes and new personnel, stakeouts always tend to go the same, case after case.
Danny had picked Steve up at Five-O headquarters and they’d driven in silence to Wo Fat’s current residence and place of business on the island. He climbs into the back, sliding on a pair of headphones around his neck as he flips on the switches of all the equipment.
“You got rid of the suit,” Steve says idly, the lion’s share of his attention fixated on adjusting the listening frequencies.
“I like to look professional, but when I have only you in this van to impress, jeans are all you get,” Danny says, settling down in one of the chairs as he lifts up the headphones to check. “We’re still a little fuzzy. Try and focus the signal.”
Steve fiddles with the knobs, glancing over his shoulder to try and take in whatever glances he can sneak of Danny’s body. He’s sure he’s been caught once or twice, but it’s no secret that he wants Danny. It’s never been a secret. That’s been as plain as day for Steve with consistency and constancy.
Steve adjusts the frequency and leans back when Danny eases forward, both his hands on Steve’s shoulders to look past him and to the monitor.
They can’t get too close to the house or they’ll risk the entire operation being compromised. The feed lacks clarity, but it will get them surveillance and start the building blocks of a case against Wo Fat.
Steve keeps repeating that to himself, over and over, when Danny has yet to move his hands. It’s just enough of a distraction that Steve is starting to forget the point of this. His thumbs brush up against the bare skin of Steve’s neck and send a shiver through Steve’s system.
Steve’s always known that Danny was too hands-on for his own-good. Normally, Steve wouldn’t give a damn, but considering Danny’s the one who’s trying to keep an ocean of distance between them, he’s going to have to start calling foul on this kind of behavior.
“Better?” Steve asks, voice rough.
“Yeah, I got a better read on things,” Danny says, pushing himself off of Steve’s shoulders and sliding around his side, hips cocked out before he grabs the back of a rolling chair and sinks down into it, pulling himself as close to the console as he can get. Steve furrows his brow as he wonders if there’s supposed to be deeper meaning in Danny’s words, but Danny’s attention is on other things, so he puts it aside.
Steve flips the switch to start recording as fuzzy sound filters through the headphones and they start their night’s work.
Danny and Steve are both consummate professionals, and for three hours straight they listen in while HPD’s informant gets them what they can use, things that are inconsequential. Then, when the sun starts to dip into the horizon, they start getting into the real meat of things.
“Hey,” Danny says, rolling over to grab hold of Steve’s forearm and drag him over. “Listen to what the south-microphone’s picking up.” He shoves one side of the headphones closer to Steve, letting them share as Wo Fat begins to talk about shipping guns onto the island to bolster their existing forces.
It trails off and there’s a pause that makes Steve’s heart beat quicken.
Every paranoid thought that’s ever existed in Steve’s brain flickers through his mind in a dangerous second and Steve is ready to call the operation off. The pause goes on so long that he can feel the blood rushing to his ears. “Danny,” he says, starting to panic. “Danny, there’s one of our people in there, there’s someone who could get hurt, we gotta pull them out, we gotta…”
“Steve,” Danny hisses and gestures to the headphones.
The conversation has resumed. It seems that tea service has begun and the pause was to give a modicum of respect to the woman who had just entered the room. Steve’s gaze flickers over the heat signals another three times before he’s adequately calmed and turns his attention back to Danny.
Danny is looking at him with a strangled and strange expression on his face.
“What?” Steve demands sharply.
Danny shakes his head, but that expression doesn’t fade away. “Nothing, I didn’t…” He trails off, clearing his throat. “We still recording?” he asks, when the conversation turns back to who they can run guns through on the island now that Doran is out of the picture.
Steve nods, unable to pry his gaze from Danny. He’s missing something, he knows that. He’s been trained to read into the smallest of changes in his environment and something about Danny has changed, but hell if he knows what it was.
What are you thinking, Williams? Steve wonders, a critical look on his face.
Danny’s profile is in full view and Steve is only in Danny’s peripheral vision, but it still shouldn’t surprise him when Danny murmurs a lazy, “I see that face,” at him. “Stop making faces, Steve. Especially that one. I’m not a puzzle.”
“It’s been three years,” Steve says, trying not to sulk too defensively. “I have new faces, you know.”
Danny goes silent, which usually only happens when there’s something incriminating he’s trying to hide. In this case, Steve has to wonder why Danny isn’t arguing back. He has to wonder why he’s not protesting that he knows exactly what every face of Steve’s means, new or old, unless…
“…your surveillance on Wo Fat, you had someone on me, too,” Steve says when the epiphany strikes him like a lightning bolt. “You’ve been watching me since the start of this investigation with the HPD.”
“It was a fair assumption,” Danny says, his tone mild, “that at some point, Wo Fat was going to cross paths with you again. I had two surveillance teams on you for a couple of months until it seemed like he’d moved on to bigger fish.”
“So, you’ve been seeing my looks and seeing me and watching over me in hospital beds, but I can’t even have your cell phone number,” Steve says, finding that he’s become very angry, very quickly about the inequity of it all. “Danny, how is that even fucking fair, considering you’re the one who walked out on me?”
“You listen, you thickheaded idiot,” Danny growls, sliding forward in his chair until he’s got two fingers pressed firmly up against Steve’s chest. “I am a detective. I am a good detective. When they gave me this case, I turned it down because it was too close to you, but no one else would take it and I’m here to make the islands safer for Gracie, so I took it and you, you are a person of interest. You being my ex-husband is nothing more than coincidental. So I put aside any feelings I still had and I put aside the love I felt and the relationship we had because you were being monitored in case there was movement and there wasn’t. This isn’t a game or some immature way to get close to you. If I wanted to watch you for personal reasons, if I wanted that, I would’ve called you, but I’m still trying to process whether or not you’re the same guy that made a really stupid decision.”
“Danny,” Steve says. “I’m not.”
Danny glares at him, his fingers falling lower on Steve’s chest, resting above his heart.
“I’m not,” Steve tries again, trying to get his point across. He grabs at Danny’s wrist and holds it where his thumb brushes against the radial pulse.
“I’m still debating that,” Danny replies evenly, pulling his hand away and returning back to the small television screens in the van. “How are Chin and Kono coming with the finances? They find anything?”
Steve sighs heavily as he digs out his cell phone and sends a message to the other half of his team. The other two-thirds, now, he supposes. He’s going to have to find yet another partner since they keep quitting on him. If he’s honest, he keeps driving them out the door in the hopes that one day, the Governor will force Danny to come back because he’s the only one who can keep Steve in line.
It’s either that or she’s going to disband Five-O. Steve tries to keep his behavior restrained enough so that he doesn’t lose Chin and Kono their jobs.
He gets a reply back from Chin within minutes. “They’re following a lead through one of his shell corporations. They say there could be some dirty money being laundered through it. They’re pretty hopeful,” he says.
Danny makes a noncommittal noise and Steve doesn’t have to ask. He knows they’re on the same wavelength when it comes to this.
“It’s not enough to keep him as long as we’d want,” Danny finally says. “Money laundering, an implication in gun running, it’s all accessory to the fact. There’s nothing here that’s gonna send him away for good.”
“But it’ll put him away,” Steve says, trying to convince himself that putting him away is good enough. If he can convince Danny, he can convince himself. “That’s something, right, partner?”
Danny doesn’t answer.
Steve appreciates that at least one of them is being realistic about this situation, even if that honesty and realism isn’t something he wants to think about. He’d always thought that he could bring in Wo Fat on murder charges and put him away in his parents’ name. It turns out that a few dodgy financials and ill-advised conversations will do it and not even permanently, at that.
Danny slides the headphones back on, covering one ear and leaving the one closest to Steve open. “It’s something,” he finally agrees. “You know you can’t be anywhere near this if we get this collar. None of us can be.”
“Danny, this is the man that killed my parents,” Steve says heatedly. “I’m not only going to be there, I’m going to be the one with my hands on his person, my fists in his face. I’m going to be the one proving that he can’t get away with this.”
“And that’s exactly why you can’t be there, Steve,” Danny says, leaning forward (and causing his shirt to tighten at his shoulders). Steve’s attention falters momentarily, but he brings it back quickly enough. “We’ve worked so hard for this. I’ve been pulling insane hours to triple-check paperwork just to make sure there won’t be any technicalities. You hauling off on him to employ McGarrett-style justice?” Danny scoffs. “No. No, that’s not happening. You will be at your home and you’ll get a phone call, Steve. You’ll get a phone call saying that he’s been put away and he’s awaiting trial. That’s how this has to go.”
Not with a bang, but in a whisper.
“Danny,” Steve says, trying for one last act of desperation.
“No,” Danny says, his attention fully on the monitors. “This one, you don’t get to skirt around. Call the Governor and ask her, but her response will be the same. This, Steve, you don’t get to manipulate. This one, you have to stay away from if you want it to stick. I’ve been working on this for a year and a half, Steve. Eighteen months. You’re only in on this because I decided it was time to pull the trigger and I wasn’t going to finish it without you on board.”
Steve wants to protest. He should be doing more for this case in direct proportion to how much Wo Fat has taken from him, but he’s eighteen months late on the boat.
“Danny,” Steve says again, a helpless note sneaking its way into his tone.
“Steve, I’ve been working it for you, okay? For eighteen months, I’ve been doing this for you. Trust me when I say I’ve got it, but when it goes down, and it’s gonna happen soon,” Danny says in that way where it sounds like a guarantee, “you gotta be anywhere but there. Trust me, babe.”
Danny says it like it’s the final word on the matter. He ignores Steve as he throws himself back into the monotonous task of listening to conversations revolve around minutia and watching heat signals pace between rooms. Steve turns his attention to thinking about the case and whether or not he plans to indulge Danny in his plea to stay away.
Before he even realizes it, the longest portion of the night is over and their replacements will be along soon.
“Want me to drop you off at your place?” Danny asks, his voice lazy with exhaustion. His tells haven’t changed in three years. He starts to drop consonants off the end of his words and brushes his fingers sleepily around his forehead. Steve’s left wondering what else has stayed the same.
“Why, so I don’t find out where you live?” Steve replies, his voice heavy with disdain.
The angry pit in his stomach only deepens when Danny doesn’t answer and the silence is all the confirmation that Steve needs.
“I’ll make do,” Steve says as he starts to get his things together.
The mood in the van stays icy up until there’s a knock at the door and Danny pokes his head out to find their replacements from HPD ready. They’re parked a little down the way with an electrician van. They’re both wearing plainclothes and look as well-rested as Steve feels exhausted.
“You guys are good to go,” Officer Mahi’ai says. “We’ll take over. Detective Williams,” he adds with a respectful nod in his direction. “Captain says good job on all this and at the rate we’re going…” He trails off as he apprehensively turns a look to Steve.
“We’ll talk later,” Danny says, shifting into the front seat of the van. “Steve, last chance. Either I drive you to your place or headquarters, but I’m not leaving you within fifty yards of that man.”
“Fine. Take me back to my place,” Steve finally consents, because it’s five in the morning and if he goes to the office now, there’ll be no purpose for him. At least if he goes home, he can get a swim in and start looking through applications for his next partner.
The drive back is silent, not helped by Steve’s stubborn refusal to sit up in the front with Danny. He doesn’t need to be that close to him and see the shape of his shoulders in his too-tight t-shirt or the way his jeans sit just an inch too low, like they always have. He doesn’t need to remember what he smells like after a night of hard work.
When they arrive at Steve’s house, Steve lingers before grabbing his equipment. “Next shift, it’ll be Chin and Kono’s turn, but I’ll see what I can do about taking the shift after that with Chin.” The implied ‘so you don’t have to do this again with me’ lies beneath the words treacherously, like it’s an accusation waiting to happen.
Danny grips the steering wheel harder, his knuckles turning a shade of white as he stares out the front window. “I’ll come by tomorrow with more of the files,” he says. “We need something more. We can put him away now, but it’s only on suspicions and it probably won’t stick. We debated using the break-in with you to identify him…”
Steve knows that there are too many personal connections at risk there, especially with Danny as lead on the case.
“Come by anytime. The locks never changed, so your key should still work,” Steve says, leaning forward to reduce the distance between the both of them. Here, in this small van that’s still stuffy and humid, he wants to do stupid things. He wants to touch his fingers to Danny’s neck and lay kisses there. It’s a combination of his exhaustion and the heat and the emotional duress of this case.
They all band together and place terribly wonderful ideas in his mind.
He still can’t decipher the look that had been on Danny’s face earlier and he barely understands the one there now. As near as he can guess, it looks like hope and regret mixed with a heavy measure of desperation.
“Get some rest, McGarrett,” Danny says hoarsely. “We’ve still got a lot of work to do.”
Steve drifts back from the thoughts clouding his better judgment and gets out of the van, paying close attention to the fact that Danny doesn’t actually leave the driveway until long after Steve is inside the house. As far as desperate hopes go, it’s farfetched, but it’s still better than nothing.