Only Butterflies (Steve/Danny, R)
Title: Only Butterflies
Pairing: Steve/Danny (minor Steve/Catherine)
Warnings/Spoilers: n/a (takes place pre-series and S1)
Word count: 4.480
Disclaimer: not mine, not profit.
a/n: this is a remix of pollitt's lovely fic, Prepared Answers.
a/n: thank you to destina and topaz119 for the very helpful betas!
a/n: also on AO3
Summary: It was harder than Steve expected to get used to having a home.
The only thing in Steve’s head when the perp threw him through the window of the bait and tackle store was pure fury.
Not that that was a bad thing. It gave him the strength to pull the three-hundred-pound, high-as-a-kite “security expert” along with him, and the strength to hold onto him when he tried to get away on the other side. It even gave him the strength for a weak “Book ‘em, Danno” when Danny skidded to a stop next to him and hauled the nutjob off.
At that point, however, he allowed himself a brief rest.
“You, my friend, are still on the floor,” Danny informed him sometime later, having cuffed and Mirandized the perp and handed him over to the black-and-whites.
“No, I’m not.” Steve pushed himself up on his elbows and then his knees so as to not be lying.
And you’re covered in blood,” Danny added, grabbing a wrist and pulling Steve to his feet.
Okay, that part might’ve been true. The vest had protected his back from the shattering glass, but his forearms and face were stinging. Steve dabbed experimentally at his cheek; his hand came away wet.
“C’mon.” Danny nudged the small of Steve’s back. “I think there’s an EMT outside.”
“Keep pressure on that,” the EMT said, guiding Steve’s hand to the dressing over the cut on his arm. Steve could feel the blood still oozing under his fingers. The EMT looked like he’d interrupted an all-night luau to take this call, but his hands and voice were steady as he worked on Steve’s face. After a few minutes, he lowered the tweezers. “I think you’d better come back with me to the hospital,” he said. “You’re bleeding too much for me to get all the fragments out here.”
Danny had been watching them, a sharp W of concern between his eyebrows. “I’ll drive you over,” he said, but Steve shook his head.
“Nah. It’s fine. I’ll hitch a ride.” He smiled at the EMT, ignoring the pull on his busted lip, and hoisted himself into the cabin of the van.
The unhappy crinkle on Danny’s forehead got deeper, like Steve was doing something weird instead of just saving him a trip. But all he said was, “Okay. Call when you’re done—I’ll come pick you up.”
Steve shook his head again. “It’s fine,” he repeated. “You go home, get some sleep.”
The closing doors of the van cut off Steve’s view of Danny’s worried face.
It was harder than Steve thought it would be to get used to having a home.
A few months after Five-O was formed, he got called back to the mainland for hearings on an op that had gone spectacularly wrong: losses of men and tech, civilian dead of the most tragic variety.
Steve had only been involved in cleaning up the mess, but he still had to testify at hearings that were guaranteed to last a week, and he was dreading it—dreading the days on the arid base, dreading the official phrases designed to bind and cauterize guilt, dreading leaving Hawaii. He been away such a long time and back such a short one—his roots felt too shallowly planted, the ties he’d started to make with his team so insubstantial they might fray to nothing if he was away too long.
“You want me to check on your place while you’re gone?” Danny asked.
“You know, pick up the mail, turn the truck engine over so the battery doesn’t die, water the plants? You know, house stuff. So you don’t have to worry while you’re gone.” Danny’s face took on the look of sorrowful annoyance it got when he decided Steve had failed whatever training course he’d taken in how to be a human being.
Steve hadn’t been planning to worry. He’d already made arrangements with the post office to hold the mail, and he had cables to jump the truck himself in the unlikely event that the battery went dead. But the plants—he’d forgotten about that.
“Sure,” he told Danny. “That would be great.”
“So you’ll bring me a key tomorrow?” He must’ve made a funny face at the words, because Danny added, “If you’re sure that’s okay.”
Danny thought he was feeling territorial, Steve realized, uneasy about Danny breaching his personal space. But that wasn’t it. All those years in the service meant his concept of physical privacy was so atrophied as to be almost nonexistent. It was more the continuous shock of remembering he had a home to look after, that there were living things he had to consider when he went away, even if said things were only a couple of spider plants. Still, they were his father’s plants, and he didn’t want them to die.
‘Yeah,” he said, “I’ll get one made for you.”
The hearings were as bad as he’d expected and then some, but Steve still went straight from the airport to HQ when his plane landed. It was after 8:00, but he’d been following the team’s work by text and email and he had a few ideas he wanted to check out right away.
Kono was the only person in the offices and she was heading out as he came in.
“Glad you’re back, boss,” she said. “But what’re you doing here?”
“Had an idea about the Ling investigation, wanted to see if it panned out. No time like the present, right?”
She raised her eyebrows and gave him an assessing smile that belied her youth. Then she tugged at his elbow. “C’mon—Ling can wait. Get some dinner with me. You’re looking skinny.”
He widened his eyes. “I’m looking skinny? Isn’t that a little pot and kettle, Officer Kalakaua?”
“Hey,” she said, miming outrage. “Watch it. I’m naturally like this, flat chest and all. If I wasn’t, my mom’s cooking would’ve fattened me up long ago. You, however, are down a good twenty pounds from where you should be. Let’s get out of here—I’m starving.”
“You sound like your mother, you know that, right? Next you’re gonna start wearing those cardigans she likes so much…”
But Kono just gave him a gentle cuff and a firm push out the door.
She took him to a Korean place and ordered things with beef and eggs and bean curd until he was drunker on protein than he was on beer. Sated, he leaned back against the padded seat of the booth and laughed blearily at some of the raunchiest surfing stories he’d ever heard, while something warm and heavy pooled in his veins. Ballast, he thought, weighty enough to keep him in Hawaii for a while, anchoring him to home.
Of course, Steve’s issues with permanence predated his return to Hawaii. They’d been with him as long as he could remember, really. Just sometimes they were worse than others.
Not long before the North Korean mission that changed everything, for instance, he led a hostage extraction outside Caracas. It was an inter-agency team—guys from a bunch of different services and a few Venezuelan special ops types thrown in for good measure. On top of the tricky business of getting the hostage out, Steve had to negotiate endless jurisdictional dick-wagging. It was exhausting. Getting a bunch of guys with hair-trigger reflexes to play nice had never been one of his favorite things. They got the hostage out with a minimum of heat, but it all left him weary out of all proportion to the job itself.
Afterwards, he debriefed the team in the damp warehouse that served as their base. He knew very few of them by name—he had been addressing them by rank and radio call signs almost exclusively—but he wiped the sweat out of his eyes and tried to look at each one directly as he spoke, make them feel valued.
They listened carefully, quiet men who were good at their jobs.
“Any questions or comments?” he asked when he was done. A MARSOC NCO in the back raised his hand. “Yes?”
“Commander, are you aware that you’re bleeding, sir?”
Steve looked at his hand first. Sure enough, there was a thick streak of red where he’d swiped it across his face. Not sweat after all. He felt along his forehead and found a thin, jagged tear near his hairline, wet trails along his right cheek. Probably a tree branch as they left the jungle compound they’d raided. He hadn’t noticed.
“I am now, Sergeant, thank you,” he said, with his first smile of the day.
The young, dark-skinned medic who looked at the cut wore her hair in a tight bun and had a scar of her own along her jaw.
“I don’t think you need stitches,” she said. “Only butterflies. Do you want a topical while I get it cleaned up?”
Steve shook his head. He was so close to feeling nothing at all that he needed to feel this.
But maybe he should’ve taken her up on her offer, because as she worked on the wound he had the unpleasant sensation that it was more difficult than usual to pull the edges of skin back into alignment, as if his flesh had become an ill fit for his bones, the light bandages too fragile a bond between the pieces, barely strong enough to keep him from flying apart.
He went back to the cot he’d been using, grabbed his gear, and left for his long-planned rendezvous with Catherine in Puerto Vallarta two days early.
They hadn’t seen each other in a while, and so it made sense to hold her a little longer than usual when he met her off her plane.
But she freed herself after a minute and raised her fingers to the healing cut on his face. “You okay?” she asked.
“Of course.” He was pleased to feel his lips turn up naturally into a smile, grateful he’d taken the two solo days on the beach to get himself back in line. “Just happy to see you, that’s all.”
But even after a lazy swim and a bottle of wine and a long afternoon relearning each other’s bodies, he woke with a start from a dream of floating away.
He lay very still until the feeling started to dissipate, fingers digging into the cool, soft sheets. Then he turned on his side and wrapped an arm around Catherine’s waist, not wanting to wake her but needing her warm solidity all the same.
He must have held on more tightly than he realized, though, because she murmured his name in a questioning tone.
“Shh,” he whispered. “Go back to sleep. It’s okay.”
But some instinct, or maybe just having known him long enough, made her turn towards him, tuck his head against her breasts, and hold him close.
Steve didn’t need a shrink to tell him that a lot of it had to do with his dad sending him away. Not that one hadn’t tried to anyway.
“Routine thing,” his CO told him, a few weeks after his weekend with Catherine. “You do enough missions in a row and they want to talk to you. Kinda like the hundred thousand mile service on your car.”
It wasn’t routine, Steve knew that. Since he’d gotten back there’d been a tremor of restlessness running straight through his core. No number of midnight sessions in the base gym or miles in the pool seemed to smooth it out, though he was pretty sure he’d exceeded even the Navy’s idea of healthy physical training. It was starting to be he could see the effects himself on the rare occasions he looked in the mirror. Stood to reason someone else had noticed, had dropped a dime on him to the CO.
He tried to take it in stride. “So that’s what I am to the Navy now, some old junker you have to scrounge parts for?”
The CO didn’t laugh. “Just trying to keep you in working order, Commander.”
The base had a number of psychologists, but they’d sent him to the one psychiatrist. A courtesy of rank, perhaps, or someone had already decided that medical attention was in order. Dr. Brock had wire-framed glasses and a bald spot. Steve had a good view of the bald spot because the man barely looked up as he asked his questions.
“Sleeping all right?”
“Yes,” Steve lied. He almost added “sir” before he remembered that the doctor had asked him not to.
Dr. Brock looked up then, brown eyes both keener and kinder than Steve had expected.
“You a runner, son?”
“Yeah, since high school, anyway.”
“How many miles a week—on average?”
“Twenty-five—maybe thirty,” Steve told him, though it had easily been twice that lately.
“Hmm.” Brock pursed his lips and looked down at his desk again, shuffling through his papers until he located what he was looking for.
“Says here you’re from Hawaii.” He smiled. Most people smiled when they found out where Steve was from, as if the mere sound of the word cheered them up.
“That it is.” Steve couldn’t help a tiny smile himself.
“But you left for school on the mainland when you were sixteen. Why was that?”
“My father sent me.”
Brock looked up again. “The two of you didn’t get along?”
Steve didn’t blame him for asking. Family trouble was probably at the root of a good many military careers. Not his, though. Or at least not the way Brock meant it.
“We got along fine. We were probably closer than most fathers and sons, anyway.” Despite his best efforts, a tinge of wistfulness crept into his voice.
Brock held his gaze for a long time before asking, “Why’d he send you away?”
“I’m not sure. It was just that after my mother died, he couldn’t… I’m not sure.”
It was Steve’s turn to look down then, to lose himself for a moment in the camouflage pattern on his BDUs. He pushed a finger along a place where it looked like the fabric was about to tear. Then closed his hand when he realized it was shaking.
“How did you feel about that?”
There it was: the shrink talk. Steve had been expecting it, but somehow the question still caught him off guard. He didn’t think anyone had ever asked him before. It was the surprise, probably, that made him swallow a few times before he looked up to answer.
“I don’t really remember. It was a long time ago.”
“And how do you feel talking about it now?”
Steve focused on the Johns Hopkins diploma behind Brock’s right shoulder and counted to ten. “I don’t mind. Like I said, it was a long time ago.”
Brock tried a few more questions, but Steve had gotten his monosyllabic groove back and eventually Brock sighed and pulled a pad from his desk.
“I’m going to write you a prescription for Ambien, Commander. The next time you feel a midnight triathlon coming on, you try one of those instead. No harm, no foul--sleep’ll do you more good. And any time you feel ready to talk, please do come find me.”
“Thank you, doctor.”
Steve resisted the urge to crumple the thin slip of paper in his hand. He folded it once instead, and slipped it into his pocket. He never got it filled.
Hawaii crept up on him, the contours of his world slowly thickening, like a nest he hadn’t meant to build.
The first time he slept with Danny he was drunk. Drunk in a way he hardly ever allowed himself to be. But they sat for a long time on Chin’s lanai, long after they’d finished off the ribs and homemade ‘slaw; the tequila bottle was already open, Danny volunteered at the beginning to be designated driver, and so Steve figured, what the hell, just this once.
Danny followed him out of the car and up the path to his door, probably to make sure he didn’t faceplant in his own front lawn. He watched Steve fumbled with the lock, the skin around his eyes crinkling just a little, making a strangled sound that might have been a laugh when the keys skittered across the stone walk. Steve bent to retrieve them, but stood up quickly, the sudden movement roiling the booze in his belly.
“Better let me deal with it, tiger,” Danny said, laughing openly. He stooped to grab the keys, then stepped in front of Steve to fit them to the door.
Steve stared, forgetting for a moment that he was supposed to hide his admiration of the way Danny’s shoulders pulled the shirt tight across his back, the rich curve of his ass under the light trousers.
Forgetting for more than a moment, apparently, because now Danny had the door open and had turned back to face him.
“See something you like, Smooth Dog?”
Steve realized his mouth was hanging open a little and shut it. Danny smiled, indulgent, and not nearly as mocking as Steve would’ve expected.
Actually, there was just enough of an invitation in that smile to make it suddenly seem okay to close the distance between them, to get his hands on Danny’s hips and crowd him through the open door, while Danny said “whoa, whoa, slow down,” and laughingly evaded Steve’s attempts to kiss him.
Finally, they smacked into something—a wall? a bookshelf?—with a mutual oof. Danny seemed to take it as his cue to take charge. He pulled Steve’s face down with both hands and kissed him hard, maneuvering him so his back was to whatever surface they were up against. Then he moved his hands and mouth down Steve’s body, unfastening clothing as he went.
Steve nearly drowned in the gorgeousness of it all, of Danny’s hands on his ass, of Danny’s mouth taking him in. Then lips and tongue and a holyfuck burst of suction and pressure, and before Steve knew it he was coming so hard his head cracked back against the surface behind him.
“Ow,” he said, surprised into actual speech.
“Is that criticism I hear?” Danny looked up, mouth red and swollen, cheeks shiny. Steve shook his head, reached down to wipe a drop of his own spunk off Danny’s lips.
It occurred to Steve that they should discuss this, compare histories of same-sex encounters, analyze about what it might do to their work relationship. By the time they reached his bed, however, it was all he could do to gasp, “lube, condoms,” and wave his hand in the direction of the nightstand drawer. But Danny was nothing if not quick on the uptake, and he arranged things for them both, fucking into him with the same furious, loving focus he gave to everything he did. Watching Danny come, poised above him with his head thrown back, throat and chest running with sweat, was one of the most beautiful things he’d ever seen.
Afterwards, the booze and the orgasm and the sheer relief that they’d crossed this bridge together left Steve nearly boneless, stuck to the bed as if he’d grown roots there. But they were sticky with sweat and come and maybe the sauce from Chin's ribs, and it seemed impolite not to go get a washcloth or something.
“I’ll get us some—“ he said, levering himself up on an unsteady elbow.
But Danny laughed and smacked him lightly on the chest. “I’ll do it, babe. You just lie there and look pretty.”
“Pretty?” Steve snorted, twisting his face away from Danny’s gaze. “I’m a mess. I can barely move.”
Danny paused on his way to the bathroom and regarded Steve with more seriousness than the situation seemed to warrant. “It’s a good look on you,” he said. “I like it.”
Steve woke in the wee hours aching and dry-mouthed. Something was pinning him to the bed. He tensed, ready to throw it off, but at the last moment changed strategy and slowly eased himself out from under instead. It was only as he stood at the foot of the bed, his whole body twitching with fight-or-flight reflexes, that he realized it had been Danny’s leg, thrown over his thighs as they slept.
As he watched, Danny shifted, gathering his arms and legs into himself, cold maybe, now that Steve had left the bed. But to Steve, the room felt stifling, airless, though he could hear the blades of the ceiling fan cutting the air. He considered his options: it was barely 4am, and he could see flashes of distant lightning through the slats in the blinds. Even he wasn’t crazy enough to run or swim in those conditions. Or at least he wasn’t right now. Maybe he’d go downstairs and find the bourbon.
He didn’t. Instead, he gingerly lowered himself onto the bed again. He lay with his legs stretched out straight and his arms at his sides until the sound of Danny’s breathing started to drown out the pounding of his own heart. Then he let out a breath he didn’t know he’d been holding. Within minutes, Danny turned over again, tangling his legs with Steve’s and flinging an arm across his chest for good measure. This time, Steve let them stay.
The hospital took forever, of course—a wait, and then a nervous resident having at him with a tweezers under a bright light until he was ready to scream. Probably would’ve been better to do it himself in front of the bathroom mirror. But he hit a bit of luck on his way out, running into a HPD officer he knew who offered him a ride home.
“Wish I had a beer for you,” Officer Rivera said, fishing a bottle of water out of the back of the squad car.
“It’s okay—whatever they gave me has me pretty cross-eyed already.”
He felt literally cross-eyed by the time they pulled up in front of his house, focusing too hard on making it into the front door to notice that the living room lights were on ‘til he was standing under them. He felt absurdly surprised by what greeted him: Danny was sprawled on the couch, one bare foot up on the pillows, the other on the floor, head shoved into the arm rest at an awkward angle. Generic sports arena noise spilled from the TV.
“You know, it’s kind of creepy having you staring at me like some overqualified member of the undead,” Danny said without opening his eyes.
“What’re you doing here?” Steve felt stupid. He hadn’t noticed the Camaro in the carport, but then he hadn’t exactly noticed anything beyond what it took to stay upright.
“Key, remember? Got a little worried when you didn’t answer my texts.”
Steve remembered his phone chiming and buzzing on the instrument table, just out of reach, and grimaced in apology. Danny shrugged. “It’s okay. I thought about tracking you down at the hospital, but I figured I’d camp out here for a while first. You should admire my restraint.” Danny was up now, giving Steve a once over. His hand moved in the air near the cuts on Steve’s face, but didn’t touch. “Stitches?”
“Nah. Only butterflies.” He meant to be reassuring, but the phrase unexpectedly roused the old feeling that the bandages were struggling to pull the edges of his unwilling skin together. He shivered.
Danny cocked his head at that, and ran a warm thumb over the dressing on Steve’s cheek, gentle, but firm, as if urging the wound to knit, to heal.
He knows, Steve thought; how does he know? Suddenly desperate to make amends, he leaned in to kiss Danny hard enough to make his cut lip burn.
“Thank you for worrying,” he said, the words rough and painful in his throat, for all that he meant them. Maybe because he meant them so much. “Thank you for waiting up. No one’s done that for me for a long time.”
To be honest, Steve wasn’t sure that anyone had ever done it, unless you counted his dad waiting to tear him a new one for coming home too late from a football team party.
Either the apology or the intensity of his tone did the trick. Danny smiled and curled his hand around the nape of Steve’s neck. “I’d say it won’t happen again, but I’m trying to give up lying for the new year. C’mon, let’s hit the sheets.”
It felt good, crawling into bed with Danny, letting him fuss and needle and soothe as much as he wanted to for once. Nevertheless, something—the tension of the day, or just the painkillers wearing off—woke Steve a few hours later. He lay motionless, the cut on his arm throbbing worse than the others, until he was sure that sleep had fled. Then he gently disentangled himself from Danny—he’d gotten to be an expert at that—and padded downstairs.
He meant to look for an icepack or the ibuprofen bottle, but he found himself getting his emergency kit out of the hidden wall-safe in the hallway instead. He grabbed a beer from the fridge and spread the stuff out on the kitchen table: a passport and credit cards in a different name, a thousand dollars in small bills, a burner phone and a late-model Beretta, plus a few extra devices he’d decided would be useful over the years. He held each item in his hands for a moment. They were still more familiar than the house around him, more familiar than any place he’d ever lived.
As he set about disassembling and cleaning the gun, however, he realized that something had changed. If he had to disappear now, he would want—he would need—to find a way to let Danny know he was okay.
As if summoned by his thought, Danny leaned in the doorway. He wore nothing but a pair of Steve’s boxers and had pushed his sleep-tousled hair off his face with only marginal success. His face was creased with sleep, and something else—worry, probably, though his tone had been light and affectionate.
Steve’s hands stilled on the gun. Danny thought he might leave without telling him; Steve knew that with a heart-crushing certainty. The pieces thumped against the table as the knowledge of just how painful that thought must be slammed into him. He had to press his hands against the wood for a moment to absorb it. Then he pushed his chair back and stood. He walked over to Danny and stood so close their stomachs touched. He tilted Danny’s face back and and ran his thumbs along the lines next to his eyes, across his brow. Not smoothing them away. Just learning them by heart.
“No,” Steve said, “I think I’m staying put.”